U.S. Army Spc. Hilda Clayton was a combat photographer who lost her life in July 2013 by the precise deadly mortar explosion she ended up photographing.
Now, almost four years later, with her family’s permission, the Army has released the photos documenting the moment a mortar tube accidentally exploded during a live-fire exercise in Afghanistan, killing Clayton, an Afghan military photographer she was training, and three other Afghan National Army soldiers.
The two pictures released were the last images captured by Clayton and her trainee the moment the device exploded.
Eleven other people were injured in the blast. The Army reported that Clayton was the first combat documentation-and-production specialist to be killed in Afghanistan.
The fatal explosion occurred in northeastern Afghanistan as the Army was holding a “mortal validation exercise” at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
The Military Review wrote:
“The story was not in the fighting but in the partnership that was necessary between U.S. and Afghan forces to stabilize the Afghan nation.
“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. Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.”
The Washington Post reported that Clayton was from Augusta, Georgia, and had been deployed less than a year when she was killed. Her mission with the 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division in Afghanistan was intended to document the training of Afghan forces.
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