General John W. Nicholson Jr. last served as the Commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces-Afghanistan for two and a half years, the longest serving Commander of the Afghan war. His command saw a significant change in US policy to the South Asia Strategy, the first ceasefire in the seventeen year war and the start of the current peace initiative.
In over 36 years of active duty, he commanded at every level from platoon to Land Component Command to include as Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He served four times in NATO as a general officer, leading the 41-nation coalition in Afghanistan and as Commander, NATO Allied Land Command based in Izmir, Turkey. As the Allied Land Commander, he was responsible for commanding multiple NATO Corps in the event of large scale war. This involved training of the nine Corps in peacetime and drafting defensive plans for NATO in the face of emergent threats.
General Nicholson served ten years on jump status, commanding companies in the 82d Airborne and 75th Ranger Regiment. He served as a major in the 1st and 3rd Infantry (Mechanized) Divisions in Germany, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington where he commanded the Army’s first Stryker Infantry Battalion, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, the “Tomahawks”. As s a Colonel in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York he commanded one of the Army’s first modular Brigade Combat Teams, 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain, the “Spartans”.
His six years in Afghanistan also include service in Kabul as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, in Kandahar as the Deputy Commander of ISAF’s Regional Command South and in Jalalabad and Khowst as the Commander of Task Force Spartan, responsible for eastern Afghanistan.
General Nicholson spent much of his service in the joint, multinational and interagency arena, working closely with colleagues in the State Department, the Intelligence Agencies, the Development community, the National Security Staff and numerous non-governmental organizations. His other assignments include Deputy Director of Joint IED Defeat Organization, Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell and Deputy Director for Operations on the Joint Staff, work on the personal staffs of the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Commander of U.S. Army Europe as well as at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security under U.S. European Command.
General Nicholson graduated from The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1982 where he was the First Captain of the Corps of Cadets. He also has a BA in History from Georgetown University, an MA in Operational Art from the School for Advanced Military Studies and an MA in National Security Studies from the National War College.
He is a Ranger, Master Parachutist, Pathfinder and has two awards of the Combat Infantryman’s badge as well as the Expert Infantryman’s Badge. His decorations include two awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, five awards of the Defense Superior Service Medal, three awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star medal and the Bronze Star medal with V device for Valor. Among multiple international awards, he has been presented Afghanistan’s highest award given to non-Afghans, the Amir Amanullah Khan Award, France’s Legion D’Honneur and Germany’s Gold Cross of Honor.