A Georgia National Guard soldier from Alpha Company in Lawrenceville was killed in action Saturday.
1st Sgt. John D. Blair, 38, of Calhoun died at approximately 9:15 a.m. Saturday just west of the city of Khowst, Khowst Province, Afghanistan. He was a member of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry (Light),
He was a gunner in a joint convoy of three Afghan and four U.S. vehicles, and was riding as gunner in an effort to gain better situational awareness and understanding of his new operating environment, according to Lt. Col. Matt Smith, the unit’s commanding officer. The convoy had just left Camp Clark, heading east toward Khowst City.
The Afghan Army-led elements of the convoy came upon what seems to have been an illegal enemy checkpoint, and the Afghans came under small arms fire from six to eight of the enemy.
"After establishing positive identification of the enemy, 1st Sgt. Blair began to engage them with his M2, .50-caliber machine gun," Smith wrote Monday in e-mail correspondence with families and supporters of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry. "After firing approximately 70 rounds, the turret he was firing from received a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade. 1st Sgt. Blair was killed instantly."
No other American or Afghan casualties were reported during the engagement. Two of the enemy were killed and one was captured.
"I know I speak for all members of our community when I extend my condolences to the entire Blair family and the soldiers of Alpha Company," Smith wrote.
Gov. Sonny Perdue also expressed his condolences.
"1st Sgt John Blair demonstrated courage and readiness to accept the same dangers that he asked of the soldiers under his command. Georgia has lost a brave and courageous leader," Perdue said in a press release. "As we saw around the state just days ago, Georgians rally around our citizen soldiers and their families, and I know that 1st Sgt. Blair and his family will receive the same kind of support. The touching tribute in Henry, Floyd and Hall counties with residents lining the streets to honor our fallen guardsmen served as a visual reminder of how much these men and women mean to all of us."
Perdue was referring to tributes for Maj. Kevin M. Jenrette, 37, of Lula, Staff Sgt. John C. Beale of Riverdale and Spc. Jeffrey W. Jordan, 21, of Cave Spring, killed June 4 in northeast Afghanistan. All three served with the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
"1st Sgt Blair was a senior enlisted leader in the Georgia National Guard with a true ‘follow me’ spirit," said Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt, Georgia’s adjutant general. "He was a hero to the men he commanded and to the members of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team with whom he served. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."
Memorial services for Blair will be held in country Wednesday and Thursday at various Task Force locations. Details on funeral arrangements will be released by the Rear Detachment and Family Readiness chains once they become available.
Blair is survived by his wife, Donna, 25-year-old stepdaughter, Georgia, and 22-year-old stepson, Dallas.
The 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry (Light), headquartered at the Richard B. Russell National Guard Armory in Winder, is part of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.