MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII -- Late night on Jan. 7, 2018, a lost hiker was sought out by Hawaii Police Department search-and-rescue teams on the Waimanalo Mountains and was eventually found. However, the helicopter team could not navigate through due to powerlines.
The rescue was put on hold until the next morning when ground personnel could reach her during the day. This did not settle well for the victim’s family members and a call to action was echoed.
Sgt. Jeffrey Igleheart, a signals intelligence analyst with 3rd Radio Battalion (3rd RADBN), III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), was the first to find out about the lost hiker from one of his Marines. He said they weren’t going to allow her to stay overnight in the wilderness alone and took the initiative to lead the rescue efforts.
“Right before bed, I get a call around 8:30 p.m. from my sergeant asking if I could help find a missing person to which I agreed,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob Baker, a cryptologic linguist with 3rd Radio. “After receiving a rough grid coordinate from the hiker’s family member, myself and two other sergeants began the hike up the Waimanalo Mountains an hour later. Off the bat, we could tell the weather would not be easy on us, with rain pouring on us.”
Baker, with his group, traversed over high and low terrain, eventually going off trail to reach the last known location of the hiker.
“After a frustrating six hours, we were starting to get exhausted and thought we’d never find her, so Sgt. Igleheart gave one last whistle call,” he said. “After a long silence, we heard a faint noise in the distance and immediately moved toward it. After hours searching the mountain side we finally found her. She had her legs wrapped around a stump on a ravine, only feet from plunging off.”
Baker was able to assist in saving the hiker from her location and began the walk down the mountain trail after coordinating with the others.
“It took three more hours of careful downhill hiking to get ourselves to safety and to get back to base for our Monday formation,” he said. “We make it back in time, and explained the situation to our superiors, who then gave us the day to recover from that long night rescue. I hope others see this act as a physical representation of what it means to be a Marine, to persevere through a challenge and take a chance.”
Igleheart said it was all worth it to find his Marine’s family member, to reuniting them.
“I think, as Marines, we should have a biased reaction, not saying jump into any dangerous situation that’s not worth the risk, but for this case the risk was higher for the stranded hiker so we took the initiative ourselves,” he said. “Sgt. Brandon Ned who was the other Marine with us said it best, ‘If it was my sister, I wouldn’t leave her up there.’”
The three Marines were awarded with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for their dedication, initiative and perseverance for helping to bring back a lost family member home.