November 3,  [note 1]. Officially April 18,  aged Black  [note 2]. Dark brown . Cole is best known for being the commander of the majority of the UNSC Navy from until and for his role in creating the Cole Protocol , a central UNSC law responsible for defending Earth 's location for decades.
As the Insurrection began, Cole was hailed as a hero throughout human space by the Navy as he led numerous battles and campaigns against insurrectionist and pirate forces. However, after beginning a relationship with Lyrenne Castilla —a rebel leader, unbeknownst to Cole—he was relegated to a desk job for the rest of the war, where he eventually retired and faded into relative obscurity. For the following decades, Cole led numerous campaigns against the Covenant with moderate success.
He was the third child of seven , having three sisters and three brothers. While his father was a dairy farmer with no criminal record or military background, his mother was once arrested at the age of twenty-one for protesting taxes, though she was released on one-year parole. Tax records show that despite living in a period of prosperity, Cole's family struggled to make ends meet as the family's small farm was largely unable to compete with colonial worlds essentially created for agriculture.
Preston's fifth grade homeroom teacher, Doctor Lillian Bratton , reported Cole as "… a boy of high natural intellect, [who] tends to work too hard even when he plays. That same year he achieved an unprecedented perfect test score in Mr. William Martin 's pre-algebra class. Upon being accused of cheating and retesting, he once again produced a perfect score.
A social worker was sent to Cole's home to investigate the school's claims that Preston was being overworked at home, though they found no evidence of physical or psychological abuse. When he was fourteen, Cole wrote a paper in his high school English class entitled " The Viability of Extended Colonization.
Cole's grades continued to falter throughout his high school career, likely due to lack of interest and increasing demands on his family's farm. Cole soon gained interest in traveling to the human colonies and interstellar exploration. However, due to his family's financial situation, Cole saw the UNSC Navy as his only opportunity to pursue this desire. Instead, Cole decided to enlist as a crewman. He was ordered to attend Unified Combined Military Boot Camp Sierra Largo , and was then endured six additional weeks of vacuum and microgravity training.
Upon his graduation as crewman recruit , Cole assigned to the Colonial Military Administration vessel Season of Plenty. By September 22, , Cole had been promoted to crewman apprentice as Season of Plenty was preparing to help establish a new city dubbed " Lazy Acres " on the world of Paradise Falls.
While on the ship, out of laziness, Ensign Otto Seinmann ordered Cole to do the ship's required slipstream space calculations for him. However, Cole ended up formulating a new way of calculating slipspace input parameters, much to Lieutenant Commander Nevel 's surprise.
During his time at the Officer Candidate School beginning in , Cole would fall into a scandal involving the overnight disappearances of Inna Volkov , the daughter of Admiral Konrad Volkov , from the officers' family quarters on base. Sightings of the girl in the company of a young man were reported. Soon, a child was produced, presumably by those liaisons. On June 7, , six cadets—including Cole—were brought before a Board of Inquiry to testify. Though Cole was not found guilty of any wrongdoing, he married Inna two months later.
The first was that the admiral knew which cadet was the true father and did not like the truth and thus found a suitable replacement for his daughter: Cole. A second was that the child was not the offspring of any of the cadets and thus the admiral's grandchild would have been fatherless. The third was that Cole had the liaison with Inna, but was not the father of the child. Either way, Admiral Volkov either made Cole marry his daughter, or Cole was compelled by a sense of chivalry, or as some of Cole's detractors claimed a desire for political advancement within the military by being the son-in-law of an admiral.
Aside from this scandal, Cole's time at the Luna OCS Academy was largely impressive, having graduated magna cum laude with high degrees of excellence and specialization from the Rutherford Science Magistrate. Ivan Cole , who was not Preston's biological son, was born December 12, Regardless, Cole and Volkov remained married and over the next eight years had two more sons and a daughter , who were Cole's biologically. However, as the Insurrection flared up, Cole saw very little of Inna and their children, being engaged on the frontier for months and even years at a time.
In , while posted on Las Vegas , now- Second Lieutenant Cole was involved in what would come to be known as the Callisto Incident. Their crews and their weapons were inexperienced and untested, and were caught by surprise when the insurrectionists detonated an asteroid with a nuclear weapon , destroying Buenos Aires and severely damaging Las Vegas and Jericho. The entire bridge crew of Las Vegas , save Cole, were killed or incapacitated, leaving him in command of the ship.
Cole signaled Callisto , declaring the crew's surrender. However, Cole ordered the crew to remove the ship's last Ares missile from its silo and transport it to Cargo Bay 5. When Callisto docked with Las Vegas , the missile was fired directly into the corvette, crippling it and forcing its surrender. Cole's faked distress signal was both a stroke of genius and breach of protocol so severe that UNSC Central Command dithered over whether to award him the Legion of Honor or to have him court-martialed , as he had violated Common Space Law.
Ultimately they did neither, to avoid setting precedent. From that point on, Cole resolved to never again send a distress signal in enemy territory, as he felt that no one would believe it. With some protest, Cole was quickly promoted to first lieutenant and later to commander , and he was given command of a small corvette to patrol the Outer Colonies.
After a dozen successful engagements in five years against rebel forces and privateer fleets he was promoted to captain and received the honor of commanding the first heavy destroyer armed with a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon , UNSC Gorgon. The Navy used Cole as a figurehead to quell reluctance among the Inner Colonies in reference to the Insurrection, hailing him as a hero. Cole led Gorgon in numerous engagements, most notably in three battles against the captured UNSC frigate Bellerophon —later renamed Bellicose.
