From polar bears to 9/11 duty, Davis sees the world during CG career

By William F. West

Staff Writer

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Chief Warrant Officer Michael Davis said he joined the Coast Guard in part because he wanted to travel and see the world, and his career has taken him places many people can only imagine.

Davis has, in approximately 18 years as a Coast Guardsman, served in Hawaii, in the South Pacific, in Alaska and in California, as well as in New England at the time of 9/11. He is presently serving in a leadership position in finance and supply at Base Elizabeth City.

While much of the attention the Coast Guard receives is because of rescues by boat and helicopter teams and because of drug busts, Davis is quick to cite a saying, “You don’t fly without supply.”

Davis is in charge of handling procurement, that is, acquiring goods and services for not only the base, but the adjacent Air Station Elizabeth City and a variety of assets throughout Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.

“I enjoy the interaction with all the people, in knowing that we’re helping to continue the mission of the Coast Guard,” he said.

Davis, 37, was born in Upstate New York, but he lived most of his early life in the Fredericksburg, Va., area. He said at first he didn’t know what he wanted to do in life but realized the Coast Guard had a good mission. Additionally, he credited an aunt in New Jersey with suggesting he join.

Although Davis’ career has mostly focused on accounting, procurement and property management in the Coast Guard, he started, with wrenches in hand, as a crew member in the surface fleet.

Upon completing boot camp training at Cape May, New Jersey, Davis reported to what was the Honolulu-based Cutter Rush. He worked below deck and helped make sure the engines were in working order.

Of the Aloha State, he said, “It was just beautiful, just being able to live in a place where everybody vacations. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

His tour also sent him to Kodiak in the Last Frontier and to the South Pacific.

Of Kodiak, he said, “It was a great little small town community.”

While in Majuro in the South Pacific, he and his shipmates played basketball in a gym against a good team but were soundly defeated to their disappointment.

“I was one for one. I made my shot. That’s all that mattered,” he said.

“We used the excuse of just pulling in that day,” he said with a smile and a laugh.

After approximately a year aboard the Rush, Davis decided he wanted to focus on accounting because one of his cousins is an accountant. So, Davis reported to Petaluma, Calif., northwest of San Francisco, for training to be a storekeeper. A storekeeper prepares financial accounts and reports.

Upon completing his training, he returned to Alaska to work at what today is Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

“The winters were harsh, but it was all well worth it for the summers to go fishing and just being outdoors,” he said, noting summertime temperatures would be in the 60s and maybe the 70s.

He told of seeing grizzly bears and trying to go deer hunting one day and ending up within approximately 15 feet from a bear. Fortunately, he said, he and his fellow hunters were able to make enough noise to prompt the bear to leave the area.

He told of seeing killer whales swimming underneath a bay bridge that connects Kodiak with a nearby island. “There was one time when I was driving over the bridge and I looked down and there they were. So we stopped and watched them for a while,” he said.

Davis served approximately two years at Base Kodiak.

He next reported to the Cutter Juniper, based at Newport, R.I.. The cutter, which cuts channels in the New York City area, was undergoing maintenance when the Twin Towers were hit by the two hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001. He and his shipmates responded by getting to the scene later that night.

From approximately 100 miles away from New York City, a person could already see the smoke from the site of the fallen skyscrapers, Davis said. He also noticed the absence of aircraft coming and going from the usually busy LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“It was just eerily calm and quiet,” he recalled.

Davis and his shipmates arrived late in the evening and anchored not far from the Statue of Liberty.

“It was horrible,” he recalled thinking after waking to see the scene the next morning.

He and his shipmates worked to provide security on the water.

The aftermath of 9/11 gave him a sense of great respect for how well the American people handled the situation and worked together, he said.

“It really opens your eyes to understand how great this place is and this country is,” he said.

After approximately three years aboard the Juniper, he went back to Alaska, this time to serve at Air Station Kodiak.

“I took more advantage of it this time,” he said of his return there. “I caught a lot more fish.”

After approximately three years at Kodiak, he reported to Coronado, Calif., which is across a bay from San Diego and which was a base for the Coast Guard to use Navy boats to catch drug dealers. By coincidence, he served on the grounds of the home of Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, where Navy SEALs are trained. 
“That was eye opening. They really go through a lot,” he said of the sight of the intense training of the SEALs.

Davis was at Coronado approximately a year and a half before reporting to Coast Guard Maritime Safety Security Team San Diego, which is at the same place as Marine Corps Recruiting Depot San Diego.

“So, I went from seeing Navy SEALs trained to seeing Marines trained,” he said. “I loved it.”

Davis was at San Diego approximately nine months before serving approximately two years in Washington, D.C., in an accounting and property management position.

He returned to financial record-keeping in the surface fleet by reporting to the Seattle-based Cutter Polar Star. He was assigned to the Polar Star for a couple of years, two months of which was actually aboard the Cutter Healy.

The Healy was dispatched to the Arctic to break ice to clear the way for vessels. While aboard the Healy, he got to view polar bears.

“It was an amazing time up there, just seeing that,” he said.

Davis in 2013 reported to Elizabeth City for what will be his longest tour: Four years.

“I wanted to give it a shot and see what it was like. I’ve always been curious about North Carolina,” he said, noting he had been to the Outer Banks in the past.

“And I’ve enjoyed it,” he said of serving in the Harbor of Hospitality.

Davis is married and has five children, ages 11, 10, 7, 4 and five months. His wife, Michele, was in the Coast Guard, as a health services technician, until the birth of the couple’s second child.

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