Although it wasn’t how he envisioned his career trajectory, Dominic Peluso ’18 of Redondo Beach, California, was selected for the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) with an aviator slot, a career that will begin for him after his May graduation.
“This decision was very recent for me, and an unorthodox one if you were to look at the path I was on,” Peluso says. “My major is computer science, so I always thought I would find a programming job to settle into. However, this concept of ‘settling’ was something that I was afraid of. Although I think computer science is very interesting and being able to program is an invaluable skill, the passion just wasn’t there.”
In the summer of 2017, Peluso contacted a Navy Officer Recruiter in Louisville. After asking about his major, weight and height, the recruiter suggested Peluso try out for a pilot slot, as he is the right size to fit in a cockpit. But to earn a place in these highly competitive programs, Peluso had to receive security clearance, pass a background check and physical, submit letters of recommendation and motivational statement, and, most importantly, receive high scores on the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB). The ASTB is used to select candidates for pilot and flight officer training programs.
“The ASTB is really what makes or breaks applications,” Peluso explains. “If you don’t score well, you won’t even be considered a candidate, and since I was applying for a pilot slot, I had to take extra pilot-oriented sections. These consisted of the Academic Qualifications Rating, Pilot Flight Aptitude Rating and Flight Officer Aptitude Rating.
“These sections test spatial awareness and the ability to multitask,” Peluso continues. “They use a stick like you’d find in a real plane, so it is kind of like a very uncooperative video game controller. While you’re trying to track a plane on the screen in front of you with the joystick, you have to press certain buttons depending on the sounds you hear in your headset. It got overwhelming quick, but I ended up scoring so competitively I was considered an auto-select, meaning they didn’t even look at my application, they just accepted me based on my scores and my recruiter’s word.”
Peluso expressed his gratitude for the advice and letter of recommendation from Centre President John Roush, who himself served as a captain in the U.S. Army. In addition, he appreciates User Support Services and Helpdesk Manager Russ Strunk, and Andrew Ryan, executive director of Information Technology Services (ITS) and chief information officer, for their advice and letters of recommendation, as well as the support he received from the entire ITS staff.
“Lastly, my advisor David Toth, associate professor of computer science, has always been there for me when I needed help in class and when I needed advice for the future,” Peluso says. “He also wrote me a letter of recommendation.”
Peluso explains that one of the main reasons he decided to join the Navy, particularly to become an officer and a pilot, was because he was afraid of sitting at a desk all day doing something that he wasn’t 100 percent passionate about.
“I chose to become a pilot, because I thought it was the farthest thing away from a cubical farm, and I knew it would be exciting while at the same time I would get the opportunity to serve my country. A year ago I thought my chances of becoming an officer and a pilot were very slim since it is so competitive, but I took a chance and I’m very thankful I did.”
His first assignment after graduation will be to attend the 12-week OCS, followed by learning to fly in Pensacola, Florida.
by Cindy Long
March 16, 2018