CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Five Marines were awarded the Navy
and Marine Corps Medal for their heroism while assigned to the 24th
Marine Expeditionary Unit during its 2012 deployment at a ceremony
aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 3, 2013.
The Marines were
awarded for the actions they performed immediately after one of 24th
MEU's aircraft crashed while participating in Exercise African Lion
12, a bilateral training event in Morocco, April 11, 2012.
Without regard for their own safety the Marines put their own
lives in danger as the first responders to enter the downed aircraft
and administer aid and attempt to rescue the crew. During the
mishap, two Marines sustained severe injuries while two others were
The Marines are:
- Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Alvarez, platoon commander, Bravo
Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine
- Sgt. Daniel J. Beers, motor transport non-commissioned
officer-in-charge, Combat Logistics Battalion 24
- Sgt. Christopher J. Ewain, assistant assault amphibious
section leader, Alpha Co., BLT 1/2
- Cpl. Michael Z. Pearson, assistant assault amphibious
section leader, Alpha Co., BLT 1/2
- Cpl. Steve T. Hanson, team leader, Bravo Co., BLT 1/2
Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and Combat Logistics Battalion 24 wait while Col. Frank Donovan, the former commanding officer of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, presents them with Navy and Marine Corps Medals during an awards ceremony June 3, 2013, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The medals were awarded to the Marines for heroic actions while deployed with the 24th MEU in 2012.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)
A sixth Marine, Sgt. Merritt C. Huntley, a mortar section
leader with Alpha Co., BLT 1/2, was not present during the
ceremony due to training commitments but will be awarded the
medal at a later date. The billets listed were the ones held
by each Marine during the deployment.
acted with courage, skill and precision that saved lives,"
said Col. Frank Donovan, the former commanding officer of
24th MEU who commanded the unit during the deployment, and
who presented the awards during the ceremony.
"There was no hesitation with
these five Marines," explained Donovan. "Debris still
falling, engine still turning, fuel pouring out, these
Marines broke into the side of the cabin wanting to recover
a fellow Marine. Why did they do it? They did it for a
fellow Marine. That's what it's all about."
From the citations:
Marines were in danger, Gunnery Sgt. Alvarez, a native of
Orange County, Calif., ran to the crash and was the first
responder on scene. Debris and fragments continued to fall,
the cockpit was crushed into the ground, the fuselage was
erect in the air and spilling fuel, and the engine was still
turning. Amidst this scene, he entered the aircraft, saw the
visibly injured pilots and crawled into the crushed cockpit
to help extract them. Without the aid of tools, he helped
tear through metal and straps to free the pilot. After
removing the pilot and helping to carry him from the scene,
he returned to recover the copilot in a similar manner. Once
both Marines were free from the wreckage, Gunnery Sgt.
Alvarez helped administer aid, guided other Marines in the
rescue efforts, and reassured the wounded pilots as they
awaited medical extraction.
the scene, Sgt. Beers, a native of Easton, Pa., heard a crew
chief trapped inside the hull. He searched for an entry,
found and tore through a six-inch hole to enter the unstable
aircraft. He climbed approximately 20 feet up the fuselage
to the tail to get to the injured crew chief who was
suspended upside down by his gunner's belt and being chocked
by his helmet. Sgt. Beers removed the Marines' helmet, and
with the help of two other Marines, cut the gunner's belt
and handed the Marine off to others outside of the aircraft.
Amidst the scene, Sgt. Ewain, a native of
Lake Como, Pa., helped move the extracted pilot away from
the scene. He then returned, entered the aircraft and
crawled into the crushed cockpit to help retrieve the
copilot. Without the aid of tools, he helped fully extract
the copilots. He then helped try to remove the deceased crew
Amidst the scene, Sgt. Huntley
heard a crew chief trapped inside the hull. He searched for
entry, found and tore through a six-inch hole to enter the
unstable aircraft. He climbed approximately 20 feet up the
fuselage to the tail to get to the injured crew chief who
had been suspended upside down by his gunner's belt. Sgt.
Huntley supported the crew chief's legs while another Marine
cut him from the belt. He helped hand the Marine off to
others outside of the aircraft and then remained within to
search for other wounded and for serialized gear.
Amidst the scene, Cpl. Pearson, a native of
Pleasanton, Calif., helped tear through metal and straps to
free the Marine. Another Marine handed him an axe, which was
used as he helped cut through debris to free the copilot's
trapped leg. Once able to, Corporal Pearson helped fully
extract the copilot. He then helped remove the deceased crew
Amidst the scene, Cpl. Hanson,
a native of Florence, Colo., heard a crew chief trapped
inside the hull. He searched for an entry, found and tore
through a six-inch hole to enter the unstable aircraft. He
climbed approximately 20 feet up the fuselage to the tail to
get to the injured crew chief who had been suspended upside
down by his gunner's belt. Cpl. Hanson supported the crew
chief's upper body while another Marine cut him from the
belt. He helped hand the Marine off to others outside of the
aircraft and then joined them to help administer aid to him
and the pilots.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal
is the highest non-combatant medal awarded by the Department
of the Navy to members of the U. S. Navy and U. S. Marine
The medal may be awarded to service
members who distinguish themselves by heroism not involving
actual conflict with an enemy, while serving in any capacity
with the Navy or Marine Corps. Typically, it is awarded for
actions involving the risk of one's own life.
By USMC Sgt. Monique Wallace
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