Krissie Davis volunteered for duty in Afghanistan with no worry of the dangers there. Family and friends — especially her daughter, Angela — begged and pleaded for her not to deploy. But Davis dwelled on the positive and bragged about the important job she had preparing excess military equipment for disposal for Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services. And besides, she believed God could come for her whether she was tucked in bed in her Talladega, Alabama, home or in a warzone.
Loved ones’ fears met reality June 8, 2015. She and Rob DeLong, her “battle buddy” and fellow DLA Disposition Services employee, were heading to the dining facility on Bagram Airfield around 5:30 a.m. when a 105-mm rocket slammed into their Ford pickup. DeLong recovered within seconds but struggled to see Davis through the billowing smoke.
“I asked her if she was okay and she said, ‘No.’ I really couldn’t see much, but I knew whatever happened was bad,” he said.
Airmen who saw the blast dashed toward the flames to assist, but Davis’ lower-extremity injuries were too severe for basic first aid. When the ambulance arrived, DeLong crawled in behind Davis. He held her hand on the bumpy ride to the hospital, listening as she talked about her husband, daughter and grandbabies.
Davis died as surgeons fought to save her. At 54, she became the first DLA Disposition Services civilian lost to combat-related injuries. It was her second deployment. On Sept. 20, she will be inducted into the DLA Hall of Fame.
Those who worked with Davis at DLA Disposition Services in Anniston, Alabama, remember her Southern drawl and infectious laughter. Dale Bennett, former director of DLA Disposition Services Mid-America, said she could always depend on Davis’ dedication and sense of humor.
“I could always depend on her to give me the straight truth. She would sometimes use that humor to help me understand operational issues or challenges that her site was experiencing,” she said.
Davis’ three-decade federal career included service with the Bureau of Prisons and Department of the Army. She joined DLA in 1993 and volunteered in 2010 for her first deployment in support of disposal operations at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan.
DeLong met Davis during pre-deployment training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“She kind of took me under her wing because it was my first deployment,” he said. “She knew her job like the back of her hand and knew exactly what she was doing the minute we hit the ground.”
They soon discovered each other’s passion for books and coffee and shared stories about their spouses and children back in America. A week after their arrival, Coachella Purter from DLA Disposition Services at Fort Lewis, Washington, joined their small team.
“Deployment is a time when people tend to come together and bond. When I arrived, Krissie and I hit it off right away like I’d known her all my life,” she said. “It was clear she was there to get the work done, but she was going to have fun doing it. You couldn’t have a bad day around Krissie.”
Purter would have been in the truck with Davis and DeLong the morning of the attack if she hadn’t chosen that day to start a new workout program. Davis and Purter both wanted to lose 20 pounds during their deployment, but Davis was saving her workouts for the evening.
In the weeks following Davis’ death, Purter replayed in her mind the conversations they’d had about faith and strength.
“She said she didn’t need to worry about being deployed because she trusted God and that if anything happened it would be his will anyway,” she remembered.
Davis’ daughter also spoke of her mother’s faith during the funeral.
“She’d always tell me, ‘There’s nothing we can’t go through with God; and with God, we can get through.’ I wish I would have learned earlier in life that Mom was always right,” she said, according to The Anniston Star.
In a blog post to employees, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch said Davis’ death was a terrible reminder of the dangers that still existed although combat operations were officially over.
“Even as we draw down from the conflicts we’ve faced overseas, there are still DLA military personnel and civilians in harm's way facing hardships every day,” he wrote.
DeLong still struggles to make sense of why he survived the attack and Davis didn’t. Back pain and constantly ringing ears remind him daily of Davis’ sacrifice.
“Even though we’re not military members, you don’t really know it over there. You’re under a military command, and you’re serving your country as best you can,” he said. “She definitely did it with a heart full of courage.”
As of mid-August, DLA Disposition Services had 12 civilian employees and 25 service members deployed and in harm’s way.