Rumors that a Security Forces airman bribed their way to a passing score on the annual physical fitness test that were shared online this past summer were false, officials at Ramstein Air Base in Germany concluded after an investigation.
"An 86th SFS SNCO here at Ramstein got caught bribing the tester to change pt numbers so they would meet standards and not fail," an anonymous tipster posted on July 30 to the Amn/NCO/SNCO page, where airmen often go to vent and share insider information about their duty stations. That post was liked more than 800 times, received nearly 400 comments and became the subject of fierce online debate for several weeks.
Sandra Archer-Harris, a spokesperson for Ramstein's 86th Security Forces Squadron, confirmed to Military.com in August that there was an "ongoing investigation" into the social media post. Four months later, Ramstein officials said the story shared online was false.
"The investigation into allegations of bribery has concluded, and has revealed no instances of bribery and the specific accusation to be false," an 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs official told Military.com in a Tuesday email.
Bribery is a serious allegation for service members and is punishable under Article 124 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The social media poster also alleged in July that the entire Security Forces squadron had to go through more frequent and rigorous physical training than usual as a result of the incident.
"Instead of punishing [the] individual and holding them accountable, the airmen are now required to attend more pt so no one else is in the same situation to fail," the person wrote in July.
A picture of a July 27 memo was uploaded to the Facebook page, which was authenticated by an 86th Security Forces Squadron spokesperson to Military.com. The policy mandated three additional physical training sessions each week for those who scored below 95% on an internal fitness test.
Archer-Harris said in August that the policy was not punitive, but was a way to get Security Forces airmen ready for their missions and jobs.
"The 86 SFS physical training policy is one of several initiatives designed to ensure 86 SFS Defenders meet both physical and combat readiness requirements," Archer-Harris said in an emailed statement in August. "Fitness programs are constantly evaluated to ensure every Defender is primed to execute Air Base Ground Defense at home station and abroad."
Other Security Forces airmen also complained anonymously on the Facebook page in July and August, alleging they've been working nearly 18-hour days as a result of the additional PT.
"The 86 SFS leadership empowers supervisors at the lowest level to maximize schedule flexibility and ensure our Airmen are not working unnecessary hours," Archer-Harris said at the time.
The false report of the bribery incident comes as the Air Force, and many of the other military branches, are looking at modifying their physical fitness tests to offer more options for service members. Their fitness scores can often mean the difference between career advancement and being booted from the force.
Last November, the Air Force changed its physical fitness test to offer a 20-meter shuttle run, hand-release push-ups and cross-legged reverse crunches or planks as new options, instead of the traditional 1.5-mile run, push-ups and sit-ups.
Additionally, the service said the Air Force surgeon general has recommended the waist-to-height ratio as the best method for assessing body composition instead of the long-used tape test.
The false allegation report also mirrors a recent situation at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Last month, the service announced that an airmen at Luke Air Force Base was facing punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice after an investigation showed he faked racist texts claiming he was denied a special duty assignment.
The alleged texts between airmen at the base were also shared on the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page on May 4, and the exchange quickly went viral. Days later, the service said it was investigating the incident. Five months after the screenshots were shared, Luke Air Force Base spokesman Sean Clements said the investigation showed the messages were fake.
"The 56th Fighter Wing has concluded its investigation into reports that an airman was denied a special duty assignment by their supervisor based upon their demographic identity," Clements told Military.com in an emailed statement last month. "Following an exhaustive investigation, authorities determined that the statements published did not occur and the text messages were fake."
Follow-up questions about when Ramstein officials concluded the investigation and whether there were any Uniform Code of Military Justice violations connected to the false accusation of bribery were not immediately returned before publication.
"We take all of these matters seriously and continue to work with unit leaders to ensure our members are ready to execute the Global Gateway mission," the 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs said in an emailed statement.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.