Combat Camera Across the Services

Article 4 min
Compare unique missions and specialized capabilities of units supporting COMCAM within the branches of service.

The combat camera (COMCAM) mission is unique and highly specialized. COMCAM forces are an operational asset designed to assist in shaping the information landscape, and to help commanders understand, visualize, describe and direct their forces by providing high-quality battlefield video and still imagery.

COMCAM is a specifically-trained force from service-designated units capable of providing high-quality visual information during military operations. Additionally, service COMCAM units maintain quick-response teams able to embed and operate tactical units in austere environments for up to thirty days. Commanders involved in wartime operations, worldwide crises, contingencies, joint exercises and other events involving DoD components having significant national interest must plan for, task, sustain and employ COMCAM forces.

Explore the unique mission, capabilities and units supporting COMCAM in the different branches of service.

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Comcam Across Services

COMCAM RoleAir Force

Air Force COMCAM units provide in-flight (fixed or rotary) and ground personnel capable of day or night, all-weather imagery, still or video acquisition, processing and rapid transmission. Forces are trained and equipped to operate from locations to support all military units, both conventional and special operations forces.

When not deployed, COMCAM units are under the operational control of the Director, Air Force Public Affairs Agency.

Units

  • 1st Combat Camera Squadron (1CTCS), Charleston AFB, SC

Common Capabilities

  • Aerial still and video imagery acquisition
  • Helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST)
  • Imagery transmission
  • Night imagery acquisition
  • Product development, layout and design
  • Survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE)
  • Video and still acquisition and editing

Specific to Service

  • Aircrew qualified
  • Large scale production

Comcam RoleArmy

Army COMCAM units provide still and video acquisition of all operations to include land, static airborne and air assault operations. Personnel assigned to Army COMCAM units are trained and equipped to operate under all weather and lighting conditions with both conventional and special operations units. Each soldier is dual photo/video-capable, and Army COMCAM provides multimedia and graphic design creation, editing and production. They maintain airborne qualified service members and conduct other advanced tactical training, including air assault, combat lifesaver and advanced marksmanship techniques.

Army COMCAM Reserve Component units are under the operational control of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) until they are deployed. Army COMCAM Active Component units are under the operational control of U.S. Army Cyber Command/Second Army until they are deployed. The units can deploy on short notice and may be tailored to support any level of combat force projection.

Units

  • Signal Company (Combat Camera) Fort Meade, MD
    • The 55th Signal Company rapidly deploys worldwide throughout the full spectrum of military operations to capture, edit and transmit high definition still and video imagery in support of the commander's tactical, operational and strategic objectives.
  • 982 Signal Company (Combat Camera), East Point, GA (Reserves)

Common Capabilities

  • Aerial still and video imagery acquisition
  • Helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST)
  • Imagery transmission
  • Night imagery acquisition
  • Product development, layout and design
  • Survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE)
  • Video and still acquisition and editing

Specific to Service

  • Airborne high-altitude, low-opening parachute technique

Comcam roleMarine Corps

The Marine Corps does not maintain designated combat camera units.

Marine Corps Communication Strategy and Operations (COMMSTRAT) units are organized, trained and equipped to support combat camera requirements at all levels. There are COMMSTRAT assets assigned to every element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), supporting establishments and training commands.

COMMSTRAT forces are task-organized to provide commanders with specialized, combat-trained and equipped Marines capable of rapid deployment and operation in austere, maritime and hostile environments, with both conventional and special operations forces.

COMMSTRAT forces are capable of all-weather, all-lighting directed imagery acquisition, processing and transmission. In addition, COMMSTRAT forces are capable of expeditionary multimedia and large-scale print production.

Units

  • Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA
  • Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, NC
  • Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan

Common Capabilities

  • Aerial still and video imagery acquisition
  • Helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST)
  • Imagery transmission
  • Night imagery acquisition
  • Product development, layout and design
  • Survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE)
  • Video and still acquisition and editing

Specific to Service

  • A limited number of aircrew qualified personnel
  • A limited number of airborne qualified personnel
  • A limited number of SCUBA qualified personnel
  • Large scale, expeditionary production via the Tactical Imagery Production System (TIPS)
  • Visual Information Personnel (VIPER) team support (while embarked)
  • Ship's Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Examination (SNOOPIE) team support (while embarked)

COMCAM ROLENavy

The Navy does not have combat camera units, but deploys specially trained Sailors from its Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE), which has centers and detachments located around the world. NPASE provides a maritime expeditionary public affairs (PA), visual information (VI) and communication integration support capability for commands without an organic capability.

NPASE is organized, manned, trained and equipped to maintain worldwide deployable PA and VI forces made up of active duty and reserve personnel to support senior Navy leadership and Chief of Information communication requirements, and the maritime commander’s visual communication objectives, within the maritime environment in which they are trained to operate.

Units

  • Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, Norfolk, VA
  • Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, San Diego, CA

NPASE deploys in teams or individually based on the commander’s requirements:

  • Sea Operational Detachments up to six personnel provide PA and VI planning and multimedia production
  • Multimedia Documentation teams consist of two MCs to provide video and still documentation and production
  • Multimedia Response teams and Advanced Coordination teams are quick response PA and VI teams capable of deploying within 24 hours of activation
  • Live Broadcast teams with an organic capability to provide real-time live broadcast using self-sustained mobile broadcast terminals

Common Capabilities

  • Hand-held still, motion media and infrared thermal imagery acquisition of maritime operations
  • Still and video imagery support for visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), maritime interdiction operations, and unsafe maritime interactions against U.S. and allied vessels
  • Still and video imagery as part of the Visual Information Personnel (VIPER) team to visually document unsafe, unprofessional or nefarious activities at sea, on land and in the air
  • Still and video imagery for Ship's Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Examination (SNOOPIE) support for intelligence interactions
  • Short-form video, multimedia production layout and design and product development
  • Imagery transmission
  • Night imagery acquisition
  • Limited number of aircrew qualified personnel for aerial still/video imagery acquisition
  • A limited number of qualified MCs to meet limited underwater missions
  • Limited support for joint operations if qualified personnel are available and the mission falls within their skillset(s)