This last weekend I got to hang out with some great Scouters at our Lodge’s Rendezvous. A few years back a few of the guys became interested in my hammock set up, which I use every camp out. Slowly the interest became more hammock campers. This year there were about 5 or 6 hammock set ups that I knew of and it seems that the interest is growing more and more each year.
We got to talking about our hammock set ups and as we discussed this fantastic way of camping there were a few people who had lots of questions. We all had our tips, tricks, and way we do it, but most of it was common.
Some one asked why? Why hammock camp, after all, what’s wrong with tents? So it got me to thinking about why I hammock camp.
Here are the top 5 reason’s I am a hammock camper.
1. Comfort. In a hammock I wake up rested and no sore body parts. When you are laying in the hammock you have no pressure points. Hips, Shoulders, and Back are all suspended in nylon. Without the pressure points I find I don’t toss and turn and wake up well rested.
Using the under quilt and top quilt is warm and comfortable and easy to get in and out of. Nylon and Down wrap around me and I feel snug as a bug when I am sleeping.
2. Easy set up and take down. I like how easy it is to set up my system. The tarp goes up quick and my hammock is just a matter of two straps and buckles. I can set up in a driving rain and keep everything dry. The same goes for take down. I can stand up under the tarp and pack my gear, take down the hammock and keep everything clean and dry. Because all of the components of my system are in stuff sacks, everything is easy to unpack and pack.
3. Leave No Trace. I am a big fan of leave no trace methods and work to practice them no matter when and where I camp. Hammocks can be set up places where tents cannot comfortably go, as long as there are trees. Because I am hanging above the ground I am not leaving the impact that a tent does on the ground, nor am I restricted to tent platforms or designated tent sites. Since I am not on the ground, I do not need to clear the area of rocks twigs and other debris that show I was there. Tree straps are tree friendly. They do not damage the trees and the weight is distributed so as not to hurt the trees. If there is a concern about softer bark, I use the Philmont method of wrapping rope for bear bags in the I insert twigs around the straps to reduce the impact if there would be some.
Because most, not all, but most hammock campers practice light weight backpacking practices, I am reducing my foot print in gear and how I camp and think about LNT all the time.
4. The Gear. The nature of hammock gear is light and small. Everything from the hammock to the tarp fits in small sacks and does not take up a lot of space in my pack. The quilts are light and compress real small. I never will be an Ultra light backpacker. It’s just not something that I am willing to dedicate too much thought and energy to doing, but I am dedicated to being a light weight backpacker and the hammock set up really allows for that. Along with the hammock, tarp, and quilts, hammock campers typically look at lighter solutions to camping. Stoves, cook kits, and the other items that fill the pack are looked at carefully for its functionality, purpose, and size and weight. Becoming a hammock camper got me into tinkering with gear and finding the “perfect solution” for my backpack. This has been super fun for me.
5. Hang anywhere. I have found that I can hang pretty much anywhere. I have hung my hammock inside of shelters, off of rocks, and of course between tress. There never seems to be a place that I can not hang my hammock (except at Philmont). I do not have to be uncomfortable camping in the hammock. I noticed that as I started getting older that I started having a harder time sleeping on the ground. Even on a cot at the National Jamboree I tossed and turned. The weather, the temperatures, and the terrain are no longer obstacles in camping. I can hang anywhere in my hammock set up.
Well there are 5 reason’s that I love hammock camping. I am sure that I could list a few more, but it really comes down to comfort and fun. I always encourage our Scouts to try new things and when they find that they like it, it adds to the adventure of Scouting.
I can say this… once you go to the hammock, it is hard to go back to the ground. But Hike your Own Hike and do what you like. I am a hammock guy and love it.
Have any questions feel free to ask, leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This last weekend I got to hang out with some great Scouters at our Lodge’s Rendezvous. A few years back a few of the guys became interested in my hammock set up, which I use every camp out. Slowly the interest became more hammock campers. This year there were about 5 or 6 hammock set ups that I knew of and it seems that the interest is growing more and more each year.
This weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me. I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous. Our Lodge hosts three major events each year. The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference. We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually. So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to. I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events. I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning. Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz. They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart. We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service. And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home. It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”. Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow. I expect them to live that code that we promise. In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives. It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation. I get that. But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right? This is my issue. When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA. Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons. First I was asked to do some service. We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer. Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier. Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates. I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies. So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend. Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them. It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two. The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor. Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them. They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization. I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled . This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow. That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout. To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day. One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow. It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order. There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership. The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…” Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes. I have an unusual devotion to Scouting. Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story. The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
As most of the country is still experiencing Winter conditions and here in the Northwest, the Winter Camping season is really in full bloom, as late as it is, there are still Troops and Crews that are venturing into the woods for some good winter camping. I thought I would revisit our teaching or winter skills, just as a reminder that even though it’s March, we need to stay focused on how we camp in the winter. Most of these skills transfer well all year round anyway. I will take a page out of the Safe swim defense and Safety Afloat program. Supervision and Discipline are a Must.
