Sunday, May 21, 2023

Promotion Ceremony and Posthumous Medal Presentation Honors Family’s Enduring Military Service

 By Maj. William Carraway, historian, Georgia National Guard


Left: Technical Sgt. Isabello Viernes. Right: Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV smiles as family members of his great grandfather, Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes
are presented with medals earned by Viernes in World War II during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Major Alejandro V. Pascual IV was promoted to lieutenant colonel during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. The ceremony also provided the opportunity to honor the Pascual family’s history of military service as Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia’s Adjutant General, presented medals earned by Pascual’s great grandfather, Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes of the 45th Infantry Regiment (Philippine Scouts), to Pascual’s family.


Major General Tom Carden, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard presents the Bronze Star Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, and World War II
Victory Medal earned by Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes in World War II to members of the Viernes family during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard
Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

“Today is certainly a special day for our organization and for our great nation,” said Carden in his remarks before the medal presentation. “I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be in the room with a family with servicemen with such an inspiring legacy that we can learn from. Lieutenant Colonel Pascual’s desire to share the spotlight with his grandfather, Sgt. Isabelo Viernes, on such a special day is emblematic of our shared values as an organization.”


Family members of Alejandro Pascual IV place the new rank insignia of lieutenant colonel on his uniform during a promotion ceremony
at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Joining Carden in offering congratulations to Pascual and his family were Col. Jean Paul Laurenceau, commander of the 201st Regional Support Group; Brigadier General Bobby Christine, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard who also assisted Pascual’s family during the pinning ceremony; and Col. Brian Bischoff, state judge advocate for the Georgia National Guard who administered the oath of office to Pascual. But it was Pascual himself who riveted the audience with the story of how his journey of military service was inspired by learning the story of his great grandfather’s experiences in the 45th Infantry Regiment.


45th Infantry Regiment History. 
Courtesy of Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV.

The 45th Regiment was organized in the United States in 1917 and sailed to the Philippines in December 1920. In 1942, the 45th defended the Philippines against relentless Japanese assaults earning three Distinguished Unit Citations and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for actions on the Bataan Peninsula. Soldiers of the regiment were decorated for valor earning a Medal of Honor, six Distinguished Service Crosses, 27 Silver Star Medals. Viernes was one of 11 Soldiers of the 45th to earn the Bronze Star Medal.


Growing up, Pascual had heard stories of Viernes military service, but it was not until he embarked on a history project in high school that he learned the full story of his ancestor’s service in World War II from his grandmother.


Viernes fought with distinction at the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points while enduring limited rations for more than three months. His regiment, and the defenders of the Philippines, fought valiantly despite overwhelming odds. Major General Edward King, overall commander of forces on Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942 only after all hope of effective resistance was gone. Viernes and what remained of King’s 78,000 man force would endure a forced march of more than 65 miles to captivity which came to be known as the Bataan Death March.


Pascual pursued a bachelor’s degree in history from Furman University enroute to receiving his Juris Doctorate from Samford University. Pascual’s studies in history further nursed his interest in his family’s experience in World War II. He discovered that his grandmother’s memories were not only borne out by military service records but that his great grandfather had never received some of the medals he earned in the conflict.


Roster of Company E, 45th Infantry Regiment.
Isabelo Viernes is listed with the sergeants.
Courtesy of Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV.

“While the archives confirmed the list of his decorations,” said Pascual, “we know he
never physically received (his Bronze Star Medal and Prisoner of War Medal) because the regulation change that made him eligible was after the war and the(Prisoner of War) Medal wasn't even created until after he died.”


Pascual did not learn the full story of Viernes’ service until recently when he received more than 400 pages of records from the National Archives. The records revealed that Viernes had entered service in 1914, a fact previously unknown by Pascual and his family, and had earned the World War I Victory Medal. Surviving both world wars and the horrific effects of the Death March, Viernes retired in 1947 with full veteran benefits and received US citizenship.


Pascual had initially planned to commemorate Viernes’ service in his remarks during his promotion ceremony, but after learning the full extent of his service record, he approached his chain of command about the possibility of conducting a medal presentation in conjunction with his promotion, a proposal which was met with enthusiastic support from the Georgia National Guard.


Pascual began his military career in 2012 with the Georgia National Guard and was assigned as a defense counsel with the 1078th Trial Defense Service. In 2014 he mobilized to Kuwait where he served as an international and operational law attorney. During the deployment, US Army Central Command became the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve whereupon Pascual provided counsel on rules of engagement for operations in Iraq and Syria. Returning to the United States the following year, Pascual was assigned as trial counsel for the 560th Brigade Support Battalion. With the inactivation of the 560th BFSB in 2016, transferred to the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and was subsequently assigned to the 78th Troop Command to serve as the brigade’s command judge advocate. He is currently the command judge advocate for the 201st Regional Support Group and serves as the deputy chief assistant district attorney for the District attorney’s office, Columbia Judicial Circuit of Georgia.


Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro Pascual IV stands before a display he built to honor the World War II service of his great grandfather Technical Sgt. Isabelo
Viernes who served with the 45th Infantry Regiment and survived the Bataan Death March. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

While the ceremony provided the opportunity to recognize generations of service, Pascual was humble about his part, preferring to recognize Viernes’ service over his own.


“I would probably have kept (the ceremony) small, said Pascual, “but I did want to honor my great grandfather and figured this was a chance to meaningfully do it in a way that was personal, and also recognize my heritage and that I am part of a greater legacy of Filipinos serving in the US armed forces.”

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Waycross Engineers: First Engineer Unit in the Georgia National Guard

 By Maj. William Carraway, Historian, Georgia National Guard


Left: Headquarters Detachment, 106th Engineer Regiment. Right: Cover of the historical account of the 106th Engineer Regiment during World War I. 
Georgia National Guard Archives.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a long history in connection with the Georgia National Guard. The corps itself traces its origin to the Continental Congress’ appointment of the Chief Engineer for the Army on June 16, 1775. Today, the engineer branch is well represented in the Georgia Army National Guard by the 878th Engineer Battalion, 177th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Construction Facilities Management Office and independent engineer units such as the 810th Engineer Company and 870th Explosives Hazards Coordination Cell. These units have supported overseas combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq while also serving at home in response to hurricanes and as part of Georgia’s coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic. With nearly 1,500 Citizen-Soldiers serving in engineer units in the state of Georgia in 2023, one might ponder, when did it all begin? What was the first engineer unit in the Georgia National Guard?


Origin of the Waycross Engineers

Brig. Gen. J. Van Holt Nash, Georgia's Adjutant General.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

In the spring of 1917, Brig. Gen. J. Van Holt Nash, Georgia’s Adjutant General approached Homer Dayton Langworthy about the possibility of mustering a unit of engineers. Langworthy, a civil engineer who served as the superintendent of the Macon Water Works, already had experience in military engineering having directed the construction of Camp Harris near Macon, which served as a mustering camp for the Georgia National Guard before their deployment to the Mexican border in 1916.

On April 22, Langworthy convened a meeting at the Lanier Hotel in Macon to solicit enlistments to form an engineer unit.[1] By the end of the month, the first engineer company had been raised in Waycross. The company was inspected by Nash on May 11, and mustered into service.[2] The city of Waycross supported the organization effort by providing funds for an armory.[3]

On June 21, 1917, The Waycross Pioneer Engineer Company was accepted into federal service under the command of Capt. Walter Gray.[4] The company departed for Macon’s Camp Wheeler with 130 Soldiers June 25.[5] Among its ranks were three brothers from one Waycross family.[6]

Langworthy continued his recruiting efforts into the summer of 1917. On July 7, Langworthy issued an appeal to masons and carpenters of Macon to form a company from that city.[7] He continued his efforts across the state appealing to the citizens of Albany to answer the call to service.

