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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