MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Cpl. K. J. Broadus
Jet Stream Staff
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 received a special visit recently when the “father” of Marine aviation logistics arrived aboard Fightertown for an annual reunion May 11.
Retired Col. Don Davis, known throughout the aviation community as the father of modern day aviation logistics, spent three days aboard the Air Station recently for the 2006 Aviation Logistics Marines Reunion, an organization of former aviation Marines who reunite every other year to share memories of years past and to support former and current aviation Leathernecks.
“I think it’s great to be able to meet the man who made us what we are today,” said Maj. Larry Fowler, the executive officer for MALS-31.
Davis, a Marine for 42 years, 7 months and 20 days, began his journey as an enlisted Marine in 1953.
“Before I became a warrant officer in 1961, I was a staff sergeant and back then the Corps only had seven enlisted ranks, and not one of them had crossed rifles,” Davis said.
After more than a decade of serving as an aircraft electrician and a squadron materiel officer in the Corps, Davis was commissioned as a second lieutenant (Limited Duty Officer) in 1964 and served his first tour as an officer with Marine Aircraft Group 32 aboard Fightertown in 1966.
After serving in a variety of aviation billets over the course of nearly two decades, Davis was well aware of the many problems within the aviation logistics community. Davis would have the opportunity to address those issues first-hand in 1985 when he was assigned to the Department of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps and became the head of the Aviation Logistics Support Branch.
“The Department of Aviation also had a Manpower Branch and a lady by the name of Catherine Kiley, who was an expert in aviation force structure,” Davis said. “Ms. Kiley and I both understood the logistics support problems in Marine Aviation and tasked ourselves to come up with an organizational structure and concept that would meet the requirements of a deployable composite aviation combat element within any size Marine Air Ground Task Force and also be functional in a garrison environment.”
Davis and Kiley knew that the current logistics unit, Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron, was not mobile and could not support a variety of aircraft from one location because all of the H&MS were configured to support only one or two types or models of aircraft.
“(Davis) pioneered the way for the (Marine Aviation Logistics Supply), which is the building block concept of deployable aviation logistics support in packages comprised of aviation components, support equipment, mobile facility vans and people,” said Lt. Col. Blayne Spratlin, the commanding officer of MALS-31.
The approach they took was to initially develop an intermediate support organization that consisted of a nucleus package of parts, skilled people, mobile facilities and intermediate level repair/support equipment that was common to all fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft.
“We basically came up with a nucleus for headquarters and maintenance,” Davis said. “The concept basically provides flexibility in an efficient and effective manner and allows Marine Aviation to meet its deployable mission requirements in a minimum timeframe.”
To properly identify this new concept, Headquarters and Maintenance Squadrons were renamed Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons and were mirror imaged with common support packages in every Marine Aircraft Group.
“At the time we didn’t realize how much our plan would change the aviation community,” Davis said. “But when I see how the squadrons are structured now, I’m happy we were able to help.”
Davis’ and Kiley’s contributions to the Marine Corps nearly two decades ago are greatly appreciated by present day Marines in the aviation logistics community.
“I can’t imagine what the Marines of the past used to go through to get their job done,” said Cpl. John Edwards, a MALS-31 test cell operator. “I’m sure a lot of the Marines from the original Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron wish Colonel Davis had come along a lot sooner.”
When Davis left the Lowcountry Sunday, he was able to see first-hand how the MALS-31 Marines of today employ his contributions from the past.
“He had a vision of making the Headquarters and Maintenance Squadrons into the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron, with major differences being how we deployed,” Spratlin said. “We jokingly but reverently refer to him as the ‘father’ of aviation logistics.”
“It’s always great to see something you worked on help the Corps and specifically Marine Aviation and its aviation logisticians,” Davis said. “It was an honor and privilege to have been a part of it. It’s like I’ve always heard ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ ”