By Joe Garvey

Brent Pizzamiglio describes his experience at ˶ as “a life changer,” both in and outside the classroom.

Pizzamiglio enrolled as an AROTC cadet in 2022 after being accepted into the U.S. Army’s Active-Duty Option Program, which allows soldiers who want to remain on active duty to earn a college degree and their commissions as officers. Pizzamiglio is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity and expects to graduate as a second lieutenant in the spring of 2024.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about ODU since I’ve been here,” said Pizzamiglio, who carries a 4.0 GPA. “The ROTC program is great. The instructors are phenomenal. I have genuinely gained so much knowledge since being here and being part of the program.”

Pizzamiglio comes from a military family. His father was on active duty on 9-11, and his grandfather was an instructor pilot during the Vietnam War.

“I had a lot of positive role models in my family guiding me,” he said.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that he enlisted right after graduating from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington in 2015, joining an infantry division based at Fort Drum, New York.

He served two tours in Afghanistan, one in 2017-18 and the other in 2020, which began “right before the world stopped” due to COVID-19.

That latter five-month tour, which consisted primarily of shuttling troops in and out of the country due the to pandemic, propelled him to the G2G program.

“We were working nonstop,” he said. “I don’t think I ever worked so hard in my life.”

It also showed Capt. Matthew Terrigno that Pizzamiglio was officer material.

“I proved to my commander that I was dedicated, that I really wanted to do this even though times were extremely difficult – very tough, very long hours. He saw that I could be a phenomenal officer if I continued to go down this path.”

Terrigno talked with Pizzamiglio about the G2G program and petitioned his application to the battalion commander. Capt. Jesse Hodges also provided valuable mentorship from the time Pizzamiglio, who earned 50 credits through University of Maryland’s Global Campus, was accepted into the program until he left for ODU.

As he was considering college options, Pizzamiglio and his wife – who met while they were stationed at Fort Drum – quickly realized that ODU was an ideal choice. Among the things he cited was the location, which places them relatively close to family – and the beach; the dedicated School of Cybersecurity; the University’s many programs that support military-affiliated students; and its affordability.

As an active-duty soldier, Pizzamiglio must pay for his tuition. He said at ODU, he pays about half the amount he would at other schools.

“ODU not only met all the criteria, but it exceeded every single one,” Pizzamiglio said.

Malik Gladden, lecturer in the School of Cybersecurity, said he’s impressed with Pizzamiglio’s strong sense of teamwork, ambition, dependability, trustworthiness, intelligence, reliability and honesty.

“I have had the pleasure of witnessing Brent's remarkable growth both socially and academically, as well as his professional development,” said Gladden, who had Pizzamiglio in his Windows Systems Management and Security class. “Throughout the course, Brent showcased his technical and managerial expertise in the field of cybersecurity. His skills and competency were evident, making him a standout among his peers.”

Being at ODU “around a bunch of very motivated, want-to-succeed, want-to-do-the-best-they-can individuals” has boosted Pizzamiglio’s confidence beyond his military responsibilities. He recently ran in his first marathon and is starting a business, Freedom Fit, which will sell gym gear and equipment online, “things I would have never anticipated myself doing prior to doing this officer transition.”

Lt. Col Brandon Shah, professor and chair of military science for ODU AROTC, sees a bright future for Pizzamiglio.

"Cadet Pizzamiglio's work ethic and performance are unlike any other I've worked with at his age,” Shah said. “As a prior enlisted infantryman and Apache armament specialist, he brings a depth of expertise to ODU Army ROTC, and he will be a tremendous leader for our nation's most complex defense problems."