55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)

 

Specialist Hilda I. Clayton was born May 21, 1991, in Augusta, Georgia. She attended Westside High School in Augusta, Georgia, Class of 2009. After attending cosmetology school at Augusta Technical Community College, she earned her license to practice cosmetology from the state of Georgia. SPC Clayton joined the military September 21, 2011, as a 25V, Combat Documentation and Production Specialist. 

            Specialist Clayton’s military education began at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where she attended Basic Combat Training. She completed Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) on Ft Meade, Maryland. While at DINFOS, SPC Clayton graduated the Basic Still Photography Course and the Video Production Documentation Course, earning the military occupation skill of 25V. While forward deployed in Afghanistan, SPC Clayton qualified in Combatives Level I and Level II.

            Specialist Clayton and her husband, also an active duty Soldier, began their journey together during their 6th grade year in Augusta, Georgia, where their families still reside. Making plans to be married, they decided to join the Army, she as a combat photographer and he as a supply specialist.  While attending AIT, she married her long time love, Chase Clayton on December 29, 2011. 

            Specialist Clayton was known as a quiet person, yet she showed her voice and competitive spirit through her passion for sports; playing them all year round from football to soccer to basketball to softball to track, which began in High School and continued into the military life. On her time away from the courts or fields SPC Clayton would spend time with her husband lifting weights. SPC Clayton was very active in the military with sports and when not playing for the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) team, she would don the jersey of the Baltimore Nighthawks, an all female football team.

            Specialist Clayton was assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), 114th Signal Battalion, 21st Signal Brigade, Fort Meade, Maryland. She deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Regional Command-East (RC-E) and Combined Joint Task Force-101. She was tasked as the Combat Camera asset covering the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, “Task Force Long Knife”. SPC Clayton was involved in a deadly mortar explosion in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July 2, 2013 while covering an Afghan military exercise. Her final camera shot captured the explosion that led to the tragic death of her and four Afghan soldiers.


            Specialist Clayton’s awards and decorations include: Bronze Star Medal (Posthumous), Army Commendation Medal (Posthumous), Army Good Conduct Medal (Posthumous), National Defense Service Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Medal (Posthumous) and the Gold Order of Mercury.

            Specialist Clayton is survived by her husband, Chase Clayton, her mother, Evelyn Suarez, her father, Ellis Ortiz, her brother Jesse Suarez, her sister Josie Suarez, and other immediate and extended family members.