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

Guilt by association

judged“You can judge a man by the company he keeps”-Euripides

Guilty as charged.  The company we keep, tan shirts, dedicated to being good Citizens, men of Character, and Fit.
I have heard this saying all my life.  You are judged, as unpopular an opinion as that is these days, by the company that we keep.  If you hang out with knuckle heads, you are viewed as a knuckle head.  If you hang out with good people, you are judged as one of the good guys.  This holds true in every case.  I can not think of one example where people who hang out with bad people are viewed as one of the good ones.. or the better of the bad.  Huh.. yeah.. I heard that one last week.  “He’s a good guy, just hangs out with the wrong crowd.. he’s the better of the bad guys”.. but you know, he’s still among the bad guys.  And yes, lets call it like it is.  If they are bad, they are bad.
Too many times these day’s we try to give the benefit of the doubt or try to find that silver lining.  Sometimes it’s just not there.  More times than not there are opportunities for behavior change and it is neglected.  I don’t buy the idea that circumstances create a lack of opportunity.  It’s there, it just needs to be taken.  I have known many people who came from bad circumstances only to find opportunity, take it, and make something good of their lives.
Here is the deal.  We have Scouting.  Scouting is available everywhere.  Now, it certain circles it may not seem “cool” explore the alternative.  Join our Scouting gang, or join a thug gang.  In both circumstances you will find support, belonging, and a set of values.  The difference is one leads to good, the other doesn’t.  It comes down to choices.
Parents have a lot to do with this.  As a young man growing they assist in creating the environment that will lead their son to hanging with the right crowd.  Generations of “good guys” typically lead to more good guys.  On the other hand the lack of want to.. the fact that the path of least resistance creates the easy road down a path which lacks character puts young men in the bad category.
I don’t mind calling like it is.  The people who I associate with are good.  I need not worry about their character.  I don’t have to worry about the values that they live.  I don’t have to worry about the impression that I leave with the friends I keep.
I see our young men.. they look for that easy road.  That road will never lead the right way.  As a Scoutmaster, it is my job to help the parents in creating that environment which leads to good character and values.  Being a role model in that endeavor is part of the program.
Too often we forget as Scouters that we have an obligation to create those conditions for the Scout.  We get wrapped up in making Eagle Scouts that we forget what we are really there for.  Citizens of Character.
Now Eagle Scouts that hang out with Eagle Scouts is a good group to be associated with.. You will certainly be judged by that standard.
I tell ever Scout of our Troop that attains the rank of Eagle that up till now they had completed and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, from that day forward they must prove that they are worthy of being one.
That is the company that they keep.  It is the company we keep.  We are judged in that company.  I am happy with that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute, Values | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Map and Compass

mapcompassHere is the Scoutmaster Minute that I gave to our Troop the other night… Hope you find it useful.
As you travel on the trail to First Class Scout you find that there are many skills that you develop.  You learn them and eventually master them well enough to use them in your daily lives, while on camp outs and even teach them to other people.
Learning to use the Map and Compass is one such skill that takes practice and hands on use.  Once you master the use of the Map and Compass you will always know the direction you heading and will be able to find your way.
The Map shows you the terrain.  It lets you know where you are and where you are going.  It’s colors represent what is on the ground around you and the obstacles that you will face.  As you read the map, you see the hills and valleys that you will be trekking on.  It shows you where you can find water and other resources.  The map can tell you where the trail is easy or hard or give you options for a detour.  Using you map, you always know where you are and a clear path to where you want to go.
The Compass is the other tool that when used with your map gives you clear direction.  Knowing how to use the compass properly will allow you to set your course in the right direction.  It orients your map and gives you an accurate picture of what is ahead.  Without the compass, the map is just a picture of the section of earth you are traveling on.  Add the compass and you have accurate and steady direction.  The compass is always true.  It can set you on the path that will get you to your destination.
These two tools are important in your life.  Yes, we have GPS now and that is very helpful, but the GPS will never replace a good map and compass.
We have another map and compass that get us headed in the right direction and keep us on track to our destination.  The Scout Oath and Law.
The Oath is our map.  It gives us a clear picture of the person that we should be.  It has features much like the map.  Duty, Honor, and being Selfless are some of the marks we see in Oath.  If we use it, we will know the landscape of our lives and will be able to stay the course.
The Scout Law is our compass.  It is the steady set of values, unchanging, that when used with the Scout Oath will be our guide on the trail of life.
The Law points you in the direction of our values that make you the person that you are.  Like the compass it has a steadfast needle that ensures your heading is true.
Using the Oath and Law together, like the map and compass these tools will set your course to being a man of Character, a good Citizen, and promote in yourself and other fitness in your mind, body, and heart.
As we have traveled that trail to First Class, weather is is recent or in the past, or if you are just starting that journey, remember that the skills you develop today are there for you to use for the rest of your life.  Focus on these skills they will make a difference not only on a camp out but every day that you wake up and look in the mirror starting your Great Scouting Day!
Set your azimuth to achieve your goals and keep checking your map to stay on course.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Scout Law, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Troop Leadership Corps

