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Combat camera Airmen hone battlefield capabilities through Scorpion Lens

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- More than 100 photo and broadcast journalists from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston and the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, are participating in Scorpion Lens 2016, an ability to survive and operate exercise at McCrady Training Center on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

The exercise, which runs from Feb. 29 to March 10, is an annual training requirement incorporating combat camera job qualification standards and advanced weapons and tactical training with Army instructors. It 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, the 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, Humvee 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 downrange.

"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 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 (pistol) and M4 (rifle) weapons."

This year's exercise is the first time Air Force combat camera has teamed up with the Army. Sgt. 1st Class Ken Shirley, a Humvee egress instructor at the McCrady Battle Simulation Center who experienced a vehicle rollover 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, Cuomo said.

"We are the eyes and ears for commanders," he said. "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 worldwide."