By MJ KNOBLOCK
Rick Cole, (USN-Ret) served his country for 27 years in the U.S. Navy. At the end of this month, he will retire from 15 years of service to the City of Chesapeake as the mayor’s assistant. His knack for administrative duties, organization and diplomacy has served him well over two careers.
Cole grew up in central Illinois. The son of a Navy veteran, he was intrigued by the military. He graduated from high school in 1972 as the Vietnam War was winding down. He had dreams of becoming a Seabee after working on the farm in Illinois. However, his background in typing and bookkeeping quickly caught up with him, and when the “powers that be” in the military saw his high school class records, he was immediately assigned to an administrative rating.
“Well, they found I out I could type, and that was it,” said Cole.
The administrative path is one that he embraced and never wavered from, even after he retired from the military.
Cole’s knack for creative solutions propelled him from the start of his naval career. After graduation from high school, he knew he wanted to join the Navy and that his father would not approve. He also knew his father wasn’t a fan of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). After speaking with a Marine Corps recruiter and requesting some recruiting materials, he spread out all of the information on his parents’ kitchen table. When Cole’s father came in one Saturday afternoon and saw all of the literature, he promptly contacted a U. S. Navy recruiter and set up an appointment for the following Monday to avoid having his son in the Marine Corps.
After attending his high school graduation ceremony with his class on a Friday, he left on Monday for Navy boot camp. It was Memorial Day weekend, June of 1972. He was immediately assigned to an administrative rating.
“I became an admin guy, because an admin guy can be anywhere in the world under any command,” Cole explained.
Given a choice for training destinations, he welcomed the opportunity to visit sunny California instead of Orlando, Fla. or Great Lakes, Ill.
After attending yeoman’s school in San Diego, his first duty station was Training Squadron 25 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Chase Field in Beeville, Texas. After 20 months, he grew tired of the south Texas desert and requested a transfer to sea duty. His wish was granted.
Cole was assigned to Little Creek Amphibious Base in Norfolk on the USS Shakori, a fleet ocean tug that towed ocean-going ships. After re-enlisting, Cole was sent overseas to the Caribbean. He became an independent duty yeoman. He was stationed at the Naval Facility Antigua in the British West Indies for 18 months. He was supposed to go off to flag writer sea school next, but was given orders instead to come back to Norfolk. He met his first wife, and they were married in 1981. They later divorced while he was deployed in the Persian Gulf in 1995.
Cole worked with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). He was there for four years, then re-enlisted. At age 29, he was promoted to chief petty officer, chief yeoman. From 1982 to 1986, Cole served on the USS Richard L. Page, a guided-missile frigate based out of Norfolk. He did two Arabian Gulf deployments with the Page and received his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist status, which was fairly new at the time.
Cole was then sent to the Personnel Support Activity Detachment at Naval Station Norfolk. While there, he was involved in an ID count to determine the exact size of the pool of personnel and dependents served at the base. Comparing notes with a constituent doing the same ID count for the naval base in San Diego, they discovered that Naval Station Norfolk was not only five times larger than San Diego, but the largest naval station hands-down.
Next, he was sent to the base at nearby Little Creek where he served with Naval Special Warfare Group Two for two years. During this time, he became a senior chief petty officer.
As a newly promoted E-8, Cole thought he was headed to an aircraft carrier for his next assignment.
“They sent me across the street instead,” Cole recalled.
He had been requested to take over administration duties for the new Sea Air Land (SEAL) Team 8. After about three years, Cole left his home in Deep Creek and went to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Arlington, Virginia with the NATO Joint Military Advisory and Assistance Group (MAAG). After just 18 months, he became second in command, then became the Washington Placement Detailer.
“That was probably the toughest job as a detailer,” said Cole. “You’re writing orders for people, and the admirals would get involved and change the orders.”
At that time, he had the privilege of working for Vice Admiral Skip Bowman, who later became known as the “Father of Naval Nuclear Power,” controlling every reactor on every ship in the U.S. Navy.
Cole attended the Senior Enlisted Academy as an E-8 in a very competitive group. He did his last tour of duty on the USS George Washington in Norfolk from 1995 to 1998, which included a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.
In June of 1998, Cole retired from the Navy as an E-8. He returned to Deep Creek and knew he wanted to work somewhere in Chesapeake. A friend suggested he try a temporary agency for employment. His administrative background made him the perfect fit for a temporary position as the mayor’s assistant. Just two months later, he became a full-time city employee in that position in August of 1998.
Cole met his second wife, Linda, through a friend from the Navy, and they were married in 1999. Linda died of cancer in 2006. Cole has two grown sons. Will Cole, 28, is married to Tara, and they live in Charlottesville, Virginia. Michael Cole, 23, is a USMC veteran who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and now lives in Chesapeake.
At age 58, Rick Cole has served as the assistant to Chesapeake’s mayors for 15 years. His duties include juggling the mayor’s schedule, writing proclamations, setting appointments, and handling correspondence and background information. Three different people have been in term during his tenure, former Mayor Bill Ward, former Mayor Dalton Edge and present Mayor Alan Krasnoff. Cole will retire on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.
Krasnoff has worked with Cole for several years, both as a city councilman and since he became mayor in 2008.
“Rick is an industrious person; takes on projects and finishes them. He truly understands service and helping our citizens with good cheer and no complaints,” said Krasnoff. “He does what he says he will do, and sometimes more.”
Rick Cole, The Citizen of Chesapeake salutes you and thanks you for your service to our nation and our city.