RAYMOND – After a three-month occupation, the military has pulled out of Camp Hinds.

In their wake, the roughly 420 engineer reservists that cycled through the camp this summer left a new parking lot, five new shooting ranges, three new staff cabins and more at the 87-year-old Raymond Boy Scouts camp.

The reservists – more than 500 service members from Air National Guard, Marine Corps Reserve and Army Reserve units? ? – were on site as part of the Pentagon’s Innovative Readiness Training program, a President Bill Clinton-era initiative that is designed to provide real-world training opportunities for members of the armed forces, while simultaneously “supporting the needs of underserved communities.”

From April 27 to Aug. 3, hundreds of military engineer reservists completing their annual two-week training rotations came to Camp Hinds to improve their skills.

The reservists were generally pleased with the training this summer, said Illinois Air National Guard Maj. Allyson Benko, the site’s officer-in-charge.

“The whole project has been a huge success,” Benko said. “The guys that have come here to get their training have told us that this is some of the best training they’ve ever had.”

The reservists also built an 1,800-foot access road, renovated the John P. Messer Rotary Scout Training Center, cleared a site for a future dining facility, added electricity to buildings, built a new loudspeaker, and constructed four shooting pavilions, equipped with roofs bolstered with 10-gauge steel.

“We accomplished 100 percent of what we set out to do, and we actually maintained schedule,” Benko said.

Although the training program has prepared a five-year plan for the site, Benko said, the future of the program remains in the hands of Congress. Reservists will definitely return next spring to begin foundation work on the new dining facility, Benko said. But it remains to be seen whether the project will be funded beyond next year.

The reservists will also build a new staff cabin and pavilion next year, Benko said. But the primary project will be the dining hall.

“The question is whether we’re just going to build the foundation and get everything ready to go, or if we’re going to do the foundation and frame it up,” Benko said. “You can only start the framing, though, if it’s going to be able to get watertight before the end of the season.”

If dining hall construction is interrupted by a government shutdown or a lack of funding, the Boy Scouts will seek help from the Maine National Guard, said Eric Tarbox, executive director of the Pine Tree Council.

“If it doesn’t happen we will ask the adjutant general of the state of Maine, Brig. Gen. James Campbell, who happens to be an Eagle Scout,” Tarbox said. “We will ask Maine to use the 136th Maine Combat Engineers, who are a vertical company, and a couple of the other Maine assets to come in and help finish the dining facility.”

Tarbox said that the Boy Scouts will request that the military construct several “challenging outdoor personal experience (COPE) elements” for a new partnership with the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. The “elements,” which are meant to help young people build teamwork skills, would include the “Wobbly Bob,” a cable wire wrapped around three trees. Six or seven teenagers are asked to walk around the wire as a team without touching the ground. Tarbox said these “COPE elements” could raise the camp’s profile.

“We are not aware of another facility with these COPE elements in the local area,” Tarbox said. “We’re aware of a very large one in Vermont and a very large one in New Hampshire.”

Tarbox also said that the rifle pavilions built by the military are also a major boon to the camp.

“It is exceedingly rare in the Boy Scouts of America to have a modern, safely designed, professionally built 100-meter-rifle range,” Tarbox said. “We’re not aware of any Boy Scout camps nationally that have a 100-meter rifle range. There may be. We’re just not aware of any. So for us to have one at Camp Hinds enables us to offer a learning experience with long-range, .22 rifle shooting that can’t be offered anywhere else.”

The town of Raymond is poised to get in on the action, as well. Pending Pentagon and federal funding approval, next year, the military will erect a new communications tower near the intersection of Valley Road and Raymond Hill Road, restore and rehabilitate several fire ponds, improve the sightlines and restore vegetation at the town’s public safety building, and construct a building for equipment storage.

The Boy Scouts’ application was approved last fall, Tarbox said. According to Tarbox, the joint task force of military engineers has provided labor, construction equipment and fuel for the project, while the Boy Scouts has provided materials, including concrete, wood, electrical wire, drywall and paint. Tarbox estimated that the military’s help has saved the Boy Scouts roughly two-thirds of construction costs.

Illinois Air National Guard Maj. Allyson Benko, left, the officer in charge at the Camp Hinds military construction project, and Eric Tarbox, executive director of the Boy Scouts of America Pine Tree Council, stand on the porch of one of the three new cabins constructed by military reservists this summer.  Eric Tarbox, executive director of the Pine Tree Council, and Illinois Air National Guard Maj. Allyson Benko, the officer in charge at the Camp Hinds military construction project, stand at the Camp Hinds entrance in Raymond as work wraps up for the season. 


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