The U.S. Military is the single greatest force for freedom and stability on the planet, so when Business Insider published 45 "beautiful" pictures recapping the military's year, we knew we had to bring some of them to you.
From pulse-pounding combat photos and heart-warming humanitarian missions in Afghanistan to excruciating training back home, these photos capture many poignant moments with our courageous men and women in uniform. Here are the 25 pictures we chose to represent the year-in-review of the our armed forces in 2011.
All photos and descriptions courtesy of U.S. military from Army.mil.
Spc. Michael Scarsbrook, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, from Iowa Falls, Iowa, looks down on a spot in Tupac, Afghanistan, Jan. 21, where his unit had been attacked by an improvised explosive device two days earlier. TF Ironman is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls.
Pvt. Stephen Justice, an infantryman from Haverhill, Mass. with Company C, 3/172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) of the New Hampshire National Guard, acts as an assistant gunner and feeds rounds through a M240B machine gun, while the gunner, Spc. Trevor Seaton, an infantryman from Rochester, N.H., fires with the weapon at Fort Devens, Mass., Oct. 2. The Soldiers were participating in a weapons qualification course, a yearly requirement for NHNG Soldiers, to practice their basic Soldier skills in preparation of state and federal missions.
Sgt. David Smitt provides overwatch security during an air assault patrol with U.S. Soldiers and British gunners in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Feb. 10. Smitt is assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and the gunners are assigned to the Royal Air Force Regiment's 15th Squadron.
Spc. Devon Boxa, a member of Company B, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, looks out the back door of a CH-47D Chinook helicopter as another Chinook follows. The helicopters were flying from Kabul to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Dec. 17.
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Silvernale, platoon sergeant of the Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment (Airborne), yells out commands to his troops during air assault training where UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters took them into a section of Alaska’s Chugach Range to engage an opposing force, May 12.
A Soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico as part of exercise Emerald Warrior 2011, March 1. Emerald Warrior is an annual two-week joint/combined tactical exercise sponsored by U.S. Special Operations Command designed to leverage lessons learned from operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom to provide trained and ready forces to combatant commanders.
Pfc. Ben Bradley (left), a Bulldog Troop, Red Platoon scout of 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, ducks away from small-arms fire, as fellow scout Sgt. Jeff Sheppard, launches a grenade at the enemy’s position, during a combat engagement in northern Bala Murghab Valley, Baghdis province, Afghanistan, April 4. Bradley, Sheppard, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Lee and his military working dog 'Valdo' were all wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade blast in the engagement. All service members suffered minor wounds and Valdo was critical, but survived the attack.
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Lloyd, a paratrooper with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, grades the sit-up event of an Army Physical Fitness Test during early-morning rain at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 19. Just a week earlier, Fort Bragg was gripped in ice.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, currently deployed to the U.S. Army's National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., fire the M777 A2 Howitzer, Feb. 19.
Members of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, work at dislodging their M-777 155mm howitzer from the three-foot deep hole it dug its spades into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles, Sept. 4. The huge weapon weighs 9,000 pounds and can launch projectiles over 30 kilometers.
Soldiers from Company A, 101st Division Special Troop Battalion, air assault into a village inside Jowlzak Valley, Parwan province, Afghanistan. Afghan National Police searched the village while Soldiers provided security and conducted key-leader engagements.
Afghan commandos with the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Commando Kandak shield their faces from flying debris after loading a wounded commando on a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a village clearing operation in Zhari district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, July 6. The commandos, supported by service members with Special Operations Task Force – South, found and destroyed several caches consisting of homemade explosives and improvised explosive device-making materials, as well as a weapons cache.
A 120mm mortar round flies out of the tube as Staff Sgt. Ramey J. Brown (left), a section sergeant from Marshville, N.C., Spc. Tyler L. Dillon (center), a team leader from Williamstown, W. Va., and Pvt. Gabriel C. Fields (right), from Fort Worth, Texas, all mortarmen assigned to Troop C, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Bandits, take cover while at Observation Post Mustang in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Jan. 26, 2011.
Staff Sgt. Travis Surber, a native of Franklin County, Va., and a paratrooper with the 173rd Brigade Combat Team's Battle Company of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, parachutes out of a C-130 Hercules Transport Aircraft and into the Ukraine sky.
Cpl. Jose Pacheco, Headquarters and Headquarters Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, practices rappelling techniques during the basic-mobility portion of Mountain Exercise 08-11 at the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Northern California’s Toiyabe National Forest, Sept. 22. Pacheco and his fellow Soldiers will use the technical skills they learn during basic-mobility to gain a tactical advantage over their adversaries during the subsequent force-on-force exercise.
A civilian instructor coaches two paratroopers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, on how to use a Carl Gustav 84 mm recoilless rifle during a certification class at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 6.
A Soldier with the 101st Airborne Division returns fire with a M249 light machine gun during combat operations in the valley of Barawala Kalet, Kunar province, Afghanistan, March 29.
Spc. Ricardo Gonzalez, a San Bernardino, Calif., native assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, spends his Thanksgiving pulling security at an entry control point at Forward Operating Base Lindsey, Afghanistan, Nov. 24.
Pfc. Kevin March kneels atop a cliff overlooking the Arghandab River Valley to provide security for his squad as they climb up the cliff from the valley below in the Arghandab district, Afghanistan, Jan. 31. March is assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Spc. Nicholas Francioso, an armored crewman assigned to 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, kneels atop a cliff overlooking the Arghandab River Valley to provide security for his squad as they climb up the cliff from the valley below, Jan. 31. Francioso, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, conducts a foot patrol with his squad to search orchards throughout the district and interact with the local population.
Staff Sgt. Hector Hoyas, an Aerial Delivery Field Service Department instructor from Fort Lee, Va., and Senior Airman Matthew Phillips, an airborne pavements and equipment operator, from the 820th Red Horse Squadron, turn away from the prop wash as a Nevada Army National Guard 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off with a Humvee sling-load, April 15.
A Soldier from the 2nd Detachment, Company C, 147th Aviation Battalion, oversees the liftoff of a UH-60 Black Hawk flown during medical evacuation training in harsh weather conditions at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind.
Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Delarosa, Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, Shinkai Detachment, finds a pair of shoes for a young girl while helping Afghan National Security Forces distribute winter supplies in Safidar Village, Afghanistan, Feb. 1.
Abigail Castro, a 21-month-old, clings to her daddy, Spc. Kory Castro, following his return to Fort Riley, Kan., Oct. 21. Spc. Castro, assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, was one of more than 250 Soldiers of 1st Infantry Division, who returned from a 12-month deployment to Iraq as part of the Dagger brigade's first "main body" flight. The remainder of the brigade's 3,000 Soldiers will return to Fort Riley throughout the next several weeks.
A Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, unloads his Stryker armored fighting vehicle after a long day of conducting fire missions at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
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