One mistake that people outside the military make is thinking of our servicemembers as being a homogeneous group. This is understandable. It’s easy to look at a platoon of soldiers in formation and see uniformity — the same haircut and uniform — and register it as sameness. However, is incredibly diverse. Not only does it draw people from all across our country with many different backgrounds, languages, and regionalisms, but is chockfull of different jobs and specializations. But for all the jobs the military offers, you probably wouldn’t guess that it would attract an artist. Yet, that is what a combat cameraman partly is. 


An Artist With a Gun

TSgt Corban Lundborg, 29, has been in the service for 11 years and isn’t planning on going anywhere. For him, being an artist and an Airman are not mutually exclusive. If anything, he’s found his calling as a Combat Cameraman.

The world of the Air Forces Combat Camera is more hardcore than you might think. The Air Force has two Combat Camera Squadrons, and while both are aligned under the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, they are responsible for much more than taking pictures at change-of-command ceremonies and training facilities.

SSgt Corban Lundborg
TSgt Lundborg while on assignment with Combat Camera.

According to the Air Force, COMCAM is responsible for “acquiring still and motion imagery in support of classified and unclassified air, sea, and ground military operations.” The imagery captured by COMCAM is “a fundamental tool of commanders and decision-makers throughout the Department of Defense [and] provides a visual record for use in operational analysis, training, public information, and as a permanent historical record.”

But on our phone call, TSgt Lundborg doesn’t tell me about “visual records” or “operational analysis.” Instead, we talk about composition, creativity, and art. He talks about his work with a kind of reverence that you’d expect from an artist, but replies with short, to-the-point answers you’d expect from a seasoned NCO. 

“My life has been a constant battle between artist and combatant,” TSgt Lundborg tells me. “We are combatants — we’re trained in all those skills — but I see the world through the eyes of the artist. I constantly have to make the decisions between the two, and know when to flip the selector switch.”

I first discovered Combat Camera and TSgt Lundborg while searching for an image for a story about SERE School. I was tabbing through the Department of Defense archive when I came upon a grainy black and white photo of an airman, head, and neck wrapped against the cold, a cigarette tipped into the corner of his mouth.