Exclusive Veteran Interview: General William L. “Spider” Nyland

Communication and Leadership from Cockpit to Command

Nicknamed “Spider” early in his career for a unique dress and singing style at a 1950s theme party, Marine General William L. “Spider” Nyland says the moniker stuck right away. “It’s the rules of call signs, you can’t pick your own and it’s usually given to you by a superior officer. It could have been a lot worse. My email is Spider and that’s all my wife calls me.”

Hailing from a family with a long military tradition, 1st Lt. Nyland first saw combat in Vietnam in 1970. Seated a foot behind the pilot’s cockpit, he served as the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) for 122 missions over Southeast Asia. As the second pair of eyes for pilot and crew, the job was complex: communications, navigation and maintaining course, monitoring air speed, altitude, dive angles, ordinance release parameters, weapon systems and ground and enemy aircraft fire, a broad spectrum of ever-changing critical information. All of his missions were in his beloved F–4 Phantom. “I was the back seat driver (but a welcome one!) so to speak, and there had to be a lot of load-sharing and coordination that all came back to communication,” says Nyland, retired Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. “We had some close calls. During an escort mission in combat spread over Laos, a ground-to-air SAM came up looking like a telephone pole and blew up between the two jets. That kind of got our attention. The sweet old F–4 was solid though, and helped us out of quite a few jams.”

The communication skills Nyland learned early helped him develop leadership qualities throughout his career, becoming the highest ranking Marine aviator and the only four-star aviation General inside the Marine Corps at that time. From 1985 to ’87 he commanded VMFA-232, the Marine Corps’ oldest and most decorated fighter squadron. He was promoted to Colonel in 1990 and Brigadier General in ’94, becoming the first NFO/RIO in the Marine Corps ever selected to Brigadier General and subsequent ranks. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 2000 and served first as Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources, then as Deputy Commandant for Aviation. Promoted to General in early September 2002, he assumed his duties as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps later that month. In these highly distinguished billets he joined other Marine aviators in additional combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Hungary before retiring in November, 2005.

“It is a great privilege and pleasure to lead Marines, and I think a big requirement is to be a good communicator at all levels,” says Nyland, 69. “The balance of that is listening and less in transmitting. It’s very important to listen and discuss, whether with a Private or General, and everyone likes a pat on the back no matter what rank. I would say, and like to think, that I was a people person. To this day – even with the best of technology – we in the military are in the people business, which makes communication that much more important.”

In 37+ years of service, General Nyland received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal with eight Strike/Flight awards; and Joint Service Commendation Medal, along with many others. “I’m proud to wear them all because they represent the great Marines, sailors and others in the Joint Force that I was privileged to serve with across the years. They also remind me of the times I was in command and what a privilege and pleasure that was,” he says.

Though in retirement, Nyland continues to serve and lead as a Senior Mentor for the National Defense University’s Capstone, Keystone and Pinnacle programs, sharing his knowledge with the rising brass of all services as well as the most Senior NCOs of all our services. “I’m there to answer questions, prod and explain what I’ve experienced. If I describe one thing to one individual that I learned the hard way, so they don’t have to, that’s what I’m there for,” says Nyland, who lives with his wife Brenda in Pensacola, Florida.

A former twice Chairman of the Board for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and former Chairman for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, Nyland also served as the National Commander for the Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) from 2007 to 2010. He remains active in the group, which has about 4,000 veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Granada and other conflicts. In 2003, ’04 and ‘05 Nyland received MCAA’s Silver Hawk Award, given each year to the aviator with the earliest designation date. Association symposiums are managed by Armed Forces Reunions (AFR). It was at the first symposium AFR managed, in New Bern in 2004, when AFR President Molly Dey, who stands at 4’11”, earned her ‘aviator’ moniker “Too Tall.”

“I’m very proud of the Silver Hawk Awards and MCAA as a whole,” Nyland says. “I really enjoy seeing all the people I served with and renewing those friendships. I especially like watching young Marines get their awards.”

Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for Armed Forces Reunions, former Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and a former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Room Attrition And What It Means For Your Group

For military reunions large and small, hotel contracting is risky business. Regardless of the size of a group, the most important task a reunion chairman faces is to secure a hotel contract that meets the group’s needs without putting the group at financial risk. Room Attrition is a hotel legal term that says your group will be financially responsible for unused rooms that you blocked off. It is important to understand what kind of fiscal risk is at stake for the group, as reunion chairmen may change from year to year, and each new chairman is left to reinvent the wheel. One of the best things you can do is have your room pickup from the last reunion (# of rooms used on each night from first in to last out). This way you have a more accurate number of expected attendees and can block off a suitable number of rooms.

