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Hernando neighbors | Retired Air Force Maj. Dennis J. Jolissaint, 53

Hernando neighbors: Retired Air Force major flying right at Springstead High

Dennis Jolissaint is proud of his Air Force Junior ROTC cadets at Springstead High School. He is in his fifth year as the senior aerospace science instructor at Springstead.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Dennis Jolissaint is proud of his Air Force Junior ROTC cadets at Springstead High School. He is in his fifth year as the senior aerospace science instructor at Springstead.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

I have been in Spring Hill since August 2004. The 2004-05 school year was my first year at Springstead High School. We have a house about a mile from school in the Orchard Park area. I came here from Warner Robins, Ga., which is about 15 miles south of Macon.

Who are the members of your family?

I am married to my high school sweetheart, Ann, and we have been married for 35 years now. We have three married daughters — Tela, Teri, Traci — and a son named Tyler, who is still single. Tela and her husband, Dan, have two sons — our grandsons Teddy and Tommy. Teri and her husband, Todd, gave us two granddaughters — Grace and Saddie. Traci and Joe have no children. Tyler is a 2006 graduate of Springstead High. He is a member of the Georgia Army National Guard and is scheduled to deploy soon to Afghanistan.

Tell us about your career.

I am a 1976 graduate of Louisiana Tech University, where I was commissioned as a second lieutenant after completing Air Force ROTC and receiving a bachelor's degree in professional aviation.

My first assignment was as a navigator in the RC-135. I was selected for pilot training, and after getting my wings I returned to the RC-135 as a co-pilot, air craft commander and then instructor pilot. I spent one tour in Headquarters 15th Air Force in Riverside, Calif. From there, I was sent on a remote assignment to Shemya, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. My last assignment in the Air Force was to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga. While there, I flew the EC-137 and EC-135 as command pilot for Central Command and Special Operations Command.

I retired from the Air Force at Robins, and soon after was hired by Atlas Air Inc., where I flew a Boeing 747 for two years. I changed jobs and went to work for FlightSafety Services as a contract flight instructor for the E-8C JSTARS. I did that for a few years, but felt the need/call to take a job where I could make a difference. When the opportunity opened to become an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor, I made the change.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

This is the fifth year that I have served as the senior aerospace science instructor for FL-952 AFJROTC at Springstead High School. The program has been very successful because of great kids, great parents and the help of my NCO master sergeant, Laura Sauls. The administration and guidance department are top notch. We have grown every year since I have been there, and the 2008-09 year is the largest cadet corps ever at Springstead with more than 200 cadets.

The program at Springstead is 13 years old, and we have been a distinguished unit 10 years. This past November, we were rated "exceeds standards" by Headquarters AFJROTC. Distinguished unit is the highest rating an AFJROTC unit can receive.

Tell me more about the ROTC unit.

Our cadet group is 10 percent of the school population at Springstead High. The cadets perform more than 6,000 hours of community service each year.

Our drill teams and color guard are some of the best in the Southeast and Florida. Our color guard was rated No. 1 at the Southeast Region Drill Competition in Tifton, Ga. We recently hosted a drill meet where we had 15 schools from Florida and Georgia participate. The SHS drill meet is also rated as one of the top meets in the state.

The cadets run the corps. My cadet staff plans all of our outings and competitions; they arrange transportation, lodging, plan itineraries and oversee all of our events. I'm always amazed and pleased with the way they do such a great job. When a cadet leaves SHS and the JROTC program, they really have a better sense of how to run a big project.

Do you have any special hobbies?

I have two boats I like to work on, rebuild and occasionally take out on the water. I prefer to just cruise around. Fishing is fun, but I don't get to do it as much as I would like to.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

My wife and I attend Grace World Outreach Church, the big dome church in Brooksville, where we are very involved. When the weather is right, we enjoy watching the sunset at Pine Island. Our grandchildren love to come to Florida and play there. It's a great place for small children to play on the beach.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

As a teacher, I would like to see more parents and guardians involved with the schools. In JROTC, we have a great booster club, and the involvement of the parents reflects the success of the cadets. More parents are needed to be involved in everything our kids do from JROTC, athletics, band, chorus, theater, Key Club, Beta Club and FBLA to every organization on campus.

If parents are involved in their kid's activities, academic success will naturally follow. Programs like JROTC and these others give kids a reason to enjoy school and a place to fit in. And if you want to do the fun things, you must make the grades. Parents, please go to everything your student does.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

Even though I am a pilot, I am a little afraid of heights. As long as I'm closed in, I'm okay. But if you put me on a Ferris wheel, my heart pounds.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Hernando neighbors: Retired Air Force major flying right at Springstead High 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 1:08pm]
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