ATLANTA — In a town so small that you can’t date anyone because it’s likely they’re related, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Delmar Davis III had two options. Stay and work on his grandfather’s farm, picking soybeans and sweet potatoes in the Georgia heat or do something different.
He chose something different.
Davis grew up in Henderson, 40 miles south of Macon. His whole family lives there, including his mom Patricia, a department manager at Walmart. His dad, Delmar Jr., works in neighboring Fort Valley at Bluebird Corporation, building school buses.
With both of them working, Davis says he spent a lot of his childhood with their grandfather, Delma Sr., a bus driver and farmer with a penchant for giving away baskets of vegetables to people in need.
A man of many talents and a heart for his community, Delma Sr. worked hard and instilled his work ethic and kindness into young Delmar.
“I was primarily raised with my granddad because my dad was working, providing for us,” Davis said. “I used to do everything, cutting grass, picking peas, okra, and squash. Pulling weeds in the field in the Georgia heat.”
With another hot Georgia summer around the corner, Davis weighed his options during his senior year. He could begin applying for college, or he could look for work.
Davis said he didn’t prepare himself for the transition to college and, most importantly, needed to “get away from all of that farming stuff.”
“I was procrastinating, thinking life is going to wait for me. My senior year came, I asked myself, ‘what am I going to do?’ My cousin was about to leave for college. She took the ACT and the SAT, and I hadn’t taken them.”
However, Davis did take the ASVAB and scored well enough to qualify to be an Information Technology Specialist in the U.S. Army. With that, he decided to join, becoming the first in his family to serve in the military.
His eagerness to sign up was met with mixed emotions from his family.
While his dad and uncle supported him, most of his family was against joining because they wanted him to go to college and worried about his safety.
He, too, wasn’t sure what he was signing up for.
“The stuff I saw on TV made me have misconceptions,” Davis said. “ I thought I’d be in a foreign environment, a hostile environment, 24/7. I thought there’d be people yelling at you all the time, and I wouldn’t have time to eat.”
After arriving at his first duty station at Fort Gordon, Davis realized that Army life wasn’t at all what he thought it would be. He also found new confidence to take on more challenges with inspiration and mentorship from two retired Soldiers and DA Civilians.
“Mr. James Moss and Mrs. Adele Holifield, retirees and DA civilians with the Bravo Company, 442nd Signal Battalion, saw me and saw my potential. They were always asking me, what’s the next step for you?” he said.
Moss and Holifield inspired him to see the possibilities they saw in the young Soldier. They pushed Davis to challenge himself. One of his first challenges was to attend the Signal Digital Master Gunner Course as a specialist — a course usually reserved for noncommissioned officers.
The five-week course teaches signal Soldiers to become experts on the operations, maintenance, integration, and training of Local Area Network, Battle Command Common Services, and Mission Command Information Systems.
Attending helped Davis get selected for his next gig — communications sergeant for the deputy commanding general for maneuver of the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division in Korea.
“I’d just got promoted to sergeant and was in transition to Korea,” Davis said. “I was going to be one of the NCOs in the S6. The brigade sergeant major called me in for an interview, looked at my resume, and said I was a good fit.”
Davis shined in that job. Following it, he arrived at the 335th Signal Command (Theater), one of three theater signal commands in the Army.
As one of a handful of active component Soldiers in an Army Reserve Signal command, Davis quickly became known for his signal expertise, attention to detail, and always perfect haircut and crisp uniform.
The operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. William Taylor took note and invited Davis to compete in the command’s 2019 Best Warrior Competition.
“He asked me, ‘Do you want to do the Best Warrior Competition?’ I said, sure. I just want to look good.” Davis joked. “But when it got close to it, I started getting anxious but also excited. The pressure was on.”
Davis was a late entry into the command’s competition, so he didn’t have much time to train.
Despite that challenge, his determination and the grit earned on his granddad’s farm helped him gut through some of the events, including the 12-mile ruck march.
“That 12-mile thing, we did. I never trained for it.” Davis said. “I just pushed myself and said, I’m never going to quit. When somebody came behind me, I just pushed harder. That’s when I learned that I can do anything.”
Davis didn’t just gut through the march. He won the competition.
“I just wanted to go there and do the best I could do. I never expected to win,” Davis said. I learned a lot about myself in that week. I learned that I’m never going to give up. I also started to understand the potential that other people saw in me as a private.”
His win inspired him to set out for another challenge, attending the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy and becoming a drill sergeant. He says it was a hell of a course.
“It was the most challenging course I’ve even been to in my life. It was tough to step out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I called it growing pains. It sucked, but I knew I’d grow out of it, and that’s what kept me going.
Davis says the course was one of his most memorable experiences to date. The modules gave him the biggest challenge.
A module is thoroughly written instructions explaining to a Soldier how to execute a military-move related to drill and ceremony in excruciating detail. It ranges from how to stand at the position of attention to how to lead a formation.
“I joke with my co-workers now,” he said. “ I can create a module about taking the trash out.”
Davis also says that he has advice for other folks in small towns considering joining the military.
“Don’t be afraid to leave the small-town mentality. There’s so much out there in the world,” he said. “That’s what the Army has provided to me. Before I joined the Army, I was close-minded to a lot of things. The Army has made me open-minded. It’s given me the ability to grow mentally. Don’t be afraid to leave your environment or your comfort zone. All you can do is grow.”
In June, Davis left the 335th Signal Command (Theater) to serve as a drill sergeant with the 551st Signal Battalion, 15th Signal Brigade at Fort Gordon. His mission, providing world-class Advanced Individual Training to transform Soldiers into disciplined, physically fit, mentally prepared, technically, and tactically competent “Signal Warriors.”