Room Attrition Clauses should be taken seriously! In many cases these penalties can add up to tens of thousands of dollars, this can be devastating to smaller reunion groups. In our very own Military Reunion Hotel Contract the room attrition clause is removed entirely. With large groups it may not be possible to remove this language, so past history and realistic expectations are critical. Get a professional on your side to ensure your group is protected! When AFR books your group in one of our partner hotels that we do business with on a regular basis, the hotel is less likely to bite the hand that feeds it by pursuing damages against an AFR client.

To learn more about our hotel contracting services and our Military Reunion Hotel Contract call or email Charley at 1-800-562-7226 or charley@afri.com

Hotel Contracting Made Easy!

Fed up with attrition clauses and the financial risk inherent in today’s corporate hotel contracts? Don’t worry, Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (AFR) is to the rescue! AFR’s founder, Ted Dey, recently co-authored the first third party Military Reunion Hotel Contract with one of the nation’s leading hotel contract attorneys for non-profit organizations – Barbara Dunn with Chicago law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP. What is so special about this? AFR’s contract is written for military reunions by the nation’s leading advocates for non-profits in general, and military reunions in particular. Over the decades AFR has developed a vast network of reunion-friendly hotel partners that honor and appreciate military reunions. Consider AFR the USA’s National Reunion Bureau. We will guide your group to the best reunion hotel with the best rates, no matter where you want to go.

With the Covid-19 pandemic in mind, leading attorney Barbara Dunn says: “Now more than ever it is critical that a reunion group’s hotel contract reflect best practices and address all possible contingencies. Armed Forces Reunions’ Military Reunion Hotel Contract provides groups with the best chance of putting key contract provisions in place and expediting hotel contract negotiations.”

Every year Armed Forces Reunions books thousands of room-nights in hotels nationwide. Our enormous buying power will guarantee your group the best room rates and the most concessions. Having booked thousands of groups in over 150 cities nationwide we know what hotels are reunion-friendly. Especially for smaller reunions, say goodbye to financial risk and the threatening attrition language in corporate hotel contracts. We are here to help your Reunion Chairman get it right – at no cost!

For more information or to request a proposal, contact Charley Dey at charley@afri.com or call us at 800-562-7226!


How will the Covid Aftermath Benefit Military Reunions?

Covid-19 wreaked havoc on our nation’s businesses, large and small. But no industry was hit worse than the hotel industry. It’s sad to see so many of our hotel friends furloughed. But what does this mean for reunions? Bargaining power! We are in a buyer’s market for the first time in over a decade. With over 30 years of booking reunions nationwide, family-owned and operated AFR will guide your group to reunion-friendly hotels wherever you’d like to go.

We recently partnered with one of the nation’s premier hotel contract law firms to develop the most reunion-friendly hotel contract ever. Hotel contracts are typically written for hotels by big law firms hired by major hotel chains. AFR, the nation’s premier booking agency for military reunions, will soon provide reunion groups with the ultimate tool in booking hotels with no room attrition, great rates, and buckets of concessions.

Get a professional on your side and take the hassle out of seeking the best hotel for your group. Thank you for your service and we look forward to serving you. Please call Ted Dey or Charley Dey at 1-800-562-7226 or 757-625-6401. Or email at ted@afri.com or charley@afri.com.

America The Beautiful Tour Homage


Molly and Ted were lucky enough to see some of the most magnificent sights our great nation has to offer on their month-long journey out west. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve seen highlights of the great west from Mt. Rushmore to the beautiful aspen clones of southwest Colorado.

While the trip of a lifetime has concluded and we get back to work after the unexpected and pandemic-driven lockdown, we can’t help but reminisce about the uplifting landscapes and our deep feelings of gratitude for our liberty. So we’ve put together this video to salute the greatest nation on Earth, one founded by pioneers seeking individual liberty and a better life, and one whose freedom has been successfully defended and preserved by every generation since.

We hope you have enjoyed following along this series! Thank you for your service and as always, we are by your side as your trusted reunion partner.