Col. Don Davis, commanding officer at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, spends most of his time as an executive making decisions that impact Marines stationed in Albany.
However, one of his favorite parts of the day is getting away from his office and doing things more commonly associated with the nation’s top fighting force — firing weapons.
Davis says his favorite work-related devices are the M16 service rifle and the M9 Beretta service pistol.
“I enjoy getting opportunities to use those two gadgets in the Marine Corps,” Davis said. “To me, that’s a lot of fun.”
Davis recently participated in a question-and-answer session with Herald reporter Jim West.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I started my first two jobs simultaneously by delivering newspapers and working at McDonald’s. The newspaper route for the Star Ledger lasted for a while, but the paper was so big I had to use a shopping cart to carry them. Eventually I focused on McDonald’s, where I continued to work through college for about seven years. The founder of McDonald’s corporation, Ray Kroc, had an outstanding business philosophy, and many of the things I learned while working there I still apply today.
NAME: Col. Don Davis
POSITION: Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany
FAMILY: Married with four children
EDUCATION: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.S. in Management; Websters University, Masters in Public Administration; Marine Corps War College, Masters in Strategic Studies
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first-ever paycheck?
A. I don’t really remember, to be honest, but I do remember that my dad required me to give him my paychecks, which he deposited in a savings account for me. I didn’t like it at the time, but he believed that teenagers and money made for trouble. Looking back, it’s one of the best things he could have done for me. While many of my friends got into trouble with the money they made, I was forced to look for other activities and save money.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees or Marines motivated?
A. I think the most important thing is the leadership philosophy. I’ve got one that’s called “5-4-3-2-1.” It’s encapsulated in 15 words. Five words: All men are created equal; four words: In the beginning, God; three words: I love you; two words: Courage, commitment; One word: humility. I kind of explain that in my leadership philosophy about what each of those means, but I think it’s important to have a vision for your people that tells them who you are and what you’re all about.
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. Maj. Gen. Charles Hudson (Commanding General, Marine Corps Logistics Command) brought me here in July 2011 to be the director of the Logistics Operations Center for Marine Corps Logistics Command. During that first year, while deployed to Afghanistan, I was selected by the U.S. Marine Corps Screening Board to be the commanding officer of MCLB-Albany. As Marine officers, we value any and all opportunities to lead. It’s in our blood and our nature, so I am a very happy man to have the privilege to lead such a great base and be a part of Southwest Georgia.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. My grandfather and my dad served as my two greatest role models growing up, along with my wrestling coach, Kris Hicok. Within the Marine Corps, I have had the honor of serving with some outstanding role models and mentors: Maj. Gen. T.S. Jones, Maj. Gen. James Kessler, Maj. Gen. Hudson, Chris Braddy and Udel Meyers, to name a few. Here in Albany, Pastor Tony Haefs is a great spiritual mentor and role model.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. As Marines, we’ve always learned to get the most out of our resources. It’s what we do. I do believe that it’s important for leaders to maintain a long view of things so that we stay focused on what’s important, regardless of the obstacles that appear in the short view.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cellphones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?
A. I’d have to say the cell phone/PDA. I love technology and the information that it brings to our fingertips. However, the loss of interpersonal relationships and the way we connect to one another is a curse. Face-to-face interpersonal relationships require us to really get into the details that make one another laugh or cry or become angry in a setting that requires accountability to one another. Technology allows folks to do things without accountability, and that concerns me. Genuine relationships require fellowship with one another in person.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. The Marine Corps prides itself in saying that “every Marine is a rifleman,” and I couldn’t agree more. So in that vein, my favorite gadgets are the M16 service rifle and the M9 Beretta service pistol. I enjoy getting opportunities to use those two gadgets in the Marine Corps. To me, that’s a lot of fun.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. Nightly devotion with my family. Each night before putting our kids to bed, we gather to read a devotional, along with some key scripture, and then share praises and prayer requests. We close by praying and often reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. I’m reading a book by Peter Guber, “Tell to Win,” that talks about the importance of effective storytelling. I’m also reading “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy. Locally, I read The Herald regularly, along with current events on various websites.
Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?
A. I’m up at 6 every morning. We get ready for the day together as a family and then depart for school and work. I follow the M’Cheyne reading plan for scripture. That gets me through the Old Testament once per year and New Testament and Psalms twice. When I get to work, I get briefed on any hot issues and then it’s off to the races.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and why?
A. From history, I’d like to meet Jesus and his brother James, because that’s my favorite book of the Bible, and also our founding fathers and Abe Lincoln. I’ve studied them throughout my life, and so I’d like to meet them personally.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. I love sports. Playing, coaching and watching. I grew up playing football, wrestling and baseball, and then with my daughters I got into soccer, basketball and running. Bottom line is that I love the competition that goes along with sports.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. As a Marine Option Midshipman in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps in college, I would have applied more discipline to my studies. I was too focused on having fun and lost an opportunity to really learn. Had I known then what I know now, I would have had a balance of both.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. The best thing about being a Marine is serving others — belonging to something greater than ourselves and something that has such a large purpose, like the Marine Corps, protecting freedoms and serving your country is an incredible thing. Ronald Reagan summed it up best, saying some people spend a lifetime wondering if their lives served a purpose or they had meaning. Marines don’t have that problem. I love being a Marine. I love what I do. Every day I wake up, every formation is a parade and every meal is a banquet. I believe that, and I have a great time in the Marine Corps.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. In my job, and in particular as an officer, it’s when you have to lay a Marine to rest. Marines have a special bond with one another, and that brotherhood is sacred. Whenever that bond is broken, we all feel the pain of it. During a funeral service, looking a loved one in the eye and handing them a flag on behalf of a grateful nation is one of the hardest things I ever have to do.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. I’ve had a lot of great classes at all levels of education, but the one class I use every single day, and immediately comes to mind, is simply a typing class I took in high school.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. I’d love to be an athletic director at the high school or junior college level, working with young people through sports.
Q. Finish this thought: On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …
A. Using my gifts actively to serve others through my church and my community.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Love and humility. What we do as Marines requires love of family, country and Corps. We consider those Marines around us as being our extended family, especially while deployed. Just as with our family at home, it is often difficult to show the patience, kindness, unselfishness, truthfulness and endurance necessary to maintain this love. This love is a conscious choice made and maintained regardless of the actions of others who may be selfish or cruel. This love has moved Marines over the past 237 years to lay down their lives for their fellow service members. We can use the power of our love for one another to carry us beyond our perceived limitations to accomplish great things. Humility is the willingness to place others above ourselves. As such, it’s a strength and not a weakness — looking out for the interests of others requires commitment and courage, love, faith and a sense of purpose. Humility serves the critical function of connecting us to one another and allowing us to trust in each other’s abilities, especially when it makes us realize our own limits. Through this process we gain honor, wisdom, truth and unity. I challenge each of us to humble ourselves so we can more effectively serve our Marines and sailors, our peers, our families, our country and our Corps.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. The genre of music I listen to most is Christian and Gospel. I’m looking forward to Casting Crowns coming to the Albany Civic Center in March.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity here, and I think the two areas where Albany will see the greatest change over the next decade will be in terms of education and poverty. I really think the community in Albany is going to turn the education system around. That’s going to help, in turn, to solve the economic issues associated with poverty.
Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. Balancing national and state budgets will be the key to economic recovery for everyone. My guess for the Albany area would be within the next 10 years.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?
A. We’ve had some great vacations, having been stationed around the world, but we always need a vacation after the vacation because they always seem so exhausting. I would say our last vacation to Panama City was our best because we had our entire family with us and we were able to truly relax on the beach without any pressures or timelines. It’s probably the first time I didn’t need recovery time after it was over.