Officer leads group in jungle rescue
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- When echoes of a screaming man filled the jungle, a 734th Air Mobility Squadron lieutenant made it his duty to find his location and carry him to safety.
Approximately 80 people from a running club participated in a 7 mile trek through the jungle Sept. 13, 2014, in the hills of Merizo on the southern side of the island. The run began shortly after 4 p.m., and 1st Lt. Alex John, 734th AMS officer in charge of the airfreight terminal, was one of first people to finish at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Instead of going home immediately, John and his friends waited at the rally point until 10:30 p.m. for the remainder of the participants to finish. Eventually several members of the group headed back into the jungle to search for more than 50 additional runners that had not made it to the rally point.
"Upon learning of an injured naval officer, John immediately jumped into action, Capt. Carson Sprott, 36th Wing area defense council lawyer. "Despite having just completed a 7-mile hike with nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain, and the same in descent, he put on his headlamp, shouldered his pack, and led a team back up the mountain into the jungle to find the injured officer."
Once back into the jungle, John and a partner heard screams calling out for help in the distance. After searching, they finally pinpointed the location by yelling back and forth to each other.
The injured man had fallen 15 feet onto rocks and had broken one of his ribs. Upon arrival, John could see he was suffering from dehydration, so he provided him water and electrolytes before helping him back to the rally point.
"From the beginning, I understood this was a serious situation," John said. "The other individual and I realized how important it was for us to keep calm and not stress or scare the wounded man."
After finding several more along the way, he guided them out of the jungle, and with no hesitation, he went back in to help look for others.
I just wanted to make sure everyone was going to make it out safe," John said. "If we couldn't get everyone out, I wanted to make sure they were prepared to spend the night in the jungle and at least provide them with water."
John continued to look for other runners until 3:30 a.m.; all of them made it out of the jungle safely.
"Lieutenant John could have done what many others did when they got off the mountain that night - rushed for their car to grab a shower and head out for the night, but he didn't," Sprott said. "Because he didn't, someone was saved."