Master Sgt. Nickolas Kupper lives his life by a simple philosophy.
"I never want to go into something and not give it my all," he said.
He was speaking about the four years he spent as an Air Force recruiter, from 2009 to 2013, during which he twice earned Recruiter of the Year awards for bringing in both enlistees and officers. But he brings the same attitude to everything he does for the Air Force, his family, his community, his church and his support for orphans around the world.
Kupper, a KC-10 aircraft electrician, serves as the section chief at the 605th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, where he oversees 251 maintainers. He is the youngest master sergeant in his squadron.
Prior to that he was assigned in 2013 to Air Force Special Operations Command in England and deployed multiple times in Europe and Africa. He helped launch aircraft to rendezvous with Navy SEALs and recover a stolen tanker off Libya, attempt a hostage rescue in the Horn of Africa, and capture Boko Haram terrorists in central Africa.
The December 2014 hostage rescue mission from Djibouti did not end well, he noted, "but it was very interesting and humbling to be on something like that."
Over the years, Kupper has devoted thousands of hours to mentoring youth through church and base activities, volunteering at food banks, raising money for child sponsorship organizations, and visiting, caring for and sponsoring orphans in Ukraine and elsewhere.
In 2015, he and his wife, Crystal, already the parents of three young children, adopted Guyana, an Armenian girl with five major disabilities, after seeing a picture of her on a website.
In a piece she authored for Focus on the Family, Crystal wrote: "At the time, we didn’t know where she lived, nor how to care for anyone with spina bifida. ‘I just knew we needed to take care of her,’ Nick told a friend later. ‘I knew I could be the father she deserved.’"
In 2016, Kupper was named one of the Jaycees’ 10 Outstanding Young Americans for his contributions to orphan justice. This year, Air Force Times has named him an honorable mention in the Military Times Service Member of the Year Awards.
“The prohibition of consideration of the members’ good military character or service record moves the ‘zero-tolerance’ culture forward, omitting opportunities for the ‘good dude’ defense,” said military personnel expert Kate Kuzminski.