Former 1st Infantry Division leader remembered for committment to 'Duty'
February 27, 2013
He was a Soldier's Soldier. Those who worked alongside him said he represented the very best of the Noncommissioned Officers Corps. Those who looked up to him said he was the definition of a command sergeant major.
Command Sgt. Maj. Fred W. Davenport, who served as the 1st Infantry Division's senior noncommissioned officer from 1989 to 1994, passed away Feb. 12. He was 70.
Davenport joined the U.S. Army on Jan. 14, 1964. He served tours to Korea and Vietnam as a combat engineer before a short break in service. He re-entered the Army as an armored crewman and returned to Vietnam. He served three assignments at Fort Riley before he was selected in July 1989 as the 1st Infantry's senior noncommissioned officer.
Along with retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Rhame, Davenport led the division in Operation Desert Storm.
Davenport retired in August 1994 after 30 years of service. Following his retirement, he served as vice president of Pioneer Financial Services until January 2011. He was active in the local and Fort Riley communities support Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the Association of the U.S. Army and the Society of the First Infantry Division.
Graveside services with full military honors were Feb. 21 at the Kansas Veterans' Cemetery. A group of Davenport's Family and friends gathered in the cold afternoon accompanied by 1st Infantry Soldiers and American Legion Riders.
Command Sgt. Maj. Davenport was born in April 1942 in Jellico, Tenn. He enlisted in January 1964. Davenport's wife, Virginia "Ginny" Davenport, said her husband enjoyed his time with the Big Red One as the best part of his military career. He had a special place in his heart for the division and Kansas, she added.
"He was the Soldier CSM I was looking for."
The Department of the Army gave Rhame a book of senior NCO nominees when he took command of the 1st Inf. Div. The book didn't include any of the division's then-command sergeants major.
"It seemed strange to me that we were not looking inside the division for a replacement," he said.
Rhame interviewed two or three candidates before meeting with Davenport, who was then serving as 2nd Brigade's senior NCO. "After interviewing CSM Fred Davenport, there was no question in my mind that he was the Soldier CSM I was looking for," Rhame said. "He was quiet, mature, thoughtful and very confident of his own ability."
Davenport had respect and admiration for his brigade's Soldiers, Rhame said, and he was selected as the division's senior enlisted Soldier.
"He would become my very closest confidant on matters affecting the Soldiers of the division or affecting the Fort Riley community," Rhame said.
Davenport was an essential part of the readiness of the division during Desert Storm, Rhame said. "He was out with the Soldiers at every opportunity," the general said. "Using my impressions and his observations, I knew the morale and spirit of the division was just first-rate."
During the actual conduct of the war, Davenport moved with the Division Advance Command element and was there for all the engagements, Rhame said.
"He fought the war with me start to finish," he said. "I thought we were a great command team. This man knew our Soldiers and made their feeling know to all who would listen. He was a great caring and confident leader."
The two served together until Rhame gave up command after returning from the Middle East. He recommended the next commander, retired Gen. William W. Hartzog, keep Davenport in the position.
"He did so and the relationship proved to be a close one," Rhame said.
A Soldier remembered
Gen. Douglas MacArthur's words, "Old Soldiers never die; they just fade away," best describe Davenport, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dick Young said.
"He will always be remembered by the Soldiers he served," Young added.
Davenport and Young first met in 1998 when Young was selected as Fort Riley's senior noncommissioned officer. Davenport called Young to congratulate him.
"He offered his support and was there to welcome me to Fort Riley," Young said.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Shanklin remembered the first time he met Davenport at a 2001 dinner for Fort Riley's Soldier and NCO of the quarter.
Davenport was then serving as Pioneer's Military Service Center manager and Shanklin, a self-described young, cocky sergeant major who knew everything, questioned the company's practices.
Davenport sternly set him straight, saying "I don't know where you got that damn information from," Shanklin recalled.
The interaction established a strong bond Shanklin characterized as father/son and mentor/pupil.
Davenport had a professional and personal influence on Shanklin, from taking care of Soldiers and enforcing the Army standards to balancing being a good Soldier with taking care of his Family.
Ginny said her husband's main concern was to help young Soldiers and provide mentoring.
"Their welfare was his main concern -- even after retiring," she said.
"Total, total concern for them."
Command Sgt. Maj. Davenport left a legacy of always doing the right thing, Ginny said, no matter how unpopular or how hard it was to get done.
"He did what was right," she added.
The couple would have celebrated 30 years together in November. Ginny was a single mother from upstate New York who moved to Kansas for a civil service job when she met Fred.
"You know, it kind of just hits you," she said of the moment she realized Fred was the one.
Ginny received a flood of condolences following his passing from people who served alongside him. They told her what a good Soldier and nice man he was, she said.
That's the way he treated individuals, Ginny added -- always with respect.
Rhame said he would always remember Davenport as a strong, caring and confident leader.
"He knew standards and led the Soldiers to meet them," he said. "He was one of the best I ever had the opportunity to serve with. He knew the motto of the division and lived it every day. He was at all times a 'Duty First!' Soldier.
"I thought the world of this man. He was my friend and I will miss him."