The Air Force is investigating a photograph that circulated on social media of several airmen standing around a comrade pretending to be dead in an open casket, a spokesman told ABC News today.
In the image, 15 men and women, some with their arms crossed in an X, surround the casket in which a man lies with his eyes closed, a noose around his neck and chains across his body.
At the bottom of the photo reads: "Da Dumpt, Da Dumpt … Sucks to Be U!"
Todd Spitler, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, told ABC News today via email that the image had been taken in August. He said the airmen pictured were assigned to a training detachment belonging to the 345th Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and had been attending the Air Transportation Apprentice course at Fort Lee, Va.
Spitler said the Air Force learned of the photograph after the Air Force Times sent it to the Pentagon Dec. 12. According to The Associated Press, the image was posted to Facebook in October.
Spitler said that although airmen were encouraged to engage and tell their story through social media, "they are reminded to do so in ways that don't discredit themselves or our service."
"They know there are policies against sharing information that violates operational security and they understand there is a fine line between funny and distasteful," he said via email. "These photos are wholly inappropriate and disrespectful. … It is disappointing to see professional airmen choose to depict themselves in an unprofessional manner."
Spitler said that the investigation would last one to two weeks and that the 37th Training Group commander would determine what actions should be taken. In addition, he said a policy letter would be issued requiring squadron commander-level approval of all photos, plaques and memorabilia before they were posted by graduating classes.
The photo incident comes a little more than a month after Air Force officials confirmed to ABC News that its mortuary at Dover Air Base had been disposing the unidentified cremated remains of service members into a landfill.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said via emailed statement that the recent image incident saddened him that it might cause more grief to the families of "fallen warriors."
"Such behavior is not consistent with our core values and it is not represenatative of the airmen I know," Donley said.