The Iowa National guard broke ground Monday on a new readiness center that’ll be located near the airport in Cedar Rapids. The facility will be home to more than a dozen training and field maintenance units and include a weapons simulation facility and multi-purpose classrooms. Colonel Gregg Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard says with some 3,000 Iowa guardsmen and women deploying to Afghanistan this fall, there’s also a growing urgency for enlisting and training reserve forces.

“This really represents a step forward to provide our soldiers with those tools for success, to bring them forward not only in readiness, but in order for us to continue to generate a quality and ready force in the future,” Hapgood says. While the center will serve as a place to train soldiers, Hapgood says it will also be a local resource.

“This center here will provide that facility that’s also really a keystone for the community, whether events are held here or places where they may be needed in times of an emergency, this center belongs to the people of eastern Iowa,” Hapgood says.

The federal government is paying for the $40-million building project, which will be completed in the fall of 2011. The Iowa National Guard dedicated a new $17-million Readiness Center in Iowa City in May, broke ground for a new facility in Middletown earlier this month, and another center is planned for Muscatine.