Leader/Parent info from the Internet

Scout leaders, let’s shine some light on flashlight etiquette

Bryan On Scouting -

Your eyes are beginning to adjust to the growing darkness. The trail in front of you is becoming clearer and clearer.

And then, like a firework on July 5th, something unexpectedly bright fills the sky. You’re momentarily blinded.

Whenever someone switches on one of those super-bright flashlights or headlamps, that person ruins the night vision for everyone else. At best this is annoying; at worst, it could mess with your circadian rhythm and affect your sleep.

Scenarios like this one play out every weekend as packs, troops and crews go camping. It’s time to clarify that while flashlights are an important Scouting tool, you don’t need baseball-stadium lighting to camp in the dark.

This happened one too many times to a Scouter in Tennessee who emailed me recently. The Scouter, Alex Johnston from Pack 348 of the Sequoyah Council, called this “a topic I notice needs some discussion in our local Scouting community.”

“It seems that many Scouters think the idea is to turn nighttime into daylight,” Johnston writes. “Instead, the dimmest light that allows us to accomplish the necessary task is best, so we don’t rob those in and around our campsite of their night vision.”

Ways to be a better flashlight user
  • Hide the light source (bulb or filament) from view to reduce the harshness and impact on night vision. You could bounce the light off the ceiling of your tent, pop-up or pavilion.
  • Equip younger Scouts with LED glowstick necklaces instead of bright headlamps. They’re cheap and easier to track and identify in the dark.
  • When walking down paths or looking for gear in bags, all you really need is a zipper pull-style pinch LED light. “I buy these in quantity as Scout handouts as they’re a compact way to achieve your essentials,” Johnston tells me.
  • Lights with red bulbs won’t disturb others or ruin night vision. They can be found as an option in flashlights, headlamps, or even those zipper pull lights. “Plus, they’re a great way to start up a conversation on night vision, why it’s important and how to improve it,” Johnston writes. “Scouts love hearing how pilots and soldiers use red light and might even be temporarily enticed into being ‘stealthy’ right before bed.”
  • Don’t drive through campsites at night. If you camp in your car, disable internal and external lighting that is usually automatically activated when a door opens.
  • Be aware of where your flashlight is pointed at all times. If you point it at someone’s tent when you walk by at night, reflective fabrics cause the whole tent to light up. This disturbs the sleep of the tent’s occupants.
Your bright ideas, please

How do you practice and promote flashlight etiquette? Share a comment below.

Scouts rescue riders trapped under motorcycle in South Dakota

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When the worst happens, Scouts are at their best.

While hiking in the Black Hills of South Dakota last month, Scouts from Troop 93 of Lake Zurich, Ill., heard a startling sound.

The date was June 27. The place: the Sunday Gulch Trail in Custer State Park.

The Scouts and leaders were enjoying the strenuous, lightly trafficked trail when they heard the commotion and rushed to the scene. They found a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and two riders who had slid off the road at a switchback on Highway 87 near the city of Custer.

First response

After checking the scene for safety — always the first step in first aid — the Scouts remained calm and worked together to lift the bike off the riders, who were unconscious at the time.

The Scouts used their T-shirts to protect the riders from the hot metal of the muffler. Next, Scouts Seanan and Liam called for help using two-way radios while some of the adult leaders helped winch the motorcycle up the hill using their Jeep.

All of the Scouts, including Jacob, Seanan, Liam, Matthew, Mark, Noah and CJ, provided care until EMTs arrived on the scene.

Both riders regained consciousness before being loaded into an ambulance, according to an article from WLS-TV in Chicago that was first shared on Scouting Newsroom.

Staffers at the BSA’s Medicine Mountain Scout Ranch, where the troop was spending the week, were impressed with the Scouts’ quick thinking and bravery.

“Ranch officials said the troop credited their training and participation in first-aid competitions for enabling them to respond swiftly to the situation,” according to the WLS-TV article.

Well done, Scouts. You’ve done us proud!

Encourage your Scouts to answer the call to bugle

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It’s a classic summer camp sound: the rousing wake-up call of “Reveille” played on a bugle.

It was once practically considered a standard piece of Scout equipment; the 1911 Handbook suggested every patrol have a bugle. They are perfect for communicating a message in a large area instead of straining your vocal cords by yelling.

Outside of camp though, you might rarely hear the instrument, especially if there isn’t a bugler in your unit. On our annual posts of the most popular merit badges, Bugling often ranks among one of the rarest earned.

While its prominence has seemed to wane over the decades, it’s important not to forget the powerful role bugles can play in Scouting — and not just at summer camp.

Listen up

A Scout can play more than “Reveille” in the morning and “Taps” when it’s time to go to bed on a campout. There are 15 bugle calls Scouts are required to know to earn the Bugling merit badge. They can be played at meetings and other outings. There are calls designed to get Scouts’ attention (“First Call”), let everyone know it’s time to eat (“Mess Call”), honor the country during a flag ceremony (“To the Colors”) and even signal when everyone can go for a dip in the pool (“Swimming”). Get the Music and Bugling merit badge pamphlet to read the notes for these calls.

These call notes can be peppy and quick or slow and somber. The 24 notes that comprise “Taps” can evoke a sense of relaxation and reflection when played at the end of the day, and they can swell one’s heart with patriotic pride during a school assembly, holiday ceremony or military funeral.

Knowing how to play a bugle allows Scouts to volunteer by playing a part in many community events, such as a Memorial Day or Veterans Day ceremony or at a funeral. If a unit is approached by a group or municipality to perform, a couple of items should be kept in mind.

“They are encouraged to assist in doing their Good Turn,” says Garfield Murden, Boy Scouting national director. “They should not be doing this for money, and they need to make sure they are following the Barriers of Abuse and Guide to Safe Scouting.”

Learning to play a bugle can also help in rank advancement.

Scouts can serve four months as the troop’s bugler en route to earning the Star rank and six months in that position for Life. The position does not, however, fulfill the “position of responsibility” requirement for the Eagle Scout Award.

Buglers help bring order and efficiency to unit activities by signaling what fellow Scouts should do at a certain time. Their work aids leaders in assembling Scouts and getting their attention.

Brass horn greenhorns

So, how can you revive this Scouting tradition in your unit?

First of all, you can encourage Scouts who are members of a band to use their talents within the troop or Sea Scout ship, too. They can play a bugle, trumpet or cornet. Show them how their talents can serve the troop and community.

Venturing crews can specialize in music, including bugle corps/drill teams. Some Cub Scout Adventure electives, like Webelos Maestro!, feature music, presenting opportunities to introduce Scouts to instruments.

While you certainly could spend a couple hundred dollars on a brand-new quality instrument for your unit, you can find cheaper used options at your local music shop, online or borrowed from a fellow Scouter’s attic.

For Scouts who aren’t musically inclined, trying the bugle can be intimidating. Many Scouts have cited Bugling as one of the more difficult badges to master. If they struggle, remind them to continue doing their best and not get discouraged.

Eggscellent! This Cub Scout donated all of his savings to Friends of Scouting

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When 9-year-old Sloan Summerall started a small business selling eggs, his goal was pretty simple.

The Webelos from Pack 3217 of Cleveland, Tenn., wanted to save $300 to buy a Nintendo Switch.

But along the way, Sloan had a change of heart. When he heard a Friends of Scouting presentation at his monthly pack meeting, he decided to donate his earnings to his council’s annual giving campaign instead.

