by Jess Clackum
LCDR Jessica S. Davila was born in Brooklyn and raised along with her three siblings in Inverness, a small town in North Central Florida. Her father was a National Guardsman who instilled in her a sense of pride. “I saw my father’s sense of pride and service each time he left for monthly drill with the Florida National Guard wearing his Battle Dress Uniform.”
Davila attended Citrus High School and excelled in athletics as a member of the basketball, volleyball and softball teams. Her outstanding performance in softball earned her a scholarship to the University of West Florida in Pensacola where she majored in Criminal Justice and Forensic Studies. After graduation, she pondered whether to apply to Graduate School or go right into the workforce. Still deeply embedded within her was the desire to follow in her father's footsteps and serve her country. She recalls, "I had the desire to serve as an officer in the armed forces and become a helicopter pilot, but thought the goal unattainable for someone like me."
Davila knew two things for certain, she would never know if she could do it if she didn’t try and she needed the support of her family with whom she was extremely close. Determined to prove herself, Davila took the first step toward her dream by joining the United States Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut. The warm-blooded Floridian began training on a cold, blustery day in March 2003. Of that first experience she says, “Cold and scared in a freezing concrete squad with instructors yelling an inch from my face, second thoughts began to run through my mind.” Davila never gave up. She worked hard and it paid off, earning her commission in July 2003. After graduation, she applied for flight school and would do so continuously for the next four years.
After OCS, Davila’s first assignment was the Office of Defense Operations at USCG Headquarters, followed by a front line operational position on the US Coast Guard Cutter VIGOROUS out of Cape May, NJ. On the VIGOROUS, Avila served as a Deck Watch Officer and Boarding Officer, leading boarding teams aboard vessels of interest up and down the East Coast and Caribbean Sea to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations. After two years of service aboard the VIGOROUS, Davila’s next assignment was to the high endurance cutter Cutter BOUTWELL out of Alameda. There, she served as Deck Department Head, Deck Watch Officer and Navigator, traveling to the South Pacific and countries like China, Japan and Russia. Though she enjoyed her shipboard duties and was thankful for the opportunity to become a proficient mariner, Davila still had dreams of flying. The eighth application to flight school turned out to be "the one" and while serving aboard the BOUTWELL, she was notified that she had been selected for flight training.
Davila reported to Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Florida and endured two extremely intensive years of training in the T-34 fixed-wing and TH-57 rotary-wing aircraft. Her determination and perseverance paid off, earning her wings of gold as a Naval Aviator on April 23, 2010. LCDR Davila's first aviation tour was USCG Air Station Savannah, where she earned her Aircraft Commander qualification and conducted search and rescue missions. Currently, she serves with the USCG Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), an armed USCG helicopter squadron specializing in airborne use of force and drug-interdiction missions at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida. Her responsibilities at HITRON earned her the Mission Commander and Instructor Pilot qualifications as well as designation as Assistant Operations Officer.
In 2011, MANA, A National Latina Organization which empowers Latinas through leadership development, community service, and advocacy, awarded Davila with their prestigious MANA Las Primeras® Award which honors Latinas who "demonstrate important 'firsts' in their fields with a national impact."
LCDR Davila feels proud and blessed to continue her family’s tradition of service to America. She says, “Serving my country in the United States Coast Guard has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."