Dennis Nichols, a senior consultant for supplier management enterprise services at Lincoln Financial Group, served in the U.S. Navy from 1989-1995. Intrigued by the Navy’s advanced schooling, rank, and pay, Nichols enlisted in the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program (DEP) as a high school junior at 17 years old.
“I have a strong lineage of military service on both sides of my family. Some of my family members have served in the Korean War, World War II, World War I and even back as far as the Civil War; and my oldest son is currently an Officer in the United States Coast Guard,” said Nichols. “My family has always considered it honorable and a privilege to serve in this country’s military.”
Being born into a family with a strong military background helped Nichols understand what life in the military consisted of. He learned this for himself in basic training, which he describes as “99% mental and attitude, and 1% physical.”
Nichols served on the USS Alaska, a Trident Ballistic Missile submarine in the Pacific fleet during the first Gulf War, including Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He worked in the Engineering Department as an Engineering Watch Supervisor, where he was responsible for the nuclear reactor, the submarines’ propulsion, electricity, and the boats systems, including A/C and water generation.
While out at sea, hundreds of feet underwater for several months at a time, communication with friends and family was extremely limited, especially during wartime.
“I recall being allowed to receive eight 50-word typed radio messages on each 90-day patrol; and on the rare occasion we surfaced or made a port call, mail drops felt a lot like Christmas in the middle of the Pacific.”
Next to his loved ones, one of the things Nichols missed most was the sun. Whenever he could, he took advantage of “periscope liberty” -- a rare occasion where if the submarine was shallow enough to use its periscope, he could see the horizon outside.
Another element of everyday life that Nichols missed was driving. “Specifically, I missed my first car that I left back home in Omaha, Nebraska when I graduated high school, a 1968 Mercury Cougar GT that I am fortunate enough to still have today.”
Six years after joining, with 2.5 years logged underwater, Nichols left active duty for the reserves at the end of 1995 and moved back to Nebraska. Married, with children, and ready to explore civilian life, he traveled around the world to Italy, Germany, Brazil, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia, enjoyed playing cards on a Pro-Tour circuit and spending time with his children. He also finished his education, attending Bellevue and Olivet Nazarene Universities earning his Bachelor of Science and MBA degrees.
When he reflects on his time in the Navy, Nichols mostly misses the fellowship and sense of unity that develops between military members, whether they are at sea, in the air, or on land. For this reason, he also believes that his experience was instrumental in developing his views on diversity and inclusion.
“At the end of the day, when you are on a submarine with 179 other servicemembers, if there is a fire, or a leak, or you are at war, it absolutely does not matter what State in the Union you are from, what color you are, what you identify as, or what beliefs you have,” said Nichols. “We are one crew, in one Navy, for the USA.”
Now at Lincoln, Nichols is a proud member and enterprise co-chair of the Veterans Business Resource Group (BRG) out of the Omaha area. In this role, he partners with Lincoln’s key city leads and members to serve veteran employees and veteran communities. In the spring and summer, he frequently participates in veteran run/walk challenges, car shows, veteran meetups, speaking engagements, and mentoring activities for active-duty military, veterans, and their families.