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Capturing images of the ADF in action

The First Joint Public Affairs Unit (1JPAU) is a tactical unit of around 30 personnel which can deliver an important strategic effect for the ADF and Australian Government.

Australian Defence Force personnel board a Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft at an Iraqi airbase.
Australian Defence Force personnel board a Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft at an Iraqi airbase.

The Unit, based in Fyshwick in the ACT, is home to the ADF’s expeditionary imagery-gathering capability— Military Camera Teams of three or four people which deploy alongside frontline elements of the ADF personnel on operations and other activities. The teams’ job is to gather still and video imagery showing the ADF in action, in order to support the mission within the area of operations and publicise the work of Defence more widely to domestic and international audiences.

‘The Unit is an amazing place to work. By and large, wherever the ADF is sent, we go as part of the first push into theatre, and are often among the last to leave,’ said the Officer Commanding 1JPAU, Major Dougie McGuire.

‘That deployable “news-gathering” capability is unique to 1JPAU, roughly similar to the US combat camera operators, but with the command advice and leadership function from the team leaders giving us a very useful package to bring to an operation.

‘The imagery we capture is used by print, online and broadcast media all over the world and can have a very significant influence on how the ADF, Australia, and our allies and partners are perceived.

‘The teams are routinely providing pictures and stories from places the media is unable to get to. Much of the combat footage captured during ADF operations in Afghanistan and Iraq was gathered by the Unit, and we are trained and equipped to work intimately with combat elements for extended periods,’ Major McGuire said.

‘That is important because it gives audiences across the world a better understanding of the extraordinary things that Australian service personnel are doing.’

The Unit also deploys on major humanitarian assistance tasks, helping to communicate to domestic and regional audiences the objectives and achievements of the Australian Government.

Some of the activities supported by the Unit in 2016– 17 include Operations Okra, Accordion and Slipper, and Exercises Northern Shield, Hamel, Croix du Sud, Bersama Shield, Balikatan and RIMPAC.

In May 2017, 1JPAU started a new line of operations by delivering public affairs capacity-building training with the Fijian military. The unit will continue to work with the International Policy Division in developing this activity with other partners in the Pacific region.

‘We are blessed with some remarkably skilled people here,’ said Major McGuire of his small command. ‘The officers and imagery specialists have a unique blend of military skills and creative gifts which combine to deliver genuine positive effects in support of the broader mission at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.’