September 2010

IBEW On Duty
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Close Call Caps Member's Third Tour in Middle East

Staff Sgt. Jesse Davis was in the middle of a workout at his base in northern Afghanistan when he heard the explosion. He dropped his weights and looked at his fellow soldiers in the makeshift gym, wondering if they were all thinking the same thing: Another mortar attack?

But it was far worse. A suicide bomber disguised as a police officer had breached security and blown himself up near the doorway of the main barracks at the Dand aw Patan base. Five U.S. Airborne Infantry troops were injured in the blast that obliterated part of the structure.

For the second-year apprentice and Salt Lake City Local 57 member, it was a chilling close call.

"I'm usually in that building on the Internet chatting with my wife at that time of night," said Davis, 29. "If things had gone differently—if I hadn't decided to go to the gym, I'm sure I would have been seriously hurt."

The February bombing only added to the daily dangers Davis faced in his three tours of duty, including deployments to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2005. Davis' boots hit the sand in June of last year for his final mission: training scores of enlistees in Afghanistan's fighting forces. From his arrival through October, he helped lead nearly 100 new Afghan army soldiers through their training at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E.

He was reassigned to Dand aw Patan the next month, where he logged time instructing the country's fledgling border patrol troops along the northern boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Davis worked as a second-in-command when planning logistics for daytime missions. He dodged gunfire on patrols and emerged unscathed from random roadside bomb explosions. Away from combat, he headed up ad-hoc construction projects at Dand aw Patan, building outhouses, shelving units and the gym area he was in when he narrowly averted disaster.

About a week after the bombing near his barracks, Davis came home to a hero's welcome that included a parade through his town of Spanish Fork—about an hour's drive south of Salt Lake City.

Reunited with his wife, children and stepchildren, he is back on the job at utility Rocky Mountain Power. As his tenure in the military drew to a close in July, he can now devote himself full-time to his career as a union lineman.

"The IBEW has been a real benefit to my family," Davis said. He joined the Brotherhood in May 2007 and appreciates that his employer and the union have allowed flexibility in his trek toward journeyman status. "I didn't think I would get treated so well. The company and the local worked together to make sure I had a job when I got back. I got to keep my seniority, too."

Davis signed up for the Army in 2002, partly for the economic security it offered.

"I'd done construction, worked on oil rigs—but I got tired of always being laid off," he said. "I have a wife and kids and needed more of a steady paycheck. I'd also always been interested in being in the military, ever since I was younger."

Even with the recession's adverse impact on the trades, Davis feels secure in his transition from soldier to union lineman. He draws parallels between the camaraderie he felt on missions and among union members in the trade.

"In the military, it's partly about the friendships you make while working together as a team," Davis said. "We can say we made it through some challenges together. It's the same on a tough job. If some car in the middle of the night knocks a pole down, you and your crew have got to bust your butts to get the power back on. There's tons and tons of work that goes into it. So, again, it's nice to look up and say, ‘We did that.'"

"Jesse's a hard worker, and he's going to make a really good lineman," said Local 57 President Larry Walker, who is Davis' general foreman. "We have good attitudes around the shop, and he contributes to that."

"We're glad he's home and appreciate everything he's done," said Business Manager Byron Nielsen.

Salt Lake City Local 57 apprentice Jesse Davis served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keeping the Peace in Historic Sinai

Members of Kansas City Local 412 welcomed home Staff Sgt. Chris Dame in July.

Dame, a fourth-year apprentice with Local 412, completed a 10-month tour of duty as an international peacekeeper in the Sinai Peninsula—a triangular shaped desert peninsula that connects Egypt and Israel.

Dame, a nine-year veteran of the Army National Guard, was serving as part of an 12-nation international peacekeeping force—the Multinational Force and Observers—which is charged with maintaining the 1979 peace accord between Israel and Egypt. The agreement—negotiated by President Carter—transferred control of the peninsula back to Egypt, helping to end more than three decades of conflict between the two nations.

The nations that make up the Sinai mission are, in addition to the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Uruguay.

Dame served as a site commander, placed in charge of a nine-man team that was responsible for securing the borders of both nations and guaranteeing the safety of multinational convoys passing through the Sinai.

For Dame, one the highlights of the mission was the opportunity to take in the historic sites of the Sinai, where, according to biblical accounts, the ancient Israelites wandered for 40-years after their escape from captivity in Egypt.

"Moses led his people through a mountain ravine I drove through many times," he said. "Our area even included Mount Sinai, where some people say he received the Ten Commandments."

And despite his desert station, he says he found time to earn his advanced deep diver certification. "The Red Sea has some of the best diving in the world."

This is Dame's second overseas deployment, previously serving in Iraq in 2004.

Kansas City Local 412 member Chris Dame recently returned home from a 10-month tour of duty as a peacekeeper in the historical Sinai Peninsula.