A distasteful photo showing 15 airmen at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, posing with a colleague in an open casket has prompted an internal Air Force investigation.
The airmen in the photo are “Port Dogs,” or aerial porters who load planes, who were attending Air Transportation technical school at Lackland, Air Force Times reported. The photo shows them gathered around an open metal casket, which is what the military uses to transport fallen soldiers back to the United States. One airman, draped in chains and with a noose around his neck, is playing dead in the casket. A caption reads: “Da Dumpt, Da Dumpt …. Sucks 2 Be U.”
“We take this matter seriously. [Air Education and Training Command] has initiated a commander directed investigation,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told Air Force Times. “Such behavior is not consistent with our core values, and it is not representative of the Airmen I know. It saddens me that this may cause additional grief to the families of our fallen warriors.”
The photo, dated August 23, appeared on Facebook in early October, Air Force Times reported. A former soldier who saw it was appalled and forwarded it to friends, including Staff Sgt. Elias Bonilla of the 82nd Airborne Division. Bonilla emailed the photo to Air Force Times with a note. “I cannot help but picture the faces of my dead [soldiers] that we drug out of burning vehicles, dug out from collapsed buildings,” he wrote.
After Air Force Times asked the Air Education and Training Command to comment on the picture, Air Force officials said they would launch an immediate investigation into the matter.
Only a month ago, the Washington Post broke the story that the Air Force’s mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., had sent the remains of hundreds of dead troops to be buried in a landfill in Virginia.
More from GlobalPost: 274 US troop remains dumped at landfill by Dover Air Base
A congressional panel investigating the actions of the Dover Air Force Base Mortuary will meet for the first time next week, CNN reported.