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From the Field

From Cameraman to Rescueman
By Tony Buttitta

I started out in the T.V. Business during my first couple of years of College in 1988. While attending Cal. State University, Northridge as a Radio, T.V. and Film major I was doing freelance work at CNN and C-Span. I worked in the studio for the most part and quickly learned that it wasn't for me. I needed to be where the action was. I would take in the feeds from the CNN crews and watch how exciting their footage was and wish that I was out there in the field recording that stuff live. After a couple of years I earned a position as a field soundman and was out in the news van running all over town. I still wanted to shoot though. Finally I was given my chance to shoot hard news in the field.

During the Gulf War lots of CNN crews where leaving town and that gave me my opportunity and have been doing it for over 10 years now. I had reached my goal, I was driving around town in a Microwave truck recording live news as it happens. I thought to myself, "This can't get any better." But I was missing something. Something inside, a feeling!

Here I was at all the same events that the Police and Firemen were at. Risking their lives, helping society, helping the world. Doing good. I felt like I should be doing something that really helps people. Not just getting in their face with a camera, in what is probably the worst day of their life. I lived with this feeling inside for many years.

I volunteered with L.A.P.D. for a few years helping on stake outs and looking for lost children but I just couldn't shake this feeling of emptiness inside. I even tested with several Fire Departments to be a Fireman and give up T.V. altogether or at least go freelance.

I went back to school and became an Emergency Medical Technician and worked as a medic on several sporting events. I had been working as a staff photographer for KCOP-13 news in Los Angeles for 9 years when I decided to become a reserve Sheriff's Deputy. After going through a year of background investigations, Psychological tests, a Polygraph test, several written tests and 6 months in the reserve Sheriff's Academy on nights and weekends I finally made it.

I am now a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Search and Rescue Team. Now that feeling inside me is gone. It has been replaced with a wonderful feeling of fulfillment. I finally feel like what I do helps people and helps the world in my own small way. And boy has my life changed. I can't believe the cool stuff I get to do. Rappelling out of helicopters, riding motorcycles on dirt trails in the middle of the night looking for lost people, hiking, desert survival, snow and ice training and much much more.

Whether I am patrolling the streets of Los Angeles County in a news van or a black and white, I am content with my place in the world.

About the Author
TONY BUTTITTA is employed by KCOP as a videographer and also works for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Search & Rescue Team