“Scouts has been so great for me and has helped me so much,” Sloan says. “I decided I wanted to give back to Scouting, so other kids like me can have the same experiences.”

Helping others at all times? That’s what Cub Scouts do.

An idea hatches

Sloan got his first baby chick when he was 4 years old. He loved caring for the birds and realized he could make a few bucks selling their eggs.

Eventually, he had 20 egg-laying birds. He sold eggs to friends and neighbors and cared for the birds all by himself. He cleaned their coop, fed them, watered them, gathered the eggs and sold the eggs at $3 a dozen.

Business boomed, and eventually Sloan hired his sister to help him keep up with all the work. He pays her $1 for every dozen sold.

Changing course

Sloan had raised $150 by the time his 9th birthday arrived. At his party, Sloan’s parents surprised him with the Nintendo Switch he had been wanting.

Now he had $150 to spend on whatever he wanted. Most 9-year-olds would’ve gone straight to Best Buy. He would’ve had enough for a couple of games and an extra controller for his new Switch.

But Sloan had another idea. At his pack’s monthly meeting, the Cub Scouts and their parents heard a presentation about Friends of Scouting.

Sloan learned that there’s more happening at his council than the average Cub Scout sees. He realized that council professionals do tons of work behind the scenes to make our movement successful. And he heard how Friends of Scouting, or FOS, supports that effort.

So he gave his money — all $150 of it — to the Cherokee Area Council.

“We are very proud of Sloan and his giving spirit,” says Jenniffer Frazier, Sloan’s Cubmaster. “Young men and women like Sloan will grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow, and his gift will allow Scouts to reach others just like him. What a great thing for a 9-year-old to do!”

Thanks to Brian Webb for the blog idea.

When this Venturer graduated from college, she repped Venturing on her cap

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When Rachel Eddowes realized that graduates from George Mason University wear green caps and gowns, she knew just what to do.

“There was no question how I would decorate my cap,” she says.

She added a Venturing logo — already the perfect shape for a mortarboard — and showed everyone at the commencement that she’s part of the BSA’s adventure-focused program for young men and young women.

Eddowes graduated in December 2016 with a bachelor’s in interpersonal communication and interpersonal conflict analysis. After that, she earned a master’s in agricultural leadership, education and communications from Texas A&M University.

In addition to serving as a graduate teaching assistant at Texas A&M, Eddowes is the co-contingent leader for the U.S. contingent at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. Each role is held by two people: one under 26 and one over 26. Eddowes serves alongside Dan Ownby.

A storied Scouting career

Longtime blog readers may recognize Eddowes’ name.

She delivered the Report to the Nation to leaders in Washington, D.C., in 2013. She visualized her web of Scouting connections in a unique way in 2014. And in 2016, she helped host the Interamerican Youth Forum and Interamerican Scout Conference in Texas.

I’m impressed at how Eddowes continues to stay involved in Scouting even as she begins her career. She’s proof that great things begin in Venturing.

Other Scouting-themed graduation caps

Last year, I blogged about Eagle Scout Kevin McCarthy’s Scouting-themed graduation cap.

If you or a graduate you know customized his or her cap in a Scouting way, please share the photo in the comments!

Use Google’s Morse code keyboard, flash cards to teach Scouts their dits and dahs

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Google wants to teach the world Morse code.

The company has released a number of high-tech — and low-tech — options for learning this dot-and-dash communication method.

While primarily designed for people with accessibility needs, these new tools are big news for Scouts and Scout leaders, as well. I’m especially referring to those who want to teach or earn the Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge, which debuted in 2015.

It begins with Google’s Gboard keyboard, available for iPhone and Android devices. The keyboard, which replaces your mobile device’s existing keyboard, has added an option for Morse code. (Side note: Gboard offers one of the best standard keyboards, too.)

Next, Google has introduced a Morse Typing Trainer game that the company says can teach users Morse code in less than an hour.

But I saved my favorite thing for last: these printable Morse code posters and cards. They’re available for you to use, modify and print free of charge. The only requirement is that you provide attribution to Google, LLC.

The “Hello Morse” cards use clever pictographs to help you learn each letter.

Take the letter M, for example. In Morse code, an M is dah-dah or two dashes. Two dashes, it turns out, kind of look like a mustache. “Mustache” starts with the letter M.

Got it? Good! You’re 1/26th of the way there.

Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge

All this new stuff could help Scouts fulfill requirement 3A of the Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge, which reads:

a. Describe what Morse code is and the various means by which it can be sent. Spell your first name using Morse code. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using Morse code.

The patch design spells out “M-O-R-S-E” Morse Code Interpreter Strip

Youth and adults who become fluent in Morse code may apply for and wear the Morse Code Interpreter Strip. “Fluent” means you can carry on a five-minute conversation in Morse code at a speed of at least five words per minute.

Find the requirements here, and order the $1.99 uniform patch here.

How to download Gboard and enable the Morse code keyboard

Start by downloading Gboard for iPhone or Android.

To add the Morse code layout to Gboard for Android:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app.
  2. Tap System, then Languages & input.
  3. Tap Virtual keyboard, then Gboard.
  4. Select Languages, then English (US).
  5. Swipe left through the options, then tap Morse code.
  6. To hear sound feedback as you enter Morse code, turn on Sound on keypress.
  7. Tap Done.
  8. When the keyboard is on your screen, switch to Morse code layout by pressing the Globe.
  9. Now you can enter text using the dot (.) and dash (-) from Morse code.

To add the Morse code layout to Gboard for iOS:

  1. If you already have Gboard, be sure to update to version 1.29.0 or later.
  2. When the Gboard is on your screen, tap the gear icon to open Settings.
  3. Tap Languages.
  4. Select Morse code.
  5. Tap Done.

Sea Scouts from Northeast Region dominate at 2018 Koch Cup sailing event

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A pair of Sea Scouts from Cambridge, Mass., took home the top prize at last week’s 2018 William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup in Galveston, Texas.

The international sailing regatta has been held every two years since 2002, but this was its first time in the Lone Star State. Sea Star Base Galveston hosted 64 participants from 10 countries.

The team of Max Katz-Christy, skipper, and Thomas Craciun, crewman, out-sailed fellow Americans, as well as teams from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa.

2018 Koch Cup winners Thomas Craciun (left) and Max Katz-Christy.

Max and Thomas are members of Sea Scout Ship 131, aka “Brutus,” of the Spirit of Adventure Council. Their first and only Sea Scout-sanctioned race was the qualification for the Koch Cup. Months later, they’re champions.

The Koch Cup win by an American team means the trophy is back on U.S. soil after a two-year absence. In the 2016 Koch Cup, Sea Scouts from New Zealand took the top prize — the first non-American winners in event history.

The Kiwi Cup

A Northeast Region team won the second-tier Kiwi Cup, as well.

Skipper Robert Gustke of Bridgeport, N.Y., and Crewman Andrew York of Baldwinsville, N.Y., earned the carved statue that honors that event’s winners.

Robert and Andrew are members of Sea Scout Ship 876, aka “Cricket,” of the Longhouse Council. Both are Eagle Scouts.

More about the event

While competitive sailing was the reason Sea Scouts set a course for the Texas coast, the event also featured plenty of time to meet new friends and catch up with old ones.

It began with a practice day, followed by a qualification day. Sea Scouts in the top half of the fleet raced for the Koch Cup; the rest battled for the Kiwi Cup.

When the races finished each day, the Scouts gathered to eat, trade stories and play games.

See more photos from the event here.

