When Col. Andrew Cole Jr. was looking over a list of command opportunities for his next assignment, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley was at the top of his list.
Cole, no stranger to the area, was stationed at Fort Riley in 2009, after the Base Realignment and Closure upgrades had been made.
"Both my wife and I were very excited to see a lot of the results of the BRAC construction," Cole recalled. "We got an opportunity to see some of the great new infrastructure improvements that had been done for the Families and also an opportunity to get to know a lot of the local team members here … It was a fantastic breath of fresh air for us. And that's one of the things that made Fort Riley my number one choice when I had an opportunity to come back."
Having been on the ground for several weeks transitioning with Col. William Clark, outgoing garrison commander, Cole said he has been able to get a good picture of the operation and the individual team members that make up the garrison.
"I continue to be impressed by the resiliency of our team members here on the installation," he said. "I think we've got a fantastic team here."
As he takes command of the garrison, Cole is faced with several challenges, chief among them the fiscal restraints in the current climate. Despite the challenges, Cole said he remains optimistic because of his confidence in the garrison team's abilities to overcome.
"I'm totally impressed and totally confident that we can make this transition successfully," he said. "Despite a number of those issues, our team members still get up every day, and they come to work with nothing but the intent of figuring out how can we best provide the support that we need to, to all of our customer base. That's really refreshing. I think we're blessed to have that. That's one of the things that makes me smile every morning when I get up."
That positive energy seems to fuel Cole, and he intends to direct it toward maintaining Fort Riley's commitment to providing "world-class" support to Soldiers, Family members and the community.
"My main goal is to continue to provide that level, the best level that we can, while still being able to support the mission in a professional way," he said. "That pertains to all of the various services that we provide to our Families, as well as all the rest of our civilian customers."
Cole said he hopes to achieve this goal through teamwork and continuing to strengthen partnerships both on and off post.
"There are obviously a number of participants and partners – both outside the gate and inside the gate – that will allow us to be successful to this effort," Cole said. "We've got to continue to foster those relationships, mature them even more, so that we as a team can come together and provide the support that we need to."
As a leader, Cole's approach follows the Golden Rule: to treat others as one would wish to be treated.
"Dignity, respect – those words can't go far enough," Cole said. "We should always remember to treat each other with those things, with dignity and respect."
Additionally, Cole said he believes in a listening leadership.
"You have to be accessible. You've got to be available, so when there's an opportunity to receive feedback, you have to be there and be available to get it," he said. "So, you have to be a good listener, and that's part of being a leader."
His leadership philosophy has been shaped by core tenets, like integrity and leading by example, which his father, Andrew Cole Sr., instilled in him from a young age.
His father served in the Air Force, and Cole recalled not only the frequent moves, but also the military value of selfless service being prevalent in their household.
"It was certainly a way of life and selfless service resonated with my father, and so I grew up (with) that," he said.
Although it wasn't necessarily on his radar to join the military, Cole said he had a desire to travel and a thirst for interesting new experiences. Opting for a career in the military was a no-brainer.
"It was an easy choice," he said.
Cole went through Reserve Officers' Training Corps. His mother, Osie, assumed he'd "go blue" like his father, but once Cole went to Airborne School, he'd found his passion.
"I had an opportunity to go to Airborne School when I was a sophomore in college, and that kind of sealed my fate," he recalled.
As his mother pushed him to know why he eschewed the Air Force, Cole tried to explain.
"This Army stuff's actually kind of neat," he told her.
After completing the ROTC program at Texas Tech University, Cole began his career in the Army, though with an Airborne tab and a host of aviation assignments, he seemed about as close to "blue" as he could get while still wearing green.
Cole has been stationed all over the globe in places like Japan, Italy, Korea, Germany, Panama and more. But for now, he said, he and his wife are happy to make their home in Kansas.
"Certainly after awhile you do miss coming back or miss coming home and planting stakes and roots someplace, and, again, that's why we're very happy to be back here in Kansas," Cole said.