AUGUSTA — Maine National Guard leaders broke ground on the future site of the new headquarters near the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery off Civic Center Drive during a ceremony Thursday morning.

The planned 100,000-square-foot headquarters will serve as the Joint Forces Headquarters for both the Army and Air Guard in Maine, housing the senior staff that provides personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, resource guidance and support to the major commands in the Maine National Guard.

Several Maine National Guard leaders spoke at the construction site Thursday morning before digging into the ground with gold shovels while wearing American flag hard hats. Brig. Gen. Gerard F. Bolduc began the groundbreaking by taking a couple of scoops out of the ground with an excavator.

“In our career, we never thought we would see this,” Bolduc said, “and here we are celebrating a groundbreaking. It’s phenomenal.”

The $32 million building is expected to be completed in late 2017 and to begin to be occupied in the beginning of 2018, said Lt. Col. Normand Michaud, project manager for the Guard. It will be called Camp Chamberlain, named after Maj. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, the former Maine governor, adjutant general and Civil War hero.

“We’re building a state-of-the-art facility for the future airmen and soldiers of the Maine National Guard,” Bolduc said at the ceremony. “This new headquarters will enable us to better serve our community, more efficiently and more effectively.”

Some services will remain Camp Keyes in Augusta after the new headquarters is complete, including family and veterans outreach services, Army National Guard training sites, facilities maintenance and the printing plant.

Maj. Zebulon Murray, commander of the Joint Forces Headquarters, said the new building is another in a line of significant improvements the Maine National Guard has seen at its facilities in recent years, including the new Regional Training Institute in Bangor and the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Brunswick. He said moving the command under one roof, and the capacities of the new building, will improve command and control over the troops.

National Guard officials have said the new headquarters is needed to replace outdated and inefficient buildings at Camp Keyes that are costly to heat and maintain.

Work is already underway to prepare the roughly 43 acres of land along Civic Center Drive that will be used for the new headquarters. This fall, crews will do site improvements in anticipation of starting on the foundation in April, including installing underground utilities, building access roads and creating the bases for the parking lots, Michaud said.

The goal is to have the shell of the building finished by next winter to do interior work during the winter months, he said.

The Maine National Guard received the federal funding for the project in February.

Speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony also included Rob Frank, principal at WBRC, the architecture and engineering firm for the project; and Karl Ward, president and CEO of Nickerson & O’Day, Inc., the construction management contractor.

Ward, a Republican state representative from Dedham, said there will be $13 million to $15 million of direct labor expenses for the construction of the project, leading to an estimated economic effect of $200,000 million.

“That’s huge for a small state like this,” Ward said. “That’s huge.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Twitter: @pdkoenig