To provide senior Department of Defense and joint leaders with a directed imagery capability in support of strategic, operational and planning requirements during wartime operations, worldwide crises, contingencies, joint exercises and humanitarian operations.
The 1st Combat Camera Squadron is a tenant unit at Joint Base Charleston. It is the larger of two active duty Combat Camera units in the Air Force. These squadrons are 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) acquires still and motion imagery in support of classified and unclassified air, sea, and ground military operations. 1st CTCS imagery is a fundamental tool of commanders and decision-makers throughout the Department of Defense. Its imagery provides a visual record for use in operational analysis, training, public information, and as a permanent historical record. It is a timely, accurate information resource, providing a "you-are-there" perspective, and is essential battlefield information in support of strategic, operational, and tactical mission objectives. Combat Camera Airmen are an integral part of joint exercises, contingency operations, humanitarian relief efforts, and disasters of every kind. The squadron consists of technical experts from Air Force public affairs in both ground and aerial photojournalism, broadcast and video documentation as well as dedicated support professionals. 1st CTCS imagery is also archived for historical purposes and can be accessed through the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center (DIMOC) at Ft Meade, Md.
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, Calif. in July 1942 from which several Army Air Force Combat Camera Units were born. 1st CTCS can trace its lineage to the 1st Army Air Forces Combat Camera Unit which was constituted on Feb 4, 1943. The unit was deactivated, re-designated and activated several times throughout the 1940s. The 1st Combat Camera Unit stood up on Sept. 2, 1950, at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. The unit was subsequently moved to Alexandria, Va., in January 1951 and re-designated the 1st Photographic Squadron on April 16, 1951. The unit was again deactivated on June 8, 1954.
Modern day Combat Camera Airmen trace their roots to the activation of the Aerospace Audiovisual Service (AAVS) in January 1966. One of AAVS’ first missions was to manage all photographic functions, except reconnaissance, in Southeast Asia, especially during the Vietnam War. "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. AAVS Headquarters was relocated to Norton Air Force Base, Calif., in July 1968. On July 1, 1971, the deactivated 1st Photographic Squadron was re-designated the 1361st Photographic Squadron in Arlington, Va. and later, the 1361st Audiovisual Squadron on June 1, 1976. The squadron moved to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. in October 1988.
By the late 1980's, AAVS adopted the unofficial name "Combat Camera," and on Feb 1, 1990, the Andrews squadron was re-designated 1361st Audiovisual Squadron (Combat Camera).
AAVS was deactivated on April 1, 1992 and re-designated Air Combat Camera Service (AirCCS). The 1361st Audiovisual Squadron (Combat Camera) was also deactivated on this date and re-designated the 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. In 1994, AirCCS was deactivated and the 1st Combat Camera Squadron was aligned under the 621st Air Mobility Operations Group. In 2005, the 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force was activated and the 1st CTCS was realigned under it. On Oct. 1, 2007, the Visual Information career fields 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. The following year, on Oct. 1, 2008, four Combat Camera squadrons, three active and one reserve, were aligned under the Air Force Public Affairs Agency (AFPAA). As of Oct. 1, 2014, only two Air Force Combat Camera squadrons remain active.
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 and provide invaluable visual historical records. Since the 1970s, 1st CTCS missions around the world include involvement in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, the Jonestown massacre recovery in Guyana; humanitarian aid in Somalia; Desert Storm/Desert Shield in Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia; peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo; Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Southwest Asia region, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Unified Assistance (Indian Ocean tsunami), Pakistan Earthquake Relief; and the evacuation of American citizens from Lebanon. By its motto "Global Reach...Global Images," it is your eyes to the world.
AFPAA Operations: (210) 652-5011
1st CTCS Operations: (843) 963-4014