Month: April 2013

Running to action

Wood Badge thoughtsBare with me while I try to collect my thoughts and try to share them in a coherent way…
We just wrapped up the first session of Wood Badge course W1-492-13 and as is the case in or of  the Wood Badge experience, there are plenty of opportunities to do some reflection and looking inward at the person that you are.
Learning leadership is just part of the Wood Badge experience and can’t really be placed into action until the leader has made internal commitments to be a better person.  Thank goodness we in Scouting have this wonderful set of values that we find in the Scout Law.  Assessment tools that are learned and practiced in our quest to find knowledge and self-realization of our strengths and weakness’.
What I am saying is that once again, I have had an opportunity to reflect and take that critical look inside.  Couple that with the rest of the fun of Wood Badge and we are on that emotional roller coaster that comes with the experience.
What I am always amazed about is the people.  The 53 Scouters that paid, took time off, drove out to the coast, and make the choice to attend Wood Badge are dedicated Scouters in their respective programs.  They are enthusiastic about learning how to be better Scouters, husbands and wives, Fathers, Mothers, and employees or employers.  The Wood Badge program makes all of those aspects of our lives better.
The amazing part is the dedication that they demonstrate.  They are great people.
Last night when I got home the news was filled with the Boston Marathon bombing.  Thank God that the damage was relatively small.  I am not going to rant and rave about the scum bags that would do something like this.  You all know how I feel.  Here is what I saw when watching the never-ending coverage.  The reactions of the people.  You see as the first bomb exploded we saw three groups of people.  The first group was those that were injured.  The second group was those that ran away from the danger.  And the third group were the people who ran to the explosion.  What makes people do this?
I saw this over and over again in my Southwest Asian vacation in Iraq.  When the shots starts soldiers face the fire and move toward the danger.  Yesterday, we saw runners, members of the National Guard, First responders, all heading to the danger.  They selflessly give, forgoing their own safety and comfort.  They put other people ahead of themselves.  They are living the values that we promise in the Oath and Law.
I am proud of these people and thank them.
Now this is going to sound like a stretch… but it is how I feel, so please bare with me here.
I have served on two Wood Badge course’s now as a staff member.  The number one thing that I have learned on those two staff’s is that there are terrific people who care so much about Scouting and Scouts that they give and give and yes.. run to the sound of the drum.  They are like the first responder that runs to danger.  They are dedicated and motivated to help.  They take the Oath and Law and apply it in their daily lives and it makes a difference.
Our Course Director is a Scouter that I have looked up to for many years.  He has a love for Scouting that shows in everything he does.  His passion is contagious.  On Thursday night at our staff dinner, he shared something with us just hours before the participants arrived.  He shared with us that it had been a long time since he served as a Scoutmaster in a unit.  For many years now he has been serving at the District and Council level primarily in a training capacity.  We all agree that where the runner meets the road is at the unit level where Scouters and Scouts interact and we teach, train, coach and mentor our youth to achieve the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.  John, our Course Director shared this with us.  While he has not served at the unit level in a long time do the math on the impact that we make as Staffers at Wood badge.  53 participants, mostly from Packs, Troops, and Crews will be learning from us. By myself I can only impact say 40 boys that are in my unit.  Over 10 years or so, I may have a direct impact on a couple hundred Scouts.  Imagine though the impact of a Wood Badge staffer.  53 participants will go back to their units and apply what we teach them.  Lets go low and say that each of those 53 have 25 Scouts in their unit.  That is about average.  Over the next 10 years this one Wood Badge class will impact thousands of Scouts.  That is far more reaching than I can do myself.  Over the next few years, these Scouters will run toward the target… they will run toward the Scouts that need help, coaching, and mentoring.  They will put hours upon hours into making Scouting and Scouts better.  They will dedicate time, money, energy, and love to our program.  This makes me proud to a part of it.
John inspired me to give my best when it was my turn to present course material, lead a song, and participate in a skit.  He made me want to give so that others would follow my lead.  John runs to the help needed as a trainer.  Most of all, he made Scouting better by leading us.
A lot is going on in our world.  We need Scouting and we need Scout leaders that run to the boys!
Thank you all that do what you do to make our world just that much better.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Light my Fire- Fire Knife

