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Marine Corps Systems Command

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MCB Quantico, Va.
MARCORSYSCOM holds training on Camera Imagery System bound for Iraq

By Mr. Bruce N. Scott | | October 21, 2005

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Marine Corps Systems Command’s Combat Camera Team held user training October 11-20 on the new Tactical Imagery Production System, a state-of-the-art digital imagery production system designed for combat.

TIPS gives combat camera Marines the ability to acquire, transmit, store, manipulate and disseminate all formats of digital media. Current systems used by the Marine Corps were fielded in the late 1980s and are antiquated.  TIPS combines three systems into one mobile system.  The system is made of rack- mounted components that can easily be swapped as technology advances and changes over time.

Combat cameramen support combatant commanders by providing imagery in support of information, intelligence, psychological, reconnaissance, civil affairs and humanitarian operations.  Combat cameramen use video or still photography to document events both classified and unclassified.  The demand for visual information continues to increase. For commanders, it is a useful tool to show how actual events are unfolding on the battlefield. 

In Iraq, photography can be used to identify government officials or to identify suspected terrorists.  Still or video footage of vehicle checkpoints can be used to monitor effective training methods or tactics, techniques and procedures.  Footage can be used to document war crimes, settle disputes among local residents and help monitor the fairness of elections.  Finally, video or still imagery can help determine the effectiveness of different types of operations such as raids, rescue operations or mine clearing.

TIPS gives combat commanders the ability to have imagery and information on the battlefield quicker.  It also allows for the flow of information/imagery across the battlefield. TIPS gives state-of-the art video, photographic and reproduction capabilities at the Major Subordinate Command level. Combat cameramen support combatant commanders by providing imagery in support of information, intelligence, psychological, reconnaissance, civil affairs, and humanitarian operations.  The system is needed to allow for imagery to be organized and catalogued for rapid search and retrieval in support of briefings, after action reports, lessons learned, historical programs and general information during contingencies and operations.

Gunnery Sgt. Matthew M. Smith, assistant combat camera project officer at Marine Corps Systems Command and a Kansas City, Mo., native said, the system consists of two containers that have graphics, photo, video and reproduction capability.  

It can take 10 Marines up to three hours to set up the system.  The system is manned on a 24-hour basis with five men per twelve-hour shift.  The previous system used the same staffing but was only manned for eight to 12 hours.  It would take at least 15 hours to set up the old system requiring more people and equipment, he said.

“The old system had air-conditioning but no generator,” said Smith.  TIPS is completely self-sufficient with its own generator and air-conditioning. The soft-sided canvas enclosed system breaks down into two 8 x 8 x 20 standardized cargo containers and is mounted on trailers that can be pulled by 5 or 10-ton trucks. Mobility gives commanders more flexibility in how TIPS can be deployed.

The old system required 11 containers that had to be moved by cranes or lifts. Eleven containers housed three separate systems that included the Reproduction Equipment Set, the Mobile Photography Laboratory and the Light Reproduction Facility.  TIPS combines three separate facilities into one unit located in two connected trailers, said Smith.

There are three variants of TIPS.  TIPS I used a HMMVV, a trailer, a generator and an Environmental Control Unit.  TIPS II used one shelter and a generator with an ECU.  TIPS III uses two shelters, one generator and two ECUs.

The generator and air-conditioning system are made from Government-Off-The-Shelf (GOTS) components that can be supported and repaired in country.  System components are built from Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components that are ruggedized and hardened, said Smith. 

TIPS was fielded off of an Urgent Universal Needs Statement in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from I Marine Expeditionary Force. The UUNS process was designed by the Marine Corps in 2002 as a way to rapidly identify equipment needed by the operating forces.  The actual system used in training here will be sent to Iraq in the coming months. The system cost $1.5 million and twelve more of these units will be fielded by December 2007. The additional units are part of the president’s supplemental Department of Defense funding package, he said.   

TIPS contains separate workstations for still imagery, graphics and video.  The imagery and video workstations each have one terabyte of back-up storage with a 6.4 terabyte swappable imagery storage drive. The graphics station has one terabyte of back-up storage on its workstation.  All workstations are connected via a self-contained intranet.

To support any reproduction needs, TIPS has two digital black and white digital presses capable of 120 pages per minute. It also has an 80-ppm full color digital press, two 48-inch plotter printers and one small printer for proofing. 

Smith said TIPS can perform any type of video duplication and conversion, such as converting European standard tapes to American standards or Middle Eastern standards.  It is state-of-the-art because the system is completely scalable.  Equipment is mounted on racks and can be changed as needs change or equipment and technology advances. TIPS can use all type of formats including a variety of data cards, card readers and can work with night vision and infrared equipment. 

Combat cameramen and women from I MEF, 2d Marine Division and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar came to Quantico to learn how to use and set up TIPS as well as provide user input prior to its transport to Iraq.  The Marines will also deploy with the unit once it is sent to Iraq.  Staff Sgt. Timothy C. McMann, a combat cameraman from 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, and an Alachua, Fla., native said, its great that it is mobile and tactical. 

“I agree with the concept.  It is the right direction to go in to support our field and to support the warfighter,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan O. Sotelo, a combat cameraman from 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C. and a McAllen, Texas, native.

Sgt. Georgi Hernandez, a combat cameraman with 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. and a Miami native said, “The difference from before is now its all together.  You can do things at this level instead of going to another level to get things done.  Post-production aspects of the job can be conducted with TIPS.”

It brings garrison capabilities to the warfigher out in the field, said Staff Sgt. Anthony R. Ochoa, a combat cameraman with 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, San Diego, Calif.

Imagery captured by combat cameramen provides vital situational awareness to combatant commanders and are a valuable information asset.  TIPS gives the Marine Corps greater capabilities to provide and process these vital images.



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