Lt. Col. Jean-Marie Nixon, Delaware Wing
Posted on November 20, 2023 at 1:17 PM by Virginia Smith
Photo by Lt. Venkat Pillarisetty
Lt. Col. Jean-Marie Nixon, Delaware Wing DAE, listens as Cadet Senior Airman Sabri Alan Abdul-Ahad of the Delaware Air National Guard Base Cadet Squadron points out a feature of the Mars habitat model he helped design.
November 20, 2023
Meet Lt. Col. Jean-Marie Nixon, Delaware Director of Aerospace Education (DAE). She joined CAP in 2011 to assist her late husband, Lt. Col. Patrick Nixon, with the Arizona squadron in which he was a commander. Originally only believing she would be a Civil Air Patrol member for a short while, she recalls with a laugh, she has served in many areas since that time. She is master rated in seven specialty tracks. With a career path including having a master's degree in psychology and working in child protective services, she began learning more about Aerospace Education along with the cadets she was helping in that first squadron. Growing up, she had discovered aerospace education from her father, who while in the Army was in charge of the NATO helicopters and then later, helicopters in Vietnam. "My father loved aviation," she says. "He taught both my sister (CAP AEM Cynthia Ann Sowers of Pennsylvania) and me about life through flying." Her current duty positions include roles in Operation Pulse Lift blood drive, character development and chaplain support along with aerospace education. "I enjoy working with others in CAP and hope to inspire a love of aviation in people of all ages," she says of her AE work. "The youth are the future – their time is right around the corner." We asked her some questions about her career in Civil Air Patrol, and her answers follow.
Please tell us about your duty positions.
Delaware Wing DAE
Delaware Wing Character Development Instructor (CDI)
Former Texas DAE and Drug Demand Reduction Administrator (DDRA)
Former Arizona Wing DDRA
Operation Pulse Lift Mission Trainer, Chaplain Support Specialist – Disaster Support
Please tell us any descriptive information about your wing that you’d like to share.
Delaware Wing has a rich history. Delaware was the home of the second CAP base, Coastal Patrol Base #2 at the Rehoboth Airport.
During WW II, using private aircraft, "Flying Minutemen" patrolled the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware beaches for German submarines. Coastal Patrol Base #2 aircrews flew the first-ever coastal patrol mission for Civil Air Patrol on March 5, 1942. Delaware was the first state; also known as the Diamond State. It is the home of seven terrific squadrons (in addition to the Legislative Squadron):
DE-004 Brandywine Cadet Squadron
DE-008 Delaware Air National Guard Cadet Squadron
DE-006 Dover Composite Squadron
DE-019 Coastal Base 2 Memorial Composite Squadron
DE-020 North Chesapeake Cadet Squadron
DE-022 New Castle Senior Squadron
DE-025 Middletown Cadet Squadron
DE-099 Delaware Legislative Squadron (State Legislators and Staff Only)
How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?
My late husband, Lt. Col. Patrick E. Nixon, recruited me (he is featured in the CAP Volunteer Fall 2023 magazine, (Gone West (Page 54), Final Salute). He was the CC of SWR-AZ-107, Verde Valley Composite Squadron, and he needed assistance – I did not want to join CAP, but I always “had his back” – I joined CAP, became a member of the Arizona Wing, and that was the start of my CAP career.
How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol? Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.
I joined in 2011 to assist my husband with the squadron – I told my husband I would give him one year (haha -- and here I am still). I would have never believed it back then if someone had told me I would end up all over the country in different duty assignments. I started out as the Health Services Officer, Administration and Personnel Officer. I became the Deputy Commander of Cadets (DCC), Professional Development Officer (PDO), CDI, AEO and Emergency Services Training Officer. I have seven specialty tracks (including the three missions: AE, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services) and am Master rated in all seven. I was recently put in the Command Track – I hold a Senior rating.
As the DCC, I was responsible for the training and education of the cadets. As the PDO, I was responsible for the senior members’
Lt. Col Patrick Nixon and Lt. Col. Jean-Marie Nixon with their granddaughter at an air show..
professional development. For the cadets, I started "study buddy" sessions – this would take place once or twice a month in addition to the squadron meetings and the Saturday Fun Activity. During FY 2016, we participated in Arizona Sci-tech festival in Cottonwood, Arizona. In 2017, SWR-AZ-107 participated with I-Doodle/NASA Cubes in Space (this was well before the High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) challenge; we sent lima beans (Project Bean Stalk) on a rocket off of Wallops Island and a weather balloon from New Mexico. The cadets and senior members enjoyed participating with multiple airshows throughout Arizona. We visited the Challenger Center in Peoria, Arizona, built rockets and other STEM kits, and participated in CyberPatriot, Wreaths Across America, etc. I was the Lead Tactical (TAC) officer for the National Cadet Special Activity -- Cyber Defense Training Academy held at Lackland AFB. I also attended National Emergency Services Academy (NESA) and eventually became an instructor at NESA for Incident Command School - Chaplain Emergency Services Support (ICS-ChESS).
