by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/22/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The
challenges in life are often what make us who we are, alter our path in
life and change our future. For Tech Sgt. David Gerig, 56th Civil
Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team chief, his
experiences led him to helping the poor and comforting the dying.
Gerig's family came from Johannesburg, in the province of Gauteng, South
Africa. He was born in the U.S. with the majority of his family still
living in South Africa.
The Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., combined with the need to receive financial help for college, led him to join the military.
At first, Gerig was interested in joining the Marines, but the Air Force
offered him the job he was interested in -- explosives. After high
school graduation in 2002, Gerig left for basic training and attended
technical training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for 10 months. From
there his first base was Kadena Air Base, Japan, where he experienced
his first culture shock at age 19.
"My first base was Kadena, right off the bat," Gerig said. "It gave me a
chance to go overseas and experience that cultural shock. The chance to
see other cultures at a younger age made it a great island to be
During his time at Kadena, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake struck and
sent a massive tsunami along the coastlines, killing more than 230,000
people in 14 countries. Gerig took leave and traveled to Thailand a few
weeks before his scheduled deployment to help rebuild an orphanage.
"Kadena really opened me up to the world," said Gerig. "When the tsunami
hit Thailand, I had to go there and help. That was when I was like
'Whoa, this is just amazing." Helping out was just phenomenal."
After his work in Thailand, Gerig went on his first deployment to
Afghanistan. He would go on to three more deployments after that. One
deployment was to Iraq, another to Afghanistan, and one to Germany to
work with service members returning from war suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder at the Deployment Transition Center.
"War and death can affect a person in many ways, and I was there to help others with my experiences of going through combat."
Gerig was then stationed at Scott AFB, Illinois, from 2005 until March of this year when he arrived at Luke.
Training for missions and being gone for days at a time was not easy for this single father.
"I am a full time single dad," he said. "I needed a support system that I
could depend on. Luke Air Force Base gave me the opportunity to raise
my daughter and still do my job."
Gerig has traveled the world, checking off countries he has wanted to
visit. Next on his list is the Kalighat Home for the Dying. The home was
established in 1952 in Kalighat, Kolkata, India, by Mother Theresa. It
is a free hospice for the poor and is a place to give dignity to those
who are dying.
"You should do things that change your perspective on life," Gerig said.
"For example, at the home for the destitute and dying, you see people
who were literally dying on the streets before they were taken there.
The workers ask them, 'All right, can we give you food? Can we bath
"That will change your perspective," he said.