Stonewall Jackson High School, Class of 2002
by Wilhelmina F. Santiful
Not many young men credit their mother as being a role model. Captain Michael William "Will" Davis (USAF), a 2002 Stonewall Jackson High School graduate does just that. "My mother was the perfect disciplinarian that I needed. She kept my nose clean in my younger days through 'hard love' because I was a rambunctious young man. That paid dividends when I was in high school and college. She and I are very much alike in our personalities, mannerisms, and our devotion to family. We joke that we are carbon copies of each other. Mom never complained about the sacrifices she made for her family during her teaching career. As an adult, I can acknowledge and appreciate that trait in her. She is a great example of what a mother should be," said Will.
According to Will, he has been blessed to have inherited the best traits of both his parents. "My folks have always encouraged me to excel. They taught me responsibility. When I was younger and wanted something, like a CD player, they told me to get a job and earn money myself. That attitude took hold, and it is instilled in me to work for what I want for myself, and now that I am married, for my family."
Dad is the citizen soldier that the Virginia Military Institute produces, and I have always tried to emulate him. Although he is not perfect, through his imperfections I have learned a great deal from him. That is what I want for my children--to learn from my mistakes, but to make mistakes of their own. If we make mistakes that are new to us, we are learning and improving on who we are. Life's experiences build character and that's how you learn to excel," said Will.
A Virginia Military Institute graduate, Mike Davis, Will's father, retired from the US Army Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel while at the same time pursued jobs in the private sector and participated in community service as well. According to Will, his father has remained true to the VMI ethic: Death before Dishonor and the military code: Service Above Self.
|Taking a photo in front of the tulip tree after Easter church service is a tradition
for the Davis family. On the front row are Will and sister Megan. Older sister Ashlyn is on the back row with parents Debbie and Mike Davis.
The Davis women are all in the teaching profession. Debbie Davis still teaches special education in the Shenandoah County school system. Daughter Megan is also employed in the County as a paraprofessional at Ashby-Lee Elementary School, and sister Ashlyn is a third grade teacher in Colonial Williamsburg. She and her husband Reuben Trant are the parents of a baby daughter, Julie Michelle. Ashlyn's husband is also a VMI graduate.
Will feels that he has been blessed to have grown up with both sets of grandparents with whom he has had a constant loving relationship. "I am fortunate to have known both sets of grandparents for many years, and they made a huge impact on my life. Not to down play what my parents have done for me, but all of my life I have had a unique relationship with each set of my grandparents, the Irwins and the Davises. When I hear people talk about their family life, both good and bad, I feel that no one can compare with the family that I have. When I share the structure of my family and our stories, I've yet to meet anyone who has closer family ties or better memories than I do," he said. Both of Will's paternal grandparents are now deceased.
Special memories during Will's elementary and middle school years include being on the swim team and playing little league sports--soccer, baseball, and basketball through the Shenandoah County Parks and Rec program.
Reminiscing about his high school days, Will said that he enjoyed playing football and soccer for five years. He also was on the swim team for four years, and he ran track for a year. Coaches Todd Fannin, Dick Kroll, and Dave Sherwood stand out as most memorable coaches.
Will was also a school leader. He was vice president of his Freshman Class, president of the Sophomore Class, and treasurer of the Student Council Association. A member of the Future Business Leaders of America for four years, Will served as vice president, as well as president of the FBLA.
In choosing a college, Will followed a family tradition. Not only his dad, but also an uncle attended VMI. "I wanted a challenge beyond a normal college; otherwise I might have become a burden to society versus striving to live up to my potential. If you surround yourself with the best, which VMI produces, you will become the best as well, and I needed the discipline to accomplish my goals," said Will.
Will has quite a few memories of his four years at VMI. Hell Week, the Rat Line, working as a cadet waiter, being in charge of fundraising for the Ring Figure Ceremony, and graduation stand out.
Hell Week begins immediately after students sign in and parents depart. According to Will's dad, "Parents are actually told to leave. Then, all hell breaks loose. The cadets' heads are shaved; they are issued uniforms; they begin to learn drills and ceremony during a week of strenuous physical and mental exercises. The intent of Hell Week is to 'cull out' those who are quitters, to push students to the point of breaking in order to find those who cannot endure. That first day you are reduced to a rat...the lowest, most common creature in the world. You have no rights, and all privileges are removed. You can't talk in the mess hall unless spoken to by an upper classman. You double-time the stairs in the barracks, move along the wall in hallways, and walk in straight lines making sharp left and right turns. You and your fellow rats are all equal, and all of you are nothing! From Hell Week and the rat status, there emerges a cohesive unity of the class that lasts well beyond the four years at VMI," Mike said.
Other special memories of VMI were being a member of the Office of the Guard Association during his First Class (senior) year and serving with the summer transition program. He was promoted to corporal during his Third Class year, when he served as president of the Third Class Finance Committee, which was a distinct honor. That appointment ushered in the beginning of the fundraising process for the Ring Figure Dance.
The presentation of a VMI class ring and the formal dance known as Ring Figure that celebrates the occasion take place in November of the Second Class (junior) year. The event marks an important milestone in the life of a cadet second only to graduation in importance.
Father and son show off their class rings.
Mother and son check out a really big VMI ring.
Will's father pointed out, "The VMI ring is one of the largest of the college rings in the nation, and people who see it for the first time often ask, ' Where did you get that ring,' which is often the ice breaker that leads to conversations about the school."
Though VMI cadets received class rings as early as 1848, the elaborate Ring Figure tradition dates back to the 1920's. Each class is responsible for designing a unique ring, which incorporates symbols significant to that group. Also, each class must raise funds for its Ring Figure ceremony. Will Davis was in charge of Ring Figure fundraising for the Class of 2006. His leadership resulted in over $100,000 being raised for the event.
Second Classmen (juniors) are in charge during the Ring Figure ceremony, while First Classmen (seniors) are not even on campus during the presentation. For one special night, second classmen rule VMI.
Dress for Ring Figure is significant also. The Old Corp White Blouse is worn only once during the cadets' four years on campus, and that is during Ring Figure weekend. Will wore his uncle's Old Corp White Blouse during the ceremony.
Will escorted Ashley DeHart of Pulaski, Virginia, to the dance. Over the years an unofficial VMI tradition has grown. It seems that many VMI cadets later marry their Ring Figure dates. That was true for both Mike and Will Davis.
Will's mom and sisters surround him at the Ring Figure Dance.
Will graduated from VMI in 2006 with a BS degree in biology. That year he also married Ashley DeHart, his date for the Ring Figure ceremony. She first attended Hollins University in Roanoke and later earned her pharmaceutical degree from Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia Pharmacy School in Richmond.
While Will's dad chose the Army as a career, Will went into the Air Force after graduation. In the fall of 2006, he was assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama Beach, Florida, for a year of undergraduate Air Battle Management Training. While stationed at Tyndall, he was sent to Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state for Survival Evasion and Resistance Training (SERE). In the fall of 2007, Will was transferred from Tyndall to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he completed Initial Qualification Training/Mission Qualification Training and became Combat Mission Ready.
Will deployed with the 963rd AACS to Afghanistan in the summer of 2010; and in August of that year, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. When he returned to Tinker AFB, he was assigned to the 552nd OSS/OSX and appointed the Officer in Charge of Contingency Operations. Major responsibilities of the 552nd include Support for the President of the United States (POTUS), Defense for the Continental United States (CONUS), and Hurricane Operations. As a member of the 552nd OSS Squadron, Capt. Davis was deployed to Operation Odyssey Dawn/United Protector (OOD/OUP) during the summer of 2011.
||Capt. Will Davis was named the 2011 Air Weapons Officer of the Year for 552nd OSS Squadron. He and Ashley are pictured here at Tinker Air Force Base.
Prior to leaving Tinker Air Force Base, Captain Davis was named the 2011 Air Weapons Officer of the Year for the 552nd OSS. This recognition placed him in the top 5% of officers within his year group and career speciality. Within his first six years in the Air Force, Capt. Will Davis received 19 official military awards and decorations.
While he was stationed at Tinker AFB, Capt. Davis hoped to return to Tyndall AFB in Florida as an instructor for the new Air Battle Management Training, the course he completed on the undergraduate level when he first went into the Air Force. That hope became a reality in March 2012 when he was selected to return to Tyndall to become the ABM instructor. Following intensive training to become an instructor and a thorough review of all elements of Air Battle Management, Capt. Davis has returned to the classroom as the teacher.
During the third quarter of 2012, Capt. Davis received notice that he had been selected as Company Grade Officer (CGO) of the Quarter for his Squadron, the 325th Training Support Squadron. As a result of this designation, he was considered for CGO for the 325th Operations Group, which includes his Squadron and two additional ones . In October, Group Headquarters notified Will that he had indeed been selected CGO for the Operations Group. That recognition placed him among an elite assembly of four officers considered for CGO of the 325th Fighter Wing, which is the entire Tyndall Air Force Base. These recognitions are singular honors,especially significant since Capt. Davis has been stationed at Tyndall only since March 2012.
Capt. Davis plans to stay in the Air Force as a career--to remain true to the military code--Service before Self. He said, "My ultimate goal for my career is to be successful and happy where I am when I retire from the Air Force. I'll then try to find something else to do to serve my country."
Will is presently finishing studies for a Master's degree in Business Administration and after that goal has been accomplished, he wants to get his private pilot's license. Will's hobbies include scuba diving, hunting, re-loading ammunition, barbecuing pork and beef, and occasionally micro-brewing beer.
"I wish to have a happy, healthy family that is proud of what I have accomplished for them," Will concluded. Recently, his family has gown a little larger.
Will and Ashley Davis are the happy and proud parents of Annalee McKenzie Davis, who was born on May 18, 2012.
Annalee McKenzie Davis
Dad, Capt. Davis, with baby Annalee
Mom Ashley and Annalee