NORTH OGDEN, Utah – Fifteen Airmen from four Air Force combat camera squadrons and the Air Force Public Affairs Agency trained together during an Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training course in North Ogden, Utah, Sept. 6 - 12.
Airmen completed a 120-hour program conducted by the Steven R. Watt: Strategic and Tactical Special Operations Training and Services, Inc., customized to train Airmen in strategic and tactical operations, and prepare them to operate in high-risk environments.
Gary Barnes, SRW Inc. lead instructor, said though most people think combat camera or public affairs Airmen are usually in a deployment location that are not considered high threat, it is possible these Airmen could find themselves in very risky situations.
Geoff Perrin, Steven R. Watt: Strategic and Tactical Special Operations Training and Services Inc. instructor, instructs combat camera Airmen in clearing buildings during Advance Weapons and Tactics Training at the Swanson Tactical Training Center in North Ogden, Utah, Sept. 9, 2014. The primary objective of the seven-day AWTT course is to train Airmen in individual survival skills and prepare them to operate in high-risk environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marianique Santos)
“There is evidence in the recent past that combat camera attached to special operations teams in Afghanistan have come under an immense amount of fire and fortunately performed very well,” Barnes said. “Combat cameramen are at an increased risk because every time a member is attached to a unit, they usually have not spent a lot of time training with that unit and still go wherever that unit needs to be.”
The combat camera mission is to acquire still and motion imagery in support of classified and unclassified air, sea and ground military operations all over the world. According to joint doctrine, combat camera imagery is a fundamental tool for decision-makers throughout the U.S. government.
“This is the first opportunity in recent memory that all four combat camera squadrons, both active duty and reserve, have come together for a joint combat arms training event,” said Maj. Greg Hignite, 2nd Combat Camera Squadron commander. “Combat camera airmen are not only at the top of their craft with their public affairs skills; they need to be ready to perform their given mission in the most austere environments. Our airmen are afforded unique training opportunities, such as AWTT, to prepare them to operate with and document our nation's most lethal fighting forces.”
During the span of the course, Airmen were trained in hand-to-hand combat, weapons manipulation, small unit tactics, convoy operations, mission planning and more. After each module, a performance test was conducted to ensure the Airmen grasped the material.
Barnes said the training is based on the combat triad, which consists of technical skill, physical preparation and the combat mindset. The course also emphasized weapons training.
“We wanted the Airmen to work with their tools every single day – meaning their M4 rifles, M9 pistols, their bare hands and their minds,” Barnes said. “We want them to be comfortable in manipulating their weapon systems and conducting basic hand-to-hand combat so we can move to more advanced concepts.”
In addition to individual skills, Airmen were exposed to basic mission planning to help them understand the process of preparing and conducting operations in combat theaters. They learned small unit tactics for both urban and rural environments, which consisted of bounding movements, clearing rooms and close quarter battle.
“My favorite part of training was the CQB, especially during the field training exercise,” said Senior Airman Andrew Walck, 3rd Combat Camera Squadron aerial combat broadcaster. “I enjoyed it because we were able to work as a team and apply all the tactics and techniques we learned throughout the week. It also allowed us to gain a perspective on what our role as combat camera would be if we attached to Special Forces units in combat theaters.”
On the final, seventh day of training, all Airmen participated in a field training exercise where the skills they learned throughout the week were put to the test.
“I think everybody did great,” Barnes said. “It was a very steep learning curve for a lot of folks, and there were certainly a couple of days where the stress continued to build. People started to get fatigued, but everybody came through, performed at their best and were highly motivated. When you have highly motivated students, it makes it pleasurable for us instructors.”
Airmen finished the course and went back to their respective home stations with experiences and knowledge they can pass on in future deployments and operations.
“This week-long training sharpened our combat edge and provided each Airman a set of skills to build on as they progress in their on-going, combat-focused training,” Hignite said. “Each of the squadrons brings a different perspective and experience to training, but in the end we all share the core mission of combat documentation. Being able to share best practices on camera equipment, along with weapon tactics, techniques and procedures, will pay big dividends going forward.”
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Marianique Santos
Provided through DVIDS
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