campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Scouting, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Scouting, Service, Values, Wood Badge | 2 Comments

Giving Up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis post is not going to sit well with some folks, but be that as it may, it is a message that I feel is an important part of the Character, Citizenship, and Overall fitness of the Scouts that we are trying to develop.
As with most ideas or thoughts that bounce through my mind, I find that themes reoccur or present themselves to me.  And so as I go through my daily life I look for those things that can both make me a better person and pass on to our young men.
First, I have been observing a “homeless guy” over the past few months.  Now please understand I am not being insensitive to the plight of the homeless here.  I am absolutely not passing judgement and understand that there many folks out there with needs.  I am also not expressing an opinion or solution about mental health issues that plague our country.. so.. with the caveats out of the way…
I finally had the opportunity to talk with this young man.  I bought him a Frosty from Wendy’s and asked if I could ask him some questions.  He agreed.  I asked him why he was homeless.  A simple question and he gave me a simple answer.  He said he gave up.  He gave up on school, he gave up on his family, he gave up on trying.  I didn’t ask why, but I really wanted to know.  It would have been too obvious to ask if he liked the results, so I left it alone.  I did however ask how long he planned on staying on his current course.  He answered by saying that it wasn’t that bad.. people in general are generous.  He had no plan or expectation of life getting better.
I asked him if I could ask two more questions.. he agreed.  Number one, are drugs involved? And number two, are you going to try to get help?  To the first question he answered yes.  That is why he is in Portland.  Easy to get and cheap.  To the second, he said he would like to get help.  He added that he had dreams and goals, but giving up was easier.  I thanked him and went on my way.
Second, as you know I am a football fan, especially when it comes to watching my youngest sons football team play.  He plays for the College of the Redwoods and is a real good Quarterback.  The team though has much to be improved.  They are up and down and all over the place searching for consistency.   The only thing that is consistent about the team is their willingness to give up.  They seem to play for themselves and give up on their team mates.  Because it is a Junior College, the players are looking at moving to higher Division Schools to continue playing football and advance their education.  They are playing selfish to gain better stats without an understanding that if the team does well, they will get their stats.  Giving up on plays and letting team mates down when the going gets tough.
So why do I care?  I do not think it is acceptable to ever give up.  As a young soldier it was always expected that we never give up.  Giving up left people’s life in the balance.  When people give up they don’t just give up on themselves, but there is always an effect to other people.  When parents give up, the kids suffer.  When employees give up, the work group suffers, when members of a Patrol give up, the whole Patrol is effected in a negative way.  They end up moving in the wrong direction in the stages of team development or stay in a storming mode too long.
Giving up is a choice.  It is a condition that while there are certainly circumstances that lend themselves to someone wanting to give up, there is never a reason to follow through.
Jerry, you are too insensitive..  no, I am a tired of seeing the effects of people who just give up.  People get hurt when you give up.  It’s not fair when people give up.  As we talk about leadership with our Scouts we always start with the concept of being a servant leader or leading selflessly.  If you can’t do that, you can’t lead.  We also remind them that if they can not lead themselves they can not lead others.  Having said that, giving up is in my opinion on of the most selfish things one can do.
So why do people give up?  I don’t know.  I don’t like it and I don’t allow it in my Troop.  Scouts in my Troop are not allowed to say “I can’t”.  If you believe that you can’t.. you are right.  But that is not an option in life and the more we allow young men to give up, it becomes easier and easier to do.  Scouts can do amazing things, but they need to have the self-confidence to push themselves.  We need to give them permission to do so.  When we accept the Scout saying “I can’t”.. we tell them it’s ok to pass or give up.  Simply put.. it’s not ok.
So, no I don’t have the answer, but you can rest assured that I am fighting it by using my influence as a Scoutmaster to teach, coach, and mentor our Scouts to never, ever give up.  I do not give up, so I expect them to take that attitude and grow into great men.
Can you imagine in our founding fathers gave up?  Imagine if they decided it was not in their best interest or it was too hard.  What if they did not test the resolve of their fellow countrymen to join the fight.  We need not go to those extremes, but the principle is the same.  Never give up on yourself or those around you.
Just something to think about.. I know I do.
A note on this post.  It has taken me two weeks to put this together.  It is a subject that has really been weighing on my heart and mind.  I have talked to the Scouts of my Troop about this.. an ongoing discussion we have held over the past couple years.  I finally wrapped it up tonight because once again, I talked with the homeless kid today.  Still giving up.  I don’t judge and make him out to be a bad guy.  I see potential that is wasted.  I see a young man who never was taught that giving up has long-term and far-reaching effects.  He is living it.  It saddens me.
Teach our Scouts the right way to become men.
The picture I used in this post is of me and a young man in my Troop.  At the time, he was in his first year as a Boy Scout.  What you don’t see in the picture are the big tears and the knocking knees this youngster had.  What you also don’t see is him at the bottom of the rappel with a huge smile on his face knowing that he conquered fear and accomplished his goal of earning the climbing merit badge.  You don’t see me 5 minutes after the picture was taken going over the edge with him and coaching him to stay with it and never give up.  I am proud of that Scout and many others like him that make a choice not to quit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Values | 2 Comments

13 year old Eagle.

