SAR Team recovers copilots lost on par 5
It's unclear how many strokes the aviators will be penalized.
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — For 12 nail-biting days, the status of a copilot foursome was designated UNKNOWN by the Air Force while leaders, media, and families thought the worst. Search and rescue teams scoured the land around the base and Blackhawk helicopters manned by rescue teams of PJs watched for any signs of life from the air. The wing was less than 24 hours from FORMALLY declaring the pilots MIA.
Then they got lucky: Joint Base Andrews shifted to its quarterly night flying schedule, and a pilot reported the dim orange glow of a small fire near a fence line. The hero pilot set up an orbit around the just-visible flicker, and he talked recovery teams onto the fire.
“It’s them. We have the lost sheep,” crackled an iron voice over the radio. The cheers of families watching the news could be heard throughout base housing.
“They were roasting marshmallows on the ends of their clubs, somehow they’d found truffles and morel mushrooms on the course, but their growlers were completely empty,” said Tech. Sgt. Mykal Hardasse, who made first contact with the pilots. It was his voice that announced relief to a pensive Air Force community. “They had been without a flask for almost 48 hours.”
The foursome shared its experience at a post-recovery press conference.
“It was the perfect storm,” Capt. Arnold “Hook” Shank said. “We booked the last tee time, which put us pretty close to sunset, especially after an extended pause at the clubhouse between the ninth and tenth holes. The par five is the 17th hole, and we thought we could make it through before dark.”
“It didn’t happen,“ he said, fighting through choked emotion. “My ball is still out there somewhere.”
Sources confirm that two of the pilots shanked their balls from the tee box, and while searching for their lost shots, darkness overtook them. Both men became disoriented and initially separated from the other two.
“We’ve all been through SERE training, so that kicked in,” said First Lt. Topher “Putter” Driver, still in a dirty polo shirt, torn shorts, and a single cleated shoe. “After the first night alone, we found each other and stuck together. We did our best to evade detection, find food and water, and then improvise shelters from golf cart parts and our umbrellas,” said the not-gaunt pilot.
“At night, we stole BLTs, reubens, and burrata flatbread from trash cans, and we tricked the drink lady and took Gatorade and beer from her cart. We left cash on the cart, but it wasn’t technically enough. She’ll be compensated though, trust me.”
“One thing that gives our pilots confidence is knowing that we make every attempt at rescue and recovery, even if the recovery is unconventional,” said the 376th Air Base Wing commander, Col. Hue “City” Priss. “We’re investigating all possible causes of the incident, but ultimately, we’re thankful to the recovery teams, and our prayers are with the families who had to endure an unimaginable two weeks.”
At press time, the golf course manager had been placed on leave during a pending investigation for negligence associated with letting the group of unguided copilots onto the course.
The pilots were airlifted to Walter Reed where they were checked by medical professionals. Two were found to have high blood cholesterol and one was pre-diabetic. “They weren’t healthy. Is this who flies now?” asked Col. Duke “Douchey Callsign” Bidet, a flight surgeon.
The copilots are expected to make full recoveries. “I love golf,” said one, “I’ll never hesitate to get back out there. What happened hasn’t scared me, it only confirmed how much the Air Force cares about its warfighters. I’m ready to play through.”
R.J. Williams is an author of military history with noted expertise in Ancient texts, especially Thucydides and his account of the Polynesian War. His wartime biographies have been praised as a nexus of Dr. Suess, Louis L'amour, and Danielle Steele.