The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.
Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.
It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.
His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.
“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”
As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.
“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.
That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.
“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.
Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.
“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.
He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”
It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.
“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.
Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.
Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.
The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.
Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.
The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.
Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.
When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.
Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.
But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”
But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”
It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.
“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.
Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”
Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.
“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”
Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”
Growing tensions with Russia have led NATO and its members to make a number of changes to their military posture on the ground in Europe, and now the US is reactivating its Second Fleet to oversee the northern Atlantic Ocean and US East Coast.
The Second Fleet was deactivated in September 2011 after 65 years of service as part of a cost-saving and organizational-restructuring effort; many of its personnel and responsibilities were folded into US Fleet Forces Command. The announcement of its reactivation came during the change-of-command ceremony for US Fleet Forces Command, to which the Second Fleet commander will now report.
Second Fleet’s return is part of a shift by the US toward preparing for potential great-power conflict — and to counter Russia in particular.
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US Naval Operations, said on April 4, 2018.
“Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” Richardson said. It will also plan and conduct maritime, joint, and combined operations and train, certify, and provide maritime forces in response events around the world.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
The fleet will be activated on July 1, 2018, and initially be staffed by 11 officers and four enlisted personnel, eventually growing to 85 officers, 164 enlisted personnel, and seven civilians, according to a memo announcing the change obtained by US Naval Institute News.
Issues such as the rank of the commander and relationship with joint commandant commands remain to be decided.
Also unclear is the future of Fourth Fleet, which is the naval branch of US Southern Command set up in 2008, largely to host Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments. Prior to 2008, the Second Fleet was responsible for operations in Central and South American waters.
The ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’
Prior to the 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine by Russian forces, Navy forces on the US side of the Atlantic Ocean were mainly focused on humanitarian and disaster relief missions as well as drug interdiction.
But Russian naval activity has increased considerably in recent years, with several NATO officials describing it as being at the highest levels since the Cold War. (Though Cold War-era intelligence reports indicate that activity is still far short of Cold War peaks.)
Russia’s navy is also smaller than it was during the Cold War, but Moscow has pursued ambitious modernization efforts, focusing primarily on the Black Sea and Northern fleets. The latter force, based in and around the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic, represents a significant military force a short distance from NATO territory in Norway and contains Russia’s sea-based nuclear forces.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael C. Barton)
In 2016, US Navy Adm. James Foggo III, who is now chief of Naval Forces Europe, described tensions between Russia and the US as the “fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following the surface and submarine battles of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us,” he said. “Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”
The US Navy has increased its patrols in the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic. US Navy ships have also been more active in the Black Sea to “desensitize Russia” to a US military presence there. US and Russian ships have also operated in close quarters in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian forces are assisting the Bashar Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
The Navy is also renovating hangers in Iceland to house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft there to monitor the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a choke point for ships moving between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans — though that doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
NATO is making changes to its command structure in response to increased tension with Russia and to prepare for potential military operations on and around the continent.
In March 2018, Germany announced that the proposed NATO logistics command — which would work to streamline the movement of personnel and material around Europe — would be based in the southern city of Ulm.
The other new command the alliance wants to establish would oversee and protect the North Atlantic. In the event of conflict with Russia, it be responsible for keeping sea lanes open for US reinforcements heading to Europe.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Weeks after a B-1B Lancer bomber from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, made an emergency landing at Midland International Air and Space Port, officials say they will not disclose details of the incident until the investigation is complete.
“The B-1 aircraft incident is under investigation by the Safety Investigation Board at this time. The specific findings and recommendations of the SIB are protected by the military safety privilege and are not subject to release,” 7th Bomb Wing spokesman Airman River Bruce told Military.com on May 21, 2018.
The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. local time May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying any weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Midland is roughly 150 miles west of Dyess.
In May 2018, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident, as well as photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram showing that the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
The back ceiling hatch, which hovers over either the offensive or defensive weapons systems officer (WSO), depending on mission set, was open, although all four crew members were shown sitting on the Midland flightline in the photos.
Stairs used to climb in or out of the aircraft in a non-emergency situation were deployed, the photos indicate. There was no sign of an egress rope, which would be used in a fire emergency to climb out one of the top hatches.
Unidentified individuals told the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco that a manual ejection from the offensive weapons system officer was attempted, but the ACES II seat did not blow, leading the crew to pursue a landing instead. There has been no official corroboration of that information.
Firefighters were on scene when the B-1 landed, local media photos showed at the time. Dyess officials said the crew was unharmed.
When asked whether the wing is aware of recent photos circulating on social media, Bruce said any information “released through unofficial platforms is not validated information.”
“The SIB’s purpose is to prevent future mishaps or losses and is comprised of experts who investigate the incident and recommend corrective actions if deemed applicable,” he said in a statement.
