(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The Missouri National Guard's 35th Engineer Brigade recently had an informal going-away ceremony for a pair of officers and welcomed in another.
Lt. Col. John Findley, the former administrative officer for the Fort Leonard Wood unit, is leaving to be the deputy for the joint staff operations directorate at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
He is being replaced by Maj. John Gatzemeyer, who is formerly the administrative officer for the 1140th Engineer Battalion, of Cape Girardeau, which is a subordinate unit to the 35th.
Maj. Mike Woods, formerly the logistic officer at the 35th, will take over Gatzemeyer's position as administrative officer for the 1140th.
All three officers are coming from and going into active-duty Guard positions.
Findley, who recently moved to Columbia from Eldon, has been the administrative officer at the brigade since March of 2009.
"My time here has meant the world to me," said Findley, who has served more than 25 years in the Missouri Guard. "I started out as an engineer and I was able to come back as a lieutenant colonel and see an engineer operation at the brigade level. With all the state emergency duties and all the deployments our units have gone through, it's just been a satisfying experience."
Findley said the highlight of working as the brigade administrative officer was his opportunity to deploy as task force commander of Beyond the Horizon, Guatemala 2012, which oversaw the construction and refurbishment of schools and medical clinics in and around Coban, Guatemala. The taskforce also organized Medical and Dental Readiness Training Exercises, where citizens of Guatemala received free health care.
"It was by far the most rewarding experience I've had in my military career," he said.
Findley said he's excited about his new position.
"I'm looking forward to the new challenge," he said. "It's been a while since I've been in the training arena -- that's where I always wanted to go when I was a lieutenant.
For Woods, going to the 1140th is a homecoming. Woods grew up in the Cape Girardeau area and currently resides in Scott City.
"This is huge," Woods said of the move home. "I'm a hometown boy, so there is nothing like going back to your hometown. As the administrative officer, I'll be involved in every aspect of the battalion."
In addition to serving a year as the brigade's logistics officer, Woods previously worked as the personnel officer at the brigade and the training officer at the 1140th. With those experiences, Woods feels ready for the responsibility of being an administrative officer, which will include being one of the key planning cogs during state emergency duties, like floods and ice storms.
"I've got a good background," Woods said. "I feel like I'm well rounded."
The goal for Woods in his new position is to take care of the Soldiers.
"I just want to serve the battalion commander and Guardsmen of the 1140th Engineer Battalion to the best of my ability," he said.
Woods called his time as bridge logistics officer a great learning experience.
"I learned a lot, not only in the logistics realm but from other elements of the staff," said Woods, who has more than 14 years in the Missouri National Guard after a five-year career as an active Marine.
Woods said working with the battalion property book officers has been his favorite part of the job.
For his service to the brigade, Woods was presented a plaque emblazoned with the symbol of the engineers -- a red castle.
Gatzemeyer has two, two-year stints as the administrative officer for the 1140th. In between, he spent four years as the commander of the 27th Recruiting and Retention Battalion, of Jefferson City, and 10 months as the brigade training officer of 70th Troop Command in St. Louis.
He called the move from battalion administrative officer to brigade administrative officer a step up in responsibility.
"A lot of the things I'll be dealing with are the same, but at the brigade level," said Gatzemeyer, who has 26 years of experience in the Missouri Guard. "My battalion time will hopefully help me understand the importance of thoroughly inspecting what we get from state before we push it down to the battalions. That way we make sure we are giving them the information they need to quickly execute whatever task or suspense they have."
In the new position, which could come with a promotion to lieutenant colonel, Gatzemeyer said he simply wants to improve as a Guardsman and improve those around him.
"I hope to gain more experience, because you do learn in every position you go into," said Gatzemeyer, who recently moved from Jackson to Waynesville. "I hope to learn from the full-time staff here, and, hopefully, I can pass on a few things that I've learned along the way to make them better and more efficient at what they do, as well."
Gatzemeyer said what he'll miss most about the 1140th is working with the full-time staff.
"They are a great group of folks who work very well together," he said. "They have a very positive attitude and approach."
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For more information about this release, please contact Matthew J. Wilson at 573-638-9500 EXT. 4706 or e-mail him at email@example.com.