View Full Version : Bull Simons Award for 2004

05-11-2004, 18:08
CSM Tabata earns the 2004 Bull Simon Award
CSM Tabata is first enlisted recipient

By Navy Capt. John DeNicola
USSOCOM History Office

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Ernest K. Tabata, U.S. Army, ret., 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 then he completed basic infantry training, and then the advanced combat engineer school at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. In March 1950, he arrived in Japan for occupation duty with the U.S. Far East Command.
On June 1950, 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. Tabata participated in warfare that saw the Americans retreat, advance, retreat, and advance again in some of the fiercest fighting ever experienced in the history of the U.S. Army.
Following Korea, Tabata returned to Hawaii and received an Honorable Discharge in September 1952. He reenlisted into the army in January 1955. Tabata served for the next six years as a paratrooper in the 82nd and 11th Airborne Divisions. In January 1961, Tabata became a “triple volunteer” when he applied for duty with the U.S. Army Special Forces.
After his Special Forces training at Ft. Bragg, Tabata volunteered for a clandestine Mobile Training Team, named “WHITE STAR.” Led by then-Lieutenant Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons, these 7th Special Forces Group soldiers wearing civilian clothes, arrived in the Kingdom of Laos in October 1961. Tabata began training a Royal Lao Army battalion on the Plaine des Jarres, located 100 miles north of the Laotian capitol of Vientiane.
Soon afterwards, Tabata encountered the Kha, a group of mountain tribesmen who were fierce fighters. Tabata helped to train the Kha as a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) with the primary mission of protecting their villages from attack by the Pathet Lao.
In February 1962, Tabata was stricken with hepatitis and evacuated back to the United States for treatment. Following three months convalescence, Tabata was assigned to the Special Forces Training Group as a demolitions instructor. Two years later, fully recovered, Tabata joined the 1st Special Forces Group, but only four months later, in August 1964, he received orders to the Republic of South Vietnam. Tabata joined the 5th Special Forces Group, and again trained mountain tribesmen; in this case, Montagnards as the French called them. He worked with the Montagnard Rhade tribesmen who formed CIDG groups; both for village protection and to patrol against the communist Viet Cong units.
In January 1965, reassigned to 1st Special Forces Group (A) in Okinawa, Tabata served as a team sergeant on one of the High-Altitude-Low-Opening (HALO) teams. A few months later, Tabata and his ‘A’ team went to Korea and prepared South Korea’s elite White Horse Division for combat prior to its departure for South Vietnam the following year.
Tabata returned to South Vietnam in November 1965—his third combat tour—for assignment to a unit with an intentionally obscure title: Military Assistance Command, Vietnam—Studies and Observation Group. Usually referred to as “MACV-SOG” or simply “SOG,” the unit had some of the most dangerous missions in Southeast Asia.
In SOG, Tabata became a reconnaissance team leader in the Command & Control—North (CCN), the element that conducted missions against the Ho Chi Minh Trail running through southern Laos. These top-secret missions—code-named “SHINING BRASS”— were conducted by Green Beret-led teams usually comprised of three U.S. and three to four Montagnard soldiers.
Extraordinary circumstances resulted in extraordinary demands on Tabata who led SOG reconnaissance teams, identified by their now-famous radio call-sign “One Zero.” Tabata emphasized the need for thorough pre-mission rehearsals, putting his team through incessant training, whether the mission was to identify targets for airstrikes, or insert on the heels of a B-52 “Arc Light” strike to conduct bomb damage assessment. On one mission into Laos, Tabata led a team to destroy Russian artillery pieces, discovered during a previous reconnaissance. No sooner had the reconnaissance soldiers leaped from their helicopters onto the landing zone; they received fire from a larger enemy force. Tabata called for an extraction and engaged the enemy. He and his radio operator were wounded.
In another display of courageous airmanship, South Vietnamese helicopter pilots, known by their radio call-sign “King Bees”, braved savage enemy fire to extract the trapped team. Tabata recalled the King Bee motto—“we take you in, we take you out”—with considerable gratitude. For his role in the mission, Tabata received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor. He was subsequently medically evacuated to Okinawa where his convalescence took five full months.
In July 1969, Tabata returned to Vietnam for a second tour with MACV-SOG, this time in Operation 34, the Ground Studies Branch within SOG’s headquarters. Tabata put his hard-earned experience to good use training and mentoring future reconnaissance team leaders. This fourth combat tour also provided Tabata with the freedom to put his experience and talents almost anywhere and everywhere within the organization. He also supported several launch sites locations; where teams were staged prior to going on a mission. He served as an LNO (Liaison Officer) between launch site and MACV-SOG.
During this tour, he moved among the SOG sites, evaluating their operations for combat effectiveness as well as morale. By this late stage of the war many of SOG’s best NCO leadership were gone, killed in action or worn down by a decade of high-risk combat. Yet Tabata still found the camaraderie and high morale he encountered—and no doubt help generate by his presence—impressive in its impact on him. He attributed this to the feeling that no matter where a Special Forces soldier found himself, he felt as if he were part of a close knit family.
Returning to Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, in August 1970, Tabata served in the following years with the 10th Special Forces Group as well as a tour 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. He was active in Central and South American mobile training teams. He also went on a “SHOW of FORCE” mission to Liberia, Africa.
Tabata retired in December 1981, after 30 years of active duty service. But, Tabata could stand only two years away from the military. In November 1984, he returned to the Special Forces Training Group as a civilian instructor. He currently teaches Special Forces A-Team engineers the skills of their specialty. He also provides demolitions instruction to Special Forces warrant officers. At age 73, he still participates in static-line parachute jumps as required in the course of his duties.
As a teacher, mentor, and role model for today’s Special Forces soldiers, Tabata has become an icon in the select world of American Special Operations Forces. Command Sergeant Major Tabata exemplifies in all ways the warrior spirit of the Bull Simons Award we are honored to present to him on this occasion.


The Reaper
05-11-2004, 18:13
Ernie is a very good friend of mine (he was in my wedding party), is one heck of a great soldier, and continues to be a superb instructor of American SF soldiers.

I can think of no more deserving individual, and I am proud to call him my friend.

One helluva man!


Roguish Lawyer
05-11-2004, 18:37
Now THAT's a resume! Wow. Still jumping at 73!

The Reaper
05-11-2004, 18:55
Originally posted by Roguish Lawyer
Now THAT's a resume! Wow. Still jumping at 73!

Two even older SF guys working as DA civilians still jumping that I know.

One BMT also knows goes out and rucks a couple days per week for PT.

Hard men, those FOGs.


06-06-2004, 11:15
Outstanding post BMT!

Is there a site that lists the other recipients of this award of which I know nothing?

06-06-2004, 15:33
Thats good news!

I remember Ernie from when I was a student in the SFQC, and later I ran in to him several times while working out at Cp Mackall. He is a wealth of knowledge and a great benifit to the force.

Still jumping? Hell, he Jumpmastered me into Rhine Luzon while in the q-course.....come to think of it, so did Ed Brody......