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Lance Corporal Bentley Martin (left) and Derreck Moore, both combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, measure and cut boards during an engineering civil assistance project at the Ma'Ahad El-Muhajirin Islamic Center in Cambodia's southern province of Kampong Som on August 15. The MWSS-172 detachment of mostly Marine combat engineers will complete several renovation projects at the center while medical and dental personnel treat students and staff and provide preventive medicine training. The project is part of the Cambodia Interoperability Program which is intended to build on the relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian governments and develop interoperability between U.S. Forces and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke)
It was a long trip from New Hampshire to Cambodia’s remote, southern farmlands. It started in December of 2005 for Lance Corporal Bentley R. Martin, a graduate of Alvirne High School, when he left his home in Hudson for recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Nearly two years later, the 21-year-old combat engineer, who enlisted in the Marine Corps for the prospect of a life-changing experience, has spent a great deal of time improving other people’s lives during four humanitarian assistance missions.
Martin is one of 45 service members deployed to Cambodia’s Kampong Som Province with a detachment from the Okinawa-based Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
The Marines and Sailors are providing humanitarian assistance to the approximately 500 residents of the Ma'Ahad El-Muhajirin Islamic Center, a school for 15- to 20-year-old students from Cambodia’s religious minority Cham, an ethnic group of Islamic people in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand that is considered to be descended from the ancient kingdom of Champa which dates back more than a millennium.
The detachment of mostly Marine combat engineers is completing several renovations at the center during a 10-day engineering civil assistance project that began on August 15. A team of 10 Navy medical and dental personnel is also providing medical care and preventive medicine training for the center’s same residents.
The engineers are making several infrastructure and cosmetic improvements at the center including rewiring and improving electrical equipment that powers the center, installing ceilings in classrooms, and installing ceiling fans in the center’s mosque.
Humanitarian assistance missions in the Pacific are common for the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the parent command for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Martin participated in three civil assistance missions in the Philippines in the first ten months he was assigned to Okinawa.
“It’s very gratifying knowing that you’re helping people who are less fortunate,” he said. “These people don’t have the manpower and resources to do these kinds of things to make their lives better, and it’s nice to be able to give them this support.”
Martin’s fourth civil assistance project is part of the Cambodia Interoperability Program which is intended to build on the relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian governments and develop interoperability between U.S. forces and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
Far removed from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission in Cambodia is a reminder for Martin that the organization he joined does more than fight battles.
“We’re not all focused on the war in Iraq,” he said. “There are other problems in the world, and Marines are making a difference in those places as well.”
Martin was welcomed by Nasiet Ly, an English teacher at the center, as he spoke to the American Humanitarians during a small opening ceremony on August 15.
“We are very thankful for the help, and we hope to build on the warm relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian people,” he said.
The project marks the second time in two years that MWSS-172 has conducted a civil assistance project in Cambodia. In October 2005, the unit completed construction on the Kompong Chhnang Friendship Clinic, a medical clinic in Kompong Chhnang Province that is staffed by local medical personnel.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia relayed a message from Chargé d’Affaires Piper A. W. Campbell, praising the Okinawa service members for their role in enhancing the relationship between the two countries as well as the Muslim community.
“Providing assistance to Cambodia’s Muslim population is an important part of the United States Government’s outreach efforts here, and we sincerely appreciate the significant contributions MWSS-172 has made to this ongoing commitment,” Campbell said.
The scope of Martin’s efforts may pale in comparison to the U.S. government’s broader humanitarian relief and support across the globe, but he said it’s a gratifying thought knowing that his small contribution here is impacting the lives of people in need.
“Even though what we’re doing might be a small ordinary thing for us, these people will remember this for a long time,” he said. “That’s pretty special to be able to say ‘I helped a lot of less fortunate people in the world.’”
When W.S. Development withdrew its plans to develop the Green Meadow Property, the idea of developing it did not go away. The Friel family has every intention to develop their property: two 18-hole golf courses in the south end of Hudson. But the Friels want to the development to benefit everyone involved.
The nearly 400 acres of beautiful riverfront property has been a prime development location in Southern New Hampshire for over 25 years. The Friels, however, instead of creating a retail mecca and then adding a road to fix the traffic problems it will create, “Want to see the big picture and install a roadway that will be beneficial not only to them but to the community as well,” said Jay Leonard, the attorney who represents the Friel family.
The Friels, Leonard confirmed, have hired an independent consulting firm to conduct a random survey of 400 Hudson residents, at the urging of the Planning Board, to address concerns regarding the development of the Green Meadow property.
What they are proposing is the installation of an exit off the Sagamore Bridge coming into Hudson that will flow into the industrial park to the left, now accessed by Executive and Industrial Drives, and onto a parallel roadway to the right. This parallel roadway would follow the same direction as Lowell Road and Dracut Road, through the entire golf course, and empty onto River Road past the Stuarts corner intersection. (See diagram included.) This would create a destination and reduce the amount of traffic at the bridge light onto Lowell Road. It would also create a trickle-down effect for the adjoining intersections.
By allowing the traffic from the industrial park to bypass Lowell Road to gain access to Route 3, it frees up space at Executive Drive and Industrial Drive, and it also allows all the truck traffic to avoid Lowell Road. On the other side of the bridge, a new road running parallel to Lowell Road through Green Meadow, with three or four stoplights along it, again reduces the traffic on Lowell Road.
Wetlands were greatly impacted with the W.S. Development plan, but not so with this new plan. The exit ramps will slow the traffic with the adjustments made to this new proposal. Again, a trickle-down effect occurs when the intersections on this new road are also adjusted away from wetlands. The goal is to place the roadway in such a way as to minimize wetland impact, realizing that some of the wetlands on the property were man made.
The plat showing the new configuration and reflects the connection into the business park on the north side of the Sagamore Bridge.
This project is a huge undertaking and is not being taken lightly by the Friels. “We are trying to listen and end up with a foundation roadway and do the best planning now while it is a blank sheet,” said Leonard. The Green Meadow property will be developed over time; right now, the demand for space is retail. In the 1970s, the demand was for industrial space, and that is when the town realized the industrial park. Demand changes over time, and this project will change and bend to the demands of the area.
The Hudson Planning Board has not yet seen the entire proposal, including the wetlands impact; however, there is a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, September 12, at 7 p.m. in the Community Development Room in Town Hall. “We are looking for more involvement with the Planning Board and the community,” said Leonard. W.S. Development never really got to the point; the Friels want to be open and listen to what the community needs. Planning Board Chairman Jim Barnes declined to comment on the project, and Town Planner John Cashill was away from the office. Selectman Shawn Jasper said that he didn’t have enough information to discuss the project, he did say, “It sounds like a great concept, but what is going in the development?”
By creating a roadway that is beneficial to all, the potential of tax revenue from this property is great. Currently, the tax base for the property is approximately $73,000 per year. The estimated revenue for the future is many, many times that. With more tax revenue, the town will be able to offer more services and upgrades to the town’s roads, facilities, equipment, and manpower.
This plat is from the initial plan the W.S. Development had submitted to the Planning Board. The plans are presented to you in the same orientation relative to the Sagamore Bridge and the Merrimack River.
As for now the golf course is alive and well, and looking better than ever. “Even if we had approval today, there would still be at least two years of golfing left at the site,” said Leonard. “The riverfront will be protected and utilized, but for now, there are no specific plans. The Friels want the river protected,” said Leonard. If all goes according to plan, this may be a tremendous opportunity for Hudson and the surrounding area.