Logistics chief retires, still feels need for speed
David Moore/ASA Fort Dix Staff Writer
The chief of logistics who witnessed Fort Dix’s transition from basic training in the 1990s to a an enduring power projection training platform that deploys military personnel and equipment for contingency operations around the world retired this week with a total of 44 years of military and civilian service.
Robert Cole, director of logistics for the U.S. Army Sustainment Command’s Logistics Readiness Center, at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., receives a Superior Civilian Service Award, from Col. Jeffrey Doll, Army Support Activity-Fort Dix commander, during a retirement luncheon that recognized his achievements for the training and mobilization mission. Cole, who is also a Desert Storm veteran, compiled 44 years of service as a Soldier and civilian employee. He first came to Dix in 1993 as a civilian when Fort Dix was transitioning from basic training to an enduring mobilization training center. Nearly 150 people attended Cole’s farewell. (Imags by David Moore. click for hi-resolution images )
Robert Cole, 66, a Desert Storm veteran, said even though he is retiring he plans on staying busy with his family and filling his need for speed by travelling to the Baja Off-Road Race in the Mojave Desert with his family in southern California next month. Attending the Phillies in March is on the to-do list.
During a retirement luncheon at Tommy B’s, Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, Jan. 8, base military leaders, family, co-workers and civilian retirees who were directorate chiefs, took time to remember and jokingly roast the chief of the U.S. Army Sustainment’s Command’s Logistics Readiness Center, which supports the army support activity’s missions.
“You know when it’s time to retire. I want to spend time with the family and that’s something I haven’t always done.” Cole said during an earlier interview. “I have been here for the one purpose -to support those who fight for me. I truly believe that.
“I have the knowledge of knowing we are the best mobilization platform of choice. To my knowledge, we have never failed taking care of the Soldier by getting them where they need to be,” he added.
And during Cole’s tenure, Dix received numerous awards for its mobilization and logistics efforts. His work making Dix the busiest mobilization and demobilization results are deploying more than 90,000 military personnel, and demobilizing 72,000 troops since Sept. 11, 2001 as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Cole’s 6-foot-6 presence and tenacious business approach could be feared by many mobilization planners at staff meetings. But right after cutting up the conceptual perfect plan for a pending mission or operation, he was the first to quietly say with confidence to the planner “we can work this.”
“In a logisticians world if the operations go right it’s because the planner’s planned it right. If it goes wrong it’s the ‘loggies’ fault,” he said.
Cole, born in Widen, W. Va., moved to Cherry Hill, N.J., when he was 8 and known as Delaware Township, with his parents. His father, a World War II veteran turned school teacher, decided to relocate from the coal-mining area after the mine decided to close down.
He graduated from Lafayette College, Easton, Pa, in 1969, majoring in metallurgical engineering, where he played basketball as a center and completed the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. In his active-duty career, he completed the Quartermaster Basic Officers Course, at Fort Lee, Va., and spent two years in Germany with the 14th Supply & Service Battalion. After completing his active-duty time, he went to work in the steel industry in Pennsylvania and Indiana. At the same time, he served with Army National Guard and reserve organizations until his retirement with the 78th Division as the 78th Division engineer officer at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
During his military career, Cole said he experienced his greatest challenge during Desert Storm with the 800th Military Police Brigade, where he served as the lead engineer officer. The mission: Build four enemy prisoner of war camps in Saudi Arabia with the capacity to hold 24,000 occupants in each camp. Cole’s hands-on approach to business is often seen in a photograph of him cranking on a three-foot long wrench to tap into a water supply in the desert for one of the camps.
“We went from zero to four camps in four days getting ready for the next phase of Desert Storm,” he said. “In the end, three of the four camps were used. At night time you could see the camps from a five mile distance.”
Upon returning to the states and Fort Dix in 1991, Cole served on active duty until 1993. He was a unit liaison officer at Dix, responsible for bringing back equipment from Southwest Asia and resetting over 4,000 pieces of equipment. At the end of his five years of active duty, he served the post’s plans, operations and service chief in 1993.
At that time, Fort Dix personnel were conducting Call Forward Exercises to gauge the post’s ability to conduct mobilization missions and doing humanitarian missions for Operation New Horizon in Central America. There were also the peacekeeping missions for Soldiers being sent to Bosnia that began in 1995.
“All I wanted to do was to be here to make things better for the process of mobilization, demobilization and the Soldier,” he said during the luncheon. “What I have learned is you all made the system better.”
Four years later, Cole faced Operation Provide Refuge. The mission was to provide logistical support for 4,200 refugees from Kosovo.
“It was a logistically oriented mission on short notice.” Cole said. “We went from zero guests to more than 4,000 and the ability to serve ethnically correct meals in 72 hours. It was the Kosovo mission that put Dix on the map to do short-notice missions that became apparent again as a result of support for military forces as a result of Hurricane Sandy.”
In June 2001, Cole assumed the position as the Director of Logistics, Fort Dix. Eight months later the idea of single a mission for the installation ended and evolved into three-fold support-homeland defense, and deployments to Cuba and Afghanistan. By 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom was in the mix. The idea of single missions became layered simultaneous operations.
“You are constantly trying to anticipate a unit’s needs and the theater requirements. You have to have the ability to get everyone where they need to be with what they need on time,” he said recalling the thousands of weapons inspected and electronic items needed for success on the battlefield.
Dennis Bush, the former director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security who knew Cole from his Dix beginning, said Cole always seemed to be on duty.
“I witnessed him working hands-on all over. Many times even in bad weather he would be there for the Soldier. I’ve seen him on the flight line seeing Soldiers go and seeing them come home. He was always there for the Soldier,” Bush said during the luncheon.
Cole’s civilian awards include two Commanders for Civilian Service; Army Achievement Commander’s Superior and Special Service Wards for Civilians. Military Awards include; Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf devices, Army Commendation Medal, in addition to state and congressional awards.
Cole resides in Burlington County with his wife, Joan, of 15 years. They are parents of now six grown children and 10 grandchildren.