Tony Guzzi grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where sports and the outdoors occupied much of his youth. His grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Italy and Serbia and made their way to the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. His father had graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and was an engineer and an entrepreneur, and his mother was a nurse. He was the middle of three siblings, with an older brother and a younger sister. In high school, he was the captain of the football team and was in the National Honor Society. He was being recruited by several colleges to play football, but became interested in the Military Academy. He remembers Congressman John Murtha calling him on Christmas Eve to inform him of his nomination to West Point. On R-Day, he discovered he had been assigned to a room by himself, and he quickly realized the disadvantage of not having a roommate to help him navigate the unknowns. Feeling alone, he remembers looking into the mirror and thinking, “What did you do?” Within a few days, he received a roommate, but Beast Barracks was still a challenge. He was losing a lot of weight, and struggled with the realization that this was “the first time I was not the best at everything.” When he was cut from the football team, he called his father, contemplating leaving the Academy to play football elsewhere. His father gave him a dose of tough love, recommending he channel his energies into the classroom, which helped him earn his academic stars. By the time he was a Firstie, he commanded a Beast Company, Company F2, and in his last semester, he commanded 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment. While commanding F2, he shared his vision with his subordinates, telling them what they WERE going to do as well as what they WERE NOT going to do to develop a stronger, more cohesive unit. He appreciated the mentorship from the Commandant, General Boylan, and chose to branch Infantry. After Airborne and Ranger School, he was assigned to Hawaii, where he served in both C and B Companies of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry in the 25th Infantry Division as a Platoon Leader, Support Platoon Leader, and S1. During his time in the Tropic Lightning, he deployed around the Pacific Rim for training in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other locations. In the early 1990s, the Army experienced a reduction in force, and he sought to broaden his horizons. He left the Army and entered Harvard Business School, graduating in 1993. He first worked in sales and then for a consulting firm, but was unhappy because he was not leading. He then seized an opportunity to become a leader at EMCOR. During a leadership offsite, his subordinates developed a bottom-up approach to instilling values that transformed the company. Working with several classmates, he helped create the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund (named after classmate COL John McHugh) to provide scholarships for the children and family members of fallen service members.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his West Point and Army experiences, and his career in the business world. He reflects on mentorship he received from his father at critical points in his life. He discusses his leadership vision and the importance of values in his company, and shares foundational moments of growth. At the end of the interview, he comments on what his service and West Point mean to him, noting, “I’ve done more for the Army out of the Army than I could have in the Army.”