MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
“You know what I’m really afraid of?” the general asked. It was a transparently rhetorical and yet baffling question. Maj. Gen. Jon M. Davis, the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, offered no time for guesswork.
“Failing at one of those three things,” Davis said curtly. “That’s it.”
Davis was referring to his priorities for the 2nd MAW, which he assumed command of July 30.
Priority 1: Winning the war in Afghanistan.
It’s a formidable objective with an impending deadline, but Davis is certain it can be done. His certainty is firmly rooted in the principles of Marine Corps combat operations – the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
As the commander in charge of the air combat element provided to II Marine Expeditionary Force, Davis said he sees his role as fundamental. Working with Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan Jr., II MEF (Foward), Davis said he knows no task is unachievable.
When Marine logistics, aviation and ground resources are combined with Marine Corps ingenuity and war-fighting tactics, Davis said the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
“It’s not just the airplanes, the logistics guys and the grunts coming together commandedby a charismatic, thoughtful leader like General Toolan,” said Davis. “A MAGTF is a vehicle for creative problem solving. We do stuff differently because we are a MAGTF.”
Davis said because of the MAGTF the Marine Corps is fully capable of balancing one of the unique challenges posed by the war in Afghanistan, building the partnership with the Afghan people while fighting an elusive enemy in the Taliban.
“What I want is operational competence and agility so the young 19-year-old lance corporal at the tip of the spear handing out food or a Beanie Baby – if that goes terribly wrong – he’s got the full force of the MAGTF on his left or right shoulder,” the commanding general said. “It will be ready to come in and crush whoever is to his front. Or it can pick him up and move him if he gets hurt or needs to maneuver.
“That young lance corporal – our success will hinge on his ability to do his job,” Davis said.
To those familiar with Davis and his 30-year career, his confidence and prowess come as no surprise.
“We all pull from our backgrounds. It becomes a part of us, who we are and what we do,” said retired Col. Charlie Davis, who worked as the operations officer for Marine Attack Squadron 231 when the commanding general was a young lieutenant there. “I think Jon Davis will prove to be the best war-fighting general 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing has ever seen.”
"He couldn’t have a better career and be a better officer for this job; he’s just been a superior leader,” said retired Maj. Gen. Michael P. Sullivan, who commanded the 2nd MAW from 1985-1988.
Now, as commanding general, Davis is determined to take 30 years of knowledge and experience of aviation warfare to the fight in Afghanistan.
“Everyone is going to be very, very focused that the MAGTF that goes forward in support of General Toolan and II MEF (Fwd) is going to have everything it needs,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a fantastic ACE. It’s going to be adaptable, agile and innovative. It’s going to close with and destroy the enemy or provide us with the mobility we need to move our Marines around the battlefield and keep the enemy back on their heels.”
2: Supporting a global mission.
Davis’ second priority is ensuring aviation elements dispatched by the 2nd MAW to support Marine expeditionary units, unit deployment programs or special-purpose MAGTFs will have everything they need to succeed.
“I will have personal ownership to make sure that they remain ready for anything that may happen while they’re deployed,” Davis said. “When a MEU sails or a UDP goes, they may go thinking, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ but then they could go almost anywhere. They have to be ready for a vast array of possibilities.”
3: Preparing for the unknown.
Davis said it is absolutely vital that the 2nd MAW’s assets have the ability to crank their operational tempo from low to very high should an unforeseen need arise.
The unknown is the driving center for Davis’ second and third priorities.
“My last priority concerns the battle, the fight or the catastrophe that hasn’t happened and no one has predicted,” Davis said. “We have to be ready for it.”
The achievement of his priorities, said the commanding general, lies in the hands of 2nd MAW’s junior Marines.
“The privates first class, the lance corporals, the corporals and the sergeants will lead this wing to greatness,” Davis said. “I’m going to focus on that. I’m going to make sure we have set the right conditions for them to do their jobs.”
Davis said his Marines mean everything to him.
“I’m going to view them as extended members of my family. My job in life is to set the conditions for their success,” Davis said. “Know your stuff, take care of your people, be a Marine of character. Do those three things, you’ll never run afoul of me. You can do virtually anything else; I’ll cover for you.”
Maj. Gen. Jon M. Davis said when he joined the Marine Corps in 1980 in need of discipline, he had no idea he would develop into a well-respected Naval aviator and the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“When I joined the Marine Corps, I didn’t know they had airplanes. I just wanted to be a Marine,” Davis, a native of Orchard Park, N.Y., said. “I joined on a ground contract and then flopped over to an air contract my senior year of college.”
Since reporting to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 to learn how to fly the AV-8B Harrier in October 1982, Davis has accumulated more than 3,000 hours of flight time in the Harrier and has flown every aircraft in the Marine Corps arsenal.
“It didn’t come easy to me at all,” Davis said. “It was really hard for me to learn how to fly a Harrier. But I stayed with it and worked hard. I love flying that airplane.”
“He was out in front flying the Harrier,” said retired Maj. Gen. Michael P. Sullivan, who commanded the 2nd MAW from 1985-1988. Sullivan and Davis first met when Davis was a young lieutenant with VMAT-203.
Lt. Col. Craig T. Killian, the executive officer for VMAT-203 said to his knowledge Davis has more flight time in the Harrier than any other active-duty Marine.
“It is a Marine machine,” Davis said. “From the ground up, we bought that airplane to support the Marine on the ground, and I said that’s what I joined the Marine Corps to do.”
Despite stints of duty that have carried him across the globe, Davis has spent more time at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, 2nd MAW’s headquarters, than anywhere else.
“He’s the perfect guy to come back because he’s spent so much time here,” Sullivan said.
“Cherry Point is my comfort zone,” said Carol, Davis’ wife. “We’re happy to be back.”
In 1988, Davis, a captain at the time, left Marine Attack Squadron 231 to become an exchange officer with the British Royal Air Force, working in Gutersloh, Germany. Toward the end of his duty there, Davis felt he needed to highlight Marine Corps esprit. He said the British airmen he worked with were very operational and capable, but they weren’t used to Marine Corps customs and traditions.
“So I decided I wanted to have a cake for the Marine Corps birthday,” Davis said. “I told the men I wanted to speak to them in the hangar. When I walked through the hatch in my dress blues, there they were in their dress uniforms in a U-shaped formation. There was a British Flag, an American Flag, an RAF flag, and a Marine Corps flag. I centered on the formation and drew my sword.”
A Marine captain’s tribute to the Corps thousands of miles from home may have had much farther reaching implications than Davis anticipated.
“One of my sons watched that happen,” Davis said. “The next day he was walking around in a blue robe with my cover on and a Lincoln Log stuck in his belt. He probably decided right there that he would be a Marine.”
Both of Davis’ sons are now Marines. The elder son is a captain flying Harriers at MCAS Yuma, Ariz. The younger Davis is an individual augmentee with the special-purpose MAGTF Continuing Promise, offering humanitarian relief to Caribbean and Latin American nations.
“I think my husband and I did something well,” Carol said. “We’re very proud of both our boys.”