McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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April 16, 2014

McAlester grad - Commander Pete Nilsen to speak at Armed Forces Day luncheon

McALESTER — McAlester High School alumnus Commander Peter K. Nilsen assistant chief of staff, Navy Missile and Defense Command will be the keynote speaker May 2 at the Armed Forces Day Luncheon at the McAlester Army Ammunitions Plant.

On Friday Nilsen said he was honored to be asked to speak at the luncheon.

“It’s pretty neat,” Nilsen said.

“I never would have though I’d be asked to do something like this, it’s an honor.”

Nilsen a former paperboy for the News-Capital,  has come a long way since he graduated from MHS in 1980.

Nilsen enlisted the U.S. Navy in 1984 and quickly moved up the ranks, according to his official biography from the US Navy.

In 1990 while earning a Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University Nilsen was selected as  Commander Training Atlantic Instructor of the Year and Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic Sailor of the Year from there he was advanced to Operations Specialist Chief Petty Officer in 1992 and in 1994 he was commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer program. He earned his Master of Science Degree in Management from Troy University.

At sea he served on the USS Carney as first Operations Tech LDO; the USS Essex as Combat Information Center Officer; The USS Kauffman as executive officer; and, in 2011 Nilsen reported to the USS Cole as executive officer and assumed command of the destroyer in 2012.

While ashore Nilsen was responsible for the tactical training of all pre-commissioned DDG-51 ships in Bath Maine and Pascagoala Miss. as assistant officer in charge of AEGIS Training and Readiness Detachment Center in Norfolk, Va.

Nilsen also served on the staff of Commander of the Naval Surface Force Atlantic as Deputy for Operations and Plans.

Today Nilsen serves as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and Mission Support at Navy Air and Missile Defense Command, the Navy’s primary authority and lead organization for Naval Joint and Coalition Integrated Air and Missile Defense matters.

Nilsen said his duties in the Navy are right up his alley.

“I am able help to commanders that are doing what I was doing,” Nilsen said. “When I had questions as commander of the Cole, I would call the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command.”

Nilsen he was asked last year to speak at this year’s Armed Forces Day event by AFD Committee member Jeff Wolf.

“I saw Jeff when came to town to see my mother for  surprise Mother’s Day visit.”

He said while thinking about the theme of his speech for this years luncheon thought about this year’s AFD theme.

“He told me Courage at Sea is theme of this year’s Armed Forces Day,” Nilsen said.

“I’m going to talk about growing up in McAlester and the influence the Navy has had on my life.” Nilsen said.  “I’ll cover the history of the USS Cole, the bombing of the ship and what it an honor it was be the commander.”

He said he will also talk about the sailors on the ship and how hard they worked and how highly motivated they were to serve on the USS Cole.

Meanwhile the luncheon is open to the public, for tickets and more  information, contact the McAlester Chamber of Commerce at 918-423-2550.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at

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