Person of the Week: Rodney Knight

By BRITTNEY MANGUM,

Rodney Knight had a very unique military career. He joined the Army National Guard in May of 1985 and was attached to the unit in Quitman. He remained part of the Quitman unit until 1989.

Originally, he had gone to see the army recruiter to join, but when he went to the office, the army recruiter was not there. Instead, he spoke with a Navy recruiter and left that day as a member of the Navy.

He went to school to be a medic while he was in the Navy, and they paid his way through college. During his Navy career, Rodney had tours at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Great Lakes, Naval Hospital in Chicago, U.S. Naval Hospital in Spain, and Norfolk Naval Hospital in Virginia. He was an advanced laboratory technician, so he worked in hospitals instead of onboard ships.

When Desert Shield and Desert Storm broke out, Rodney had just left the National Guard and was in school in California.

“It made me feel bad when I heard the Quitman unit had been deployed, because I felt like I’d abandoned them,” stated Rodney. “Then one day we were in class and our commanding officer came in and picked five of us to go to Marine Force Training. We were going to be Marine medics and go overseas. They sped up our classes so that we could finish in about 36 or 37 weeks. We completed those classes and were getting ready to go for field medic training in California when the Gulf War ended, so they just sent us back to lab school.”

It was while using his medic degree at some of his tours that he decided that he didn’t want to be in the medical field forever. He has some pretty gruesome memories of different events that he had to help tend to, such as a wreck at one of the bases, where he had to search for the head of a decapitated victim.

“I knew after that that I did not want to stay in the medical field all my life,” stated Rodney.

He didn’t only work in hospitals on his tours, though. He also helped work with NASA while on his tour in Spain.

Any time a rocket would take off, there are special emergency landing sites in Europe that can be used in case there is a problem. One of the places was Moron, Spain, where Rodney was located to assist. He was the hospital corpsman in the group and was trained on how to rescue the astronauts. He and a team would practice before the launch and make sure that they would know which compartment their assigned astronauts would be located in and then practice cutting them out of the suits as needed.

“We would have a BBQ during the day before the lunch and train, and then we would wait after we heard the countdown,” said Rodney. “We were prepared in case anything went wrong, but we could leave once they said that the rocket had officially left the atmosphere.”

When he came back to the United States to complete his assignment at Norfolk, he received his Associate Degree in network and communication. 

Rodney officially retired from the military on December 27, 2000. He had provided 15 total years of service: 11 years active duty and four years in-active duty.

He did not stop using his military medical skills once he retired, though. He worked with the health department for eight years and was one of nine emergency response coordinators who would handle emergency functions for health and medical problems in the event of natural disasters. In 2005, he went to Pascagoula during Hurricane Katrina. Once the waters started to flood into the building, he and the group he was with had to leave the building and swim across the road to try and find safety in a taller building. Eventually, the waters started receding and he was able to get out and help with rescues.

In 2009, he was offered a new job that he was favored for thanks to his military career. He took the job and has been working for homeland security ever since.