knife1In a constant quest for new gear and nifty gadgets I have found my new favorite knife.  I recently purchased a knife that is multifunctional, light weight and durable.
From the makers of the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel, Meal kit, and ever so famous Spork, comes the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife.
This great knife is all you need while out in the woods.It is a Mora Swedish style knife sporting a 3.75 inch blade made of  Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel.  The Actual size is 225x45x38mm and it weighs in at 94 grams.  In the TPE rubber handle or grip is a Swedish Fire steel.  The fire steel produces a 5,400 degree spark which is perfect for starting fire in even the wettest and coldest temps.
The knife is great for camp chores and starting fires, lighting stoves, and is not effected by the altitude.
The top or back edge of the knife is your striker.  It has a perfect edge that ensures a strike every time on the Swedish fire steel.  The fire steel is durable and is good for about 3000 strikes.  That’s a heck of a lot better than a book of matches or bic lighters.
The Light my Fire Swedish Fire Knife comes in 5 colors, I chose the black one, but it also comes in Orange, Green, Blue, and Red.  I looked at the orange version and it was just a bit to loud for me, but if you decide it’s for you  I bet you never lose it.
The Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife retails for $39, but I picked mine up on Amazon for $29 new.
I will be doing a video on the knife as soon as I get my camera and computer working together again… long story, let me just say that you need to stay out of creeks when the rocks are slick.
I really like this knife and it is now a full time part of my kit.
Until I get my own video up, here is the promotional video by Light my Fire of Sweden.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Zapping the Fun out of it

wallWe all get to a point when we hit the wall, reach the point of diminishing return, stop having fun.  Teen age boys seem to hit that point way before adults and that my friends seems to be normal.  So know what we know, how do we deliver that promise without loosing our cool, making Scouting painful, and zapping the fun out of it.
I have been giving this subject a lot of thought lately and it pretty much came to a head for me the other night at our Troop meeting when I had a little chat with a Scout and his Dad.  This Scout is a good kid, he is growing up and seeing where he can push and pull on the limits with his parents, school, etc… that to seems to be pretty normal, I mean, all kids test the waters.  They see were they can get away with things and what they will be allowed to do and not do.  But that is not really here nor there in the conversation other than to say, this young man is testing where he can and Scouting is becoming a push and pull point between his Dad and himself.
I remember when this young man entered our Troop, he was gung ho about Scouting and dove right in.  He quickly worked his way through rank and never missed a good Scouting opportunity.  Went to the National Jamboree and Philmont and has by and large been a good Scout.  But now he has a driver’s licence, a girl friend, and Scouting is not cool among the crowd he is hanging with at School.  Again, normal… right?
Like I said, this all has come to a head this week, the discussion about how we maintain a good balance for our Scouts without compromising the program.  How do we keep older Scouts engaged and how do we keep it fun and adventurous for them while we compete with the rest of their worlds?  How is that we keep them from reaching that point of diminishing return and get them to continue to make a contribution to the Troop?  How do we assist them in staying active as a member and leader in the troop?
Well, I may not have the answers, but I am willing to try to at least offer solutions.
I am, as you know, a big believer in the Patrol method.  I think that the Patrols are a big piece of the puzzle here.  Allowing the Scouts to maintain the Patrols of guys that they want to be with, share common interests and likes and dislikes.  Maybe if they stay together, they will rally around each other.  To much moving around and the Scouts start to lose interest in going through the stages of team development and maintaining that high performance attitude.
So let them pick and keep their Patrols and Patrol mates.  When they invite a friend, let that friend be in their Patrol.
Leadership is always an issue also.  We expect our older Scouts to be leaders.  And I agree, but to what end?  When they start to hit the wall, they are not affect leaders, they tend to go through the motions and develop bad attitudes.  If they don’t want to lead, don’t make them.  They will get their leadership time and I would much rather have a leader that wants to lead than one that is being forced.  Leadership comes in many forms and maybe just their example can be enough till they are ready to step back into the spot light of Troop leadership.
Attendance.  This one gets debated over and over again, and everyone has an opinion.  By the way, I am interested in yours.. leave a comment.  Here are just a few thoughts of mine regarding this issue.  I am not a big proponent of forcing Scouts to be there.  I want them to be there.  I also understand that life for these kids (and adults) is busy.  Sports, homework, vacations, friends, other clubs all pull at the Scouts and their families.  Don’t let Scouting be the thing that becomes the bad guy.  Make Scouting something they want to be at.  I have said it before, Scouting may not be for every boy and as their world pulls at them it provides an opportunity for choices to be made.  The more they understand the value of Scouting and the fun, the higher on the priority list it goes.  Attendance at meetings, outings, and other unit functions needs to be the choice of the Scout and the family.
But Jerry, how do you determine what “active” means?  Well, I always go back to what the Boy Scouts of America has determined as the standard.  Here is how the BSA defines “Active”:
A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is;
Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)
In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)
So that’s it.  That is active. I may or may not agree with it, and I am sure that there are some of you that feel that this standard is a bit chinsy.. but it is what it is.  That is how the Boy Scouts of America define it and that is what we must comply with when determining the activity of our Scouts.  That is the standard.
And so that is what I use as my guide.  Now, during the Scoutmaster conference I make it a point to ask what the Scout is getting out of the program… typically, you get out of Scouting what you put into it.  So once a Scout gets to that point where Girls, Gas, and Goofing off start taking a priority and troop meetings start to take a back seat, what is he getting out of it.  Does he still camp with the Troop?  Does he show up for service projects or courts of honor?  That would make him active, right?  I think it may.  The Scout will let you know how he is doing in the program, but we all know that forcing the issue on a teen-aged young man will result in push back.  And then you are back at square one.  The fun will officially be zapped out of it.
So what now?
First, know your Scouts.  What they like, dislike, and what makes them want to be there.
Second, use the Patrol method.  Enough said about that.
Finally, be flexible.  It’s only Scouting.  There is much to be gained in our organization, but if you are not happy here, or not here at all, you won’t get anything out of it.
Don’t be a Troop dictator.  Be as Baden-Powell said in Aides to Scoutmastership.. “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend”.
Build trust in them and let them set their course for adventures in Scouting.
Hope that made any sense…  Don’t zap the fun out of Scouting.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting day!

