NORFOLK (NNS) -- Running up the ladder well, panting for air, Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hilkowski cradles a large 600mm lens. He has less than five minutes to make it all the way up to the 010 level of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with his camera gear.
The loud clanking of metal as the ladder hits the bulkhead alerts oncoming Sailors that someone is rushing in their direction.
"Make way for SNOOPIE team," Hilkowski shouts as he clamors up the ladder well.
Moments later Hilkowski, in charge of taking photos for SNOOPIE, arrives ready to photograph contacts of interest.
The Ship's Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Intelligence Exploitation (SNOOPIE) team is on call to report any unknown contacts that are visible while Theodore Roosevelt is underway. SNOOPIE helps identify those contacts as well as any changes to a contact over time.
"The purpose of the SNOOPIE team is to help the ship's lookout and the officer of the deck identify vessels of interest, ships, small boats or aircraft that are unidentifiable to the lookouts or the officer of the deck," said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Brandi Gutierrez.
SNOOPIE team is usually called away if a ship or aircraft does not respond to the bridge, but sometimes SNOOPIE will be called even if the contact is responding to bridge communication.
"The officer of the deck or the intelligence officer will call SNOOPIE team," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Scott Solis. "There will be communication [with the vessel]; however, we still want that photograph. The pictures that we take will help identify any changes to that vessel. We are the eyes of the sea. We are the eyes of the fleet."
SNOOPIE team assembles immediately if there is any indication that Theodore Roosevelt will have incoming aircraft.
"We had an air contact flying when I was in the 5th Fleet [area of responsibility], flying way below its normal altitude. As the SNOOPIE team, we were out ready to take photos of it. When it buzzed by the carrier we were standing on the island," said Solis.
SNOOPIE team consists of personnel from Operations and Media departments because they have the equipment and training necessary to help identify and document contacts.
"We have one person that is photographic intelligence personnel. The reason why they are on the team is because they are able to identify the vessel itself quicker than other intelligence specialists," said Solis. "You also have a naval intelligence specialist involved. That person is there to tell us the "so what" factor, or why that vessel is around us. They give us the history of that vessel, either being merchant or military."
SNOOPIE writes a report of the contact and submits it to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) within one hour. ONI's analysis of these contacts plays an important part in the overall mission of the fleet.
"The biggest takeaway is that the analysts back on the home front, they're doing intelligence every day and know the newest thing and what the threat is," said Chief Intelligence Specialist Amanda Brown.
Analysts look for different points of coverage, personnel onboard, weapons posture, and who owns the vessels. SNOOPIE team is the critical first step in the process.
"I enjoy doing it," said Solis. "At the end of the day my team's name goes on that product. When we shoot our final report out, it lets everyone know we're doing our job and we take pride in it. You always take pride in a perfect product. It lets us know why we're there."
The next time you hear "This is the TAO. Away the SNOOPIE team, away!" You'll know why you're clearing the way and why it is a vital part in the big picture that SNOOPIE gets reports to ONI in a timely manner.
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