Special Operations: Must Have Video


July 31, 2007: The U.S. Navy is now giving its combat photographers more combat training, if only to increase the photographers survival rate when they go out on a mission with SEALs. It's long been common for commandos to record many of their operations on film. The pictures were needed for post-operation review and analysis, and sometimes for psychological warfare (the enemy denying the raid took place, or how it took place) or PR. Over the last decade, it's become customary to assign navy combat photographers to go with the SEALs and take the pictures. It was found that the navy photographers could be trained to deal with combat situations, at least to a level where they would not be a liability. On particularly tricky missions, the SEALs still take their own pictures. This is less of a problem than in the past, what with high quality video cameras being available in lightweight (two pounds) and compact models.

Earlier this month, the first navy combat photographer, since Vietnam, was killed in Iraq. These photographers spend most of their combat time with Marine Corps units. There are about a hundred navy combat photographers, and they generally spend six months in a combat zone, and at least six months out. Many have been awarded Purple Hearts, and four recently got Bronze Stars for valor.


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