BANGOR, Maine — When young soldiers left Maine for overseas destinations during World War II, many — including Karl Ward Sr. — were unprepared for the dangers they faced because they lacked the military training, his son said Friday.
“He wasn’t ready and that is why this facility is so important,” Karl Ward Jr., president and CEO of Nickerson & O’Day, said of the 240th Regiment’s new $33 million Regional Training Institute, which the Brewer construction company recently completed building.
He said the project created 260 jobs in Bangor and that 140 companies worked on it.
Lt. Col. Brian Veneziano, commander of the 240th Training Regiment, told those who attended a ribbon cutting at the institute Friday afternoon that he is “in awe of resources dedicated to the facility.”
The Regional Training Institute is a state-of-the-art training facility that can be used to develop a wide range of military skills, Lt. Col. Dwaine Drummond, director of facilities engineering, told the gathering. They include combat arms training, specialized military job training, and classes in leadership and general studies to soldiers and airmen from all over the country.
“This facility is designed to make sure we maximize their time,” Veneziano said.
Before the new 108,000-square-foot training facility was finished in Bangor, most of the Maine Army National Guard’s training was conducted at Camp Keyes in Augusta, said Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, adjutant general for the Maine National Guard.
“It was a bunch of run-down old shacks,” he said.
Regional Training Institutes are the “most recent stage” for the Army National Guard, which has changed tremendously since he left active duty in 1995 and joined the citizen soldiers, Campbell said.
“This is phenomenal,” he said of the training facility, which officially opened last year after phase one of the project was completed and the 240th Regiment moved from Augusta to Bangor.
The new facility was built next to the Bangor Armed Forces Reserve Center, constructed in the mid-1990s and home to elements of the Maine Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The school will offer up to eight annual courses for military personnel to learn about carpentry and masonry, as well as nationally accredited combat medic education classes, Army basic instructor classes and others, and will host mobile training team courses.
Representatives of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree gave short speeches along with Pete Karnowski, senior project manager for Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co. Inc.
Accolades were given out to many people during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but three — Lt. Col. Norman Michaud, Lt. Col. Bob Crowley and Darlene House — were mentioned several times.
“These three folks poured their life blood into this,” Drummond said.
“If this place has a ghost, it’s going to be Norm Michaud,” Campbell said. “He’s given his soul to this place.” Michaud also worked on four other projects, including the recently opened Aviation Support Facility in Bangor.
Crowley is the “unsung hero” for all the work he contributed to the project, Campbell said.
In addition to the military service members on hand at the open house, military veterans and several civilians also stopped by to tour the facility.
Staff Sgt. Tim Vashon, an engineer for the 240th Regiment, gave a tour to his parents, Jim and Carmen Vashon of Hermon, and said he is extremely proud of the facility.
“It’s excellent to be able to bring people here and give them the best training there is,” the staff sergeant said.