ONSLOW COUNTY - It's a heroic story that happened by chance. Three Marines were on the flight schedule back in March 2011, when they were stationed on a ship 200 miles off the coast of Benghazi, Libya.
Captain Erik Kolle, Staff Sgt. David Potter and Sgt. Daniel Howington successfully rescued an Air Force pilot who crashed outside of Benghazi. They were recognized in a special award ceremony on the Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville Monday morning.
The downed pilot was being pursued by the enemy. It took quick thinking and strong communication for the three Marines to coordinate a 30-member rescue team. In about an hour and a half, they located and brought the pilot to safety. They were humbled by such an unexpected form of recognition.
"It's an honor standing here with these Marines," Potter said. "Any other crew would have done the exact same thing we did. We are all trained well."
Lt. Col. Chris Boniface, who was executive officer at the time of the rescue, couldn't have been prouder.
"It's fantastic," Boniface said. "I mean that night, it changed our lives forever. It changed one Air Force pilot's life forever, and they did a great job, and it's a testament of all their training and professionalism."
But they also have one special helper to thank -- a V-22 Osprey. It travels about four miles per minute, which made all the difference in such a quick recovery.