Hawaii's Heroes: Captain Whittington - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii's Heroes: Captain Whittington

Captain Rodney Whittington Captain Rodney Whittington
Brock and Jake Whittington Brock and Jake Whittington

By Steve Uyehara – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - He puts his life on the line every time he suits up to go to work. And over 32 years Captain Rodney Whittington has earned the respect and loyalty of his peers, and he was honored as the Federal Firefighter of the Year here in Hawaii. Today we kick off a new series called "Hawaii's Heroes" with Captain Whittington.

Even when there's no actual fire Captain Whittington is always training. He came into the department back in 1978, and in 32 years he's seen it all – fires, water rescues and hazmat situations -- and you can never be too prepared.

"Everyday a firefighter comes to work, it's not guaranteed he's going home the next day," said Captain Whittington.

The captain has escaped major injury throughout his career. He's suffered mostly bumps and bruises, but there's one particular day he'll never forget.

"I think it was beyond scared.  I thought I was going to die," said Captain Whittington.

A boat capsized near Pyramid Rock in Kaneohe. Captain Whittington and his crew struggled through rocks, waves and current to rescue the victims.

"It was one of those moments where you look at the beach and you know, well, I might not be going home today," said Captain Whittington.

But his training kicked in, and everyone made it out okay. His work ethic and dedication have made him a legend in the federal fire department. And no one is more in awe than his two sons and fellow firefighters, Brock and Jake.

"I would say he's my hero, he's been my idol," said Jake. "I've looked up to him my whole life and he's taught me everything."

They know first-hand the danger their dad faces. Brock is stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and Jake is at the sub-base. But on September 4th, 2008, they all crossed paths at the same fire.

"I was listening to the radio comps and I was like, ‘hey that sounds like my dad,'" said Brock. "And come to find out, yeah, he's the first one on scene.  Then I knew Engine 102 was following.  And I was like, ‘hey Jake's working today.'  All three of us are going be there."

With precision they attacked and extinguished the warehouse fire on Navy Marine Golf Course, and their dad kept them calm from the very start.

"That was one of the biggest fires we ever had," said Jake. "And hearing my dad's voice on the radio, it just sounded like a true veteran and I was like, ‘that's my dad.'"

Captain Whittington has always been there for all five of his kids. He taught Brock and Jake to play baseball, and even coached their teams.

"We could never call him ‘dad' on the field," said Brock. "We call him dad, go take a lap."

Dad was a legend on the baseball field too. He was nicknamed "The Rocket" for his cannon in the outfield; he was a beast. Brock and Jake love hearing stories from Dad's old friends, and looking at pictures of a younger Rodney Whittington.

"I'm like, ‘ho, Dad was a stud back then,'" said Brock. "He's got the hair, he's got the jacket. It kind of looks like a model right there."

But the captain hates attention and he hates the limelight. Last month he was honored as the first-ever Firefighter of the Year by the federal fire department in Hawaii. At first, they couldn't get him to go to the awards banquet.

"They pulled the old ‘the-whole-family's-going' trick on me," said Captain Whittington.

Eventually they got him. Dad went up to get his award, and while he was very humbled Captain Whittington said…

"Whatever we do when we come on shift is part of the job. It's expected of us. If you're a firefighter, you're a paid professional.  You're going to do your job whether people think of us highly or not."

So Brock and Jake continue to rummage through the old photos, and listen to tales of the valiant Captain Whittington. They hope to someday follow in the footsteps of one of Hawaii's heroes.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly