Soaring High with Darin Davis

Interview by Flonora Merritt, FNN Alumni Bureau.
Photos by Darin Davis.  

April 22, 2015. Another FNN Hall of Fame photographer, Darin Davis (FCA class of 2010), had a phone interview with me. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve heard from him. There is so much catching up to do.  

Flo: What college did you go to and what did you major in?

DJ:I didn’t go to college persay. However, I did receive credits from the United States Air Force in Aeronautical Engineering. I was in Tech School. While I was in Tech School, I received college credits. They gave me an Aeronautical Engineering credit.

Flo: Why did you want to enlist into the Air Force?

DJ: I enlisted in the Air Force because it was my dream to do that since I was seven years old. I went to my first air show with my uncle at Andrews Air Force Base and I saw the Thunderbirds. I thought, well that’s cool. You know, to be around them, work with them. It’s pretty much my passion and life goal to join the Air force and work on jets.

Flo: How long have you been in the Air Force?

DJ: I was in the Air Force for three and half years. Unfortunately, I was forced to early separate due to the military downsizing in 2013.

Flo: What was your job?

DJ: 2A3x3. That was the Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Apprentice, also known as Crew Chief. I was the crew chief  in the Air force on the F-15 E-Strike Eagle.

Flo: Have you ever met the President while you were in the Air Force?.

DJ: No. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to meet Mr. Obama himself. However, when I was in my senior year of high school in 2010, I did have a chance to meet him. I was doing community service at Andrews Air Force Base. And when the presidential plane came through, he actually came up to the gate to meet and greet a few of us. I got a chance  talk to him briefly. I still have pictures of him getting off the plane and greeting the commander of Andrews Air Force Base. I’ll try to send it to you if I can find it.  

Flo: That would been a great picture.

Flo: Where did you go while in the service, or is that classified lol?

DJ: It’s not classified at all. I started out at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I was there for two and half months for boot camp or basic training as they call it in the Air Force.  And then from there, I went north to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas for the first part of my Tech School. I was there for about five to six months. We did code training where you pretty much learn the jet. You do small maintenance pass and gate maintenance pass on one aircraft but it’s not really working. It’s just there for training purposes. From Sheppard, I spent a month at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina doing, what they called hot training, or hands-on training and that’s where the jets are live and going out on real missions. So we’re learning how to work around them in a live environment to be safe, cautious and aware of what we’re looking for. We practice our marshalling and pre-flight checks with our pilots. From there, I went to my current station Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.  I was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base from 2011 to 2013 and I was assigned to the 366 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, working in my first aircraft unit on the F-15.  While I stationed there, I was deployed for a six month rotation to Southwest Asia Middle East. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact location. I got to serve my country proudly during a few combat missions where my aircraft put some bombs on some target.

Flo: I wanted to keep the violence lowkey.

DJ: (laughter) We were killing bad guys.  

Flo: You’re currently living in the potato state, Idaho….

DJ: Hold up, hold up. Okay. That’s just like… that’s false. I have not seen a single potato field since I’ve been in Idaho.

Flo: But that’s what Idaho is known for....potatoes. Like the Idaho potato brand.  

DJ: Yes I agree. It’s known for that. Even the license plate says that. But I haven’t seen potatos from Idaho and I’ve been here since 2011. (laughter)

Flo: (laughter) How does it differ from DC? 

DJ: Well, I live in Boise, Idaho, which is the capital. It’s way different. It’s a lot slower here, actually. You have don’t have, like, huge rush hour traffic jams unless there’s major construction on the highway. And even with that, it’s not like it’s a stand still. Towards the northwest, the weather here this year seems a lot nicer than DC. We didn’t get a lot of snow this year like I thought we were. I think Boise is 2,000 ft. above sea level so the air is a lot drier here. When it comes to diversity, of course, the caucasian community is going to be the majority. However, there’s diverse ethnicities, like, there a lot Latinos around, a lot of Asians, and Africans as well. So there’s no kind of race issues up here.

Flo: So you haven’t encountered a Ferguson type situation up there?   

DJ: Ah no. Nothing like that. I have not witnessed or read about any hate crimes by the police [in Idaho] attacking minorities.

Flo: Would you say that Idaho is pretty free of prejudice? That’s it’s a nice diverse community.

DJ: Well, I wouldn’t say all of Idaho. Indeed the major cities... are real diverse and chill. However, years ago in North Idaho...they did have a white supremacy group there. However, the people realized that this is the 21st century and they were run out of town.  So now people of other ethnicities are able to work in north Idaho without any problem or harassment.   


Flo: You were one of our top photographers in FNN, I was just curious how did you get into photography?

