Tag Archives: 1st Combat Camera Squadron

Flying With Hurricane Hunters Part 2

Hurricane Igor eyeBy Staff Sgt. Michael Keller, 1st Combat Camera Squadron

As an aerial combat photographer from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, I have had some really great experiences and flying with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” is definitely among them. Even though we were added to their mission plan on a short notice, we were welcomed from the moment we arrived. We were given a good run-down on what their squadron’s mission is and what we might expect while shooting photos during a flight into a hurricane.

The whole time we’ve been working with them, the members of the 53rd have been extremely helpful and easy to work and integrate with, which makes our job to document a mission much easier. They have really taken our team as one of their own and have been great about getting us on flights easily and giving us access to their mission. Anything we have needed has been taken care of and they genuinely seemed interested in having us fly with them.

The Hurricane Hunters are true professionals. Their job is inherently dangerous, and you can tell that they take it seriously. Even though we flew into the eye of a hurricane, I never really felt in danger, and safety was always an obvious concern onboard. Flying into hurricane Igor was bumpy at times, but we didn’t experience too much turbulence thankfully. It also helped that our pilots were very experienced and handled the turbulence we did run into expertly. 

During the flight to the eye, we were completely surrounded by clouds, but there were breaks in the cloud cover where we could clearly see the choppy Atlantic Ocean beneath us. When we went through the eye wall, it was not very well defined, but I could clearly see the direction the clouds were headed and before exiting the eye, I saw the clouds overhead had a swirling effect.

The Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd WRS have a very unique mission to provide valuable weather data, and I am very happy to have received the chance to fly with them and document that mission up close.

PHOTO: Over the Atlantic Ocean (September 16, 2010) – The eye of Hurricane Igor is seen from a U.S. Air Force WC-130J Hercules aircraft during a mission over the Atlantic Ocean Sept. 16, 2010. Known as the Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s mission is to provide surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller/Released)

Flying With Hurricane Hunters Part 1

By Staff Sgt. Manuel Martinez, 1st Combat Camera Squadron

On September 14th around lunchtime I was asked, ‘’what does your schedule look like this week and next?’’ Usually that question leads to the words “you’re going on a TDY.” I was eagerly anticipating the words “you’re going to such and such place to document such and such mission.” A few minutes later I was told “you’re going to  Air  Force Base in Mississippi to link up with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron ‘Hurricane Hunters’ and document their missions over Hurricane Igor.”

The next day, I was on a plane to Keesler AFB and meeting and greeting with the crews we would be documenting.  I was impressed with how quickly they planned out the details for their deployment of their WC-130J aircraft and personnel.  I was told that because they do this so often this planning has become second nature.  We soon found oKeeslerut that we would be heading out on the third aircraft going to St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands, and that we needed to be there in the morning to meet our crew who we would fly with. I eagerly awaited the next day to embark on my photo adventure!

On September 15th, we brought in the bags and awaited our crew to show up for the mission brief. We shortly met with the crew and immediately feel at home. The crew was very close as you would feel in a family.  They had an amazing cohesiveness as I felt a sense of family amongst them.

The flight to St. Croix USVI was a five hour flight, which in comparison to my other flights was short.  We landed, and once the ramp door of the WC-130J was down, I was taken by the sight of such lush green hills and the sweet sea air. After we became situated, we went to their briefing room in their compound on the airfield to plan out the first flight. We found out what our morning show time was. We went to our hotel to get our imagery sent out and to rest up for our flight.

On September 16th we arrived, were briefed and stepped onto the plane.  I was so excited. Who gets to experience flying in a hurricane? Once in the air, I immediately headed up to the flight deck to see how it became cloudier the closer we came to Hurricane Igor. A little while into our flight, I started to see more clouds and waves on the ocean surface.  The plane was not even half way to the hurricane, and the winds were upwards of 30 knots.  I was told that due to Hurricane Igor’s size, its effects could be felt that far away. 

As we closed in on the hurricane’s eye wall, I walked to the flight meteorologist station to see it on the weather radar.  The eye wall was not completely round; it had a few breaks in it, as I was told by the flight meteorologist. I headed back up to the flight deck as we broke the eye wall and headed to the center of the hurricane.  Once we broke through the wall, the light became more subdued versus the bright white light it was before. 

