Appalachian native, Air Force colonel-select doesn't forget home

  • Published
  • By Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs
An Appalachian Kentucky native has been selected for promotion to Colonel, the first active-duty member from McCreary County to earn this rank.

As a youth, Air Force Lt. Col. Danny Davis, assigned to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, found few opportunities in Appalachian Kentucky during the 1980s.
At a young age the third child of six siblings raised by a single mom began pondering how would he achieve the American dream.

Danny Davis quickly recognized finishing high school and attending college would be critical to the future he wanted. In McCreary County, this was a lofty goal, and remains so to this day.

"I found inspiration at a young age from Nelson Mandela, who said:
'"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the
world," said Davis.

After graduating in 1989 from McCreary Central High School, Davis left his hometown in Smith Town, Kentucky, earning his bachelor's degree in history from the University of Kentucky in 1994, then he commissioned into the Air Force.

Davis joined the Air Force to develop leadership skills and to gain additional opportunities.

"When I was thirteen years old and in the eighth grade, I was transported to the local high school to participate in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Program," said Davis. "Although I was in the program for only one year, I enjoyed the leadership, teamwork and discipline aspects of the program. This was my first 'formal' leadership opportunity, and I never forgot the thrill of leading and inspiring others."

Davis has steadily climbed the Air Force leadership ladder. He currently serves as the Air Force District of Washington Manpower, Personnel, Services deputy director, serving approximately 51,000 military and civilian Airmen stationed in over 3,900 elements throughout the National Capital Region, across the United States, and in over 100 countries.

Last month, Davis learned he had been selected for promotion to colonel, a rank held by less than one percent of the Air Force. He is believed to be the first active-duty member from McCreary County to earn this rank, according to Jim White, American Legion Post 115 commander.

During his military career, Davis earned three additional degrees, the most recent a master degree in strategic studies from Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama.

Although he left twenty-five years ago, Davis often thinks of his family and the community he left behind in Kentucky.

"They have a tremendous heritage and are proud people who do not want handouts--but they do deserve a hand up in the form of opportunities," Davis said.

The knowledge Davis learned while working on his degree in strategic studies led him to examine the problems facing his hometown from a strategic perspective.

"Understandably, there are no quick solutions," Davis said. "The problems are multi-faceted and complex. No problems are too great to solve. By definition, every problem has a solution. But the war on poverty needs the correct lens or methodology to evaluate the problem."

This observation has not hindered Davis' decision to dig into the underlying issues in the county, which was recently named as the poorest county in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

In his spare time, Davis began evaluating the challenges facing Appalachian Kentuckians, sharing ideas for potential solutions with local newspapers and with government representatives.

"I'm still serving our country but think a lot about my state and community and ways to contribute," Davis said. "The American dream is still alive but this generation may have to work harder to propel themselves from poverty to the middle class. Don't stop dreaming, but balance dreams with a plan, hard work, and education. There is no magic formula for success. When preparation, hard work, and persistence meet opportunity - with God's blessing - success will come."