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ROTC

A1C Louis Chavez working on an F-16 in Texas. Submitted photo

Two former cadets from the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior ROTC program recently updated current cadets on their military status.

Airman 1st Class Louis Chavez graduated from Aircraft Electronic and Environmental Systems Specialist Technical School at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. He stopped by MHS Monday to talk to the AFJROTC cadets. He is now on his way to his first duty assignment at the 100th Air Refueling Wing, Mildenhall Air Base, England.

Andrew Bounsone is in the U.S. Army. Submitted photo

Andrew Bounsone graduated from U.S. Army basic training. He will become a tactical power generation specialist (91D). He will be responsible for supervising and performing maintenance and overhaul of power-generation equipment, internal combustion engines and associated equipment in mobile and stationary power plants.

Chavez graduated from MHS in 2017, Bounsone in 2018.

Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory instructs Dylan Hill (center) and Joseph Rice at Maricopa High School. Photo by Victor Moreno

Developing independence in high school students has been the work of Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory for six years.

It resulted in his winning the title of “Best of the Best” teacher from Maricopa Unified School District in May.

The Air Force sergeant began instructing Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Maricopa High School a few months before retiring from the military in 2011 after 22 years of service.

“I look at these (cadets) and I treat them as if they were my own kids,” Gregory said. “Whatever advice I would give them, I would give to my sons.”

Gregory and his wife Valerie have two children, David, 21, and Ahmad, 13. His sons haven’t yet aspired to follow in their father’s footsteps, Gregory said, but he doesn’t expect them or all his AFJROTC students to join the military.

“I tell all of my cadets, ‘You want to make me proud? You want to make me happy? Graduate.”

Many of them have gone on to exceed expectations.

In May, MHS student and AFJROTC Cadet Capt. John Blodgett received prestigious appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy, eventually deciding on West Point.

Not one to take all the credit, Gregory said he taught Blodgett the basics, “but it had to start with him; he had that drive.”

Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory. Photo by Victor Moreno

The AFJROTC program currently has 126 cadets. Gregory has taught over 1,000 of them during his tenure at MHS.

Rising in rank this year is Corps Commander Dylan Hill, a senior at MHS. She joined AFJROTC as a timid freshman.

“(Sgt. Gregory) helped me a lot to become more open, socially,” Hill said. “He’s given me a lot of opportunities to work on my leadership skills, and because he’s given me opportunities to do so that’s why I’m corps commander.”

Gregory instructs cadets in drill team, color guard, life skills and public speaking with additional classroom components including quizzes and discussions.

The MHS assignment is not the first instructor position for Gregory.

Early into his military career Gregory served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm for combined tours in 1990. After deploying to Qatar for Operation Southern Watch, he took a special duty assignment as a technical training instructor for the Air Force in 2005.

After assignments at Pacific Air Forces Headquarters in Pearl Harbor and the 15th Airlift Wing, and another deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom, he transitioned to teaching high school students.

“I used to be an instructor; I used to be in Honor Guard, so that’s right up my alley,” Gregory said.

Not surprisingly, his philosophy in the classroom is one backed by years in the service.

“As a planning and scheduling individual, I’m able to lay things out and train them and so I get enjoyment out of teaching and instructing and making that person or people independent and better than myself,” Gregory said.

Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, AFJROTC senior aerospace science instructor at MHS, described Gregory as “one of the finest non-commissioned officers I have met.”

In October, Kirksey nominated Gregory for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, a national accolade that will be decided by mid-November.

Gregory won the same award in 2014.

“His dynamic and mature handling of difficult decisions and situations has earned him the respect from cadets, peers, parents, administrators and the community,” Kirksey said.


This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

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Submitted photo

Thursday, the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Honor Guard was invited by Sen. Steve Smith to present the colors at the beginning of the work day for the Arizona State Senate. The students in the Honor Guard were Steel Lewis, Hayley Mase, Dylan Hill and Alexander Odell. Ian Mase was the alternate. Sen. Steve Yarbrough, president of the Arizona State Senate said, “Thank you to the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior ROTC program. Well done.” The AFJROTC program is under the leadership of Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey and Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory.

Members of the Maricopa High School JrROTC at a ceremony at Legacy Traditional School. Photo by Cadet Andrew Bounsone

Oct. 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Maricopa High School AFJROTC Department will host its Bi-Annual Promotion Ceremony in the Performing Arts Center.JROTC-logo

The Promotion Ceremony is an event that takes place in the early fall and late spring where cadets are recognized for their growth and achievements in the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program.

