Unseen Warriors: The Power of COMCAM

Story 9 min
Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, the 55th Signal Company (COMCAM) has remained one of the most deployed signal companies in the United States Army. The following production by Phil Diab, 2016, sheds light on the untold story of America's eyes and ears on the battlefield.

Follow the stories of Sgt Mendez, Spc Stokes and 1SG Johnson as they recount intense moments in their role as COMCAM as they answer the question: "What, for you, was the scariest moment?"

Sergeant Connor Mendez

Starts at 00:58

"We were egressing to our stronghold, in this village in the Kapisa province, and we had to cross through this open field. We were spaced out pretty good to expedite the time it would take to get across that field. All of a sudden, we just started taking fire from two different directions. Your first instinct is to get down and there was some tall grass next to us. There was nothing you could do about it because you don’t know where the fire’s coming from and you kind of have to take it as the scene unfolds in front of you. I had to keep telling myself to stay calm, don’t forget the training that you’ve gone through to prep for these missions. I think that’s when you learn the most about who you are as a person and as a combat cameraman. That phrase, 'a picture tells a thousand words,' it’s very true."

They are documenting the good, the bad and the ugly. They need to be able to be mature enough to handle that.First Sergeant Endesha Johnson

Specialist Sha’Quille Stokes

Starts at 03:53

"At the time, we had no idea that there were enemies coming toward us or setting up to attack us. The Taliban had us basically surrounded by nothing but high ground. At the time of the attack, I was recording, getting photos, documenting. Small arms fire. Sniper fire came. Everything came at the same time. At one point in time, all the firing stopped. It was complete silence. So we got ready to exit the field and then all of a sudden all you heard was the AK firing start back up. Maybe three minutes later, it was sniper fire. The first shot hit over the Company Commander’s car. He started yelling, ‘somebody get on the gun! Somebody get on the gun!’ When I look up, there was a 240 over my head. All I thought to do was do my duty, so I laid down to suppress fire all across the ridge-line because I have no idea where he is. There was a shot that was fired at me. It went over the hood of my HUMVEE. It hit behind me, ricocheted off the wall and hit in front of my face, where I was taking cover at. And all I heard on the radio, 'COMCAM just got shot in the face!'"

First Sergeant Endesha Johnson

Starts at 05:36

"What comes to mind when I think of the ideal Combat Camera soldier is a soldier that embodies the total soldier concept. The soldier needs to be mature, because they are documenting the good, the bad and the ugly. They need to be able to be mature enough to handle that.

I believe that COMCAM soldiers are unseen warriors because most of the focus is going to be on the special forces soldiers – Army Rangers, a conventional army force tasked to go out and accomplish whatever the specific mission is. COMCAM soldiers are not thought about because we are capturing history. We are telling the story. So years to come, you can come back and see the real perspective on the ground at that particular time."