By SUSANNE KAPPLER, Fort Jackson LeaderMay 11, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A former Fort Jackson officer and a Richland County Sheriff's Department undercover deputy were reunited during an award ceremony Friday - eight months after the Soldier saved the deputy's life - and discovered a special bond that put a "special" twist on their story.
Capt. Rodney Jackson, former commander of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, was riding his motorcycle when one of the bikes in Jackson's group was clipped by a car on Interstate 26 and the rider lost control. Jackson stopped to help his fellow rider, but the accident set off a chain reaction, which caused a Jeep to spin around into traffic and get hit head on by another vehicle. The impact left the Jeep's driver unconscious and caused the vehicle to burst into flames.
"I was just blocking traffic, making sure that nobody got close to the jeep," said Staff Sgt. Earkes Siler, training room noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Co. A, 3-60th. Siler, one of the riders in Jackson's group, witnessed the ensuing events. "When Capt. Jackson went over to the Jeep itself, it was already in flames. I actually saw him kicking on the door, pulling on the door until he was able to get it open. He crawled inside while the flames were coming up around him, unhooked the guy and pulled him out. At that time I ran back into the street and helped him carry the (driver) over to the side."
After emergency responders arrived, Jackson and Siler found out that the driver was an undercover agent with the RCSD.
"We just kept everybody out of the way. ... I actually took my jacket off and was covering his face, so that nobody who was taking pictures was able to get a picture of his face because of who he was," Siler said.
Jackson, who is now with the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky., said he did not have any second thoughts about rescuing the man from the burning vehicle.
"He seemed pretty lifeless in his car," Jackson said. "For those who serve in the military, you know it's hard to see someone lose his life. Honestly, I just didn't want to witness someone losing his life."
The deputy, who was not available for comments and whose name cannot be revealed because he is still working undercover, has fully recovered from his injuries and met Jackson for the first time Friday in a private ceremony. It was then that Jackson found out that the deputy is a retired service member, who also served with Special Forces.
"Now that right there was definitely exciting. It definitely put a special twist on the situation. I was very excited about that and humbled," Jackson said. "Knowing his background and knowing my background, I'm for certain he would've done the same for me."
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott presented Jackson with the Sheriff's challenge coin for his actions, which he called heroic.
"(The coin) is not given out very often. It's given out to someone who's performed an exceptional bravery or has done a job that is not just the normal job, it's beyond what is normal," Lott said. "Those other people standing there that night who saw the wreck, who saw our guy trapped in the car - they didn't move. They were too intent on taking pictures. They didn't try to help. And Capt. Jackson put his life in danger. He earned his coin."
Jackson said that although he credits his 10-year experience and training in the Army, he regards what he did that day as his duty as a human being.
"It's just something that needed to be done. I hope that not only Soldiers but civilians would do the same," Jackson said. "I just feel that God blessed me and used me to help another (person). I'm very thankful for that."
Lt. Col. John Allen, commander of the 3-60th, said that even though Jackson told him about being involved in an accident in September, he downplayed his involvement in the rescue at the time.
"I had no idea (about) all the details or all the actions that Rodney did until 10 minutes before the ceremony," Allen said.
However, even though Allen said he was surprised to find out all the details, he said he was not surprised by Jackson's actions. He described Jackson as a passionate, committed, selfless and humble Soldier who personifies the Army values.
"Having served with Rodney for over a year, ... I would have never put it past Rodney to be the one that would have done something like that," he said.