Monday, August 30, 2021

History and Tradition Celebrated at Granite Battalion Change of Command Ceremony

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

The 1st Battalion 214th Field Artillery Regiment at their home station in Elberton Aug. 29, 2021. Photo by Maj. William Carraway. Inset: Maj. Gen. George Hearn,
 Georgia's Adjutant General speaks at the dedication of the new Elberton Armory May 21, 1960. Georgia National Guard Archives


The Georgia Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion 214th Field Artillery bid farewell to Lt. Col. Nathaniel Knight and welcomed Lt. Col. Davis Mitchum as its new commander during a ceremony at the unit’s headquarters in Elberton, Ga. Aug, 29, 2021.

Left: Lt. Col. Nathaniel Knight. Right: Lt. Col. Davis Mitchum. Photos by Maj. William Carraway

“Today is another chapter in the long lineage of the Granite Battalion,” said Knight addressing the assembled Soldiers. “It is a celebration of what you have and will accomplish.”

Georgia Army National Guardsmen with the Elberton-based 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery Regiment conduct movement during the Kansas National
Guard's Big Bow, a brigade artillery exercise featuring Guardsmen from Kansas, Missouri and Georgia at Fort Riley, Kan., on June 11, 2019. The battalion
conducted three weeks of active-duty training focused on combined fire capability with other National Guard units. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class R. J. Lannom Jr.

Knight, who assumed command of the Granite Battalion in February 2019 recalled pivotal events over the course of his command tenure. He narrated battalion exercises and achievements from the Big Bow exercise at Fort Riley, Kansas under the Kansas National Guard’s 130th Field Artillery Brigade June 1-19, 2019 through civil support missions in 2020 and culminating with fire missions in Morocco in support of Exercise African Lion from June 7-18, 2021.

A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin howitzer with the Ellenwood-based Charlie Battery, 1-214th FA, observes fired artillery observation rounds during African Lion
2021, at the Tan Tan Training Area, Morocco, June 13, 2021. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr. 

“I look back over the past 20 years and I have loved every minute of it,” said Mitchum. “This is my battalion; I have always thought of it as my battalion, and I cannot tell you how happy I am to be back.”
In his first remarks as commander of the 1-214th, Mitchum echoed the theme of history observing that he began his National Guard career nearly 20 years ago when he walked through the doors of the Elberton Armory Sept. 8, 2001.

The Granite Battalion’s history encompasses service in the American Civil War as well as overseas service in World War I in France and World War II in the European and Pacific Theater of Operations. Units of the 214th performed active-duty service during the Korean War and as part of Operation Noble Eagle in 2003. Units of the 1-214 also mobilized to Iraq and Afghanistan where the battalion was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation.  



Specialist William Mance of Battery B, 1-214th FA adjusts a howitzer tube bracket during maintenance annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga. July 12, 1986.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Changes of Command for Historic Georgia National Guard Infantry Battalions

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment Feb. 22, 2021 in Winder, Ga. and Feb. 1, 1918
at Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Ga.


Citizen Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard’s historic 121st Infantry Regiment welcomed new leadership in change of command ceremonies this weekend.

On August 21, the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 121st assembled at their armory in Cumming, Ga. as Lt. Col. James McKnight relinquished command to Maj. Christopher Roberts. McKnight commanded the Pathfinder Battalion since Jan. 11, 2020.

Lieutenant Colonel James McKnight(right) transfers the colors of the 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry to Col. Anthony Fournier,
commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Aug. 21, 2021 at the Cumming Regional Readiness Center to symbolize his relinquishing
of command of the Pathfinder Battalion. the incoming commander, Maj. Christopher Roberts stands left. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Joining the Georgia National Guard in 2012, Roberts commanded Headquarters Troop of the Calhoun-based 1st Squadron 108th Cavalry. He has additionally served as chief of operations for the Macon based 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2019.

Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Eminger receives his first salute as commander of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment during a change of command ceremony
 in Winder, Ga. Feb. 22, 2021. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

On August 22, the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry bid farewell to Lt. Col. Matt Johnston and welcomed incoming commander Lt. Col. Wesley Eminger during a ceremony at Winder-Barrow High School in the battalion’s hometown of Winder, Ga. Eminger, whose most recent assignment was with the 3rd Infantry Division Main Command Post Operational Detachment has spent many years in the 121st Infantry Regiment during which he mobilized twice to Afghanistan.  

Major General Tom Carden, Georgia’s Adjutant General and Brig. Gen. Dwayne Wilson, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard confer with
Lt. Col. Matt Johnston, commander of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment in Forsyth, Ga. Jan 15, 2021 as units of the 48th IBCT prepare to
support inauguration security operations in Washington D.C. and Georgia. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

McKnight and Johnston both assumed battalion command in January 2020 just months after the 121st returned from Afghanistan, and both led their battalions through unprecedented domestic operations. Within weeks, the Soldiers of 1st and 3rd Battalion were again deployed, this time in support of the coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. The battalions provided personnel to staff infection control teams which disinfected long term care facilities across the state to improve the odds of survival for the elderly. Their Soldiers also embarked on medical support team missions augmenting operations at hospitals such as Northeast Georgia Medical in Gainesville and Athens Regional Medical Center. 

