Two soldiers on a Korean Air flight helped restrain a man who tried to open the exit doors mid-flight.

Sgt. Chase Coburn, 28, and Sgt. Mitchell Jensen, 27, intervened on the April 14 flight after noticing a man behaving suspiciously and pacing up and down the aisle.

The two infantrymen were returning to Camp Humphreys, South Korea from the 2024 Army International Sniper Competition at Fort Moore, Georgia. They were on their way home after a layover in San Francisco when the incident occurred.

Coburn is a sniper section leader and Jensen is a sniper team leader. They’re both assigned to Sabre Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, with the Korea Rotational Force.

The incident began about five hours into their 12:52 p.m. flight when the soldiers noticed a man in a United Air maintenance shirt walking up and down the aisle. They figured at first that he was an air marshal or employee of the plane and was performing a check-up, said Jensen.

But after he continued to wander, Jensen became concerned. He consulted with Coburn who was two seats back to see if he clocked the strange behavior. He did.

Flight attendants began talking to the man and recording him, with one asking a passenger near the soldiers to help. Hearing this, Coburn and Jensen interjected and volunteered their assistance.

She told them to wait five minutes.

During that time, the flight crew was stopping the unruly passenger from entering the first-class section of the plane, when he suddenly charged to the front of the aircraft.

The soldiers saw this, flagged down the flight attendant, and asked her if they needed the soldiers’ help immediately.

She said yes and quickly led them to the back of the plane, where she briefed them on how to employ hand and body restraints.

Coburn and Jensen then rushed to the front to intercept the man.

“He’s at the door, like the loading, unloading door, where you enter and exit the plane, and he’s, like, reaching out,” said Coburn, recalling the moment when the man tried to open the exit door. Despite an initial struggle, they got ahold of him and placed both restraints on him.

“I need to die,” the man then said, adding that the air was bad and that he needed to get off the plane, according to Coburn.

Once restrained, they escorted him to the back of the plane and sat him down, where another American passenger monitored him.

Things seemed to have settled down and the soldiers returned to their seats.

But 3 to 4 hours later, the soldiers noticed a tussle between the unruly passenger and the passenger guarding him.

The man had broken free from his restraints, so the soldiers intervened once again, reapplied the restraints and helped get the situation back in hand.

After the plane landed, the passenger was taken into police custody.

“During the flight, the disruptive passenger who was seated in economy attempted on several occasions to enter the premium class cabins and continued to demand to enter the cockpit,” said Korean Air in an emailed statement. “The passenger insisted he had an anxiety disorder.”

After the incident, Coburn and Jensen received a flight voucher from Korean Air. They also received a thank you letter from Yoo Jong-seok, Executive Vice President and Head of Safety and Security at Korean Air.

“Even though it is tough for passengers to willingly help the flight attendant in the event of an inflight disturbance, their prompt response to the flight attendant’s request for assistance made all of our staff deeply moved and grateful,” reads the letter.

“We saw an opportunity to help and we wanted to help. So that’s just what we did,” said Jensen.

Coburn said it was natural for both of them and stemmed from their sense of service.

“We joined the Army to do things right,” said Coburn.

Riley Ceder is an editorial fellow at Military Times, where he covers breaking news, criminal justice and human interest stories. He previously worked as an investigative practicum student at The Washington Post, where he contributed to the ongoing Abused by the Badge investigation.

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