Spc. Hilda I. Clayton
May 21, 1991 to July 2, 2013
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Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, a visual information specialist assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), was killed while photographing a live-fire training exercise 2 July 2013 in Laghman Province, Afghanistan. Clayton and four Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers died when a mortar tube accidentally exploded during an ANA mortar validation exercise being supported by U.S. Army trainers. She was attached to the 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan.
At the critical juncture of the war, when it was necessary for the ANA to increasingly assume responsibility for military actions, 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. One of the Afghan soldiers killed was a photojournalist that Clayton had partnered with to train 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.
Combat Camera soldiers are trained to take still and video imagery in any environment. Their primary mission is to accompany combat soldiers wherever deployed to document the history of combat operations. Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.
Clayton’s service and sacrifice were recognized during memorial ceremonies at Forward Operating Base Gamberi on 8 July 2013 and at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), Fort Meade, Maryland, on 13 December 2013. At Fort Meade, Clayton’s name was added to the DINFOS Hall of Heroes.
Combat Camera further honored Clayton by naming the award for the winner of its annual best combat camera competition after her. The Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition consists of five days of events to test joint service combat camera personnel on their physical and technical skills.
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.