Taking Charge: Ricardo Capetillo

RIO HONDO — A sergeant’s straight talk helped change Ricardo Capetillo’s life.

As he entered ninth grade, Capetillo was slacking off a bit until he took a lesson from Sgt. Joe Guzman, his mentor in Rio Hondo High School’s Junior Air Force ROTC program.

“I wasn’t very serious,” Capetillo said. “I didn’t take school very seriously. I was doing the minimum until my sergeant sat me down. He taught me to get my priorities straight. Without that talk, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

On June 4, Capetillo graduated in the top third of his class after winning a scholarship to Johnson-Wales University in Denver.

During his high school years, ROTC helped mold his character.

By the time he entered his senior year, Capetillo was training other cadets.

“It’s all about leadership,” said Capetillo, the son of Genoveva Ortgen. “We teach people to be leaders, not followers. I wanted to be a leader.”

Capetillo focused his training on team building.

“I liked getting to know them to work together as a team,” he said. “We have to work together to complete our goals. We don’t let each other down.”

On the saber team, he taught cadets to use their swords in ceremony.

“I taught the commands,” he said. “They remove the saber and do a couple tricks. They flip the sword and put it back into its original position.”

As part of the color guard, he helped teach cadets to honor their country.

“When we do the pledge of allegiance, I’m holding the flag,” he said. “And when we walk with the flag, I feel the greatest sense of pride.”

Capetillo said he plans to follow ROTC’s lessons, even if he isn’t pursuing a military career.

So he plans to study English to become a teacher.

“Our mission is developing citizens of character,” Capetillo said. “The way I want to serve our country is to help our future generation excel to help them become what they want.”