The sign to the The Northern Maine Readiness Center, the headquarters for the Maine Army National Guard's 185th Engineer Support Company. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / The Star Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A new Maine Army National Guard center three years in the making formally opened its doors to the Presque Isle community on Friday.

The $18.3 million center is Presque Isle’s first Guard facility since 1950, and will serve as the home base for 75 of the 100 soldiers in the 185th Engineer Support Company, according to Commander Evan Richards. The 185th also has a detachment of 40 soldiers in Houlton who will train alongside those in Presque Isle.

Previously, the city was home to soldiers from the Battery C, 1st Battalion, which consolidated with the 152nd Field Artillery to become the 185th in 2008.

The facility replaces a previous Guard building in Caribou that was aging and becoming more costly to maintain.

The Northern Maine Readiness Center, located on 6 Edgemont Drive, is now the headquarters for the Maine Army National Guard’s 185th Engineer Support Company. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / The Star Herald

The new Northern Maine Readiness Center, located at 6 Edgemont Drive, is a 44,000-square-foot training and administrative facility that includes classroom space, a multi-purpose training room, full-service kitchen, assembly hall, platoon meeting rooms, office space and a two-bay maintenance area for Guard vehicles.

Following a ceremony and ribbon cutting that featured Guard personnel and representatives from the Bangor-based WBRC Architects Engineers and the Eagle Lake-based Devoe Construction, the Guard gave tours to city officials and those involved with the design and construction process.

Soldiers in the 185th typically take part in engineering defense projects and equipment and maneuver training to prepare for rescue missions. Most recently, 185th soldiers traveled to Washington, D.C., to guard the U.S. Capital during the presidential inauguration.

Construction for the Readiness Center began in October 2018 and was completed in spring 2021, with soldiers beginning their duties in July.

“This facility is long overdue,” Richards said. “Our soldiers will be coming here from all over the state, so to have a central facility here in Presque Isle is a better option for them.”

National Guard Motor Sergeant Steve Gagnon tells visitors about the 185th Engineer Support Company’s N984A4 wrecker during a tour of the new Northern Maine Readiness Center. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / The Star Herald

City Manager Martin Puckett said that having the Readiness Center part of the Skyway Industrial Park adds an important component to Presque Isle’s tax base while honoring the area’s military history. The Industrial Park sits on land that was once an Air Force base.

“Presque Isle has a long history of supporting the military and we’re very proud to continue that tradition with this center,” Puckett said.