Local News

Former Fort Bragg soldier dies after honorable career

Posted August 12, 2015 5:57 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2015 7:35 p.m. EDT

Command Sergeant Major Ernest Tabata, 84, served 30 years on active duty, fought in two wars and taught for 26 years as a Special Forces civilian instructor. On Monday, after an honorable career in the United States military, Tabata died.

Tabata began his military career in 1946 in the Hawaii Territorial Guard. He enlisted in the United States Army and was one of the first U.S. soldiers sent to fight in South Korea. Tabata also went behind enemy lines in the Vietnam War.

He left of the Army in 1952, but rejoined three years later as part of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

In 1961, Tabata became a Special Forces soldier. He taught engineering students demolitions and target acquisitions, two military staples that will keep a Special Forces soldier alive.

“As a matter of fact, all the three and four stars who are Special Forces officers, they came here sooner or later,” said Special Forces instructor Henry Ramirez. “Ernie gave them a class on what engineering is all about. Whether it was a demo training, whether it was target analysis. It did not matter. Ernie had a hand in that.”

After teaching for 26 years, Tabata retired in 2012.

“He was humble, but they knew the standards,” Ramirez said. “He knew the standards. He never allowed the standards to fall in any part of the training that he was responsible for.”

His friends and colleagues said he always greeted people with a smile and strong handshake. And when people left a conversation with Tabata, they walked away with life-saving knowledge.

“You have to have that knowledge first hand, to take it with you because there are no books to look at, computers to look at,” said special warfare instructor Eric Benoit. “You have to retain it. And Ernie, he was good at making sure you knew what you were doing when you walked out of here.”

Plans for his funeral services are still being put together. Officials told WRAL that a viewing will be held at Rogers and Breece Funeral home in Fayetteville, and a service will be held next week at Fort Bragg.