So here are a few rules that we maintain whenever we are talking about High adventure and Cold weather camping.
Remember anytime you engage in a high risk activity… you increase your preparation, supervision, and discipline.
The first rule is take it serious. Cold Weather camping can be one of the most enjoyable activities with challenges and memories that your scouts will cherish. But at the same time Cold weather camping can be Extremely dangerous when not taken seriously.
I use a three strike rule when dealing with the issue. Three strikes and you are not going on the event. Period.
A scout that does not want to pay attention or is goofing off too much will not get the information that is being presented. This can lead to dangerous consequences in the field.
Before we do any Winter camping adventure we have a couple mandatory meetings.
During these meetings we teach Cold Weather first aid.
Understanding and knowing the symptoms of cold weather conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia. Knowing what to look for on your buddy for those signs and then how to treat them.
We teach techniques for setting camp, preparing meals, setting up gear to best meet the conditions of Cold weather camping. Simple stuff like zipper pulls and tent anchors. Issues like meal preparation and how to better prepare meals at home for ease in the camp site.
These meetings we feel are important to set the tone for the High adventure activity.
We do the same thing for Rock climbing activities. Mandatory meetings get the scout into the mind-set that this is so important that they are “Making” me be there … or I do not go.
Enforcement of the mandatory meeting is just as important. If you make it a must for one that they get all the information, then make it a must to all.
If need be…have a make up meeting for scouts that absolutely can not make a mandatory meeting… give them opportunities to participate, but ensure they get the skills, training, and information that are needed for a successful outing.
The next rule that is non negotiable is using the buddy system. Now I know that the buddy system is part of Scouting anyway, but in cold weather environments it is a must.
Buddies need to be established early in the process of planning, training, and preparing for the camp out.
Getting these buddies to learn the first Aid skills together, planning of meals together, and in camp routines will lead to skilled buddy teams that understand the importance of one another in the process.
When they train in first aid, it no longer is a routine activity, they understand, that if I do not check you and you don’t check me.. we can get hurt. If I am not aware of what creamy colored skin means…then you may be getting frost bite on your nose or fingers.
Enforcing buddy teams is a must and hard fast rule. In camp use the Patrol leaders to monitor buddy teams and ensure that they are maintaining discipline as a team.
One issue that may or may not come up, it has with in my unit, is when you are tent camping in the snow and most of the Scouts have single person tents maintaining the buddy concept.
The fix here is that they, unlike when camping during the summer, cluster the tents. Have buddy teams set up their single person tents right next to one another. This way they can still communicate throughout the night. One technique that our boys have used is setting up their tents for the doors face each other, and they put them real close. Almost to the point where they can share vestibules. I have seen them actually tie their vestibules together creating a tarp like set up. It makes a little cooking area and allows them to sit and talk while in their sleeping bags. Now this is all dependant on what their tents are like, but the point here is that sometimes they need to think out side of the box to overcome obstacles. But they need to be aware that the buddy system is extremely important in the cold. And because it is important, they need to do things that allow them to watch each other, and communicate with each other.
So rule number 2 is the buddy system, do not over look this, it is way to important.
Rule number 3 is TIME AND PLACE.
There is a time and place for everything. There is a time and place to screw around and have fun, there is a time and place to be serious. The sooner your Scouts know this.. the better. Enough said.
I try not to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, after all we have the Scout Oath and law and that is pretty much all we need, but when it comes to high risk activities, it is important to establish importance in the seriousness of Cold Weather camping.
So now we have established it is important… so when teaching these Scouts about cold weather camping what are some things that need to be taught.
I guess if I had to narrow my list down to the top things to teach Scouts about Cold weather camping the list would include.
First. Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them and treat them.
Third. In camp routines
Fourth. Planning a preparation.
And fifth. Getting around in the snow, including moving and orienteering.
So lets quickly talk a little about these 5 items.
First Aid. Or better yet understanding the risks of Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them. The idea is that you do not want to get into treatment. You won’t have to if they prevent the injury to start with.
Hypothermia, frost bite, Frost nip or chill blains, immersion foot, sun burn and snow blindness are the biggies.
Show pictures of frost bite, that is enough to get the attention of your scouts. The Scouts need to be able to tell you what they are looking for on their buddy.
