Dozens of Cornell graduates have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan began in 2001. Today, The Sun is introducing a new series profiling the Cornell men and women who have served their country at war. Dozens of Cornell graduates have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan began in 2001. Today, The Sun is introducing a new series profiling the Cornell men and women who have served their country at war.
As a child, Frank Nicklaus ’04 had a love for adventure — a love for action. He fantasized of riding in helicopters thousands of feet in the air, excursions into unfamiliar territories and manning automatic weapons. Naturally, he was drawn to the Army.
Yet as a student in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Nicklaus was drawn to study business. He interned at the global investment bank Bear Stearns the summer after his junior year, and though no job resulted from the internship, he acquired enough contacts to pursue one his senior year.
However, Nicklaus was not entirely sure a business career was what he really wanted just yet.
The Army “was always in the back of my mind. It was something I always wanted to do,” Nicklaus said.
Only a few months before graduation, Nicklaus made the decision to enlist.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to ever do it, it would have to be now,’” Nicklaus said. “The business positions would always be there for me.”
After he graduated from Cornell, Nicklaus enlisted and was sent to basic training. Upon completing his training, Nicklaus, based in Hawaii, was deployed to Iraq for two separate one-year stints as part of his five year service.
Nicklaus entered the Army only a month after a period where goals shifted from eliminating insurgents to training and mentoring Iraq’s growing army. The Army also shifted its emphasis towards constructing infrastructure such as training bases, police stations, water purification structures and safe roads.
Though Nicklaus did see some combat in Iraq, he said the bulk of his work involved aiding the Iraqi people and their government.
“I did a lot of talking,” he said. Nicklaus said he spent a lot of time “meeting with tribal leaders and municipal authorities, making sure we were doing what we could to help them.”
During this time, Nicklaus was surprised to discover that many Iraqis faced issues stemming from energy problems, particularly a lack of electricity in most places and a reliance on oil.
“The whole country was dependant on oil,” he said. “When that suffered, everyone suffered.”
Dealing with Iraq’s energy problem first hand inspired Nicklaus to attack the larger global energy issue after he left the army.
During his final year of service, Nicklaus applied to the Johnson School of Management and was accepted in December.
Instead of working in sales and trading, Nicklaus is focusing on renewable energy businesses and hopes to by hired be a company in the field after he graduates in 2012.
“In Iraq there were these vast hot deserts collecting all this solar energy, and people trying to use that energy, trying to turn into something helpful,” Nicklaus said. “I would love to be a part of that.”