When Cadet Walter Gonsiewski, of Lebanon Township, New Jersey, graduates in a few weeks, he will fulfill a lifelong dream: commission into the U.S. Air Force and begin pilot training.
Gonsiewski, a fifth-year senior who’s majoring in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering with a minor in leadership from the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Rice Center for Leader Development, worked hard to get here and has the accolades to prove it. Among them is a seat in the Air Force’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the only multinational flight training program for combat pilots.
“It’s similar to other training programs, but you train with NATO partners. It’s going to be an opportunity for some great cultural exchanges,” Gonsiewski said. Nationally, fewer than 5 percent of pilot candidates are chosen for the 40 seats.
“Walt Gonsiewski has successfully tackled everything Air Force ROTC could throw at him,” said Col. Cameron Torrens, the unit commander. “He’s been a wingman and a leader and a warrior in our program. Now he’ll do the same in our United States Air Force, and the stakes are a bit higher. We look for him to continue to excel.”
Gonsiewski came to Virginia Tech because it offered the Corps of Cadets, a world-class engineering program, and ample outdoor activities. He visited Blacksburg for the corps’ Spend the Night program and knew within 15 minutes that he wanted to be a Hokie.
“I hope that the Air Force has a strong culture like Virginia Tech does,” he said. “Being a Hokie is something special.”
He is a member of the Virginia Tech Honors College and numerous honor societies on campus. He has an Air Force ROTC scholarship and is one of six cadets awarded the Northrop Grumman Scholarship Program in Military Leadership.
He has held multiple leadership positions in the corps and the ROTC, dedicating his time and energy to whatever task is asked of him. “He sincerely cares for others to a degree of selflessness at his own expense,” said Capt. James Snyder, deputy commandant.
Gonsiewski served as the ROTC’s cadet wing commander during fall 2015, overseeing 270 cadets. He said the experience taught him the value of putting trust in your team.
“You can’t do it all yourself, and the best part about that is there are people out there who can do things better than you can,” he said. “I learned that my job was to motivate and activate the people around me and to give them the resources to get the job done.”
This semester he chairs the corps’ Executive Court, the cadet-run disciplinary process for honor code violations, and is the commander for the ROTC’s fifth-year cadets.
Among all he’s accomplished, the thing that makes him most proud is being able to share the corps experience with his brother, William Gonsiewski, a junior majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with a minor in leadership and in Army ROTC.
“We’re both here and doing different things,” Walter Gonsiewski said. “His accomplishments and attitude motivate me to push myself harder.”