Do they recognize the disorientation, nausea, and the fact that their buddy is no longer shivering means that he is probably slipping quickly into Hypothermia.
One of the biggest issues regarding the treatment of some cold weather injuries is getting the Scouts over the idea that they may be put in what they feel is an uncomfortable position. Getting into a sleeping bag with another Scout is not normal, but it may be that which saves his buddies life. Again, it’s all about prevention. How do you prevent getting into that position?
Well that leads me to the next topic…gear.
Clothing and equipment are important in the cold. First know that when talking about clothing… Cotton kills.
Do not allow your Scouts to wear lots of cotton. Underwear bottoms are ok, but any clothing on the body that can get moist due to perspiration needs not to be cotton. I’m talking primarily about T-shirts and socks.
Poly propylene underwear, long johns and sock liners are fantastic items to put against the body. It reduces the chances of sweat staying on the skin and eventually leads to freezing.
Teach them about layering. Talk about Base layers, Mid layers that insulate, and a shell layer that protects. Handing out flyers that discuss the layering system are a great idea so that mom and dad understand what you expect.
When teaching about gear, talk about the difference between gear they use the rest of the year, also show them how they can use their gear all year round, with modifications.
Using a three season tent as a four season tent for example. Simply by adding guy lines and anchors. Tents do add warmth to the scout, they protect against the elements. Snow and wind are the two elements you are concerned about. Guy lines and tie downs will keep your tent steady in the wind. Digging into the snow and setting your tent up sheltered by a snow wall will combat against the wind. The tighter the guy lines, the better also for keeping snow from collecting and damaging your poles. Reinforcing your poles by wrapping them with duct tape is a way to strengthen them. The tape can be removed in the spring. Making sure the Scouts know to constantly keep the tent clear of snow during the day and clearing it off before they turn in for the night will reduce the strain the tent poles feel.
Your Scouts need to understand that cold air settles in low ground. Digging a trench outside of their tent by the door will move cold air away from their sleeping platform, just like in a snow cave. It also allows for a place to sit up right when dressing.
Boots, lets talk about boots.
First, make sure that your scouts have good boots suitable for wear in the snow and cold.
Then make sure they keep them dry. Boots when worn should be protected by wearing gaiters. This protects the laces and upper portion of the boot. They also keep snow from entering the boot, keeping them dry.
When boots are not being worn, they need to be INSIDE the tent, use an old stuff sack or even garbage bag to put the boots in. Put them under or in your sleeping bag to keep them warm. Boil up some water and fill a water bottle before you get in your tent. Put the water bottle in your boots. It will keep them warm and you will have water in the morning that is not frozen. In the morning if your scouts can boil up some water and fill that bottle up and put it in the boots for about 15 minutes.. they will step into nice cozy boots that will ready them for the day.
Backpacks should be packed with stuff sacks, ditty bags, and need to be kept organized and accessible.
Adding zipper pulls or tabs to zippers will make it easier to get in and out of pockets, this goes for their jackets too.
Gloves and or mittens. Check the gloves your Scouts bring. They need to be water-resistant and warm. Do not allow just any glove. They need to provide insulation and protection. I had a Scout show up once with gardening gloves. Not acceptable in the cold weather environment. As a leader, take extra gloves with you. I have found that gloves come up missing or get wet, I carry a stuff sack with a few extra pair of gloves to throw on chilly hands when needed.
Outer wear. Protective shells that keep the Scout dry and out of the wind.
You will know what right looks like, they do not need to run out and buy North face $300 jackets, although it would go a longer way in protecting them, to stay warm and dry.
Have a shake down of gear the week before the camp out. This will allow you and your Patrol leaders the opportunity to look at all the gear and a week for the Scout to make corrections.
In camp routines. These need to be discussed prior to the camp out, but practiced in camp.
Things like setting up camp quickly, getting shelter up, gathering fire wood, cooking and cleaning up, settling down for the night, staying dry, and fun things to do while in camp.
Establishing good in camp routines, just like in the summer is an important part of winter camping. Gear gets lost in the snow, part of good in camp routines is storing gear and staying organized.
Planning and preparing for the winter camp out is probably the most important thing to getting the most out of your winter camping experience. This includes training, planning, and readying your gear for the trip.
You need to know where you are going, how long you are going to be there, how you are getting there and how you are getting into the area you are camping in. And then what you are going to do once you get there.
Preparation is so key to a successful Cold Weather camp out. The Scouts need to be prepared and properly instructed. Like I tell the boys, we are not planning to treat cold weather injuries, we are preparing to prevent them.
Taking that approach with you cold weather camping preparation will lead to success.
