11/3/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
When the average person prepares for the next work day, their normal thoughts naturally drift to what that day might hold for them.
On the crisp morning of Halloween Eve, I arrived at the 11th Wing Public Affairs Office for my photo assignment, for possible inclusion in the base newspaper at Andrews Air Force Base. After discussing the shoot with the editor, I proceeded out to my vehicle.
As I crossed the parking lot, I looked down and found a tattered ten dollar bill. I instantly
thought, "today is off to a good start."
I then drove to the front entrance of Andrews Air Force Base to stage myself in a good spot to capture images of the first Fallen Airmen's Ride, sponsored by a group of concerned 11 WG Airmen.
I pulled into the parking lot of the 317th Reserve Recruiting Squadron, grabbed my camera bag and walked over to what I thought would be the best vantage point to photograph the motorcycle riders as they drove past the Andrews signage.
As I stood with my camera in one hand and my cell phone in the other waiting for my contact to give me the signal when the bike riders were on their way, I heard the roar of an engine, as an 11 WG Security Forces Squadron police vehicle approached me with lights blazing.
The Andrews security forces squadron member stepped out of his vehicle and asked for my
identification and photo authorization. I quickly complied and explained the nature of the photo shoot.
After the Airmen made a few calls and verified my identity, he advised me to notify the law
enforcement desk in advance to avoid future problems. I appreciated his cordial and professional
demeanor. He handed my ID back to me, reminding me that security was not taken lightly at Andrews.
So afterwards, I resumed my post, still waiting for the motorcyclists. During the waning moments, several outward bound servicemenbers would stop at the intersection
light and peer over at me.
I began to feel like the lone fish in a bowl; thinking to myself, "I might look just a little suspicious toting camera equipment while poised outside of Andrews." A few people who knew me even pulled over and said I looked somewhat suspicious.
As time went on I made camera adjustments for the backlit background that would challenge me, due to the harshness of the early morning light. I begin to take practice shots of vehicles to get an idea of the optimum exposure.
Unbeknownst to me, I photographed a black SUV with tinted windows. Afterwards, I checked my view finder and realized it was a U.S. Secret Service vehicle. Upon looking up, I realized that the driver of the vehicle was photographing me. I waved at the vehicle, feeling a little disarmed, now being the subject of one of the nation's top law enforcement agencies. A little rattled, I called the editor, semi-joking, to let her know that I had become the focus of two law enforcement agencies. So, if I turn up missing, she would at least have an idea where to start looking.
It was at that very moment that I realized how good the day was shaping up. I got the warm and fuzzy that Operational Security was alive and well on Andrews.
A familiar ring from my cell broke my thoughts as I realized it was finally the signal that my subjects
were on their way. Minutes later, a group of motorcycle riders made their way around the bend. I snapped off a quick series of images as they passed. I then threw my bag over my shoulder and ran over to my car so that I could follow them to the next stop.
Not two seconds after I jumped in my car and started it, a Prince George's County Police cruiser quickly and deliberately maneuvered in front of my car, blocking me in. As I cautiously departed my vehicle I thought "man, if someone tries to breach security here at Andrews, they're in for a long day."
The officer immediately followed procedure with a request for my ID, and at this point I already knew the drill. The officer told me that the 11 SFS front gate post asked him if he would check me out because they had been watching me. Before I could finish my spiel, the officer waved me on my way and said, "just be more careful next time." I replied "yes sir," and got back into my car. As the officer moved his vehicle, I smiled thinking the day turned out to be pretty awesome. As a retired Navy member and civilian contractor working on Andrews, it was great to know first-hand that this base is a safe place to work and play, due to the level of vigilance and security in place, even if it means falling under the microscope of three separate law enforcement agencies!