Standing for Opportunity
Paul Fermo, ’92 | Commander, U.S. Navy
By Lauren Whalley
“I decided to take a tour of the school, and I was sold”, says Comm. Paul Fermo, U.S.N., ’92, who chose to pursue his bachelor’s degree at UCF in business management.
“I could apply my degree directly to business or something else I chose to do. Whether you are in private industry, government or nonprofit, there’s always going to be some element of business and management involved. I see that in the work that I do at the Pentagon.”
Outside of academics, Paul was involved in various organizations on campus, including the Orientation Team, LEAD Scholars program, and was even nominated for Homecoming court. He also held several office positions for his fraternity, Sigma Chi, which included chapter president.
“I definitely made the most of my years at UCF”, he says. “UCF is doing great things in many fields — engineering, management, computer science, medicine — there’s so much to be proud of. I hope [current] students are proud of the school, because, as a UCF alumnus, I certainly am.”
In addition to Paul’s UCF education, he’s been awarded several additional degrees, including two master’s degrees, but he hasn’t stopped there. Paul was recently accepted into MIT to pursue his third master’s degree, this time in business administration. He credits UCF for motivating him to keep furthering his education.
“UCF was my first introduction to the idea that education is about challenging the way I think about things, and what I learned in the classroom could be applied directly to what I did outside of the classroom.”
A Knight of Opportunity
Paul knew he wanted to become a Navy fighter pilot at a young age, when his father took him to see the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, and Paul’s childhood dream became his reality. For several years, he served as a combat search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, and, in 2001, Paul was chosen for a highly selective transition program from helicopters to jets.
“After being deployed several times to both Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m fortunate enough to be one of the very few naval aviators who can say that they’ve led combat missions in both helicopters and jets,” he says.
Due to his vast experience, Paul was chosen to serve as a fellow for a member of Congress who served on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
“It was an incredible experience for me. It made me a much more informed strategic leader.”
Paul currently serves as the Air-Sea Branch chief for the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he addresses Department of Defense immediate and long-term tactical aviation and maritime force requirements.
In Paul’s military career, he says the UCF Creed is constantly in motion. “Integrity, excellence, community — they’re all central to the ethos of the military profession.”
It’s not just through his military service that Paul proudly represents the creed, but also in his personal life, where he is a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. During his last deployment to Afghanistan, the Baltimore Chapter held its annual walk for JDRF, and, although Paul was not there physically to participate, he was able to address the entire crowd from his base on the jumbotron at the Baltimore Ravens Stadium.
“It was a way of bringing a global awareness to a disease,” he says.
Measure of a Knight’s Success
According to Paul, the greatest benefit of being in the military is the people with whom he gets to work and interact.
“The military is a human organization, and it’s comprised of an amazing collection of bright, selfless and dedicated professionals. I’m honored to have made some friends, and I’m sad to have lost a few along the way, but it’s really great to serve with men and women that I admire”, he says. “The greatest measure of my success is knowing that I have served my country well.”
Q. If you could visit any historical site in the world, what would it be and why?
A. The Great Wall of China. It’s a fascinating structure.
Q. What kind of car did you drive in college?
A. I drove a beat-up old Toyota!
Q. Batman or Superman?
A. Superman. He can fly!