July 26, 2012
By Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres
"I think there are thousands of other Soldiers who deserve this more than me, and as Soldier of the Year I'm just trying to honor them," said Sgt. Steven B. Davidson, an Army Reserve Soldier from Grand Prairie, Texas. He was one of five service members honored at an event in Washington D.C. for service not only to their countries but their communities as well. Davidson deployed with the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion to the Horn of Africa in 2011, and in that time took action to save a life, as a Corporal filled the role of a senior NCO, and routinely performed community service after his workday in order to help the people in the nearby by city of Djibouti. Upon his return Davidson did not stop to take a break, but continued to reach out to his community as a big brother and help mentored at risk kids at schools in his area.
"I am humbled to have won this award, but I think USACAPOC(A) deserves this recognition," said Davidson to the Command Sgt. Maj. of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Command Sgt. Maj. Dale R. Blosser, who quickly rebutted with, "No, no, no. Today is not about CAPOC, it's about you, and it's about your training and you using it." Davidson could only smile and say thank you. The scene repeated again and again, with generals and the top senior enlisted leaders from all branches of the military congratulating him. The leaders were joined by a number of congress men and women, including Davidson's district representative, Kay Granger, Texas 12th District, and democratic house minority leader, Nancy Pelosi.
But before the accolades Davidson was just a kid from Texas. He first began honing his basic medical skills when he was an underclassman at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas. Under the tutelage of Scott Fletcher, the head athletic trainer, Davidson learned how to take care of a myriad of sports injuries. "I absolutely loved it," he said. "I loved wrapping ankles and taking care of minor injuries."
What Davidson didn't love was the bullying he received from the other kids at school for being "the waterboy" and in his junior year decided to quit being a trainer. "It was one of my biggest regrets," said Davidson, "Because I was self-conscious about it, I quit doing what I loved to do."
When Davidson joined the Army and was assigned to the 490th as a human resource specialist, it was his experience as a trainer which made Combat Life Saver training old hat. He was comfortable with medical scissors and tape, and he was all too aware of the effects the environment can have on performance thanks to his time as an athletic trainer. Then came the deployment.
So when a Soldier went down after a nine hour ruck march through the African desert, Davidson didn't take it lightly and jumped into action. Davidson and his fellow Soldiers had been participating in the French desert survival course, and the culmination event was an arduous trek through the desert.
"People had been falling down all night, they would get a hand up and then we'd drive on. When a fellow Soldier fell out and was unresponsive Davidson knew something serious had happened. "I think because we were so depleted, being so close to the end, that people's reaction times where just slower," said Davidson. It was Davidson who seized the initiative, "I grabbed my ruck sack and ran up to him. I grabbed my scissors and began cutting off his pants, boots and top. We cut his pants into little strips and dipped them in the water we had left," recalled Davidson, who then applied the bandages. It was all he could do because no one had brought along a combat life saver kit. "We expected the French to have that capability, but they didn't. They were able to call in a MEDEVAC, but they told us it would take two hours to get there. We didn't think he would make it."
After about 20 minutes, the Soldier woke up violently, confused and disoriented. His fellow Soldiers held him down, but many just began to ask him if he was okay, Davidson knew that wasn't helping, "I asked them to stop and started asking about his kids and family, he then began to respond in a more positive manner."
French medics arrived soon after, before the MEDEVAC had arrived and asked everyone to leave. But Davidson could see the French medics were having a hard time communicating with the injured Soldier. "The French medics didn't know any English and none of us spoke any French. They couldn't tell him how to put on the oxygen masks, or that he was going to get an IV, I felt like I had to step back in, to let the Soldier know what was going on," said Davidson. Thanks to his CLS training and his experiences as a trainer he knew what the medics where trying to do. Together they were able to stabilize the Soldier until the MEDEVAC arrived.
"It's the little things and how they come full circle," said Davidson, who felt that any of his peers could have done the same.
Davidson had once given up what he loved because of bullies, but it was because of his training he was able to help save a Soldier's life. And so when Davidson talks to kids, he tells them not to listen to other people putting you down. "It was the technical proficiencies that I learned as a trainer that I was able to save a life in the desert that night. You shouldn't let other people tell you what to do; it's about doing what you love."
And what Davidson loves doing now is helping community kids who might need a little extra attention. He first started volunteering with the 490th.
"My commander encouraged all his Soldiers to go out into the community and help, regardless whether we were civil affairs trained or not," said Davidson who feels he was able to make an impact in his own way by bonding with locals, helping them learn English, and discovered a newfound appreciation for what he had. "A family I worked with was expecting a baby, I asked if it was a boy or a girl, and the husband said 'only God can know' which really struck me. Things like ultrasounds which we take for granted are rare or unknown in most parts of the world so I feel really blessed to have what I have."
Since being home in Texas, Davidson has reached out to numerous schools, talking with teachers, and making connections. "Even though teachers change out, when you go back to a school you used to go to, bonds with new teachers can be made. For the first few months I would just go and sit with a 3rd grade class and just have lunch with them," said Davidson.. There are so many kids who are looking for someone to look up to and not many service members know how influential they can be. But I was able to build relationships with teachers, kids, and parents. I was invited to school functions and was the guest of honor during their Activity Day."
But perhaps the biggest gesture Davidson has made to his community was when he gave his medal for saving a Soldiers life to his mentor in high school, athletic trainer Fletcher. Davidson feels that he wouldn't have earned it without a teacher taking the time to mentor him.
For Davidson, giving is its own reward, and he plans to continue to do so as long as he can.
See more photos on flickr at http://bit.ly/Ql94h0