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Joint Combat Camera Team is Eyes and Ears of Cooperative Osprey

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan E. Annis, USN
American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Aug. 28, 1996 – Protesters block an embassy gate and trap officials inside. Shouting with raised fists, they demand that the ambassador and his staff leave their country. Soldiers arrive to evacuate the diplomats. They form a tight wedge toward the gate and level their rifles at the demonstrators.

The confrontation is blurred in smoke, noise and motion -- but not before the photographer triggers his camera's shutter and grins. He's got a shot that will be seen around the world!

He's a combat photographer documenting a mock civil disturbance as part of the Exercise Cooperative Osprey '96. The scenario is part of a Partnership for Peace program that teaches soldiers from emerging democracies how to conduct NATO peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

The exercise includes platoons from 19 NATO and partner countries. The three participating NATO countries were the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Partner nations were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Observer nations were Azerbaijan, Belarus, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Combat camera's traditional mission is to document the scene. During Cooperative Osprey, however, photographers were also challenged to produce material for use by U.S. and foreign civilian and military media. "We provided maximum coverage in the minimal amount of time possible," said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Gordon L. Colston, in charge of 2nd Marine Division Combat Camera. "We told the story as it happened."

This requirement was best met by a select team comprised of members from four military services. "Everybody brought something to the project," Colston said. "All the pieces needed -- experience, equipment, talent and personalities -- came together in a very nice, effective way. If any of these pieces had been missing, we wouldn't have been able to provide the quality volume of products from this exercise."

The Marines provided the experience and know-how to direct and support combat camera operations for the exercise. A team from the Army Reserve's 982nd Signal Company from Wilson, N.C., provided additional photographers and videographers, more digital imaging and better audiovisual editing capability. The Army unit featured complete mobility with Humvee utility vehicles. Each member of the unit has been schooled in videography and photography shooting and editing.

"This was the first time we have been able to see how combat camera should work," said Army Reserve 1st Lt. Holly J. Meeker, executive officer of the 982nd and officer in charge of the exercise component. "The Marines have the experience and took us under their wing. They taught us how to cover an exercise. We knew how to do technical things, but we needed to learn to cooperate and be organized as a team."

The U.S. Air Force's 1st Combat Camera Squadron from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., provided a three-member team to operate a satellite video uplink -- an entirely mobile capability available from Air Force combat camera. Almost every day, the satellite dish transmitted an hour of raw video and finished productions. These productions were in demand by several civilian broadcast agencies.

"Images can be transmitted quickly these days," said Air Force 2nd Lt. Stacey G. Wzyzkowski, officer in charge of the satellite team. "Photographs can be transmitted across the globe on standard phone lines in a matter of minutes. We have the capability of sending live video as things happen. It's basically the same capability in use commercially."

The Navy provided three journalists, temporarily assigned from ships stationed in Norfolk, Va., to produce scripts and news releases channeled toward a public affairs "focus of the day." Meeting for the first time at the exercise, the journalists worked directly with combat camera to produce and market both broadcast and newspaper and magazine stories.

"A joint combat camera team is not unusual," Colston said. "What is rare is an effective marriage of combat camera and public affairs. This exercise showed that it can work and work well if you have the right people, equipment and tools for the job.

"Combat camera is out in the field every day, day in and day out," Colston said. "We eat and sleep in the field, go where the action is and capture those moments that can only be shot if you are constantly on the scene. The right team can take these moments and produce superb results, both visually and journalistically." (Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan E. Annis serves with the U.S. Atlantic Command, Norfolk, Va.)

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