SUFFOLK, VA — Capt. Jeff Cole of Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR), Suffolk, Virginia, retired April 22 after 32 years of service to the U.S. Navy. A 1979 graduate of Naperville North High School, Cole’s colorful naval career began a little more than a year after graduating from Southern Illinois University in 1983.
“I was a Coca Cola sales representative driving around Peoria, Illinois in 1984 and Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” came over my radio and the next thing you know, I was driving to the recruiting office,” said Cole. “I was 24-years-old and wanted to be a pilot, only to discover that I lacked the eyesite to be one, so … the recruiter put me on an enlisted track and I was off to San Diego.”
As NAVIFOR’s senior Cryptologic Warfare Officer, Cole served as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Planning and Strategic Initiatives (N5) working on special projects that span the Information Warfare Community Domain and the NAVIFOR headquarters.
“I enjoy planning the future of information warfare,” said Cole. “Prior to retiring I was designing what the organization would look like in the next few years. I like the fact that my ideas were adaptable and hopefully able to help the Navy figure out how to fight in the 21st century with advanced technology.”
Cole’s first couple years in the Navy were spent as a Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) and he attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California and Naval Air Crewman School in Pensacola, Florida, before reporting to Rota, Spain.
Following his short stint as an enlisted man, he received his commission from Aviation Officer Candidate school in 1986 and was winged a P-3C Naval Flight Officer (NFO) in 1987. From 1987 to 1991 Cole served with Patrol Squadron (VP-4), home ported at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii and completed three deployments to the Philippines, Aleutian Islands and Oman, where he flew 28 combat sorties in Desert Storm and achieved every qualification possible for an NFO.
Cole went on to serve as a staff officer for CTF-67 in Naples, Italy and went on to serve as a Catapult Officer on the flight deck of the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69). He attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California from 1996-1997, earning a MS in National Security Affairs. He returned to Hawaii in 1998 and as a Maintenance Officer where his squadron won the Golden Wrench Award. And in 2000 he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
He returned to his Cryptologic roots at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii where he became the Action Officer in the J39 Information Operations Directorate prior to serving as the Director of Planning for Fleet Information Warfare Center (FIWC) in 2004. When FIWC merged with NSGA Norfolk, he became a Plank Owner in the newly created Naval Information Operations Command (NIOC) Norfolk. Later, as the senior Information Warfare on the staff of U.S. Fleet Forces Command he served as the Assistant Deputy of Staff for Intelligence and Information Operations Directorate.
“One of my most memorable experiences was in 1992 when I served as a mil-to-mil exchange officer in Romania,” said Cole. “An old Romanian Air Force colonel approached me and said he’d been waiting his entire life for the Cold War to end and my presence in Romania was proof positive that the war was indeed over.”
Cole played two critical roles prior to serving at NAVIFOR. He first became the Commanding Officer of NIOC Hawaii where he also served as the first Commander of Task Force (CTF) 1070. As the CO of NIOC Hawaii he led 1700 Sailors and civilians on six different bases on Oahu and as CTF 1070 he was in charge of 2400 Sailors and civilians in 10 different commands from California to Hawaii to Japan and Australia, responsible for providing Information Warfare support to the Pacific Fleet.
“I have enjoyed working with young Sailors and assisting them in growth within their career and personal lives these past 32 years,” remarked Cole. “We are all small fish in a big sea. I have learned to appreciate the qualities and diversity of all the people I have encountered during my time in the Navy.
Cole will be hiking the Appalachian Trail over the next couple of months before making any future plans. Both he and his wife, Eve, of 29 years plan to stay in Norfolk, and continue to serve his country in either local government or federal service.
NAVIFOR’s mission is to support operational commanders ashore and afloat by providing combat-ready Information Warfare forces, which are forward deployable, fully trained, properly manned, capably equipped, always ready, well maintained, and combat sustainable.
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