The world was watching as 12 boys and their soccer coach were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand.
Far fewer people were aware that a South Carolina native was on hand to help oversee the rescue operation.
Enter U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles Hodges. He is the U.S. Mission Commander for the 353rd Special Operations unit and was “stationed at the command center just outside the cave” during the rescue in Thailand, live5news.com reported.
The Winnsboro native and a 2000 graduate of The Citadel was “part of a multinational effort to save the boys,” according to postandcourier.com.
Hodges made the rounds on national TV on Wednesday, appearing on “CBS This Morning,” NBC’s “Today,” “Good Morning America,” on ABC and CNN.
He admitted there was doubt the rescue would be a success, but said there was no choice when it was discovered the boys and their coach were alive, per livenews5.com.
Among the challenges were outfitting the boys, including some who did not know how to swim, in diving gear before leading them “through a dangerous tunnel system that would challenge the most experienced cave divers” because of the “jagged rock tunnels” and “near-zero visibility,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We were fully expecting casualties,” Hodges told “Today.”
“We had that thought the whole entire time,” Hodges said on “CBS This Morning.” “We also understood, though, we didn’t have the option to not attempt this. Even though the odds seemed impossible, what I’ve always been taught is to take risk and be bold when the situation calls for it — and this situation absolutely did.”
Hodges went on to describe the rescue mission.
On CBS, Hodges said pumps that had been maintaining the water level in the cave’s chambers “shut off for an unknown reason,” which could have cut off the Navy SEAL’s access. But he said the divers responded quickly “at the last moment and everyone was able to get out of Chamber 3 safely and make their way out and mission complete.”
Hodges praised the multinational group effort.
“It took every single one of us, putting our heads together and pushing aside any sort of of political or cultural differences and doing our best to find a solution to do this,” Hodges said, according to postandcourier.com. “What I take away from this is how much can be accomplished from teamwork, because it was pretty impressive.”
One of his former teachers said success is not something new to Hodges.
“He just always excelled. He’s still doing it. And I’m thankful,” said Ellen Nicholson, who taught Hodges when he was a high school student at Richard Winn Academy, according to WIS-TV.com. “He would be the very type of person involved in something like that — some type of rescue.”