Guildhall administrator, Navy reservist Steven Cole celebrates Veterans Day after returning from deployment in Afghanistan

Capt. Steven Cole, USNRNavy veteran Steven Cole is back at SMU as both a staff member and a student after a one-year deployment with the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

A deputy director with the SMU Guildhall and an officer in the United States Navy Reserve, Capt. Cole returned to the University in August after serving as director of the NATO-led Multinational Fusion Center, Regional Command North (RC-North) – a United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Mazar-i-Sharif with personnel from 17 different countries.

And in spring 2016, Capt. Cole becomes a master’s degree candidate in SMU’s Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, which shares the SMU-in-Plano campus with the Guildhall. He hopes to complete his postgraduate journey with doctoral studies in behavior sciences.

Capt. Cole’s Navy intelligence service focuses on counterinsurgency, human terrain and strategic analysis. A certified fraud examiner and private investigator with special expertise in forensic accounting, he made good use of his experience in an assignment with the Afghanistan Minister of Interior Affairs and Inspector General, helping to revamp the agency’s training and infrastructure.

“All the money, all the bullets, all the fuel the United States and the coalition are pouring into the government – someone has to account for that,” he says. “You can’t expect an agency to account for things when they don’t even have an accountant on staff.” His audits helped to drive sweeping changes, including the removal of corrupt officials and a revalidation of the ministry’s reporting cycles.

“Now they’re reviewing real numbers,” he says. “And we left a lot of good people in place to continue making progress.” Capt. Cole will retire from Navy Reserve service in an on-campus ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in the Hillcrest Commons, Collins Executive Education Center.

Capt. Cole began his “dream job” at the Guildhall in April 2014. During his deployment, he carried stacks of Guildhall stickers and business cards and shared them often with fellow service members – most of whom were fellow gamers as well.

“I’d love to see some of these enlisted members come to Lyle or Meadows on their Veterans Administration benefits and join the Guildhall 4+1 program,” he says. “It’s kind of a big deal, and it’s just about the best way to get into a Guildhall program.”

Steven Cole joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1986 and earned his B.B.A. degree in accounting from Abilene Christian University in 1978. His first Navy Reserve assignment was in North Texas: as assistant training officer to Fleet Intelligence Rapid Support Team, Pacific 0470 (FIRSTPAC 0470) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Dallas in Grand Prairie. During his Navy Reserve career he has served as an analyst, intelligence officer and intelligence training instructor with commands throughout California and Texas. His current command is stationed at Carrier Strike Group FOUR, Norfolk, Virginia.

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Capt. Cole served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) mission of counterintelligence, human intelligence, force protection and counterterrorism assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Capt. Cole was awarded the Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) pin in October 2010. His personal decorations include the Distinguished Meritorious Service (2), Joint Service Commendation and Navy Commendation medals, as well as two Combat Action ribbons.