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US Army Releases Image Of Combat Photographer, Hilda Clayton, Who Captured Her Own Death In Afghanistan

She was just 22 years old.

03/05/2017 12:22 BST | Updated 03/05/2017 14:47 BST

The US Army has released a dramatic photo taken by a combat photographer who captured her own death on camera.

The image was taken by Specialist (Spc) Hilda Clayton, who died in Afghanistan after a mortar tube accidentally exploded, in July 2013. 

The 22-year-old was photographing a live-fire training exercise for the US Army when the incident happened.

HILDA CLAYTON/US ARMY
Specialist Hilda Clayton died in Afghanistan after a mortar tube accidentally exploded

The army published the photo in the latest of issue of the Military Review Journal as a tribute to the visual information specialist.

Four Afghan National Army soldiers also died in the blast, including one Clayton was training in photojournalism.

“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,” the tribute reads.  

US Army
Clayton, 22, was photographing a live-fire training exercise when the accident happened

Addressing the reasoning behind releasing the photo, the tribute continues: “There has been discussion about Military Review’s decision to publish the photographs taken by Spc. Hilda I. Clayton and her Afghan National Army counterpart.

“This edition of the Military Review is focused on promoting the concepts of gender equality and these photographs illustrate the dangers our military men and women face both in training and in combat.”

The tribute adds: “Clayton’s death symbolises how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.”

The Afghan soldier Clayton was training is not identified in the article, but his last photo, taken at almost the same moment as Clayton’s, appears below.

AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY/US ARMY
One of the four Afghan National Army soldiers who died in the blast (pictured) was being trained as a photojournalist by Clayton

Clayton was a member of the Fort Meade, Maryland-based 55th Signal Company, a combat camera unit with a long history of photographing the front lines. She was also the first Army combat filmmaker killed in Afghanistan.

In honor of Clayton, her camera unit has named its annual competition the SPC Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition.