John Fio Rito grew up in Irvington, New York, the youngest of five children of Dolores and Bill Fio Rito. His father graduated from West Point in 1953, served in the Air Force, and became an entrepreneur after leaving the military. His four siblings were much older, with fourteen years separating John from his nearest sister. He felt that everything in his childhood was designed to prepare him for the Military Academy, including his high school education at Iona Prep. At West Point, he struggled with academics initially, but was on the Dean’s List by the time he graduated. He played 150 Pound Football (Sprint) all four years as a running back, and was awarded Offensive MVP for the 1993 Army-Navy game. He commissioned as an Armor Officer and his first assignment was at Ft. Hood, Texas, as a Platoon Leader and Support Platoon Leader in 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. There, he deployed as part of Operation Desert Strike in 1996 to thwart Iraqi aggression along the Kuwaiti border. The Engineer Officer Advanced Course followed that assignment, and he was proud to represent the Armor Branch at that school. After completing a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering, sitting for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination, and obtaining the Engineer in Training (EIT) Certificate, he was assigned to Eighth Army Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. He deployed twice to Kosovo, once as a Liaison Officer and once as a Company Commander in 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Returning to the United States, he served as an Assistant Professor of Military Science at Hofstra University, where he sought to conduct rigorous and realistic training. After leaving the Army in 2004, he worked briefly as a plant manager in a contract packing facility before reaching out to classmates and eventually finding his niche as a real estate developer in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his parents’ influence, and his experiences at West Point and in the Army. He describes several of the positions he held in the Army and what he learned in each one. He reflects on his deployments for Operation Desert Strike, highlighting how quickly they deployed, and to Kosovo, reflecting on working with the local residents. He describes his job as a real estate developer and explains how his values help him achieve success. Finally, he reflects on his class and what West Point means to him.