Meet the winners Koch Cup, first place: Thomas Craciun (left) and Max Katz-Christy of Massachusetts. Koch Cup, second place: Oscar Norström (left) and Filipe Blomquist of Finland. Koch Cup, third place: Isaac Barkley (left) and Andrew Vandling of Texas. Koch Fleet sportsmanship trophy: Órla Gray (left) and Eamon Gray of Australia. Kiwi Cup, first place: Robert Gustke (left) and Andrew York of New York. Kiwi Cup, second place: Yan Ming Lau (left) and Ka Wai Ng of Hong Kong. Kiwi Cup, third place: Ché-vonne Maré (left) and Devan Garland of South Africa. Kiwi Fleet sportsmanship trophy: Tess De Wilde Kohler (left) and Nicolette Loeding of Michigan. History of the Koch Cup

The event has been held biennially since 2002. The original National Sea Scout Sailing Championship began in the 1930s but went dormant when Sea Scouts left the program to serve in World War II.

Koch Cup events and locations:

  • 2018: Sea Star Base Galveston, Galveston, Texas
  • 2016: Long Beach Yacht Club, Long Beach, Calif.
  • 2014: Long Beach Yacht Club, Long Beach, Calif.
  • 2012: California Maritime Academy, Vallejo, Calif.
  • 2010: United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.
  • 2008: United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.
  • 2006: Coral Reef Yacht Club, Miami, Fla.
  • 2004: Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, Mass.
  • 2002: Columbia Yacht Club, Chicago, Ill.

Learn more

Learn more about the 2018 Koch Cup on the official site. This is also where you can find info about the 2020 Koch Cup once the date comes closer.

Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland

It’s good horse sense to review guidelines before yelling ‘Giddy-up!’

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Summertime can be the perfect time to saddle up and go horseback riding, an activity appropriate for Cub Scouts as young as Wolf. But hold your horses! Before you grab your boots and reins, it’s important to know how to Be Prepared for your next ride.

Horsemanship has been a Scout skill since BSA’s inception. It was one of the original merit badges in the 1911 Handbook, and equestrian knowledge was essential for other badges, like Blacksmithing (make a horseshoe and know how to shoe a horse correctly) and First Aid to Animals (be able to treat a horse for colic).

Today, Scouts can still earn the Horsemanship merit badge — more than 8,600 badges were earned last year. Equestrian is one of 18 electives Venturers can pursue to earn the Ranger Award. Scouts and Scout leaders can earn the 50-Miler Award on horseback where appropriate. And many councils offer riding programs at summer camps.

Before you hit the trail

First of all, let’s make sure we know who should hop on a horse during Scouting activities. Lions and Tigers, no. Wolf, Bear, Webelos and younger Scouts can ride around in controlled areas. Only older Scouts — ages 14 (or 13 and have completed eighth grade) and up — should go on treks. A trek usually covers many miles over multiple nights and can be a physically demanding adventure.

Those who want go on a trek should be able to mount and dismount a horse unassisted, and it’s strongly recommended to have prior practice and knowledge of horses. Read up with the Fieldbook or Horsemanship merit badge pamphlet.

Some councils may have weight limits to ensure safety for you and the animal. Check requirements with your council before registering.

Gear up

As Scouts, if the weather forecast predicts it’ll be cold, you bring clothes to keep you warm. If it looks like rain, you should have your poncho ready. If you’re going riding, you wear the appropriate gear. But what does that include?

Recommended footwear for horseback riding is sturdy boots with one-inch heels to keep your feet safe and to fit properly in the stirrups. If stirrups are equipped by leather coverings called tapaderos, riders might be able to wear tennis shoes. Note that shoe laces and tongues could get caught in the stirrups, presenting a danger if you fall off, which is why they’re typically not recommended. Don’t wear sandals.

Wear long pants, like jeans, when riding. Shorts won’t provide you the proper protection from chafing or brush you might ride through.

Gloves are also recommended when you lead, groom and ride. They can help you get a better grip and guard you against blisters and burns.

Make sure you wear an ASTM-SEI-approved riding helmet, not a bicycle or ski helmet. Your helmet should be fitted correctly and have chinstraps.

Consider using breakaway stirrups, which are designed to detach if you fall off, reducing the chances of you getting caught and dragged.

On the trail

Follow the advice of your wrangler on how to handle a horse while riding. Remember, you’re dealing with a thousand-pound animal; safety is paramount.

Approach a horse at its left-side front, not from behind to avoid startling it and getting kicked. Speak calmly and stay on your feet; don’t duck in front of a horse.

Act relaxed around your horse, it can sense a nervous rider. Hikers should also act calm when they encounter a group of riders. Give the riders the right-of-way and stay quiet as not to alarm the horses. If hikers want to pass a group of riders, ask the wrangler for permission.

Check out this series of videos that the Certified Horsemanship Association produces for more tips on reading a horse’s behavior, fitting a riding helmet, leading a horse on a rope, and more.

Five things I learned taking my son to our first Scout summer camp

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The author’s son, who attended his first Boy Scout summer camp this year.

When my son crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts earlier this year, the leaders of his new troop made their philosophy on summer camp quite clear: If your kid goes to camp that first summer, it greatly increases the chances that he’s going to stick with Scouting for the long term.

So I didn’t ask my son if he wanted to go to camp. I signed him up, and I signed myself up with him. Then I told him we were going to summer camp together. He protested. I told him it wasn’t up for discussion. He protested more. Then I told him we were going to summer camp.

Did everything go perfectly? No. Was it worth it in the end? Absolutely.

Here are five things we learned at our first summer at camp:

1. Whether your Scout thinks they can do it or not, they can definitely do it.

Home sickness at summer camp is real. Our group had multiple first-year campers wander into the adult area after dark asking to go home.

But once you get through that first night or two, it becomes much easier.

We found it helpful to soothe our kids to a point. Then we told them, “Go talk to your patrol leader.”

2. Your Scout doesn’t care about the weather as much as you do, which is a good thing.

We camped at the Andrew Jackson Council’s Hood Scout Reservation, just outside of Hazelhurst, Miss. It wasn’t the heat that bothered us; it was the humidity.

Ten minutes after you showered, you were sweating again, even at night, when the temperatures dropped into the low 70s. But the Scouts didn’t complain nearly as much as the adults did.

3. Your Scout doesn’t care about the weather as much as you do, which is a bad thing.

When we told our 11- and 12-year-old kids to drink water, we might as well have been telling them to walk on water.

I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to get kids to drink water, but hey, kids are gonna be kids.

They don’t always make the best decisions on their own. Scout camp is place for them to fail in an environment in which they’re supported and can learn from it.

So we told them over and over and over again: DRINK. YOUR. WATER. And eventually, they did.

4. It’s important to find the right amount of free time for your child.

My son enjoyed having merit badge, Tenderfoot and Second Class workshops throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. Then he enjoyed having a couple of hours to hang out with his buddies at the lake.

Other Scouts preferred to be booked with classes all day. (They all got free time on Friday.)

Summer camp is a great time to work on requirements and merit badges. It’s also a great time for your Scout to hang out with friends. Find the balance that’s right for your child.

5. It’s absolutely, positively worth it to take a week out of the summer for Scout camp.

It’s not always cheap, so start selling popcorn and Camp Cards early.

At the end of our week at camp, I told my son, “Well, I sure am looking forward getting home to the air-conditioning. It’s too hot here.”

