A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house Saturday afternoon introduced the community to the new Missouri National Guard unit, Detachment 2, 1221st Transportation Company. Commander of the 1221st is Capt. Tamara Spicer, and unit first sergeant is 1st Sgt. Steve Alexander.
The armory had previously been the home of Charlie Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion.
"I think it's nice that they're recognizing the change - it's a great opportunity to bring everyone together again," said Sikeston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Missy Marshall before the ceremony. She also complemented the armory, which was remodeled about two years ago. "It's a great facility for the community, but it's also a wonderful building for our troops."
The 1140th can trace its history back to 1898, while the 1221st was initially organized and recognized in 1920. Both units were deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and mobilized to support Hurricane Recovery Operations in Louisiana.
Right now, there are about 25 members of the detachment, which should rise to approximately 50 when the transformation is complete. And most of them are familiar faces to Sikeston. "Virtually everyone here was part of the 1140th," Spicer said.
Following the ceremony, visitors could learn more about the history of both the 1140th and the 1221st from a history wall or participate on an inflatable pad in "jousting," which Spicer said National Guard members complete in their basic training.
A representative from U.S. Representative JoAnn Emerson's office read a letter from the congresswoman, while Marshall and Sikeston Councilwoman Sue Rogers also spoke.
"It doesn't matter what the name or the number is, we appreciate what you do for our community," Marshall said. "We will continue to support the (units) from Sikeston and the area."
Rogers thanked the soldiers for their dedication. "You lay your lives on the line for those of us who live here and around the world," she said.
The transformation at the Sikeston armory reflects the transformation of the U.S. Army, National Guard and Missouri National Guard. "It's the entire Army that's transforming," Spicer said. "In Missouri, we've had tremendous transformation."
In the past, Missouri has had "more than our fair share" of engineering assets, so they are now being allocated more evenly across the nation, Spicer said.
When the transformation was announced, Sikeston native Brigadier General King Sidwell, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, promised no Missouri armories would be closed and every member of the Missouri National Guard would still have a home, Spicer said.
The 1221st Transportation Company returned to Dexter after it was relocated to St. Peters for about 18 months.
"We've gone back to our historical roots in the community of Dexter," Spicer said. "And it made sense for Sikeston to become an element of that company."
Transforming from an engineer battalion to a transportation company brought some extra changes. For instance, the soldiers used to be engineers, and now are truck drivers for tractor trailers - a medium line haul company that typically does over the road missions. "We're not tactical and our trucks don't go off-road," Spicer explained.
"We've been so lucky to gain the soldiers and community of Sikeston," Spicer said, adding the soldiers have much experience and talent.
"While it's been difficult for Sikeston, it's really been beneficial for us."
The change will be difficult, Gargas agreed. "It's sad to see the soldiers go, but I know their character and professionalization will be a tremendous benefit to the 1221st Transportation Company," he said. "We wish them the best of luck in their endeavors."