From the Facebook page of Steve Harvey

I thought I would let it simmer for a bit before I weighed in.. and now I just can’t keep my blog silent on this.
So, at a risk of pissing a bunch of folks off.. here it goes.
By now, if you are an active Scouter, you are aware of the young man named James Hightower III.  He was presented his Eagle award on the Steve Harvey show.
This ambitious Scout earned his Eagle award at age 12.  (he is now 13) He earned 61 merit badges, the last of which, the ever so tough Fingerprinting on the Steve Harvey show.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and appears to rank among the young genius’ of our time.  Band, Leadership in his Church, etc etc.
OK.. you all know that I am one that believes in maintain standards.  First, there is no age limit other than 18 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, I get that.. but let’s do the math.
He crosses over at a minimum of 10 1/2 years old.  Earned his Eagle rank at 12.  From First Class to Star the Scout must be active with his Troop for at least 4 months.  During that 4 months, he needs to serve as a leader for that time period.  Then from Star to Life, the Scout needs to serve as an active member of his Troop for 6 months.  During that time, he needs to serve in a leadership position and do service.   We are up to at least 10 months… not to mention the 30 days it takes to earn Tenderfoot and at least a few months to get to First Class.  Since joining, he would have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight.  In most Troops that would represent at least 3 months.  So the simple math is 14 months.  He is now 11 1/2 or 12 depending on when his birthday is.
Then he must serve for another 6 months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle.  We are now 20 months into this young mans Scouting life.
20 months.
Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really.. we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
Yes I know that this wunderkind is active in many areas of his life.  Which begs the question.  When did his have all this time to lead, earn merit badges, rank, perform service projects etc?  Band, Church, Junior National Honor Society, active in the Order of the Arrow, Top Teens Program… 20 months as a Scout.  Just think about the Scouts in your Troop.
OK.. 20 months… Most Troops camp 11 times a year and go to Summer camp in that 11 months.  He needs 20 nights camping for the Eagle Required  Camping Merit badge.  That’s 6 camp outs plus a 6 night summer camp.  So that’s the first year.  12 of the 20 months got the basic nights out-of-the-way.  I assume as a leader he attends most if not all camp outs.. after all, that is where leadership and the Patrol method are really practiced.
10 1/2 to 12 years old is one and a half years.  That’s 18 months.  Now we don’t know when his birthday is, but the numbers do not add up.  From a math point of view and a practical point of view.  What has this young man got out of the Eagle experience.
The article says he plans on staying in Scouting.  That’s awesome.  Maybe now he will become the Eagle that he is.
I am sorry if I seem to be bashing this young man.  I am not.  I am really bashing his Adult leadership for not ensuring that the process is producing Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.. not just Eagle Scouts.
I applaud this young man for his achievement… I don’t know how he did it… 61 merit badges alone takes time.. when did he find all that time in 18 months.  I am sure he has friends, school, and eats and sleeps on occasion.
When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?  I wish I could applaud and not question.  But I have been a Scoutmaster for a long time and just can not see how this works.
For me, it takes away from every person that has earned the award and has come through Scouting with Knowledge, experience, and the ability to lead as a servant.
Again, I am sorry if I question this young mans achievement.  I just can’t see how this math works, which makes me believe that those standards are being manipulated some how.  And that my friends, I can not tolerate.  I never hold back a Scout, but I do make sure that he does it right.  I make sure that he is completing the requirements without short cuts.  I do not add to or take away any requirements and produce no false road blocks.  As a Scoutmaster, I just make sure that the experience is more important than the badge.

Have a Great Scouting Day! 


Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Scout, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: | 17 Comments

Scout Strong

scoutstrongThis Scouting year sure seems to be getting off to a fantastic start.  The Annual Plan is exciting and looks to be super fun and this year between the committee and the Patrol Leaders Council, there is a great plan in place to enhance the program en total..
We put in place a good plan to promote Order of the Arrow Activities in an effort to grow the participation of our Arrowmen  Yes there is a bit of incentive as we can earn an award for that too.  The Order of the Arrow Unit of Excellence Award.  We have been moving to getting our Arrowmen more active through participation in the chapter and lodge events.  We are well on our way, but with this concerted effort and plan, I am curious to see how it turns out.
One of the other plans that we have put in place is to promote Physical Fitness throughout the Troop.  This includes the adults.  We make a promise every Monday night to “Keep ourselves Physically Strong”.  We plan to keep that promise.  Establishing a good habit of physical fitness now will help our Scouts and Adults be more fit in the future.
Last night at our Troop meeting, the Scouts of the Troop made a commitment to be Scout Strong.  Each Scout was given an activities log.  As a troop we are going to track our progress for the first 6 weeks and then set new goals for the next 6.  We are using the PALA (Presidents Active Lifestyle Award challenge) as our base for picking activities and will be incorporating activities into weekly meetings.
It is going to be a super fun year and adding these kind of kinds of programs to our annual plan is just what we need to round out the Scouts experience.
To Keep our promise to keep ourselves Physically Strong.  Sounds like a great plan to me.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: fitness, Just fun, Leadership | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

treesScouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest.  This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by.  When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided.  This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination.  The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout.  There is a fork in the trail called First Class.  Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear.  There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found.  A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees.  Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting.  Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree.  He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity.  He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases.  A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest.  There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service.  The trails always need maintenance.  There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way.  He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest.  This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out.  They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure.  But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees.  The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting.  Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program.  The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail.  Along that trail we learn our laws and rules.  We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character.  The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong.  The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear.  The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest.  He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest.  The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees.  They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail.  I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail.  They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees.  The trees will appear as you follow the trail.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

8 months… Where are you?

scoutlawbelieveitIt’s August, 8 months into the year 2014, 8 months into “The POLICY” Change that sent Scouters into a tail spin running for the hills and screaming that our values suddenly changed.  8 months since the “End of Scouting” as we know it.  Really?  Where are you?  What has changed?
I have yet to see an openly gay Scout.  I have yet to have to deal with sleeping arrangements and one boy hitting on another one.  Just has not happened and I hate to be that guy.. but I told you so.
I lost a good Assistant Scoutmaster over this non issue.  And 8 months later nothing has changed except for ink on a policy letter.
So where are you?  Where are all these gay boys that were screaming to get into Scouting?  Where?
Ok… drama aside…
Last night at our District committee meeting we were discussing the real issues, in particular membership and saving Cub Scout Packs.  The idea that people have turned away from Scouting because of this policy change came up.  The fact of the matter is that nothing changed, EXCEPT… now we are open to serve ALL young men.
So, this should open doors to new membership, right?  Wrong.  Boys that are attracted to Scouting will join Scouting.  So what do we need to do to attract them?  That is what we need to do to get them in our great organization.
Ideas floated around and you know it all comes down to what Scouting is.  A great values based outdoor organization that promises adventure and fun.  It appeals to parents and boys and always has.  The biggest issue is that we do a terrible job of selling that.  We get to wrapped up on political correctness and worrying what the public perception is.  If we just stick to the basics of what Scouting is.. they will come.  But we need to tell that story.
National is not spending the dollars during prime time to tell our story.  Local Councils do not have the budget to do it either, so it’s up to us to get out there and tell the story of Scouting.
Start by know what Scouting is.  Tell the story as often as you can.  Don’t be afraid of what people think, change their minds by what they see.
A policy to allow ALL young men the opportunity to join Scouting should not have sent anyone into a tail spin, it should have opened the door to talk about what Scouting offers in the year 2014 and beyond.  Instead an over reaction and a terrible  lack of action on the part of Scouters to get out in front and say.. NO.. We invite everyone, but the need to follow our rules.. it’s that simple.
8 months into this year of change and where are they.  Those that value Scouting and Scouting’s values are here, the rest left or have not joined.
So now what.  We have a crisis in membership at the Cub Scout level.  WE NEED TO GET MORE CUB SCOUTS!
Is this policy an issue?  NO.  So lets move on and sell Scouting.
Tell our story.
From the Boy Scouts of America website;  The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
Is there something there that people have a problem with?  If so, move on and tell the story to someone else.
A Scout is Friendly, Courteous and Kind.

Get out there and tell our story!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Scouting, Service | Tags: | 16 Comments

Why? Because I Believe.

