A Future Without Limits

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sarah Stalder Lundgren
  • 180th Fighter Wing

At 21 years old, Senior Airman Nina Van Tassel, an Intelligence Operations Analyst assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, has propelled her future opportunities with an array of impressive military and civilian achievements in just her first three years in the Ohio Air National Guard. While serving her country, Van Tassel is attending college and has volunteered more than 150 hours for her community.

Following in her older brother’s footsteps, Van Tassel said she joined the Ohio Air National Guard for the educational, financial and life benefits.

“I saw the benefits it provided for my brother and once I graduated high school, I thought to myself ‘why not join the military and set myself up for success in the future?’” said Van Tassel.

Using her Ohio National Guard Scholarship Program (ONGSP) benefits she is pursuing a degree in Security and Intelligence at The Ohio State University where she maintains a 4.0 GPA.

“My major is really a mix of political science, criminal justice, and psychology classes. It is so interesting. I’m a history minor too and it all ties into my military job really well.”

As an Intelligence Operations Analyst, Van Tassel plays a pivotal role by analyzing, reporting, and distributing information to key stake holders to streamline decision processes and ensure mission success.

"I describe my job as being a personal Google for the pilots, where they can ask me questions about the mission or systems, and I help them find the answers”, she explains. “But my greatest motivation comes from knowing that when I attend drill with my coworkers, we play a crucial role in operations and the overall mission at the 180th.”

Since enlisting in 2021, Van Tassel has consistently demonstrated her abilities and unbridled potential through meticulous research and a spirited desire to propel mission readiness.

She played a critical role as a member of the Intelligence Flight team during a recent readiness exercise, conducting the Opposed Surface Attack Tactics briefing for 112th Fighter Squadron pilots- an intelligence function typically reserved for senior analysts, briefed 48 F-16 pilots on integrated enemy threats, ensured compliance with handling of classified information as the Intelligence Oversight Program Manager and was awarded the 180FW Outstanding Airman of the Year for 2023.

The Toledo, Ohio native said her most proud military accomplishment to date took place during Exercise Northern Lightning 2023 where she served as the Intelligence Team Lead.

“I had never been put in a position of leadership at that level”, said Van Tassel. “The collaboration with other intelligence analysts who are extremely smart and tactical was really empowering.”

During this exercise, Van Tassel spearheaded joint intelligence processes, refined techniques and integrated intelligence assessments across U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines Corps and U.S. Air Force platforms and her performance earned her a coin from the Ohio Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Brig. Gen. David B. Johnson.

“I couldn’t have done it without my family as my support system and great intelligence community at the base,” she said. “I was so thankful that my team was willing to give me the opportunity to prove myself.”

Van Tassel’s college and personal record serves as an equally impressive example of her consistent drive for service, self-improvement and excellence.

The Dean’s List recipient is a committed student athlete and volunteers her time with The Ohio State Equestrian Team, giving lessons to children and participating in community clean-up and clothing drive events.

When asked how she finds the motivation to keep pushing herself to achieve, Van Tassel explained that she maintains a mindset that prioritizes self-improvement over recognition.

“I never aim for awards or recognition, I just try to challenge myself when tackling difficult tasks so that when more challenges arise, I know I can face them head-on,” she said.

Despite her long list of accolades in such a short time span, Van Tassel is quick to express her genuine gratitude and appreciation for her two most important motivators in her life: her family and her military leadership.

“I am so thankful for my brother leading the way and showing me that with hard work, great things are possible. I am also thankful that my parents encouraged me to be somebody that strives for success and does not stop until the job is done,” said Van Tassel. “Without the leadership and guidance I have been given from my coworkers, I would not be nearly as successful. They have provided me with the opportunities, challenges, and the support I needed to be a great analyst.”

As for the future, Van Tassel is swift to acknowledge that her future would be difficult to forecast but is full of different pathways, truly a future without limits.

“I like to keep my options open. I know there’s always going to be a place for me in the military,” Van Tassel said. “I'm always exploring different paths to see where I can be most useful.”

This summer, Van Tassel is looking forward to working with the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) and continuing to learn and explore her talent and interests.

“I just want to make a difference. Whether it’s in my community or my nation, I just try to be as helpful as possible.”

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