OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
The Air Force has awarded the highest non-combat valor award to an Airman from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, who rescued four people trapped in a burning vehicle.
Staff Sgt. Rodney X. Dowell, assigned to the 51st Security Forces Squadron, has received the Airman’s Medal for his heroism during his assignment at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, when he pulled four civilians out of a burning overturned vehicle.
While driving to morning PT at Eglin, Dowell observed an overturned vehicle sputtering flames and smoke on the side of the road. Without hesitation, Dowell pulled over and immediately began to pull the passengers out. Though the flames continued to get thicker, he was able to pull two of the victims from the back of the vehicle. With the fire spreading into the passenger compartment, and two victims still trapped inside, he needed to act quickly.
“That’s when it started to hit me, when the fire started coming in the cabin and [the driver] was lying there, passed out,” said Dowell. “I didn’t want to risk dropping him on top of the other passenger.”
Dowell flagged down two more drivers and used their combined strength to pull the unconscious driver and the last passenger out of the vehicle.
“It goes to show that you don’t have to be on duty to save someone’s life,” said Dowell. “You don’t want to be one of the bystanders just watching or driving by, and not everyone has the same mentality. I would hope if I were ever in a bad situation, somebody would do the same for me.”
Once the victims had been attended to by emergency personnel and the scene was contained, Dowell went back home to change out of his blood-soaked clothing and reported to his duty section. Dowell’s leadership quickly realized the depth of his actions.
“I’ve known Staff Sgt. Dowell since 2010, when I was his detachment commander in Bahrain,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Ringer, 51st SFS commander. “He was reserved, professional, dependable and possessed an incredible work ethic, even as a young [airman first class]. It’s nice to see that nothing, other than his rank, has changed.”