Tabata, Ernest K., CSM

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Last Rank
Command Sergeant Major
Last Service Branch
Branch Immaterial
Last Primary MOS
00Z-Command Sergeant Major IN
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1978-1981, 00Z, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group
Service Years
1946 - 1981

Special Forces
Command Sergeant Major

Ten Service Stripes

Eight Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

36 kb

Home State
Year of Birth
Not Specified
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper to remember Tabata, Ernest K. (Ernie), CSM.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Fayetteville, NC

Date of Passing
Aug 10, 2015
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

1st Cavalry Division Special Forces Group Infantry Shoulder Cord

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Chapter I/XVIII - The Samuel S. Theriault/Aaron Bank Chapter
  1971, Special Forces Association, 1, Chapter I/XVIII - The Samuel S. Theriault/Aaron Bank Chapter (Fayetteville, North Carolina) [Verified] - Chap. Page

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Special Forces peers mourn Soldier's passing
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest K. Tabata
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 9:36 pm | Updated: 7:24 am, Wed Aug 12, 2015.
Special Forces peers mourn soldier's passing By Nichole Manna Staff writer
Ernest K. Tabata is a name many won't forget, even after his death.
Mr. Tabata died Aug. 10 at UNC Hospitals.
It's been said that every Special Forces engineer on active duty was trained by him.
In 2004, Thomas "Pappy" Jones, a retired sergeant major, who had worked with Mr. Tabata for years, told The Fayetteville Observer that there's an old saying in Asia that after a man dies, his spirit lives as long as somebody remembers his name.
"If that saying is true," he said, "... Ernie Tabata is going to be with us for an awful long time to come."
Mr. Tabata, 84, was a combat engineer in the Korean War and belonged to a covert special operations unit that went behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.
He began his military career in June 1946 as a volunteer in the Hawaii Territorial Guard. Two years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Hawaii. He was among the first American soldiers sent to South Korea to repel the invasion by the North.
In Sept. 1952, Mr. Tabata received an honorable discharge but re-enlisted in January 1955. For the next six years, he served as a paratrooper in the 82nd and 11th Airborne Divisions.
He became a triple volunteer in January 1961, when he applied for duty with the Special Forces.
In Dec. 1981, after 30 years of active-duty service, Mr. Tabata returned to the Special Forces Training Group as a civilian instructor and taught Special Forces engineers.
On Aug. 2, 2013, he was honored at a ceremony where he returned from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as an 18C instructor. Mr. Tabata gave 59 years to government service, the school said.
News of Mr. Tabata's death spread quickly through social media.
"He was a hell of a soldier and a fine gentleman," a post from the Chapter XV Special Forces Association, Green Berets said.
"Ernie is an SF (Special Forces) legend," Jeff Forker wrote on the Special Forces Memorial Wall Facebook page.
Many others wrote messages about Mr. Tabata, including David Randall, who wrote, "He was a gift to this career field and it's hard to believe he's gone now."
Staff writer Nichole Manna can be reached at or 486-3596.

Sergeant Major Ernest K. Tabata began his military career in June 1946 as a volunteer in the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. Two years later he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and completed the advanced combat engineer school at Fort Belvoir, Va.
On June 1950, SGM Tabata found himself among the first American Soldiers sent to South Korea to repel the invasion by the North. He was assigned to the 14th Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
Following Korea, SGM Tabata returned to Hawaii and received an honorable discharge in September 1952. He re-enlisted in the Army in January 1955. SGM Tabata served the next six years as a paratrooper in the 82nd and 11th Airborne Divisions. In January 1961, SGM Tabata became a “triple volunteer” when he applied for duty with the U.S. Army Special Forces.
After his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, SGM Tabata volunteered for a clandestine mobile training team, named “White Star.” Led by then-Lieutenant Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons, the team arrived in the Kingdom of Laos in October 1961 and began training a Royal Lao Army battalion.
In August 1964, SGM Tabata received orders to the Republic of South Vietnam. There, he joined the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and trained the Montagnards. In January 1965, reassigned to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa, SGM Tabata served as a team sergeant on a HALO team. A few months later, SGM Tabata and his detachment went to Korea to prepare South Korea’s elite White Horse Division for combat prior to its departure for South Vietnam the following year. SGM Tabata returned to South Vietnam in November 1965, his third combat tour, for assignment to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, or MACV-SOG.
Returning to Fort Devens, Mass., in August 1970, SGM Tabata served with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and with the 12th Engineer Battalion. Upon his promotion to sergeant major, he served as the senior enlisted advisor to the assistant division commander, 8th Infantry Division, in Mainz, Germany. His return to Special Forces came in 1978, with an assignment to the 7th Special Forces Group. (Airborne)
SGM Tabata retired in December 1981 after 30 years of active-duty service. In November 1984, he returned to the Special Forces Training Group as a civilian instructor. He currently teaches Special Forces engineers the skills of their specialty. He also provides demolitions instruction to Special Forces warrant officers and still participates in static-line parachute jumps as required in the course of his duties.
CSM (Ret.) Ernest Tabata retired from the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as an 18C instructor in 2014. Mr. Tabata gave 59 years of government service and said he will miss the professionalism of the noncommissioned officers, officers and all of his friends that he has worked with over the years.

Other Comments:
ALCON:  be advised that one of SF's finest has passed. I will add this to our minutes.

CSM (R) Ernie Tabata passed away at University of North Carolina Hospital on 10 August 2015. Ernie was one of the best known figures in the Special Forces community, both active and retired. There is not a Combat Engineer who has not benefited from Ernie's vast knowledge and skills. He first joined the SFA in January 1971 while assigned to Co. D, 10th SFG at Ft. Devens. His other SF assignments at that time were:

Co. A, 7th SFG 1961 - 1962
HQ Training Group (Demo Instructor) 1962 - 1964
Co. C, 1st SFG 1964
Co. B, 1st SFG (Taiwan Resident Team) 1966 - 1969
MACV SOG Op-34 1969 - 1970 10th SFG 1970

Donald Gerald Bennett Jr.
De Oppresso Liber

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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
14th Engineer Battalion82nd Airborne Division11th Airborne DivisionSpecial Forces Qualification Course (SFQC)
7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)Special Forces Training Group Airborne (SFTG Abn)1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
MACV Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)12th Engineer Battalion8th Infantry Division
  1949-1952, 1729, 14th Engineer Battalion
  1955-1957, 1729, HHC, 82nd Airborne Division
  1957-1961, 1729, 11th Airborne Division
  1961-1961, 1729, Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC)
  1961-1962, 1729, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1962-1964, 12B10, Special Forces Training Group Airborne (SFTG Abn)
  1964-1964, 12B10, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1964-1965, 12B10, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1966-1969, 12B10, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1969-1970, 12Z5, OPS-34B STRATA, MACV Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)
  1971-1974, 12Z5, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1974-1976, 12Z5, 12th Engineer Battalion
  1976-1978, 12Z5, HHC, 8th Infantry Division
  1978-1981, 00Z, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Defensive (1950)
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Offensive (1950)
  1950-1951 Korean War/CCF Intervention (1950-51)
  1951-1951 Korean War/First UN Counteroffensive (1951)
  1951-1951 Korean War/CCF Spring Offensive (1951)
  1951-1951 Korean War/UN Summer-Fall Offensive (1951)
  1951-1952 Second Korean Winter (1951-52)
  1952-1952 Korean War/Korea, Summer-Fall 1952
  1961-1962 Operation White Star
  1964-1965 Vietnam War/Advisory Campaign (1962-65)
  1965-1965 Vietnam War/Defense Campaign (1965)
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Summer-Fall 1969 Campaign
  1969-1970 Vietnam War/Winter-Spring 1970 Campaign
  1970-1970 Vietnam War/Sanctuary Counteroffensive Campaign (1970)
  1970-1971 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VII Campaign (1970-71)
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