An infection control team comprised of Soldiers from 3-121 completes a disinfecting mission at a long-term
care facility in Gainesville, Ga. April 23, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Lauren Garrison

As civil unrest gripped the nation in May, Soldiers of the 121st Infantry augmented law enforcement at multiple locations around the state. Many of these same Citizen Soldiers would again be called to duty in the wake of unrest in Washington DC January 6.

Lieutenant Colonel James McKnight, second from left, briefs Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment on expectations during security operations at
Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta  May 30, 2020. Photo by Capt. Edner Julien
The events of 2020-2021 are just the latest chapter in the storied history of the 121st Infantry Regiment. Units of 121st Infantry served overseas in World War I and later in World War II where the Regiment earned the Presidential Unit Citation. The 3rd Battalion inactivated from 1968-2016. In the interim,  Soldiers of 1st Battalion mobilized to Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. In 2018 the 121st Infantry Regiment deployed overseas with three battalions for the first time since 1944 and returned home the following year.

Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment provide security in support of inauguration preparations Jan. 19, 2021. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class R. J. Lannom.


Saturday, August 7, 2021

August 7, 1956: Tragedy Strikes the 128th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Two Georgia Air National Guard pilots of the Atlanta-based 128th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron were killed in a midair collision during an annual training flight over the Atlantic Ocean Aug. 7, 1956. First Lt. James S. Bonner Jr. and 1st Lt. Robert A. Barr, both of Atlanta, were killed when their F-84 Thunderjets collided while flying as part of a four aircraft formation fifty miles from Savannah. Within minutes of the collision, air-rescue units were dispatched but were only able to locate wreckage.[1]

The accident occurred just after 8:35 a.m. as the four Ga. ANG aircraft were flying at 25,000 feet prior to initiating target runs. The first aircraft banked to engage a target towed by another plane. Climbing high, the first pilot was out of position to witness the collision of the second and third planes in formation. The only witness, the pilot of the fourth plane, reported an explosion and was unable to see any parachutes deployed.[2]

James Shepherd Bonner Jr. was born in Nashville, Tenn. Feb. 3, 1929 and grew up in Atlanta where he played football for North Fulton High School. A 1951 graduate of the University of Georgia, Bonner served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He enlisted in the Ga. ANG Feb. 2, 1953 and commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in April. He was a partner in a building supply firm as a civilian.

Just weeks before the fatal accident, Bonner survived a night bailout over Macon. On May 6, Bonner and 1st Lt. Charles Cox were enroute to Jacksonville, Fla. at night in two F-84 Thunderjets when Bonner’s instruments started spinning rapidly indicating a possible loss of equilibrium. He struggled to regain control of the aircraft as it descended at the maximum indicated rate of 6,000 feet per minute. At Cox’ urging, Bonner jettisoned the aircraft canopy and ejected. Bonner had just freed himself from his seat and deployed his parachute when he hit the ground in a Kaolin mine. He slept in his parachute and in the morning walked to a nearby road where he was able to hitch a ride to a farmhouse. He was then conveyed to Robins Air Force Base.[3]

Robert Andrew Barr was Born Feb. 18, 1925 in Evanston, Ill. He served as a pilot during World War II and the Korean War. Married with three children, Barr was a partner in an Atlanta-based commercial art firm.

At the time of the accident Bonner and Barr had each flown the F-84 for three years compiling more than 600 combined flight hours. They were memorialized at Marietta National Cemetery. The Atlanta Constitution extended sympathies to the families of the pilots observing “The two Atlanta officers died in the line of duty as surely as if the nation had been in a state of war.”[4]

On August 10, 14 pilots of the 128th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron took to the skies in a flying tribute to Bonner and Barr.[5] The Guardsmen dropped flowers into the sea as a final salute to the fallen pilots.[6]


Pilots of the 128th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron prepare for a flight to honor 1st Lt. James Bonner and 1st Lt. Robert Barr at Travis Field Aug. 10, 1956.
Georgia National Guard Archives.


[1] “Jets Collide High Above the Atlantic.” The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 8, 1956, 3.

[2] “2 Atlanta Guard Jet Pilots Killed in Fiery Crass High Over Atlantic.” The Atlanta Constitution, Aug. 8, 1956, 1.

[3] “Night Bailout over Macon Saves Georgia ANG Pilot” The Georgia Guardsman, May 1956, 5.

[4] “They lost their Lives in the Nation’s Cause.” The Atlanta Constitution, Aug. 9, 1956, 4.

[5] “A Pictorial Review of 1956 Field Training,” The Georgia Guardsman, Sept. 1956, 0.

[6] “Services at Sea Set for 2 Fliers.” The Atlanta Constitution, Aug. 9, 1956, 35.