Air Force officials retaliated against whistleblowers who reported the mishandling of war remains at the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, the Office of Special Counsel said Tuesday in a report which adds further blemishes the armed services branch responsible for bringing casualties home from battle.

Three Port Mortuary officials at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base retaliated against four civilian employees -- in violation of whistleblower protection laws -- during 17 months in 2009 and 2010, according to the report, which was sent to Air Force officials on Monday.

Those employees alleged they had suffered retaliation including job termination, indefinite administrative leave and five-day suspensions, according to an OSC statement.

"Because OSC found retaliation, it now seeks corrective action for the whistleblowers and disciplinary action against the agency officials who engaged in prohibited personnel practices," the statement read. "OSC is working with the Air Force to provide relief to these whistleblowers."

The three officials who allegedly retaliated against the whistleblowers were not identified. One of the officials is an active duty military member while the other two are civilians.

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said she applauded the whistleblowers for their "courage" in coming forward.

"We expect the Air Force will now take appropriate steps to discipline the wrongdoers and deter future acts of retaliation," Lerner said in a statement.

In a statement to, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called on the Air Force to respond quickly to the report.

"As an author of the Whistleblower Protection Act, I know the law is clear that it is not appropriate for a federal agency or official to retaliate against a whistleblower on the basis of a protected disclosure," Levin said. "The Air Force must now review the OSC report and promptly take appropriate action."

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said he will take "appropriate action" and has appointed a two-star general to review the findings. He said reprisals against whistleblowers are unacceptable.

In a statement, Donley said he and the Air Force's top officer, Gen. Norton Schwartz, "believe strongly there is no place for reprisal in the Air Force. Reprisals against employees are unethical and illegal and counter to Air Force core values."

In an earlier investigation report released in November, OSC officials said they had found "gross mismanagement" at the Dover facility, where small body parts of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan were lost on two occasions.

At the time, Air Force officials said they took disciplinary action -- but did not terminate -- three senior supervisors there for their role in the mismanagement. Those disciplined included Air Force Col. Robert Edmondson, who commanded the Dover mortuary at the time of the incidents, and two civilian supervisors -- Trevor Dean and Quinton Keel.

Edmondson was given a letter of reprimand; denied a job commanding a unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; and barred from future command assignments. Dean and Keel took a cut in pay and were moved to non-supervisory jobs at Dover. All three have declined to comment publicly on the matter.

Although the Special Counsel did not identify the three accused of retaliating against the whistleblowers, two officials said they are Edmondson, Dean and Keel. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of privacy restrictions.

James Parsons, an embalming/autopsy technician who has been identified by The Associated Press as one of the whistleblowers, said Tuesday that he had not seen the investigators' report but was told Monday that its conclusions support his and the others' claims of retaliation.