Colonel Keith Nightingale, 1961
Retired Army Colonel, Security Consultant
Colonel Keith Nightingale was once a young aloof kid growing up in the small town of Ojai, CA. The public school academics were not a challenge and allowed for Nightingale to have a lot of free time to hunt, fish, or go to the beach. His father, a graduate from Stanford University determined that Nightingale was not getting enough academic “rigor” and took it upon himself to arrange entrance at Exeter, Middlesex and Vermont Academy.
After visiting all 3 schools, he chose VA because of the extensive outdoor program and “it didn’t seem stuffy”. He found that he was “suddenly academically deficient in most undertakings which focused him when he wasn’t building the boards and clamps for the outdoor hockey rink or stealing fish out of Warren Chivers private fish camp.”
From VA, Nightingale attended Claremont Men’s College and joined the ROTC; he graduated and was commissioned on the same day, June 6, 1965 in the Regular Army Infantry. From commissioning he went to Fort Benning and immediately signed up for Jump School and Ranger School. As he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, he decided to make the army his career. His dedication to the army and to his troops eventually earned him the reputation as a “Special Operations Legend”. Nightingale served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded airborne battalions in both the 509th and the 82nd Airborne. He later commanded the 1/75th Rangers and the Ranger Brigade. He was a member of the Iran rescue attempt in 1981 and served with several classified organizations.
He was the assault force commander in both Grenada and Panama and managed the Department Of Defense Counter-drug support operations in Latin America. He developed a stand-alone southwest border surveillance system for the Immigration and Natural Services. Nightingale served as a principal in the FAA Sky Marshall training program post 9-11. He also provided corporate technical and scientific support to the City of New York, Police and Fire Departments as part of the 9-11 site recovery programs. In 1993, Nightingale retired from the army and accepted a job offer at the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to assist in their various technologies for border control and drug screening.
At SAIC he evolved into becoming the “spook” and High Risk Coordinator for the 2000+ employees that we sent to GWOT (Iraq/Afghanistan). He was responsible for real time travel tracking of all SAIC employees abroad – averaging 1,000 travelers a day. He oversaw highly classified operations in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East as a consultant and business-neutral evaluator for various corporations. Among which was the contracted task to provide all of the security systems, communications and IT backbone to the Greek Olympics. Nightingale has received many honors and awards throughout his career, including; the Defense Superior Service Medal, three Legions of Merit, five Defense Meritorious Service Medals, Humanitarian Service Medal (Iran) and four Bronze Stars for Valor, Vietnamese Medal of Honor, and Member Ranger Hall of Fame.
Vermont Academy is honored to add one more award to his portfolio as we recognize Col. Keith Nightingale as the recipient of the Florence Sabin Award. His career and life path has been marked with significant contributions and accomplishments to world of national security and to society in general.