Standing out in the middle of the desert in the darkest hours of the night, waiting to capture a speeding missile is what Danny Saenz, Chief of the Electronic Documentation Branch at WSMR’s Visual Information, knows all too well.
“All that is fun, it’s what we do,” Saenz said.
Saenz has been working with Visual Information for the past 30 years. For the past 30 years, Saenz said he and his team go out to capture documentation for missile launches at least three times a week. The documentation doesn’t just begin and end at the launch, as many would imagine.
“We’re selected as a resources to serve the mission documentation purpose. We do a lot of work that people don’t know we do,” Saenz said.
Saenz and his team document the entire story of the launch from pre-launcher conditions, loading of missiles and all connections, to the actual launch. They also document the damage caused by the launch, known to them as recovery ops. During recovery ops Saenz and his team document the impact area and photograph all missile debris around the missile.
“We need to document every piece of the hit. It’s very important to see the actual damage to analyze how the mission went,” Saenz said.
Whatever the contractor requests is what Saenz and his team will do, with a turnaround time of the same day or the day after. The documentation contains photo stills and video from several different angles. Saenz said at times they have several missions in one day. At a minimum, Saenz said two individuals must be at the scene to document the entire mission.
“It’s very important for the projects, especially if something’s going wrong with the system. They have that piece of image they can refer to,” Saenz said.
Saenz said he and his team have seen almost every test mission that has come out to White Sands. He said he and Mike Smith, a fellow veteran photographer and videographer, can now accurately predict how fast and how far the launch will go.
“We go into auto mode,” Saenz said.
Video and photo documentation for missions is just part of what Saenz and his team do. Saenz is in charge of seven individuals who work in different sectors; Webb Turner is an audio visual specialist, Smith, Louis Rosales, and Daniel Lara, work on documenting test missions, Juan Najera, and Adrian Moreno, work on graphics, and Ruben Soto works in Optics Data. His graphics team provides graphics for ceremonies like Changes of Commands or presentations and posters that can be seen throughout the installation. In graphics, 10 percent is focused on mission graphics, and 90 percent on Garrison graphics. Optics Data edit all the digital images and videos of test missions in order to have them ready to be delivered in sometimes as little as a five hour time span.
“My guys know what is required without being told,” Saenz said.
“We used the Lean Six Sigma theory to do a quick turnover to maybe the day of the mission to the day after,” Saenz added.
The branch also houses an archive room that holds video and photo documentation of just about every mission that has been tested out here. Saenz said there is even V-2 rocket documentation. If a customer wanted to review one of their previous test missions Saenz said they can get in and extract data and give copies.