Special notice: Ernie Ford Tribute/Obituary

t was with great regret that the Blackhorse Association announced that Ernest (Ernie) Edgar Ford, former 3/11 Scout, Border Operations NCO, Boeslager Scout competitor, Assistant Squadron Operations NCO, and L Troop 1SG was killed in a traffic accident outside North Pole Alaska on early Tuesday morning 29 July 2014.
SGT (later SSG) Ernie Ford served in L Troop, 3/11 Armored Cavalry Regiment during the years 1975-1979, where Robert Mixon went from Platoon Leader, XO, and finally Troop Commander from 1977-1979 and knew Ernie well. "He was a superb young NCO who taught me a whole range of Cavalry and other leadership skills that I carried with me for the rest of my career" wrote Mixon. "One of our proudest moments was to win the 1978 Draper Award. He epitomized Be-Know-Do. We are all better people for having known and served with him."
From L Troop Ernie went to Border Operations selected in part, because of his outstanding scout performance on the border. But when the competition with German, US and other allied forces in Boeslager competition (scout skills and the demanding physical capability to handle such skills) Ernie was all in and went back to scouting. In 1980, the 3d Squadron team, including now SSG Ford, competed at the US Army Europe (USAREUR) level; they came in 2d place.
Now back in L Troop, Ernie was selected again to be a member of the 1981 "All-Star" Squadron team. The Team Coach was Dewey Bolton, who gave up command temporarily of K Troop, to try to win USAREUR so they could compete against the Germans. Dewey commented: "We bonded quite a bit from March to May 1981 during Boeslager; Ernie was a SSG and I a no time in grade Captain. Ernie and I would chat at the 20, 25 and 30 year marks. I was so looking forward to the 35 year phone call."
During this tour his troops called him "Air Force One" because no one could out PT him. This was the first of two nicknames that can now be publicized. It was also in this tour that Ernie got national recognition on CBS 60 Minutes when he failed to get water out of his canteen while wearing full MOPP demonstrating NBC protection, according to 1SG Bill Clark, friend of Ernie for many years. Ernie was ribbed for several years for this "blooper moment." But Ernie took it in good cheer.
After a tour at Fort Carson, Ernie returned to Bad Hersfeld and returned to L Troop to serve as the 1SG during the commands of the late T. Eric Bishop, and Captains James Hickey and William McKean. It was as 1SG where Ernie earned the nickname "RoboTop" for his physical fitness in leading PT; he was noted for wearing knee braces during PT furthering the "RoboTop" persona. Some Trooper modified a "RoboCop" sticker and placed it outside the door to the barracks with the words "this barracks is protected by "RoboTop." It was not military, and not removed either. But it was not just PT that set Ernie off from his peers.
He and Captain Hickey led L Troop 1987-9. During this period the troop excelled during innumerable readiness alerts, border tours, gunneries and field exercises. These included REFORGER 1988, the last fully equipped REFORGER in USAREUR history.
The men of L Troop were recognized for their excellence by the senior commanders of the Regiment with the 1988 Draper Award. Ernie Ford’s leadership and professional acumen were specifically mentioned by the Regimental Commander as one of the key reasons for the troop’s recognition with this traditional and prestigious award.
LTC (Ret) Ken Pope: "He was a great friend, leader and NCO who took the time to guide and mentor me as a new LT when he had more than enough on his plate as L Troop 1SG. I valued my time serving with him, his advice and friendship. I will miss him very much." But it wasn’t just officers Ernie focused on. Retired 1SG (and Sergeant in 3/11) Chad Fuller commented "Ernie inspired me to be like him in all aspects of leadership; and he never stopped teaching me."
His stay in Bad Hersfeld was cut short when Ernie was selected for the US Army Sergeants Major Academy; he left vowing to return. Instead the Army sent him to Alaska. With Desert Storm over and a peace time Army, and 21 years on the job Ernie decided to retire. Almost immediately after retiring as a Sergeant Major, he was hired by a company running security on the Alaska oil pipeline. In retirement he was a Security Sergeant for Doyon Universal Services on the Alaska pipeline working for over 21 years when he was killed.
In retirement, Ernie had made a special effort to attend Blackhorse Association reunions. He joined with many of his friends and his son, daughter and grandchildren in Colorado Springs in June. His bright smile and cheery personality were major bright spots in a gathering. Doris Devereaux, on attending the next reunion in Las Vegas lamented "It won’t be the same without Ernie." Jim Hickey further commented "This man will be dearly missed by thousands in the Blackhorse family."
Ernie Ford was universally respected and loved by all who knew him. His kindness of spirit, fairness and sincere regard for the soldiers and family members of the Troop, Squadron and Regiment were attributes that made him the special Soldier and leader that he was. Fellow 1SG Mile Pitman wrote when notified of his death: " ‘Only the good die young.’ It seems so many of my heroes have died in the most unexpected ways." The 52d Colonel, Tom White, made this observation when he learned of Ernie’s death: "Ernie was a great friend and the best NCO I ever served with; a true professional in every sense."
He is survived by his fiancée Jean Sullivan in Phoenix, son Travis Ford, daughter Amber Crouch and two granddaughters Scarlett, aged five and a half and Alexis, aged thirteen in Colorado Springs. Ernie’s funeral will be held on Saturday August 16, 2014 at St Francis Xavier Church in Phoenix, AZ. Final interment is pending.
Thanks to Ned Devereaux for preparing this special Trooper Down eblast obituary. Editor Notes: Thank you to both MG (Ret) Robert Mixon and COL (Ret) Jim Hickey for their L Troop experience information. A special thanks to COL (Ret) Bob Hurt and all who contributed to this e-Blast obituary. For future information on the funeral, email neddevereaux@comcast.net.