Twice a year, for seven weeks at a time, the station floods with Marines and service members from across the country and around the world. This magical time of congestion is called the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1.
The course hosts several large-scale operations, spanning from Arizona to California. Thereâ€™s a ton of moving parts, the documentation of which would be impossible if not for a small shop of Marines known as MAWTS-1 Combat Camera.
â€œThe biggest piece we bring to the training command is the ability to create training materials with video and still imagery,â€ said Capt. Anthony Lopez, the MAWTS-1 Combat Camera division head and assistant academics officer.
The products range from course exams, name instructional videos explaining the six functions of Marine Corps Aviation, printed material and graphic illustrations, explained Lopez, a native of Riverside, Calif.
Every WTI student has, in one way or another, been influenced by MAWTS-1 Combat Cameraâ€™s products, whether itâ€™s a course booklet or comprehensive end of course video production.
This particular Combat Camera section is relatively young, coming to existence around 2006.
â€œI remember when I first got here, our jobs were sporadic,â€ said Cpl. Jacob Krummel, a MAWTS-1 videographer and a native of Los Angeles. â€œWe wouldnâ€™t do much with our footage; theyâ€™d just sit in the archives.â€
Krummel explains how, originally, it used to be the night lab specialists who put together videos. However, it was a collateral duty and not a designated job, the need for a constant supply of training material eventually inspired then MAWTS-1â€™s commanding officer Col. Raymond Fox to seek out a Combat Camera shop for the squadron.
â€œThe original design came from Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools,â€ said Staff Sgt. Robert Brown, the MAWTS-1 combat camera chief and a native of Fayetteville, N.C. Camp Johnsonâ€™s combat camera shop is within a military occupational school at Combat Service Support Schools.MAWTS-1 Combat Camera shop, like the rest of the squadron, flourishes during WTI.
Once the biannual event kicks off, itâ€™s time for the physically and mentally demanding task of capturing the training and putting it together for the instructors and students.
Mentally demanding because only a handful of Marines are charged with preparing course materials, resolving conflicted schedules, manifesting themselves on flights and working double-digit hours, typically for six out of seven days a week.
Physically demanding, because an assignment can take place on base just as easily as out in the California Mountains and Arizona deserts. One shoot may have the Marines flying in an Osprey while others are off with an artillery battery.
Itâ€™s the sort of versatility Marines are known for and only they can pull off.
â€œHowever many hours the pilots and crews are out, thatâ€™s when weâ€™re out,â€ said Krummel.
To someone on the outside, it may not seem like much, but consider this: like their station brethren, MAWTS-1 Combat Camera is recording the history of the Marine Corps. Every pixel passing through the retinas of a WTI student, every photo used, is a leaf on the tree of military training.
Especially with a rapidly thinning force, itâ€™s important for the Marines of today and the Marines of tomorrow, to know where they came from.
Thatâ€™s where Combat Camera comes in, and they must be aware of this.
â€œWe get to witness nearly every side of the Marine Corps,â€ said Sgt. Richard Tetreau, a MAWTS-1 production specialist and a native of Newport, Wash.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more from the Marines at MAWTS-1â€™s combat camera.