Promotions are based on the cadet’s potential abilities to successfully accomplish a job and tasks with increased duties and responsibilities. The AFJROTC instructors place a great amount of trust and confidence in these select cadets to help lead the Cadet Corps.

The current Corps leadership presides over the ceremony, with the instructors providing comments to family and staff highlighting the customs and traditions of military promotion ceremonies. The ceremony is open to parents, faculty and staff in order to make this a memorable event for the cadets.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the cadets can be congratulated by all in attendance and family and friends can take photos of the newly promoted cadets on stage.  The AFJROTC Department would like to encourage everyone to attend to thank all of the cadets for their hard work in planning and executing this event.

Photo by Cadet Andrew Bounsone
Photo by Cadet Andrew Bounsone
Photo by Cadet Andrew Bounsone
Photo by Cadet Andrew Bounsone

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Submitted photo

By Cadet Lyly Varela and Maria Garcia

April 2, 53 Maricopa High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program cadets had the chance to attend Luke Air Force Base in Glendale for its 2016 air show.

While on the trip we had the honor of interviewing the C-17 Loadmaster Technical Sgt. Benson as he described his job duties.

We asked, “What was the best and worst part of the job?”  He looked at both of us and said simply, “the most honorable mission I fly was the Dignified Transfer mission.”

That is the process of getting the caskets from the battlefield to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, peacefully

When handling the caskets they do everything they can to make sure they get the utmost respect. They put all caskets in the very front of the plane to the left with the U.S flag draped over each.  The most difficult part of this mission is trying to keep his composure while waiting for the cargo door to fully open and watch the funeral hearse and families of the fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines come into the aircraft (while some families break down emotionally) at the sight of their loved one’s transfer case draped with the U.S. flag.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Extensive coordination goes into planning any Air Force flight, especially when transporting both people and supplies. Loadmasters are responsible for properly loading, securing and escorting cargo and passengers and custom loading aircraft before any flight.  From calculating proper weight distribution to providing for passenger comfort throughout the flight, these specialists ensure everything and everyone is safe and secure on flights all over the world.

Our research also indicated a dignified transfer is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of fallen military members are transferred from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the fallen member’s respective service.

A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.

This experience for all of our cadets will last a lifetime.  I am very thankful for the Maricopa Union High School District, Principal Renita Meyers, Career Technical Education Director Michelle Shaffer, Lt. Col. Allen  Kirksey, our new senior aerospace science instructor and Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory, our assistant science instructor for giving 53 Maricopa High School AFJROTC cadets such a great experience.  It was an awesome day.


Lyly Varela and Maria Garcia are students at Maricopa High School.

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Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey has taken command early of Maricopa High School's Air Force Jr. ROTC program.

“This is my calling. This is my passion,” Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey said of his new position at Maricopa High School.

Kirksey is the new leader of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (Jr. ROTC). He replaces Maj. James Alonzo, who is retiring.

He said being able to “get my feet wet” by substituting the last two months of the school year has allowed him to get set up in the MHS system instead of trying to get organized in August.

Kirksey enlisted in the U.S. Air Force out of high school in 1979. He re-enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1984. He was commander of the 161st Security Forces Squadron. Kirksey was deployed as the wing senior intelligence officer in support of Operation Desert Shield, Deny Flight, Phoenix Scorpion and Southern Watch.

When he retired in 2015 he was the wing chief of staff.

A product of the Arizona school system, Kirksey has volunteered hundreds of hours at Phoenix area high schools.

“I’ve been working for kids for years,” he said.

His wife, a sixth-grade teacher, has taught in Phoenix for 23 years.

When Alonzo announced he was retiring, Kirksey felt he was in the right place at the right time to take the reins of the Jr. ROTC program in Maricopa.

Allen Kirksey. Submitted photo
Allen Kirksey. Submitted photo

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut, whom Kirksey refers to as “my boss’s boss’s boss,” called Kirksey “a very unique person.”

“He brings a very distinguished career to Maricopa High School,” Chestnut said.

Kirksey earned the Meritorious Service Medal twice. In 2011, he received the Excellence in Diversity Award, which recognizes service members who contribute to mission readiness and diversity initiatives that impact the National Guard, state and local community.

In 2014, he received the Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement Award from the City of Phoenix.

He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix.

Kirksey has already accompanied 53 MHS cadets to an air show at Luke Air Force Base. Next school year, he anticipates a return to Luke to tour the F-35 and the F-15 and try out the simulators. Also on the schedule is a trip to Davis-Montham Air Force Base in Tucson to tour an A-10 Warthog, a trip to Fort Huachuca to see the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, then back to Phoenix to see a KC-135 Stratotanker. Fifteen cadets may get to go on an air-refueling mission.