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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 13 - 19, 2002


Sun Valley firefighter is presented American Legion award on Veterans Day

"Mountain Home was the most highly tasked base in the country to deal with the response to 9/11."

— TERRANCE DAVITT, Idaho National Guard Tech. Sgt.

Express Staff Writer

"This is what I trained for, I was prepared," Sun Valley resident Terrence Davitt said about his nearly 100-day deployment in Afghanistan.

Davitt, 38, received the American Legion Idaho Firefighter of the Year Award Monday night at the annual Veterans Day banquet at the David Ketchum American Legion Hall Post #115 in Ketchum.

Idaho National Guard Tech. Sgt. Terrence Davitt received the American Legion Idaho Firefighter of the Year Award on Monday. Express photo by Willy Cook


Davitt is a technical sergeant in the Idaho Air National Guard stationed in Boise. "I am based out of Gowen Field where I am a crash rescue firefighter. We do fires on structures, hazardous materials, confined spaces and rescue." Davitt also fights fires on civilian and military aircraft and handles munitions.

Normally, Davitt is on duty one weekend a month and two weeks a year. The rest of the year he is a Sun Valley volunteer fireman and works for the City of Sun Valley in the City Streets Department, where he works on roads and grounds: plowing snow in winter and doing maintenance, repairs and landscaping in the summer.

Davitt is also the married father of two boys, Sean, 3, and Christopher, 9 months, who was born while he was on active duty, though Davitt was in town coincidentally the day he was born.

But last year, everything changed for Davitt and his wife, Lisa, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

"We flew on Sept 10 out of Boston, coming home from a wedding in Rhode Island. We got stuck in Salt Lake and spent the night," he said. "On Tuesday morning, I was in the hotel lobby checking out and saw the replay of the first (World Trade Center) tower being hit and then saw the second tower hit. We went to the airport, but before we could board they closed down the airspace."

American Legion Post Commander John O’Conner congratulates Joe DiFrancesco Jesinger as Idaho Eagle Scout of the Year. Express photo by Willy Cook


They ended up staying with family in Salt Lake City for four days. As it happened, "Tuesday (Sept. 11) I was supposed to go on orders for the Guard in Boise for training." Though he suggested someone fly down and pick him up, the powers that be demurred.

"When we got back, just like everybody, I was so absorbed by what happened." Following a recall of personnel to active duty, activation of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members and Stop-Loss actions in which retirement plans of any personnel are put on hold, Davitt was notified that he had to report to Gowen Field Thursday, Oct. 24. "They said ‘You’re activated for a year.’ "

He was immediately sent to the Air Force base in Mountain Home.

"Mountain Home was the most highly tasked base in the country to deal with the response to 9/11."

Filling in for the troops that were already in Afghanistan, Davitt’s schedule was 24 hours on, then 24 hours off, with a three-day weekend every two weeks.

"The whole year was harder on Lisa than me," he said. "Her mother came from Chicago and stayed from November through Christopher’s birth."

He was given two weeks off when Christopher was born in February. On May 20 he was deployed to Afghanistan. "Some of the guys couldn’t wait to go. Not that I wanted to go but I didn’t have a choice. It was exciting, but I didn’t want to leave Lisa and the boys. I was torn."

It took four days to reach Kandahar. "It was austere, bizarre, so arid, hardly anything grew, like a sand box," Davitt recalled. "It was very hot, averaged 115 degrees. We initially familiarized ourselves with the base and operating procedures and equipment."

There was only a two-day overlap with the people they were replacing. "It didn’t take us long to figure things out but to really get it down it took a full month. There was a lot of training with people who weren’t used to working together." There were six additional firefighters who joined them from New Mexico, so they ended up with a fire department of 33. "We rely on each other, so we trained to eliminate weaknesses."

In the base in Kandahar there were 7, 000 people, with only 200 affiliated with the Air Force. There were troops from eight different countries on the base. "It was primitive at best. We were stationed at the Kandahar Airport where there were primarily helicopters and cargo planes that were coming in with supplies. We were there to provide protection for anything on base. We had a couple incidents, nothing major."

One incident involved a C5 Galaxy—the largest U.S. military aircraft—that tried to land on the short runway creating a tire fire on landing. In another incident a C5, which has in-wing-tip flares as a counter measure against heat seeking missiles, took off sending flares onto the surrounding brush starting a fire.

Except for a rest and relaxation trip to Oman, where the temperature was 120 F every day with 100 percent humidity, he barely left the base in Kandahar.

"It was too dangerous to leave," Davitt said. "There were land mines all over, you could see them.

"The Bosnians used bomb-sniffing dogs. The bombs they found were blown up by the Explosive Ordinance Disposal, then the Jordanians brought in mine sweeping machines. They’d grind up the ground to find them. There were unexploded, 500-pound bombs from the Soviets.

"We’d run along the perimeter fence line and the land mines were 3 feet away."

Davitt returned stateside on Aug. 20. He arrived home for a two-week "reconstitution" about 10 days before his wife and sons did from Chicago, where they’d spent the summer. After five days with them, he returned to Mountain Home for another 45 days to finish out his tour.

While Davitt was in Afghanistan, the Ketchum American Legion Post Commander, John O’Connor, contacted Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes and Davitt’s National Air Guard Fire Chief at Gowen and asked them to write letters on Davitt’s behalf. They were submitted to the American Legion state headquarters. O’Connor e-mailed Davitt before he returned telling him he had won the award.

"Because of his training with the Air Force, he brings a lot of expertise to his work at both fire departments. It’s a very competitive thing," O’Connor said.

At the banquet Monday, Idaho National Guard Col. Bates and Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, head of public affairs at Gowen, presented an award to the city of Sun Valley for being a good employer. The American Legion also recognized the Idaho Eagle Scout of the Year, Joe DiFrancesco Jesinger, a Ketchum resident.

Davitt, who is thrilled to be home and not anxious to return to active duty should the war in Iraq occur, said, "It’ll never end. There’s always going to be people who will pull terrorist acts. We have to continue to fight."

He said, "There are 16 people at Gowen who weren’t activated, so I would hope they would activate them first."



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