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Home » A journey of leadership and service: Cole Kelly promotes to colonel

A journey of leadership and service: Cole Kelly promotes to colonel

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In a ceremony held at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Wyoming Army National Guard proudly promoted Lt. Col. Cole Kelly to the rank of colonel on Jan. 11, 2024.

Kelly’s promotion signifies personal growth, dedication, and a commitment to leadership and service that has spanned over two decades.

Kelly’s journey with the Wyoming Army National Guard began in 2001. Uncertain about his future and seeking a path to pay for college, he decided to follow in his family’s footsteps.

“I joined the Guard in January 2001 as a senior in high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up and needed to figure out how to pay for college. My family has a long history of military service, and as I didn’t know what to do, it seemed to make sense,” Kelly said about his early days of service.

With 23 years of dedicated service to the Wyoming Guard, Kelly’s promotion to colonel is a significant milestone in his military career.

“This is the biggest step I’ve ever taken,” Kelly said. “Making O-6 is a lot of responsibility, and I need to respond accordingly by thinking more critically and being open to ideas.”

Kelly’s leadership style centers on “servant leadership” and aligns with the “transformational leadership” style, which focuses on team building and process improvement. He believes that setting high expectations and involving team members in decision-making is the key to success.

Kelly has held various positions throughout his career, each contributing to his leadership growth. These roles include fire direction officer, battery operations officer/executive officer, signal company commander, 115th Brigade assistant intelligence officer, 115th Brigade intelligence officer, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment Headquarters and Headquarters Battery commander, 94th Troop Command logistics officer, and operations officer.

His two-year assignment at the National Guard Bureau in the National Capital Region provided him with invaluable insights into the strategic level of operations and a deep sense of humility, working alongside brilliant individuals at that level, according to Kelly. He later returned to Wyoming as the joint director of military support on the joint staff, where he coordinated responses to search and rescue missions, flood and fire incidents, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Capitol support.

Kelly said about the importance of military intelligence, “Military Intelligence requires understanding the enemy mindset and predicting their actions.”

This experience greatly impacted Kelly’s deployment with the 115th Field Artillery Brigade in 2009. His contributions in analyzing improvised explosive device patterns were so influential the information was briefed to the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Commander and saved lives.

Also, during his deployment, Kelly recounted a transformative experience.

“On my 2009 deployment, I was a young lieutenant filling the Intelligence officer position right up to mobilization site,” Kelly said. “We received a major from the inactive ready reserves who had been out of the Army for 13 years. I was frustrated that someone from outside the organization, let alone the Army, replaced me due to rank. The transition wasn’t easy and instead of burning me up, he took the time to mentor me. Out of this experience at the beginning of the mobilization, I learned to check my ego and lean toward empathy and understanding versus punishment. I gained a lifelong mentor in Col. (Retired) Charles Bolles.”

Currently, as the Deputy Chief of Staff of Personnel for the Wyoming Army National Guard, Kelly manages the personnel requirements for all 1,500 Wyoming Army Guard Soldiers, ensuring they get paid, promoted, and receive their awards.

For future leaders, Kelly offered two pieces of advice: First, treat each job like it’s the most important and interesting job you’ve ever done. Second, he quoted Gen. Colin Powell, “Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” These principles, he believes, are fundamental to the path of leadership.


Lt. Col. Cole Kelly promoted to colonel: A journey of leadership and service