You as the adult leader, or even for those Junior leaders that listen, need to become experts in the skills needed to camp in the cold.
Preparing the Scouts of your troop starts with some clear goals for the experience.
In your first year of camping in the cold weather, you may want to limit your overnight stays to a single night and progressively move to longer stays.
You may want to start by taking day hikes and excursions into the cold. Set up camp and work on skills such as shelters, building fires, and staying dry. Then retire to the comfort of a lodge for the night.
In your planning you need to figure out what your objectives are. Going into the woods and setting up camp, eating and hitting the rack is not enough to keep scouts interested in camping in the cold. What are you going to do once you get into camp? Navigation is a great skill to practice in the snow. Folks get disoriented easily in a snow filled forest.
How about winter relay’s, snow shoe hikes, igloo building or snow caving, Cross country skiing, or just plain winter skills. There are many things that you can do that lead up to the cold weather camp out. Make gear like snow shoes, then test them out when you get to camp. There is a great Scouting resource available at your Scout Shop. The book Okpik: Cold Weather Camping #34040 shows you how to make gear, as well as activities and know how on camping in the winter.
Use other resources too, one of my favorite books on Camping in the cold is Winter Hiking and Camping, by Michael Lanza a book put out by Backpacker Magazine.
In planning and preparing, get you hands on as much material as possible and become familiar, almost to the point that you are an expert. You need to be, those boys depend on you.
Finally, getting around in the snow. I alluded to snow shoeing and cross-country skiing earlier. These are super fun activities that the Scouts really have a great time with. If you are going to snow shoe or ski, it is a good idea to get out there prior to the camp out and get a feel for it. If time is an issue, when you get to your drop off point, leave the packs in the car and take a little hike to get used to the snow shoes or skis, it is better to establish balance and some skill before you throw your pack on.
If you get a lot of snow, I would recommend show shoeing for your first time winter campers. It is a skill that is easy to pick up and provides the most stable mode of on foot movement in the snow. Trying to walk in deep snow with a pack on can be frustrating as the scouts post hole their way into camp. Taking along snow shoes provides not only ease of movement, but a fun activity to do once you get camp set up.
Most winter sports outlets rent snow shoes and we have gotten real good Weekend rates when you mention you are taking a group of Boy Scouts out for a snow shoeing adventure.
Let me leave you with this.
The best tool you have in the winter camping environment is your brain. It will know when things are good and when things get bad. Listen to it. Adult leaders need to be upbeat and positive throughout the winter camping process. A positive attitude is infectious and the boys of the unit must keep a great attitude when camping in the cold.
Seeing an adult with a negative attitude, complaining about the cold, or showing frustration at gear, not being able to accomplish tasks, and generally not having a good time will surely infect the rest of the Troop. Keep a level head, have a great time, acquire the necessary skills, and have a positive attitude and your winter camping adventure will be a fantastic memorable experience. Oh and take lots of pictures.
Get out there and camp in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Once a Scout has completed all of the requirements and has achieved the rank of First Class, he can be expected to know all of those skills that make a good Scout. Camping, First Aid, Citizenship, and living the Scout Oath and Law. And so as the Scout continues his growth to becoming and Eagle Scout, the ranks of Star, Life, and ultimately Eagle require of the Scout to develop leadership and service and in doing so complete the continuum of become an Eagle Scout.
Summed up as being a Servant Leader.
Aside from earning those few merit badges that assist in the growth of the Scout, the young man should focus on that which is required but mainly on being a servant leader. A merit badge sash filled from top to bottom means less than being a good leader. A leader that is willing to serve.
Last night after our Troop meeting, I sat with a young man for a Scoutmaster conference for the rank of Star. Consequently, this young man also became a Troop Guide for the new Scout patrol last night and began his skills instruction by assisting in their meal planning for the up coming camping trip.
During our discussion, which focused on future plans and leadership I shared with him the proven principle of Servant Leadership and the fact that if a Leader is not willing to first be the servant, the leader will never be able to lead effectively.
What is the purpose of leadership? To get somewhere with a group. To realize a vision. To complete a task or mission, achieve a goal. And to build up those that follow you making them leaders.
There are many ways and examples that we could debate, discuss, and define when it comes to leadership, and certainly every leader has his own style or method of leading. But the constant is service. All good and effective leaders understand that they are serving. So it all starts with learning to serve.
This young man who became a Troop Guide is going to learn how to serve and I would argue that as of last night, he embarked on a learning journey that will make him a great leader. His role in our Troop right now is more significant in its service than perhaps any other and as we discussed will have a greater impact long-term. And so it goes with every servant leadership opportunity. He has all of the skills and the right attitude, now it is time to build that in others and serve them on the way to meeting their goals.
