Calhoun soldier and former Gordon County sheriff’s deputy was killed Saturday.

1st. Sgt. John Blair, 38, died in Mado Zayi, Afghanistan, when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle. He was an Army National Guardsman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment out of Lawrenceville.

Reports are that Blair was the gunner on the lead MRAP — a new armored vehicle designed to be more resistant to mines — in a convoy of several vehicles. Not long after leaving camp, the group came under attack.

Blair was a former Gordon County Sheriff’s deputy and Drug Task Force officer. The flags at the Gordon Sheriff’s Office and the county jail have been flying at half-staff, and officers are wearing black bands over their badges in Blair’s honor.

On Monday, Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston said Blair was described by his former superiors as “an exemplary officer.” He also served as a jail officer, detective, honor guard and a SWAT team member during his tenure with the Sheriff’s Office.

“He was officially commended on a number of occasions during his law enforcement service here,” Ralston said. “John remained very close friends with members of the Sheriff’s Office, and officers communicated with him by telephone and e-mail in the days and weeks preceding his death.”

“Sgt. Blair demonstrated courage and a readiness to accept the same dangers that he asked of the soldiers under his command,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue. “Mary and I continue to pray for all our soldiers in harm’s way, and we know Georgians will remember 1st Sgt. Blair’s service and sacrifice.”

Blair had been deployed with his National Guard unit in Afghanistan since December 2008.

According to Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, Blair displayed “a true ‘follow me’ spirit. 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 this family during this very difficult time.”

“John was a patriot, a truly dedicated and excellent peace officer,” said Ralston. “He met our America’s enemies bravely and laid down his life in the service of his people, his community and his country, which he loved so much. He will be missed, but he will never be forgotten.”

Plans are in the works for memorial services both in Afghanistan by his fellow soldiers and in Gordon County, but no details for memorial or funeral arrangements have been announced yet.