My son — the same one who protested so mightily when I first told him we were going to summer camp — replied, “Yeah, but it was worth it.”

Aaron Derr is the Senior Writer for Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.

Summit Bechtel Reserve hosts its first Wood Badge course, creating a template for other councils

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Even as Wood Badge prepares to turn 100 next year, it’s still charting new territory.

Last month, a group of Scouters from across the country held the first Wood Badge course in the history of the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

While the syllabus for this essential leadership training for Scout leaders was unchanged, this was a Wood Badge course like no other.

And the course’s unique West Virginia location — at the BSA’s newest national high-adventure base — was only the beginning.

The course’s motto was “Do Something. Big.” Thanks to the awesome staff, enthusiastic participants and prime location, this course did something very big indeed.

Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh was among the presenters. Great people, great places

Participants learned from an impressive array of business leaders who were involved in developing the Summit Bechtel Reserve. They included Wayne Perry, Jack Furst, Dan McCarthy, Russell Smart and John D. Tickle, whose name graces the John D. Tickle National Training and Leadership Center at SBR.

Participants heard from several top BSA professionals, including Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh, General Counsel Steve McGowan and National Director of Outdoor Adventures Al Lambert.

And because they were at SBR, nestled near the stunning New River Gorge National River, they went whitewater rafting. Each patrol had its own raft and guide. Nothing tests your patrol’s cohesiveness quite like paddling together through Class III’s.

Most Wood Badge courses don’t include whitewater rafting, but this one most definitely did. A ready-to-use template for your council

While the course was hosted by the Indianapolis-based Crossroads of America Council, the participants and staff represented 14 different local councils.

The staff’s goal, in addition to delivering this essential leadership training, was to create a template for future Wood Badge courses at SBR. The syllabus didn’t change — this was a standard six-day Wood Badge experience — but the staff had to figure out from scratch all the logistics of hosting a course at SBR. Where would participants camp? Where would they eat? Where would they hold the overnight experience in the second half of the course?

Thanks to their efforts, any council that’s interested in hosting a Wood Badge course at SBR can follow the example set by the Crossroads of America council.

The course director for this history-making event was John Stewart, the BSA’s Sustainability Director and the department manager for corporate engagement.

He says the Crossroads of America council plans to return to SBR next year, but any local council or area could host their own course using this template.

“If someone is interested in hosting their own course at the Summit, feel free to have them contact me for more details on the location, facilities and materials,” Stewart says.

Jack Furst (in purple), who has been a supporter of SBR since the beginning, met with some of the participants. Read the Gilwell Gazette

For a taste of life during Wood Badge at SBR, read the course’s Gilwell Gazette.

Each Wood Badge course has a Gilwell Gazette. When I served as scribe for a course in Dallas, creating this daily newspaper was the main part of my job.

A patrol leaders’ council meeting during Wood Badge at SBR. Be a part of WB@SBR2

The second Wood Badge at SBR course, known as WB@SBR2, will be held June 9 to 15, 2019.

This will be an excellent opportunity for adult volunteers at the local, regional and national levels. Professionals at local councils and the BSA’s National Service Center in Texas are welcome, too.

Anyone interested in learning more should email wbatsbr@gmail.com.

Mike Surbaugh takes a selfie with some Venturers who served on staff at WB@SBR. Wood Badge courses at other national high-adventure bases

Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico partners with individual councils to provide a location for them to host their own Wood Badge course. Circle Ten Council, based in Dallas, hosts a course there every August, but this opportunity is offered to any council.

Sea Base in Florida has hosted Wood Badge courses, too, including a centennial pilot course earlier this year. Its conference center welcomes councils that want to host trainings or other events.

Northern Tier in Minnesota has a training center suitable for hosting Wood Badge in a picturesque location.

This Cub Scout showed what doing your ‘duty to country’ looks like

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A Scout’s commitment to patriotism is enshrined in the Scout Oath. It says, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country … ”

On the weekend before Memorial Day, a Cub Scout from Texas put those words into action.

His name is Zachary Fuller, and he’s a Webelos in Pack 890 of Dallas.

The 10-year-old was at a dollar store with his stepdad when he noticed a display of American flags that had toppled over. The flags were strewn all over the floor.

Zachary, who learned in Cub Scouting the right way to fold and honor the flag, noticed this transgression right away.

“That is so disrespectful,” he told his stepdad. “I am going to fix that.”

The Cub Scout steps up

That’s right. Instead of saying “someone should do something,” this Cub Scout did something.

He got to work fixing the problem.

Zachary found a couple of buckets in the store and put all the flags — more than 100 in all — into the buckets. He returned these neat and tidy buckets to the display.

“This was so cool to watch him take the initiative and do this all on his own,” said Zachary’s stepdad, Shawn Summey. “The pride he showed for the flag and everything it represents I know comes from his grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ military service — but also through the principles he has learned through Scouting.”

Thanks to Anna Marie Moran for the post idea.

With boys rescued from Thai cave, we talked to an Eagle Scout caving expert about spelunking safety

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The world simultaneously exhaled on Tuesday when we learned that all 12 young members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were rescued from Tham Luang Cave in Thailand.

Pulling off this rescue effort required dozens of caving experts and hundreds of volunteers. Sadly, one retired Thai Navy SEAL died during the ordeal.

This story, and its positive conclusion for the trapped boys, made me wonder how things go wrong in caving — and what to do when the worst happens.

Bringing in the Scouting angle, I wanted to learn how older Scouts and Venturers can minimize their risks when caving. How can troops and crews best Be Prepared?

So I called Distinguished Eagle Scout Bill Steele. Steele started caving when he was a 13-year-old Boy Scout and never stopped. He’s a member of the Explorers Club and has completed thousands of caving expeditions.

In fact, he’s considered such an expert that The Washington Post asked him to pen an op-ed piece about the Thai cave situation.

He wrote: “What I have learned, since I started exploring caves as a 13-year-old Boy Scout 55 years ago, is that caving absolutely requires you to adhere to the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.”

In addition to his groundbreaking work in speleology, Distinguished Eagle Scout Bill Steele was a lifelong professional in the Boy Scouts of America. He retired in 2014 after a 34-year career with the BSA. His last role was as national director for alumni relations and the National Eagle Scout Association. How to avoid getting trapped

The Thai soccer players became trapped when rising waters flooded passageways. Spaces through which the boys previously crawled were now completely underwater.

Steele says the reason is pretty clear. When heavy rains hit, the water will take the path of least resistance. That path is sometimes underground.

“That’s just a fact of living in caving,” Steele says. “That’s where the water goes. That’s why the cave’s there.”

Steele’s spelunking work includes leading Proyecto Espeleológico Sistema Huautla in Mexico. It’s an annual underground expedition into the deepest cave system in the Western Hemisphere.

When Steele caves in Sistema Huautla, he goes during Mexico’s dry season.

“You just watch the weather closely, and if it’s any doubt whatsoever, you don’t do it,” he says. “You want an absolutely perfect weather forecast.”

How to go caving safely

Steele says when he was a Boy Scout, he was the one pushing his troop to go caving as often as they could. If it were up to Steele, every monthly troop trip would’ve been spent underground.

But before the troop could go caving, Steele’s Scoutmaster wanted Steele to find a caving expert who knew that particular cave.

“I want to meet him. I want to see his gear. I want him to open himself up for questions,” Steele’s Scoutmaster told him.

Decades later, that’s still good advice. Steele says troops or crews who want to try caving should first contact caving experts in their area.