While Langworthy was stumping for recruits, the Waycross engineers, who arrived at Camp Wheeler without tents, moved into buildings previously occupied by the Georgia Hussars of the Georgia National Guard’s 2nd Cavalry Squadron. To the chagrin of some of the camp occupants, the engineers also took up residence on land that had formerly been occupied by the camp baseball diamond forcing the cancellation of some anticipated matches.[8]

Proud to be the home of Georgia’s first engineer unit, the citizens of Waycross continued to support their hometown Guard unit. The city solicited donations to purchase colors for the company while its Soldiers were busily employed surveying new rifle ranges for Camp Wheeler.[9],[10] Funds were secured, and by October 12, the flag was ready to be presented to the company.[11]


Headquarters, Waycross Engineers, Company A, 106th Engineer Regiment. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Forming and Training the 106th Engineer Regiment

Sergeant Milton Porter.
Georgia National Guard Archives

On October 1, 1917, the 106th Engineer Regiment was formed with the Waycross Engineers constituting Company A. The Waycross company provided most of the personnel for the regimental staff, including Capt. Gray. The regiment was assigned to the 31st Division along with most of the units of the Georgia National Guard.

The Waycross Engineers suffered their first loss November 17, 1917 with the death of Sgt. Milton Porter. The 22-year-old Soldier died of pneumonia at Camp Wheeler. On December 11, the engineers lost their most strident patron as Langworthy died at home after a brief illness. Just 30 years old, Langworthy left behind a wife and two children.[12]

In June 1918, the 106th embarked on a 120-mile hike leaving Camp Wheeler June 11 with Capt. William Harper commanding Company A. The engineers camped in Jeffersonville, Dudley, and Dublin where they were received by Red Cross volunteers. In Dublin, the mayor saw that the engineers had access to electricity and hot showers at the city fairgrounds. The engineers completed the 120 mile hike June 18 with a final section of 22 miles.[13] 

Soldiers of the 106th Engineer Regiment were among those who completed a course of instruction in gas defense at Camp Wheeler in May 1918.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

In addition to regular physical exercise, the company trained in the engineering tasks they would employ overseas. Across a ravine dubbed the River Rhine, the 106th Engineers practiced bridge building.[14]


The platoons of the Waycross Engineers, Company A.  Top: 1st and 2nd Platoon. Bottom: 3rd and 4th Platoon. Georgia National Guard Archives.


The 106th was pronounced fit for overseas service August 31, 1918 and began preparations to leave Camp Wheeler. The regiment departed Macon September 7 in sections and reassembled at Camp Mills, New York where it received an issue of equipment.[15]

The 106th tarried at Camp Mills for less than a week before boarding a train for Hoboken, N.J. where the Soldiers boarded the H.M.S. Balmoral Castle. The ship departed for France September 16 and steamed past the Statue of Liberty at sunset. That evening, the Balmoral Castle joined a convoy of 12 transports, three destroyers and two battlecruisers and began the transit of the Atlantic the next morning. The voyage was eventful with a dense fog nearly causing the collision of two ships. A German submarine surfaced and exchanged shots with the convoy on September 24 before disappearing beneath the waves.[16]

On September 28, the Balmoral Castle landed at Glasgow, Scotland and the 106th boarded a train bound for the south of England. After two days of rest, the Soldiers left Southampton and arrived in LeHavre France early the next morning. They were among the first Soldiers of the 31st Division to arrive in France. The regiment moved to Brest by rail with the second battalion delayed by an outbreak of spinal meningitis that forced the battalion to quarantine for ten days. The regiment was reunited October 20 in Brest by which time the Waycross Engineers were already employed in the construction of buildings at Camp Pontanezen, which would become the largest camp established by the U.S. Army and serve as the debarkation depot for troops returning to the United States. Upon their arrival, the site of Camp Pontanezen was a veritable sea of mud with no structures. The engineers pitched their camp in the mud and cooked their meals over fires at field ranges while they labored to erect the structures that would house thousands of American Soldiers.[17] Among the first troops to call Pontanezen home were Soldiers of the 31st Division, including the Georgia National Guard’s 121st Infantry Regiment.[18]


Camp Pontanezen in 1918. Library of Congress.

