Up until about a month ago, U.S. Navy Capt. Frederick C. Davis was in Afghanistan leading a team of 12 public health and safety experts. They visited 28 forward combat bases to help protect the troops from diseases and noncombat injuries.
But in 1973, Fred Davis was just a 15-year-old Boy Scout in Paso Robles trying to earn enough merit badges to be an Eagle Scout. One merit badge he wanted was in public health, so he went to see John Waskowicz at the County Health Department office in Paso Robles. Waskowicz was a registered sanitarian who protected the public’s health by investigating overflowing septic tanks, inspecting restaurants and grocery stores and other vigilant activities.
Fortunately, he enjoyed working with young people. We know that because he also volunteered as the unpaid, head trainer for the Paso Robles High School athletic teams. And so it was that he helped Fred Davis earn his merit badge and decide on a career in public health.
Fred’s father, Al Davis, was a navy veteran, so young Fred decided to pursue his public-health career through the U.S. Navy. He joined the Navy in 1977 after graduating from high school and taking courses at Cuesta College.
The Navy trained him to be a hospital corpsman and taught him about preventative medicine. After six years, he left active duty, joined the Navy Reserve and went to university. Upon graduation, he returned to active duty as a commissioned officer, an ensign in the Navy Medical Service Corps. His duties were in the field of industrial hygiene involving submarines.
After three years, he again returned to civilian life pursuing a career in occupational safety and health. He now lives in Rhode Island.
Davis remained in the Navy Reserve, steadily earning promotions and being recalled for two more active duty assignments, including the one this year in Afghanistan.
He said one of the main problems at the forward combat bases in Afghanistan is providing safe drinking water. The solution, he said, is having helicopters deliver pallet-loads of plastic water bottles, just like the ones we see everywhere.
Davis also designed a water purification system for some Afghani citizens. American officials wanted to build them a modern treatment plant. Davis objected, saying the local people wouldn’t be able to get parts and supplies to maintain it. The plant he designed uses sand and gravel as a filter. That sounds to me like something out of a Scout handbook.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.