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Air Force officer looks forward to becoming pilot

His commitment to the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps dominated Matt Zayatz’s time at Binghamton, but he’ll graduate this week with double degrees in computer science and geography as well as a bright future as a pilot.
Zayatz, 22, of New Hyde Park, took a full year of college courses during his senior year of high school. Coming to Binghamton with so many credits allowed him to finish two degrees in four years.
Zayatz has been commuting to Cornell University for ROTC as often as three times a week since he was a freshman. “The regimentation definitely kept me on track,” he said. “It keeps me centered and focused on the goal.”
Zayatz recalled a ride he took in an airplane during summer field training after sophomore year. “I’m afraid of heights,” he said. “But they put me in an airplane and I wasn’t afraid. It’s exhilarating.”
This January, Zayatz learned he had been chosen for training as a pilot. Despite the prestige of the position, he took some time to consider accepting the offer, which requires committing to at least 10 years in the Air Force.
Zayatz, son of a career Army officer, understood the significance of the commitment he was making. He feels a responsibility not only to do his job well but also to understand the news and politics that shape the armed services.
“I think we do the American people a disservice if we don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
He will enter the Air Force as a second lieutenant, reporting for training in early June.
Burrel Montz, professor of geography and faculty master of Dickinson Community, worked with Zayatz this year on his honors thesis. Though he had never taken her natural hazards class, he quickly got up to speed on the topic.
“He takes on a task and he doesn’t mess around,” said Montz, who noted she was impressed that he was invited to join the geography honor society as a junior.
Zayatz’s project involved computer mapping and statistical analysis using a database of some 500 houses in three Florida mobile home parks damaged by Hurricane Charley. Conventional wisdom would dictate that older, smaller mobile homes would be more susceptible to damage; their study found that wasn’t the case, at least in those particular mobile home parks.

“He is the most organized undergraduate I’ve worked with in years,” Montz said. “And he’s really bright. I don’t know how he juggles it all.” 

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Last Updated: 10/14/08