During a nighttime battle in urban terrain, a lone Iraqi lieutenant found himself cut off from his unit.

Wounded and potentially surrounded by enemy fighters, the frightened lieutenant used his personal cell phone to contact the tactical operations center where an Army intelligence unit was monitoring his movements from a reconnaissance drone feed.

Spc. Erik Salmon, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, was in the tactical operations center that night.

"They're people fighting for their country, fighting for freedom for their people, so put yourself in their situation," said Salmon in an Army news story. "These people value human life. It is important to them and to us. People are generally the same everywhere." 

Minutes turned into hours as the lost Iraqi soldier tried to describe his surroundings to the coalition troops scanning the drone feed for his whereabouts. As the battery of his cell began to run out, members of Salmon's unit convinced the soldier to abandoned his concealed location in an effort to easily identify him from the drone hovering above.

They finally spotted him exiting a small carport, and, using the drone's feed, the operations cell guided the stranded Iraqi officer to scout a safe route while scanning for potential enemy positions and danger areas that lay ahead

Progress moved at a snail's pace.

"It was really nerve-wracking," Salmon said.

As the Iraqi soldier got closer to friendly lines, the operations center ordered him to seek cover in a ditch — as re-entering friendly lines can be dangerous ordeal.

Operators in the cell that night were worried Iraqi troops would fire on the lost lieutenant if they were not fully briefed on his location and point of entry.

"We didn't want this to end badly," Salmon explained. "We had to get positive [communications] with the receiving unit to ensure he could safely proceed."

Once communications were established with Iraqi forces, the stranded soldier was guided back to a group of Humvees, where he was welcomed back to friendly lines. 

"It was a great moment. Everyone was laughing and hugging," Salmon said, adding that "it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be directly involved with saving someone's life."

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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