Shortly after his bomber squadron deployed to Qatar in August 2017, Lt. Col. Paul Goossen wrote a simple message on a whiteboard for all his airmen to see: “Stop drawing dicks.”

Goossen went on to write that phallic images were showing up everywhere on base, including in restrooms, dorms, and vehicles. A command investigation noted that phallic images were also drawn on bombs loaded onto B-52s and in the soot on the bombers’ exteriors.

To the layman, Goossen’s instructions might pretty straightforward. But the airmen of the 69th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron took away a different message: Since Goossen didn’t specifically say that drawing penises while inside the bombers was wrong, then it must be OK, the command investigation found.

“Aircrews believed the drawings on the aircraft would be contained only to aircrews viewing while flying on the aircraft and was meant to be a morale boost and joke to break from the monotonous routines encountered during that rotation,” according to a redacted copy of the investigation, which was released to the media on Friday.

An investigation into the matter was launched after a CD with the squadron’s final roll call presentation was discovered. The presentation, which Goossen viewed along with the rest of the squadron, included airmen’s phallic artwork.

“[The] 69 EBS aircrew members confirmed, it was common practice for aircrews to create what was commonly referred to as ‘dick pics’ using the Microsoft Paint application in the B-52 [redacted] display,” the investigation says. “The drawings involved male genitalia incorporated into various themes [redacted]. Additionally, there were no actual photographs of genitals, only stick figure type drawings. There were also some very basic pencil sketches under the B-52 pilot/co-pilot [redacted] keyboards.”

Goossen told the investigating officer that he knew his airmen were drawing cartoons to each other, but he did not know about the sheer number of penis paintings until he saw the final roll call. However, he did come across a “phallic drawing as a heart themed motif” during a mission around Valentine’s Day, the investigation found.

“It is disappointing to know our young airmen produce and accept these indecent drawings in a deployed location, which is completely the opposite behavior seen or accepted at their home station location,” the investigation determined.

However, one member of the squadron, whose name was redacted from the investigation, said the drawings were not meant to be sexually explicit or demeaning toward anyone in particular.

“They were drawn to see how funny, creative, and artistic people could be; they gave the crew something to laugh at and keep morale high. The drawings were viewed by many as ‘art’ [redacted], it would not have happened if anybody was offended.”

U.S. Air National Guard photo / Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson.

The investigation found that between 10 and 25 members of the squadron drew the images starting in October 2017, and it faults Goossen and the squadron’s other senior leaders for not doing more to put a stop to it.

“The fact the drawings became prevalent on many sorties indicates a culture and climate among the aircrews that this behavior was acceptable due to the assumption the drawings were contained within the aircraft for aircrew viewing only.” The investigating officer concluded. “Additionally, since several crews obviously knew that senior leaders had viewed the drawings, I believe this became the go-ahead to continue drawing and share the phallic drawings.”

Goossen personally should have made clear that the penis images were unacceptable as soon as he discovered them, according to the investigation, which also faulted him for not stopping the final roll call and explaining to his airmen why the imagery was inappropriate.

“They were drawn to see how funny, creative, and artistic people could be; they gave the crew something to laugh at and keep morale high.”

In an Oct. 12 commander’s call, Goossen took responsibility for, “His failure to stop the creation of the drawing while deployed despite the extreme mission stress.” He was relieved of his duties as commander of the squadron on Nov. 27.

“Lt. Col. Goossen failed to be above reproach, by definition of AFI 1-2, paragraph 2.2 to display exemplary conduct, did not show himself as a good example of virtue, failed to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command, failed to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices and to correct them according to the laws and regulations of the Air Force, all persons who are guilty of them.

“Virtue is excellence that is not only an exterior appearance, but an interior reality that manifests itself in one’s subordinates and their character. This excellence demands superior integrity and does not allow for blatant negligence of one’s duties. This negligence can be a marker of leadership immaturity or lack of basic awareness to thwart any disrespectful and vulgar practices of those one has been given the duty of guiding towards professionalism and excellence.”

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