Don Gable remembered for his leadership and love for the Nevada Army Guard
Dave Dixon, a retired Nevada Army National Guardsman, remembers how dedicated his longtime friend was to serving both his nation and state.
Like so many soldiers who knew Don Gable, Dixon and others referred to the retired guardsman as a soldier’s soldier, one who mentored and developed leadership in the noncommissioned officer (NCO) ranks.
A graveside service with full military honors was conducted Dec. 22 at Yerington’s Valley View Cemetery for Gable, 80, who served 43 years in the Nevada Army National Guard before retiring more than 20 years ago. Born in Lovelock on April 16, 1940, Gable died on Dec. 16 and had served longer than anyone else in the Nevada Army National Guard.
In an article in the Nevada Appeal, Gable said before his retirement he joined the Guard as a 16-year-old, one of the youngest soldiers in the nation. He wasn’t alone. Battery B in Yerington consisted of about 80% high school students. In 1963, the Guard offered Gable a full-time position, and he ended his career as a sergeant major. Although he would move from one unit to another, Gable always kept up with his military training. Gable also spent part of his career in Carson City
Yet, it was in Yerington where Gable became a voice for the guard’s enlisted ranks.
“I was working in the Fallon armory as a supply sergeant,” Dixon recalled. “Gable needed a supply sergeant in Yerington. He said see you at my armory in two weeks.”
Dixon knew he had the job.
Dixon and Gable developed a good friendship that not only involved their time in Yerington but also when Gable served in Troop Command battalion as Desert Shield/Storm began to unfold in 1990.
“It was a great relationship,” said Dixon, who spent 22 years in the Guard. “He mentored me a lot.”
In the late 1980s Gable headed to the Hawthorne-based battalion where he became the operations NCO, and Dixon remained in Yerington as the readiness NCO. Sgt. First Class Bill Canterbury lived in Yerington at the time, and Sgt. Terry Hall commuted from Fallon before moving to Yerington where her late husband worked in supply at the armory. The three soldiers added to the adhesion of Troop Command.
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Larry Sage said the battalion staff was one of the best he has led. He added the enlisted soldiers with their accumulated years of experience relied on Gable who provided leadership and wise advice. The battalion included units from Fallon, Yerington and Las Vegas.
“Don was a big part of the Guard,” Sage said. “He knew a lot and what it took to get the job done.”
After Canterbury retired from the military, he relocated to Fallon. He spent many hours with Gable on the commute from Yerington. He said they learned much about each other and their families. Each man had a son who joined the military.
When the battalion processed the 72nd Military Police Co., for deployment to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield, Canterbury said the sections worked closely.
“We accomplished our missions,” Canterbury pointed out.
Hall said Gable made work enjoyable even as the United States and a coalition of other nations prepared for war.
“He was easy to work with,” Hall said. “He was never overtly commanding. He believed in do the job and get it done well.”
Hall said Gable was an even-keeled person and knew what the mission required when they both served in Troop Command and again in recruiting. She said Gable always kept everyone on the same path, but sometimes a situation would trigger him.
“One day an officer came in and set up his work station on Gable’s desk,” Hall recounted, adding Gable came in late and saw what happened. “He pushed away the officer’s papers and barked, ‘Here’s your desk,’ and handed him a clipboard.”
Don Jr., who delivered the eulogy for his father, also retired from the Nevada Guard. He said his father was a very loving and caring man and generous to those who knew him.
“He loved to ranch, loved the Army, loved the National Guard,” he said. “If you’re here, you knew him, his values, honesty and integrity, his love for everyone.”
Don Jr., said his father will be missed. In retirement, the elder Gable also supported the Mustang 22 Memorial Group, which honors five Guardsmen who died when insurgents shot down their Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan in 2005.
Chief Warrant 5 Dan Walters of Genoa, who flew helicopters for Bravo Company, 1/189th Aviation in Afghanistan in 2005 and then again in 2012, said Gable was his first sergeant when he joined the National Army National Guard.
“In 1984, he got me into the National Guard in Yerington,” Walters said. “I spent three years working with him and went to Hawthorne.”
From there, Walters attended flight school to become a helicopter pilot.
“He’s a soldier’s soldier,” Walters said. “He took care of everyone he worked with. We loved him to death, and we’ll all remember him.”