Each U.S. military service now has “combat camera” (COMCAM) units that provide a unique visual record of military operations, according to a new manual on COMCAM tactics and procedures (pdf).
The photographic and motion imagery produced by military photographers “enhances the commander’s situational awareness and establishes a historical operations record.”
If and when such imagery is eventually released, it has the potential to add a new dimension to public understanding of military operations and to supplement external oversight.
“COMCAM forces perform unique and highly specialized missions … supporting the full range of military operations in all operational environments. COMCAM personnel maintain qualifications enabling them to operate with airborne forces, special operations forces, and military divers.”
“In an increasingly media-driven world and global information environment, the ability to exploit VIDOC [visual information documentation] has enabled the warfighter to gain a battlespace advantage.”
“COMCAM forces provide commanders with visual information (VI) that directly supports their decision making and operational assessment. During recent operations, daily imagery usage included: battle briefings, targeting, operational assessment, force protection, battlespace orientation, airfield qualification, public affairs, operational awareness, information operations, psychological operations, and battle damage assessment.”
Much or most of the COMCAM imagery product is classified. Even the unclassified imagery cannot be publicly disclosed without prior review and approval.
But over the long term, “Comprehensive visual information documentation ensures an accurate historical record of military operations,” according to the new manual, which was issued jointly by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
See “COMCAM – Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Combat Camera Operations,” U.S. Army Field Manual 3-55.12, May 2007.