DJ: You can thank Ms. Kaufman for that part. I got into photography when I was in the 8th grade. I was doing videography with FNN, when I first started. I just picked up a camera on day, and  I was like wow, this is cool, you know. It got to a point where I was like, this is awesome, so I bought my first point and shoot camera in 2009.  Okay this is fine, I want something bigger, something better. Then FNN had Nikon D40s and I started using those a lot all around the school. I started learning, well kind of self taught, with photography. Ms. Kaufman, Mr. Young and all the older staff from FNN that are no longer around gave me points and tips. I took it from there and started trying different things. I fell in love with architectural photography. I fell in love with portrait photography. I’m pretty much an equal balance of everything now.             

Flo: I know you still do photography. I’ve seen your work. You’re really into cars. Is that side job?  

DJ: I am big into the Boise Treasure Valley car community. I do have my on own car that I’ve done a few modifications to.  We go out and do drag racing every summer and spring. So I’ve fallen in love and have a mean passion for cars and doing modifications and tuning . I’m also a photographer and I do cars photo shoots and rolling shoots down the highway. That’s my newest part of photography...doing automobiles.

Flo: You just said you do drag racing, what’s your record? Have you won any races?

DJ: I first learned how to drag race in 2012. Started on the smaller track. I did some modification to my car and a friend of mine asked me, hey you want to try drag racing? Come with him. I went out to High Desert Speedway in Gooding, Idaho.  That’s where I learned it’s not about how fast your car is but  about the consistency with your time. Of course the first day, I was all over the place.  I couldn’t launch out the light gear or anything like that. But the second day out there, I found they had jackpot elimination. Your car is divided by class. You have the 350 block, super cars, street cars, trucks, and motorcycles. I was put into the street car class. It’s a $15 buy-in and then it’s like a three round elimination. I made it through the first round. Got knocked out of the second round, so I bought back into the second round again. I had a redo against this other guy, went again and I won that one. So I was in the third round. I kinda surprised myself. He was driving a Chevy SS. I thought I was going to get destroyed by this car.  I barely lost by a half a second to this car. I did take home second place in that competition for street class. It’s not a big achievement compared to all the big timers around here, but it’s something that I’m really proud of. I got a cash reward. On the bigger quarter mile track, my fastest time so far... I ran like a 14.7s in the quarter mile. Hopefully, this year I’ll get down to 13s and 12s by next year.           

Flo: What are your future career goals?  

DJ: Well, I working for Jackson Jet Center. It’s a private charter aircraft service.  This summer I’m looking to start pilot training. There’s a lot of flight schools here. I may contract with some the instructors. Get a private licence. I’m considering oversea contracting with Saudi Arabia. They’re offering contracts to work over there for a year.   

Flo: That’s amazing! Once you get your pilot’s license, do you think you would be able to fly FNN to certain events and trips? At least at a discount rate.

DJ: (laughter) Umm… maybe. I mean, If I get my pilot licence I’ll probably get picked up by a private charter. The ones we have here at Jackson Jets, the cheapest one to fly seats about eight people or so. I might be able to swing that for you guys.  You guys got me here today. With photography, media, graphic design as far as that goes.  So yeah, I owe you guys one. You guys want to go to a JEA convention, you want to go to or fly first class. I’ll see what I can do. I’ll talk to marketing.

Flo: Yes, please do.   

Flo: What advice would you give someone who was thinking about going into the Air Force?

DJ: Keep your nose clean. Stay motivated. Stay positive. I grew up around SE Washington, DC and life was kind of rough out there. My mom was a single parent. I wanted to be in the Air Force when I was a kid but during my teenage years, being a knucklehead, I was running around in the street. Finally one day I said, “Well, this isn’t for me.” What I want to offer is stay positive. Stay away from all the negativity. If there’s someone that is interested in the military, like they’re already on that route that I was on at one point in life. Just make a 360. Figure out who your real friends are and who will be there for you when you do leave. Just make the right decisions in life. It’s not easy. Peer pressure does get to you.  ‘Cause I’ve done stupid things when I was 16. If I could go back in time, I would change those options. Join the FLT 605. That was my route as well. The FLT 605 is the United States Air Force Unit.  You’ll learn about the Air Force core values, the dress appearance, all the marching movements; participate in search and rescue missions; and do some flying. You can get your pilot license if you want. There will be other opportunities to be a part of the Air Force.         

It was so great to hear from Darin.  I can tell that his career is set for take off. If you want to see Darin’s work with FNN, follow this link to his gallery page.

Flonora Merritt, Class of 2008 Friendship Collegiate Academy; 2011 Manga Cum Laude graduate of Trinity Washington University; 2014 Alpha Phi Sigma graduate of Boston University, FNN Alumni Bureau Chief, webmaster and adviser.