 

ULA Ohm 2.0 Review

ohm1This year I got a new pack.  I traded in my Granite Gear Nimbus Trace for a lighter pack in an effort to reduce pack weight.  I read somewhere that it is a good idea when reducing base weight to start at the base.. the pack.
So I did my homework and decided based on research and other reviews to buy the ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack.
The ULA Ohm 2.o is made by Ultralight Adventure Equipment in Logan, Utah.  They specialize in Ultralight packs but don’t be afraid, you don’t have to be an Ultralight backpacker to use one of their packs.  I am not UL hiker, but I do like the idea of watching what I pack and reducing the weight of the gear I carry.
The ULA Ohm 2.0 is a great pack.  It is super comfortable and big enough for everything I carry, even winter gear.  You do need to watch your weight though with this and all UL Packs.  They are made of lighter materials and while they are durable, they do need to be handled with a bit more care.  The Ohm is recommended for weights that do not exceed 30 lbs.  My winter gear this year was right at 23 lbs and when I added additional water, it pushed the limit of the pack.  I was careful packing it and certainly watched the seems as I went out on the last couple trips.  The pack held and even at the weight max was real comfortable.
Here are the specs on the pack:  Volume Breakdown= 2,100 cu in. in the main body, the front mess pocket holds 500 cu in, the 2 side pockets hold 400 cu in each.  The hip belt pockets each hold 100 cu in each and the draw string extension collar (top of the pack) will hold an additional 500 cubic inches.  That gives you a grand total of 3,960 cubic inches of space.  That is a ton of room.  The packs weight, unpacked is 29 ounces.
The ULA web site describes the pack as “A full featured, full suspension (active) ultralight pack that offers exceptional load control, on-trail functionality, and full body compression.
Combining a 1.2 oz carbon fiber/delrin active suspension hoop and exceptional compression, the Ohm 2.0 maximizes load control, load transfer, pack compression, and overall pack rigidity in an ultralight package.
1.9 oz ripstop nylon, ULA 210 Robic, and ULA’s proven construction methods insure the Ohm 2.0 is built to last despite its minimal weight. The Ohm 2.0 Backpack is now available in four colors, standard green and purple blaze in the ULA 210 Robic, and Woodland and Multicam in 500 Cordura.”
The standard features of the pack are:  The suspension hoop, a must when lifting a lower a pack made with UL materials.  Internal Pad holster that comes with a CCF pad.  This is your back panel.  A contoured padded hip belt. hipbelt I love the way they have made the adjusting straps on the hip belt.  The double strap allows for more adjustments to be made adding to the overall comfort and ride of the pack.  Hip belt pockets.  Contoured Shoulder straps that are comfortable and don’t dig in.  The bif front mess pocket, easy access to the things that you need right away.  I keep my rain gear, first aid kit, and that kind of stuff in there.  Top compression strap keeps the pack tight and allows for flexible loading options.  Ice Axe/ Pole retention loops hold your trekking poles or your ice axe snug.  All of those features make the pack a great pack for weekend trips as well as extended days on the trail.
ulaohmInside of the pack is a hydration pouch that will hold a bladder up to 2 liters.  There is also a removable mesh pouch inside, perfect for your keys, wallet, or even your iPhone.
I have been using this pack for a few months now and can honestly say that I really am happy with it.  I love the weight, the construction, the features, the ease of use, and the comfort of the pack.  It is solid and well made right here in America.
I highly recommend the ULA Ohm 2.o.
You can see more ULA packs at their website.  http://www.ula-equipment.com
If you have questions, comments or ideas on your gear.. let me know.
Have a Great Scouting Day!



Are you tougher?

