Naval service influences lawmaker’s support of military-focused legislation

State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Joplin, discusses his experience in the United States Navy and some of the bills he has sponsored in support of the military community.

State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Joplin, discusses his experience in the United States Navy and some of the bills he has sponsored in support of the military community.

Born an “Army brat” at a military base in North Carolina, state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Joplin, embraced the influence of his father when choosing to pursue his own military career.

“My father was in the Army and then joined the Navy ‘Seabees,’” Davis said. “He did multiple tours in Vietnam.”

Graduating in 1983 from a high school in Germany (where his father was serving as an Army civilian employee), Davis’ family soon relocated to Texas.

Later the same year, Davis enlisted in the Navy and completed his boot camp in San Diego.

“I initially wanted to go into the nuclear field,” Davis said, “but my dad said I’d end up on a submarine. Instead, I decided to change my field to aviation electronics because I wanted to serve aboard aircraft carriers.”

He went on to complete aviation electronics and advanced avionics at the Recruiter Training Command in Millington, Tenn., where he received instruction on intermediate troubleshooting and repair of Doppler and other types of radar equipment.

In late 1984, he was assigned to an A-6 “Intruder” squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana at Virginia Beach.

According to Davis, the A-6 was a Korean War-era plane used until the late 1980s, and could carry more armament than the plane actually weighed.

Assigned to the “advanced intermediate maintenance department,” his primary duties included the repair of the “black box” on the aircraft — a device controlling many components of the aircraft’s system including navigation and signaling.

Over the next several years, he deployed on three separate cruises, two aboard the USS Saratoga and one with the USS Independence.

“The days were regimented consisting of 12-hour shifts, seven days a week,” he said. “There really wasn’t a lot to do on the ships when off duty … like many of the conveniences and activities sailors now have available.”

In 1989, while on the USS Independence, Davis received a message that would guide his career down a new path.

“I was in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and my dad called to say the family purchased a computer business in Joplin.”

With his enlistment almost up, Davis made the decision to leave the Navy and traveled to Joplin in late 1989 to run the newly acquired business.

During the next several years, he was married and had three children. But he grew concerned over the direction he perceived his community to be heading, and wished to “ensure the state has strong representation.”

In 2010, he was elected as the representative for the 128th District, and is unopposed in the coming election.

The freshman lawmaker maintains much of his naval experience translates into useful legislative skills, and he believes the greatest asset is the understanding he has gained of the concerns of the military community.

“Custody and visitation rights of deployed military members have become an issue,” Davis said. “While a servicemember is deployed, the spouse can file for divorce and child custody during the absence, leaving the deployed member with no visitation rights upon their return.

“With my own extended deployment, I understand the undue stress this may create, which is why I filed HB1296, a bill that would prevent judges from entering any final custody agreements until 90 days after the servicemembers return.”

Earlier this year, the bill passed the House but did not make it out of Senate committee prior to the end of the legislative session.

Reflecting on his own experience, Davis said, “If there is anything I learned in the Navy, it is dedication. Because like it or not, you have a duty to perform, and that’s what you volunteered for.

“The least I can do to help our current military members accomplish their own mission is to remain dedicated in supporting them through my work here at the Capitol while they continue to serve on our behalf.”

Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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