Retired Sep. 1, 1994.
Brigadier General Ben Nelson Jr., is deputy commander of NATO's 5th Allied Tactical Air Force, Vicenza, Italy.
General Nelson was born in 1942, at Fort Lewis, Wash., and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, San Antonio, in 1960. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a major in industrial relations and personnel management, from the University of Texas In 1964 and a master's degree in public administration from Golden Gate University In 1976. The general completed Squadron Officer School in 1974, Air Command and Staff College In 1977, and the Naval War College In 1982.
After completing undergraduate pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., in December 1965, the general remained as a T-38 instructor pilot. In April 1970 he was transferred to the 4455th Combat Crew Training Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where he transitioned into F-4 Phantoms.
General Nelson was transferred to Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, in December 1970 and served as a flight commander with the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying 206 combat missions. He returned to the United States in November 1971 and was assigned as an instructor pilot with the 88th Flying Training Squadron, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. All students in the squadron were Vietnamese.
He was sent to Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., as chief of the Technical Training Branch, Personnel Training Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, in January 1974 to establish a foreign training section. In June 1977 General Nelson was assigned to the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., where he later became the operations officer. He assumed command of the squadron in July 1979 and in 1980 led the unit through its conversion from F-4s to F-16 Fighting Falcons.
General Nelson entered the Naval War College in August 1981 and graduated in July 1982. He then was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., as assistant chief, Tactical Forces Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations. He became division chief in May 1983. He was vice commander of the 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Camp New Amsterdam, Netherlands, from July 1984 to July 1985. He then became vice commander and wing inspector, 50th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hahn Air Base, West Germany. The general became commander of the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1986.
In March 1988 he was transferred to Tactical Air Command headquarters as assistant deputy chief of staff for plans. He then moved to command the 56th Tactical Training Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. in January 1989. He was the installation commander and wing commander there until September 1992, when he assumed his current position.
The general is a command pilot with more than 5,200 flying hours. His military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf duster, Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Modal and the Vietnamese Air Force Aviation Badge. General and Mrs. Nelson were the recipients of the 1988 General and Mrs. Jerome F. O'Malley Award for their efforts at Hahn Air Base.
He was promoted to brigadier general Oct. 1. 1988, with same date of rank.