DSCN1483This summer our Troop went on a great adventure.  We backpacked in the Olympic National Park.  We.. the whole Troop.  We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles.  As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance.  The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol.  11 year Scouts, what will they be doing?  Backpacking was the answer.  11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told.  I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training.  Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip.  We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists.  We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies.  Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
DSCN1402The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles.  The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough.  I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail.  This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark.  That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program.  The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course.  The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail.  Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews.  We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews.  I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence.   I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip.  7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park.  The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure.  On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together.  There were nothing but smiles all around.  I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol.  They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”!  The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest.  It was an epic adventure.  The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike.  They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7.  They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers.  That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
DSCN1375I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters.  They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure.  I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures.  Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc.  I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them.  Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right!  They can do it.  More so though.. they WANT to do it.  We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol.  They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them.  It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure.  It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure.  It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart.  Sitting on their butt is not an option for them.  They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year.  20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts.  23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards.  An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Note:  I hiked with the middle group.  These guys impressed me to no end.  The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great.  I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, planning, Scouting | Tags: , | 6 Comments

One Life

Spirit of AmericaThe other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
I enjoy the position that the Scoutmaster is placed in as the advocate, physically the Scoutmaster sits behind and out of the view of the Scout and mentally, it is a great place to learn from the Scout to know that you are truly delivering the promise of Scouting.
The first question the board asked this young man was if he had ever looked at the back of his Scout Handbook.  On the back cover are the Aims of Scouting.  The Scout replied that he had not looked at the back.  The board asked him to pick up his book and read it.  Then asked if he was aware that these were the aims or goals of Scouting.  He said that he did know that.  How did you know that they wanted to know.  My Scoutmaster does not stop talking about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness the Scout said in a matter of fact.  They chuckled a bit and then asked what he thought about those three words and how much they meant to Scouting.  His answer knocked me out of my chair.  He looked at the board and said “Those three words mean more to me than this award.  They mean that I am a good man and that I will always be a good man.”
From that point on I knew that this board was going to be interesting.  And it was.  He had an opinion when they asked for one, he talked about the great times that he had in Scouting and he shared what he had learned about being a leader.
As I sat behind him I felt deep pride in this young man and listened as he confirmed that we really are providing a program that the boys get.
To close the board, they asked about the Scout Oath and Law.  He shared his feelings, understanding, and practice of living the Oath and Law daily.  Not without challenge and difficulty but the bottom line was that he is that person every day.
This got me to thinking about comments I have heard from Scouts and Scouts all over.  It reminded me of an on going discussion that we have about being a Scout and living Scout like all of the time, the fact that we only have One Life.
We are what our Facebook Status says we are.  We are what our Twitter account looks like.  We are where we hang out and the people that we associate with.  We are what we say and what we do.  That defines our Character.
You are not just a Christian on Sunday, you not just a Scout on Monday nights, you are not just a Dad when the kids are around, you are not just a Scoutmaster when you wear the hat.
There is no separation.  There can’t be, that goes against the principle of Character.  Choose to accept that or not but your Character will be your guide and that is when you will have to face the reality of who and what you are.
I stress character all the time in our Troop, in fact I care more about character than anything else in Scouting.  I don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle if he has not got the point about character, citizenship, and being mentally and physically fit.  If he did not get it, he just got another patch and the award will be meaningless.
We hold the Eagle award up on that lofty space for that reason, we all do it.  Every one respects and admire those that have earned this award and rightly so…if they got it.  If they make that choice to have one life and that is the life of Character.
I was asked by a Scout why I will not friend him on Facebook.  I make it a practice not to friend Scouts or any minor that is not family on Facebook.  It is not because of what I might put on the internet… it’s that I don’t want to be placed in a position to know what they are putting on the internet.  I would rather have them make good choices and discuss it during conferences.  Facebook is not where I want to build my discussion bullets for the next time I see the Scout.
You have but one life.  You do not get to split out your internet life and your real life.  You have the ability to maintain good character.  Once you decide to part ways with it, it can not come back.  Once the bell is rung, you can not un-ring it.
Think before you act, pause before you hit enter, read before you press send.  Character matters.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts | Tags: | 2 Comments

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 3

bepreparedThe motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”.  Prepared for what?  Well, any old thing said our founder.  Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must.  When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong.  Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals:  Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc.  Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc.  Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right.  Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip.  Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them.  Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong?  Plan for it.  Injuries?  How do we react if someone twists an ankle?  Big cuts?  Sickness?    What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react.  I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency.  You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules.  Rule number 1 is always to Have fun.  Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun.  Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law.  That is it.  Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail.  That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail.  Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury.  Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations.  We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun.  Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it.  If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries.  Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost.  This is a big one.  More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking.  Learn to read a map and use a compass.  Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail.  Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away.  Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up.  Stop and check the map every once in a while.  Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather.  We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it.  Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared.  Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area.  Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Have a plan for water.  Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it.  You need water.  Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek.  Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun.  Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail.  What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek.  Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking.  In short.  Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, fitness, gear, Leadership, Motto, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, training | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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