tlcpatchFrom 1972 to 1989 the Boy Scouts of America had a program called the Troop Leadership Corps.  This program was designed for Scouts 14-16 to serve their Troop in leadership roles.  They were not a member of a Patrol within the Troop, but held direct leadership within the Troop.  They served as guides for new Scout Patrols, they served in traditional leadership roles and they were charged with being skills instructors and role models to the Troop.
In 1989, this program was replaced with the Venture Patrol within traditional Troops.  At this point the older Scouts now became a patrol and Troop positions of leadership were created to fill the void.  The Instructor and Troop Guide Positions were created and added to the leadership roll of offices.
Since 1989 many Troops however have held on the Troop Leadership Corps (TLC) as a foundation of leadership in the Troop.  It is also a great way to maintain older Scouts keeping them active in the Troop and engaged with the younger Scouts.
Our Troop is now among them.  We are rebuilding the Troop Leadership Corp, with our own spin on it.  during the heyday of the TLC the Scouts that made up the Corps left their patrols and entered the group of leaders to form a patrol.  In our situation the Scouts will remain a part of their Patrol.  The TLC will be made up of those Scouts that demonstrate leadership and leadership potential.  They will be Scouts that buy into our leadership philosophy and are willing to step up and lead.
This is an incentive program.  The Scouts that choose to belong to the Troop Leadership Corps will have high adventure opportunities and time set aside for them to be teenagers.  We have a group of Scouts that are taking the lead on this.  They are motivated and willing to lead.  They all believe in our core values and leadership philosophy and want to see the Troop become more successful.
We are doing this to keep the older Scouts engaged and maintain them longer as members of the Troop.
Here are the 5 leadership principles (philosophy) that we maintain in the Troop.  It is these 5 principles that the Troop Leadership Corp will center their leadership on.  It is these 5 principles that they will use to teach and coach the troop to success.
1.  Never Stop Learning, Be a life Long learner.
2.  Focus on the Little things.  Focusing on the little things make the big things happen.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.
4.  Communicate Effectively.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.
When we do these 5 things the Troop works like a well oiled machine.  Leadership is not a chore, and everyone finds success.
So we are bringing back the Troop Leadership Corps.  We will report back on how it is going.
Does your Troop use the Troop Leadership Corp model?  How is that going for you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Membership Discussion

WSJpic1Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive.  There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question.  I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected.  Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21.  The units are formed from a group.  This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group.  Personally, I like this idea.  I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US.  Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States.  While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood.  I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later.  With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work?  Will we lose our values and program?  I don’t think so.  I think we can move forward with the program we have.  We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in.  Look at the Venturing program as it is?  It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership.  It is a simple equation.  Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses.  You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program.  If you build it they will come.  Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings.  They join for cool programs and camp outs.  Parents bring their sons to our program.  Not to our meetings.  They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership.  So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse.  The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money.  Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members.  That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective?  Building programs or recruiting?  I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure.  It is not always that simple I understand.  At the unit level programs need to be the priority.  Build it and they will come.  Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan.  Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer.  We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it.  They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer.  There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends.  I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think?  Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking.  It is from the Scouts in Germany.  I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day.  I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos.  See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A Sky Full of Scouts from Andreas Herten on Vimeo.

