Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Navy T-34C's landing at Brooksville high school makes JROTC proud

BROOKSVILLE — The T-34C circled over Central High School on a recent day, to the delight of the Navy Junior ROTC cadets gathered below. Now, the aircraft is on display — permanently — in front of the school, honoring the memory of one of the program's founding instructors.

The story began about eight years ago, four years after Lt. Col. Michael Ralph and Chief Wendell W. Dey established the school's award-winning ROTC program.

Ralph contacted National Naval Aviation in Pensacola, asking what the school needed to do to get an airplane. The school was added to the waiting list.

The majority of decommissioned aircraft, Ralph explained, go to museums or bases. "So we were not a high priority as a high school," he said.

The school's ROTC program was a rising star, though, so they hoped.

"Finally, this year, they offered us an F-14, an actual Navy warplane," Ralph said.

Unfortunately it had already been decommissioned, and the only way to get it to Central High was to ship it. But with a $60,000 price tag, that was not feasible.

Then Pensacola called back. The flight school was updating its training models and asked if Central would like a T-34C, an aircraft that has been used by the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard for training since the late 1970s.

Of course it did.

The airplane was flown to the Hernando County Airport, then decommissioned. Before landing, the airplane visited the school to give the cadets a look at it airborne.

The National Guard aviation unit at the airport allowed the airplane to stay in its care while the school prepared a proper place for it. A pad was built with donated materials and labor, accomplished through the organizational efforts of project manager Tim Carmichael of Associated Construction Products in Lutz.

Carmichael's interest in the ROTC program stemmed from having a son who graduated from Central and is now a Marine, two sons currently in the ROTC program and a daughter headed in that direction.

"And he was a Marine himself," Ralph said.

Carmichael spearheaded the construction of the pad and surrounding area, neatly finished with pavers and sod.

"It's been a real community effort," Ralph said. "And Mr. Carmichael was the lead. It was good."

Ralph hopes the community enjoys having the aircraft, too. It is plainly visible from Ken Austin Parkway, the road that runs in front of the school.

Cadet Capt. Kenneth Brown, 16, the ROTC unit's commanding officer, and second-in-command Hannah Edmisten, 17, both are pleased to have the airplane.

"It was really lucky that we got it," Brown said, explaining what "decommissioned" means.

"Things were removed, parts of the engine," he said. "They sealed all the doors. They sealed all the windows."

He said the students will care for the aircraft.

"We make sure it stays clean," he said, including the area around it.

The ROTC is required to take a photo of the plane each year to send to Pensacola, Master Chief Bruce Kennedy said.

"It's on loan on permanent display," he explained.

Edmisten echoed her classmates' enthusiasm.

"It's very exciting. It's such an honor to have a piece that was in the Navy to be here with us," she said.

Edmisten and Brown were both pleased that the airplane arrived before the current senior class graduated.

Those students were at the school when Dey was still with them.

Dey died in April 2010.

The T-34C was dedicated to the beloved instructor on June 1, and cadets from years past came back for the ceremony, Edmisten said.

"We had probably 400 or 500 cadets and their families here," Ralph said. "It was a real heart-warming event to have them all come here."

There is a plaque at the display in Dey's honor.

It reads:

In loving memory of Chief Wendell W. Dey, USN (Ret.)

Beloved teacher, mentor, counselor, and coach

April 3, 1957 — April 14, 2010.

Navy T-34C's landing at Brooksville high school makes JROTC proud 06/12/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 8:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.