“If there are caves in an area, there’s a caving club,” he says. “And you can find them, and they’ll be glad to help. You ought to get them to take you. They’re going to know the inherent dangers — if there are any.”

Beyond that, the Scout Motto applies. Being prepared with the proper gear — helmets, three separate light sources, boots, extra food and water, and more — will serve you well in case anything goes wrong.

For more information, consult the BSA’s “Cave Safely, Cave Softly” guide. You’ll find guidelines like these:

  • All caving trips should be done under the supervision of qualified adult leaders.
  • Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts are encouraged to visit commercially operated caves and lava tubes.
  • Boy Scout-age (Scouts BSA-age) youth are generally mature enough to enter “easy wild caves,” which means they’re easily accessible, nontechnical/non-vertical caves. A “wild cave” is anything that is not commercially operated with a professional tour guide.
  • Older Boy Scouts (at least 13 and completed eighth grade or 14), Sea Scouts and Venturers should be ready to explore more technical wild caves.

(See this Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities document for more.)

Know when to call it off

A few years ago, Steele was asked to lead a large expedition into Honey Creek Cave, the longest known cave in Texas. There were “a ton of people” on the trip, Steele says, including some that had driven hundreds of miles just to be there.

They were about 3,000 feet into the 3-mile trip when Steele stopped suddenly.

“I noticed the water was higher than normal, and I said, ‘I’m not so sure this cave isn’t flooding right now,'” Steele says.

So the group sat down and stared fixedly at a spot on the cave wall. They were watching to see if the water level was rising.

A few minutes later, Steele called it: “We’re out.”

“You don’t risk it; you just call it,” Steele says. “Live another day.”

Scouting taught Steele to be brave, but it also taught him to be smart.

“Even if you’re totally prepared, unexpected things can happen,” he says. “And that’s the great thing about Scouting is it prepares you for unexpected things. You’ve gone camping once a month for years, and you’ve got this intuitiveness about what to do.”

A community of divers

Steele monitored the situation in Thailand closely, and not just because he’s an expert in caving.

He knows some of the British cave divers who flew to Thailand to help rescue the boys and their coach. (One of those divers is even a British Cub Scout leader.)

Reading news reports and talking to his friends in the caving community, Steele could tell the rescue divers were giving these boys the best chance at survival.

They sent two-member teams with each boy, with the lead diver pulling the boy along using a tether. The air tank for each boy was held by the lead diver — not the boy.

“He’s got the tank,” Steele says. “You can’t mess up and turn your air off.”

A second diver followed the boy and could solve any problems that happened along the route.

“They did it right,” Steele says. “They really did.”

California Scouts share mountaineering tips after Mount Whitney ascent

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Scouts are no strangers to the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. An online search will reveal many stories and videos of troops backpacking to the top of California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney.

One such troop was Troop 1180 of the Orange County Council.

Last summer, a small group of 15- to 16-year-old Scouts and adults ascended the peak during the nearly weeklong trip — an experience they won’t soon forget. They also won’t forget what it took to get to the summit, namely three years of preparation and training.

More than half of all climbers who attempt to conquer Mount Whitney don’t make it, either from turning around after encountering bad weather, getting hurt or they’re not physically ready.

Troop 1180 wanted to succeed, but to do so required a lot of work and research.

Be Prepared

Even though the Scouts didn’t need climbing ropes and gear for this trek, it didn’t mean this would be a cakewalk. Each Scout would carry 50-pound packs, trudging up multiple switchbacks, overcoming thousands of feet in altitude each day.

Over three years, Scouts planned 50-mile hikes in Yosemite National Park, San Bernardino National Forest and Sequoia National Park to prepare for such a journey. They trekked part of the Pacific Crest Trail and ascended San Gorgonio Mountain at more than 11,500 feet. Each trip built the Scouts’ endurance.

“Those preparation trips helped a lot,” Eagle Scout Jake Bowles says.

During the trips, the troop tested different types of gear: tents, water filtration systems, boots. The Californian peaks could still have snow into late July, so the Scouts also looked at microspikes for their boots to gain traction, Bowles says.

More importantly, however, the Scouts made sure everyone was taking the proper steps to prepare for the Mount Whitney trip.

“I thought Mount Whitney was challenging, but the biggest challenge was watching over other boys that weren’t as physically fit or had as much experience,” Eagle Scout Devendeep Brar says. “We need to be uniform in our goal. If you’re not cohesive, it’s not going to go well.”

When it was time to conquer Mount Whitney, most Scouts had accumulated 80 to 90 camping nights, many of which stemmed from backpacking treks.

‘Apex of Scouting’

After acquiring permits, the troop was able to start its journey to the top of the mountain, which took three days. But the pace wasn’t frantic. The Scouts made time to enjoy a card game, admire a babbling creek, go fishing and take some neat aerial videography.

For that last push though, they wanted to see the sun rise from the peak.

“It can be real tiring to wake up at 2 a.m., hiking to get there at sunrise,” Brar says. “The air was thin, watching everyone else get up those last two miles … we were happy and exhausted.”

It was worth it though.

“It’s just so rewarding,” Bowles says. “I think this is the apex of the Scouting experience.”

The journey tested their skills and inspired some to continue mountaineering well after their days as a Scout youth. Bowles is considering tackling mountains in Colorado, Peru and in the Alps.

“Scouts gets you hyped up for these kinds of things,” Bowles says. “Honestly, I want to do them all. I can’t choose which one I want to do first.”

Encourage your Scouts

A big feat like climbing the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states proved to be an intriguing challenge to capture the interest of older Scouts. Still, the amount of training involved as well as the exhausting trek itself did wear on some Scouts.

That’s where the adults came in with positive reinforcement.

“It was tough on all of us,” says Assistant Scoutmaster Harminder Brar. “Make sure they know they’re doing something incredibly challenging. It was very physically demanding.”

It’s a wonder what a pat on the back and a few words of praise can do for a Scout’s psyche, he says.

When a Scout is willing to try something new and step outside their comfort zone, it’s reason to get excited. If your Scouts want to tackle a big project, start small. As they progress, achieving goals, their confidence can blossom. And if they get discouraged along the way, remember the positive reinforcement.

Seven things I loved about VenturingFest 2018 and the Summit Bechtel Reserve

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Want to feel good about the future of this country? Spend a week talking to a bunch of Venturers.

I did just that last week at VenturingFest 2018 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. The event combined three awesome occasions into a single great week:

  1. It was the year’s largest Venturing event — with 1,800 green-shirted young people from across the country gathered for a week of awesomeness.
  2. It was the official celebration of Venturing’s 20th birthday. The program for young people ages 14 (or 13 and finished with eighth grade) to 21 was founded in 1998.
  3. And it was a week of adrenaline-packed fun at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, the BSA’s newest national high-adventure base. Like the National Jamboree last year and the World Scout Jamboree next year, this event allowed SBR to shine.

You can read the full story about VenturingFest early next year in the pages of Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines. Today, I’m sharing a few nuggets.

I was impressed once again with the Venturing program. Additionally, I got to see more of SBR than ever before, and I’m convinced it lives up to its reputation as a world-class home for Scouting adventure.

Here are my seven favorite things from last week:

Lauren Gogal (in white shirt), 14, from Crew 91 of Gainesville, Va., didn’t give up until she reached the top of a difficult route at The Rocks. 1. Seeing Venturers take risks (but in a safe environment)

Franco Allegro isn’t the biggest fan of heights. So you wouldn’t expect to find the 14-year-old from Crew 91 of Gainesville, Va., zip-lining from tree to tree high above the forest floor.

