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All the challenges of 2020 couldn’t stop military photographers from snapping some truly excellent shots for our viewing pleasure. This week, the Department of Defense released a list of its 85 best photos of the year, and I sampled what I thought were the 13 best among them. 

They were hard choices, and I’m no photography expert, but I went with photos that I thought used excellent composition to tell compelling stories. But sometimes I went with ones that just looked really pretty (or badass). Enjoy!

  1. “Free Fall”
Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct free-fall jumps during flight operations with the Spanish navy in Rota, Spain, Feb. 13, 2020. (Navy photo / Petty Officer 3rd Class Katie Cox)

2. “Northern Lights”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
A Marine stands watch during a cold weather training event in Setermoen, Norway, Nov. 12, 2020, in preparation for Reindeer II, a bilateral exercise hosted by the Norwegian military to increase support capabilities between NATO allies in extreme conditions. (Marine Corps photo / Cpl. William Chockey)

3. “Greenland Grace”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
The Coast Guard cutter Campbell travels with the Royal Danish Navy patrol vessel HDMS Knud Rasmussen off the coast of Greenland, Sept. 7, 2020. (Coast Guard photo / Seaman Kate Kilroy)

4. “Mountain Hornet”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
A Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet soars above the clouds while conducting flight operations near Atsugi, Japan, Jan. 29, 2020. (Navy photo / Lt. Alex Grammar)

5. “Shoreline”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Marines stage assault amphibious vehicles during around-the-clock training operations at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, May 28, 2020. (Marine Corps photo / Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

6. “Dolphin Escort”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
A pod of dolphins travels with the guided missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton in the Persian Gulf, May 17, 2020. (Navy photo / Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Jackson)

7. “Blue Wall”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Blake Hernandez and Pfc. Brady McVane paint the wall of a school in Chanthaburi, Thailand, Feb. 25, 2020, as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2020 (Marine Corps photo / Staff Sgt. Jordan Gilbert)

8. “Boarding the Mercy”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Sailors transport a patient onto the hospital ship USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, April 6, 2020. The Mercy deployed to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals, allowing those hospitals to focus on COVID-19 cases. (Navy photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

9. “Salute Spectacular”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Fireworks go off after members of the Army’s parachute team, the Golden Knights, land on the White House grounds during the Salute to America, July 4, 2020. (Army photo / Sgt. Kevin Roy)

10. “Teeth Technique”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Air Force Senior Airman Bria Lipkins watches a child practice her brushing techniques on a stuffed animal at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 11, 2020. (Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

11. “Fire Shelter”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Marine Corps Cpl. Robert Rosa conducts training with a practice fire shelter at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 18, 2020. Marines and sailors assisted the U.S. Forest Service with fires in California. (Marine Corps photo / Lance Cpl. Ulises Salgado)

12. “Unflappable Feco”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Feco, a single-purpose bomb dog assigned to a Coast Guard maritime safety and security team, wears protective eye and ear gear and a hoisting vest for hoist operation training at Moffett Air National Guard Base, Calif., June 15, 2020. (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Ray Aquino)

13. “Goodbye Wave”

Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020
Children wave goodbye as the fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina departs for a regularly scheduled deployment at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 25, 2020. (Navy photo / Chief Petty Officer Amanda Gray)

If you want to see the DoD’s entire list of photos, here is a link.

Related: The best photos of the US military in 2019, according to an award-winning Air Force photographer

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