Army photographer’s last picture was of the bomb blast that killed her

The U.S. Army has just released a chilling image -- one that documents the last moments of a Georgia combat photographer's life.

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Nearly four years ago, Spc. Hilda I. Clayton managed to capture a photo of the bomb blast that killed her.

Clayton, who died at just 22, grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and worked as a visual information specialist in Afghanistan. 

On July 2, 2013, she and four Afghan National Army soldiers died when a mortar tube accidentally exploded during a live-fire training exercise.

A mortar tube accidentally exploded during a live-fire training exercise, killing Clayton and four others. (Photo taken by Spc. Clayton)

The Military Review published the harrowing photo and a tribute to Clayton in the May/June 2017 issue -- four years after her death -- as part of an edition themed around gender equality. The publication also featured a photo taken by another photographer at the scene, who captured the bomb blast. Clayton can be seen photographing the blast. The picture shows her working in her final moments.

"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 Review wrote in the tribute to Clayton.

Clayton worked closely with Afghani soldiers to help stabilize the region, a partnership that was critical at that juncture in the war, according to the Military Review. 

One of the soldiers who was killed was a male Afghani soldier Clayton was training in photojournalism. That photographer, who hasn't been identified, took an image simultaneously of the explosion that killed them both.

"Not only did Clayton help document activities aimed at shaping and strengthening the partnership (between U.S. and Afghan forces), but she also shared in the risk by participating in the effort," the Military Review wrote. "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. "

William Darley, managing editor of the Army University Press, told WSB-TV that gender equality in the field is essential to stability operations like this Darley said it felt fitting to end the issue with Clayton's story. 

"(Clayton) was employed and was doing her job in a dangerous situation," Darley said. "She did her job to the end. And unfortunately, she lost her life."

Clayton was assigned to the the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), which was founded during WWII to capture images of combat operations. 

Clayton was the first combat documentation and production specialist to be killed in Afghanistan. 

Her name has since been engraved into the Hall of Heroes at the Defense Information School and her unit also launched the Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition in her honor.

The images were released with permission from her family. 

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