Since November 2011, Sgt. 1st Class Ben Hall has served essentially as the manager of the Fort Dalles Readiness Center at 402 E. Scenic Drive, which is the home of Delta Troop, 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry of the Oregon Army National Guard.
As Readiness NCO (non-commissioned officer) in The Dalles for the past five years, Hall, who lives in Hood River, has been in charge of the Readiness Center facility and virtually everything that occurs there—in particular making preparations for the monthly drill weekends and the annual, more extensive training sessions.
“We train on our vehicles’ weaponry to make sure the guys are qualified on weapons systems, safety training, driver training, administrative requirements, a variety of classes, physical fitness. That is all part of the job of the Readiness NCO. It’s a management positon,” Hall explained.
Hall’s duties have included scheduling all the training for approximately 115 soldiers in the unit, from field activities to classroom work; arranging to supply food for the troops; ensuring the proper training materials are available; making sure there is ammunition for firing exercises; providing transportation to offsite training areas; making sure there are hotel rooms ready for out of town soldiers; and even making sure payroll is taken care of properly.
“A lot of planning and resource work goes into it,” Hall said.
As 2017 dawns, however, Hall—who enlisted in the National Guard in May 1991—is transitioning out of the role and headed toward retirement. After more than 25 years in the military, Hall said he believes it is time for him to make a fresh start.
Hall’s last day in charge of the Fort Dalles Readiness Center came on Dec. 14, but he remains on transitional leave. His final, official day as a soldier will come on March 31, 2017.
It has been a lengthy and interesting career for Hall. He started out as an administrative clerk at the Hood River Armory in 1991, but has been moved around a bit. He was sent to Portland in 1993, where he served as supply sergeant at the Jackson Armory near the Portland Air Base. In late 1995, he was sent back to Hood River, where he soon became Readiness NCO for the Hood River Armory, a role he served in for the nearly 15 years.
“And then in September 2010, I deployed with my unit to Iraq for a year,” said Hall.
According to Hall, while in Iraq, Hall’s unit was primarily responsible for convoy security.
“It was a pretty intense position, planning and coordinating convoy support missions,” he said. “There was a lot of planning and monitoring and keeping track of the guys who were out. It was pretty busy and intense, especially for the guys in the convoys.”
Hall pointed out that each convoy mission is meticulously planned.
“They (the soldiers) are well prepared to go on those missions, and that saves a lot of lives,” he said.
The unit’s troops were shot at while in Iraq, and some soldiers suffered serious injuries from improvised explosive devices going off against the sides of their vehicles, but thankfully, no one was killed in combat.
“We were in Iraq until September 2011, and at that point I was reassigned to The Dalles,” Hall said.
The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence, an Army veteran who saw combat in Vietnam, praised Hall for the way he has handled being “the face of the National Guard here in The Dalles.”
“He is the person the community deals with, and they could not have had a better representative,” Lawrence said. “While honoring his military position, he displays the ability to interact with the non-military public at the highest level. I will be sorry to see him retire, and I hope he finds a way to stay in The Dalles.”
One big change that took place during Hall’s watch was the building of a new facility for the local National Guard unit. In April 2014, the Oregon National Guard held a dedication ceremony for the modern, energy-efficient Fort Dalles Readiness Center, which replaced a much smaller armory building on Webber Street that was constructed in 1951, during the Korean War era.
Hall said he is very pleased with the new facility, but respects the heritage of the building the unit vacated.
“The old building had a lot of character to it,” he said. “There was a lot of history in that place, but things needed upkeep. The new facility has a full-size weight room, simulation room, small arms simulator, a huge maintenance bay and a full-size kitchen. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
Hall said the change from the old building to the new facility was like the difference between day and night … and almost literally so, because the new center features a wide “picture window” view of the Gorge that lets in a tremendous amount of light.
As Hall transitions out of the military, his replacement at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center, Staff Sgt. Roger Montavon, praised Hall’s work.
“I’ve worked with Ben ever since I came into the National Guard in 2003,” said Montavon, who also served for eight years in the Marine Corps. “He’s been my go-to guy forever, and I’ve been following in his footsteps.”
Montavon, who lives in Parkdale, said Hall’s retirement has been well-earned.
“He’s definitely done his time,” said Montavon. “And he’s young enough he can go on and have another career.”
Hall said he feels it is finally the right time for him to retire from the military.
“It’s been a great joy and I don’t know if I’ll ever get a job as good as this one,” Hall said. “It has been a very rewarding position, dealing with 115 guys and helping them out and really see the results; and helping guys find employment when they get out. But you can’t do it forever. There are guys behind you who want to get promoted.”
As he moves toward a career in the civilian world, Hall said he is considering work in human resources or a similar field, where most of his background in the military has been.
“I hope my job experience will help,” Hall said.
Hall added that part of the reason he wants to retire now is a basic one.
“I’m 42 years old, and if I’m starting a new career, it’s the right age to do it,” he said.