JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — The US Air Force is facing a whirlwind of criticism following reports on social media that up to 64 U.S. Army soldiers were forcibly removed from a Tacoma-based flight yesterday afternoon.
The controversy is just the latest amid a string of passenger incidents on flights with United Airlines, Delta, and other carriers.
“There was a lot of shouting, and a light went on,” said Spc. Sadie Tompkins, an Army photographer who hitched a ride on the aircraft via space-a[vailable]. “Then suddenly the back ramp opened and in seconds they all were forced out. One guy was so scared his knees went weak and he hit the floor.”
Tompkins added that, just minutes into the flight, Air Force personnel on the C-130 aircraft screamed at the soldiers to stand up and shuffle toward the door.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment, saying that the behavior of the soldiers’ was top secret, and their destination was unknown.
However, another source onboard the aircraft said they heard one of the soldiers question whether he would ever come home. A video of the incident that was later uploaded to YouTube showed an Air Force technical sergeant screaming for the men to “hook up,” which many commenters took to be a homophobic slur.
The incident worsened after word got out that several of the soldiers were involved in a shooting incident after being forced to deplane, and one later died of his wounds. Citing privacy concerns, a spokesman declined to give the soldier’s name. However, the Pentagon confirmed the soldier would be posthumously awarded airborne wings and would be buried in the front-leaning rest position at Arlington National Cemetery.