Categories: blog, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Values, Webelos to Scout Transition | Tags: , , , | 4 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


a group of people sharing a common profession or interests.
“members of the hunting fraternity”
synonyms: profession, body of workers; a male students’ society in a university or college.
synonyms: society, club, association; a religious or Masonic society or guild.
the state or feeling of friendship and mutual support within a group.
“the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity”
synonyms: brotherhood, fellowship, kinship, friendship, (mutual) support, solidarity, community, union, togetherness; sisterhood
“a spirit of fraternity”

When we hear the word fraternity we often think of college, parties, and the movie Animal house.  And there is certainly something to that.  But today I want to talk about fraternity in a few other ways.  I was never a member of a college fraternity, but I have been to a frat house or two.  But we will leave those stories for another day.  In the broader sense of the word fraternity as I show in the definition, a Fraternity is a group of people who share something in common.  But to truly define that group there is a bond, something that brought them together for a common purpose or goal.  Whether that was to get through college, fight in a war, or be of service to others that bond defines the group and they have an ever lasting kinship because of it.
If you are reading this blog, you more than likely have a bond with me and your fellow readers in Scouting.  The Boy Scouts of America created an Alumni Association just for the purpose of rekindling that spirit of fraternity with those people who have for over 100 years been associated with Scouting in America.  Through this effort many people have reconnected with Scouting and as a result the fraternity of Scouting grows stronger.
Within Scouting there are fraternal groups.  Wood Badge and the Order of the Arrow just to name a few.  There is a connection of greater purpose within these groups that take Scouting to a higher level.   Within the common bond of Wood Badgers and Arrowmen is greater sense of duty to others, promoting the Scouting movement, and of course fellowship with the membership.  It strengthens our ties to Scouting and increases our willingness to make Scouting a lasting part of our lives.
You may also be reading this blog and thinking of other fraternal groups that you belong to that are outside of Scouting.  The Elks, Masons, Eagles, and Moose Lodges are all Fraternal groups that share a bond of service and fellowship.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the America Legion are Fraternal organization made up of men and women that share the bond of serving in the Military, some during times of war and others that served waiting to be called.  Their bond is thick with the experiences, hardships, and of course friendships made during their service.
Why is this all important?
First, we need fraternal groups because they promote that common bond.  With that common bond we tend to want to be a part and share in it for no other reason the fellowship and knowledge that we are a part of something that is like us.  In Scouting, in college, in the Service, we shared a bond that is unique to us and we are a part of it.  Being a part of something that is greater than us gives us that sense of duty to it.
Second, these fraternal groups are the vanguard of the bond we share.  The membership of that organization leads the way in promoting its ideals, activity, and development of its membership.  Thus the group continues to grow and last.  For example, Scouting.  Those that came before me and you have set the course for Scouting for us.  The Alumni association and men and women that believe in Scouting continue to make the organization what it is through their dedication continued service to it.  Scouting’s membership is the life of the organization, but without the support of the folks behind the scenes, making contributions of time and talent and a lot of treasure, Scouting would soon begin to fade.  The organization is bigger than merit badges and camping.  It’s fraternal bond is in its ideals, values, and memories of the members.
I belong to a few fraternal organizations.  Scouting of course and within Scouting I love my affiliations within the Wood Badge community and the Order of the Arrow.  They make me a better Scouter and keep me directed in my desire to serve.  In Wood Badge that service comes by teaching fellow adults and promoting the great program of Scouting.  The Order of the Arrow fulfills that in me that wants to serve others, demonstrate to fellow Scouts and Scouters the idea of Leading to Serve.
I am also a Life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  This is important to me as I have a bond with those members, especially those that served in my era.  This group is all about fraternity in the sense that we belong more to one another than to be of service to others.  It is a group of shared experience.
