U.S. Army Captain Linwood Nelson. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Army Captain Linwood Nelson is an executive officer at NATO-led Resolute Support Headquarters in Afghanistan. “I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” Nelson told the AFRO via telephone from Kabul.

Already chosen for promotion to major, Nelson should pin on his new rank this summer. In July, he will also attend the Command and General Staff College, a selective professional school for Army officers at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Nelson’s childhood memories include watching the Blue Angels at Andrews Air Force Base with his father. The future army officer found military reveille and retreat customs endearing. He said he was awed by how people stopped cars and dropped everything to respect the flag and the country.

He attended Morgan Wooten’s basketball camp in Frostburg, Maryland, where his Bowie football coach suggested that he attend the prestigious Woodberry Forest, a boys’ school in Virginia. Integrity and faith traditions practiced at the 127-year-old private boarding school prepared Nelson to be self sufficient and transition to manhood, he said.

Nelson planned to go into medicine until a conversation with an Army ROTC staff member at William and Mary college in Williamsburg, Virginia, his mother said. Nelson graduated from the nation’s second oldest college in 2006, earning a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He continued his education, acquiring a master’s degree from Webster University while stationed at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma.

A career broadening fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill groomed Nelson for his current assignment, he said.  He said he learned about “national security strategy, counter-terrorism, and the interagency process to synchronize and coordinate U.S. actions,” the captain told the AFRO. “It totally correlates to what I’m doing now.”

Nelson enjoys his role of getting the message out of “how we’re helping the Afghans,” he said.

It’s a very different mission from his first deployment to Baghdad, he added.

In Baghdad, he patrolled “outside the wire” as a company fire support officer and motorized infantry platoon leader. “Things are a little bit different,” Nelson said when he compared his 2007 Iraq deployment to Kabul. Yet even in a staff position, “You’re always in harm’s way,” Nelson said, “we just mitigate risk.”

Nelson’s parents are his mentors. His mother, Debbie Nelson, was the first Black woman to graduate from Jacksonville University’s ROTC program in 1980. She later attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy.