Fourth Combat Camera Squadron inactivates after 19 years of worldwide documentation

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U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo, Sr.

There are numerous definitions of family. There are biological families, adopted families, friends who grow to be family. There are work families and military families, and then there is March Field’s 4th Combat Camera family.

As the squadron closed its doors during the flightline, inactivation ceremony Saturday, July 11, 2015, Maj. Hamilton B. Underwood, commander said words that were echoed throughout the combat camera team.

“Fourth Combat Camera is a family,” said Underwood. “Members and alumni traveled from all over the country to be here. It’s a tribute to the close bond we have in the 4th.”

The squadron is inactivating due to a challenging fiscal environment, said Underwood. So, a formal ceremony was held to commemorate the final Unit Training Assembly weekend for the March combat camera team. The ceremony included lowering and properly casing the squadron’s colors.

After standing up in 1996 as the only combat camera squadron in the Air Force Reserve, the squadron documented more than 250 worldwide combat, humanitarian, expeditionary and training missions with still photography and video, said Master Sgt. John Nimmo, one of the squadron’s many award-winning photojournalists.

“Fourth Combat Camera products are unsurpassed anywhere,” said Col. Timothy McCoy, commander, 452nd Mission Support Group. “It’s not just the products that are great though, it’s the people.”

While there were a few tears watching the squadron remembrance video during the inactivation ceremony, there were also smiles and laughs from the combat camera members and alumni, sharing stories and remembering their times in the squadron.

“We fought like a family,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Du, former 4CTCS superintendent. “We trained like a family. It’s who we are. Every UTA at the 4th felt like I was going home to a family gathering.”

When news spread of the squadron closing its doors, the Airmen of combat camera had to make a choice. While some members chose to cross-train, others retired and a few chose new career paths.

However, not everyone from combat camera is gone. Forty Airmen and NCOs who are currently assigned to the 4th will go with the squadron to the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and transition to Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMA).

The squadron has high hopes of eventually standing back up as an active-associate unit attached to the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron, said Underwood.

“We’re not just inactivating,” he said. “We are reactivating at the same time. We are succeeding at something that’s never been done before in the Air Force Reserve.”

After 19 years of documenting missions abroad and at home, the combat camera doors at March are closing, but the memories made by combat camera members here will remain as lasting snapshots of history, and family reunions are a great probablility.