Wagner was trained at the Reach Naval Academy, which was the closest thing he had ever had to a home in the Inner Colonies.[note 1] In 2550, he had almost a third of his body burned by Covenant plasma, and he reportedly never screamed nor shed a single tear.
Wagner held the rank of Lieutenant in 2552. Lieutenant Wagner's prowler was one of few vessels to escape the catastrophic Fall of Reach in 2552. Making the trip to Earth in a record time of four days, he ostensibly broke the Cole Protocol, neglecting the random jumps required by the protocol's Article 1; however, it was a well-known common practice for ONI to "bend" the protocol. In any case, Wagner believed this was justified due to the value of the intel they possessed. Fortunately, the Covenant did not follow him, nor could they, given his stealth was never compromised.
He prepared the official report for the UNSC about the fall of planet Reach and was debriefed about it by the UNSC Security Council, consisting of, but not limited to Colonel James Ackerson, Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood, Major General Nicolas Strauss and about a half-dozen other command rank UNSC officers at HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6, HIGHCOM's headquarters. He gave them all the information he had, including the escape of the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, and the apparent glassing of the planet. Wagner was acute enough to detect a huge breach in military protocol, when Colonel Ackerson appeared to be in a position to cow a Major General. Ackerson had a huge dislike of Wagner, either because of the Colonel's characteristically confrontational demeanor, or as Lysithea put it, "he wanted to stick someone's head on a pike." When Wagner informed the council that he would like to volunteer for a recon mission back to Reach, Colonel Ackerson immediately berated him, telling him they would not send any ships to confirm a dead planet. Mockingly asserting that Wagner had sustained trauma, Ackerson ordered him to visit the infirmary and get a "clean bill of medicine before returning to active duty."
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