I am a Life member of the National Infantry Association.  This group is also one of shared experience, it is the professional association for Infantrymen and Infantry supporters. The NIA, supports the Infantry’s role in the security of our nation; helps Infantrymen build closer affiliations with one another; and helps preserve the Infantry heritage. Our membership promotes the only organization dedicated to supporting the Chief of Infantry and the entire Infantry community. Our membership strength ensures that the Infantry voice will be heard by decision makers.  We share the camaraderie of like-minded soldiers and citizens who believe in maintaining the Infantry spirit and recognize those Infantrymen that have made a contribution to our Infantry community.
Now to most of you this is meaningless and I get that, but it is something that is important to me.  I share this with you because you belong to something like this.  Whether it is with the Optimist Club or the Rotary club, your fraternal organization means something to you.
I am also a member of an unofficial fraternal group made up of soldiers from the last Battalion I served in.  We gather periodically (not enough) to share stories, talk about our lives, and share our camaraderie.
We had a gathering yesterday, which prompted me to write this post.  Why, because it all matters.  In Scouting or a Military fraternity, it is all the same based on our bond of fellowship and shared experience.
Yesterday the Wildcats gathered to celebrate our bond 10 years after we returned from Iraq.  The gathering was not limited to those of us that deployed, but in keeping with the fraternal group, any one that had ever served in the 1st Battalion 162nd Infantry.  I was pleased to see old friends, soldiers I had served with and led.  It was special to meet with an old Battalion Commander.  I never served with him, he commanded the Battalion when I was small child, but our bond was being a Wildcat, no matter the era.
I had the honor of serving the Battalion as the Command Sergeant Major before and during our deployment to Iraq.  I had been in the Battalion for years prior to that promotion serving in different companies and at many levels.  So my bond to the 1/162 Infantry is strong.  I love that Battalion.
Our Battalion has a long and rich history and tradition.  Established in 1898 as the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry and thrust in action in the Spanish-American war the Battalion was later reconfigured in 1917 as the Army transformed during the First World War.  It was re-designated the 162nd Infantry Regiment with 3 Battalions.  1st and 2nd Battalion in Oregon and the 3rd Battalion in Montana.  The 162nd Infantry along with the 161st, 163rd, and 186th Infantry made up the Infantry Regiments of the 41st Infantry Division.  In the Second World War, the 41st with all of its Regiments served in the Pacific Theater.  It fought from 1942 till the end of the war in 1945 in the Pacific.
The Battalion stayed ready for the Korean war but never was called to deploy as was the case in the Vietnam war.  It was not until the call came for the Battalion to support Operation Iraqi Freedom that the Battalion once again saw action in 2003.  It served from 2003 to 2004 in OIF.
In 2006 the Army once again reorganized and the Battalion Colors were folded and the Regiment disbanded the 1st Battalion.
But through these gatherings we maintain our bond and the spirit of the Wildcat Battalion.  It’s rich history is something that we helped write and is something that we hold close in our hearts.  Through our fraternal spirit we keep it alive.
Yesterday at the Wildcat reunion the National Infantry Association along with members of the Battalion recognized me and one of the finest soldiers I ever served with the Order of St. Maurice.  It is an honor that I will cherish because the group that I was with and the soldier that I had the pleasure of standing with during the ceremony.  Our local chapter of the National Infantry Association, specifically MSG Morgan Olsen presented the award.  He is a dear friend and a soldier that I had the opportunity to help develop along his career path.  More though, he is a dear friend and I am glad that he was the one to not only present the award, but put together the entire event.
He demonstrated everything that is great about this group of men that I have had the privilege to serve with and for.
Our bond, the bond of this fraternity is stronger than life.  It is important to me.
You all have some group that you share this type of bond with, if nothing else, you share a bond within Scouting.  It need not be in combat or strife, the bonds we share in service and fun are just as strong.  What you do with that bond is what is important. How you share that bond and become a stronger part of that group is what is important.  It is important to you.
Do not let time pass without reaching out and reconnecting, establishing a stronger bond of fellowship, service, and camaraderie.  As I get to know the “old guys” in our VFW post, I have come to understand that for many of them this bond has been recently awakened, they have regret that they had not kept those ties closer in their younger days.  I don’t want that regret, and I am sure that you don’t either.
Fraternity.  It is an important part of our lives.  Strengthen it.
I shared a lot about my military fraternal life today… so I will close this post with the words of a song that I hold very close in my heart.  The words of the official song if the Order of the Arrow.  It sums up many of my feeling about Fraternity and why I belong.
Firm bound in brotherhood, gather the clan
That cheerful service brings to fellow man.
Circle our council fire, weld tightly every link
That binds us in brotherhood, Wimachtendienk.

