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    Soldier finds resiliency and new purpose through photography



    Story by Sgt. Ashley Morris 

    3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division

    “March 2017, I was going through Ranger assessment as a newly promoted sergeant,” said Wright. “I knew that I wanted to be a chaplain’s assistant in a Ranger Regiment. I finished the course but they told me I wasn’t experienced enough yet. I was angry at the time but looking back I knew they were right.”
    “Around that same time I was going through a divorce,” Wright said. “On top of that different things started happening with work and I was really upset with how things were being handled. I was having a very hard time both professionally and personally. My divorced drained me financially and I ended up taking a second job to stay afloat financially. After I was able to get caught up, I began using the extra money from my other job to travel. I decided to buy a camera to start capturing the good moments in my life.”
    U.S. Army Sgt. Isaac Wright, the brigade religious affairs noncommissioned officer in charge, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, discovered that photography can be more than a way to capture memories. Photography has provided a much needed outlet that lead to resiliency through his most stressful times and helped him discover a new purpose in life.
    At the age of 18, Wright enlisted in the Army after graduating from Colerain High School, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2014. The middle child in a family of five children, Wright knew two things – that he wanted to be a Soldier and that he wanted to help people.
    “I joined the Army because I wanted to serve my country,” Wright said. “I wanted to be able to help people but I also wanted a way to pay for college and graduate without debt, travel the world, and be independent from my parents.”
    In the beginning of his career, things were going very well professionally. Wright’s first duty station was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After being in the Army for only two and half years, Wright was promoted to sergeant.
    Unfortunately things were not going too well in his personal life.
    Early 2017, Wright started experiencing problems at home that ultimately led to him divorcing from his wife. As a result, his military work was starting to suffer.
    After a few bad instances that cause him to question his purpose in the military, Wright realized that he had to find a way to deal with his issues and the emotions that were burning within him.
    “I knew that I needed to work through my issues, but my independent attitude sometimes clashes with military,” said Wright as he recalled the first time he picked up a camera.
    In the beginning, Wright started traveling on the weekends to get away from the area and clear his mind. Wright soon realized that he wanted to share the things he was seeing and experiencing through his travels.
    “I was never really into anything artistic as a kid,” Wright said. The first time I picked up a camera was September of 2017. The first camera I bought was a Nikon D3400 with a couple of kit lenses. I shot a few times here and there, but nothing serious.”

