Specialist Travis Staats is part of the route clearance team – their job is to go ahead of the convoys in specialized vehicles known as HUSKYs to make sure there are no IEDs on the road ahead. A somewhat thankless job that is known by few but saves hundreds of service men and women’s lives every day. Eyewitness War: Bomb Squad Boom follows the first-hand account of Specialist Travis Staats’ fatal encounter with an explosive IED device and the rescue mission that saved his life. Through the point-of-view perspective of his helmet cam, it is apparent that it is one thing to hear these stories but to witness them from a soldier’s perspective is a totally different experience. Segment Producer Trey Bozillieri and Specialist Staats talk further about war photography and the use of new technologies such as the helmet cam below.
Caught On Video
The relationship between a military person and their camera has existed for generations, since the advent of cameras small enough to carry on one’s person [WWII]. Today helmet cameras are enabling audiences around the world to experience military combat in an extremely personal way. SPC Travis Staats, featured in this episode, shares what led him to begin using a helmet camera to document his experiences abroad:
SPC Staats: “During one of our, our pre-deployment training sessions, it was actually a company for a 3D television series that came out and they wanted to videotape us for some series they were doing. And they were using the GoPros, and we all were noticing that these GoPros were pretty cool, they’re pretty small, that’d be great for capturing footage overseas. So, we checked out some of their footage and saw how well the cameras worked, and decided to go and purchase them on our own.”
What is a GoPro?
A GoPro is a camera that… it’s a small, square size camera that shoots 1080p, very high definition video. It can be mounted pretty much anywhere – helmet, chest, arm, leg, the wall.
Where do most guys on deployment wear their GoPro’s?
Most of the time we wear them on our helmets, they just attach to our helmet right in the front. It’s easiest to control so you can turn it off and on very quickly. You can point and see, so it’s everywhere you see, so when you do catch the good footage, you know, if you’re looking right at it, you capture it on video also.
How aware are you of it when you’re wearing it?
You sometimes you forget that it’s on. Most of the time I gotta double check it every couple of hours, make sure videos, you know, the battery’s still good, or I haven’t run out of memory. But most of the time you kind of forget that it’s on your head.
When you do go through significant footage, how does the video compare to the real life experience?
The video captures the event very well, sound, audio, video, it captures it very well. But, you know, the, the feeling that you get when the bombs explode, you know, the… what’s going through your head, that can just never be caught on video.
Do you feel that friends and family get a better understanding when they see the videos?
It helps friends and family get a better understanding, seeing videos like that, to kind of understand. But like I said before, it’s the feelings that you can’t relate at all through video. But it does help them understand or see exactly what happened or how things went.
What percentage of guys are using helmet cams these days?
These days, like with my last deployment to Afghanistan, I would say about 50 percent, if not more than that, of our guys had helmet cameras, or a camera of some sorts to video tape things. A few years ago, 2006, and so not many people had helmet cams, nobody even thought about it.
What are people doing with the videos?
Most people just keep them to themselves, have them to show families, have them to show friends. I couldn’t really tell you why I wanted to record stuff, I just wanted to have it. You know, maybe I could show my grandkids one day, certain things about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Did you ever capture anything that you wished you hadn’t?
There’s a few things that I have captured and wished I didn’t… not that I wished I didn’t capture it, I just wished it didn’t happen. Actually, a lot of the things I captured I just wish didn’t happen to begin with.
Do you ever watch those videos?
I try not to watch the videos. It’s already done and past, and I’ve moved on from it, so it’s not that hard to watch them again, but it does bring back memories, it does bring back emotions that I’d rather not relive again.
By Trey Borzillieri, Segment Producer, Eyewitness War
Catch Eyewitness War: Bomb Squad Boom MON AUG 5 10:30PM ET