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Army Staff Sgt. Eric S. Trueblood, 27, Alameda; killed in explosion in Afghanistan

He appeared at his father’s hospital bed and quickly laid the ground rules: Cut out the junk food, stick to an exercise plan and move into a more manageable apartment.

Army Staff Sgt. Eric Stanley Trueblood, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, was stationed in Germany but had flown back to his Bay Area hometown of Alameda as soon as he heard his father had suffered a stroke linked to congestive heart failure.

“His training as a sergeant showed,” recalled his father, Don Trueblood, 56. “He lined me out and told me what I was going to do. He decided I shouldn’t live where I was living and that I needed to take care of myself. He helped me set things up and took care of me.”

Don Trueblood said he was amazed at his once-aimless son, who was now attentive and instructive on how to improve his health. But it wasn’t the first time the young man had surprised him.

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At Eric Trueblood’s graduation from Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, his entire family was stunned to learn that he was first in his class. He had passed every test, a feat that instructors said was highly unusual.

Growing up, Trueblood cared little for school. A shy kid who enjoyed playing basketball, he showed intelligence but was easily bored. He attended Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School before transferring to Alameda High, then dropped out without graduating.

Trueblood seemed unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, but eventually announced that he was headed to the Army. He earned his high school GED, or general equivalency diploma, and began basic training in 2003 at Ft. Knox, Ky.

While stationed at Ft. Irwin near Barstow, Trueblood deployed to Kuwait as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic. There, he reenlisted and later served in Afghanistan for a year as a roof gunner on a Humvee. In Afghanistan, his team became embroiled in a 12-hour gun battle and the commander instructed everyone to call home. Trueblood called his parents but made no mention of the conflict.

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After he returned to the U.S., Trueblood decided to specialize in explosive ordnance disposal. He enlisted again and was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, for two years, during which his father said he accompanied the U.S. Secret Service to the Republic of Georgia and South Africa and was part of the security team for two U.N. General Assembly meetings.

Wanting to be on the front lines, he extended his enlistment in order to deploy to Afghanistan again in February.

“He had gone to school for so long to learn how to do this and now he was going to have his chance — that’s how he felt about it,” his father said. “We were very worried about the deployment and he just kept saying that he had the best training in the world and that he would be fine.”

After his first mission, Trueblood called his mother, Linda, in Mountain View, northwest of San Jose, and was excited to talk about the cache of enemy explosives his unit had discovered, his father said.

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“My job is pretty cool, I can’t see why they would actually pay someone to play with explosives,” the soldier later wrote on his MySpace page.

On March 10, Trueblood was killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border. He was 27. He was assigned to the 391st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade at Spinelli Barracks in Mannheim, Germany.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his older sister, Nena. Trueblood was buried at Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie, Wyo., where his parents attended high school.

Don Trueblood, an environmental consultant, said he had initially been uneasy about his son’s decision to join the military, but he changed his mind when he saw him flourish.

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“It was the best thing I think he ever could’ve done,” he said. “He learned discipline, he learned to believe in himself, he learned self-confidence. And he had found a place where he could excel.”

corina.knoll@latimes.com


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