Father-son SAs keep Hall of Famer’s legacy alive

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

Growing up, Special Agent Gage Davis didn't know his neighbor was one of the Office of Special Investigations' most celebrated figures.

For Gage, then-Special Agent Gale Ahern was “just the sweet old man next door,” he said. However, his father, Special Agent Ted Davis, a 26-year OSI veteran, held Ahern in high regard as a mentor, father figure, and one of the best investigators in OSI history.

Over time, the more Gage became interested in Ahern and his father's history with OSI, the more he said he wanted to follow in their footsteps. In Dec. 2022, Ahern's badge was presented to Gage during his OSI Academy graduation. Next year, Ahern will be officially inducted into the OSI Hall of Fame.

Throughout Ted’s career, he has investigated countless cases and counseled multiple senior leaders. Gage, meanwhile, recently graduated from the OSI Academy, but he has been involved in the agency since childhood.

The Davis family was stationed in Germany in 2002 when they first met Special Agent Gale Ahern, Ted’s then-boss. Ahern would not only teach him the ropes at OSI, but Ahern would also become a fatherly figure to him as well as a grandfather-like figure to his children, Ted said.

Ted was deployed shortly after his family arrived in Germany. Thousands of miles separated him from his wife and two young sons, but fortunately “The boss,” as Ted still calls him, lived next door, checked in on the Davis family, looking after them.

While overseas, Ahern lived on his own while his wife, Cody, lived in the Maryland area. Their children had already grown up.

“One day, my mom ran over my basketball, and I think it was that same day or the next, [Ahern] asked me if I wanted to come to sweep his driveway off. I went and swept his driveway and he gave me a new basketball for it,” Gage remembered.

Ahern often went the extra mile for the entire military community. On some occasions, the lifelong motorcycle rider would dress up as Santa Claus and ride his red Harley Davidson to visit children and hand out presents.

The bond between their families grew during this time, as did Ted's professional relationship with Ahern.

Making memories

The Davis family and Ahern's paths crossed again. Once they left Germany, both families met in the nation's capital. With that, their mentor-mentee relationship grew, as did their relationship outside the office.

“When we were off duty, we mainly socialized around his love of motorcycle riding,” Ted said, adding that Ahern was an active member of the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club, a law enforcement-oriented nonprofit organization.

Ahern was also a member of the Harley Owners Group All-American Chapter and rode in the Patriot Guard, a volunteer organization whose members attend the funerals of members of the U.S. military at the invitation of the fallen members' families.

However, Ahern is best known for his participation in the annual America’s 9/11 Foundation ride, Ted said. During the 9/11 rides, they rode to honor those who died following the Terrorist Attacks on Sept. 11 2001.

Sometimes, Gage accompanied them on the open road, traveling from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to Arlington, Virginia, and then up to ground zero in New York City, the three locations of the infamous attacks.

Gage still remembers those memorial rides today. He can vividly recall Ahern leading the pack of riders, a mix of OSI and other police agencies. 

End of the road

Around 2009, Ahern mentioned “he had some problems with his legs,” Ted said.  It was later discovered that the OSI veteran had cancer. He died in 2011.

The last time Ted met with Ahern was in a hospital room. The old boss, as Ted often still calls him, was heavily sedated and actively dying, he said. Ted visited Ahern along with Brig. Gen. Kevin Jacobsen, then OSI commander. 

They presented Ahern with a medal for his lifetime of service. Ahern was propped up, and with all his strength, he saluted OSI’s top officer. In many ways, Ted said he knew watching Ahern salute the commander was his mentor’s way of saying goodbye to OSI.

“When Ahern died, he knew that his OSI family was there. He was so proud of being a part of OSI,” Ted said. “That act was not only saying goodbye, but he was recognizing that this is the final act that I can do for my family. That was humbling to be there and watch.”

The memory of that day still lives in Ted more than 10 years later.

“I missed the man terribly,” he said. “I think, ultimately, I gained immensely from his presence. When he died, OSI lost an individual who gave himself entirely to OSI.”

In Aug.  2011, Ahern was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Gage still recalls the motorcycles filling the cemetery grounds on the day of Ahern's burial.  

Badge No. 88

In the years that followed, Gage carved out his path. In 2016, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the maintenance field.

After serving his initial six-year contract, the younger Davis said he found himself at a crossroads. While weighing his options, Gage recalled all the great people he had met at OSI, especially Ahern, and decided to apply as a special agent.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to give it a shot for them,” Gage said. “If I get into [OSI], then great, but I’m going to try and if I’m accepted, I’ll be the best [SA] I can befor them.”

As a boy, Gage attended "junior agent" days in elementary school. That’s where Ahern used the polygraph to make other junior agents laugh with silly questions.

Years later, Gage followed in his heroes’ footsteps and was accepted into OSI. He graduated from the OSI Academy in Glynco, Georgia, in Dec. 2022. During his graduation ceremony, Gage was given Ahern’s old badge, No. 88, in memory of the man who was like a grandfather to him.

“I learned Gage was getting Ahern’s badge the day before graduation,” Ted said. “I had no idea that this was coming. It was extremely humbling to know that a few individuals had put the thought together, knowing how much Ahern meant to me and knowing how much Ahern means to my sons.”

It is a sentiment shared by Gage, who also wasn't aware he would receive Ahern's badge.

“I knew the significance of getting a badge and credentials, and that made the badge all the heavier,” he said. “Because now I have actual expectations I can physically see. I've had this person impact my life, and now I'm carrying on what he did.

“This is a piece of history that you know, somebody that impacted my life greatly and has touched, handled, and carried with them their whole life,” Gage added.

Next up, the Davis family will be a little closer, as Gage prepares for his first OSI assignment at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, a few miles away from his dad at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.

“The boss would have been extremely proud knowing Gage, who he knew growing up as a young man, chose to enter OSI,” Ted said. “Ahern would have been proud to know Gage, of all people, would have been a recipient of his badge.”

In Dec. 2022, Ahern was announced as a member of the OSI Hall of Fame Class of 2022. The announcement came as no surprise to those who knew Ahern, who Ted said was, “truly one of the fathers of our institution,” he said.

“The Hall of Fame was due to Ahern,” Gage said. “Ahern was an absolute legend. The more I learn about what he did, the more it’s like, wow, I didn't know, because, to me, he was just kind of a sweet old man.”

Ahern will be joined in the Hall of Fame by Kelly D. Harrison Sr. and Richard D. Womble, both OSI legends in their own right. 

“It was the closest relationship that I’ve ever had professionally, and I’ve made great friends in OSI,” Ted said. “I have battle buddies that I know would have my back if [it] hit the fan downrange.”

Even with a career filled with friends he would trust with his life in a firefight, Davis said Ahern stood taller than the rest. He was more than a father figure, he took on the role of grandfather and “is someone that I can look to that had the best interests of the command,” Ted said.

“The OSI Family is a lot tighter than people can give words to, because I know there were a lot of moving parts to make this happen and it just happened,” Gage said, regarding the badge he now carries. “It makes it more real that the OSI Family is looking out for one another.”