A tasteless photo (above) of fifteen Air Force members posing in front of a metal casket similar to those used to bring war dead home has sparked an investigation at Lackland Air Force Base, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“A bespectacled airman is inside the open case, eyes open and staring blankly in the distance. His head is tilted to the side, a white noose and black chain around his neck,” Sig Christenson wrote in the Express-News. A caption reads “Da Dumpt, Da Dumpt. Sucks 2 Be U.”
This photo emerges at an especially bad time for the Air Force, which is embroiled in a scandal over dumping the cremated partial remains of 274 service members into a Virginia landfill.
The picture appears to have been taken in August while the members of 345th Training Squadron were training at the Fort Lee Air Transport Apprentice School. The Air Force dispatched a lieutenant colonel to the apprentice school to investigate, Christenson wrote. The men and women in the photo serve under the 37th Training Group at Lackland.
Army Staff Sgt. Elias Bonilla emailed the photo to Air Force Times on Monday after a friend came across it on Facebook, where it was posted in October. Non-commissioned officers—tech sergeants and staff sergeants—appear in the photo alongside junior airmen, David Larter wrote in the Air Force Times.
“I cannot help but picture the faces of my dead [soldiers] that we drug out of burning vehicles, dug out from collapsed buildings,” Staff Sgt. Elias Bonilla wrote in an email to the Air Force Times.
The staged photo has bounced across the Internet, inciting outrage. Max Onyx had some disciplinary suggestions, tweeting “time to relieve the leadership, convene courts martials, and tighten up the discipline.” Desert Storm veteran Jonn Lilyea, blogging at This Ain’t Hell, has advice on military life in the age of the cell phone camera. “If Abu Ghraib has taught us anything, don’t do stupid shit and, more importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t take pictures of it,” he wrote. Terrytoad, commenting on Christenson’s story, was unfazed. “Kids at play. Saw a lot worse when I was in,” he wrote.