Three US Air National Guard members have been disciplined, and one of them fired, for an incident involving a children’s dinosaur puppet.
Master Sergeant Robin Brown, a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) with the Air National Guard, was removed from her position at the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office after video circulated of her taking her enlistment oath with a tyrannosaurus rex puppet in hand.
In the video, an unnamed colonel administers the oath while holding back a smile. Ms Brown repeats each line of the oath back, moving the sock puppet’s mouth along as she speaks. It was not immediately clear why she chose to employ the puppet.
The oath, which is required of each person who joins the US armed forces, contains lines such as: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
The backlash was swift. The video was viewed more than 2m times, and met with hundreds of outraged comments.
“As a previous member of the Air National Guard/Air Force, I was [appalled] at how childish this was,” wrote one Facebook user. “When a person raises their hand to pledge an oath to defend this country it is serious and not a laughing matter.”
Other users said they had contacted the Air National Guard directly with their complaints.
On Wednesday, the Tennessee National Guard responded with a statement saying Ms Brown had been removed from her position at the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office, and that “other administrative actions are underway”.
The colonel who administered the oath was forced to retire. The senior NCO who filmed the video was removed from his position as a unit first sergeant, and received an official reprimand.
“I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honoured military tradition,” Major Terry Haston, the Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard, said in a statement.
He added: “Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated.”
Lt Gen L Scott Rice, the director of the Air National Guard, also condemned the video in a statement.
“The oath of office or enlistment not only signifies our commitment to our nation, but pays respect to our fellow service members and to those who came before us,” he said. “This action goes against our very foundation.”