A young combat photographer with the US Army captured the moment of her death due to an unexpected explosion. The incident occurred in 2013 and resulted in the deaths of four other service members as well as 22-year-old Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, the combat photographer. The images have been released by the US Army.
As reported by CNN, Clayton was fulfilling her duties in Eastern Afghanistan, working as a photographer during a mission focused on certifying Afghan soldiers for the operation of mortars. She was also instructing an Afghan service member in combat photojournalism during the training exercise.
During the mortar validation exercise, the weapon accidentally went off, triggering a large blast. Clayton captured an image of a mortar tube exploding during the live-fire exercise.
Continuing to fulfill her duties, Clayton caught a final picture of the violent blast with her camera. Both of the photographers as well as three service members from the Afghan National Army were killed in the explosion.
The photos were published in the Military Review in an issue designed “to promote the concepts of gender equality.” Military Review writers said the US Army decided to release the images to show that women are exposed “to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.”
Combat photojournalists are trained to document activities in a variety of environments, aiming to record the history of combat operations.
Clayton, a graduate of the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, became the first combat documentation specialist to be killed in Afghanistan.
Since her death, Clayton’s unit named their annual team-building event after her. The event is designed to give combat photographers confidence by training them to operate outside of their comfort zones.