NEWS | March 4, 2016

Combat camera Airmen hone battlefield capabilities through Scorpion Lens 2016

By Staff Sgt. Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

More than 100 photo and broadcast journalists from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Joint Base Charleston, and the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, are participating in Scorpion Lens 2016, an ability to survive and operate exercise, Feb. 29 through March 10, 2016 at McCrady Training Center, Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

The exercise is an annual training requirement incorporating combat camera job qualification standards and advanced weapons and tactical training with Army instructors.

The exercise ensures Airmen are able to capture imagery in combat and are fully trained to embed with different units while deployed. 

"Throughout the year, combat camera Airmen train to ensure we can provide the operational imagery necessary on national, strategic and tactical levels," said Senior Master Sgt. Shane Cuomo, flight operations superintendent for the 1st CTCS. "The exercise allows us to combine our annual training into one event and validate 85 percent of our required job qualification standards."

During the first days of the exercise, participants are trained in convoy operations, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle egress, M240 and M249 squad automatic weapons, close quarters combat and land navigation while capturing the action with their cameras. The exercise concludes with an evaluation of all the training objectives and is scenario based, simulating possible missions that could be encountered down-range.

"Though we are only a few days in, the Airmen are doing well," Cuomo said. "Right now, we have a lot of Airmen  new to combat camera who have never done this type of training."

Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton, a combat photojournalist with the 1st CTCS assigned to the squadron since January, said, "I am grateful to be a part of this exercise and a part of a great organization. This is my first exercise and already I'm learning so much. My favorite part has been practicing my marksmanship with the M9 and M4 weapons."

This year's exercise is the first time Air Force combat camera has teamed up with the Army. Sergeant 1st Class Ken Shirley, an HMMVV egress instructor at the McCrady Battle Simulation Center who experienced a vehicle roll over while on deployment, said working with combat camera was a shift from normal operations.

"I've never had so many cameras pointed at me at one time," Shirley said, "I was a little nervous at first but working with combat camera Airmen has been outstanding because they are highly motivated and willing to learn. It's training like this that saves lives and I'm glad to teach them."

Whether capturing imagery during training operations or documenting a weapons cache abroad, combat camera Airmen are integral to today's military, said Cuomo.

"We are the eyes and ears for commanders," Cuomo added. "Scorpion Lens ensures we remain a force multiplier, keeping up with our capability to support strategic, operational and planning requirements during wartime, crises, contingencies, joint exercises and humanitarian operations world-wide."