The Builders of Camp Pontanezen

Over the next six months, the 106th Engineer Regiment and other units transformed the muddy fields of France into a vast city comprised of nearly 1,000 buildings with five miles of roads, plank walkways, and a dedicated water system. The scale of the work accomplished by the 106th is staggering not only in scale but for the conditions endured by its Soldiers as Brest received rain on 331 days in 1918. Undeterred, the engineers erected more than 400 barracks buildings and nearly 70 kitchens and mess halls capable of feeding 100,000 Soldiers.[19]

Elevated walkways at Camp Pontanezen constructed by the 106th Engineer Regiment. United States Marine Corps Archives.

The 106th Engineers returned to the United States in 1919 and were mustered out of federal services, but the efforts of their labor endured for decades. In September, 1944, the 121st Infantry Regiment returned to Pontanezen, this time while advancing to seize the city of Brest from German forces.[20]

[1] “Engineers to Meet Today,” The Macon Telegraph, April 22, 1917, 4.

[2] “Nash Will Muster In Waycross Engineers,” The Atlanta Constitution, May 11, 1917, 7.

[3] “House Waycross Engineers,” The Macon Telegraph, May 16, 1917, 8.

[4] “Waycross Co. of Engineers Put Into Federal Service,” The Macon Telegraph, June 21, 1917, 7.

[5] “Company from Waycross on Way,” The Brunswick News, June 26, 1917, 1.

[6] “Three Brothers in Company,” The Macon Telegraph, June 24, 1917, 5.

[7] “To Organize Macon Engineers,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 8, 1917, 7.

[8] “Lose Old Ball Diamond,” The Macon Telegraph, July 13, 1917, 10.

[9] “Waycross to Present Pioneer Engineers a Handsome Flag,” The Macon News, August 2, 1917.

[10] “Engineers Are Busy,” The Macon News,” September 13, 1917, 10.

[11] “Flag For Waycross Engineers Arrives,” The Macon News, October 12, 1917, 7.

[12] “Macon’s Supt. Expired Yesterday,” The Atlanta Constitution, December 12, 1917, 16.

[13] “Engineers’ Regiment Completes Long Hike,” The Atlanta Constitution, June 18, 1918, 10.

[14] “Dump No. 1 Serves as Rhine for Engineers,” The Macon Telegraph, July 26, 1918, 10.

[15] 106th Regt. Engrs. Builders of Camp Pontanezen, (Paris, France, 1919), 8.

[16] 106th Regt. Engrs. Builders of Camp Pontanezen, (Paris, France, 1919), 8.

[17] 106th Regt. Engrs. Builders of Camp Pontanezen, (Paris, France, 1919), 9.

[19] 106th Regt. Engrs. Builders of Camp Pontanezen, (Paris, France, 1919), 10.

[20] 121st Infantry Regiment, The Gray Bonnet; Combat History of the 121st Infantry Regiment. (Baton Rouge, LA: Army & Navy Publishing Company, 1946), 40-42.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Ga. ARNG Welcomes 11th State Command Sergeant Major at Ceremony

By Maj. William Carraway, Historian, Georgia National Guard

Command Sergeant Major Jeff Logan and Command Sergeant Major John Ballenger, the 10th and 11th State Command Sergeant Major of the
Georgia Army National Guard. Photos by Maj. William Carraway.


Command Sergeant Major Jeff Logan relinquished responsibility as the Georgia Army National Guard’s State Command Sergeant Major during a ceremony May 6, 2023 at Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga. Command Sergeant Major John Ballenger assumed responsibility as the 11th State Command Sergeant Major of the Ga. ARNG.


State Command Sgt. Major Jeff Logan visits
Ga. ARNG Soldiers in Atlanta June 3, 2020.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway

The ceremony marked the culmination of Logan’s 40-year military career as he embarks on retirement. Logan enlisted in the United States Army in April 1983 and served initially as an M1A1 tank crewman. Near the end of his eight years of active Army service, Logan mobilized overseas during the Gulf War. In February 1991, Logan enlisted in the Georgia National Guard’s Company C, 878th Engineer Battalion in Lyons, Ga. He rose through the ranks while serving in the 878th as a heavy equipment operator, team leader and squad leader.


