Less than one month before they were scheduled to be sent to San Diego for Marine basic training, the look on the faces of recent Northfield High School graduates Nathan Schmidtke and Joshua Roethle was indicative of the excitement and pride they felt in their coming duty.
The teenagers, along with fellow NHS graduates Zachariah Rose and Ian Payne, will embark on 13 weeks of basic training in San Diego, a process they know will test their will and mold them into Marines.
Schmidtke and Roethle leave July 8. Payne has left, with Rose’s expected departure Sept. 16.
“It’s one of the tougher boot camps to get through,” Roethle said.
“It’s a lot of mental games,” Schmidtke said. “It’s a lot of physical fitness. You gotta be physically fit, but there’s a lot of mental games that go on there, and a lot of people say that’s the toughest part to get through.”
The four graduates have events at least once a month in Owatonna, operated by military recruiters, to gain a better taste of what boot camp will be like.
Rose decided to join the Marines after deciding he did not want to go to college. He also has an extensive family military history. His father, Jeff Rose; uncle, Josh Rose; and grandfather, Bill Rose, served in the Marines, and another uncle, Adam Rose, was in the Navy. He was also attracted to the Marines because of its core values of selfless commitment and completing work.
“It’s always been on my radar,” he said.
Rose plans to be an aircraft mechanic and would enjoy being deployed to Okinawa, Japan or Hawaii.
“It should be fun,” he said. “Definitely an experience.”
Roethle and Schmidtke know the jobs they will have in the military. Schmidtke plans to be in intelligence, and Roethler wants to be a combat vehicle and ground ordnance repair worker.
After a 10-day stint at home following boot camp, they will attend combat training, a longer process than basic training, before learning their next steps.
“It will be a good experience,” Schmidtke said. “A lot to learn.”
Schmidtke and Roethle also have family members in the military. Schmidtke’s brother, Ryan Schmidtke, is stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina. Roethle’s cousin, Justin McCarty, is a Marine; his grandfather, Vern McCarty, was in the Navy; and his uncle, Mike Roethle, enlisted in the Coast Guard.
Roethle’s dream to be a Marine started early in elementary school. At one point, a picture of him was taken with him showing he wanted to be a Marine.
Schmidtke’s desire for military service also started at a young age.
“I always thought about the military,” he said. “When I was a little kid playing military with my brothers, that was fun. Once I got into high school and started looking at it, deciding between colleges or military and talking with the branches, I realized Marines is the branch for me.”
Roethle and Schmidtke share a desire to be deployed and see the world. They also view the military as a way to help them in their post-military careers. Roethle wants to become better acclimated to the engineering career field so he can work on cars following his service. Schmidtke wants to gain the skills and trades he feels will make him a successful and productive member of society.
“I’m excited,” Roethle said. “If I don’t get deployed at some point, I’ll be disappointed. I want to see some action.”
“I can’t wait to ship,” Schmidtke said. “I can’t wait to go on and move on with my life and make something of myself.”
Another bond that shares the recent graduates is one thing: a desire to serve.
“I wanted to be a part of something that was a lot bigger than myself,” Roethle said.
“I want to protect freedom,” Schmidtke added. “The thing that makes America so special than a ton of other countries is the freedom you get. America’s military is all volunteer. There’s some countries where you have a mandated military service … I just want to step up, do my part and protect the country I love.”
Preliminary plans are underway for townhome complex of at least 24 market-rate and affordable units on the city’s southeast side, but are drawing some tension on the Northfield City Council.
Councilors on Tuesday approved a first reading of an ordinance vacating a drainage easement on the land south of Ford Street that the townhome complex would sit on. by a 5-2 vote. Brad Ness and David DeLong were the no votes.
Council action came two weeks before possibly approving tax increment financing for the project for developer Troy Schrom of Schrom Construction.
Community Development Director Mitzi Baker said the project, at Maple Street S. and Ford Street E., is important, “in part because there is such a tight housing market here. And there is truly a need for more housing. There isn’t a sufficient market right now to address here.”
Plans call for the development to be in place and occupied by the end of 2020.
Discussion on vacating the easement lasted more than an hour as disagreement persisted over whether the property was intended for future park use.