Yours in Scouting, WWW
Have a Great Scouting Day!
In the picture:  Left is Sergeant Major (Ret) Kevin Stanger and I receiving the Order of St. Maurice.

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Order of the Arrow, Service, stories, Values, Wood Badge | 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

Your Legacy – Mentoring

eaglementorWhen teaching leadership to both our youth and adults, we spend a fair amount of time discussing what it is that leaders do.  Being a Teacher, Coach, Trainer, and Mentor is found within the job description of any leader.  We find ourselves as leaders focusing on being a good teacher of skills, coaching as those skills are applied, and training our leaders to be effective.  But what of being a mentor?
Not every leader is a mentor.  We tend to throw that around a bit too much in Scouting.  We have “Eagle Mentors”  We have “Unit mentors”, we even consider “Troop Guides” in the context of Wood Badge as a mentor.  But are they really mentors in the sense of having a lasting impact on the life of someone else.
Webster defines the word Mentor as; a trusted guide or counselor.  Other words are Tutor or Coach.
I think that a lot of leaders consider themselves as mentors, but as I look back on those that I consider my mentors I can’t help but go back to the definition.  Trusted guide.  And again,I ask myself what impact if any did this person have on my life.
Looking back, I honestly consider only a few people as a mentor.
In my life I break it down to a few areas.  Work, Spiritual life, Scouting, and becoming a man.
At UPS I do not consider any one person a mentor.  The work environment tends not to value leadership, rather there is a need to manage everything at UPS as material.  In the Army however, I have had a few mentors.  Men that really made a big impact on my leadership style and ability to lead.
In the Army there is a program that places fellow soldiers, leaders, in a position to develop their subordinates.  The Non Commissioned Officer Development Program (NCODP) is designed to make junior leaders better.  I had a First Sergeant named Ted Godwin that showed me how to use the tool box of leadership to care for soldiers.  He instilled in me the concept of Mission First, Men always.  This may seem like a little thing, but at the end of the day, that is what makes for effective leaders.  In the Army, with the division of leadership roles between the Officer Corps and the Non Commissioned Officer Corps it is the NCO that ensures the men are ready for the mission.  If the men are not ready, there is little chance for the mission to be accomplished.
The basic understanding of being a caring leader, one that truly understands those that he leads became one of the hallmarks of my leadership and a lesson that I passed on to those that I lead when I was placed in a position to mentor younger soldiers.
It was his trusted leadership style that inspired me to be a leader.  When he spoke, we listened.  When he instructed, we learned.
Another mentor of mine in the Army was Command Sergeant Major Cliff Neil.  He was a technical leader and understood why people act the way they do.  He was not a tactical superstar, but when it came to behavior, he was provided hours of lessons on how to be an effective counselor and dig deeper into the reasons why a soldier acted the way he did.  He showed me that everything is not always black or white… grey sneaks in to leadership and it is the effective leader that understands that will change behavior.  Changing behavior is the goal of discipline in the sense of punishment.  It is not a sign of weak leadership to know why.    CSM Neil was tough, but fair and made me an outstanding First Sergeant.  His impact on me was manifest when I became a Sergeant Major and was placed in a position to teaching my First Sergeants.  I adopted the grey area when the First Sergeants saw only black and white.  Typically we could change behavior without destroying a soldier’s career and livelihood.
Again, a leader that I trusted was leading me in the direction of becoming an effective leader.
In my Spiritual Life, I developed a friendship and allowed Fr. Rick Sarianni to be a trusted adviser.  I valued our talks and his understanding of me and my walk in faith.  I have known many Pastors, but Fr. Rick was a special friend that lead me to a clearer understanding of just what I believe and why I believe it.
