Saturday, February 28, 2009

Combat Camera Troops Record History

In this file photo, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrienne Brammer documents a joint patrol between U.S. and Iraqi Army soldiers in Muhandiseen, Oct. 30, 2008. (Photo by Staff Sgt. JoAnn S. Makinano, U.S. Air Forces Central.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SATHER AIR BASE, Feb. 28, 2009 -- When thinking of the word combat, many have visions of fire fights, violent conflicts and warfare. For a few Airmen and Soldiers, the word combat means being armed with a camera.

For these members of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq C39 Joint Combat Camera (ComCam) team, based out of Baghdad, taking still and motion imagery isn’t just a hobby … it is their mission.

“My job documents history in the making and shows folks at home what’s going on here,” said Staff Sgt. Joann Makinano, MNC-I combat photojournalist. “We are unfiltered and unbiased. What we see is what you get.”

“Our job brings the mission home to people around the world,” added Tech. Sgt. Adrienne Brammer, MNC-I combat videographer and member of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. “It makes it accessible to people. Plus, a combat camera team gets to go where a lot of people don’t get to go.”

Many people have probably seen imagery from the war in a magazine, newspaper, online or on television, but may have failed to realize that behind every great photo, behind every great video, stands a person behind a lens.

“After seven years with ComCam and this being my third deployment, it’s become second nature,” said Makinano, who is also deployed from the 1st CCS at Charleston AFB. “Most of the units I’ve gone out with think we’re crazy, but we are Airmen and Soldiers first. And being a member of a team means that protecting your battle buddies is a higher priority, regardless of the job.”

“There are a lot of support functions on a base that never get to see the Soldiers they are supporting in action,” said Brammer, a Sparta, Ill., native. “Families in the States don’t know what it’s about and neither do taxpayers. They never really know what those Soldiers do on a mission, but we do. And we get to tell everyone about it, good or bad.”

Being armed with a camera may not sound like the ideal way to go into combat, but these combat camera personnel wouldn’t have it any other way.

Makinano said sometimes it feels surreal to be behind the lens and that in her three deployments she has seen firsthand the progression the country of Iraq has made.

“During my last deployment in 2007, there was a lot of action and I covered combat operations like raids,” said the Stockton, Calif., native. “It was nerve-racking and I was always anticipating the worst. This deployment, we’ve covered humanitarian aid drops and dismounted patrols with Iraqi counterparts. Things have since calmed down. But you still have to maintain situational awareness because you never know what may happen that day.”

So the next time you see a photo or video from the war, don’t forget about the person who took it. Don’t forget about the person behind the lens.

(Report by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham, U.S. Air Forces Central.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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