The 31 Best Photos Combat Photographers Took In Afghanistan Last Year

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The Department of Defense has just announced the top military photos of 2013, arranged in six categories: Afghanistan, Defense Leaders, Operations/ Training, Disaster Response, Warrior Games, Military Life.

We'll be posting them all here, but naturally will start with Afghanistan. These are remarkable photos taken by talented photographers, a few of whom I know personally from my time as a Marine Corps combat correspondent. They also showcase the remarkable service and skill set of those who executed year 12 of one of the most complex wars in American history.

Here are the photos:

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U.S. soldiers and Afghan border police hike from their landing zone to Observation Point 12 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Jan. 21, 2013. The soldiers are assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich

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U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David Denseley, center, helps Afghan mortarmen clean the bore of a 60mm mortar at a mortar range near Camp Shorabak in Afghanistan's Helmand province, May 4, 2013. Denseley is assigned to the Regional Corps Battle School. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Pablo Perez provides security during training to counter improvised explosive devices on Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. Perez, a rifleman, is assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jarrett Goff kicks in a wall while on patrol in Washir village in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 29, 2013. Goff, a team leader, is assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Geoffrey K. Scarborough

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U.S. Marines conduct live-fire training at a range on Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Aug. 12, 2013. The exercise enabled Marines to practice with weapons after arriving in the country. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Demetrius Munnerlyn

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U.S. troops prepare for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to hoist them up during hoist training on Forward Operating Base Farah, Afghanistan, Sept. 8, 2013. The troops are assigned to the 758th Forward Surgical Team, Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, and the helicopter crew is assigned to U.S. Army's Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac

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U.S. Marines and Georgian soldiers make their way to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Afghanistan's Helmand province, July 3, 2013. The Marines are assigned to Georgian Liaison Team 9. The Georgian soldiers led the operation to deter insurgents, establish a presence, and gather human intelligence in the area. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena

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U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Marcus S. McCollum provides aerial security with a GAU-21 .50-caliber machine gun inside a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2013. McCollum, a crew chief, is assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia

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A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a shipping container during retrograde operations and base closures in Afghanistan's Wardak province, Oct. 26, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Peter Smedberg

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U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bethany Bump conducts her preflight routine in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and checks with her crew chief before a mission on Jalalabad Airfield in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, March 13, 2013. Bump, a helicopter pilot, is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's Company C, 3rd Battalion, 501st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class John D. Brown

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sean Pabey, left, U.S. Army Sgt. James Carlberg and Army Staff Sgt. Abby, a military working dog, provide overwatch from the mountains of Maiden Shar in Afghanistan's Wardak province, Sept. 1, 2013. Pabey, a truck commander, and Carlberg, a military working dog handler, are assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel M. Copeland

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Sean Abrusci provides security during a patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 5, 2013. Abrusci is assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David McKenzie

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U.S. Marine Sgt. Eric R. Wagner provides aerial security from the back of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during an operation over Helmand province in Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. Wagner, a crew chief, is assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ashley E. Santy

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U.S. Marines exit a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during an operation in Tangi Sufla in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ashley E. Santy

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U.S. soldiers prepare a round for a support mission using an M119 105mm howitzer on Combat Outpost Wilderness, Paktya province, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper

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U.S. Army Spc. Austin M. Weyerman and fellow soldiers move into a village with a suspected weapons cache during Operation Southern Fist III in the Spin Boldak district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province, March 3, 2013. The U.S. soldiers, assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, enabled Afghan border police and soldiers to search for weapons caches and eliminate infiltration routes. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

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U.S. and Afghan soldiers cross the Tarnak River in the Panjwai district in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, April 10, 2013. The soldiers are assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kody King engages enemy positions with an M2HB .50-caliber machine gun during Operation Bullseye in Kajaki in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Feb. 27, 2013. King, a machine gunner, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kowshon Ye

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A U.S. Special Forces team leader meets with an Afghan local police checkpoint commander in the Zharay district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 21, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

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An Afghan child waves a flag at a member of coalition forces as he walks to a medical clinic led by Afghan national security forces in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province, March 12, 2013. Coalition and Afghan forces held the clinic to promote improved security, governance and development. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Kruger

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U.S. Army Spc. Kaleb Propst provides security overwatch during a meeting with leaders at a Bala Boluk district building in Afghanistan's Farah province, Jan. 2, 2013. Propst is a security force team member for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, which trains, advises and assists Afghan government leaders at the municipal, district and provincial levels in Farah province. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

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U.S. Army Col. J.P. McGee, left, speaks with Haji Mosolen, chief of the shura, during a meeting on Forward Operating Base Bostic in Kunar province, Afghanistan, April 20, 2013. McGee is commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Vang Seng Thao

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Leaders from coalition and Afghan security forces eat lunch together at the Afghan border police headquarters in Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Oct. 8, 2013. U.S Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr., commanding general of Regional Command Southwest, and other staff members traveled to the police headquarters to attend a promotion ceremony. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline

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An Afghan mother and child watch as U.S. troops meet with the director of a nutritional center within the Farah Feeding Center in Farah City, Afghanistan, July 13, 2013. The troops are assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Security Force. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John J. McConnell searches outside an Afghan compound for weapons during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. McConnell is assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena

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A U.S. Marine uses his weapon's optic lens to scan the mountaintops at sunset from a guard post on Observation Post Athens in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Nov. 28, 2013. The Marine is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, which provided security for personnel on Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson

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As seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. The Marines, assigned to Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, conducted the combat logistics patrol to resupply and support Regimental Combat Team 7. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz

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A U.S. soldier pulls security during a battle drill on Forward Operating Base Lightning in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Burdge, front, uses a metal detector during counter improvised explosive device training on Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. Burdge, a rifleman, is assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline

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Doc, a dog trained to detect improvised explosive devices, retrieves a bumper during a training session on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. Dog handlers specializing in detecting explosive devices work with dogs to clear routes and other duties in a combat environment. Doc is assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion.U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline

(Editors note: The puppy ones are my favorite.)

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A U.S. soldier helps a fellow soldier onto the rooftop of an old, destroyed building to provide overwatch for another element of their patrol in Panjwa'i District, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rosato meets with Afghan school children outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 11, 2013. Rosato is assigned to the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper Team 1, which conducts patrols to counter improvised explosive devices and indirect fire attacks as well as to engage Afghan support in protecting the base. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Willis

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U.S. troops and employees of the Farah Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter after a meeting in Lash-e Juwayn in Afghanistan's Farah province, Jan. 24, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives