Austin Davis joined the Army National Guard in pursuit of his dream -- to sit in the bubble cockpit of a helicopter and fly straight up into the sky.
"Helicopters are more versatile than planes. They don't need an airstrip, so they can land anywhere and they can hover," Davis said.
As a sergeant in the Guard, Davis has flown in the Army's Apache class helicopter many times in the past 41 months.
Before he can achieve his dream of controlling the craft, he has to meet service requirements -- Davis currently serves as a helicopter mechanic and he must become an officer.
During air battles, the Apache can stay and fight where an airplane sometimes cannot, he said.
To become a warrant officer, he will have to study and take a battery of tests. Flight school comes after he passes.
Davis is on leave this Thanksgiving from his tour of duty in the Afghanistan desert, where he has been for the past 10 months.
"Afghanistan gets really hot during the summer. The cities are all adobe and there is no electricity. The roads are dirt. There are hardly any trees," Davis said.
The Army hires local people to cook, clean and do other small jobs on bases "so they can make money while we are there," Davis said. "The locals are usually pretty nice."
Still, Davis misses the food stateside.
"I miss living in an actual town where you can drive around. I miss just being able to hang out with friends, instead of being on base holding my weapon all the time," he said.
But, it is worth it, because the Guard will help pay for his college plans.
He said he likes the National Guard more than the Army, because he could be at home and take college courses while in the Guard.
Aerospace or some other type of aviation will be Davis' major.
Davis was inspired to join the service by his older brother, Matthew "Shane" Davis, who served in the Army and was in Iraq for 14 months when the war first began.
Shane, Austin, Justin and their sister, Amy, were all raised in Payson by their parents Matt and Renee.
"Austin lived in Payson up until the time of his deployment and still considers Payson to be his home, even though his parents and siblings have moved away," Renee Davis said.
Davis was active in track and field when he attended Payson High School. In May 2004, he walked with his high school class and took had a month's vacation before starting his military training.
After enlistment, Davis convinced his high school friend, Will Gnagi, to join.
Gnagi did. The two friends last spent time together in January 2006.
While he is home on leave, Davis is catching up with friends around Arizona and his family.
"I want to say hello to the Gnagis, Will's parents and hello to the Wing family," Davis said.