In the summer of 2017, I went to Texas Wing for the CAP National Conference (this was during Hurricane Harvey.) There I met Lt. Valeri Moczygemba of SWR-TX-187, AKA Alamo Composite Squadron – we met in a TLC (cadet training) class. She was very warm and welcoming and invited me to attend a local meeting. In Nov 2017, I left Arizona Wing and went to Texas Wing. Both my parents lived in San Antonio (where I was born and raised); they were very ill, and I went to provide for their care. I eventually transferred to the Texas Wing and was the AEO, CDI, ESTO, and DCS for the squadron. During the time with Alamo Squadron, we worked on the first High-Altitude Balloon Challenge. I was appointed Texas Wing AEO during the time of COVID-19. During this time, I initiated a Wing-wide cadet competition to help keep the cadets engaged. It was a Mars Rover Challenge. The cadets throughout the TXWG built rovers out of pasta, and the winner was the recipient of a spaghetti dinner for the squadron.
My time spent with the TXWG had some difficulties due to my parents’ poor health – my mother died in 2018 (just a couple of weeks after I was scheduled to attend National Staff College (NSC) at Maxwell AFB – I did not attend NSC); my father died in 2020. The members of the SWR-TX-187 were the most wonderful people during this time.
In 2021, Operation Pulse Lift (Civil Air Patrol's blood drive) became more active with the Armed Services Blood Program at both Dyess AFB and Lackland AFB. The squadron members rose to the challenge. Eventually, more Blood Donor Centers were established, and this is a very vital and dynamic program.
I have worked with Operation Pulse Lift since 2017 and have assisted with Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Washington, and Delaware wings (from one side of the country to the other).
In 2021, my husband’s illness required the need for us to relocate to be closer to family in Delaware. We moved to Delaware during Thanksgiving week 2021. I eventually transferred to the Delaware Wing in 2022. I became the AEO for MAR-DE-006, Dover Composite Squadron. Later that summer (2022), there was a Wing Change of Command, and the new WGCC Col. Robert Hotchkiss appointed me Delaware Wing AEO. This was a bit of a challenge due to my husband’s deteriorating condition (he died of service-connected disabilities on June 5, 2023). However, the AEOs of the Delaware Wing (fine, dedicated CAP members) were ready and willing to carry out the AE Mission. We have held multiple AE Activity Days; held AEO workshops; provided AE seminars for wing conference; worked on STEM kits, HAB, CyberPatriot, and rockets; visited the KC10 Simulator at Joint Base McGuire Dix in New Jersey; and assisted with Thunder over Dover (the Dover AFB Airshow) and Wings and Wheels (the Georgetown (GED) Air and Car show. The AEOs are all committed to the AE program and continue to work on their specialty tracks, as well as work with the cadets and senior members.
This past FY23, every Delaware Wing squadron has earned the AEX Award, as well as the AE Achievement Award. I am so very happy for all the squadrons and proud of every AEO. [Read more about the Delaware Wing's activities in CAP's Volunteer Fall 2023 magazine.]
Is there anything else about your aerospace education background that you'd like to mention?
I learned about AE alongside the cadets of that first squadron – SWR-AZ-107 (I had no formal AE education prior to CAP). Prior to CAP, I knew a little about aviation from my father, who while in the Army was in charge of the NATO helicopters and then later, helicopters in Vietnam. He worked on the flight line at Kelly AFB in San Antonio and eventually transferred to the C5A Galaxy. He traveled far and wide as a civilian working for Military Airlift Command. He eventually worked at the Pentagon under the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.
My father loved aviation. He taught both my sister (CAP AEM Cynthia Ann Sowers of PA) and me about life through flying. She wrote this about our father after he died in 2020:
Flying -- Our Dad taught us to Fly
Not only in Airplanes but in Life!
He would swing us on swings and say Hold On tight.❤️
He would show us planes and tell us the names of planes as if they were Birds!
That’s a cardinal, he would say as he pointed to a bright red bird.
That’s a B-52 Bomber, he would say at the Kelly or Randolph Air Shows.
He’d fly kites with us and take us to Air Shows.
He would tell us the importance of a $2 part.
And how if that didn’t work it could bring that plane down (no matter how pretty it looked)
He would teach us how to pay attention to details and how Ice on the Wings could bring a plane down.
