LOUISVILLE, Ky. – U.S. Army officials are investigating allegations that women in a Kentucky National Guard unit posed nude for pictures with their M-16s and other military equipment, authorities said.
"This is not the kind of activity condoned by the command leadership of the Kentucky National Guard," Lt. Col. Phil Miller, a spokesman for the Kentucky Guard, told The Courier-Journal.
The allegations were reported to the commander of the 410th Quartermaster unit about a week to 10 days before the company shipped out for Iraq on Aug. 26 from Camp Shelby, Miss., Miller said.
The newspaper reported that it had been independently provided a compact disc containing 232 photographs of at least a half-dozen nude and seminude women in various poses with military rifles and covering their breasts with American flag decals.
An accompanying e-mail said the women photographed were from the Kentucky Guard.
Miller said 11 of the 107 soldiers who deployed with the Danville-based unit are women.
Lt. Col. Rich Steele, a spokesman for the First Army at Fort Gillem, Ga., said that if the allegations are proved, punishment could range from informal reprimands to courts-martial. He said the investigation is being conducted in Iraq.
Maj. Dylan Seitz, a staff lawyer for the Kentucky Guard in Frankfort, said commanders there don't know how many soldiers allegedly were involved, who took the pictures, or how they were distributed.
"We don't know what happened, other than there are some photos out there," he said.
It is unclear where the photographs were taken, but some of the women are shown wearing dog tags. And in many photographs, recent inoculations, like those given in preparation for service abroad, are visible.
One woman was photographed partially clad in a military uniform, and a last name is visible on the blouse. Seitz said the Kentucky Guard wouldn't confirm whether a woman with that name works in the unit.
The Guard unit at the center of the investigation was sent off from Danville on June 21 in a ceremony at Boyle County High School attended by Mayor John W.D. Bowling, judge-executives from three counties and Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who hailed them for their courage.
Quartermaster units provide logistics and supply support for other troops.
Miller said the unit's commander, Lt. Robert Cornwell, learned of the allegations as he was boarding a plane for Kuwait a few days in advance of the company.
Miller said Cornwell reported the matter to military police and the judge advocate general at Camp Shelby, as well as to the commander of the battalion to which the company had been assigned.
The commander decided not to delay deployment of the company to Iraq and to investigate the allegations there, Miller said.
A spokesman for Camp Shelby, Lt. Col. Doril Sanders, said he wasn't aware of the reports to officials there.