As I observed below and around us, I saw a massive accumulation of clouds but not a distinct form as one would expect by watching weather on TV or videos online. I learned from the crew that it all depends on the hurricane and not all have the same uniform body as one might expect. I was still amazed at the ocean waves under us.  It was, for the most part, a smooth flight but this beast of a storm could sure make a lot of damage to land. I cannot wait until my next mission, which will be a night mission over Hurricane Igor!

PHOTO: U.S. Virgin Islands (September 16, 2010) – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Levi Denham, a WC-130J Hercules aircraft weather reconnaissance loadmaster assigned to the 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron, performs pre-engine start-up inspections on a Hercules Sept. 16, 2010, in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Known as the Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s mission is to provide surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez/Released)

Call for military videographers

If you follow military social media, you’ve probably heard of Great Americans.

If you haven’t, it’s a social network that includes video, photos, stories and forums about heroes from military, law enforcement, fire/rescue, NASA, and homeland security. Their mission, in part, from what their Website states:

“The mission of Great Americans is to tell the stories of the positive role models of our time. There are no perfect people. But there are many ordinary people in America doing extraordinary things for the sake of others and our country. Great Americans is a celebration of their lives, their service, their sacrifice, and their example to us all.” Portals like these allow Airmen and servicemembers to share content, simialar to other site like Trooptube and Youtube.

While Great Americans focuses on the heroic actions of Americans in the military and law enforcement, Air Force BlueTube focuses on giving our Airmen a place to share their stories via video. The channel is a continuation of our belief that “every Airman is a communicator.” We also use the channel to share general Air Force news that might be of interest to Airmen and the public.

One thing both sites share is the medium of video. As discussed in this post, the Air Force is putting out video content on a lot of different channels. One in particular is the new channel by the 1st Combat Camera Squadron. The Air Force’s 1st Combat Camera deploys photographers and videographers to capture and manage imagery for the Department of Defense in war and in peace. So in light of the upcoming GI Film Festival, which will feature movies about the military, we’d like to let our Airmen and other service members know about an opportunity that will feature movies from the military.

Great Americans has informed us that they were approached by Discovery Channel for a new series on heroes that will feature dramatic stores of heroism–with an emphasis on using content captured by military videographers and others who capture the courage of military personnel on the front lines. So to all the Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Coast Guardsmen and Marines out there, now is your chance to tell your story about your fellow service members. Below is some basic information about submitting video. Airmen who choose to submit a video should have that video cleared by their local PA prior to release.

Video Footage:
Our priority is first hand footage of actual events as they occurred. A direct copy of the video from its native format
is optimum. High Definition (1920x1080p) footage is preferred but any footage of actual events (recent or archival)
is needed.
Written stories, recommended contacts, & questions – bob@greatamericans.com
Video Footage – Ship to Ambient Light, LLC, 2126 Maplewood Ave, Abington, PA 19001

Air Force Airman recognized as DOD ‘Hero’

One of our fellow PA communicators tells it like it is.  Listen to the audio interview and see Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock’s story here. See more from the Tension here.
Sgt. Lock’s story: It’s 1 p.m., Aug. 16, 2006, on a white-hot highway 70 miles west of Baghdad. One soldier is down after being hit by a sniper, and bullets kick up dust a few yards from Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock. “Cover me!” he yells to a U.S. gunner. Adrenaline floods his body, and he runs as fast as he can, faster than he thought possible, to get even closer to the action.
Lock photographed soldiers crouching behind cars as bullets whizzed in from a field. He turned his lens toward the soldiers tending to the fallen GI. Lock saw they needed a hand. He picked up the wounded soldier’s M-4 rifle and provided cover until the GI was pulled to safety. Lock then switched back to his camera. The wounded soldier survived. It was this battle and Lock’s ability to switch from photographer to fighter in a split second without thought that earned him a Bronze Star.
“A good photo will tell the whole story in a split-second of a frame,” Lock said. “It leaves a lasting impression and will be etched into your mind.”