In the Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard, officers and NCOs are expected to have a current DA Photo. The DA Photo is used to assess a soldier’s professionalism and appearance. In most cases, a photo is good for five years.
According to Army Regulation 640-30, an officer or NCO is required to update a DA photo at a minimum of every five years, or whenever there is a significant change to the dress uniform, such as a promotion or having received an award. General officers must update their DA photo at a minimum of every three years.
These DA Photos are used for promotion packets, command packets, Soldier/NCO of the Year packets, and several other things.
A photo is considered “current” unless you received a new award or were promoted. In either of those cases, you would need to update your DA Photo (have a new photo taken). Even if you didn’t receive an award or get promoted during the past five-years, you would still need to have a new photo taken.
DA Photo Lab
Most major bases have a photo lab. Some National Guard Installations have photo labs as well. The lab is typically a separate building or office you visit to have your photo taken. There is normally a receptionist and a photographer.
You visit the photo lab on your scheduled date and time and have your photo taken and processed. It normally takes 15-60 minutes to complete the process, depending upon how they are staffed and how efficient they are at what they do.
According to the regulations I could find online, you must approve or reject your photo within 72-hours.
DA Photo Appointment
To schedule a DA Photo Appointment, you visit the Visual Information Ordering Site (VIOS). The website provides the locations where photos are taken. You are required to use your local facility.
All requests must be entered into VIOS with justification for review based on resources available and importance to the organization, based on the adjutant general’s priorities. ~ Minnesota National Guard
To schedule your appointment, you can login with your CAC card and complete the process. It takes about 10-15 minutes to schedule an appointment. The site will let you check the times available, so you can book an appointment that is convenient for you. Most offices are open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
DA Photo Regulation
The official DA Photo Regulation is AR 640-30. This regulation provides you with the details and requirements for your photo. This includes the process for taking, submitting, selecting, and publishing your photo. It also outlines the responsibilities of unit commanders, installation commanders, the Photo Lab personnel, and the individual soldier.
Attend your appointment unless your uniform is already put together. The Soldier is responsible for ensuring that his or her uniform fits properly, is pressed and that all ribbons/medals/badges/rank are correctly displayed for official military photographs. This is the point of taking the photo; so the members of the board may observe if said Soldier is ‘squared-away’. ~ Texas Military Department
If you are unsure about the rules or procedures for your DA Photo, I recommend you take 20-minutes and read this 18-page regulation. It will give you all the information you need to prepare for your photo session.
DA Photo Example
What you see here is my last DA Photo I had taken before I resigned from the Army National Guard. I had this photo taken in November in 2010 at Fort Detrick, Maryland just a few months after I pinned on Major. The only thing I’ve done to modify it is cross out my social security number and personal information to protect my privacy. You can tell from the photo, I’m a good looking guy. LOL.
DA Photo Location
As I mentioned earlier, most Active Duty Installations have a DA Photo Lab. If you are in the National Guard or Reserve, you have additional options. Every state has its own DA Photo location. Some States offer several locations. The best thing you can do is contact your Unit S1 Office or visit the G1 website.
The photo lab provides a wide range of photographic services, studio, on-location and documentation and digital imaging. Turnaround times vary with production requirements but most products are produced normally within three to five working days. ~ Joint Base San Antonio
In most cases, you will be able to find a location that works for you. If you can’t figure things out on your own, contact your local Human Resources Section and they can help you book your appointment. If your local facility is unavailable, you can do a quick Internet search to find an alternate location.
Tips for a Good DA Photo
Listed below you will find my top 10 tips to ensure you have a good DA Photo.
# 1: Prepare your uniform the night before, or the week before. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute. If you do that, there’s a good chance you will mess something up with your uniform.
# 2: Have your supervisor or a trusted peer spot check your uniform to make sure everything is in order. Having a second set of eyes inspecting your uniform is a good idea.
# 3: Check your uniform several weeks ahead of time to make sure it still fits. Many of us get “bigger” with age. If you haven’t worn your dress uniform for three months, or longer, try it on ahead of time to make sure everything still fits. The last thing you want is a photo of you wearing a uniform that looks like SPANDEX on you.
# 4: Double check to make sure your ribbons and badges are present and in the correct order. I’ve seen several soldiers mess this up. They put their ribbons on the ribbon rack in the wrong order (by accident). Because they didn’t inspect their uniform ahead of time, their photo was incorrect.
# 5: Verify your 2-1 or Personnel Record to make sure you are only wearing awards you are entitled to wear. Don’t wear an award you haven’t earned! Don’t wear an award that is not reflected in your personnel file (or is not authorized).
# 6: Make sure you have a fresh haircut and brush your teeth. This should be common sense, but do these things before you arrive on site.
# 7: If you take your photo in the afternoon, make sure you shave right before you take your photo. There are some people that have a 3 o’clock shadow by 10 a.m. If your facial hair grows fast, shave again right before you leave to have your photo taken.
# 8: Have the photographer take several pictures of you and pick the best one. Most photographers will do this anyway.
Finally, if you aren’t happy with your official photo, schedule a follow-up session and have it retaken. I’ve seen some bad photos. In fact, I had one myself that could have made the all time top 10 worst photos list. Don’t make that same mistake.
Should They Eliminate the DA Photo?
Just to keep things interesting, I want to offer a debate question about the relevancy of the DA Photo in the promotion process. My opinion is that the Army should eliminate the DA Photo requirement. Here’s why. The Army talks about Equal Opportunity and the importance of EVERYONE having the same promotion and career opportunities. Personally, I think that’s a good thing.
For promotion purposes, Soldiers must go before some type of DA Board (NCOs and officers). Their records, achievements, evaluation reports, and other personnel files are objectively reviewed by a group of pre-selected individuals. The candidates are either chosen, or not chosen for promotion based upon a variety of factors such as previous jobs, performance in those jobs, completion of certain military schools, potential, physical fitness, and more. In addition, each promotion packet contains a DA Photo, which is reviewed to ensure the Soldier “looks like a Soldier” and is wearing the same awards that are highlighted in their personnel records.
Here is where the problem happens. When someone on the board sees the DA Photo they immediately know the candidate’s gender and race. I’m not sure how the promotion process can be neutral or fair when people on the board know the person’s gender or race. Can you? Yes, most people in the Army do the right thing, but people who have preconceived prejudices, either good or bad, can ultimately make a decision based upon the applicant’s photo.
Will this happen often? Probably not. Does it happen? I’m sure. And that’s why I think the Army should get rid of the DA Photo for promotion boards. Why can’t the person’s achievements and performance speak for themselves? Why do you need a photo of the person as part of the decision making process? I don’t think it has any relevancy whatsoever.
What do you think? Is there a good reason the DA Photo should be part of the promotion process?
If you are serious about your military career, it’s up to you to manage it wisely. One aspect of doing that is to keep a current DA Photo. At a minimum, I recommend you update your photo every 2-years. That’s just my personal preference. When you get promoted or receive a new award it would be a good idea to get your photo updated. Whatever you do, stay proactive and make sure you keep a current photo in your personnel file. You never know when you will need it!
What are your thoughts on this subject? Tell us about your worst photo, or your best DA photo. Leave your comments and questions below. Thank you.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- Top Military Career Tips
- Military Marriage Tips
- The Quickest Way to Ruin Your Military Career
- The Army Officer NCO Relationship
- Starship Troopers Book Review
Former Army Major (resigned)
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