Marines never leave anyone behind

27 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Theresa E. Seng

Heroes are being made everyday and one more stepped out behind the curtain here, March 29.

Captain Christian, pilot training officer and CH-53E Super Stallion pilot for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 464, was on a simple mission that day, to fly equipment into the forward operations base for Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 29 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While the pilots and aircrew were on their way up to the FOB, approximately 20 miles southeast of their final destination , Christian saw a High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle and a M-88 Tank Retrieval Vehicle.  Upon closer look Christian noticed two people in desert camouflage uniforms waving their arms and S.O.S. written in the sand. 

Christian said he radioed back to the sky chief the location and what they saw.

"All around them there were Bedouins and there was a white pick-up truck off in the distance coming toward them," he said.  "Who ever the people in uniform were, a decision needed to be made fast."

At that point Christian lost communication with the sky boss without receiving any guidance on whether to pick them up or not.

"We didn't know if it was an ambush or of they were really Americans in distress," he said.  "As we tried to establish communication with them they wrote in the sand 'no comm for 7 days.'  That message was a dead give away.  I knew they had to be American's.  There was no doubt in my mind that Iraqi's could know to write  it.  Coupled with the white truck coming toward them, I knew we had to help."

He sent the other aircraft down to pick them up with instructions to keep a close eye on the actions of the strangers they were about to pick up , while he continued to circle the area keeping an eye on the white-pickup truck and surrounding locals.  While the other - helicopter went in for a landing, the pickup made a U-turn and drove away at a high speed.

The men on the ground were two soldiers, said Christian. 

"The story I got from them was one of the soldiers got the [HMMWV] stuck in the sand and the two went out with the tank to retrieve it.  After attempts failed they were told to stay with the vehicles," he said.  "Seven days later they were still there and out of food and water after they gave most of it to the Bedouins.  Their unit had already moved north."

Picking them up after the communication message wasn't even a question, he said.  Marines never leave anyone behind.

"I did what any pilot in my squadron would have done," said Christian assuredly.  "I'm just glad that there are two moms back home with kids that have fathers coming home."

It didn't surprise Capt. Jacob, future operations and Super Stallion pilot with HMH-464, that Christian went on gut instinct that the two weren't the enemy.

"He's a great Marine, dynamic and intelligent and I know he wouldn't have put the crews in danger," said Jacob who's known Christian since 1997.  "Caution for the crew is the first priority, and he knew two Americans were in distress."