“Not Today” was the theme United States Air Force Major General Anthony W. Genatempo used in his presentation to eighth grade honors students at Carl Sandburg Middle School.
He was “just a kid from Old Bridge,” and now he is on the front line of nuclear deterrence and defense strategy.
Genatempo is the commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, and Air Force program executive officer for Strategic Systems, at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Genatempo is a decorated officer, earning several major awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal.
He is also an alumnus of Old Bridge Township Public Schools, having graduated from Madison Central High School in 1986.
Genatempo spoke to two groups on Dec. 10. He first spoke to the Old Bridge High School Air Force Junior ROTC students, who listened attentively in their crisp blue dress uniforms as the two-star major general detailed his responsibility to build, test, and deliver every ICBM, every cruise missile, and every nuclear-enabled weapon dropped from an aircraft in America’s arsenal.
“It’s the most important job I’ll ever have in my entire life,” he told the students.
Genatempo explained how the U.S. uses nuclear weapons as a deterrent to prevent adversaries from using their nuclear weapons against the United States. He spoke about the challenges the United States faces today from adversaries such as Russia, China and North Korea. The United States stays on the cutting edge of nuclear capability and technology so that other nations, when deciding if today is the day they will attack the United States, come to the conclusion, every day, that it is “not today.”
While Genatempo repeated his presentation to both the AFJORTC and Sandburg’s eighth graders, the program wasn’t totally nuclear. Genatempo is, after all, a man who once, “sat in those very seats in high school,” as he said.
Genatempo and Carl Sandburg Middle School Social Studies teacher Chris LoNigro, a longtime friend of Genatempo, and who put together the event, swapped stories about growing up together at Jonas Salk Middle School and Madison Central High School, with Genatempo even hinting that LoNigro was a little goofy back in school.
LoNigro, a popular teacher known for his energy and enthusiasm, admitted what Genatempo said was true, which generated chuckles from the audience.
Both Genatempo and LoNigro drove home the point that students could do anything they put their mind to. That they can get to their dream one day, but must be prepared to be flexible getting there.
Genatempo, for instance, did not gain admittance to the Air Force Academy, but he found a different path to the Air Force through the Rutgers University AFROTC program. His dream was to achieve the rank of colonel, but he did his job, and did it well, and life took him much higher up the Air Force chain of command.
“Have something out in front of you,” Genatempo said. “There’s a lot of different ways to get there, as long as you have persistence.”
The path to your dream can also start at any time. Genatempo said his desire for an Air Force career started at a simple eighth grade career day at his middle school, where he decided to talk to the representatives at the Air Force table. Now he does his best to keep the world safe from nuclear weapons every day, one day at a time.
“Someday you will grow up and be asked to do something awesome too,” he told the students.
In a touching moment after his two presentations, Genatempo spoke fondly of LoNigro’s achievements as a teacher and presented him with an Air Force challenge coin.
“He’s going to make me cry,” LoNigro said later.
Then, LoNigro and Old Bridge High School Vice Principal Sally Fazio surprised Genatempo with a nomination to this year’s Old Bridge Wall Of Fame. Two nominees will be chosen from a nomination pool in March 2022 and inducted the following May.
- This information was provided by Old Bridge Township Public Schools.