Nichole was born in Findlay, Ohio in 1972 to Penny and Rocky Swick. Her parents divorced and Penny married Buzz Dennison. Nichole was raised with twin brother’s Brock and Bronson and sister Trina. “My family was very close.”
Nichole attended Arlington High School. She stepped away from school in 1988, at the age of 16, to marry Rich Cole. She returned to Findlay High School and graduated with her original class in 1990. While the marriage was good, Nichole had goals to become a Military Police officer in the Air Force. Lacking support for her goals from her husband, Nichole took initiative, took the military ASVAB test, did very well and chose to train as a Military Police officer.
She arrived at Lackland AFB to begin basic training in March of 1991. Nichole stayed at Lackland for MP training. “It was the coolest, most “bad ass” thing ever to low crawl through mud, under barbwire, fire weapons and blow stuff up during training.”
Nichole’s first duty station would be at Kelly AFB, where she arrived in July of 1991. She was assigned to the Air Intelligence Agency, where her duties were to provide security on foot and mobile patrols. Shortly after arriving she saw a handsome young MP, named Jimmy Coleman and was immediately “smitten”. The attraction was mutual, and the couple were married in July of 1992.
Two weeks later Jimmy was deployed to the Gulf, where Nichole would also deploy joining her husband at Riyadh AFB, Saudi Arabia. Their primary tasks were providing base security and guarding AWACS aircraft.
Two memorable events occurred while Nichole was deployed. On one occasion a scud missile made it past air defense systems, landing close to Nichole’s position. “I literally felt the ground move.” The second event was Nichole becoming pregnant with her first child, Torri.
Back stateside, the Air Force transferred the couple to Scott AFB in Illinois where both Nichole and her husband retrained, with her new duties being in Public Affairs where she managed Scott AFB base’s newspaper as well as working in media and community relations. In 1995, her duties were expanded when she was deployed in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. She was tasked with escorting news media personnel in Bosnia, Hungary and Germany during her six-week deployment.
Her final duty station was at Andrews AFB where, as the editor of the base newspaper, she, a “mere E-4”, met weekly with the general commanding Andrews. Together they would decide the best way to communicate to airmen and civilians working on the base.
When her daughter Torri was preparing to start school, Nichole decided to hang up her uniform leaving the Air Force in 1998. She and Jimmy returned to Findlay to be close to family. It was during this time their son Jesse joined the family.
Nichole worked at a photography studio where she honed her skills learning how to capture portraits and weddings. At age twenty-nine, Nichole was also busy volunteering at Torri’s school and being active in her church. In 2004 Jimmy bought Aloha Shiny Windows, and Nichole began Nichole Renae Portraits. Both businesses have flourished.
Nichole joined the team at Red Cross in Findlay as the Blood Service director. When the Red Cross received a grant to create support groups for military families, Nichole became the military liaison/program director/volunteer coordinator for the program. In 2011, based on her military past, and skills learned through the grant program, Nichole was recommended to fill the vacant seat as the Hancock County Veterans Service Office Director. She accepted and though a female had never held this position in Hancock County, Nichole said, “The transition was very smooth because of the staff and leadership in place in the office.”
Nichole’s efforts and dedication towards helping veterans has led to her being appointed to serve on state and national Veterans boards. These include:
President of the Ohio State Association of County Veterans service officers, 2016-2018.
Current Vice President of the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers.
An appointed three-year term on the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training and Employer Outreach, Washington, DC
When time slows down for Nichole, she loves to spend quality time with her husband Jimmy, and now grown children, Jesse, Torri and her husband Cordero. Furry family members include Nichole's PTSD trained service dog Tyson and one of his litter mates, Lucy Lou.
"In My Own Words"
As a young girl I wanted to be an SP (security police) in the Air Force. At that time women weren't authorized to serve in that AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) but the field opened to women before I turned 18! I was so excited to low crawl under the barbed wire through the mud, climb over walls, and fire large weapons.
After I completed basic training and the police academy at Lackland AFB, TX I received orders to my first base ... Kelly AFB which is literally right across the street from Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. My first day there I met my future husband, Jimmy and we began dating within six months of my arriving at Kelly, where I was stationed from 1991-1994.
I deployed to Riyadh AB, Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield from Oct 1992-Jan. 1993. Being an SP was everything I thought it would be and then some ... most of the time. But, walking fence lines and guarding top secret, restricted areas in the middle of nowhere became boring very quickly. Additionally, at a unit party the camaraderie with my fellow SPs was destroyed when I was drugged and raped while many members of the squadron watched.
Fortunately, it only took me ten months to receive orders to retrain into public affairs. I attended school at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN. This change of AFSC also meant that we received orders to a new base and a fresh start. Jimmy and I both received orders to Scott AFB, IL where we were stationed from 1994-1996.
Here I enjoyed being the sports editor for the base newspaper, being a mother to our young daughter and cheering Jimmy on at the intramural softball games on base. During this assignment I deployed to a JIB (joint information bureau) in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia.
The JIB was at Rhein Main AB, Germany and I was there Dec. 1995-Jan. 1996. During this TDY, I escorted news media in and out of Tuzla AB, Bosnia and Taszar AB, Hungary. We also sent out press releases and one of mine ran in USA Today.
Late in 1996 Jimmy retrained which resulted in us getting reassigned again. This time his orders were to Bolling AFB, DC and mine were to Andrews AFB, MD. The bases are very close to each other and we enjoyed our time in the Nation's capitol. At Andrews AFB I served as the editor for the base newspaper and as a senior airman met weekly with the base commander to find out what he wanted communicated to the troops in the upcoming week.
We were here from 1996-1998 and this is where we were blessed with our second and final child.
I wouldn't trade my time in the United States Air Force for anything and I am so proud to be a veteran. That is a title that I earned and it can never be taken away from me! If you are feeling sorry for me because of a few short sentences in this I encourage you to see how many amazing things I pointed out and recognize that the MST (military sexual trauma) that caused my PTSd was a very small (10-15 minutes) piece of my seven year military career that I am so proud of.
I am not a victim. I am a veteran. I am not just a survivor. I am a veteran.