Marines help flight crew detain passenger during overseas flight
By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 6, 2020
Three Marines “stacked up” outside the door of a jetliner’s bathroom and detained a passenger who had barricaded himself inside and screamed threats during a flight from Japan to Texas.
Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt, all with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, were on their way back stateside Monday when they heard the disruption, the Marine Corps said in a statement.
“We all heard the commotion and instinctively knew something needed to be done,” Dietrick, an assault infantry Marine, told Stars and Stripes via text message Wednesday. “The only thing that was going through our heads was to ensure the safety of all passengers on board and our fellow Marines.”
The trio was about halfway through a six-month deployment to Camp Schwab on Okinawa as part of the service’s Unit Deployment Program. But for different reasons, each was cleared to travel back to the U.S. despite the Defense Department’s coronavirus-related stop movement order.
“Honestly we just kind of naturally positioned ourselves in a manner to cover the exit and cover each other,” Kult, an infantry officer from Coon Rapids, Iowa, told Stars and Stripes.
They gathered in a tactical “stack” at the lavatory and prepared to subdue the passenger as a flight attendant unlocked the door. They restrained him after the flight crew provided flex ties — locking plastic cable ties often used as handcuffs.
“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.”
After restraining the passenger in a seat, they watched him for the duration of the flight, which was diverted to Los Angeles International Airport, the statement said.
The passenger was transported to a hospital for a mental evaluation, and federal authorities are investigating the incident, it said.
The Marines who aided the flight crew are “men of action,” said their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Chris Niedziocha, who said he knew all three of them.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised,” Niedziocha said of their actions.