February 3, 2004
Group photographer earns commander recognition
Staff Sgt. Kathleen Ferrero
Their lenses seal history in time for unborn generations to witness the peculiar glories and despair of war. During today's global War on Terror, one Air Force photographer was recently recognized for excellence in documenting her base's mission at a U.S. Central Command location in Southwest Asia.
The 40th Air Expeditionary Group Commander Col. Tim Leaptrott presented his group photographer, Staff Sgt. Shelley Gill, with a Commander's Coin of Excellence Jan. 18 for her work.
“She possesses a positive attitude, is a team builder and is 100 percent committed to the mission here. The quality of her work and dedication is unsurpassed,” he said.
Gill deployed here in November from the Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing out of Richmond International Airport. She said her commander's comments mean more than the coin, and the recognition makes her work even more enjoyable.
“I really like my job here, because I have the opportunity to be creative,” Gill said. As the base's sole Air Force photographer, she shoots and processes 150 to 450 pictures a week, documenting everything from troops laboring in their country's defense to promotion and award ceremonies.
“I get the opportunity to meet a lot of different people, I'm learning more about photography, and how to get the results I want - and I'm learning how to expect more out of what I do,” Gill said.
The sergeant originally came into the Air Force active duty as a medical service technician where she spent four years at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Then she separated and joined the Air National Guard.
“During a two-week training trip to Korea with the Texas Guard, we had a photographer that came along with us, and I thought, “You know, that'd be a cool job to do,” Gill said.
When she moved to the Guard unit in Florida, she persisted until they gave her an overage slot in the photography shop. Where she spent three years, went to technical school, and then completed her 5-level training. Then she moved to Virginia to be closer to family.
“I've always been interested in photography as a hobby,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about it, make my career more diversified.”
At home, Gill is employed as an office nurse and is a certified limited radiology technician with White Stone Family Practice in White Stone, Va. While she likes the healing profession, Gill is passionate about her work here.
“I like photography, because I can capture the moment. … Capturing the way a person is feeling at the time, or their enthusiasm for something. I think I just have more interest in that,” she said.
While her interest is in capturing a moment, Gill remains practical when considering a future career in photography.
“I've thought about this in so many different ways, but I probably will keep it as a hobby,” she said. “Marketing is a big part of being a successful photographer. I don't have much of a knack for that. I plan on having photography as a creative outlet it's a great skill to have, but what I've become is through, not as much having a natural eye, but through looking at what other people have done, what angles they've taken. I'm not really a natural at it, and there are people who are naturals who are having a hard time making a living”
Gill judges her work as adequate but not exceptional. But her commander and hundreds of uniformed customers disagree.
“She's the best photographer I've had the pleasure of working with,” Leaptrott said.