AUGUSTA — Inside the new Maine National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, construction trades workers are assembling the infrastructure that will allow the Guard members who’ll work there make sure their fellow guardsmen out in the field, whether that be a battlefield or a natural disaster scene, have the oversight and logistical and administrative support they need.

Work on Camp Chamberlain, just off Civic Center Drive, is about 70 percent complete, officials said, and is expected to be done later this year. Col. Norm Michaud said the guard plans to occupy the 100,000-square-foot, two-story building in January next year, transitioning in phases from its existing headquarters at Camp Keyes.

The move will put, for the first time, the Army and Air National Guard headquarters staffs together in one building, making it easier for them to plan and conduct joint operations involving the approximately 2,000 Army and 1,100 Air Maine National Guard members.

“The two staffs, Army and Air, will be co-located together for the first time, which will make our operations better coordinated,” said Col. Diane Dunn, chief of staff of the Maine Army National Guard. “The staff that will operate in this building will support the entire structure” of the Air and Army National Guard in Maine.

Michaud said the $32 million, federally funded construction project is on budget and slated to reach “substantial completion” in mid-August, at which point the Guard takes possession of the building from the contractor.

Work started in August 2015, after the proposal was approved by the Augusta Planning Board.

Guard officials plan to move into the building in January, after the building is furnished and finishing touches are added. They plan to do so in phases, moving a department at a time to allow operations to continue at Camp Keyes until they are ready to be taken over at the new facility across town.

“It will be a tiered approach. You don’t want to have one moving day and have everyone move at once,” Dunn said of the transition plan from the old facility to the new.

Camp Keyes, next to Augusta State Airport, will remain in use after the Guard headquarters moves to Camp Chamberlain.

Maj. Norman Stickney, public affairs officer, said Guard functions remaining at Camp Keyes after the move will include the ground maintenance shop; a printing plant; family and veterans outreach services, which includes Bureau of Veterans Services support personnel; training sites; a warehouse; and a facilities maintenance office.

About 190 Guard members will staff the new facility Monday to Friday. On weekends, Dunn said, attendance at the facility tucked between Civic Center Drive and a Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery will swell to more than 220 on some drill weekends.

The new headquarters facility is primarily an office building, housing administrative functions meant to support troops in the field, with communications, technology, planning and other logistics.

While it does have a large, open assembly area just inside the glass-walled entrance, which will provide enough space for large group formations, it is not really a traditional drill training site. There are no obstacle courses or simulated battlefields, no barracks.

Instead, the type of training Guard members are expected to take part in there on a drill weekend largely will take place in offices, as they learn how to accomplish the oversight and administrative tasks to make sure the rest of Maine’s forces have what they need to fulfill their training and missions.

As part of the construction project, a new four-way intersection was built on Civic Center Drive, at Darin Drive, including a traffic light and turning lanes.

That required the entrance to the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery to be moved just south of the previous entrance, to a new entrance shared with the Guard headquarters building. Visitors to the cemetery will go straight into the cemetery on Blue Star Avenue, while the new Guard building will be off to the left of the entrance. Vehicle access to the Guard site will be restricted by a gatehouse and gates, with separate entrances for Guard vehicles and civilians visiting the site.

Access to the cemetery remained, and will continue to remain, available to the public throughout the construction project.

“That was key, to maintain access to the cemetery,” Michaud said, “because their operations took precedence over ours.”

Nickerson & O’Day Inc., of Brewer, is the general contractor on the project, which, depending on the day, has had 50 to 85 construction workers at the site.

Most of the facility will be heated, and cooled, by electric heat pumps.

An auditorium with a stage and audio visual equipment will seat about 150 people, allowing for larger meetings than could be held at the much smaller buildings at Camp Keyes.

It will include a full-service cafeteria.

Mary Beth Van Keuren, owner’s representative on the project, said the recent frequent rain didn’t slow the project down substantially, as most workers were able to switch to interior work.

Work remaining to be done includes painting, final paving and striping of the parking lot, and installation of ceilings and flooring.

Stickney said the new facility “will reinforce the commitment that the Maine National Guard remains ready to respond to any of the state and nation’s needs.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.