Meet Tony


Get to know the man behind the movement, his life, what he stands for, and what his plans are for Missouri!

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 firstborn son of hard-working Italian immigrant parents. Intelligent and highly focused, he always had just one dream – to become a U.S. Air Force pilot. Tony knew his dream could only become a reality in America and against all the odds, it did. He is now proud to be the proof that the American Dream lives on.

The first step in achieving his dream began at Aviation High School where Tony rode the subway for nearly three hours every day just to attend his classes. His experiences with people on these journeys 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.

After graduation from the USAF Academy, Tony married Penny and started a family while earning his pilot wings. At the time, he was assigned to fly the venerable B-52 Stratofortress bomber. During the first Iraq War – or Operation Desert Storm – the 23-year-old Tony became one of the first pilots to be sent on an unprecedented mission flying the B-52 bomber at an extremely low altitude. The aim was to 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 they survived and were successful in their mission.

After this experience, Tony saw life in a new light and has never taken another moment for granted. He embraces everything that comes his way and truly believes in living life to the fullest while serving others.

After the Iraq War, Tony was promoted to captain He was tasked with flying the new B-1 Lancer, a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber. As he oversaw and participated in important air operations, Tony found himself juggling the responsibilities of being a husband and father, now to two sons, with a life that was just as turbulent on the ground as it was in the sky.

Later, with the introduction of the 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 fly halfway across the world to combat an enemy and be back home by the weekend to coach his son’s soccer team. His family values have always been nothing but extraordinary. After that particular conflict came to a resolution, Tony was promoted to major and named the Chief of Safety of the 509th Bomb Wing located at Whiteman AFB, Mo. While stationed at Whiteman, he and Penny welcomed their daughter into the world.

In 1998, Tony and Penny founded the not-for-profit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County, Missouri. Since its inception, this BBBS organization has matched more than 1,000 needy children with positive role models. They consider themselves blessed to also serve as a Big Brother and Big Sister to an African American boy in Wichita, Kansas. This precious relationship helped Tony understand the many challenges inner city youth face due to lack of family support and positive role models. Tony led the community effort to build his agency by motivating concerned citizens to share their talents and passions to serve others before themselves. It was a joy for Tony to serve with such a great team and to achieve the 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 make strong recommendations on how NATO operates. Through his leadership, he was appointed as the Chairman of the 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 helped shape future NATO missions. For his leadership, Tony was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and promoted to lieutenant colonel.

In time, Tony was given the opportunity to command a unit and was selected as a Senior Service School candidate. However, he declined the opportunity as he strongly felt a calling to serve the community in other ways. He chose his family over his career as his oldest son had already attended three different High Schools in three different countries.

After 21 proud years of service, Tony retired from the Air Force. He chose to spend the autumn of his life in Missouri, the Show Me State – the state he loves and calls home. His children finished school in Warrensburg and went on to attend college.

However, he couldn’t sit still for long! Harking back to his family heritage, Tony established 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 experiences of working at Mr. Sbarro’s restaurant 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 efficient processes. He understands the responsibility of signing the front of the check, and how government regulations impact small businesses.

In 2009, the Air Force asked Tony to consider returning to active duty for three more years as part of a voluntary recall, which he gladly accepted. He once again excelled at his job as Director of Operations of the 13th Bomb Squadron – the second oldest squadron in the U.S. Air Force.

Yet, regardless of the jobs Tony held, he has never forgotten his true calling to serve others before himself. When local citizens approached him about the deteriorating state of the local Lions Lake, Tony took 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.

While getting ready to retire again, life had another surprise; an unexpected and exciting new path for him. The University of Central Missouri approached him with a job as the Assistant Dean of Aviation. The position meant reviving and leading the deteriorating aviation program. This was a great opportunity for Tony to draw on his previous leadership and business experiences, and to 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 by 35 percent. It exceeded expectations in accreditation inspections and achieved profitability for the first time in the history of the program, which began in 1968. The integration of the lessons learned from his business and the Lean Six Sigma experience helped direct the thriving program and attract new students into it. He established strong relationships with industry ensuring that his students have jobs upon graduation!

Having surrounded himself with the right people he helped shape a new culture which focused on his core values: INTEGRITY, EXCELLENCE, SERVING OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF, RELATIONSHIPS, JOY and SAFETY ALWAYS.

Tony encourages his students and staff to look to the amazing example of the Tuskegee Airmen. He believes that “Choose Red” has taken on a new meaning at UCM by painting the aircraft’s tails red to remember the African American pilots of World War II. These men are Tony’s heroes.

Today, Tony is an author and a motivational speaker. He shares his fascinating experiences with audiences all over the world from high school students to senior executives. During his interactive presentations, he focuses on his own life story, encouraging people to use their own unique characteristics and talents to serve others first.

Tony presents a system for success born of the sum total of his life’s work. It’s based on hard work, determination and a little bit of luck.