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Former UMaine student flies the President
MARINE ONE — Bisulca stands between his co-pilot and the crew chief in front of the VH-3D helicopter that flies the President. The aircraft is also known as the Marine One.
ORONO — Paul Bisulca, a graduate from the University of Maine in Orono, is now a marine helicopter pilot for President Barack Obama.
"We don't talk about the weather," he said. "It's a matter of shaking hands, and he goes and takes his seat and we do our job, and then he shakes our hands on the way out and says, 'Thanks for the ride,' and we go about our business."
Bisulca said that he has been flying President Obama for more than a year.
Just recently, in Washington, D.C., Bisulca was honored by the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, for his significant achievements as a Native American veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
"I joined the Marine Corps in 2000," said Bisulca. "I began flying shortly after that. For most of my career I've been a CH-46E pilot. For the last year-and-a-half, I joined the Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1). It's a four-year job. We fly the president."
His father, Paul Bisulca, Sr., who now lives in Oxford with his wife, was also in the military. When he finished high school, he went to The United States Military Academy at West Point and made a career in the Army.
At about the same time Bisulca, Sr. retired from the Army, Bisulca, Jr. was graduating from high school in North Carolina. Bisulca, Jr. decided to move to Orono, where he graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in Business Administration.
During that same year, Bisulca's parents relocated back to Maine, where his mother landed a teaching job at the University of Maine in Lewiston-Auburn. Now, the couple resides in Oxford.
Bisulca was born in Bad Kreuznach, Germany and raised as an Army brat, traveling worldwide. As it turns out, Bisulca loves to travel.
In fact, it's one of the things he likes most about his job.
"You get to do things you would not normally do ... traveling around, getting to see the world," he said.
According to Bisulca, his squadron is made up of 700 people, including 70 pilots.
"We all have different backgrounds in the fleet," said Bisulca, noting the different kinds of aircraft they fly. "Everyone has two to three combat deployments. [We] are very experienced pilots, and in that, [we] are well-known amongst the community."
Aside from a CH-46E, "Sea Knight," Bisulca also flies VH-3D, "Sea King," and VH-60N, "White Hawk," aircraft, which are not organic to the Marine Corps – it takes special training to be able to fly them, he said.
Bisulca said upon entering the Marine Corps, he knew that he wanted to be a pilot. He was commissioned a second Lieutenant in December 2000, and was designated a Naval Aviator in March 2003.
In August 2003, Bisulca completed flight training at Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164, at Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, California. He was then transferred to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 in Miramar, California.
Since then, he has participated in two combat tours in Iraq, and has lived in both California and North Carolina, serving as Captain. In 2007, after completing various levels of defense acquisition training, and the Marine Corps Command and Staff Course, he achieved the rank of Major.
In August 2010, Major Bisulca reported to Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) where he currently is assigned for Presidential Support flight duties.
"Anywhere he is in the world, we're there," said Bisulca. "We also fly the vice president, but only deal with him inside the national capital region here in D.C."
According to Bisulca, his squadron flies Obama to and from places almost daily. Each pilot rotates so everyone gets a chance to fly him, said Bisulca.
"We share the love," said Bisulca. And, sometimes, said Bisulca, Obama is only spending a few hours in one place.
While it's exciting to fly the President around the world, Bisulca said there's nothing like flying a helicopter for the very first time.
"It was pretty exciting, and even though it's exciting to fly, you are very nervous because you are being evaluated, and you want to do well."
Bisulca currently resides in Quantico, Virginia with his wife and three children.
HONORED — President of USET Brian Patterson, far left, stands next to Maj. Paul Bisulca and Bisulca's wife Luz Melba, along with other USET members, following an awards ceremony at the Crystal Lake Marriott in Arlington, VA, where Bisulca was honored for his significant achievements as a Native American Penobscot veteran in the U.S. Marine Corps.