Society

Army Releases Images Taken Just Before Soldier's Death (Photos)

| by Michael Doherty

The U.S. Army has released photos taken moments before a young combat photographer's death.

Spc. Hilda Clayton, 22, was training a local combat photographer in Afghanistan when a mortar tube exploded during a live-fire training exercise on July 2, 2013, killing both of them, along with three soldiers from the Afghan National Army, KTLA reports. Her final photos captured the explosion that killed her.

The images have now been published in the May-June edition of the Army's Military Review journal, in the hopes that they will highlight the fact that women are exposed "to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts," according to the Military Review.

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The May-June edition of the professional journal focuses of gender equality, and the dangers faced by both men and women in combat.

The journal notes how, as the Afghan National Army was set to increasingly take responsibility in the region, the two armies needed to work together to establish stability.

The photojournalist that Clayton was training had been part of the Afghan National Army, and the Military Review points out in its release of the photos that "not only did Clayton help document activities aimed at shaping and strengthening the partnership but she also shared in the risk by participating in the effort."

"Combat Camera" soldiers are tasked with following combat soldiers into combat operations to capture still images and video.

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Clayton, who was from Augusta, Georgia, worked as a visual information specialist with the 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Forward Operating Base Gamberi. Clayton was the first Army combat documentation and production specialist to die in Afghanistan, and her name has been etched into the Hall of Heroes at Fort Meade, Maryland's Defense Information School, where she graduated, Stars and Stripes reports.

Clayton was part of the 55th Signal Company, a well-known combat camera unit. The company has named its yearly competition the Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Combat Camera Competition in Clayton's honor.

The photos were released with the approval of Clayton's unit, as well as her family.

"Combat Camera ... focuses on purely documenting events as they happen, providing on the ground commanders with priceless imagery and situational awareness of the battlefield," says the 55th Signal Company's website.

The company was constituted during WWII, as the 55th Signal Repair Company. According to its website, the unit has more than 200 soldiers as of 2007.

"In an age where the adversary can snap a cellphone pic and post it on the Internet with no constraints or proof of validity, it is extremely important that we be able to provide solid visual documentation of operations and engagements to counter misinformation and misleading or blatantly false narratives," Navy Cmdr. Thomas Cotton told Stars and Stripes.

Sources: KTLA, Stars and Stripes (2), Military Review, 55th Signal Company / Photo credit: Program Executive Office Soldier/Flickr, Military Review

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