A soldier who pulled a driver from a burning vehicle and used his T-shirt to put out the flames on the injured man has earned the Army's highest award for bravery outside combat.
Sgt. Alexander Jabin, a satellite operator/maintainer with 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, was presented the Soldier's Medal for "exceptional heroism" Tuesday for his lifesaving actions one night in March last year.
It was about 2:30 a.m. when Jabin heard a "bang" and looked outside his barracks on the base near Tacoma to see figures running around flames, he said in an Army video released Tuesday. As he ran out of the building to the scene, he yelled for someone to call the fire department.
"Jabin dove quickly under the fence (surrounding the Special Forces compound) and ran to the car, which was on fire," Sgt. Komi Amenyo, who was the duty noncommissioned officer that night, an Army statement said.
He could hear screaming and, as he got closer to the burning vehicle, heard someone saying "Help me! Help me!," Jabin said in the Army video.
Josiah Caro-Yost and Aaron Cavazos, who were specialists assigned to the 1st SFG at the time, were already on the scene, but the driver was stuck and the flames were growing hotter.
"The fire had gotten pretty intense, so we backed away," Cavazos said.
But Jabin rushed in and tried to get the driver out.
"I tried to rip the door open but I was only able to rip off some of the car parts," Jabin said in the statement. "It was a cold night, but the fire from the collision grew more and more intense, like a big bonfire."
He reached in and tried to unbuckle the seatbelt, but that failed, so he turned and called for a knife to cut the straps. Amenyo tossed him a knife, but by then the flames had completely engulfed the car and the driver was on fire, Jabin said.
The driver was able to move and had pulled his upper body out of the driver's side window, but appeared to be trapped and contorted, and continued to scream for help. So Jabin rushed back over to pull him out, calling for Cavazos and Caro-Yost to assist him.
After pulling the driver to safety, Jabin used his sweat-soaked T-shirt to smother the flames on the man's body, he said. "He was on fire, from the waist down," he said in the video.
When that shirt caught fire, Caro-Yost took off his jacket and used it to help snuff out the flames, and Jabin "proceeded to use the knife to cut the belt and burning clothes off the victim's body," Caro-Yost said.
Jabin, who received second-degree burns to his face, arms and hands during the rescue, provided first aid and comforted the driver until paramedics arrived.
"He reminded us by his actions what a ready soldier looks like," said Lt. Gen. Randy George, the I Corps and base commanding general, who presented him with the medal. "He moved quickly to save another person's life and he did this at the very real risk of sacrificing his own life."
The Army statement did not say what the driver's status was, and Jabin said he did not know.
"I pray [he] made a full recovery … that he can continue his journey and make good on his second chance in life, which few ever get," Jabin said.
The Soldier's Medal, which was established in 1926, was designed to recognize peacetime acts of valor.
Jabin acknowledged that he was not alone in rescuing the driver.
"In the Army, no one succeeds alone," he said. "I did my part alongside others."