    Eventually he realized that taking photos combined with traveling to new places became a good outlet for Wright to release the stress that he had been bottling over the year. Although he did not feel better overnight, he did start noticing that is work performance was improving.
    “Photography helps me work through the stresses of life and the military,” Wright said. “Art has given me an outlet to express myself during a time when I really didn’t have any other outlet.”
    It was not until Wright left Fort Bragg in April 2018 to report to Fort Polk, Louisiana, that he started becoming more serious with his photography.
    When he first arrived to Fort Polk, Wright had lost his passion for being a Soldier. The stress of reporting to a new unit and duty station so quickly after his previous issues led to him going out every weekend and shooting photos to decompress.
    “When I got here I wasn’t excited about the Army anymore,” Wright said. “Although I was progressing pretty fast and performing well, I had lost my passion for being a Soldier. I was in such a hard transition period, photography helped me cope. It still helps me cope.”
    Again, Wright was determined that he was not going to let his lack of motivation effect his work performance.
    “I told myself I wasn’t going to let my personal issues spill over into my work,” Wright said. “When I was younger I didn’t think I could be able to influence people, but I found out that wasn’t true. When you’re a good chaplains assistant and you get really embedded in a unit, you can help Soldiers, leaders and an entire unit in a way that you really wouldn’t imagine.”
    Wright further went on to explain that he knew that he was ultimately responsible for his own success or failure. It was up to him to put forth the effort and be proactive about helping Soldiers. Before being assigned to brigade, Wright served as the religious affairs specialist for 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.
    “I was going to get to know the Soldiers in my unit and make sure that I was a contributing force in the unit,” said Wright fondly. “The six months that I was in 2-4 before moving to brigade was some of my favorite times in the Army. From the leadership on down, I felt like we were all very close. To this day I still have Soldiers from 2-4 approach me and it’s like nothing ever changed.”
    Towards the end of 2018, Wright went to the battalion promotion board and was recommended for promotion to staff sergeant, after which he was moved to brigade.
    Now a chaplain’s assistant at brigade, Wright says his change in responsibility is new territory that he is currently working though. At the brigade level, his duty position is more of a managerial role over the enlisted brigade’s battalion level unit ministry teams.
    “Brigade is a different beast and atmosphere,” Wright said. “I’m still trying to find that balance between interacting with Soldiers directly and understanding my duties at the brigade.”
    The role of the brigade religious affairs NCOIC can be very tiresome. For Wright, that means finding any moment he can to decompress. He attributes photography for his ability to come back to work from weekend more focused and ready to accomplish any mission.
    “Being in a busy unit, it can be hard to find time to shoot. I find myself becoming upset, angry, irritated or sad, if I am not able to work in any time for my photography. It has a very different significance than I think it does for other people. It keeps me going and I really can’t see myself doing anything else.”
    Although he is progressing very quickly through the Army, Wright has bigger plans for his photography that involves less time with the Army.
    For Wright, photography has become something he loves more than being a Soldier. It is no longer just an outlet to deal with stress, it has become something that he wants as a new career.
    “I wish I could combine photography and my current job,” Wright said. “The creative side of me wants to focus on thinking outside of the box and finding new ways to approach something. Sometimes it feels like the military can stifle that creativity.”
    Wright has spoken with several people about making photography a career and he has received mixed advice.
    “People tell me I am stupid if I decide to get out since it looks like I will make staff sergeant in under five years,” Wright said. “I know that people won’t understand my goals and ambitions as it relates to making photography my life’s work, but that’s okay. As well as I work in the Army, I can put 10 times better work into photography and videography. I also believe that I can help people in other ways – my art being one of them.”
    With three years remaining in his contract, Wright is working on a vision that will allow him to make a career out of traveling and taking pictures of cityscapes and creating products that offer unique perspectives. Adventure photographer is his ultimate goal and it requires a lot of flexibility.
    As far as the military, Wright does not want to completely hang up his uniform. If he decides to leave active duty, he would like to transition into the Army Reserves or the National Guard. This will allow Wright the opportunity to continue serving his country, with the freedom to make photography into a full-time career.
    “If I stay in and do everything right, take the right positions and attend the right schools, I would probably go all the way to the top of my corps,” Wright said. “For me that is not what it is about. I don’t believe you should make anything your life’s work that you don’t absolutely love.”
    Wright currently maintains a YouTube Channel and Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to his photography. By having his work on social media it not only allows him to receive honest constructive feedback on his work, it has also help him meet new people and make new friends.
    “When I first started sharing my work, I tried to take myself out of the picture as much as possible,” Wright said. “Over time my work has evolved and now I want to tell my story, using my pictures and videos. At the end of the day I want people know that if I can make it, they can make it too.”
    When reflecting back on why Wright initially chose photography, it believes it had more to do with capturing the good moments in his life. According to Wright, art through photography has a way of connecting people better than anything else.
    “Photography helped me at a time in my life where I did not think I could go on in a lot ways – physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Wright thoughtfully. “It allowed me to conquer and rise above the bad things in my life. I want to inspire other people to do the same. I hope that through my photography and videos I am able to stir emotions that causes people to want to look objectively at the world around them and become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.”



    Date Taken: 02.20.2019
    Date Posted: 05.31.2019 13:57
    Story ID: 324827
    Location: FORT POLK, LA, US 
    Hometown: CINCINNATI, OH, US

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