B-2 Stealth Pilot, Air Force Academy graduate, Founder of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Johnson County, member of the NATO peacekeeping mission, small business owner, author, community leader, motivational speaker and Assistant Dean of Aviation at UCM.
Tony is the first born son to hard working Italian immigrant parents. He started in life with not much more than a dream, the dream of becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot. The dream that could become a reality only in America and despite all odds, it did. Tony is living breathing proof that the American Dream Still Lives!
The first step toward that dream began at Aviation High School where Tony traveled by subway nearly three hours daily just to attend school. His experiences with people on the subway provided an additional education from the selective high school where he earned his Aircraft Maintenance rating and served as President of the Student Body. His acceptance into the highly competitive Air Force Academy prepared him for the journey of serving in the greatest Air Force in the world. But that was just the beginning…
Tony Presenting Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick USAFA Leadership Award
After graduation from the USAF Academy, Tony married his bride Penny and started a family while earning his pilot wings. At the time, he was assigned to fly the venerable B-52 bomber. During the first Iraq War or "Operation Desert Storm", the 23-year-old Tony became one of the first pilots who was sent on an unprecedented mission requiring to fly the B-52 bomber at an extremely low altitude, avoid enemy detection, and destroy targeted elements of Saddam Hussein's infrastructure. On this first combat mission, Tony found himself literally feet from death when a missile was launched against his crew. By the grace of God his crew survived and accomplished the mission.
After this experience, he saw life in a new light and has never took for granted another moment of being alive. Tony embraces and values all life. He truly believes in living life fully while serving others over self.
After the Iraq War, Tony was promoted as an Air Force officer. As a Captain, Tony was tasked with flying the new B-1 Supersonic Variable Sweptwing Bomber. As he participated in and oversaw important air operations, Tony found himself juggling the responsibilities of being a husband and father, now to two sons, in a life that was just as turbulent on the ground as in the sky. He and his wife Penny served as a Big Brother and Big Sister to an African American boy in Wichita, Kansas. This precious relationship helped Tony realize many challenges that the inner city youth face due to lack of family support and positive role models. Their lives were blessed by this relationship.
With the introduction of the infamous top secret B-2 Stealth Bomber program, Tony was handpicked to pilot this new, mysterious and unprecedented aircraft.
As part of the initial cadre of pilots selected to fly "The Stealth," Tony participated in a series of global combat operations including what became known as "The Kosovo Conflict." At that time, Tony and his fellow pilot were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in accomplishing a daring mission while protecting America. Tony was one of the first combatants in U.S. history who could literally go half way across the world to combat an enemy and be back home by the weekend to coach his son's soccer team as his family values have always been nothing but extraordinary. After the conflict came to a resolution, Tony was promoted to Major and named the Chief of Safety of the famous 509th Bomb Wing located in Missouri and was blessed with the birth of their daughter in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Tony and his wife Penny shared their vision of proactively serving needy children with positive role models in their community. Together, they founded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County, Missouri which has matched over 1000 needy children with positive role models since it’s inception in 1998. Tony lead the community effort to build this Non for Profit Agency by motivating concerned citizens to give of their talents and passions to serve others over self. It was a joy to Tony to serve with a great team to achieve desired results.
Tony was later stationed in Europe as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission over the Baltics. He went through the chain of Command to recommend modernizing how NATO operates. Through his leadership, he was appointed as the Chairman of NATO time sensitive targeting (TST) and facilitated the development of NATO TST. His leadership in spearheading the joint multinational force in developing NATO TST doctrine, requirements, and tactics shaped future NATO missions. For his leadership, Tony was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Tony was presented with the opportunity to command a unit and selected as a Senior Service School candidate; however, he declined the opportunity. He felt a calling to serve the community in other ways. He chose family over career as his oldest son had already attended three different High Schools in three different countries. Tony retired from the Air Force after 21 years of service. He chose to retire in Missouri, the "Show Me State" - the state he loves and calls home. His children finished school in Warrensburg and attended college.
Tony established and operated a successful Italian restaurant business for seven years with his brother before assuming his new job at the University of Central Missouri. Putting faith in his early adulthood experience working at the Mr. Sbarro’s restaurant located in Brooklyn, Tony chose to enter the business he knew and respected. He learned many valuable lessons as a small business owner on the need for quality, teamwork and processes.
In 2009, the USAF asked Tony to consider returning to Active Duty for three more years as part of a voluntary recall. Tony gladly accepted the call to serve again. He once again excelled at his job as Director of Operations of the 13th Bomb Squadron - the second oldest squadron in the USAF.
Yet, regardless of the jobs Tony held, he has never forgotten his true calling to serve others before self. When local citizens approached Tony about the deteriorating state of the local Lions Lake, Tony took an immediate action. He attended the City Council meeting and encouraged concerned citizens to unite and raise money to restore the lake rather than rely on a possible increase in taxes. Through his leadership, the Lions Lake Initiative was formed and thousands of dollars were raised to bring the lake back to life. Tony motivated people to clean the lake. People responded. The lake was cleaned. For his community service and leadership, Tony was named "Man of the Year" in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Lions Lake Initiative Team
As Tony was getting ready to retire again, life had another surprise of an unexpected and exciting new path for him. The University of Central Missouri approached him with an offer as the Assistant Dean of Aviation position to revive and lead, at the time, the deteriorating Aviation program. This was a great opportunity for Tony to utilize all his previous leadership and business experiences and follow his passion for mentoring young men and women to fulfill their aviation and academic dreams.
During his time at the university, the program grew 35%, exceeded expectations on Accreditation inspections, and achieved profitability for the first time in the history of the program since 1968. The integration of the lessons learned from his business and the Lean Six Sigma experience helped shaped the thriving program and attract new students into the program. He established strong relationships with industry ensuring that his students have jobs! Tony surrounded himself with the right people and helped shape a new culture which focused on his core values: INTEGRITY, EXCELLENCE, SERVICE BEFORE SELF, RELATIONSHIPS, JOY and SAFETY ALWAYS.
Tony encourages his students and staff to look to the amazing example of the Tuskegee Airmen. He believes that "Chose Red" has taken on a new meaning at UCM by painting the aircraft's tails red to honor the African American pilots of WWII. These men are Tony's heroes.
Tony is an author and a motivational speaker. He shares variations of his deeply and thoroughly exciting experiences as well as universally relatable stories to audiences all over the world. During his interactive presentations, he not only focuses on his own life story, but presents a system for success born of the sum total of his life experiences based on Hard Work, Determination and a little bit of Luck. One that focuses on encouraging people to use their unique stealth characteristics and talents to serve others over self!
Tony summarizes his business and personal life philosophy into a simple acronym he created: FLY:
- Train your mind to keep going Forward
- Love Life and live it fully
- Say Yes to opportunities that align with your core values