One door closes, another opens for Hinesville Air Force sisters

  • Published
  • By Kat Bailey
  • Air Force’s Personnel Center Public Affairs

The Rountree sisters of Hinesville, Georgia, have more than 40 years of combined Air Force service and have been serving together since 2003. That’s about to change as one sister prepares to retire and the other takes on a new challenge.

The daughters of Joe and Joevelyn Rountree, Jr., Chief Master Sgt. Stephanie R. DeSouza and Lt. Col. Tara L. Jones attended high school at Bradwell Institute, graduating five years apart.

DeSouza graduated from Bradwell in May 1994 and joined the Air Force that December as a human resources specialist.

“I wasn’t quite ready for college, so I decided to not waste my parents’ money on that,” she said of her decision to serve. “The most logical route was go into the service because my dad had retired from the Army, and he fully supported my choice of the Air Force.”

DeSouza went on to serve 24 years in the Air Force, earning both her undergraduate and graduate degrees along the way. She retires June 30, 2019, from her last assignment as Superintendent of the Operations and Special Duty Airman Division at the Air Force’s Personnel Center here.

“I never thought that I was going to make the Air Force a career,” she said. “I was taking it one enlistment at a time until my ‘Got It’ moment happened when the Air Force selected me for promotion to master sergeant.”

DeSouza said she didn’t feel ready to be a senior noncommissioned officer, but the Air Force said she had demonstrated the potential. So she chose to do the best she could.

“I depended heavily on my peers and my leaders to help me navigate through this added responsibility and because of them, I felt that I was successful,” she said. “That was the best advice I received: remember to ask for help, seek advice from your peers and leaders and most important, be yourself.”

The older sister’s experiences extended past the Air Force to influence her younger sister, Jones.

“My military career began in the 9th grade, when my sister encouraged me to join the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps because they offered college scholarships,” Jones stated. “From that first day, my future was set.”

Jones rose to become the first JROTC African-American female battalion commander her senior year. In May 1999, she also graduated from Bradwell and continued on to the University of Georgia, receiving her commission in the Air Force Reserve May 10, 2003.

She continued her education with graduate degrees from Auburn University in May 2006 and Troy University, in December 2009. As a brand new major, Jones received notification that she was one of just 15 Air Force Reserve Airmen out of about 60 applicants selected to attend Air Command and Staff College in residence at the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

“It was one of the most defining moments of my career,” she said. Younger than most of her peers in attendance due to her early selection for promotion to major, Jones said the experience helped her learn about herself, the type of leader she was and was striving to be.

“I learned how much of an impact I could make by sharing the knowledge I gained and the network I made,” she said. “My career goal at that point was to graduate and proceed to a staff job, but school gave me the boldness to apply for a squadron commander opportunity.”

Jones graduated from ACSC in June 2015 and said her bold action eventually led to a second early promotion--to lieutenant colonel--this past August and her current assignment as Deputy Commander of the 403rd Mission Support Group at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

“Be confident in what you know,” she said of her advice to current officers. “Also be confident in what you don’t know, but be humble enough to admit it and ask for help.”

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