Pictured from left to right: retired Lt. Col. Dave Dietz, Lennard High School JROTC senior Army instructor; Richard Bell, Ruskin VFW Post 6287 Patriot’s Pen co-chair; retired Master Sgt. Alex Bailes; and Pat Barr, VFW Post 6287 commander.

Serving as the JROTC Army instructor at Lennard High School, retired Master Sgt. Alex Bailes defines JROTC as an experience come full circle. After all, following a discussion with his own high school Air Force ROTC instructor, Bailes was first introduced to the idea of making JROTC a part of his future career during his senior year. Now, after dedicating 12 years to Lennard, he is being recognized for his commitment.

On Saturday, December 16 at 11 a.m., Bailes received Ruskin VFW Post 6287’s Teacher of the Year award. Among those present at VFW Post 6287 to see Bailes accept this accolade were retired Lt. Col. Dave Dietz, Lennard’s senior Army instructor, as well as VFW chapter personnel.

“I think they recognized that, as an ROTC department, we’re not only just instructors, you know. We give back to the school and the community … in a countless number of ways,” said Bailes.

Before obtaining this position at Lennard, Bailes joined the military in 1988, serving under airborne status for most of his career. He was deployed to several locations around the world and served in a variety of positions, from an airborne instructor to an army drill sergeant.

“And I’ve got to admit, that was the best tour — being a drill sergeant, out of all the things I did,” said Bailes. “… I’ve had a long career, got to go [to] a bunch of different places and jump out of airplanes and have fun.”

MSG (R) Bailes’ career transitioned when he became a Military Science and Leadership (MSL) instructor and senior Army instructor at the University of Tampa. Subsequently, as the University of Tampa works closely with the junior programs, he began assisting local JROTCs. And in 2011, he applied and began work as Lennard’s own JROTC Army instructor.

Now, Bailes’ focus is to propel his cadets on the path to graduation and preparation for their lives thereafter. Whether they choose to enlist in the military or pursue a college degree, he cited the growth of his cadets since the time of their participation in the high school program as most fulfilling.

“Honestly, the biggest reward is when the kids come back. Four or five years later, when they come back, and they get it — they get what you were trying to instill,” said Bailes. “… You hear good stories: they either got a job, family or joined the military, or in college.”

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