Colonel Nelms is from Jupiter, FL and attended the United States Naval Academy, earning a BS in General Science. He commissioned in 1993 and completed The Basic School in March 1994. He was designated a Naval Aviator in May 1996 and reported to VMGRT-253 at MCAS Cherry Point for KC-130F/R replacement pilot training. While attached to VMGRT-253 he attended the Naval Aviation Maintenance Officer Course and served as Airframes Officer and Quality Assurance Officer.
Captain Nelms reported to his first fleet assignment with VMGR-152 at MCAS Futenma in August 1997. During his tour, he served as the Adjutant, Powerplants Officer, Flight Duty Officer, and Aircrew Training Officer. He also completed the Aviation Safety Officer Course, the USAF Advanced Air-Delivery Tactics Training Course (AATTC), and the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course. He planned and participated in multiple detachments and annual exercises to include: COBRA GOLD, Thailand; ULCHI FOCUS LENS and FOAL EAGLE, Korea; SOUTHERN FRONTIER and TANDEM THRUST, Australia; and BALIKATAN, Philippines.
In September 2001, Captain Nelms reported to VMGR-352 at MCAS Miramar, and deployed to Pakistan as the VMGR detachment Operations Officer for OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. Under TASK FORCE 58, the detachment supported 15th MEU (SOC) and 26th MEU (SOC) missions in Afghanistan with air-landed delivery of fuel, supplies, and personnel until February 2002.
In October 2002, Captain Nelms completed the Tactical Air Control Party course and was designated a Forward Air Controller. He reported to the 11th MEU at Camp Pendleton as Air Officer in January 2003 and was promoted to major. In February 2003, he deployed with the 11th MEU Command Element to OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM I. Designated as TASK FORCE YANKEE, the 11th MEU Command Element supported I MEF throughout Iraq, returning to Camp Pendleton in June 2003.
He deployed to Iraq again with the 11th MEU (SOC) to Najaf Province from June 2004 to February 2005 in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM II, conducting operations against the Mahdi Militia as well as security and stability operations.
In April 2005, Major Nelms was ordered back to VMGR-352 as the Department Head for Safety and Standardization. He next served as the Operations Officer, overseeing the final chapter of the squadron’s transition to the KC-130J model aircraft. He returned to Iraq in February 2007 as the Executive Officer of VMGR-252 Detachment A, Al Asad Air Base in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 2006-2008.
In September 2007, Major Nelms reported to Headquarters Marine Corps, Programs and Resources as Head of Budget Coordination and oversaw the FY2010 USMC Budget submission.
In November 2008, Major Nelms reported to VMMT-204 at MCAS New River for MV-22 transition pilot training, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 2009. In April 2009, he reported to MAG-29 as the MV-22 Special Projects Officer before commanding the VMM-263 “Thunder Chickens” from January 2010 to March 2012. Under his command, VMM-263 (REIN) deployed from March 2011 to February 2012 as the composite ACE for the 22nd MEU and participated in OPERATION UNIFIED PROTECTOR/ODYSSEY GUARD in support of the liberation of Libya and other operations in 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.
Lieutenant Colonel Nelms graduated from the Marine Corps War College in 2013 with a Master of Strategic Studies degree. From July 2013 to July 2016, he served as a plans officer at USSOCOM J35, and was promoted to his present rank in April 2016. He received a Master of Business Administration with highest honors from the University of Tampa in August 2016.
Colonel Nelms’ personal awards include the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Numeral Seven, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, as well as numerous Expeditionary, Service, Campaign, and Unit Awards. He has accumulated over 3,500 mishap free flight hours.