first published on April 19, 2016 by Josh
These guys aren’t there to become heroes. Instead, they show up to make sure you become one. This is the power of combat camera.
Most grunts have had to deal with a combat cameraman at least once. They were generally the slightly annoying, a little confused, out of place guy following you around, taking pictures of your every move.
What you probably didn’t think about was the importance of their actual mission, or how absolutely insane that mission really was. That combat cameraman you took out on patrol, was sent specifically to take pictures and videos of you fighting the enemy, regardless of any danger that may put them in. They were there to tell your story.
This is the power of combat camera.
It was December 1st 2012…
‘Camp Alpha’ Bahgram Air Field, Afghanistan
I am a 19 year old PFC who had just graduated from high-school. Today… Today is my first day of war. I’m here as an enabler for a joint special operations task force. I’m not here to be the hero… I’m just here to tell their story. I leave for Kandahar Air Field in the morning to meet the group of men I’ll be working with. The 75th Ranger Regiment.
These guys are a different breed. The conventional Army can never fully prepare you to embed with a special operations task force. For the next 7 months I will support and provide them with imagery to paint the picture of their operations for higher commands to see.
Two weeks and we haven’t left the FOB. The ‘fighting season’ isn’t until May-June so missions keep getting stood down because they’re simply not worth it. All the real assholes are over across the border of Pakistan, or so I’m told, until tonight!
I guess a worthy of enough asshole popped his head out at the wrong time just long enough for one of our predator drones could identify him! The 2nd WARNO was dropped I checked the manifest, and I’m on the second chalk!
Every mission I’ll conduct with men over the next 7 months will be at night so good things I’ve used NOD’s 3 whole times in my life. Zero room for excuses with these guys… They don’t want to hear it. “Excuse me Sergen-” “Figure it the f*ck out COMCAM!” Cool.
As we stage outside our ready-rooms everyone conducts their comm checks, pre combat checks, and pre combat inspections for a solid 30 minutes before the Final Manifest Call. I see this as a great opportunity to take photos and video for my production that’s going to win the hearts & minds of the entire world! Not so much… “What the f*ck are you doing weirdo?” or “Get that f*cking thing out of my face!” are mostly what I get at first. But it’s okay… They just haven’t been able to see what I’m capable of yet.
The “#1 rule” with these guys is extremely important. “Always Be Cool.” Got it. The smells of fuel, poop pond, and Copenhagen are all I remember as I approached the back of that CH-47 for the first time. Hot air hits my face from the engines of the helicopter in almost a calming manner right before I board. Once we’re wheels up I realize this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life… But that thought didn’t last long.
As the lights from the FOB slowly get dimmer and dimmer I suddenly realize I have no idea who I’m supposed to be following. Essentially, who is my baby sitter until I get the feel for how they conduct their direct-action operations. Turns out they over-looked that small detail.
We land 4-5K away from our target and I follow the tallest person I see… Who happens to be ‘1-4’ the weapons squad leader. I’m not in weapons squad. At all. Luckily it’s dark and they cant exactly make up who I am.. Yet. I’m sure that asshole we spotted earlier can hear the American aircrafts in the distance. Ready or not here we come?