Lieutenant Claire Jackson is team leader for the British Army’s combat camera team for H19. She works alongside Sgt Dan Bardsley (photographer) and Sgt Paul Shaw (video cameraman). They are based in Afghanistan and will be covering the work of the Armed forces, in particular 7th Armoured Brigade – the Desert Rats, throughout the winter. They capture moving and still imagery from events out on the ground that national broadcasters don’t have access to.
From a different viewpoint
Well, four weeks in and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of things out here in the desert. I’ve taken over from Capt Mau Gris who was the team leader for the H18 combat camera team (CCT). Mau had gathered a large fan base through his blog, and I’m hoping to continue the story, but this time telling the story through the eyes of a female, a relative newcomer to the Army, a first tour, and a Reservist.
My journey started in May 2013 when I worked my last day in the office of my civilian job and the following day rocked up to the Reinforcements Training Mobilisation Centre (RTMC), Chilwell, to sign on the dotted line. What was I doing? Second thoughts rushing through my mind. Was I mad? Did I realise what I was giving up – the warmth and cleanliness of an office in Warwickshire in exchange for a portacabin and tent in the middle of the desert?
I have worked as a TV Production Manager for a small independent company in Barford, Warwickshire, called X2 Productions Ltd for the last four years, having finished a short-term contract at the BBC in Birmingham. It’s down to X2 that I joined the Territorial Army (TA / the Army Reserves as they are now called) because of the first TV series that I worked on where we sent a crew to Afghanistan and embedded them for six weeks with the Army. There wasn’t a budget to send me along so I manned the phones from the UK and organised the trip for them, wishing I was out there with them.
From Private to Combat Camera Team Leader
I joined the TA in 2009, went through basic training as a private soldier, then went down the Officer path and commissioned in October 2011 into the RLC. After a stint of troop commanding with 243 HQ Squadron, 159 Supply Regiment, Canley, I made the decision to transfer into the Media Operations Group (MOG), mainly because of work commitments and not being able to dedicate enough time to my supply troop.
The MOG is a national unit for personnel with specialist media skills and has a lower level of commitment which suited me. Having passed the selection day with the group, I soon discovered the role of the CCT having listened to a presentation from a team who had just returned from a six-month tour. It had me hooked and I immediately decided that was going to be my goal. And here I am now a year-and-a-half later, sitting in Helmand Province leading a combat camera team.
The team consists of Sgt Paul Shaw and Sgt Dan Bardsley. Both originally trained as photographers with Paul branching off into the role of Electronic News Gatherer (ENG) / video operator for this tour, whilst Dan is responsible for taking the photos. My job is to pull the team together, organise and set up the jobs, direct and produce, and write up the stories. I ensure that all jobs are completed and pushed out to various media outlets where possible.
All three of us play very different roles within the team. Myself and Paul work closely together as I have to act as his force protection when out on the ground when he’s got his head behind the camera (it’s a good job I had that bit of extra training before I deployed). Whereas Dan works a bit more independently and can be tasked on jobs by himself if needs be.
I met Paul and Dan for the first time in July when we did a two week CCT course. We’re going to be spending the next six months together working and living in a very close-knit environment, and one that is very different from my life back in the UK. No make-up, no jewellery, no civilian clothes, a military green wardrobe and a whole new world in the desert.
There’s no going back now……