Well, by now most, if not all of you have seen or are keenly aware of the Hit TV series “Are you tougher than a Boy Scout“.  As they get through the first season, the subject of future seasons have begun.
It has been refreshing to watch Scouting on the boob tube presented in a positive light, showing high adventure and skills that most of us in Scouting like.  I am also happy to see the caliber of youth that have been selected to be on the first season.  They have really represented Scouting well.
But what of future seasons?  At what point are they going to show your average Scout.. the merit badge hunter, the mud finder, and the velcro scout.. you know, the young man that can’t be to far from the safe reach of mom and dad.  What will future events be on the show?  A trip to the zoo?  Maybe an aggressive game of chess?  How about a fun game of patrol box cleaning?  Sounds fun don’t it?  Sounds like the stuff boys join Scouting for.  Yep, and the nation will get to see all that adventure.. not quite High Adventure, but adventure none the less.    I get the feeling that once the public gets their collective eyes on that they will beat down our doors to get in.
OK.. OK.. sarcasm over.
I have been going back and forth with some Scouters via email and some discussions that go back to comments I made regarding Scouting not being for everyone.  It seems that most do not agree, and that’s ok.  It’s certainly alright to disagree and I encourage it.  What I don’t agree with though is that our program should be “dumbed down” for lack of a better term.  Go back to the beginning and you find adventure in Scouting at every turn.  That is what it’s all about.
Now, I suppose you could argue that adventure is adventure, and that is found in the individual.  Yeah.. you could argue that.  Ability levels can be accommodated, but at the end of the day, if we are not encouraging our Patrol Leaders Council to seek adventure, we are not helping in delivering that promise.
It serves us well to remember the Promise of Scouting that we are supposed to be delivering.
Allow me to refresh your memory:
Scouting promises you the great outdoors.  As a Scout, you can learn how to camp and hike without leaving a trace and how to take care of the land. You’ll study wildlife up close and learn about nature all around you. There are plenty of skills you can master, and you can teach others what you have learned. Everyone helping everyone else-that’s part of scouting, too.
Scouting promises you friendship.  Members of the Troop you join might be boys you already know, and you will meeting many other scouts along the way. Some could be lifelong friends.
Scouting promises you opportunities to work toward the Eagle Scout rank.  You will set positive goals for yourself and follow clear routes to achieve them.
Scouting promises you tools to help you make the most of your family, your community, and your nation.  The good deeds you perform everyday will improve the lives of those around you. You will be prepared to help others in time of need.
Scouting promises you experience and duties that will help you mature into a strong, wise adult.  The Scout Oath and Scout Law can guide you while you are a Scout and throughout your life.  (The Boy Scout Handbook 11th edition)
It is absolutely no surprise to me that the great outdoors is listed first!  That is where adventure is found.  Friendship and the bonds that last forever are forged in shared experiences and trials.  I love the last part there… “a strong, wise adult.”  The Oath and Law are great rules to live by and will last forever in the man.
So there it is.. the Promise of Scouting.. So are you Tougher than a Boy Scout?  Can you assist in living up to the expectations that boys join Scouting for?  Are you up to that challenge.  Imagine if you flipped the channel to watch a high adventure show and there are a handful of Scouts diligently working the fingerprinting merit badge.  Click!  I just turned the channel looking for the home shopping network.. maybe I could buy some adventure there.
I’m looking forward to the next season of the show.. man am I happy to see Scouting on TV and looking cool!
Let me hear it!  I know you have an opinion.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Brave

I have listened to the answers of many Scouts as they explain to me during Scoutmaster Conferences the parts and meanings of the points of the Scout Law.
I always asks the Scout to tell me which part of the Scout law is most important and what they struggle with daily.  I get pretty much the standard answer that all of the parts of the law are important and no one part is greater than any other.  But this Saturday I sat as both the Scoutmaster and the Scouts advocate during and Eagle Scout Board of review.  When the board asked the young man to discuss which part of the law he thought was most important, without hesitation, the Scout answered Brave!
He explained that as a teen ager it to courage and bravery to live the Scout law every day.  Among his peers, he felt that many points of the law are not “Cool” or popular in today’s culture.  Without the ability to stand up for what you believe and know is right, the rest of the law is immaterial.  Without being brave, you won’t live the rest.
I thought it was an interesting answer and tend to agree.  I wish it did not have to be that way, but the truth is, the world that our Scouts find themselves in does not value the way of life that the Scout law represents.  It’s really to bad.
Last night during my Scoutmaster minute, I shared that if we live the Scout oath and law daily we will be men of character and I made our Scouts a promise.  If any of the values found in the Oath and law ever cause them to do the wrong thing, or if any of the points of the Scout law are wrong, I will stop talking.  They know that I love to talk, so they know that I am serious.
Challenge:  If you can explain to me that there is something wrong with the Oath and Law I will send you a grand prize.  You better come strong though.  Be prepared to discuss.
Have a Great Scouting Day!