Michael Nelson

Director of Operations


Michael Nelson serves as the Director of Operations at the Institute for the Study of War.

Prior to joining ISW, Mike served as an Army Special Forces officer, retiring after 23 years of active duty service. He served at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels including as the Deputy Director of the US Central Commander’s Action Group, Future Operations director of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria, Director of the Baghdad Targeting Cell, and as a special forces company and operational detachment- alpha commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed eleven times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Qatar, and Kosovo with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, Joint Special Operations Command, and Special Operations Command-Central.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the Virginia Military Institute, a Master of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is a visiting fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute, and his writing has been published in War on the Rocks, Newlines Magazine, and other defense and security-related publications.


Content by