YORK -- Marines have a new home in Hampton Roads.
The Marine Security Force Regiment broke ground Wednesday on a new complex at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, which will serve as its headquarters. The more than $200 million project will be built in three phases and is slated to bring more than 1,000 Marines to live and work in York County.
Lt. Gen. Richard Tryon, the Marine Corps Forces commander, said the regiment is consolidating its resources at the weapons station, which is currently home to senior level staff and the Second Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Bravo Company. Two other companies stationed in Norfolk and Chesapeake will move to York by 2018, when the complex is completed.
"It's fitting that this groundbreaking ceremony take place here in historic York, which has been the location of so many of our country's pivotal military and civic events," Tryon said. "I can think of no better location to house and support Security Force Regiment whose units deploy around the world in support of our nation's national military strategy."
The regiment provides anti-terrorism and security support for deployed troops.
"The consolidation of their facilities here aboard Naval Weapons Station Yorktown will have a number of benefits, including reducing the geographic dispersal of this unit, improving command and control, enhancing the quality of training, reducing the long commute for so many and increasing efficiency gains," Tryon said.
Right now, troops are spread over 80 miles, making it hard to strategize and share information, according to Col. James Bright, the regiment's commanding officer. Their families are spread even farther, residing everywhere from Richmond to North Carolina.
"This brings all the commanders together so we can coordinate as a unit," he said after the ceremony. "It fosters unit moral and cohesion."
For the weapons station, it means a larger footprint.
The first phase of construction -- consisting of the headquarters building, bachelor enlisted quarters, and transport, supply and armory facilities -- is slated to finish in June 2015. It carries a$48.8 million price tag.
Second and third phases include two more buildings to house the Marines, a gymnasium, and renovation of the regiment's current building to allow for office space and classrooms.
The installation is also updating its cafeteria and adding a $19 million rifle range.
Capt. Lowell Crow, commander of the weapons station, said the base now employs more civilians than active-duty personnel. With the addition of two companies, that ratio will reverse.
Crow said the move also brings younger Marines to the base.
"They are going to homestead here," Crow said. "Buy or rent homes. Shop at local retailers. Eat at local restaurants. Patronize local businesses."
When talk of the consolidation first reached the county, York officials worried about an influx of school-aged children.
Crow said he didn't think that would be the case.
"I don't think you'll see an impact to the school," he said. "Where you're going to see it is in the Marines going out into the community."
James Noel, York's economic developer, said the move is good for the county "on multiple levels."
"We are happy to see the weapons station growing," Noel said. "It is the biggest employer within the county boundaries. They are also adding new buildings, which is good for our local contractors, and it will bring more people the area who will shop in our stores and add to our economy."