American Forces Press Service
May 27, 2008 - Iraqi security forces are taking "shooting" to a new level as they learn to use cameras in their quest to bring security and stability to their country. Over the past six months, some Iraqi special weapons and tactics teams and Iraqi special operations forces have been learning how to combat terrorism and insurgency through the use of imagery.
U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Peterson, civil-military operations officer of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula here, is a proponent of a new program to teach camera skills to Iraqi security forces.
"An active public communications outreach program provides a means for the government of Iraq's security forces to maintain credibility and legitimacy," Peterson said. "And, accurate and timely imagery is one important part of any effective communications program."
The first step in providing imagery to the Iraqi citizens is to teach the Iraqi security forces how to use a camera while on different types of operations.
U.S. Army Sgt. McCoy developed a combat camera course for the Iraqis and served as its first instructor. He adapted the 10-month curriculum he learned from the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., and condensed it to a two-week program that can be used to teach Iraqi troops in the field.
McCoy recalled some of the challenges his students had with the camera and computer equipment in the beginning of the class. He explained that they were not very confident in their abilities at the beginning, but by the end of the course, they knew just what to do.
"They went from looking at a camera and wondering, 'What do you want me to do with this?' to holding the camera with confidence and saying, 'Let me show you what I can do with this,'" McCoy said. "To me, the overall knowledge they gained was impressive for 10 days."
McCoy's first class was with a Hillah special weapons and tactics unit, one of the more advanced SWAT units in the country. The unit is at a stage where its combat skills are advanced enough to introduce this new combat camera element to its missions, McCoy said.
Through the course, the students learned police photography functions, such as crime-scene photography, and how to do media outreach by taking video during missions and providing that video to the local media.
Three other SWAT units have completed the combat camera course and now are interfacing with the community through their new media-outreach capabilities.
McCoy added military elements of photography such as operational security, handling classified information and combat documentary photography to the basic elements of the course. He also provided instruction in teaching techniques and materials. As a result, one student instructed the first Iraqi-taught combat camera course, graduating seven members May 6.
"They were eager to learn everything they possibly could. They were really focused, [and they] paid attention," McCoy said. Seeing some of the work that other Iraqi special operations forces members had done helped motivate them, he added.
McCoy said he liked what he saw when the Iraqis applied their training during a real mission. "They did an outstanding job on their first mission," he said.
The first mission with combat camera-trained personnel was the liberation of the southern city of Basra in March. As the troops pushed through the city, a newly trained Iraqi combat cameraman documented every move the special operations forces made.
"Sometimes, the picture you take is how you feel inside," said Iraqi Col. Falah Hasan Khadhim, a brigade deputy commander in the Iraqi special operations forces, during the May 8 graduation ceremony.
"It could be a picture of nature or the scene of a battlefield. The camera has more effect than the gun. Our duty is to our country," he continued. "You are now fighting with two weapons: by your camera and by your gun."
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)