- “Someday we will win, no matter what it takes.”— Ponder's vow to Tartarus
Captain Ponder was a UNSC Marine Corps junior Marine officer who served on Harvest. His career was marred by an incident involving Insurrectionists on Eridanus II. He was killed in action during the First Battle of Harvest against the Covenant.
In 2513, then-Lieutenant Colonel Ponder commanded the 1st Battalion, 21st Division, 9th Marine Expeditionary Force, which was deployed in the Eridanus system. During this time he took part in the questioning of an Insurrectionist in Elysium city, Eridanus II. The rebel had married the daughter of a local official. When pressed for information about former UNSC Colonel Robert Watts' second-in-command, the man grabbed his own daughter, and threatened to detonate a grenade declaring: "Someday we will win. No matter what it takes." Although the man was dedicated to his cause, Ponder knew the rebel was unwilling to kill his family and bluffing. However, an attached sniper drew an opposite conclusion and killed the man through the wall. The grenade's pin was pulled out of reflex. Ponder covered the explosive with his own body, preventing casualties but lost an arm from the resulting explosion.
After the incident Ponder resisted pressure to retire. However, he was forced to accept a two-grade demotion to Captain. His arm was replaced with a prosthetic and, although he disliked it and refrained from wearing it when possible, it did not hamper his ability to utilize weapons.
Ponder was reassigned to a Colonial Militia training unit on Harvest. His subordinates included Staff Sergeants Nolan Byrne and Avery Johnson. It was at this billet that he was present at First Battle of Harvest and the start of the Human-Covenant war. The captain was part of a delegation to meet with Covenant representatives. The meeting started peacefully but degenerated into a melee when overeager Unggoy attacked militia recruits, and Ponder was severely wounded by the Fist of Rukt wielded by Jiralhanae Chieftain Maccabeus.
When the Covenant assault and glassing began in earnest, Ponder volunteered for a suicide mission to buy time for the civilian evacuations. He drew the enemy warship Rapid Conversion toward the surface and to him by claiming the fake AI processor he was carrying was an "Oracle". Upon seeing the cruiser being damaged by Harvest's Mass Drivers, Tartarus impaled the marine on the bayonets of a Type-25 Carbine. Ponder's spine was severed and he died quickly, but not before repeating to Tartarus the same vow he had heard from the Insurrectionist before. The officer had taken his remaining time to enjoy the warmth of the sunset, rather than regret his past decisions.
- Halo: Contact Harvest (First appearance)
- Ponder was fond of Sweet William Cigars. Avery Johnson may have picked up the smoking habit and liking of the brand from him.
- Ponder described himself as a "church man" to Governor Thune (which led to a lengthy conversation about religion) and compared the sound of a MAC gun firing to a church bell on a Sunday morning.
- Chronologically, he is the first character in the Halo timeline to lose an arm as well as the first non-spartan to lose an arm, though James-005 was the first to lose his arm media wise.