The Senior Patrol leader is in the same boat in that he is serving the Troop. He understands the vision of the Troop and maintains his focus on meeting the goals of the Troop while building up the rest of the Scouts, the Patrol leaders in particular.
In talking with our newest Eagle Scout on Sunday, I asked him if he could define his Scouting experience. Was it the 34 merit badges he earned? The interpreter strip? The nights of camping, climbing, and canoeing? No he said, it was becoming a leader and knowing how to lead by knowing that everyone has value. He became a servant leader.
One Scout, our newest Eagle taking his leadership development into the real world, and another Scout, our newest Troop Guide stepping into the great unknown with a willingness to learn and a spirit of being a servant first.
I think that when we boil all of this down to its parts, the thing that always bubbles to the top are good leaders. And right behind them are those that follow, that will one day be leaders also.
We want our leaders to model expected behaviors. They never stop hearing that. We adult leaders model servant leadership every day. That is the way we will grow and develop great young leaders.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
When we teach leadership to our Scouts the best way to demonstrate that leadership is to be an example of expected behavior. We show them how to lead by being good examples. And we expect the youth leadership to follow suit. They in turn are expected to be good examples for those that they are leading.
This requires Action. Not just knowing how to lead, but applying that leadership.
A good foundation for leaders in Scouting is to be action oriented. Seek opportunities to be a teacher, coach, and mentor.
In our recent discussions on “Laziness”, we outlined some of the effects of the lazy Scout. In short, focusing on the obstacles rather than the objective. As a leader this is where your action comes in. First and foremost, leaders can not be lazy. The leader needs to recognize when a follower is need of instruction or motivation.
We teach our leaders that all leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to those that they lead. When we talk about leading a lazy Scout we need to double down on the root cause of his laziness in a specific area. We need to find out why he either can not perform the task or why he is unwilling to complete the task. This is where purpose and direction become the start of your action steps.
Motivating the Scout to complete the task, not by verbally beating him up or making him look bad, rather, by leading him to the objective. Sometimes I think the obstacles just look to overwhelming that the objective can no longer be seen. It is an effective leader that will lead the follower around, through, over, or under the objective by teaching, coaching, and mentoring. Refocusing the follower towards the objective and developing in the follower those skills to negotiate that obstacle in the future.
This is leadership 101 and will make leaders of every level successful. Success breads success and grow the leader to be a great leader in no time.
Action is required in leadership.
First the leader must be willing to learn and continue learning.
Second, the leader must be and model expected behavior.
And third, the leader must be willing to teach, coach, and mentor those he leads.
Remembering that the leader is a servant to those that he leads and as such, must put the followers needs above his own. This is a daunting concept for some young men. But when they understand that their success is based on the success of others and that by developing as an effective leader, they will find success and leadership will become a habit that they will never give up.
I had a discussion with a young leader in my Troop, he said that I make it look and sound so simple. I told him that it is. Again, in leadership you focus on the objective, not the obstacle and as long as you are willing to take action the rest falls into place.
A willingness to take action where action is required.. that is leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday I was listening to some talk radio and over the course of the day the recurring theme of child raising came up. I heard a fantastic quote on one of the programs that I thought needed to be shared here.
“We are not raising our children to be good children, we are raising them to be good adults.”
Yes, we are. I think that much too often we focus on keeping our kids children and not looking to the future and what kind of adults they are going to be.
There is a balance there. A balance between keeping our kids in a safety bubble and letting them run wild. Finding the middle ground and ensuring we teach them the right skills to negotiate life is where we will develop them to be those good adults that we wish them to be.
It is for this reason that we focus on Citizenship, Character, and Fitness in Scouting and not cranking out Eagle Scouts. While there are certain rewards for earning the rank of Eagle Scout is far more important that we see in our Scouts that development of Character. An Eagle Scout without Character does himself and Scouting a disservice.
I am not sure when things went wrong and I certainly do not want to sound like those folks did when we were growing up, you know… walking to School in the snow up hill.. both ways… Life was not rough when I grew up, and life is no rougher now. The difference was in our parents then I think. We stayed out till the street lights came on, we played outside all the time, bumps and bruises were part of life. Now we did have a lot less distractions then. We did not have 700 channels on TV, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and once you mastered Pong on the Atari it was time to get back outside.
Our parents may have worried about us, but knew that we would be home when it was time to come home, or when we got hungry.. which ever came first.
I think our parents understood balance. They understood that we needed to have quiet time and we needed to have loud time. We did not sit in time out… we got spanked and it was over. We learned lessons and moved on.
