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CTF 76 Chief of Staff Dies in Off-Duty Accident

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OKINAWA, Japan The chief of staff for Commander, Task Force 76, Capt. Stephen "Cole" Hayes, died as a result of an off-duty recreational accident on Feb. 21.

Hayes, who had served 24 years on active duty with three command tours, joined the CTF 76 staff in September 2016.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of a shipmate and friend. Our sincere condolences are with Capt. Hayes' wife, children, and entire family," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, Commander, Task Force 76. "Our staff and the Navy have lost an amazing officer and leader. His time here will leave an indelible imprint."

Hayes, a native of Henderson, Co., was well respected among the staff for his personable character, can do' attitude, and engaged leadership as a mustang officer,' who aimed to bring together the team of enlisted and commissioned officers to achieve operational excellence.

Hayes served on seven sea tours, including commanding officer of USS Chinook (PC 9), commanding officer of USS Ponce (LPD 15), and Deputy Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 3. He also had several shore tours, including Flag Secretary at Amphibious Group 2, commanding officer of PCU Somerset, and Statistics and Allocation Branch Head in PERS 45 at the Naval Personnel Command. Prior to CTF 76, Hayes served as Deputy Director of OPNAV N173, the Equal Opportunity branch under the Navy's 21st Century Sailor office.

Hayes graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and was a three-year letterman in football. He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1992, and upon completing Fire Controlman "C" School, reported to USS Chandler (DDG 996). From Chandler, he departed to attend Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.

Among his decorations are the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal(4), Joint Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal(5), Combat Action Ribbon, and various other unit and service awards.

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