In over 36 years of active duty, General Nicholson has been widely admired as a uniquely skilled “warrior-diplomat”. He is the longest-serving commander of the Afghan War, having lead the 41- nation NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces-Afghanistan for two and a half years. His leadership and close relations with Afghan leaders were key to brokering the first ceasefire in the 17-year war and helped enable the launch of the current peace initiative. He commanded 22,000 Coalition forces and closely advised the 330,000-member Afghan National Security Forces, with a budget in excess of $17 Billion.
Prior to leading the Resolute Support Mission, General Nicholson was Commander of the 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 NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Headquarters and drafting defensive plans for the Alliance in the face of emergent threats. In these two NATO Commands, General Nicholson worked closely with the senior military and national leadership of the Alliance and Coalition Nations.
His six years deployed in Afghanistan make him one of the most combat seasoned four-star generals in American military history. He served 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 Khost as the Commander of Task Force Spartan, responsible for Eastern Afghanistan.
General Nicholson served ten years on jump status, ultimately serving as Commanding General of the 82d Airborne Division. He commanded companies in the 82ndAirborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment, at the tip of the spear for America’s response to crises worldwide. 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, and as a Colonel in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. He commanded the Army’s first Stryker Infantry Battalion, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, the “Tomahawks” and one of the Army’s first modular Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain, the “Spartans”. In these latter two commands and as Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, he was instrumental in leading change within the Army to build new capabilities that adapted the Army for current and future warfare.
General Nicholson spent most of his service as a general officer in the joint, multinational and interagency arena, working closely with U.S. colleagues in the State Department, the Intelligence Agencies, Law Enforcement, the Development community, the National Security Staff and numerous non-governmental organizations. His other assignments include Deputy Director of Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Defeat Organization, Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell and Deputy Director for Operations on the Joint Staff. He has worked on the personal staff of the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Commander of U.S. Army Europe as well as on the faculty and staff of the George C. Marshall Center for European Security under U.S. European Command.
General Nicholson has testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has participated in numerous sessions of the NATO North Atlantic Council, to include with the Ambassadors to NATO, Chiefs of Defense, Defense Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Heads of State of the Alliance. He has hosted many of these leaders in Afghanistan as well as visited them in their respective capitals to further unity of effort within the Resolute Support Mission.
He has engaged with numerous media organizations to include Fox News, 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, NY Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, BBC, Der Spiegel among others. He has published articles in National Defense University’s PRISM magazine “NATO’s Land Forces: Strength and Speed Matter” (Prism 6-2 July 2016) and The Joint Force Quarterly “Assured Access: Building a Joint and Multinational Airborne Forcible Entry Capability.” (JFQ71 October 2013)
General Nicholson received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy where he was the First Captain, Commander of the Corps of Cadets. He also received a Master of Arts degree in Operational Art from the School for Advanced Military Studies, and a Master of Arts in National Security Studies from the National War College.
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. 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. 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.
General Nicholson is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is married to Ms. Norine MacDonald QC. He has two children, 2LT Caroline Nicholson, U.S. Army Reserve, and John W. Nicholson III, a Masters Student in Military History at Kings College of London.