Airman recognized in Portraits in Courage for heroic act

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rayna Padgett
  • 125th Fighter Wing

PeeJay E. Jack was born to immigrant parents who left Trinidad and Tobago to pursue a better life in America; his father joined the Army and his mother became a registered nurse. Jack’s parents instilled a sense of compassion in him and his siblings from an early age. Those lessons followed Jack into his adult life and made him the person he is today.

That person grew up to be someone who saved another man’s life and was honored to be featured in the Air Force’s Portraits in Courage. Portraits in Courage is a multi-volume publication that highlights Airmen and civilians who, in some way, sacrifice themselves for others.

For Airman 1st Class PeeJay E. Jack, a vehicle maintainer with the 290th Joint Communication Support Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., December 20, 2016, started out as a normal day.

“It was a regular morning. My normal business was listening to music and drinking my coffee that my wife makes for me,” said Jack.

“I saw smoke in the woods and I also saw an older gentleman on the side of the road. I figured there was an accident, so I pulled over. When I looked, I saw the vehicle between the trees and smoke coming from the hood.”

Jack made a split second decision to risk his life and rescued Manuel Jimenez from his burning vehicle.

“It’s something that I think we all would have done,” said Jack, when describing his heroic actions.  While Jack downplays his extraordinary actions, he credits his father and his military training for giving him the skills to act appropriately, calmly and efficiently that day.

“Coming from a military family, my father always told me to try to be ready for anything, try to have a plan a, b and c,” said Jack. Growing up with an “always be ready” attitude allowed Jack to act without hesitation and resulted in his saving someone’s life.

Jack also acknowledges the military for providing him with the skills necessary to act promptly in times of need. His training as a vehicle maintainer enabled him to remain calm while he was saving Jimenez. Vehicle operators in the military maintain, inspect and service the vehicle fleet on installations and acquire extensive knowledge about those vehicles.

Most people think if a car catches on fire it will blow up because that is what is shown on television and in movies. Usually the vehicle will not blow up, and if it does, it is because the fire came into contact with a fuel line or the fuel tank.

“Your car can catch on fire under the hood and not blow up and you can still be in it and be safe,” said Jack. “Depending on where the fuel tank is and where the fuel lines run, that’s what scares you as a mechanic. I was concerned when I saw the fire,” Jack said. “The one thing that kept me calm, working with vehicles, I knew the fire, at the time, wasn’t near the gas tank. I was worried about the fire, of course, but I knew if the fire was in the back then it would have hit the gas tank and we wouldn’t have had the time that we had.”

Throughout his time in the military Jack has received training such as Self-Aid and Buddy Care. SABC is biennial hands-on and computer based training that teaches our Airmen how to sustain life until medical personnel arrive; Airmen are taught everything from using tourniquets, to treating for shock, and proceeding with caution before moving a body to prevent further injury.

“When we see people in danger, we help them,” said Jack while explaining his heroic actions.

Even though Jack would have most likely acted in the same manner he did a year ago, his upbringing and military background gave him additional qualifications the average civilian does not have. His compassion compelled him to help and his training made that help effective.

Jack’s heroic actions not only saved another man’s life, but earned him a nomination for an Airman’s Medal, which is awarded to people who distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of his or her life not involving actual combat.