A native of Ann Arbor, MI, Captain Nielsen graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. Following graduation, he entered flight training, earning his Naval Flight Officer Wings in 1989. He also holds a Masters of Science Degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College (2003).
Operationally, his Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) tours include his first tour in both Patrol Squadron 19 and Patrol Squadron 9, Moffett Field, CA (with a subsequent homeport change to Barbers Point, HI for Patrol Squadron 9). Highlighting his first tour were his designations as a Mission Commander and Instructor Tactical Coordinator and his responsibilities as the Avionics and Armament Division Officer. As a Department Head in Patrol Squadron 1, Whidbey Island, WA from 1999-2001, he culminated his tour as the Maintenance Officer. He subsequently returned to Patrol Squadron 1 as the Commanding Officer from 2005-2006. His MPRA deployments have been to Misawa, Japan; Okinawa, Japan; Masirah, Oman; Bahrain; Diego Garcia; Adak, Alaska; Panama; the Philippines and numerous detachments sites around the world. As ship’s company in USS ENTERPRISE from 1995-1997, he served as the Assistant Navigator and deployed to the Mediterranean and to the Arabian Gulf. During this tour, he qualified as Officer of the Deck (OOD) Underway and Command Duty Officer (CDO) Underway.
Shore duty assignments include two years as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to The Commander, Patrol Wings U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander, ASW Forces U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii from 1993-1995; Officer in Charge, Weapons Systems Trainers, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Ten at Whidbey Island, WA from 1997-1998; Deputy Executive Assistant to the Director, Air Warfare (N78) on the OPNAV Staff in the Pentagon (2001-2002); MPRA “Big Wing” Commander Detailer and Assistant Captain Detailer for the Division Director for Aviation Officer Distribution (PERS 43) at the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, TN from 2006-2008.
His most recent assignment was as the J54 Maritime Division Chief at NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, Peterson AFB, CO (2008-2010). He reported to KEARSARGE as Executive Officer in April 2011 and took command as the Commanding Officer Dec. 21, 2012.