GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — Family and friends are mourning a father and teacher killed in a training accident with the Indiana National Guard.
Staff Sgt. Andrew St. John, 29, lived in Greenwood. He loved training soldiers, teaching them what he knew. But of all the dangerous places in the world he served his country — Haiti after the earthquake, Iraq and Afghanistan — it was that passion for teaching which took his life in this country.
“If everything else was terrible, he had a smile on his face,” said Sgt. Dean Waterman, a guardsman who was St. John’s friend.
St. John’s smile stayed on whether serving his country or enjoying his two young children and his wife, Ashton.
“Two peas in a pod,” Waterman of the couple. “They were made for each other.”
Waterman met St. John about seven years ago.
He remembered St. John as a charismatic leader and decorated soldier, someone who was either on active duty or in the National Guard his entire adult life. St John had just gotten the full-time job as an embedded observer controller-trainer earlier this year. It’s a position in which he helped other soldiers, basically following their every move on training assignments, taking notes and reviewing their strengths, weaknesses and mistakes to help them improve.
“He loves training soldiers. He loved doing what we do,” he said. “Teaching people what we do.”
Waterman remembered when St. John reenlisted about four years ago. He told his superiors that for him to reenlist he wanted hot dogs for his company. He got his wish.
They said, “Here’s $50, go buy a grill and get food for everybody.’ ‘All right I’m in for six more years,'” Waterman said of the conversation. “He was a funny guy. He was already going to do it.”
Waterman said St. John knew the risks of his new job but, as Waterman heard the news of the training accident for the first time, he hoped there was some mistake and that it wasn’t his friend.
“I’m just going to miss him. The world is definitely without. He was an all-around good person.”
The National Guard is releasing few details about St. John’s death. The incident happened Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas, in a tactical vehicle accident. They are investigating his cause of death.
St. John served as an infantryman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment.