The Air Force is reminding airmen to think before they act, lest it end up online for posterity.
“You may know a few of our fellow Airmen (and Soldiers) recently made news headlines for all the wrong reasons,” Christa D’Andrea, an Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman wrote this week. “Within the last few weeks photos that were taken several years ago popped up on a number of official Air Force Facebook pages, including ours. These photos show Airmen acting in a way that is utterly disrespectful and is not consistent with the Air Force’s core values.”
D’Andrea was referring to, among others, an image of Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers tongue-kissing the Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol that went viral last month.
In another photo that surfaced about the same time, a group of soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard are pictured goofing off in front of a presumably empty flag-draped coffin. An accompanying caption read, “We put the FUN in funeral your fearless honor guard from various states.”
The photo of the Fairchild staff sergeant launched a command-directed investigation that was still ongoing this week. The Guard announced it had suspended a soldier in the coffin photo from a funeral honors detail.
Those images, and others, incited outrage among veterans and service members.
“One photo of one Airman can taint the American public’s view on the Air Force and the type of people we employ, as a whole,” D’Andrea wrote.
Indeed, one Marine Corps veteran told Air Force Times the POW/MIA photo was indicative of a cultural problem within the service.
It’s normal to mess up, D’Andrea wrote. “However, in today’s society some of these behaviors never go away, even if you tried to delete them. They are documented in Facebook status updates, Instagram photos, Vine videos and on a number of other social media sites. And it only takes a second for your documented actions to go viral.”
When that happens, “their images as airmen are forever corrupted,” she warned. “Don’t become the subject of the next viral photo or video. Hold on to your personal self-worth and live by the Air Force’s core values daily.”