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Two American Airmen Missing; Two Special Ops Soldiers Rescued

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2003 – Two American airmen have been missing since their F-15E Strike Eagle went down in Iraq April 6, U.S. military officials in Saudi Arabia said.

Defense officials in the Pentagon had no further information on whether the airplane was shot down or crashed for other reasons.

The two airmen and their aircraft were forward-deployed from the 4th Fighter Wing, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., according to a news release from the Combined Forces Air Component Command at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia.

The release warned of "swift and severe consequences" for any Iraqi citizen or military service member who fails to honor the rules of the Geneva Conventions in dealing with prisoners of war.

In a separate operation, a coalition search-and-rescue team risked "severe weather conditions" April 7 to rescue two critically wounded soldiers.

As described in a CFACC news release, the Special Operations Command's Rescue Coordination Center contacted the Joint Search and Rescue Center at an undisclosed desert airbase to coordinate the evacuation of the two special operations troops from a site five miles south of Baghdad.

Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters traveled from a coalition airbase in southern Iraq, while four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided cover. When the aircrews of the Pave Hawks learned the soldiers were critically wounded, they arranged for MC- 130E Combat Talon, with a flight surgeon and two medical technicians on board, to meet them, the release explained.

Battling blowing sand that limited visibility to half a mile, the Pave Hawks delivered the injured soldiers to the Combat Talon at Najaf, roughly 75 miles south of Baghdad. From there the patients were transferred to an advanced medical facility in Kuwait.

The names of the wounded soldiers have not been released, pending notification of their families. "They were given a 95 percent chance of survival due to the joint efforts of the Air Force, Army and special operations forces," the release stated.

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