DeLong questioned why the city was not going to allow the neighborhood to have the park he said had been promised. At another point, DeLong moved to postpone the first reading until councilors could receive more information on the issue, but that was rejected by a 2-5 vote, with Ness the other yes vote.
Although city staff said vacating the drainage easement and the proposed development were separate issues, DeLong disagreed.
“This was never meant to be a drainage and utility easement,” he said. “The easements were put there to hold them for public use.”
He said the Planning Commission has said the property should be parkland and the city promised it would be.
“Everything points that this should be parkland,” he said.
The location is private property, owned by Joan and Vern Koester, who have been working with the city to develop property they own.
Northfield resident Karen Moldenhauer expressed concern over the proposal, adding residents have seen increased traffic in the area. She predicted if the townhomes are built, local traffic and first responders would not be able to exit because of a lack of space.
“Our quality of life would be impacted,” she said.
In supporting the first reading, Councilor Erica Zweifel said Northfield is “in dire need of housing,” and the development would add to its housing stock and diversity.
Zweifel added that the city has a staff report on the issue, and she felt uncomfortable with holding up development. She said the city needs to prove it is business-friendly.
Baker said vacating the easement and the issue of whether the land the development will rest on is supposed to be parkland are separate issues.
“Our office has already put together some history and timeline and responded to numerous questions from Mr. DeLong, as have other offices in this building,” she said. “We will compile what we have and provide that to the whole council so that they have the same information.”
She acknowledged the city has some holes in its knowledge of such issues.
“A challenge we have is that there has been enough turnover that the deep, institutional knowledge is lacking,” Baker said. “So that instant memory of, ‘yes, I was involved in that whole process,’ is missing.”
The council still need to approve a second reading of the ordinance.
After years of knocking on doors, looking for help in improving what many see as a dangerous interchange, Rice County Galen Malecha got an answer that he liked.
“What I heard was ‘We want to work with you,’” a surprised Malecha said to Minnesota Department of Transportation officials during a June 18 meeting to discuss upcoming road projects. “Thank you for your outreach.”
Malecha, who represents a large portion of Northfield, has, along with Northfield and Rice County leaders, for years pushed for improvements to the east side of the Interstate-35/Hwy. 19 interchange.
There’s a traffic signal on the west side of the interchange near the Flying J travel center, but without a signal on the east side, chronic eastbound traffic backups makes that intersection a headache for motorists. In 2014, that section of the highway saw 9,000 eastbound vehicles per day, Dennis Luebbe, the county engineer, said last fall. An estimated 6,000 went west.
In addition to the newfound collaborative spirit, MnDOT District 6 Planning Director Heather Lukes announced that the agency hired a consultant to conduct a safety analysis of the interchange, including the frontage roads. Lukes also noted the high potential for development along the east side of the interchange, which could significantly alter traffic volumes.
She estimated that improvements could be made as soon as the 2025 construction season. That would coincide with planned repaving of Hwy. 19 from Hwy.13 near New Prague to Hwy. 3 in Northfield.
Last year, during a meeting with regional MnDOT leaders, the county board was told it needed to initiate any improvements at the intersection. While seemingly unimpressed with the directive, county and city of Faribault officials sponsored an October road trip for state legislators and MnDOT staff, showing them areas of potential growth and discussing current and future transportation needs. The county’s greatest need: that I-35/Hwy. 19 intersection.
Lukes also reviewed projects proposed for Rice County in upcoming years.
In 2020, MnDOT will work with the city of Northfield to complete a roundabout at Hwy. 246 and Jefferson Parkway. The intersection, which sits in the middle of three schools, experiences significant backups during school arrival and dismissal. City leaders are also working to make the intersection pedestrian friendly.
The following year, MnDOT plans to repave Hwy. 21 west of Faribault from Hwy. 99 to I-35.
Several local road projects involving the state are currently underway, including reconstruction of Heath Creek Rest Area on I-35 near Dundas.
MnDOT has a cooperative agreements with the city of Faribault on the reconstruction/repaving of Hwy. 60/Fourth Street now in progress, and with Rice County on the realignment of County Road 46 at Hwy. 19 west of the I-35 intersection.