History never ends, it just goes fishing

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristin Mack
  • 301st Fighter Wing
After almost three decades of service Chief Master Sergeant Dale Nickelson concluded his military career as the last active serving Air Force member of the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron who served duty in Vietnam. 

His varied military career began in 1966 when he left the family meat packing business he enjoyed all throughout school to join the service as a means to stay ahead of the draft and chose the branch of service he would serve in. 

"Instead of being chosen [for the draft] I joined to get my service out of the way and pick the Air Force," said Chief Nickelson. 

After completing aircraft maintenance training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, he received orders to Big Spring, Texas, to work as a flightline crew chief on the T-38 "Talon". 

In September 1968, he attended Field Training Detachment training on the F-4 "Phantom" at George Air Force Base, Calif., before reporting Cam Rahn Bay Air Base, Republic of Viet Nam. There, his duties included phase dock chief, crew chief and aircraft battle damage repair team member. 

He came to Carswell AFB, Texas, in 1969 and joined the 388th Fighter Wing where the first squadron of FB-111A "Aardvark" fighter-bombers was formed. He began on the flight line but then moved into the phase dock. 

Then, in November 1970, the wing split into two squadrons at Pease AFB, Calif., and Plattsburg AFB, N.Y. Chief Nickelson followed the FB-111 to Plattsburg AFB, where he worked mainly in the phase dock. After getting promoted to night-shift dock chief he completed his military service obligation in 1973 then headed back to Texas with his wife to rejoin his former civilian career. 

"I like working in meat cutting because it's a people-oriented job," said Chief Nickelson. "I enjoy dealing with people." 

During a visit to the commissary at (then) Carswell AFB, Chief Nickelson learned about the Air Force Reserve. 

"I didn't know the Reserve existed," said Chief Nickelson. 

In 1985, after learning the A-4 was coming to Carswell, he decided to rejoin the career he loved as much as meat cutting. 

"The best job in the Air Force is working on planes," said Chief Nickelson. "We get to help provide the pilots with a weapon they can depend on." 

He later applied for a full-time Air Reserve Technician position and was chosen from a list of names by Sergeant Klaus Winter, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the phase doc. Now Senior Master Sgt. Klaus Winter, the 301st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expeditor, recalls the event. 

"I have always enjoyed working with him, said Sergeant Winter. "He always dealt with people fairly." 

Now that Chief Nickelson's military career has come to a close he will begin a new life, spending more time with his family and his favorite hobby fishing, while living in Granbury, Texas -- his retirement domicile.
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