Training accidents are a fact of life in the Army and those leading to a fatality were rare but did happen. The Eaglehorse suffered one such loss in 1977 and choose to remember a fallen trooper.

The Eaglehorse Remembers a Fallen Trooper: SSG Hale Dining Facility

Anyway you look at it, SSG Raymond S. Hale was one of the top NCO’s in the Eaglehorse squadron in 1977. He was a Platoon Sergeant in Troop F and an early designate for the Advanced NCO Course. The position of Squadron Border NCO was opening and the S3 shop needed an Assistant Ops sergeant. SSG Hale was in active consideration for both positions and although the final decision had not yet been made, he was assigned on an interim basis to the S3 shop and often could be seen taking the CP track out the main gate to sent up an AM radio relay to Fulda. The squadron was getting ready of annual gunnery at Grafenwoehr and the final decision would wait until the unit returned.

SSG Raymond S. Hale. This is a copy of the photo which was mounted with a plaque designating the Camp Lee mess hall as "SSG Hale Hall". He was an outstanding NCO.
--Oscar Gill Jr.

This was the final Sheridan gunnery for the Eaglehorse and both scout and tank crews were busy tuning their skills on squadron run preparatory ranges. MSG Oscar Gill and SSG Hale were running the daylight portion of one range and one platoon was having difficulty with their runs. As night fell, MSG Gill had a chance to return to the rear area for a shower but SSG Hale volunteered to stay behind and help out. He knew the range, the weapons and the procedures very well and felt he could tutor the weak crews.

As night operations began, SSG Hale was monitoring the runs of Troop G as an AI. At the completion of each run, the starlight scope mounted on the M2 machinegun was passed along to the next vehicle prior to proceeding down range along the firing route. This occurred behind the range tower in the ready area under the supervision of the Safety NCO. After the first or second run, SSG Hale went over to the S3 M577 on the range to check in and was leaning inside the open rear door when a shot fired across the ready area. An M2 had not been cleared and during the starlight scope transfer, fired one round. It struck the door hinge of the M577, shattered, one piece struck Hale in the head killing him instantly.

Back in Bad Kissingen, CPT Tartella, S2 and Rear Detachment Commander, had the unfortunate duty of informing the Hale family of the tragedy. SSG Hale left behind a wife and two young daughters.

Months later at Camp Lee, the newly built Dining Facility was open for business. CPT Tarella felt something should be done to memorialize Hale and after discussion, the naming of the new building was the natural choice. A plaque was produced with help from MSG Gill containing a photo of SSG Hale and an inscription designating the new mess hall as "SSG Hale Hall". The plaque was mounted just inside the doors at the entrance and remained there until the camp closed.

The fate of this artifact of squadron history is unknown. The Eaglehorse PAO has not responded to requests as to whether the item is currently with other 2/11 heritage trophies and artifacts at Fort Irwin. The dining facility at the former camp is vacant and included in the parcel currently for sale.

We are grateful to Col (Ret) Jack Tartella, SMJ (Ret) Oscar Gill Jr. and Ted Prescott for helping tell this story.

"Hale Hall" as seen in 1984.
--Ted Prescott

Exterior view of Hale Hall as of 2003. Without routine maintenance, all of the camp buildings are beginning to suffer.
--Norbert Ruckel

Interior view of the food prep area. When US forces turned the camp over to German authorities, all mess equipment was removed.
--Norbert Ruckel

Another view of the interior space of the former mess hall.
--Norbert Ruckel