East Carolina University junior Matthew Pastino has always enjoyed being on the water.
“My father and grandfather got me into fishing as soon as I could hold a rod,” Pastino said. “I enjoy every aspect of fishing. I love being outside and trying to figure out where the fish will be and what they will be eating. It's kind of like a puzzle based on the weather conditions and the season.”
Pastino is a member of the ECU club bass fishing team and has competed around the nation. His most recent tournament was on the James River in Virginia.
“The biggest bass I ever caught was on the Occoquan reservoir in Virginia, but my most memorable fishing experience with ECU was being able to catch two bass in a tournament after my motor exploded and caught on fire,” said Pastino.
But fishing is not Pastino’s only passion. He is a dedicated member of the Army ROTC. He also serves in the North Carolina National Guard.
“I enjoy the high caliber of cadet training ECU has to offer. The people involved with ROTC are highly motivated, driven and hardworking. They push you to be better then you are. Taking 18-19 credits a semester is challenging, and adding ROTC to that does not make it easier, but being in ROTC has taught me discipline and time management,” said Pastino.
Over the summer, Pastino went to Nepal with Army ROTC cadets from around the world for a three-week cultural and military immersion to work with the Nepalese ranger battalion, army cadets and armed police force.
“I spent a week touring the major cities and learning about the culture in Nepal. I spent a week in Dohlaka, where the epicenter of the earthquakes was last year. We helped clear out rubble from buildings, including a school,” said Pastino. “I also spent a week with the Nepalese Rangers and army to learn how they operate.”
Pastino’s father was in the military as well. Growing up, the Springfield, Virginia native lived around the world, including Germany.
“When living in Germany we visited the beaches of Normandy and saw all the crosses from the fallen soldiers. I remember thinking how it looked impossible to get onto the beach and storm the city because of the terrain advantage the Germans had. It really showed me what true bravery and sacrifice for freedom others had made,” he said.
Currently, Pastino is obtaining a degree in recreational therapy.
“I chose to major in recreation therapy because it’s a great gateway to working in the rehabilitation field, and I would love to link fishing and recreational therapy in a career,” Pastino said. “I also work with a group called Project Healing Waters. They use fly fishing to help heal wounded veterans in both physical and mental aspects.”
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a program that provides basic fly fishing, casting, tying and rod building classes. The organization began in 2005 serving wounded military service members returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and has expanded nationwide.
After graduation, Pastino plans to commission active duty as an aviation officer.
“All aviation officers in the Army fly until they take command. I am not sure what helicopter I want to fly yet. My biggest concern is just getting into the branch first,” Pastino said.
What advice do you have for other students?
Do everything you can while you are in college.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?
I wish I had known that there is a club or organization for anything you could think of on campus. So even if your hobby is unique, there is probably already a club for you to join.
Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis