|It's 1 p.m., Aug. 16, 2006, on a white-hot highway 70 miles west of Baghdad. One soldier is down after being hit by a sniper, and bullets kick up dust a few yards from Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock. “Cover me!” he yells to a U.S. gunner. Adrenaline floods his body, and he runs as fast as he can, faster than he thought possible, to get even closer to the action. Armed with a Nikon digital camera, Lock starts shooting ... photographs.|
Lock photographed soldiers crouching behind cars as bullets whizzed in from a field. He turned his lens toward the soldiers tending to the fallen GI. Lock saw they needed a hand. He picked up the wounded soldier's M-4 rifle and provided cover until the GI was pulled to safety. Lock then switched back to his camera. The wounded soldier survived.
It was this battle and Lock's ability to switch from photographer to fighter in a split second without thought that earned him a Bronze Star. As a 15-year Air Force photographer that is assigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, he routinely braves bullets and bombs to tell the military's story through the lenses of his Nikon cameras. He has photographed U.S. servicemembers in action during multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has participated in more than 90 missions occurring “outside the wire” resulting in more than 2,350 of the highest quality still images that are used to record history.
Combat photographers are generally paired with military combat videographers and are embedded with units. They accompany those units as they perform their missions.
One of Lock's most poignant photos among his award winning portfolio was taken in Iraq in August 2006. The image depicts a grimacing Iraqi citizen lying in a Ramadi street. He had been caught in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and insurgents, according to Lock.
“We really don't know who shot him,” Lock recalled. “We did a traffic control stop, and right before we mounted up, one of our soldiers took a bullet to the back and we got into a gunfight. After searching houses, this guy was found lying wounded on his side.”
The Iraqi had been hit in the hip, Lock said, noting the injured man received medical treatment by U.S. medics and survived. The wounded Iraqi's photo was intentionally taken from an angle, Lock noted. “I just tried to show the viewer something different than what the normal eye would see,” the veteran photographer explained. “A good photo will tell the whole story in a split-second of a frame,” Lock said. “It leaves a lasting impression and will be etched into your mind.”
Lock's photos have won many awards and also appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and the LA Times.
Whenever he accompanies a unit, Lock arms himself with two Nikon D2X digital cameras and a 9 mm Beretta automatic, so that when he's with a team, be it Army, Marines or Special Forces, he is an asset, instead of being a liability. He said he takes turns with the troops he accompanies, watching each other's backs.
Lock recalls being shot at numerous times during his tours in war-zones. During firefights, “adrenalin starts rushing, and your training kicks in,” Lock explained. “I tend not to be scared until the night before a mission or just afterward.”
For Lock, the medal is a reminder of the inherent risks in capturing images of war, along with the difficult decisions they sometimes make. Lock summarizes it well when he says most photographers aren't faced with the choice of shooting a photograph or a person.
Excerpts taken from article by dippold, July 17, 2007 and The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC, January 31, 2007 (via the Dept. of Defense) ... Photo and information courtesy of US Air Force / Dept. of Defense