Three Marines are being hailed as heroes after they stepped in when a passenger on a flight bound from Japan to the United States became disruptive and threatening.
The three men, according to Stars and Stripes, were all with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines out of Okinawa, and each was traveling separately to Dallas via Tokyo.
A statement from the Marines said that Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt had all received clearance to return stateside despite the Pentagon’s ban on nonessential travel.
WWBT reported that three-quarters of the way through the Monday flight, a man became disruptive, locking himself in a lavatory and making threats.
A news release from the Marines says Dietrick noticed the commotion after he had begun watching a movie.
Once he took his headphones off, he realized that the individual in the lavatory was definitely a bit more of a problem than just your average passenger who’d had too much to drink.
“The man, he was just screaming so fast and so loud that it didn’t really make any sense,” Dietrick told WWBT. “I think what tipped myself and the other Marines off was the volume and him being a little bit more aggressive in the bathroom.”
That’s when the Marines all jumped into action.
“We all heard the commotion and instinctively knew something needed to be done,” Dietrick told Stars and Stripes via text message. “The only thing that was going through our heads was to ensure the safety of all passengers on board and our fellow Marines.”
“I knew I had to step in when he became a danger to others and himself,” Meinhardt said, according to the news release. “I didn’t think twice about helping restrain him through the rest of the flight.”
The three leathernecks gathered around the bathroom as a flight attendant unlocked it. The men then restrained the passenger with flex ties. The whole thing took about two minutes.
“[The flight attendant] opened the door, my captain went in and grabbed him,” Dietrick told WWBT.
“I grabbed his hands, put him to the ground, flexi-cuffed him, and then myself and the two other Marines, we secured him to the first available chair.”
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“Honestly we just kind of naturally positioned ourselves in a manner to cover the exit and cover each other,” Kult, an infantry officer, told Stars and Stripes.
And yes, it wasn’t just the fact that three Marines tend to beat one average passenger when it comes to overpowering someone. They were ready in a tactical “stack” — a way of assembling outside a door to best apprehend a target — once the door opened.
“You know how to work with a team, and you are trained to calmly insert yourself into a stressful situation,” Kult said.
“Even though we are all different ranks, we’ve had shared experiences in training that made this an easy situation.”
“Unfortunately, things like this could happen to anyone in the air,” Dietrick said. “So, I guess it’s just always being ready to help whenever someone needs it.”
After the Marines subdued the man, the flight was diverted to Los Angeles International Airport, where the disruptive passenger was taken into custody and given a mental health evaluation.
Both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles were investigating whether the matter was criminal in nature.
“At this time we cannot identify the airline or comment on the disposition of the passenger, as the incident remains under investigation,” Marine spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Kayla Olsen told CBS DFW.
This seems like an instance of a man in need of psychiatric assistance more than a threat, but here’s the thing in the post-9/11 era: That can’t be assumed.
Nobody knew whether this individual’s alleged threats were something he had the capacity to act upon. If so, this could have had a much different ending.
Kudos to these Marines, too, for being at the ready for this flight the same way they’re at the ready for their country.
If you don’t have them on board, flight crews are trained on how to handle situations like these. That said, they can’t exactly handle them as expertly as people who do these sorts of things for a living can.
“We are well trained and it paid off today,” Kult said.
“We just assessed the situation and acted. Working with the flight crew, we got the door open and from there worked together to subdue him. We didn’t take time to talk it over. We just got ready and did what we needed to help.”
Our hats are off to you, Capt. Kult, Sgt. Dietrick and Pfc. Meinhardt. Semper fi.
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