In another display of the closeness and respect between the U.S military and the Israel Defense Force (IDF), last week Israeli combat photographers became the first foreign military members to compete with U.S. Army combat photographers in the annual Department of Defense Hilda I. Clayton Best COMCAM (combat camera) Competition. One of the important aspects of being a combat photographer is to counter false information purveyed by enemy forces.
The five-day event, hosted by the U.S. Army’s 55th Signal Company, was created seven years ago to honor Clayton, who was killed in a training exercise when a mortar shell exploded, as The Times of Israel reported.
According to a document produced by the Air Land Sea Application (ALSA) Center in accordance with the memorandum of agreement between the Headquarters of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force:
Effectively employed COMCAM assets at the tactical level can potentially achieve national, theater strategic, and operational level objectives in a manner that lessens the requirement for combat in many situations. Integrated COMCAM forces, with SOF or conventional units, can provide higher echelons a ground-level view and document mission accomplishment. Their products can counter adversary misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda and help commanders gain situational awareness on operations in a way written or verbal reports cannot.
The products can also provide historical documentation, public information, or an evidentiary foundation. For example, COMCAM products can support gathering site exploitation or imagery for forensic documentation of evidence and legal proceedings. They can provide intelligence documentation to include imagery for facial recognition and key leader engagements, and support special reconnaissance.
Both Israel’s and America’s combat photographers have to undergo eight months of combat and professional training before they go into action; U.S. Staff Sgt. Enoch Fleites, a veteran of many tours in Afghanistan who along with Staff Sgt. Edward French IV took first place in the competition, noted that the cameramen, who are embedded with ground forces as infantrymen, must have the capacity to switch from camera to gun instantaneously. He said, “You just know when something’s wrong. And when something goes wrong, you drop your camera and pick up your gun.” French added, “It tested you mentally, physically and technically.”
The Times of Israel explained:
The contest began last Monday with physical training, a written exam and a challenge to create an audiovisual package on a specific topic. The following day consisted of an obstacle course and “stress shoot,” in which the soldiers had their heart rates elevated before target practice to better replicate shooting in real-world scenarios. The third day included a simulated urban combat mission, which included the evacuation of an injured soldier. On the final day, the participants took part in a 12-mile march carrying a 35-pound rucksack.
All the while, the soldiers were shooting videos and taking photographs; they selected some for presentation later. A team from the 55th Signal Company finished second; Staff Sgt. Yoav Pinus and Sgt. Nir Bitan from the IDF tied with another team from the 55th Signal Company for third place.
IDF combat photographers started receiving combat training in boot camp after Sgt. Lior Ziv was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The Israeli soldiers competing in the combat photography event held a memorial service to honor him.