Though, the frigate had escaped Cole twice. Inna filed for divorce in Both ships recognized that neither vessel had remaining ammunition and Bellicose left the system. Cole searched for Bellicose in five different systems, laying ambushes in preparation, though he was unable to find the frigate. Cole had also participated in several other engagements, including a skirmish with two rebel corvettes and a merchant privateer.
When Cole was on leave on the backwater colony of Roost in September he began a relationship with Lyrenne Castilla , the owner of a bar on the world.
After a skirmish at Capella , Cole took a month of leave on Roost, where he married Castilla in November Unfortunately for Cole, Castilla turned out to be a high-ranked insurrectionist and captain of Bellicose.
When the Office of Naval Intelligence found out about Lyra's double-life in , Cole's integrity was put into question and he was recalled to Reach for debriefing. Only his fame as a war hero and the efforts of Admiral Michael Stanforth —a close friend of Cole—kept him from facing a court-martial, but not a thorough interrogation by ONI agents. The ONI interrogators read him the after-action report in an attempt to break his spirit, but all it did was cause Cole to remain stoic and silent and utterly stubborn in attempt to preserve Castilla's honor.
Cole was sent back to Earth and given a desk job, where he was promoted to rear admiral to keep him quiet. All his requests for reassignment back to space were denied, and all of his proposals to make the UNSC fighting forces more effective against the insurgency were ignored.
After eight months at his desk job he was quietly offered early retirement with an honorary skip-promotion to vice admiral ; he accepted. During this period he suffered two heart attacks. Upon arriving at the system, the battle group quickly discovered that Harvest had been glassed by the alien Covenant. The battle group was attacked by Covenant cruiser Rapid Conversion and only the badly damaged CMA Heracles was able to return to Reach with word of the incident.
Additionally, Cole was considered to be a brilliant commander during the Insurrection that was willing to sacrifice himself and anyone under his command to complete his task. Reinstated as a vice admiral of the Navy, Cole was given command of Battle Group X-Ray in December of ,   conceived as the largest assembled fleet at that point in human history.
With the Valiant -class super-heavy cruiser UNSC Everest serving as his flagship , Cole requested numerous modifications to the cruiser. He ensured that his crew was battle-tested and competent,  and artificial intelligence Sekmet was chosen as Cole's shipboard AI on Everest. On March 1, , Cole and his battle group arrived at the Epsilon Indi system and the Battle of Harvest began, in which the forty ships of Battle Group X-Ray engaged a single vessel, a Covenant super-destroyer in orbit over Harvest.
The Covenant ship's superior weaponry and technology overwhelmed the fleet, and Cole's adjutant commanders suggested a full retreat. However, with the use of intelligence gathered during the Battle of Chi Ceti , Cole realized that Covenant energy shielding technology was vulnerable to massive, concentrated fire.
Cole ordered all ships in the battle group to simultaneously focus their fire at the Covenant ship, with salvos of MACs first, followed by Archer missiles and Shiva-class nuclear missiles.
This last-minute tactical inspiration worked; the super-destroyer's shields were overwhelmed, allowing the UNSC battle group to fire their remaining armaments into the super-destroyer's hull, destroying the Covenant ship. Following the Battle of Harvest, Cole returned to Earth, where he discovered that the Covenant had destroyed several other colonies. The worlds of Second Base and Green Hills were initially reported as attacked by rebel forces, but they were in fact glassed by the Covenant and their combined population of two million killed.
Due to Cole bringing in a Lieutenant and Lieutenant Commander as the JAG officers, John realized Cole had purposefully stacked the deck in the favor of himself and the Castoffs , earning him a great deal of John's respect. When Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth tried to push for the Castaways to remain in custody, Cole sided more favorably with John and kept the other admiral in line, even when the Castaways stated that they wanted to go to Gao. Cole was then given command of the majority of the fleet.
However, thirty-seven UNSC ships were lost by the battle's end. The Battle of the Great Bear at the Groombridge system on December 24, saw Cole lead a fleet of seventeen warships against three Covenant ships. The UNSC lost eleven destroyers in the battle, though Cole's fleet managed to destroy two of the Covenant ships and caused the third to crash-land on Groombridge Following the conclusion of the battle, a Sangheili survivor was recovered.
He approved the Spirit of Fire traveling to Arcadia in the Procyon system in February of on Captain James Gregory Cutter 's request after the relic pointed towards Arcadia as the Covenant's next destination. After a brief battle, Cole's forces were able to repel the Covenant invaders from the planet.
By , Cole had finished writing United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order A-1, better known as the Cole Protocol —a law to prevent the Covenant from finding the location of Earth or any other human population center.
Essentially, the Cole Protocol was an order forbidding the Covenant to gain any opportunity to retrieve data regarding the location of human population centers, and forbade retreating vessels from setting a direct course towards Earth, the Inner Colonies, or any other human population center, as the Covenant were able to track slipspace vectors and use them to calculate the destination. The policy also stated that if escape is impossible in order to prevent capture, any UNSC or civilian vessel was to self destruct after wiping all data matrices in order to slow the advance of the Covenant.
Some other UNSC officers were anxious regarding Keyes' evacuation, as a large portion of the refugees were insurrectionists. However, Cole called Keyes' accomplishment a victory, stating that men like Keyes would win the war, and then skip-promoted him to commander. In , Cole engaged Covenant forces in the Leonis Minoris system.
Although only ten UNSC ships were lost, two of the system's three human colonies were glassed. By , Cole had participated in twenty-three more engagements throughout the war, as well as an unusual encounter at Alpha Cephei. Cole won every major engagement that he committed his forces to; only on two occasions did he retreat after believing himself to be overwhelmed, though he returned in both cases with reinforcements. As the fleets and battle groups under his command were constantly suffering heavy losses, CENTCOM continued to provide Cole with new ships and crews instead of letting him rest.