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Face of Defense: Pilot Cheers for Olympian Brother

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2008 – Like two jet fighters in formation, Justin Dumais and his younger brother, Troy, perfectly executed their turns and spins in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Troy, left, and 1st Lt. Justin Dumais, of the South Carolina Air National Guard, finished sixth in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard diving event in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. This year, Dumais is an F-16 student in the Night Systems Training Course at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and his younger brother is in Beijing alone. Photo courtesy of Dumais family
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

As competitors in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard diving event, they were in second place going into the final round. A misstep landed them in sixth place overall.

“It was not quite what I had expected, but Athens was an awesome time,” Justin said. “You have to focus on the journey.”

This year, Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Dumais is an F-16 student in the Night Systems Training Course at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and his younger brother is in Beijing competing solo.

“Our disappointment in 2004 has really given him a lot of motivation to continue,” Justin said about his brother. “He looks fantastic. And he should be a strong medal threat.”

Troy is scheduled to compete Aug. 25 and 26 in the men’s individual 3-meter springboard diving event from the National Aquatics Center, also known as the “Water Cube.”

“I went to watch him compete at the Olympic trials, and it was definitely bittersweet,” Justin said. “I certainly miss competing.”

Justin decided to retire from diving after the 2004 Olympics. “I got to go to the Olympics. I got to dive with my brother. … Not many people get a chance to do that,” he said. “The Olympics is … I don’t want to say a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because people can go more than once. But it was definitely a lifelong goal.”

Dumais devoted 20 years to diving. “It was a great run. Not sure I was quite ready to give it up, but when my Guard unit offered me the opportunity to come to pilot training, I could not turn that down. How many folks get to fly F-16s?”

He joined 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Columbia, S.C., in 2005.

Dumais said his diving experience has helped in his current position as a fighter pilot. “I spent my entire life getting ready for seven seconds of competition. That is pretty much what we do every day here flying F-16s.

“You never know when you will be called to go do your job,” he continued. “Generally, it is in a split second when you need to pickle off a bomb or strafe a target. [Diving] definitely lends itself to what I’m doing now.”

As the oldest of five children who have all been members of U.S. national diving teams, Dumais attributed much of his success to the support of his parents. “They probably sacrificed just as much as I did,” he said.

He also credited his parents with helping him along in his current path as a fighter pilot. When Dumais was 4, his parents took him to an air show at Edwards Air Force Base, in California, where he saw the Thunderbirds perform. “I kind of just of knew that is what I really wanted to do,” he said. “But I got really sidetracked over the next 15 to 20 years.”

During that time, Dumais attended the University of Texas, where he claimed back-to-back silver medals on the platform at the NCAA Championships. He also competed for the University of Southern California, where he was twice named the PAC-10 Male Diver of the Year.

Dumais, who became a member of the senior national team in 1996, competed all over the world and represented the United States at the World Cup in Sevilla, Spain, in 2002. He and his brother won a bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal.

He placed fifth in the Olympic Trials in 2000. “It was not making the team in 2000 -- I just missed it -- that made me really sit back and reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life,” Dumais said. “That itch to be a fighter pilot had never gone away, so I started taking private flying lessons.”

Dumais said he doesn’t regret the time he spent pursuing his Olympic dream. “It took me 20 years to make it to the Olympics. It’s just one of those sports that generally takes a long time to get good at. But I stuck with it, and I wound up making it to the Games. I get to fly F-16s now. This is stuff that’s not easy to do. I would just say, ‘Don’t ever give up on your dream.’”

Dumais said he would like to participate in the military’s World Class Athlete Program. “It might give me a chance to dive with my brother again. I would really enjoy that,” he said.

Until then, Dumais said, he will continue his career in the Air National Guard.

“The Olympics was fantastic, but I’m not disappointed that I gave up the opportunity to go again in 2008 to do this. I would say that this might even be better.”

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

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