Agency photographer receives combat award

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • Air Force ISR Agency Public Affairs
Armed with a camera and an uncompromising resolve to accomplish the mission, an Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency Airman earned an honored place in the annals of combat photography.

Senior Airman Chanise Epps, an aerial imagery production journeyman with the 9th Intelligence Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., earned the Airman 1st Class Darryl G. Winters Combat Communications Award Feb. 10, one of the 10 recipients in the 2011 Air Force Public Affairs Awards for Communications Excellence.

Epps earned the recognition for her actions as a member of the Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2010.

Her citation read in part, Epps "demonstrated courage in the face of imminent danger while providing excellent communication support ... during an intense three-hour attack on her forward operating base, Airman Epps courageously put herself at risk, moving to a fighting position that had been abandoned due to heat and explosion hazards, all the while ensuring a better angle for intelligence collection."

"That day I just cared about the mission, [my] safety went out the window," Epps said. "I was only thinking about accurately portraying the fight."

During the small arms and mortar attacks her Wingman mindset kicked in, as she helped gather shovels and fire extinguishers while continuing to document with more than 600 combat images.

"That day was a true testament to teamwork," said Epps. "I was lucky to serve with the men and women of PRT Nuristan."

According to the citation, Epps' images gave unit leaders a crucial assessment of the damage and destruction so they could fortify the base's defenses in near-real time, to include reinforcing garrison battle and counter-firing positions. The photos were later used as evidence to interrogate and prosecute detainees.

The A1C Winters award came on the heels of Epps' PRT efforts being chronicled in the Air Force Chief of Staff's "Portraits in Courage," a compilation of narratives highlighting brave Airmen who put service above self and epitomize the warrior ethos.

Epps actions were also rewarded with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Army Combat Action Badge.

For Epps, who was born in Gelhausen, Germany, but calls Killeen, Texas, home, photography is her passion.

"I love it because photos speak for themselves, but I do like to write a good caption," she said. "Photography is more than pushing a button, it's forever evolving. As a photographer you're always perfecting your craft."

The A1C Winters award is named in honor of the first aerospace audiovisual services combat photographer, who, after volunteering for an extended tour during the Vietnam conflict, was killed when shot down in an F-100 while filming aerial operations near Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, South Vietnam.

The award recognizes enlisted combat camera personnel or mobility tasked base-level visual information enlisted personnel who, despite the possibility of placing themselves in harm's way, provided excellent combat camera support to Air Force deployed or domestic contingency missions or operations.