Soldiers sent home for photo stunt

DEMON SHOT: The offending photo.
DEMON SHOT: The offending photo.

Three New Zealand soldiers will be sent home from Afghanistan for passing on a photo featuring a bomb plastered with an energy drink sticker and the words "dear Taleban, enjoy this".

In the photograph the three soldiers are seen with what is thought to be a 2000-pound bomb of the type which can be fired from an F-16 fighter jet, and is used in airstrikes which have claimed civilian lives.

The bomb is plastered with the Demon energy drink's "no limits, no laws" slogan.

The photographs were sent to Demon Drinks, which runs competitions for consumers to send in humourous photos, and became widely distributed on email.

The decision to send the soldiers home was made immediately after the incident, the New Zealand Defence Force said. A subsequent investigation found two of the three soldiers guilty of an offence under the Armed Forces Discipline Act, and those soldiers were punished.

"The return home of these three personnel was a command decision," said Commander Joint Forces NZ Air Vice Marshal Peter Stockwell. 

"Irrespective of the investigation into whether the acts contravened military law, the NZDF sets and expects very high levels of professionalism and behaviour from its people - this is especially the case in an operational theatre where the protection of information is vital to the overall security of New Zealand interests and activities. On this occasion those standards have not been met and as a consequence these three soldiers will be returned to New Zealand at the earliest opportunity."

"Let me be very clear that this is not about a group of young soldiers just taking a photograph of themselves; soldiers have been doing this since the availability of cameras. These three are returning to New Zealand because of a series of actions and errors of judgment on their part that did not meet the standards we expect of our people."