But that’s just what he did. Again and again.

“I just wanted to push myself,” he tells me. “I saw the rest of my crew having fun with it. Once you learn the equipment is going to help you, it’s easier.”

Sure, that’s easy to say now that he’s on solid ground. But what was he feeling on that first zip-line platform?

“I was literally shaking,” he says. “I got through the first one and just hugged the tree. I got more confident, and then I started looking around a little more. By the third one, I just starting looking around to see how beautiful it was.”

Franco says the harness and helmet — plus his on-the-ground training — gave him the confidence to get up there in the first place.

“It helps to understand that you’ll be safe,” he says. “Boy Scouts really goes all the way with safety. It gives you more confidence to go out and have fun.”

Larissa Johnson, a 16-year-old from Crew 514 of Lawrenceville, Ga., doesn’t like heights either. But she felt confident enough to conquer SBR’s high ropes course — walking from tree to tree across challenging obstacles.

“I’m so terrified of heights,” she says. “I was worried about it, but when you actually get up there, and you’re doing it, it’s not as bad. Brenna [the staff guide] was like, ‘you’ve just got to trust the system and know that it works. You’re not going to fall.’”

At The Ropes, Venturers travel from tree to tree across a series of challenging obstacles. 2. SBR’s emphasis on challenge by choice

Venturers at every venue I visited were getting out of their comfort zones left and right (and high and low).

SBR gives them a safe environment in which to push themselves — but only if they choose to.

This is known as “challenge by choice.” SBR staff will encourage you to try new things, to push your limits and widen your comfort zone. But if you’re ever uncomfortable or just don’t feel up for something, that’s fine.

“We try to encourage them, but when it comes down to it, it’s challenge by choice,” says Alex Whearty, 21, a mountain biking staffer from Walpole, Mass. “If you don’t want to do it, we won’t make you do it.”

The Kodiak Challenge graduation ceremony. 3. The scene as nearly 100 Venturers completed the Kodiak Challenge

Kodiak Challenge is a fun, hands-on leadership course designed to be offered during a Venturing trip.

That made VenturingFest a great opportunity to offer this course to a ton of Venturers. Nearly 100, by my unofficial count, completed the five-day course during VenturingFest. I watched their inspiring graduation ceremony on the final day.

The Venturers arranged themselves into a large circle at the flagpole area, known as Twelve Points Plaza. The adult Advisors surrounded them in a larger circle — a visual sign that adults are there to support, not lead.

Earlier in the week, I sat in on a Kodiak course with some Venturers from Texas. Their instructor was fantastic. His name was Spencer Siefke, a 21-year-old from Clinton, Tenn.

“Your team may not be strong enough without everyone working together,” he told the Venturers.

They learned it here and practiced it all week.

Larissa Johnson (left) learns the ropes from Breanna (in yellow helmet). I didn’t get Breanna’s last name, but I do know she did an excellent job keeping the Venturers safe while boosting their confidence. 4. How much everyone raved about SBR’s staff

You’d expect the Venturers to rhapsodize about all the excellent activities available at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. And they did.

But they were equally enthusiastic about the SBR staff.

Claire Curran, 18, from Crew 135 of Warwick, N.Y., says “they’re so cool. They’re just willing to talk to you about your life.”

Mason Jones, 18, from Crew 62 of Spring, Texas, says the staffers don’t treat Venturers like customers in a queue.

“You really do get more support here,” he says. “The staff here, they work with you, they don’t work over you. It’s almost like having a really good friend for a short period of time because you can trust them.”

A VenturingFest dance party, complete with karaoke and glow sticks. 5. Witnessing the camaraderie of Venturers from across the country

I met four Venturers from Crew 300 of Wasilla, Alaska.

The crew flew seven hours from Anchorage to Atlanta, changed planes, and then flew another hour to Charleston, W.Va.

And while the weather at VenturingFest was a little warmer than back home (“As soon as we walked out of the airport, the mugginess just hit you in the face,” says Mary Sewell, 18), the people were just as friendly.

You see, Wasilla has a population of around 10,000.

“You’ll go to the grocery store and see 10 people you know,” Mary says.

In just five days, VenturingFest re-created a similar small-town feel.

“The people are really nice,” says Maddie Barlow, 15. “We’ll walk around, and they’ll just say ‘hi’ to you.”

William Burns, a 20-year-old from Crew 514 of Lawrenceville, Ga., agrees.

“You get to meet Venturers from all over the country and see how their crews work,” he says, “And then you can stay in contact with them. With social media, it makes it so easy.”

Jamie Lester sculpture of Walter Scott stands outside the Scott Visitor Center. 6. Those bronze statues Jamie Lester works on a clay bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jamie Lester is the sculptor responsible for all 21 bronze statues at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The statues recognize individuals who provided support to SBR through financial gifts.

Lester, a graduate of West Virginia University, quit his job making pizza 21 years ago to pursue his passion for art.

He visited SBR to meet with Venturers and adult Advisors. As he talked, he worked on a clay bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He told me about his process, which starts with coming up with a concept that tells a story about the subject. He wants it to be powerful for somebody who knows the subject but also have meaning for someone who doesn’t.

After the drawing is approved, Lester works on the full-size piece. He starts by making an 8-foot clay sculpture. When that’s done and approved, he makes a set of rubber molds.

Next up is a process where he uses the mold to cast a hollow wax shell. Molten bronze is then poured into that shell. When it cools, the bronze pieces are welded together and the seams are sanded away.

All that sounds complicated, but for Lester, the most stressful step is the final one: the unveiling.

“One of the most nerve-wracking things is when that veil is on, and the donor is there getting ready to see the piece,” he says. “I can’t sleep for the week leading up to it.”

7. SBR’s awesome array of A-plus adventure activities Water Reality is an obstacle course on the water. Get your group over The Twinkie, climb up and over the Teeter-Totter, summit the Iceberg, slide across the Dog Bone, and then walk or run across the Water Mat.

Ah yes, the activities. At SBR, all trails lead to world-class adventure venues.

While I wasn’t able to see everything, I did watch Venturers try mountain biking, BMX, skateboarding, rock climbing, the ropes course, paddleboarding, archery, the zip line and an aquatics obstacle course called Water Reality.

Water Reality is where I found Zaria Ascue, a 15-year-old from Crew 469 of Charleston, S.C.

“It’s been really fun, and you get to try all these great things in one area,” she says. “It’s something different every day.”

Kyle Amburgey, a 17-year-old from Crew 514 of Lawrenceville, Ga., calls SBR “definitely my favorite camp of all. I have so many memories here.”

“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone,” he says. “The Summit experience is the greatest experience. By far.”

Torrance Jenkins, a 14-year-old from Crew 6 of Gastonia, N.C., says SBR inspired her to keep going and maximize every moment.

“Even if you’re tired, you’re sore, don’t give up and don’t go back to the camp and do nothing,” she says. “You’ve got to do something.”

At SBR, and in Venturing, “something” can be pretty much anything you want.

Ongoing fire risk forces Philmont to close backcountry for remainder of summer

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Philmont Scout Ranch announced Thursday that extremely dry conditions and the continuing risk of fire have forced it to close its backcountry for the remainder of the 2018 summer season.

This means all seven- and 12-day treks scheduled for this summer are canceled. Individual backcountry programs, including Rayado, ROCS, Trail Crew, STEM and Ranch Hands are canceled for the summer as well.