In Scouting I have many friends that have helped me along the way and some that really made an impact on the Scoutmaster that I have become.  I won’t go into the specifics as there are many, but it I feel it important that I name at least two of the men that have made a big impact on me as a Scouter.  Tim Steenbergen gave me sage advise when I was a new Scoutmaster.  Program, Program, Program was his mantra and I have taken that to the bank.  John Caputo is the other.  John is the ultimate Scouter.  I had the absolute privilege to serve on his Wood Badge staff.  I met John the first time as a learner at Wood Badge in 2005.  He left an impression on me and we became friends.  I always looked to him as a role model in Scouting.  His wisdom and knowledge of the program and how to deliver the promise.  Over the past 10 years, John has always been there with advise and instruction.  Watching him as I have staffed on two Wood Badge Courses has been a pleasure and I have learned and taken many lessons from him along the way.
Again, two trusted counselors that left a large impact on me as a Scout leader.  Along the way as a Wood badge staffer I have been blessed to learn from dedicated leaders and folks that have an equal love for Scouting.
Being a Man.
There are four people who made me the man who I am today.  The first is my Dad.  He showed me the value of family and how to treat people.  I can go on and on about the lessons learned from him.
The other three are my two sons and my daughter.  Little did they know, but they guided me to being the Dad and man that I am.  They forced me to lead them and be consistent in how I raised them.  Without their pushing my life could have been different.  The obligation of being a Father was something that I could not take lightly.  The proof is in the pudding as they say.  I am a good man for them and they turned out to be fantastic young adults.
When a young man becomes an Eagle Scout we challenge him to prove that he earned it every day.  My wife has done that for me daily as we challenge on another to be good parents and people who can show our kids the way to being good adults.
So being a mentor is not something that just comes with leadership, it is something that has to be taken on as an obligation with the understanding that you will be impacting the life of someone else.  As I said, not all leaders are mentors.  I can think of many leaders that have come and gone throughout my life that I will never consider a mentor.  They were neither a trusted counselor nor would I consider them wise in the lessons learned.  By definition these leaders just lead.  In so far as their impact on me, I can not measure it.
Being a mentor is leaving your legacy.  That in and of itself seems to be lofty, but in the end, it is what mentor-ship is all about.  Passing on what I have to the next the generation.  Giving the gift of knowledge, of life skills and lessons, of whatever wisdom I have acquired to the next generation.
The other night after our latest Eagle Court of Honor I removed the Mentor Pin from my shirt that had just been placed there by our newest Eagle Scout.  This pin means the world to me, as do the other mentor pins I have received over the years.  I took a mental inventory of those pins and the Scouts that felt as though I had made an impact on their lives.  A pin from one of the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop back in 2010.  He gave me the pin stating that had it not been for me being his Scoutmaster at Jamboree he would have quit Scouting all together and would have never finished his Eagle Award.  Another Scout from my Troop presented me a mentor pin along with a picture of the two of us on a camp out.  He shared that the life lessons he learned from me are shaping him into the man who he wants to be.  Yet another pin reminded me of the young man that I have known all of his Scouting life.  He had always been a work in progress, but in the end blossomed into a fine young man.  He credited my straight talk and insistence on taking care of the little things to insure success.  He is well on his way to being a good man and I look forward to seeing him continue to grow.
It is that obligation to making an impact that I take serious.  Not every Scout, or person for that matter seeks guidance.   Sometimes it comes without a plea, it is a young man who hovers in the background taking it all in, that one day shakes your hand and thanks you for what you have done.
Understand this, Your actions, Your wisdom, Your behavior, and Your willingness to make a real difference in the life of someone else is what matters when in comes to being a mentor.
Trust, Competence, Being a Friend, these are qualities of being a mentor.  It is not the patch that you wear or the position that you hold.  It is your willingness to serve.
Leaving your legacy must be important to you, not for ego or pride, but for the future of those you mentor.
What is your impact, what is your legacy?  Are you a mentor?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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