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Exceptional Leader Spotlight: 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato

Striving to be the Air Force’s most combat ready go-to Fighter Wing is no small feat. Day in and day out, members of Aviano Air Base from a variety of mission sets and ranks work together toward rapid readiness throughout the base’s surety enterprise.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato, a prior 31st Security Forces Squadron assistant operations officer, poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 7, 2019. Capriato helped to lead a 400 member section to conduct surety operations and integrated defense in support of NATO’s strategic deterrence mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rebeccah Woodrow)

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato and his wife Cristina pose for a photo.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato and his wife Cristina pose for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato and his wife Cristina pose for a photo.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato and his wife Cristina pose for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

‘Like a phoenix rising from the ashes’ is an expression commonly used to describe a victorious emergence from destruction. It’s a positive renewal or transformation from what most would consider to be less-than-ideal conditions.

Every now and then, true representations of this saying fly into our lives – 2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato is one of these cases.

2nd Lt. Nicolas Capriato, 31st Mission Support Group executive officer, is a Texas native but mostly grew up in the small town of Queen Creek, Arizona.

For most of his childhood, he was displaced and struggled to find any likeness of a family.

“I grew up without a nuclear family,” Capriato explained. “My mother spent much of my childhood in and out of prison and I did not, and still do not, know my father.”

“Most of my childhood, I lived in fear not knowing how it would end for me and my sisters. Being separated from my sisters, moving into a foster home and sometimes not knowing where our next meal would come from was our reality.”

This displacement led to trying to find anything that would help fill the void he experienced growing up.

“At the time, I would have accepted anything that provided me with a resemblance of family. For me, the wrong crowd was my only option,” Capriato said.

Eventually, he realized his prospects in life could be improved by joining sports.

“Sports played a huge role in my life and once I realized my opportunities to participate in sports were at risk due to my lifestyle, I knew I had to make a change,” said Capriato.

“I made the tough decision to cut out the bad influences in my life, stop skipping school and putting more effort into my education in order to be eligible to play sports. Without that realization, there is no telling where I would be today.”

On top of sports, Capriato found more motivation to soar higher through wanting a solid family foundation.

“I knew I wanted a family one day and there was no way I was going to let my family, especially my future kids, experience the childhood I had,” Capriato said.

Capriato worked for a construction company before joining the Air Force. This allowed him to set up a future for himself, his family and his education.

Unfortunately, when the U.S. economy declined in 2009, his construction job was lost.

“I struggled to find a job that would allow me to continue to pay my way through school and not going to school was not an option for me. That is when I turned to the Air Force,” Capriato explained.

“Thanks to the Air Force I was able to complete my CCAF, bachelor’s and master’s degree.”

Capriato’s first job with the Air Force was with Security Forces, which brought him back to his time playing sports.

“Being a part of the AF and Security Forces reminds me of my time in sports,” Capriato said. “Being reliable for my teammates, coaches and the fans drove me. The AF brings me back to that same mindset, except on a much larger scale.”

“Defenders across the AF perform at a high level to ensure we remain the best AF in the world. I am absolutely proud to be a part of a team that makes that happen,” Capriato said.  

Along with his Air Force family, Capriato also expressed his great appreciation for his wife, Cristina.

“Having her in my corner when those tough decisions arise provides me the confidence needed to lead,” explained Capriato. “She is the one making the biggest sacrifices and the way she handles this military life enhances my ability to be successful in my career.”

“She has been as invested as I have throughout this journey and that has made this experience special for the both of us. She is a true inspiration and she makes me a better person every day that I know her.”

First by finding a love for sports, then by joining the U.S. Air Force, and finally, developing the family he always longed for, he rose from the ashes to become an exceptional leader.

Capriato said, “My story is not intended for anyone to feel sorry for me but for people to recognize you do not have to be a product of your environment.”

“Being clear in my motivation has led me from where I was to where I am going. When you face adversity, and you will, don’t give up. Lean on your motivation to overcome the adversity you face.”