Over the next few days, Philmont will contact the lead advisor or contingent leader of affected crews to confirm the refund, offer a trek at Philmont for the 2020 season and answer questions.

All other areas and programs at the Philmont Scout Ranch, including the Philmont Training Center, will remain open all summer. Training courses at the Philmont Training Center and the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) will proceed as scheduled.

This decision does not affect Philmont’s fall programs either. This includes Autumn Adventure and fall Philmont Training Center conferences.

The Morris Creek Fire was caused by lightning and is burning on private neighboring property and Philmont in the Rayado River Canyon area. Why was this decision made?

Safety comes first at Philmont. Nothing matters more than the well-being of participants, staff and volunteers.

This has been an unusually dry season for northern New Mexico, and things haven’t been getting better. The extreme fire risk has forced officials to close state and federal lands near Philmont. More closures were announced in the past week.

The Ute Park Fire, which compelled Philmont to cancel treks through July 14, is now contained. But its effects linger. Because of the Ute Park Fire, Philmont was planning how it would reroute remaining treks through the southern portion of its backcountry.

Unfortunately, just as that was happening, a new fire was discovered on the Philmont property. The new blaze, called the Morris Creek Fire, eliminated these alternate routes.

Beyond that, two new fires in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado highlight the continuing risk that more fires could break out at any time.

With safety as its focus, Philmont had no choice but to close its backcountry for the season.

Which Philmont activities are canceled, and which are not?

Canceled for summer 2018:

  • 7- and 12-day treks
  • Individual backcountry programs:
    • Rayado
    • ROCS
    • Trail Crew
    • STEM
    • Ranch Hands

Not canceled/still open:

  • Philmont’s Camping Headquarters and Base Camp area
  • Philmont Training Center
  • National Scouting Museum at Philmont Scout Ranch
  • Chase Ranch
  • Kit Carson Museum at Rayado
  • Training courses at the Philmont Training Center
  • National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE)
  • Autumn Adventure
  • Fall PTC training conferences
What do I do if my trek was canceled?
  1. Please don’t call Philmont; this will overwhelm the phone lines. Wait for Philmont to contact you.
  2. Expect a refund check soon. The check will be sent to the to the lead contact advisor beginning Monday, July 9, 2018.
  3. Expect a call from Philmont. Over the next few days, Philmont staff will contact the lead advisor or contingent leader of affected crews to confirm the refund, offer a trek at Philmont for the 2020 season, and answer questions.
  4. Consider a Plan B. With your Philmont trek canceled, you might be looking for a replacement adventure. Sea Base is at capacity right now, but Northern Tier and the Summit Bechtel Reserve are ready to help deliver a great adventure program this summer. Crew advisors and councils can call Northern Tier at 218-365-4811 and the Summit Bechtel Reserve at 304-465-2800.
The conservation staff has begun cutting burned trees behind Ute Gulch and is repurposing the trunks to create a barrier on the forest floor to help absorb upcoming rainfall. (Photo by Whitney Dumford) What will happen to Philmont’s seasonal staff?

Let me take a moment to commend these young Philmont staffers for their positive attitudes as they experience a summer that none of them signed up for.

Some have taken the opportunity to transfer to other BSA camps and national high-adventure bases to fill staffing needs elsewhere. Their flexibility is impressive.

Others stayed at Philmont to put in hard work there. These young men and women expected to be delivering the Philmont experience to thousands of Scouts and Scouters this summer. They thought they’d be working in backcountry camps or guiding crews as Philmont Rangers. Instead, many are rebuilding trails and restoring the backcountry — putting in long hours to make sure Philmont can fully reopen next year.

Yes, it’s the Scouting way to cheerfully serve others. But these Philmont staffers have gone well beyond the call of duty.

How can I help?

Over the past month and more, Philmont has been overwhelmed with messages of support from the Scouting community. People have been asking how they can help, whether by volunteering to help with onsite recovery efforts or offering financial support.

That support is appreciated and will be needed, but Philmont is asking for patience. Details will be released in the coming months. For now, the focus is on the immediate task of supporting affected crews.

They had food and water, but when the hurricane hit, Scouting skills helped most

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The Alvarez family had gathered all the recommended survival items. They had water, food, a portable radio, batteries, a flashlight, candles and a first-aid kit.

But nothing prepares you for a 175 mph hurricane tearing through your neighborhood. No drill can approximate the psychological effect of seeing trees falling, roofs being ripped from houses, and water coming through windows and under doors.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, the Alvarez family learned that their most essential survival tool wasn’t anything on their shelves. It was the lessons they learned in Scouting.

Marian M. Alvarez-Collins says the family has been preparing for a moment like this for four years as members of the BSA’s Troop 85 of the Puerto Rico Council.

Their story serves as a reminder of an additional benefit of Scouting: preparing families to react the right way in an emergency.

‘We are prepared’

Marian’s son, Angelgabriel, is a First Class Scout in Troop 85. His mom is an adult volunteer in the troop and a proud Scout mom.

“Let me tell you something, when those bursts of wind started at 5 a.m., I thought everything was going to fly away, including us,” she says. “I shook and kind of pushed my son to the designated safe area of our house.”

Alvarez-Collins says her eyes “almost popped out of their sockets” out of fright.

But her son looked her in the eye and said what he had learned as a Scout: “Remember, remember, in case of emergency, keep calm, don’t worry, we are prepared.”

“And, believe me, those words calmed us down,” Alvarez-Collins says.

Memory serves

For Alvarez-Collins, seeing her son take charge like that took her back to Cub Scouting. Suddenly, she saw Angelgabriel as a Webelos Scout again, learning to use his neckerchief as a sling or to stop bleeding.

“Every time in the next 24 hours, when we heard the wind howling, the trees screaming, the roofs flying away, the rain coming down harder, we would look to each other and say, ‘in case of emergency, keep calm, we are prepared,'” she says.

The next day, the wind became silent and the rain stopped. The community gathered to share experiences and to thank God that they were alive.

“We lost a lot of material things,” Alvarez-Collins says. “There was no electricity, no water. But everyone was OK in our neighborhood.”

Back to work

As soon as it was safe to do so, the families of Troop 85 got to work rebuilding their community.

“Now it was time to use other skills that we have learned to clean the surrounding area,” Alvarez-Collins says. “To help our neighbors. To reconstruct our Puerto Rico, little by little.”

Looking back almost a year later, Alvarez-Collins says she’s “very thankful and happy for having taken the decision to enroll my son and myself in such a great organization.”

“Young people are taught the skills to be prepared for different and extreme situations in life,” she says. “We are very thankful to all those leaders that give their time voluntarily to help build a better future. Muchas gracias.”

New York Scouter, who once met Daniel Carter Beard, turns 104 years young

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Gardner F. Watts has seen Babe Ruth hit a home run. Twice.

He once met Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, who died in 1933.

And in May 2010, at the age of 96, Watts climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Officials told him they were pretty sure he was the oldest person ever to make that climb.

But Watts, who turned 104 in April, once experienced something that impresses me more than any of those classic memories. It was the time he met Scouting co-founder Daniel Carter Beard.

Watts lives in the village of Suffern, N.Y., which is where Beard lived the final 13 years of his life before his death in 1941.

In 1927, Watts was at a father-son spaghetti dinner with his Scout troop. Beard was the guest of honor and gave a speech to the crowd of Scouts and their dads.

Much to the boy’s delight, Beard sat down right next to Watts for the dinner. About halfway through, “Uncle Dan” leaned over to Watts and said, “Once a Scout, always a Scout.”

Those six words had a profound impact. Nine decades later, Watts still remembers what “Uncle Dan had said him.”

The three Watts brothers in 1927. From left: Warren Watts, 3; Gardner Watts, 13; and Norwood Watts, 7. An life well lived

Watts was born in 1914.

He joined Scouting in 1926 as a member of Suffern’s Troop 1, founded by his father. (The troop still exists today, though it’s now known as Troop 21.)

Watts reached the rank of Star, and his two younger brothers became Eagle Scouts.

Watts taught history at Suffern High School for 40 years and served the village as its official historian, devoting his life to preserving the historical resources of the Suffern area.

Today, he still supports Scouting and volunteers with the American Legion’s Post 859.

In 2017, Watts (bow) went canoeing with his best friend,William Weaver. The centenarian method

Even at 104, Watts still hikes and goes canoeing and kayaking.

“Not too many people my age go out in a kayak,” he told the Rockland/Westchester Journal News last month.

What’s the secret to living past 100?

Watts surrounds himself with friends and family. He has remained physically active. He never smoked, drank or used recreational drugs.

Beyond that, Watts says, it’s important to be friendly, cheerful and kind. Sounds familiar.

“I still have a happy outlook on life,” he told the Journal News. “Never be down if you have a failure. Keep trying again and again. Just have a positive life.”

Thanks to Richard Piñeiro for the blog idea.

He first tried archery as a Cub Scout, and now he’s on the USA Archery Team

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Andrew Ford, a Scout from Long Beach, Calif., who learned to shoot a bow and arrow at Cub Scout camp, has been named to the USA Archery Team.

Andrew, 15, competes at the Cadet level, which runs through the calendar year of his 17th birthday. He shoots in the Barebow division, which uses a recurve bow like you’d see in the Olympics — but without the stabilizers, sight, clicker or any other shooting aides.

In September, he’ll represent Team USA at the 2018 World Archery Field Championships in Cortina, Italy.

It started in Scouting

It seems like just yesterday that Andrew first picked up a bow and arrow at a Pack 67 camp in June 2010. He tried it again at more Scout camps and realized he had a knack for it.

In 2013, Andrew was at the archery range at a Webelos Weekend event when something amazing happened. All the other Scouts were done shooting for the day, and just a handful of people were still around. The rangemaster saw Andrew’s technique and noticed his remarkable accuracy.

“I’ll keep feeding you arrows until you miss,” the rangemaster told him.

Andrew didn’t miss until more than 12 arrows later.

A birthday wish

In May 2014, Andrew told his parents he wanted a bow for his 11th birthday. His parents had a better idea.

“We told him we would get him proper archery lessons, and he joined a club and has been shooting ever since,” says Andrew’s dad, Gary.

Andrew got the bow he wanted in November 2014 and competed in his first big tournament in January 2016.

He started breaking records in youth competitions and got so good that he started competing against adults in certain tournaments.

He joined the Cadet division — for anyone 17 or younger — at age 13. This year, his results have been good enough to earn him a spot on the USA Archery Team.

Staying busy

A summer break? Not for Andrew.

He’ll spend the next weeks preparing for a big Junior Olympic Archery Development event in North Carolina before resuming practice for the world championships in Italy.

He is giving himself one week off — kind of. He’s heading to summer camp with his troop, but even at Scout summer camp, Andrew plans to practice archery.

Maybe they’ll let him help teach the Archery merit badge.

Follow along

This September, find results from the World Archery Field Championships at this link.

Thanks to Marc Bonner of the Long Beach Area Council for the blog idea.

Keeping your cool: Five tips for better Scouting in the heat

Bryan On Scouting -

As temperatures climb to triple digits, it’s important for Scouts to remain prepared and safe as they set out on their next great summer adventure.

For a quick refresher on how to keep cool this summer, I checked with Bev Singel, a registered nurse and the BSA’s health consultant.

Here’s what she says:

1. Go with water.

Sports drinks are marketed heavily, with consumers getting the impression that these sugary liquids fuel all the best pro athletes.

For the rest of us, water is best. It has fewer calories (as in: zero) and does an excellent job keeping you hydrated.

Sports drinks should be used sparingly following only vigorous sporting activities.

2. Drink throughout your trek.

Don’t gulp your entire Camelbak at the start or end of your day. Drink water throughout the day.

Remember: If you’re thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.

3. Wear the right clothing.

It’s 100 degrees, and the sun is blazing. Conventional wisdom might be to go with a sleeveless shirt and shorts — maximizing your body’s ability to breathe, perhaps.

In truth, long-sleeved shirts that wick away sweat and shield the sun’s harmful rays will keep you cooler. A broad-brimmed hat will do a better job keeping the sun off than a baseball cap.

Dark colors attract the sun’s heat, so choose light-colored clothing. And remember your sunglasses!

4. Check the weather — and your route.

Get the latest weather forecast before you hit the trail.

Outdoor events in high temperatures need proper planning to make sure everyone stays healthy. Add in high humidity to those high temperatures, and your trek can be more difficult.

Check the route, paying close attention to shade and water sources. Carry adequate water and food for the duration, and acclimate to the area and weather conditions before beginning a strenuous trek.

5. Figure out how much water you’ll need.

Camelbak, the Official Hydration Sponsor of the BSA, developed a tool that may be able to help you determine how much water you’ll need for a given journey.

It factors in the activity’s temperature, intensity and duration.

Check it out here.

Eagle Scouts make up 12 percent of this high school’s graduating class

Bryan On Scouting -

At Wantagh High School in New York, there are 15 Eagle Scouts in the graduating class of 125. That means 12 percent of this year’s Wantagh graduates earned the highest rank in Scouting.

It gets even better.

A decade ago, all 15 Eagle Scouts started together in the same Cub Scout pack — Pack 191, then led by Cubmaster Anthony Fillizola.

After crossing over, the boys joined one of three Scout troops: 96, 656 and 323. Even though they went their separate ways, the guys never forgot their time together in Pack 191.

So when it was time to graduate from high school earlier this month, “Tony’s Flock of Eagles” reunited for the photo above.

Noelle Bloom, membership and marketing chairwoman for the Pequott District of the Theodore Roosevelt Council, sent me this info.

Five of the Eagle Scouts from Troop 96, from left: Stephen Vaiano, Freddy Parola, Benjamin Schablin, Mike Fillizola and Ryan Kreiger Eagle projects

One of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of becoming an Eagle Scout is the Eagle project.

Eagle hopefuls must plan, lead and complete a significant service project that benefits their community.

Each of these 15 Eagle Scouts did just that. All were great, but here are a few standouts:

  • Benjamin Schablin constructed a vegetable garden for a school that helps kids with special needs.
  • Mike Fillizola built a new “Welcome to Wantagh” sign in the town.
  • Nicholas Cammarata overhauled a 500-foot natural trail for the Wantagh Preservation Society.
  • Stephen Vaiano built a 25-foot flag pole at the Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church.
Future plans

Now that they’ve graduated, the Eagle Scouts will take what they’ve learned in school and Scouting to college.

They’re headed to an impressive array of different universities in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

They’ll study a range of fields, including accounting, political science, math, electrical engineering, architecture, sustainable horticulture, business and criminal justice.

After graduating college, these young men want to become lawyers, police officers, orthopedists, business owners and more.

The future — for these 15 young men and for our world as a whole — looks bright indeed.


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