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Fact Sheets
FACTSHEET | July 10, 2023

1st Combat Camera Squadron

The mission of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron is to provide the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, and the Air Force with a directed imagery capability in support of operations and planning requirements during worldwide crises, contingencies, exercises and war.

The 1st Combat Camera Squadron (1 CTCS) is a tenant unit at Joint Base Charleston. It is the sole active-duty Combat Camera unit in the Air Force. The squadron is aligned under the Air Force Public Affairs Agency (AFPAA), a Field Operating Agency of the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Combat Camera (COMCAM) deploys combat-ready teams worldwide providing Department of Defense and Air Force leaders with a directed imagery capability to support strategic, operational, and tactical requirements to shape the information environment during joint exercises, humanitarian and disaster response, and contingency or crisis operations. As the primary suppliers of operational imagery to support battlefield information superiority, COMCAM teams are combat trained and equipped, quickly deployable and able to operate in austere and hostile environments. COMCAM professionals train to provide aerial and ground imagery highlighting coordinated actions, messages, and images in support of national or military objectives. Requirements for COMCAM include imagery intended to counter misinformation, legal and evidentiary documentation such as sensitive site exploitation, imagery for battlefield and environmental assessments, Military Information Support Operations (MISO) and Civil Affairs support, as well as media requirements and historical documentation. In addition, COMCAM assets provide the ability to acquire, edit and transmit sensitive imagery through secure systems for direct dissemination to senior leaders and product development.


Military and combat photography has a long and storied history that began with early images of the American Civil War commissioned by President Lincoln and captured by Mathew Brady and other photographers. In World War I, American aerial photographers flew more than 35,000 hours over enemy lines and captured over 18,000 images of enemy positions, from which 585,000 prints were made by photographic sections attached to observation groups.


A more organized visual communication capability emerged in World War II with the activation of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU) in Culver City, California in July 1942 from which several Army Air Force Combat Camera Units were born. The First Motion Picture unit was the brainchild of Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold and film producer Jack Warner. The FMPU, later 18th Army Air Forces Base Unit, was the primary film production unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II and was the first military unit made up entirely of professionals from the film industry. Notable members of the 1st FMPU included future President Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, and Jack Warner.

1 CTCS can trace its lineage to the 1st Army Air Forces Combat Camera Unit, which was constituted on Feb 4, 1943. During World War II, fourteen U.S. Army Air Force Combat Camera Units, including the 1st CCU, provided still and motion picture coverage of the war. Their visual record was used for operational analysis, training, public information, and as a permanent historical record. Two members from the 1st CCU were shot down over Romania and captured as prisoners of war. Following the end of WWII, the unit was deactivated, redesignated and activated several times. In April 1951, the Air Pictorial Service, later redesignated as the Air Photographic and Charting Service, was established in Washington D.C. under the direct control of the Air Force Chief of Staff.


Modern day Combat Camera Airmen trace their roots to the activation of the Aerospace Audiovisual Service (AAVS) in January 1966. One of AAVS’s first missions was to manage all photographic functions, except reconnaissance, in Southeast Asia, especially during the Vietnam War. With the activation of the 600th and 601st Photo Squadrons, "Project Combat Pix" began in October 1966, expanding the AAVS mission to include all base photo labs, combat documentation and armament recording photography in Southeast Asia. Eleven combat cameramen lost their lives during this period including A1C Darryl G. Winters for whom the Air Force Public Affairs Combat Communications Award is named, and two motion picture photographers who perished in a C-5 Galaxy crash covering Operation Babylift. AAVS Headquarters was relocated to Norton Air Force Base, Calif. in July 1968.


Since the 1970s, 1 CTCS missions around the world include involvement in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, the Jonestown massacre recovery in Guyana; humanitarian aid in Somalia; Desert Storm and Desert Shield in Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia; peacekeeping and Civil Affairs efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo; combat operations in Southwest Asia supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria; coverage of DoD’s humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Harvey, Maria and Michael, earthquakes and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, Japan, Pakistan, and Haiti, the Air Force’s largest non-combatant evacuation in history of 124,000 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan; and ongoing aerial coverage of Bomber Task Force missions around the world.


  • Sept. 2, 1950: 1st Combat Camera Unit, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, DC
  • April 16, 1951: 1st Photographic Squadron, Alexandria, Virginia (Air Pictorial Service)
  • June 8, 1954: 1st Photographic Squadron deactivated (Air Pictorial Service)
  • July 1, 1971: Activated and redesignated 1361st Photographic Squadron, Arlington, Virginia (Aerospace Audiovisual Service (AAVS))
  • June 1, 1976: Deactivated and redesignated 1361st Audiovisual Squadron, Arlington, Virginia (AAVS); moved to Andrews AFB, Maryland in October 1988 with multiple detachments including Detachment 7, located at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (AAVS)
  • February 1, 1990: Redesignated 1361st Audiovisual Squadron (Combat Camera), Andrews AFB, Maryland. (AAVS)
  • April 1, 1992: AAVS was deactivated and redesignated Air Combat Camera Service (AirCCS) and relocated to March AFB, Calif.
  • April 1, 1992: 1361st Audiovisual Squadron (Combat Camera) deactivated and redesignated 1st Combat Camera Squadron at its new location, Charleston AFB, S.C. (AirCCS)
  • In 1994, AirCCS was deactivated and the 1st Combat Camera Squadron was aligned under the 621st Air Mobility Operations Group (Air Mobility Command).
  • In 2005, the 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force was activated and 1 CTCS was realigned under it. (AMC)
  • October 1, 2007, the Visual Information career field and functions, including Combat Camera, were merged with the Public Affairs function under the single umbrella of the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs.
  • October 1, 2008, 1st Combat Camera Squadron was aligned under the Air Force Public Affairs Agency (AFPAA).  Today, 1 CTCS is the only active-duty combat camera squadron in the Air Force. (AFPAA)
  • March 3, 2017, 1 CTCS welcomed the activation of its associate Reserve squadron, 4th Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

Whenever, wherever there is a worldwide crisis or disaster, a contingency or wartime operation, or a military exercise involving Air Force, joint or multinational services, the highly skilled professional men and women of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron are capturing the imagery necessary to support operational needs, combat misinformation and disinformation, and provide invaluable visual historical records. By its motto "Global Reach...Global Images," 1 CTCS is your eyes to the world.


AFPAA Operations: (210) 652-4339 /

1 CTCS Operations: (843) 963-4014 /


Current as of July 10, 2023