A tribute to Captain Nathan J. Nylander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Blake Medler
  • 25th Operational Weather Squadron
April 27, 2011 will forever be remembered around the 25th Operational Weather Squadron as a day many of us would like to forget. The tragic news of Capt. Nathan J. Nylander's passing was written on each person's face that day. He was a man who impacted the lives of those who knew him, and brought out the best in everyone. Many of the people here at the 25th OWS are first term Airman and have never experienced this side of the military; especially in our career field.

From the day he set foot in the building everything changed. Everything Captain Nylander touched turned to gold as he embraced the true meaning of excellence. He lived his life by the core values that we all represent. Every day he strived to be the best and expected nothing less from the members of his flight. Shortly after arriving, stats within the squadron rose up to 10% making a great impact as we later earned the honors of being the Operational Weather Squadron of the year. He selflessly dedicated his life to the Air Force by working countless hours every day, never hesitating to work additional hours when the mission dictated it. He would work alongside airman during days when weather became challenging, truly demonstrating the meaning of leading by example.

Former flight commander Tim Villaran said, "Altruistic people almost cease to be their own entity and seem to become more identified as a part of the squadron. Nate certainly immersed himself into every facet of this organization from being the first and last person at work to spending the night in a hospital next to his Airmen.

"When I walk through the squadron now I see so many holes because in my mind he was so integrated into every aspect of what this squadron has become," Mr. Villaran said. "He's such a fixture in the unit and more reliable than the building's foundation."

Captain Nylander's dedication to the Air Force never went unnoticed. Winner of many awards throughout his career was a direct reflection of his work and demeanor. His work ethics were unparalleled by his peers, always focusing on the mission and developing new ways to complete it. Not only was he an outstanding flight commander, his leadership extended further than his responsibilities in the workplace. He sacrificed his time with his family to be there for the Airmen when they needed someone the most. While many do not have the luxury of having their own family close by, Captain Nylander provided his love, support and time to help his Airmen get through tough times. Between spending many nights sitting bedside of those who were ill and in the hospital, or picking up Airmen from jail, he was always there.

There was never a question about Captain Nylander's influence on the Airmen he mentored. He raised the bar high, and carved a path for others to follow. His leadership abilities trickled down to those in the flight, creating potential leaders for tomorrow's Air Force. His ability to see the potential in his Airmen was unprecedented; constantly pushing those who made mistakes and showing them how to overcome and excel. Even though he was a diligent and hard worker, he never had a problem keeping the mood light with his unique sense of humor and use of sarcasm. His masterful use of it made it just another tool in his bag, allowing him to direct thoughts about a touchy subject to bring light to a new way of thinking.

A fellow flight commander and a very close friend, Capt. Robert Davenport spoke at Captain Nylander's memorial service and said, "Nate was the king of sarcasm - he somehow had it down to a science. Nate used it daily as a peer-mentoring tool. He had ways of simplifying day to day operations or suggestions that you made in such a way that you could easily identify areas of improvement or say this wasn't a smart idea.

"His delivery was always on point too, but it really would make you stop and think, right after asking yourself 'did he really say that?'" Captain Davenport said. "Then the questions would start flowing. 'Does this really make sense?' 'Do I come off as self-serving?' 'Is it better than the current process?' In the end, the conversations that erupted quickly turned in to hour-long discussions. However, by the end of the day, I think the squadron moved in a smarter direction and more effectively due to his leadership."

Captain Nylander's presence was always felt due to how much he cared about his job and his Airmen. It's not often that we come across such a unique and dedicated individual. For those in his flight this rings especially true as he was so involved in the workplace. Constantly mentoring and guiding others to become proficient at the job and in the Air Force. To those with families of their own he provided words of encouragement from his own experiences of how to make things work with a military lifestyle. He was a teacher of life and how to live it to its fullest; which he certainly did. Even in death he had never stopped helping others before himself, earning the Bronze Star. His life is one in which many of us hope to emulate, so that we may pass on the knowledge and guidance to others as he did for all of us.

Master Sgt. Scott Maier a flight chief for the 25th OWS, who had worked around Captain Nylander said, "Captain Nylander was the consummate professional and an inspirational leader. The type of person you aspired to be like."

We at the 25th OWS miss his leadership and his professionalism, but his love for helping others is what we all miss the most. It's hard knowing that he will never come back into the place he loved; making his occasional joke and brightening the day of everyone he interacted with. From seeing him sit on his exercise ball at his desk to his enthusiasm for the squadron olympics; it is a strange feeling to not have him around. He may be gone but his spirit lives on in everyone's heart that he touched. For his flight he will be remembered as our teacher and leader, and to the squadron as the innovator and hard worker that he was.

As for myself, I have had the privilege of knowing Captain Nylander from the day he got here, to the day he left. I cannot go into enough depth of the ways he helped me and my family. To a lot of us here he was like a father when our own could not be here. There is not a doubt in my mind that I am still in the Air Force due to this man alone. I would not be the Airman, husband or father I am today had I never met Captain Nylander. What an honor it was to have known him and to be able to tell others what kind of man he was. As we continue to morn his death, we reflect on the memories we have of him and the laughs we shared together. He was not just a flight commander, he was a friend and we were his family; a family that I am proud to be part of.