Doctrine update

by Lawrence Johnson

The battlefield of the future will be increasingly complex and multidimensional. During the early 21st century, the Army may operate in many sophisticated environments. Commanders from all echelons will use advanced information technology and new systems to efficiently execute their missions. Their resources will include visual-information assets with far-reaching effects. Will you be able to keep up?

Combat-camera companies acquire and use still and motion imagery to support military operations. This imagery is a VI resource that supports the operational and planning requirements of the National Command Authority, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, the military departments and the unified combatant commands.

Each theater has a COMCAM company that is low-density, high profile, rapidly deployable and capable of land, airborne and air-mobile operations. When deployed, they support warfighters at all echelons in a fully manned theater of war. The theater operational commander determines collection requirements based on local mission objectives. VI soldiers provide military police and military-intelligence, psychological-operations, public-affairs and civil-affairs organizations with useful VI capabilities. VI products can be classified to any level required. Therefore security classification, operational security or subject sensitivity shouldn’t prevent VI documentation.

VI encompasses the acquisition, creation, storage, transmission, distribution and disposition of still and motion imagery and multimedia. It includes material with or without sound that is linear or non-linear, and is intended to convey information that significantly impacts operational success. Ideas, data and information are exchanged regardless of formats and technologies used. With VI, the commander can develop a clear understanding of the current situation with relation to enemy and environment.

The commander is surrounded by common-user systems that provide information, and he must capitalize on the benefits these new technologies offer. By fully grasping the applications, advantages, effects and limitations of these systems and their products, the commander gains the operational advantages necessary for the decisive outcome of any mission, from humanitarian assistance to peacekeeping to major theater wars, including conflicts involving the potential use of weapons of mass destruction.

With the increased complexity of a shrinking military information environment, imagery is playing an important role in shaping events. VI products and imagery can profoundly effect and influence operational success. For instance, during the Gulf War, COMCAM imagery helped gauge the effectiveness of friendly weapons and documented collateral damage. Coalition leaders used VI to quickly and accurately assess the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses and the nature and effectiveness of his countermeasures. Certain images were shown to the world public on the evening news.

The director of information systems for command, control, communications and computers, the VI proponent, determines which activities will be included or excluded from within the realm of VI activities. FM 6-02.40, Visual Information Operations, is the reference manual for understanding and using VI assets. The manual provides the doctrinal foundation for VI support to the warfighter at all echelons.

FM 6-02.40 can be downloaded for off-line viewing at

Mr. Johnson develops, writes and edits doctrinal literature for the Force Integration Concepts, Doctrine and Threat Division at the Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Ga. A retired Signal first sergeant, he’s a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill., with a degree in electronics management. He has worked with strategic and tactical satellite communications in Germany, Korea and Georgia.

Acronym QuickScan
COMCAM – combat camera
VI – visual information
COMCAM soldier filming from cockpit COMCAM soldiers can film -- and are called upon to do so -- from anywhere, including inside a jet.
COMCAM soldier filming in Bosnia A COMCAM soldier films destroyed buildings in Bosnia.

dividing rule

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