COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fort Carson leaders have launched investigation into a "selfie" photo of a Fort Carson soldier who said she was hiding in her car to avoid saluting the flag went viral Tuesday, drawing a storm of criticism.
Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey, of the posts's 43rd Sustainment Group posted the image to her Instagram account with a caption that read, "This is me laying back in my car hiding so I don't have to salute the 1700 flag, KEEP ALL YOUR 'THATS SO DISRESPECTFUL/HOWRUDE/ETC.' COMMENTS TO YOURSELF cuz, right now, (acronym for I don't give an obscenity)."
Fort Carson officials say soldiers caught not saluting at the 5 p.m. "retreat" ceremony for the lowering of the American ensign are subject to an "on the spot correction" - essentially a loud, one-sided discussion with a sergeant.
It's one of two events per day that require soldiers to stop what they're doing - even pull over and get out of their cars - to salute the flag in an act of tradition and military courtesy.
But Sheffey took the issue to a different level with her social media post. A quick Google search returned thousands of Internet entries for the quartermaster soldier. She was pilloried in hundreds of Twitter postings and thousands of Facebook comments.
Her picture went around the globe, drawing as much or more social media attention than Defense Secretary Monday's proposal to cut the Army to pre-World War II levels.
The Army, alerted by complaints over the photo Tuesday, reacted at the highest levels. Fort Carson held a news conference with one of its most senior colonels in response to media attention.
The Army is taking the incident seriously and has launched a probe that could result in discipline, said Col. Heidi Hoyle, special assistant to 4th Infantry Division commander.
"A soldier is required to salute," Hoyle said.
At worst, the incident could lead to a court martial for insubordination or failure to obey regulations. If convicted for those crimes, a soldier could face up to two years in prison.
Cases of this nature, though are generally handled through administrative punishment, that can cost a soldier rank and pay. Administrative punishments are kept secret by the Army under the provisions of the Privacy Act.
Hoyle said she couldn't discuss specifics of the case because the investigation was underway.
Fort Carson sources said the incident had drawn scrutiny at the highest levels - a sign of Pentagon concern.
According to an Army Times report, Sheffey followed up with a video on Instagram Tuesday to express regret for the photograph, but stopped short of an apology, saying, "I seriously just want to say thank you to everybody who stood up to me today, like seriously. That s*** to me was not that serious. I am not a disrespectful soldier and I really appreciate you all."
The military is especially sensitive of online criticism this month.
This is the third incident within two weeks in which troops have come under scrutiny for photographs posted on social media went viral and sparked outrage from the public.
Several Wisconsin National Guard members were suspended from funeral honors detail last week after an image posted on social media showed them posing around a casket covered with the U.S. flag.
An Air Force sergeant was also the subject of an investigation after a three-year-old photo of her kissing a Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol surfaced online.