How landing gear and getting those wheels up was precise timing.
To listen for the sounds of different planes. To know the difference from fighter jets to commercial airlines.
Why did he do that? Teaching us about Life.
My first book report in school was on Amelia Earhart.
I think he was more excited than me.
He was a great storyteller; the Bermuda Triangle came to life as he spoke of
Planes getting lost in it.
Don’t get lost in life girls! Check all systems and have an emergency exit.
But Fly -- Find Your Wings and Fly
Tell us about your career outside of Civil Air Patrol. How long have you been in this field, and why did you choose it?
I have had multiple career paths – I worked in hospitality and in various retail establishments. Additionally, I have worked for both the State of Delaware and Arizona in Child Protective Services (both as an investigator and family crisis therapist). I have a master’s degree in psychology and another degree in addictions counseling. I was in charge of the Tutoring Center at Delaware Technical and Community College (Terry Campus). I have worked for the City of Sedona (Department of Parks and Rec) as a water aerobics instructor, ZUMBA instructor, and face painter. I worked for Curves for Women (fitness/gym) as a ZUMBA instructor, Yoga instructor, certified fitness coach, and boxing trainer (I am certified by the Cleveland Clinic). I owned my own business, “Turn the Other Cheek” facepainting, providing facepainting for many events throughout Arizona and Texas.
Within CAP, why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in this area?
I serve at the pleasure of the DEWG Commander, as do we all. I enjoy working with others in CAP and hope to inspire a love of aviation in people of all ages. The youth are the future – their time is right around the corner. It’s thrilling to see them excited about AE. A particularly nice aspect of AE is that it is such a “wide umbrella”. It encompasses everything from AE history (Wright Brothers, Tuskegee, the Doolittle raid, Women in Aviation, the Pardo Push) to cyber, STEM, and HAB. There is something for everyone.
What is the best CAP experience you have had since joining the organization?
There are so many – I would have to say working with others and building the relationships – watching others grow and develop to their potential. I also enjoy seeing others enjoy what they're doing and knowing we are providing a service and helping members in the community. I enjoy being part of Operation Pulse Lift. I especially enjoy working with other members of the Chaplain Corps.
Tell us about any other Civil Air Patrol aerospace education programs you use internally and externally.
The other AEOs and I have utilized STEM kits, cyber programs and the High-Altitude Balloon Challenge. We have participated in the 2017 solar eclipse and are participating in this FY 24 solar eclipse. We have recruited AEMs, worked with AEMs, and organized Teacher Orientation Program (TOP) Flights. Everyone works the AE program diligently. As such, they have earned the Aerospace Education Excellence Award and the AE Achievement Award. I encourage all senior members to earn the Yeager Award.
What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?
Listen to them and involve them – find out what they like – some squadrons like STEM or cyber or rockets, etc. Encourage them to pursue their training and development. Let them help develop the squadron goals (SMART); give them duty assignments and responsibilities. Follow up with them – this is not controlling; this is empowering.
Tell them what needs to be done, but don’t tell them how to do it – let them surprise you with their creativity and ingenuity. This is the place for them to learn and most importantly to make mistakes – they will learn more from their mistakes than their successes.
Do you have any suggestions for how to conduct outreach in schools (working with students and/or recruiting AEMs)?
This is a tough one – it’s often hard to get into schools (at least that has been my experience). Find an AEO who wants to be the external officer and work with them. Keep working at community, events and let the community know about CAP. Hopefully, eventually it will lead to Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) participants and more AEMs.
Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience working with cadets and/or students or teachers.
There are so many – I especially enjoy working with the very young (when possible). The first- and second-graders love the foam gliders and spinners.
Is there anything else that we didn’t ask that you’d like to add for this spotlight on an AE Officer? We want to tell your story.
I am also a member of the Marine Corps League, Central Delaware Detachment #768, and the Delaware Veterans Post #2.
Additionally, I am the author of two books:
The Raid on Oschersleben (the story of my uncle and father -- John T. Mills and Earl V. Mills -- and the WWII raid over Oschersleben, Germany)
Pursuing the Mistress (a play on the word 'master's' in master's degree), a collection of thoughts and essays I wrote while working toward my master's degree.
Both are available on Amazon.
At top: Delaware Wing cadets participate in an AE activity. At center: Col. Nixon is pictured with Bishop Thomas Douglas of Delaware State University Alumni Association, Florida 'Sunshine' Alumni Chapter for the university's Aviation program, at the October 2022 Dedication Ceremony of Little Florence at Delaware Airpark. At bottom: She is presenting at an external outreach event at a high school.