Larry D. McCaskill
Every four years, people around the globe focus their attention on the Olympic Games. For many, the attraction is watching their national athletes compete to bring home medals for their countries; for others, it’s a dream of one day making the team. For MG Camille M. Nichols, Commanding General (CG), U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC), the games evoke memories of past accomplishments and friendships.
A member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Women’s Handball Team, Nichols remembers that time fondly. “It was one of the most memorable times of my life,” said Nichols, who was a manager and assistant coach for the Women’s Handball Team. “To work with elite athletes and travel the world competing allowed me to see other countries and cultures. It also allowed me to see the immense similarities all of us humans have—pursuit of excellence and dreams. The spirit of the games is strong, healthy, and very healing.”
Many are unaware of Nichols’ athletic background, although it’s normally in plain sight. “I had been to many different ceremonies and seen bios, so I thought I would put that tagline on my bio to see if people actually read it. I was surprised because it does catch their interest,” she said. “As I was moving around a lot, I was taking plaques out of boxes and I found my 1984 Olympic Certificate, and I realized I was really proud of it and it is a part of who I am today, and that I should show that off.
“My time with the U.S. National Team taught me a lot about the sacrifices that other Americans make each and every day,” said Nichols, who became involved in women’s handball when she was a cadet at West Point. “The dedication and commitment and tireless pursuit of excellence helped me focus even more on my professionalism as I continued in the Army after my Olympic experience. Honing your craft, being an expert, giving it your all: These things ring true in our Army. These things can be seen on the fields of strife and the fields of glory.”
Nichols believes it takes great teams to accomplish tough and incredible things, on and off the battlefield.
“This is true in athletics as well as the military. Even the individual competitive sports take a team of coaches, managers, trainers, family, and friends to be successful,” she said.
Not the most popular sport of the Olympics, the handball competition tends to receive little if any television time.
“Every event should be televised,” Nichols said with a smile. “It is a culmination of years of sweat and tears that these athletes went through for their five minutes of fame. The problem is, no one person could actually sit through it all; it would take months. Seriously, the gold medal round for each sport should get some TV time for those thousands of supporters at home. This sport is very exciting and could really use the exposure.”
A few years ago, Nichols’ Olympic teammates held their 25th reunion, but she was unable to attend. She hopes that doesn’t happen again.
“I have a couple of teammates I connect with via email. I believe they are working on the 30th reunion. I hope to be able to get there. I know they are watching the Olympics, and I am with them in spirit,” she said.
- LARRY D. MCCASKILL is Senior Command Information Officer in the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs at ACC, Redstone Arsenal, AL. He is a U.S. Army veteran and a graduate of Queensboro Community College and the Defense Information School.