Fighting and making up was a part of being friends. No drama, just growing up.
Our bikes were made of parts and I don’t think you could find two of the same color. We made tree forts and fell out of them more times than I can count. But my mom did not put me in a bubble and make every bad thing in the world disappear.
Balance. We can place our sons in a bubble and protect them, or we can let them learn about the world by living in it. I prefer living, knowing boundaries, and getting out there in life’s great adventure. That is how we raised our kids and they all turned out to be good adults.
We are not raising children to be children, we have enough adults in the world that act that way. This is why we have adults in the world that still wait for a hand out. That is why we have adults that are immature and live for the drama of a teenager. Just look at Facebook at what adults do on it.
We need to raise our young men to be men.
Finding a good balance and watching them develop.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday we “Celebrated” Presidents Day… Not sure what that means, but lets go with it. To me Presidents day is the day that we recognize two great leaders. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I think in their own right, those two Presidents did more to earn a day than any other in our history. Just for starting a Nation and keeping one alone did they demonstrate great leadership.
There are essentially three kinds of leaders, those that Pull those they lead, those that Push those being led, and those leaders that come along side and walk with the follower.
It is a matter of effective leadership. When a leader pulls the follower he will eventually get resistance. Being pulled along is like trying to get a donkey to move when it does not want to go. The struggle of getting those followers to move in the direction you desire will be difficult when people are pulled along.
Being pushed has the same result. No one likes to be pushed. We get the feeling of being forced to do something. This will get push back to the leader and as a result he can not be effective.
We need to remember the aim of leadership… to lead.. to influence others to accomplish something. Whatever that is. Be it building a Nation or planning an outing, we lead to accomplish something and do it in a manner that is effective.
When we are the leader that comes along side and walks with the follower, the follower is now in a position that he does not feel threatened. He feels that the leader is with him in the endeavor and not bossing him around. The leader has a better perspective of what we called in the Army “Ground True”. Meaning, what really is happening in a specific area. The leader is with those he leads and not sitting high on a throne dictating what needs to be accomplished. He walks shoulder to shoulder providing purpose, direction, and motivation to those being led.
That leadership style is effective. Look at the great leaders in history and you will find that they came along side and were effective leaders.
So, as we “celebrated” Presidents day and as we think about those two great leaders in our history. Think about leadership and how we are better more effective leaders. Look at your Patrol Leaders Council and see what kind of leaders you have in your troop and see if they are coming along side and leading.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I do not talk much about the Order of the Arrow on this blog, and maybe I should. I have not received a lot of requests for OA topics, but over the past few months I have been giving the Order of the Arrow a bit more thought.
As many of you know (that follow me on social media) I have been elected to Vigil Honor.
The Vigil Honor is the highest honor that the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members for service to lodge, council, and Scouting. Membership cannot be won by a person’s conscious endeavors. (From the OA website) It is a great honor to have been chosen to be a Vigil member.
Since I have been giving more thought about the Order of the Arrow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on OA membership and what the Order of the Arrow really means [to me].
First some background on the Order of the Arrow. And rather than rediscover the wheel, I am going to use information found at the Order of the Arrow website.
The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp. Goodman and Edson were looking for ways to recognize campers that demonstrated a cheerful spirit and service. In those days there were many camp honor societies throughout the Nations Scout camps. Some of those were the Gimogash, Ku-Ni-Eh, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and Mic O Say. Over time many of those camper honor societies merged and became local Lodges within the Order of the Arrow. Mic O Say is still active and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Order of the Arrow became a part of the National Program of the Boy Scouts of America in 1934. By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. Since then the Order of the Arrow has expanded to over 300 Lodges, most Lodges representing a Council, although some Lodges make up multiple Council areas.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults. The Order of the Arrow is completely youth led. A member of the OA is consider a youth until his 21st birthday.
The OA is more than just an honor society. It has a specific purpose and looks to gain members that loyal live up to those goals. It is for that reason that members should be chosen from within their units that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. If the Scout is willing to not only live the Oath and Law daily, but dedicate himself to service than he is a good candidate for the Order of the Arrow. Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, you will find that many if not all camp staff at your local Scout camp are members of the OA. They promote camping and Scout spirit daily making our Scout camps fantastic. Arrowmen serve promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others. OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America’s youth. One of the great ways that the OA promotes long-term retention in Scouting is through ceremonies starting with Arrow of Light and Cross Over ceremonies.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Just like the Aims of the Boy Scouts of America, membership in the Order of the Arrow solidify in a Scout of Scouter the drive to be of service and grow in Character, Citizenship and fitness. The Order of the Arrow is summed up in three words, often seen as WWW. Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. In other words, the OA is the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.
