Capt. Rigel D. Pirrone, a native of Buffalo, New York, graduated from Tulane University in 1999 with a degree in civil engineering. Commissioned through the Naval ROTC program, he attended flight training in Pensacola, Florida, and subsequently Meridian, Mississippi, earning his Wings of Gold and distinguished naval graduate honors in 2001.
After serving 18 months as a Selectively Retained Graduate instructor pilot with the "Eagles" of Training Squadron (VT) 7, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122 for fleet replacement squadron (FRS) training on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. His fleet junior officer tour was with the "Bullets" of VFA-2, where he completed two Western Pacific deployments aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), earning landing signals officer and forward air controller (airborne) qualifications.
Pirrone then joined the "Rough Raiders" of VFA-125 for duty as an F/A-18A-D instructor pilot. During his tour, he served as the strike syllabus phase head, training landing signals officer and the Navy's West Coast Hornet Tactical Demonstration Team program director. He was recognized as the squadron's Instructor Pilot of the Year in 2008.
Following his selection for Full Time Support (FTS) re-designation in 2009, Pirrone reported to the "River Rattlers" of VFA-204 for his department head tour. In December 2012, he was gained by VFA-204 as a Selected Reservist and shortly thereafter screened for command. While commanding the Navy's only Reserve strike fighter squadron from July 2015 to January 2017, the "River Rattlers" were recognized with Battle "E," Safety "S," Blue "M" and retention excellence awards.
In July 2017, Pirrone accepted his first non-flying assignment in 19 years of service, earning a Master of Strategic Studies degree, with highest academic distinction, from the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base. Following graduation, he reported to Training Air Wing 5 where he commanded the largest Reserve component in Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) from January 2019 to October 2020. Pirrone assumed command of the CNATRA Reserve Component in October 2020.
Pirrone has accumulated over 3,500 flight hours and 250 arrested landings. His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and various other personal and unit awards.