Logan deployed to Iraq in March 2003 as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 878th Engineer Battalion. Upon returning to the United States he was promoted and assigned as first sergeant of the 877th Engineer Company which was converted from the former Company B, 878th Engineer Battalion.


Logan oversaw the transition of the 877th as the search and extraction element under Joint Task Force 781st Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives. In December 2010, Logan deployed to Afghanistan where the 877th conducted combat engineer missions in three separate regional commands.


First Sergeant Jeff Logan and Soldiers of the 877th Engineer Company attend a ceremony December 13, 2010 in Augusta to mark
the unit’s deployment to Afghanistan. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Upon returning from Afghanistan, Logan was advanced to the rank of command sergeant major and assigned as the senior enlisted leader of the 878th Engineer Battalion which deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. During their deployment, Soldiers of the 878th conducted route clearance operations over a wide area of Afghanistan providing freedom of movement to coalition partners and ensuring the safety of Afghan citizens. Additionally, the 878th trained Soldiers of the Afghan National Army in demolitions and explosives eradication. The 878th returned home in January 2014.


State Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Logan Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Baker, senior enlisted leader of the Augusta-based 878th Engineer Battalion
Sept. 1, 2021, at the unit’s headquarters where engineers from across the state assembled prior to mobilization to Louisiana in response
to Hurricane Ida. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Logan was assigned as the command sergeant major for the rear detachment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team after returning from Afghanistan, and in December 2014, assumed responsibility as the senior enlisted leader of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, which converted to form the 177th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Transferring to the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in 2016, Logan deployed with the 648th Military Engagement Team which operated throughout the Central Command area of responsibility.


Returning from his fifth deployment, Logan was assigned as the command sergeant major for the 201st Regional Support Group. He served as the senior enlisted leader of the 201st RSG rear detachment until appointed to serve as the tenth State Command Sergeant Major of the Georgia Army National Guard in July 2019.


State Command Sgt. Major Jeff Logan briefs Guardsmen of the Monroe-based 178th Military Police Company at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Ga.,
 before their departure to the country of Georgia to participate in exercise Agile Spirit 19 on July 23, 2019. Photo by Spc. Tori Miller.

Logan’s tenure as State Command Sergeant Major saw unprecedented mobilization of the Ga. ARNG in support of overseas and domestic operations. Nearly 2,000 of Georgia’s Citizen-Soldiers mobilized overseas to all six geographic combatant commands. In Georgia, Guardsmen conducted missions of unprecedented scope as part of the state’s coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic and augmented law enforcement agencies during civil unrest in Atlanta and Washington D.C.


State Command Sgt. Major Jeff Logan confers with an Atlanta Police Department officer during a protest in Atlanta June 2, 2020.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Succeeding Logan is Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger who has extensive experience in leadership and operations. Born and raised in Georgia, Ballenger enlisted in the Army in 1995. Ballenger served initially as a cannon crewman with the 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In 2001, Ballenger joined the Georgia Army National Guard as an infantryman with Company H, 121st Infantry Long Range Surveillance. Transferring to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, Ballenger deployed to Iraq as part of the 48th Brigade’s 2005 mobilization.


Staff Sgt. John Ballenger hugs his son during a premobilization ceremony in 2005. Photo courtesy of Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger.

Following the establishment of the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade in 2007, Ballenger was assigned to Troop B, 3rd Squadron 108th Cavalry Regiment where he served as a platoon sergeant and later first sergeant. For the next decade, Ballenger served as first sergeant for the 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Headquarters Troop and Troop A of the 3-108th, and the 165th Quartermaster Company. 

Captain Craig Henderson and 1st Sgt. John Ballenger, command team of the 165th Quartermaster Company in 2015. Photo courtesy of Command Sgt. Major Ballenger.

Promoted to sergeant major, Ballenger mobilized to Afghanistan from 2018-2019 as operations sergeant major for the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. 

Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger with Afghan National Security Forces during the 48th IBCT's deployment to Afghanistan from 2018-2019.
Photo courtesy of Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger.

Upon returning from Afghanistan, Ballenger was assigned to the 1-108th, as operations sergeant major and later served as the squadron command sergeant major. In 2022, Ballenger accepted responsibility as command sergeant major of the 48th IBCT.

Colonel Jason Baker, commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, passes the noncommissioned officer’s sword to Command Sgt. Major
John Ballenger, incoming brigade command sergeant major of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Jan. 9, 2021. Photo by Capt. Bryant Wine.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Brigadier General Tom Blackstock retires after nearly 40 years of military service

 By Maj. William Carraway, Historian, Georgia National Guard

Collage: Left: Brigadier General Tom Blackstock at his retirement ceremony May 5, 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway. Right: Headquarters
Detachment, 122nd Infantry Regiment in December 1983 with Pvt. Tom Blackstock highlighted. Image courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

Friends, family and fellow service members gathered at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga.  for the retirement ceremony of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock whose military career spanned five decades. In the audience were Soldiers who served with Blackstock from his earliest enlisted days, members of his Reserve Officer Training Corps class at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State Defense Force Volunteers who served under Blackstock’s leadership.


Cadet Lt. Col. Tom Blackstock attends a joint services ROTC award ceremony in the spring of 1986. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

Blackstock entered military service in 1982, enlisting as a private in the Georgia National Guard’s Headquarters’ Detachment of the 1st Battalion, 122nd Infantry Regiment. After completing basic combat and advanced infantry training at Fort Benning, Blackstock served two years with the Guard before accepting a scholarship through the Reserve Officer Training Corps to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology. En route to completing his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Blackstock completed the ROTC program, rising to command the cadet battalion.


Second Lt. Tom Blackstock with 2nd Lt. Antoine Bodo of the Central African Republic Army conduct medium girder bridge training during the Army
Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Belvoir, Va. in January 1988. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Blackstock.

Upon graduating in 1987, Blackstock completed initial branch training and was assigned as a platoon leader with the 27th Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant in 1989 and mobilized to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield the following year as the executive officer of Company B. As Desert Shield gave way to Desert Storm, Blackstock was assigned as the assistant operations officer for the 27th En Bn. Returning to the United States, he completed the Officer Advanced Course at Fort Leonard Wood before leaving active duty to serve in the Army Reserve.


First Lieutenant Tom Blackstock with the 27th Engineer Battalion in Iraq in 1991. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

In November 1996, Captain Blackstock rejoined the Georgia National Guard as commander of the Marietta-based Headquarters Company, 265th Engineer Group. After a successful command tenure, he was promoted to major and returned to the 265th to serve as the group's logistics officer in 1998. That same year, Blackstock began a civilian career with the Georgia National Guard as an assistant facilities engineer with the Construction Facilities Management Office where he would remain for the next decade.

Captain Tom Blackstock assumes command of Headquarters
Company,265th Engineer Group in November 1996.
Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

In November 1999, Blackstock was appointed operations officer for the Statesboro-based 648th Engineer Battalion, an element of the 48th Brigade.


In April 2002 Blackstock was named assistant director of facilities for the CFMO. Promotion to lieutenant colonel followed in June of that year and in April 2003, Blackstock returned to the 648th Engineer Battalion, this time as its commander.


Lieutenant Colonel Tom Blackstock with Soldiers of the 648th Engineer Battalion at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
in January, 2004. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

Following battalion command, Blackstock continued his civilian career in the CFMO and in November 2004 was assigned as deputy commander for the 265th Engineer Battalion, then based in Decatur. From August 2005 to April 2006, Blackstock served as executive officer for the Decatur-based 78th Troop Command. 

December 10, 2010: Major Gen. Maria L. Britt
presents the Meritorious Service Medal to Col.
Thomas H. Blackstock for outstanding leadership
during his two years as commander of the 78th
TC. Georgia National Guard Archives.
Promoted to Colonel in August 2006, Blackstock was appointed to command the 265th Engineer Group and was elevated to director of installation management with the CFMO. As commander of the 265th, Blackstock oversaw the relocation of the unit to Metter in 2007 and continued in command until January 2009 when he was appointed commander of the 78th Troop Command. Blackstock commanded the 78th TC from February 8, 2009 to December 4, 2010 during which time the brigade mobilized nearly 850 Soldiers to Iraq, Afghanistan and the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.


Concurrent with his assignment as commander of the 78th TC, Col. Blackstock served as the director of operations for the Georgia Army National Guard beginning in March 2010. Leading a staff of 22, Blackstock shepherded the operations directorate through its move to Building 447 at the Clay National Guard Center. In March 2012, Blackstock left the operations directorate and mobilized to Kabul, Afghanistan as the chief of the military technical agreement branch. As the MTA chief, Blackstock worked with Afghan ministries and coalition partners to synchronize efforts and served as the senior national representative for United States forces at International Security Assistance Force headquarters.


Upon returning from Afghanistan, Blackstock was appointed chief of the joint staff of the Georgia National Guard where he developed and executed programs with a staff of 50.


Colonel Tom Blackstock participates in a memorial ceremony at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan
in June 2012. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Blackstock.

In April 2014, Blackstock transitioned to serve as the United States Property and Fiscal Officer for Georgia. As USPFO he served as the representative for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, managing and executing more than $3 billion in federal property and an annual budget of more than $500 million.


Colonel Tom Blackstock (standing, top-center) with the staff of the United States Property and Fiscal Office, Georgia National Guard in 2014.
Photo courtesy of Brig Gen. Tom Blackstock.

In 2016, Blackstock retired from civil service while continuing forward in his military career. In July 2016 he was appointed to command the 78th Troop Command for a second time. Promotion to Brigadier General followed in September.


CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga., July 10, 2016 – Colonel Tom Blackstock assumes command of the 78th Troop Command
from Brig. Gen. Craig McGalliard during a ceremony. Photo by Sgt. Shye Stallings.

While still in command of the 78th TC, Blackstock was appointed to concurrently serve as the commanding general of the Georgia State Defense Force, a component of the Georgia Department of Defense comprised of more than 500 volunteers who augment National Guard operations during emergency operations. Under his command, State Defense Force volunteers assisted efforts across Georgia as part of the state’s coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic. During this response, the State Defense Force completed more mission hours across the state than in any previous domestic operation.

Brigadier General Tom Blackstock with members of the Ga. State Defense force at Fort Stewart, Ga. in 2019. Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

During his three years in command of the 78th TC, the brigade deployed eight units overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Atlantic Resolve.


VAZIANI, Country of Georgia, August 2, 2017 – Brigadier General Tom Blackstock, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 78th Troop Command
presents coins to Sgt. Caleb Taylor and Cpl. Andrew Fregine of the Ga. ARNG’s 810th Engineer Company at the Vaziani Training Area near Tiblisi,
country of Georgia, where the 810th is conducting combat engineer training in support of Exercise Noble Partner 2017. Photo by Capt. William Carraway.

Continuing in command of the Ga. SDF, Blackstock was appointed to serve as the director of the Joint Staff in Marietta Georgia in August 2019, a role he held until February 2020 when he assumed duties as the director of the Georgia National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Program. In his 18 months as the Ga. YCP director, Blackstock oversaw operations at campuses at Fort Stewart, Fort Gordon and Milledgeville directing the efforts of more than 300 teachers, counselors, and career advisors.


On November 24, 2020, Blackstock relinquished command of the Ga. SDF to Brig. Gen. Mark Gelhardt while continuing to serve as the executive director of the National Guard Association of Georgia through August 2021. A longtime resident of Marietta, Blackstock serves as chief executive officer of Arena Leadership Consultants. He is active in community organizations to include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Guard Family Support Foundation and National Guard Association.


Governor Brian Kemp presents the Oglethorpe Distinguished Service Medal to Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock at the state capitol in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Brig. Gen. Tom Blackstock.

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