Born in 1944, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola joined the Italian Navy in 1963 and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1966. Soon after the graduation in 1967 he attended the Submarine School and underwent fleet training onboard submarines.
He served in junior officer appointments in conventional submarines and commanded the submarines "Cappellini" (1974-75) and "Sauro" (1980-81).
In 1981 he attended the NATO Defense College in Rome. From 1981 to 1984 Giampaolo Di Paola served as Anti Submarine Warfare and Undersea Warfare Program Officer, Long Term Planning Branch, in the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia (USA).
In 1984 he assumed command of the frigate "Grecale". Thereafter, in 1986, he was appointed to the Navy Staff in Rome as Plans and Programs Branch Chief in the Directorate of Financial Planning.
From 1989 to 1990, as a Captain, he commanded the aircraft carrier "Garibaldi".
In 1990 he returned to the Navy Staff and was appointed as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff (1990-91), then as Chief of Naval Plans and Policy Branch (1991-92), and finally as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations (1993-94). During this period the Italian Navy was involved in supporting NATO arms embargo operations (Operation Sharp Guard) to contain the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and in the U.N. operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
With the rank of Rear Admiral (lower half) in 1994 he was assigned to the Defence Staff in the Ministry of Defence where he became Chief of the Directorate of Defence Policy (1994-98). In this position he took active part as far as the planning of the italian contribution to the NATO effort for the stabilization of the Balkans and for the italian-led Operation in support of Albania in 1997. As Polmil Advisor to the Minister of Defence and to the Italian Chod he was actively engaged in NATO PfP initiative and in the Mediterranean Dialogue. He was also the italian representative to the HLG on nuclear and proliferation issues.
From 1998 to 2001, with the rank of Rear Admiral, he assumed the position of Chief of the Cabinet Office of the Ministry of Defence. On the 1st of January 1999 he was promoted Vice Admiral. In this position he took active part in supporting the political decision making for the italian contribution to the NATO initiative in Kosovo, the NATO enlargement process and outreach policy and in the development of the ESDP and NATO-EU relationship.
In March 2001 he was appointed Secretary General of Defence / National Armaments Director. In this capacity he held national responsibility for major NATO programmes such as AGS, ALTBMD, NATO Airlift Capability, NATO SATCOM Post 2000 and MEADS.
He was promoted Admiral on 10 March 2004 on becoming Chief of Defence. In this capacity he had the overall responsibility for the policy and planning of the Italian Armed Forces and - as CINCFOR – he did hold planning and command responsibility for Italian Forces participation in NATO, EU and Coalition operations conducted in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Pakistan and in the United Nations Operation in Lebanon.
From 27 June 2008 to 18 November 2011, he was the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.
Admiral Di Paola holds a degree in Strategic and Military Sciences and an “ad honorem” Masters degree in Sciences. His military decorations and awards include the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, Meritorious Service Medal for distinguished military service, Commander of Legion of Merit (USA), Commandeur de l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur (FR), Commandeur de l'Ordre National du merite (FR), Grand Officer of the Order of Infante Don Enrico (PO), Grand Officer of military virtue with war insignia (RO), UN Medal for UN Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo.
Admiral Di Paola is married to Roberta and they have two daughters. He speaks fluently English, French and Spanish. His interests include fine arts, literature and classical music, the practice of skiing and mountain climbing.