Visual documentation (VDOC) of combat operations is an integral part of operations to ensure documentation of the entire scope of U.S. military activities during wartime operations, contingencies, joint exercises and other events involving the DoD Components having significant national interest. According to Dept of Defense Instruction 5040.4. This is the role of combat camera. It is true VDOC encompasses quite a bit more, but for this article, I want to present something sent to me via twitter.
The question comes from a Twitter person I follow @subbob who teaches for the U.S. Army. He asked, “What if every Airman (or Soldier) had potential to produce Combat Camera footage?” The question arose from this post A Child in the Fight. It’s an interesting question, what would/should you do in this situation. If indeed every military member could produce Combat Camera footage, then the entire event would be documented and in the expeditionary environment, we have seen documentation is key to counter enemy propaganda efforts.
Technology has come a long way in being able to deliver direct feeds from the front line to the war room. Undoubtedly, it would be valuable if indeed every person in the field could send visual imagery in real time back to higher headquarters. Or at the very least, maintain a visual record for later retrieval. A sort of Weapon System Video (WSV) only the WSV is not from an aircraft, but rather a person. In the information war, people are the weapon system are they not?
In the war of words, it would be the VDOC of the event that would be key in dispelling enemy propaganda. Social media sites are key in the propaganda war. The use of VDOC by the Israeli Defense Forces during the recent operation in Gaza highlights how successful using VDOC in the social media environment can be. The YouTube site for the IDF was very active during the campaign. It can be accessed on YouTube here. I highly suggest viewing the site. The use of VDOC from the front lines helped the IDF dispel Hamas propaganda efforts. The key, however, is in how quickly the IDF is able to get the imagery out. As in the example above, it would be useless to have the imagery if it did not get out prior to the enemy putting out their version of the story. Indeed the enemy could have re-staged the scene in the sniper example to show American indifference toward children. Immediacy is paramount in the Now Media world.
The key will be how to get imagery from the battlefield to where it needs to be almost as quickly as the event itself unfolds. We seem to be able to do that when we carry around our iPhones, snap a picture of what we are having for dinner and then share it via Twitter and FaceBook where it is instantly accesible to 500 friends. How do we then leverage this power while balancing security risk? There are operational issues that must be addressed and clearly I am not endorsing release of imagery on the fly. However, there has to be some level of risk accepted — if we use imagery to counter enemy efforts in the information battle space. Otherwise we will lag far behind in the information war with our adversaries continuing to take the lead.