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AF concludes military transfer case photo investigation

1/31/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO -- LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- The investigation of the 345th Training Squadron's Air Transportation Course class graduation photograph concluded recently.

Members of the 37th Training Group who were involved in the photo received administrative actions documenting that their conduct brought discredit to both the military and themselves.

Upon review of the investigation, which began in December 2011, Col. Gregory Reese, the commander of the 37th Training Group, determined corrective action was appropriate for the individuals assigned to the squadron. Extensive review revealed no criminal conduct occurred.

The class photo, which was dated Aug. 23, 2011, brought strong public reaction and seemed to slight fallen servicemembers. The message had powerful, but cryptic visuals, leaving the interpretation open. The investigation indicated the Airmen who took the photo intended it as a reminder to the students that they could be killed if they failed to pay attention while loading and unloading aircraft.

Col. Eric Axelbank, the 37th Training Wing commander, said that Airmen have a responsibility to the Air Force's core values 24-hours a day, especially when engaging in social media due to its public nature. Their tactical representation could have strategic consequences and one photo can easily overshadow the professionalism and foundation of excellence that the Air Force inculcates in its training schools.

Shortly after he was made aware of the photograph, Axelbank issued a wing-wide policy requiring all class photography and memorabilia to be reviewed by squadron commanders for propriety and adherence to wing standards as well as to ensure the photos conform to Air Force core values of service, integrity and excellence.

"We cannot fail in preventing something like this from recurring," Axelbank said. "I heard and read the public's reaction to this photograph. I shared their concern and immediately took steps to prevent this sort of behavior and these unfortunate outcomes. While the members involved were expressing their creativity by taking a candid class photo, they lost sight of our core values and the messages they would broadcast while in uniform. The photo was in poor judgment and it did not reflect the high standards and professionalism of the United States Air Force."

(Courtesy of 37th Training Wing Public Affairs.)

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