KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – As a member of the U.S. Army, the well-being of your seniors, peers and subordinates is just as important as that of your Family. Now imagine if your Family members were those people to your left and right.
Father and son, Command Sgt. Maj. John Cole, senior enlisted adviser, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bradley Cole, AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot, with 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, North Carolina National Guard, assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, not only serve in the same unit but also are deployed together.
“A lot of folks would think it would be awkward,” Command Sgt. Maj. Cole said. “I don’t think it’s awkward at all. He has his job to do and I have mine.”
In February 2018, Command Sgt. Maj. Cole joined 1-130th ARB, TF Panther, as they were slated to deploy to Afghanistan, presenting the opportunity of serving alongside his son.
“It was a little weird at first,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole said. “People in our unit would put two and two together, and for months people would ask if he is my dad.”
Influenced by his father, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole joined the Army through the warrant officer flight training program in 2013 to become an Apache pilot. He attended one site unit training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was an infantryman before attending warrant officer candidate school.
“He was a huge influence if not the biggest; I was always super proud of him when I was a kid,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole said. “I wanted my children to feel the same way 20 or 30 years down the road.”
Command Sergeant Major Cole said he naturally felt a sense of worry when his two sons joined the Army as both chose inherently dangerous job, an Apache pilot and a Special Forces Soldier who operates more on the ground than in the air.
One of the reasons Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole joined the Army and became an Apache pilot was because of his brother. As an Apache pilot deployed with a combat aviation brigade, part of his mission is to provide reconnaissance and aerial support to the Soldiers on ground.
“When in the air, I protect the guys on the ground,” he said. “It could be my brother down there, so knowing that gives me that much more passion for what I do.”
While deployed the Coles have had some rare opportunities, something they would experience were they not serving together.
“I had the honor of pinning the rank of chief warrant officer 2 on his chest, it was absolutely phenomenal,” Command Sgt. Maj. Cole said. “Not everybody gets a chance to promote their son in a combat environment.”
Command Sergeant Major Cole also is a few flight hours away from earning the Army Aviator Badge, which Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole will pin on him when the time comes.
It was a rare opportunity being promoted by your father and in return pin on an achievement of his while deployed, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole said.
“It makes me proud to know that we’ll have the pictures together and he got to promote me out here,” he said. “It’s an odd thing that father and son deploy within the same battalion and location, but it’s definitely a plus to our story.”
A deployment can be challenging in itself and Soldiers are expected to face challenges along the way. The Coles, however, have a different perspective concerning obstacles they face as Family members serving downrange.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole points out the deployment is more of a challenge for their Family back home.
“There’s a challenge with being a command sergeant major and being a father at the same time; that’s the challenge for me,” Command Sgt. Maj. Cole added. “He’s my son, but he’s not the only Soldier I have.”
Despite the different adversities they may face while deployed, the Coles maintain their good relationship in and out of uniform. A son continuing a legacy and tradition alongside a father filled with pride.
“We’ve always been a close Family,” Command Sgt. Maj. Cole said. “If anything I am more proud of him because he’s serving.”
“Maybe one day we’ll get to fly together,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole said. “He was doing fixed wing training before deploying. I think we’d make a pretty good team in the air.”