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US Army photographer captures moment before her own death in explosion

A photo taken by US Army photographer Hilda Clayton captures the instant she and four others are killed in an accidental mortar explosion. Photo via US Army

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The U.S. Army has published the final photo of a combat photographer who captured her own death on camera in an accidental mortar explosion in Afghanistan nearly four years ago.

Army Spc. Hilda Clayton. Photo via US Army

The photograph of Spc. Hilda Clayton was published this week in Military Review.

The Army’s professional journal noted that 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 snapped the picture during a live-fire training exercise on July 2, 2013 in the Laghman Province, Afghanistan. The blast also killed four Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers. One of them was a photojournalist Clayton had partnered with to train.

Military Review said the blast occurred 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.”

U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that the photos were released with approval from her unit and her family.

Clayton, of Augusta, Georgia, was a member of the Fort Meade, Maryland-based 55th Signal Company. She was 22.

Another angle, taken by a member of the Afghan National Army. Photo via US Army