Visual Information

From Commander, Military Sealift Command

Visual Information

In this interconnected world feeding a 24-hour news cycle, the missions of the Department of Defense often play out on a global stage, sometimes with strategic implications.

In 2016, the Secretary of Defense directed that all commands establish the capability to capture and send pictures and videos within one-hour of a reportable event.  The imagery collected provides an immediate first-look reporting to commanders and is central to the Navy’s missions of sea control, power projection, deterrence and forward presence.

An example of a reportable event for us is when a foreign vessel is operating in an unsafe or provocative manner near a MSC ship.

In the case of our ships, accurate depiction of tactical operations using visual information – “VI” for short – can be especially crucial to providing demonstrable evidence of unsafe and unprofessional encounters at sea in order to dispute the veracity of potential false claims.

We need to be able to document and transmit visual evidence of unsafe seamanship and provocative behavior our Mariners might witness.

Last year, MSC conducted a pilot program to examine our ability to man, train and equip the MSC fleet with the resources needed to support VI collection requirements.

Taking the lessons learned from the pilot we are now executing the VI program.  Thanks in large part to the efforts of our headquarters and Fleet staffs, over the last several months we procured and delivered standardized VI kits to ships operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR.  Additional kits will soon arrive to ships in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleets.  Ultimately all MSC ships as well as contractor-operated ships will have the ability to capture and transmit VI products.

In conjunction with the delivery of the kits, we are implementing a training program so that our Mariners are trained and ready to execute this mission.  We recently conducted inaugural hands-on training for Mariners as well as “train the trainer” classes in Singapore and Guam.  In addition, we’re partnering with Navy Public Affairs Support Element to provide our civilian Mariners end-to-end training to meet Fleet requirements.  The course curriculum will focus on still and video photographic training as well as instruction on downloading, processing, and transmitting VI products from our ships.

During this roll-out phase of the program we are also using reserve support to help train Mariners and to capture imagery aboard our ships.

The VI mission is growing in importance as state and non-state actors are becoming bolder and more capable in their efforts to contest safe passage.

Capturing these challenges on video and offering them as evidence of our competitor’s aggressive behavior is a “no fail” mission; its importance parallels the emphasis properly placed on safe navigation and force protection.

For those assigned to operate and transmit visual information, know that this is a priority mission and ensure that you are prepared to execute.

We will discover new or better processes as we implement this program, so all Mariners should feel empowered to put forth proactive and innovative solutions to improve this program.

Senior Department of Defense leaders are counting on MSC to capture and transmit imagery to help them make decisions that have strategic importance.

Thanks in advance to those Mariners who will capture and transmit this important imagery.  You are the key to successfully executing this mission.

United We Sail,

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, USN

Commander, Military Sealift Command


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