From Big Dreams to Big Responsibilities, FIT Patuxent MBA Student Takes Command of Naval Test Wing Atlantic

Before he grew up to become a Navy captain and wing commander, Brett Pierson was a kid living a humble life.

“I grew up in an environment without much fiscal advantage—I believe the word is ‘poor.’ No one in my immediate family had ever been to college. My mom was raising two kids by herself and we lived in a single-wide trailer,” his story begins.

Pierson remembers the day he began dreaming big. He was at an airshow, watching in awe as all different types of aircraft raced through the air. He remembers seeing the Navy Blue Angels for the first time, and how in that moment, he decided to become a jet pilot.

His new aspiration followed him to high school, where Pierson met with a Blue and Gold Officer who gave him the direction and push he needed to pursue his goals. “The officer helped me get on track with the preposterous dream that a kid like me could be a jet pilot,” he says.

Pierson went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and reported for flight training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. After advanced training at NAS Meridian, Pierson reached his initial dream and was designated a Naval Aviator. But he didn’t stop there. Since then, Pierson has served the Navy in numerous offices and positions such as curriculum director, instructor pilot, executive officer, commanding officer, warfare branch chief, chief operational test director and commanding officer to name a few.

Today, Pierson leads a mix of active duty military personnel, government civilian employees and contractors at the Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) in Maryland. NTWL is the Navy’s principal flight and ground test activity for the development and acquisition of aviation systems.  Here, they work towards removing obstacles that stand in the way of squadron effectiveness and efficiency. Currently, the team is responsible for 128 aircraft and 110 small Unmanned Aerial Systems making it the most technically diverse air wing in Naval Aviation.

Thanks in part to the Navy’s commitment to encourage its sailors and officers to pursue higher education, he says, Pierson looked to expand his military leadership skills in the area of civilian and corporate leadership.  While serving as an acquisition professional in the Navy, he determined FIT Patuxent’s MBA would complement his increasing understanding of the Navy’s business and operations side.

“I know from past experience that I prefer a face-to-face learning style and FIT offered an accredited and flexible MBA with these features in my area,” said Pierson.

Now, halfway through his MBA program at FIT Patuxent, Pierson is seeing increasing utility in his degree. “I have been able to apply the principles that I have learned in each class as I increase my understanding of the Navy’s business operations and the financial side of command. That immediate positive feedback has kept me motivated to finish,” he says.

Pierson has served the Navy for over 30 years and during this time he completed his bachelor’s degree, trained to be a fighter and test pilot, earned his first master’s degree and he is now putting the GI Bill to work towards his MBA at Florida Tech. Looking back over his 30 years of hard work, he says, “I can’t think of a better deal than that!”

Enjoying his new role and additional responsibilities, Pierson remains focused on the future. “In a time of reduced DoD budgets and tight fiscal constraints, decisions regarding the expense of taxpayer dollars must be increasingly backed up by a solid business case,” he says. “The MBA is equipping me to prepare such a business case for my own decisions and analyze those prepared by others as we assess their viability.”


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