By Sara Seidel, Staff writer
It’s a good thing members of the National Guard’s 1135th Engineer Company met Sunday for fun.
If they had been meeting for work, they would have been searching for IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices.
Instead, the members, their families and friends gathered at Ray County Lake for friendship, festivities and food.
“It’s a low-key opportunity to socialize and get to know each other’s families,” said Sgt. William Gifford, a full-time National Guardsman from Richmond who helped organize the event, a project of the company’s Family Readiness Group.
Sgt. Gifford’s wife, Kim Gifford, herself a retired member of the Guard, said the FRG supports family members left behind when troops are deployed.
“We make sure the families have support to help them through the craziness,” she said. “We let them know they’re not just hanging in the winds.”
Last Sunday, thanks to the FRB, unit members, their families and friends fished, played games and shared a picnic lunch.
Sgt. Gifford said that in addition to building morale, the event was intended to have a second purpose. Organizers had invited members of the community to the picnic, but few, if any, attended.
“We want the community to know what we’re about,” Sgt. Gifford said.
The combat engineer company came to the Richmond armory in October 2011 upon the departure of a field artillery unit that had occupied the facility, according to Capt. Bill Hardwick of Fort Leonard Wood.
The unit now includes about 160 soldiers, many from the Richmond and Kansas City areas, Hardwick said.
When deployed, the company’s chief duty is clearing routes of IEDs for the soldiers who follow. The unit members also build structures and, when necessary, demolish them.
With unit members currently at home, Kim Gifford said the FRG is planning additional activities to introduce the company to the community.
She hopes to organize a dual-purpose walk-a-thon or “trash-a-thon.” The event would enable unit members and their families to volunteer in the community while raising funds to help families when troops are deployed.