The heavy, long-range bomber, which has the largest payload in the bomber fleet, is capable of carrying four crew members: pilot, co-pilot, and two back-seat WSOs, also known as wizzos.
The 7th Bomb Wing is responsible for producing combat-ready aircrews in the Air Force’s only B-1B formal training unit.
Dyess is home to the 9th and 28th Bomb Squadrons, as well as the 489th Bomb Group, the Air Force’s only Reserve B-1 unit.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
South Korea scrambled fighter jets after five Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or KADIZ, on Dec. 18.
The deployment of two Chinese bombers, two fighters jets, and a reconnaissance plane follows South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said the Chinese planes entered Korea-claimed airspace from the southwest — and also flew into Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or JADIZ, South Korean newspaper Maeil Business reported.
“After our military noticed the aircraft approaching the KADIZ from the west, we used a hotline with the Chinese military to confirm whether or not it was Chinese military aircraft, and to take countermeasures,” the South Korean official said.
South Korea scrambled F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets in response to the incoming flights — two Chinese H-6 fighter jets, two J-11 fighters, and one TU-154 reconnaissance aircraft.
Chinese aircraft last flew in Korea-claimed airspace on Jan. 9, when they deployed six H-6K bombers, a KJ-200, a propeller airborne early warning and control aircraft, and a Y-9 reconnaissance plane.
The Chinese flights came as Beijing’s foreign ministry said the summit between Xi and Moon was a “success,” South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two sides agreed to “improve and develop the relationship” and to “respect the interests of our neighbors.”
The summit in Beijing was eclipsed by brutal beatings of South Korean photojournalists, which were met with protests in Seoul.
“Chinese security guards kicked Korean journalists in the face and engaged in a group attack,” protesters said Dec. 15. “It is a barbarous act, and it is hard to believe it could happen in a civilized country.”
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital have said that an American soldier wounded by an explosion will be the first person in the U.S. to receive a penis transplant. They also said that up to 60 more injured veterans may undergo the procedure.
For privacy reasons, the hospital has not identified the patient beyond describing him as “a soldier injured by an explosion.”
IEDs do a lot of damage to lower extremities, including the penis. The New York Times reported in Dec. 2015 that almost 1,367 men were wounded in the genitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. The team at Johns Hopkins hopes to pioneer the treatment for them.
The donor organ will be taken from a recently deceased man with similar skin color and age to the patient, according to Business Insider. After the surgery, the patient will need a few months before they have full use of the organ. Sensation, urination, and sexual arousal are all possible over time.
Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland announced the first-ever successful total penis and scrotum transplant was performed on an Afghanistan veteran recently. The recipient was wounded in an IED attack that left him without sexual or urinary function but left his internal organs unharmed.
The procedure was performed on March 26th and the unidentified “sergeant” will have urinary function by the end of the week.
The wounded warrior will also regain complete sexual function in roughly six months. Testicles that could contain semen were not part of the procedure due to the ethical issues associated with having children through the donor’s genetic material.
Though there have been successful partial operations performed elsewhere, this is the first total penis and scrotal transplant, with more tissue transplanted than ever before. The 14-hour procedure required a number of considerations.
1. The donor.
The donor was a recently deceased man whose identity has not been released. According to USA Today, a statement from the donor’s family (which includes a number of veterans) was read by the President and CEO of New England Donor Services.
“We are so thankful to say that our loved one would be proud and honored to know he provided such a special gift to you,” the statement reads. “We hope you can return to better health very soon and we continue to wish you a speedy recovery.”
The recipient’s body could possibly reject the foreign tissue at any time. The sergeant will likely have to take immunosuppressants to ensure the acceptance of the new tissue. To further diminish the likelihood of rejection, the recipient was infused with the donor’s bone marrow to reduce the level of medication necessary to prevent a rejection.
3. Complete sexual function.
The sergeant’s body was connected to his donated organ through three arteries, four veins, and two nerves in order to give him full blood flow and sensation.
4. Hundreds of similarly wounded servicemen.
Between October 2001 and August 2013, an estimated 1,367 male service members sustained injuries to their genitals and urinary system. 73 percent of those included scrotal injuries, 33 percent included the testes, and 31 percent included the penis.
Remains believed to be of a Revolutionary War hero buried at West Point don’t belong to a woman known as “Captain Molly” after all, but to an unknown man.
The U.S. Military Academy said Dec. 5 the discovery stems from a study of skeletal remains conducted after Margaret Corbin’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by excavators building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Tests by a forensic anthropologist revealed the remains were likely those of a middle-aged man who lived between the Colonial period and 19th century.
Corbin was known for bravely stepping in to fire a cannon in 1776 during a battle in New York City after her husband was killed. She was severely wounded during the Battle of Fort Washington, but lived another 24 years. She became the nation’s first woman to receive a pension for military service.
The location of Corbin’s remains is a mystery. Ground-penetrating radar around the gravesite failed to turn up any signs.
The Daughters of the American Revolution received approval in 1926 to move Corbin’s remains from nearby Highland Falls to the hallowed ground of West Point’s cemetery. The leafy lot near the Hudson River is the resting place for thousands, including Gulf War commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Vietnam Gen. William Westmoreland, and Lt. Col. George Custer.
The DAR used records and local accounts from the community to locate the remains believed to be Corbin, according to the Army.
“The remains were verified back in 1926. And you have to consider the gap between 1926 and today. Technology has changed tremendously,” said Col.Madalyn Gainey, spokeswoman for Army National Military Cemeteries.
The remains of the unknown man were reinterred at West Point’s cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for May.
“Nearly 250 years after the Battle of Fort Washington, her bravery and legacy to American history as one of the first women to serve in combat in the defense of our nation continues to transcend and inspire women in military service today,” said ANMC Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.
The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.
A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.
The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.
A sailor assigned to Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Georgia was selected Dec. 7, 2018, as one of the Navy’s first warrant officer 1s since the rank was discontinued in 1975.
The Navy announced in NAVADMIN 293/18 the selection of Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 1st Class Nicholas T. Drenning and five other petty officers to the newly reestablished rank.
The warrant officer 1 rank was reinstated through the Cyber Warrant Officer In-Service Procurement Selection Board in order to retain cyber-talent and fill leadership roles. The Navy began accepting applications in June 2018 from CTNs in the paygrades of E-5 and E-6 who met Naval Enlisted Classification and time-in-service requirements.
Drenning, who was a second class petty officer when he submitted his package but promoted to petty officer first class in December 2018, applied for the warrant officer program to remain on a technical career path and shape the Navy’s cyber forces. He said he believes a strong technical background and dedication to training others directly contributed to his selection.
“After taking the enlisted advancement exam multiple times, I wanted to prove it to myself and the warrant officer selection board that they chose the right candidate” Drenning said. “Now I am excited to set a new precedent and build on the heritage and traditions that make the Navy unique.”
The Navy’s new W-1s will be worn on their covers instead of the traditional officer badge.
Drenning currently has nine years of enlisted service and is slated to be appointed to warrant officer 1 in September 2019. He said he looks forward to working with the other warrant officer selectees many of whom he has worked with previously in Maryland and Georgia.
“My personal focus will be fulfilling the intent of the program, which stresses technical expertise,” Drenning said. “Part of shaping our community is going to be building effective relationships with junior-enlisted, the chief’s mess and fellow officers.”
Upon appointment, Drenning said he looks forward to filling many different cyber work roles and mission sets as he helps to shape policy and build an effective cyber force.
NIOC Georgia conducts SIGINT, cyber and information operations for Fleet, Joint and National Commanders. The command supports operational requirements and deployment of Naval forces as directed by combatant and service component commanders.
Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy’s Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.
American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, the top U.S. general in the country said Nov. 20.
Gen. John Nicholson said the raids were carried out Nov. 19 in the southern Helmand province, as part of the strategy unveiled by President Donald Trump in August. Afghan and American aircraft — including B-52 bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs and F-22 attack planes — took part in the raids.
Nicholson said the insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production.
In a news conference with the Afghan army chief of staff, Nicholson said the Taliban were becoming a criminal organization. “They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities,” he said. He added that there are 13 major drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan, of which seven are in Helmand.
Afghanistan’s opium production has nearly doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a joint survey released last week by the United Nations and the Afghan government.
Production stands at a record level of 9,000 metric tons (9,921 U.S. tons) so far in 2017, with some 328,000 hectares (810,488 acres) under cultivation, according to the survey, carried out by the Counter-Narcotics Ministry and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.
The Taliban prohibited poppy cultivation when they governed the country in the late 1990s, but have since come to rely on it as they wage an increasingly potent insurgency against the government and its foreign backers.
The Taliban have seized several districts across the country and have carried out a series of major attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces, since U.S. and NATO forces officially shifted to a support and counterterrorism role at the end of 2014.
The Army has released an image taken by a combat photographer moments before she was killed in an explosion during a 2013 live-fire training exercise in eastern Afghanistan.
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 on July 2 in Laghman Province. Four Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed when a mortar tube accidentally exploded.
One of the Afghan soldiers killed was a photojournalist whom Clayton had been training.
The primary mission of Combat Camera soldiers is to accompany soldiers on deployments 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,” the Army said in a statement.
Clayton’s name has since been added to the Defense Information School Hall of Heroes at Fort Meade. The award for the winner of Combat Camera’s annual competition was also named 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,” the Army said.