The OA is Local and it is National. What I mean by that is simply this. Just like your Troop is local and the programs offered at the Troop level are planned and executed locally, you and your Troop are part of the National Council or organization. This is strength in program and resources. The OA has many great local Lodge and Chapter programs, but the programs offered through the National Organization demonstrate the strength of the Order.
The support of the Order of the Arrow for the National Journey to Excellence program is one such program. JTE for the OA replaced the National Quality Lodge program and gave the OA a better tool of measuring the Quality program it offered at the National and Lodge level.
The National OA Endowment was formed more than 30 years ago as means for the Order to fund scholarships and special programs. The national Order of the Arrow committee oversees the annual program budget which is funded using the earnings from the national OA endowment.
And there are more programs at the Lodge level that benefit the local Council, Arrowmen, and Scouts in general.
The Order of the Arrow has its own recognition programs also. You can read all about the OA’s awards at their site.
OK… so that’s the Order of the Arrow from the book But where the Sash meets the Scout what does the Order of the Arrow mean and represent.
I won’t go into the ceremony of the Order of Arrow other than to say from the beginning the Order of the Arrow, through its ceremony and tradition call on the Scout/Scouter to Find the Arrow.
The Arrow is that symbol that we use in Arrow of Light ceremonies to signify a journey. An adventure that is straight and true. A trail that leads the individual to find the right path in life. One of dedicated service to others and the living of the Scout Oath and Law. So in finding the arrow, we strive daily to seek that which is an honorable way of living.
The Order of the Arrow uses the legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware to start the members of the OA on that journey. It is a journey marked by service to others.
Personal Thoughts on the Order of the Arrow.
As stated above, the OA has high-minded goals and bases its foundation on service. This is why I initially started to like the Order of the Arrow. Well, lets back up for a minute… This is why I started to like it as a Scoutmaster. I was first introduced to the OA as a youth at Camp Freedom in Germany. The initial impact of Indians coming across a lake at night in canoes holding torches to light the way. A Great Chief that called his Brothers to seek those that were worthy to join the tribe.. those things as a Scout fascinated me. It was mysterious and cool. It was special. When I went through my ordeal we were given an arrow carved from a piece of wood. We had to wear that arrow around our neck and if we violated any of the rules of the ordeal a chunk was cut from the arrow. This tested us as young men to be disciplined and live that part of the oath that called us to be obedient. For what ever reason, that is no longer a virtue that parents feel important these days and the cutting of corner or chunk of wood is recognized not to reinforce expected behavior but that of offending or hurting the feelings of the person in violation of the agreed rules. But the couple of days that we worked hard serving our camp, quietly laboring cheerfully left a mark on us.
I had the pleasure of becoming a Brotherhood member of the Order with my oldest son. Again, we renewed our commitment to service. John later became a Chapter officer and served the lodge as an Ordeal master as well as a member of the Pre Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood ceremonies teams. Josh, my youngest son also sealed his membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member and served as an Elangomate during an Ordeal. Having my sons as members made being a member of the Order special in a different way. Watching them grow with an attitude of service was a great thing.
John, our oldest son continues his journey, even though out of Scouting now as a Vigil member. Those values or Cheerful Service carries with him in his daily life. Josh, our youngest, although out of Scouting now also does not stray from his commitment to live the Scout Oath and Law and be of service also. Both look back at their Scouting life with fond memories of time spent with the Order of the Arrow.
Me, in my role as Scoutmaster value the added emphasis that the OA places on living the Oath and Law and being one that goes above and beyond that of an “average” Scout. That may be that thing that is to set Arrowmen apart. We are all called to serve and live the values of the Oath and Law… but as Arrowmen we commit to taking it a step further and making that a life long commitment. Being a Brother in Scouting and to our fellow-man. To serve cheerfully.
In a perfect world that meaning and those commitments would resonate within every Arrowmen. Often times it is lost in a sash and flap and just another Scouting thing. As is with those Scouts that say the Oath each week at their meetings, but fail to live the standard of it, there are Arrowmen that fall short. But the Arrow is within them. The need only to find it.
That happens when the mature and look into themselves and see where their lives are headed. It happens when they see examples of Scouts and Scouters that truly live those values. The example of leaders that proudly wear the symbols of membership and share the meaning and journey of seeking the arrow.
