Guardsmen visit with Jackson Optimist Club

Lt. Col. Ed Gargas showed members of the Jackson Optimist Club pictures of the 1140th Engineer Battalion's recent state emergency duty in southeast Missouri.

JACKSON, Mo. -- Building relationships with and giving back to the community is one of the strongest aspects of any Missouri National Guard Soldier. Lt. Col. Ed Gargas and Maj. Craig Gatzmeyer recently visited with members of the Jackson Optimist Club to share their stories and knowledge of the 1140th Engineer Battalion.

As the only engineer battalion in southeast Missouri, Soldiers of the 1140th already have a strong connection with the communities throughout the area. Whether it's spending a weekend at their hometown armory or answering the call during a state emergency disaster like the recent spring Mississippi floods.

For Gargas, meeting with local leaders like the Optimist Club is an important and vital way to stay connected to the community not just when disaster strikes.

"We're very proud of our relationships with the local residents," said Gargas. "Events like this help strengthen the battalion. The community is very much a part of our success as Guardsmen, whether at home or overseas."

The Jackson Optimist Club is a local organization dedicated to the support and excellence of local youth programs. The group is made up of retired military Veterans and local residents wanting to give back to their community. They are currently involved in many organizations including local basketball, soccer and boy scouts.

"Smaller communities like Jackson have deep ties to the military, especially the National Guard," said Steve Schneider, member of the Optimist Club. "These Soldiers live in our communities and they have a great story."

Gargas described each of the battalion's five units' capabilities and showed pictures and videos of what the engineer's do during state emergency duties and overseas deployments.

"It's nice to hear about where they've been and where they're going," said Schneider. "We got to live a little of their adventures through their stories. It's great to see the Guard leading the way and setting a fine example for the community."

Talking with a group one-on-one is very exciting because of the opportunity it allows for in-depth and personal discussion, said Gargas.

"We take a lot of pride in what we do," said Gargas. "It's an honor to share the story of the 1140th and the National Guard."

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