35 Incredible Photos from a Chaotic Year for the US Military

FacebookTwitterPinterestEmailShare
Soldiers participate in a mass reenlistment on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Range at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Soldiers participate in a mass reenlistment on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Range at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 8, 2021. (Spc. Elorina Santos/U.S. Army photo)

From the nation’s capital to Afghanistan, service members were asked to defend America, Americans and American ideals around the world in 2021. 

Those missions included assisting local hospitals as they battled the coronavirus pandemic, guarding the U.S. Capitol from those committed to upending democracy, and the evacuation of Kabul which claimed the lives of 13 service members and saw Afghans desperate to escape Taliban rule clinging to U.S. military aircraft and begging for a chance to flee.

These images provide snapshots of a taxing year for troops, both in terms of the diverse and intense responsibilities service members shouldered, but also the toll of seeing some attempt to politicize military service and grappling with how to judge a 20-year war that had claimed thousands of American lives ending with American troops quietly withdrawing under the cover of darkness.

Read Next: The Top 10 Military.com News Stories of 2021 

The District of Columbia National Guard stand outside the Capitol.
The District of Columbia National Guard stands outside the Capitol. (AP)
New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen arrive near the Capitol to set up security positions in Washington, D.C.
New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen arrive near the Capitol to set up security positions in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2021. (Master Sgt. Matt Hecht/U.S. Air National Guard photo)
Marines fire an M777 howitzer at Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 19, 2021, during Rolling Thunder 1-22, a live-fire artillery exercise led by the 10th Marine Regiment.
Marines fire an M777 howitzer at Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 19, 2021, during Rolling Thunder 1-22, a live-fire artillery exercise led by the 10th Marine Regiment. (Lance Cpl. Brian Bolin Jr./U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Six airmen receive their first COVID-19 vaccination at Aviano Air Base, Italy
Six Airmen assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing (FW) receive the first Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2021. (Staff Sgt. K. Tucker Owen/U.S. Air Force photo)
Clinical nurse discusses the COVID-19 vaccine with a basic trainee
Capt. Sarah Gilbert, 59th Medical Wing clinical nurse, discusses the COVID-19 vaccine with a basic trainee from the 37th Training Wing at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center in San Antonio, May 14, 2021. (Tech. Sgt. Tory Patterson/U.S. Air Force photo)
Marine Corps Cpl. Inori Hayashi completes an obstacle course during a bilateral exchange with French counterparts at Canjuers military camp in France, Nov. 2, 2021.
Marine Corps Cpl. Inori Hayashi completes an obstacle course during a bilateral exchange with French counterparts at Canjuers military camp in France, Nov. 2, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Akeel Austin/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Air Force firefighters practice decontamination steps during a hazardous material exercise at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.
Air Force firefighters practice decontamination steps during a hazardous material exercise at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Dec. 20, 2021. (Tech. Sgt. Daryn Murphy/U.S. Air Force photo)
U.S. and Chilean soldiers cross-country ski at the Chilean Army Mountain School in Portillo, Chile, Aug. 27, 2021. Soldiers learned the basics of cold weather mountain warfare as part of Exercise Southern Vanguard.
U.S. and Chilean soldiers cross-country ski at the Chilean Army Mountain School in Portillo, Chile, Aug. 27, 2021. Soldiers learned the basics of cold weather mountain warfare as part of Exercise Southern Vanguard. (Pfc. Joshua Taeckens/U.S. Army photo)
Coast Guardsmen and sailors participate in a noncompliant vessel pursuit tactics exercise in an inflatable boat in the Atlantic Ocean.
Coast Guardsmen and sailors participate in a noncompliant vessel pursuit tactics exercise in an inflatable boat in the Atlantic Ocean, April 1, 2021. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Marianne Guemo/U.S. Navy photo)
Soldiers complete a 5K in preparation for a jungle operations training course at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Soldiers complete a 5K in preparation for a jungle operations training course at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, May 14, 2021. (Spc. Jessica Scott/U.S. Army photo)
Soldiers conduct special patrol intersection extraction system training at Fort Campbell, Tenn.
Soldiers conduct special patrol intersection extraction system training at Fort Campbell, Tenn., Nov. 14, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy/U.S. Army photo)
Iowa Army National Guardsmen run through a spray of gasoline and flames during fire phobia training at Camp Novo Selo, Kosovo.
Iowa Army National Guardsmen run through a spray of gasoline and flames during fire phobia training at Camp Novo Selo, Kosovo, April 13, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit/U.S. Army photo)
U.S. Marines assist with evacuation of Afghanistan.
U.S. Marines assist with the evacuation of Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug.15, 2021. Soldiers and Marines are supporting the orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan.
Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug.15, 2021. (Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transported 823 Afghan citizens
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transports 823 Afghan citizens. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A Marine holds a baby while a family in-processes at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan.
A Marine holds a baby while a family in-processes at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
A Marine assists evacuees at an Evacuation Control Check Point at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
A Marine assists evacuees at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Airmen prepare to load qualified evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Airmen prepare to load qualified evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2021. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force photo)
Major General Chris Donahue boards a C-17 at Kabul Airport
Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Donahue is the final American service member to depart Afghanistan. (Master Sgt. Alex Burnett/U.S. Army photo)
Visitors participate in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Flower Ceremony.
Visitors participate in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Flower Ceremony, Nov. 9, 2021. (Elizabeth Fraser/U.S. Army photo)
A service member participates in National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 18, 2021. During the annual event, nearly 38,000 volunteers place 257,000 wreaths at every gravesite, columbarium court column and niche wall column at Arlington National Cemetery.
A service member participates in National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 18, 2021. During the annual event, nearly 38,000 volunteers place 257,000 wreaths at every gravesite, columbarium court column and niche wall column at Arlington National Cemetery. (Elizabeth Fraser/U.S. Army photo)
A Marine and sailors fold an American flag during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony aboard the USS Portland in the Indian Ocean.
A Marine and sailors fold an American flag during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony aboard the USS Portland in the Indian Ocean, Sept. 11, 2021. (Sgt. Alexis Flores/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Air Force Senior Airman Armando Mendiola and military working dog Ootter perform a demonstration at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Air Force Senior Airman Armando Mendiola and military working dog Ootter perform a demonstration at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 16, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Sergio Gamboa/U.S. Air Force photo)
Army Reserve 1st Lt. Amber English reacts to winning gold in women’s skeet at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Army Reserve 1st Lt. Amber English reacts to winning gold in women’s skeet at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, July 26, 2021. (Brittany Nelson/U.S. Army photo)
The Navy and Air Force flight demonstration squadrons, the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, debut the Super Delta formation over a C-130J Super Hercules at Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif.
The Navy and Air Force flight demonstration squadrons, the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, debut the Super Delta formation over a C-130J Super Hercules at Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., March 2, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Andrew Sarver/U.S. Air Force photo)
Air Force Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, flies over the Toronto skyline during the 2021 Canadian International Air Show.
Air Force Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, flies over the Toronto skyline during the 2021 Canadian International Air Show, Sept. 4, 2021. (Capt. Kippun Sumner/U.S. Air Force photo)
An Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk participates in combat search and rescue training during Noble Defender in Alaska, Jan. 21, 2021. The exercise is a North American Air Defense Command Arctic air defense operation.
An Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk participates in combat search and rescue training during Noble Defender in Alaska, Jan. 21, 2021. The exercise is a North American Air Defense Command Arctic air defense operation. (Senior Airman Kelly Willett/U.S. Air Force photo)
The USS Shiloh, USS Lake Champlain, USS Carl Vinson and USS Milius sail alongside Japanese vessels during bilateral operations in the South China Sea.
The USS Shiloh, USS Lake Champlain, USS Carl Vinson and USS Milius sail alongside Japanese vessels during bilateral operations in the South China Sea, Oct. 30, 2021. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Haydn Smith/U.S. Navy photo)
Navy Seaman Dominick Mazuera lifts his son Mateo in the air after seeing him for the first time since graduating from Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.
Navy Seaman Dominick Mazuera lifts his son Mateo in the air after seeing him for the first time since graduating from Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., Sept. 24, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo)
A crew from the California National Guard fights the Dixie Fire in northern California.
A crew from the California National Guard fights the Dixie Fire in northern California, Aug. 16, 2021. (1st Sgt. Harley Ramirez/U.S. Army photo)
Marines pull a vehicle traction pad from an Army logistics support vessel during Spartan Fury at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Marines pull a vehicle traction pad from an Army logistics support vessel during Spartan Fury at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 8, 2021. (Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultman/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2021. (Laura Buchta/U.S. Army photo)
The graduating class of cadets march to the stadium for the graduation ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
The graduating class of cadets march to the stadium for the graduation ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2021. (Cadet Tyler Williams/U.S. Army photo)
Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Barnard, left, and Tech. Sgt. Latasha Major prepare a U.S. flag at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Barnard, left, and Tech. Sgt. Latasha Major prepare a U.S. flag at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Aug. 5, 2021. (Jason Minto/U.S. Air Force photo)
An Afghan child sleeps on the cargo floor of a U.S. Air Force C-17
An Afghan child sleeps on the cargo floor of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, kept warm by the uniform of the C-17 loadmaster, during an evacuation flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo)

-- Zachary Fryer-Biggs is the managing editor at Military.com.

Show Full Article