FORWARD OPERATING BASE KISHTIWAN – He carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution on every combat operation he’s documented and returns with history in his camera.
Sgt. Albert “Combat” Carls, combat camera team chief, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, is on his third combat deployment, his second to Afghanistan. He documents the actions of 1st Bn., 8th Marines and the Afghan National Security Forces they partner with.
To date, Carls and his team have submitted more than 580 photos and 282 minutes of video on 72 different missions. He has also started a new way to improve morale here and at home.
“We offer the opportunity for the Marines to send a personal message with a different background than what you would have on a web camera,” Carls, from Sacramento, Calif., said. “It gives their loved ones the opportunity to have something they can watch over and over as if they were there with them. It’s like sending a piece of themselves home.”
Carls has a longstanding tradition of military service in his family, starting with his great-grandfather, who served as a Marine in World War II.
“Every male in my family has enlisted in the military as soon as they turned 18,” Carls explained. “My grandfather told me you shouldn’t vote for something you don’t understand, and after you’ve served in the military, you will know exactly what you’re voting for.
“After he passed away, we buried him at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Marines there gave him the three volley and gave my grandmother a folded American flag. It was a sad day, but it was the proudest day of my life to see the Marines do that for my grandfather. It was also the day I decided to become a Marine. The picture I was holding of him the day he was buried, I carry out here as a reminder of why I joined and to honor him.”
A devoted husband and father to five children, Carls has pushed through repeated deployments, and despite being thousands of miles from home, he still manages to teach his kids life lessons.
“I tell my 14-year-old son, if you put in the extra effort and do things right the first time, it makes things easier in the long run, because you don’t have to do it over and over,” Carls said. “When he’s older he’ll do so much better at work and school. But the best advice I’ve ever given to my kids is listen to your mom because she’s always right,” he said with a laugh.
A 1999 graduate of Laguna Creek High School, the 30-year-old Carls has the enthusiasm and infectious attitude of a Marine right out of boot camp.
“He has an air of confidence and enthusiasm that the Marines see as soon as he walks through the door,” said Gunnery Sgt. Lamar Outlaw, the battalion administration chief and Carls’ direct supervisor. “He’s a self-starter that can take a broad concept and turn it into a reality. He’s just as effective here getting shot at as he was in garrison. At the end of even some of the worst days, he’s asking Marines about their morale and making sure they are taken care of,” said Outlaw from New York.
Carls hopes to one day retire and be able to watch the History Channel with his family and have his footage used to tell a story about what happened in Afghanistan.
“I want to always be a loving husband and a better father for my kids, but my ultimate goal is to give them a chance to see what I have done throughout my life with the pictures and video I’ve taken because those will outlast me.” Carls said.
Editor’s Note: First Battalion, 8th Marines is part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.