Elections are held annually for membership in the Order of the Arrow. The Scoutmaster sets the ballot of eligible Scouts. Scouts that have met the requirements of membership and more importantly are those Scouts that have demonstrated leadership in serving their fellow Scout. I think also that we need to look at the Scouts potential to lead and serve. I have seen Scouts that met the requirements but fell short in the service area that really took to the OA. Becoming members of ceremonies teams and working for their troop and Council at camps and within the service opportunities offered through the Lodge. The OA can enhance a Troops program because of the higher calling of the Arrowmen.
Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but it does work. You can see it in the faces of a Scout called to serve. Reluctantly at first he finds success and meaning in his leadership and service.
The Order of the Arrow is good for Troops. I know of many Scoutmasters that feel that the OA takes away from Troop programs. When used correctly, the OA can be a game changer in a unit. It is not meant to be secret or exclusive. It is meant to enhance service and leadership. It is designed to give incentive to Scouts looking for more. In my opinion it is a great way to focus a Scout in the direction of finding the Arrow.
Where is the Arrow? It is up to you. We know that the foundation is a life that is right and true, but the Arrow is within each of us to seek and find. Once found, a life of cheerful service becomes the norm and our society is better for it. It makes the good Scout a Great Scout. In turn making Scouting better.
This organization, founded to honor those that served camps has grown into an organization that is looked to as the Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America. That higher calling to serve, what more could Scouting ask for?
If you are a Scoutmaster not sure that support of the OA is the right way to go, rethink that. Get it into your unit and watch the difference come alive.
For those of you that are in support of the Order of the Arrow.. Thank you.. keep it up.
I look forward to going through my Vigil Induction. I don’t know what is ahead, but knowing the journey that I was set on at Camp Freedom those many years ago, I know that it will get me a step closer to finding the Arrow in me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**A note about the picture on top of this post.. From left to right in the picture are members of my Troop doing a Cross over ceremony. First on the left is James, now an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member, Second is my Youngest son Josh. A Brotherhood member and finished Scouting as a youth as a Life Scout. Third is my oldest son John. He is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member. Forth is Parker, he is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member. Finally is Lucas, he is wrapping up his Eagle Award right now and is a Brotherhood member of the OA.
“Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth.” Baden-Powell of Gilwell.
I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership once again. I find that the little book written by Baden-Powell in 1920 still holds water today. As BP makes clear in Aids to Scoutmastership, the book is not an instruction manual, rather it is a book outlining Why we do what we do in Scouting. And once we know why we are doing something it is easier to see the vision and achieve the goals or aims. I would encourage you to get a hard copy of this. Mine is full of notes and highlights.. a must for every Scoutmaster.
Seeing the vision and understanding the goals are an important part of the Scoutmasters job. I think that too many Scoutmasters get caught in the “game” that they lose focus on the goal. Now, “the game” may be different in each unit and dependent on the leader. Some pay particular attention to advancement, while others focus on the outings. In most cases there is a good balance, but there still is a missing piece. That piece is the Aims and the Why we are playing this game with a purpose.
It is nice to watch as a Scout becomes and Eagle Scout. As a Scoutmaster, I love to sit and talk with a young man who has earned the Eagle Award. Like the leader that misses the true goal of Scouting though a young man may only think that he has achieved the highest rank. He may thing that he is a the end of the journey because he is now an Eagle Scout. But that is not the case, he is far from done, he is just beginning.
In becoming an Eagle Scout he is starting to realize the vision and starting to grow in his manhood life long habits of good decision-making, life skills, leadership, and of course being a good citizen.
The other night I sat with a Scout in my troop for his Scoutmaster Conference. He has completed all of the requirements to earn his Eagle Award. Yes, he has completed all of the requirements, but he has actually become an Eagle Scout. In our discussion we talked more about the future and why he is going to be successful. He looked back at all of the challenges that got him to this point and I was happy to hear that instead of making them a negative thing, he looked back on them as learning points along his Scouting trail.
We talked about leadership. It has taken this Scout a little longer to develop into a leader, but he is there now and we talked about the different ways in which he developed those skills. It was important for me to remind him that in becoming an Eagle Scout he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead. The American public may not know much about Scouting other than helping old ladies across the street, but they all know that being an Eagle Scout is special. They look to Eagle Scouts to lead.
Where am I going with this?
We often lose the forest for the trees as they say. We make sure to teach camping skills and encourage Scouts to earn all the merit badges they can… but what of the Aims? What about the purpose of Scouting? I think that is what BP was reminding those leaders back in 1920 and he continues to remind us today… Stay focused on why we play this game with a purpose. It is not about Eagle Scouts. It is about Citizens of Character that are fit. The BSA reminds us in the mission statement that we are to teach young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes. This is why we go camping, do service projects, earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts.
I love digging in that old book. It gets me refocused on what is important.
Have a Great Scouting Day!