Scoutmaster minute

Come along side

presidentsYesterday 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!

Finding the Arrow

Plus 6I 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.
OA1The 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. 

Why do we do this?

Quote from BP“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! 

Saturday Quick Tip

TOWToday we are talking about controlling your guy lines.  Whether you are a tent camper or sleep under a tarp you will have lines to control.
I hate it when lines are tangled and become a mess.  This simple way of controlling your lines is a perfect fix.  You can do this with gloves too which makes this a great way to get packed in the winter also.
As long as you can make a figure 8 with your fingers and know how to make a slippery half hitch.. you are good to go.
This tip will make your packing easier and when you get home to dry things out you will not have a mess of tangled lines everywhere.
If you have a tip or a skill that you would like to see drop me a note.
Thanks for coming to the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Snow Peak 700 Review

sp700Well, It’s Sunday and today we are celebrating our Troops 10th Anniversary as well as Scouting’s 104th.  Every year our Troop hosts its annual Red and Green Dinner.  A celebration of the Troop and Scouting.  This year we will recognize former Troop members and have a great time looking back on the 10 years that got us where we are today.
Today, since my day is dedicated to the Troop’s Red and Green, I thought I’d share this gear review with you.
Quickly becoming my “Go to” pot/cook set again, I went away from it for some time in favor of the Imusa mug.  I still like the Imusa, it gives me some options in cooking namely the size of the pot that the Snow peak 700 does not.
For the size and weight though, it’s tough to find a better pot for backpacking and cooking single servings.
Enjoy the review, let me know what you think.  Drop us a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

104 and going Strong!

Back from Jambo!

Me and my sons at the National Jamboree 2010

Today marks the 104th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America!  And the BSA is going strong!  As I thought about today’s anniversary in preparation for our unit’s Red and Green celebration tomorrow I could not help but think about why the Boy Scouts of America is so strong.
It grows its strength not from the National Office.  It does get gain its strength from Council Executives or Professionals down at your local Scout office.  The strength of the BSA is not in District committee’s or Commissioners.  The strength of Scouting comes from its Scouts and the volunteers at the unit level.  Packs, Troops, and Crews are the strength of Scouting.  It is for them that everything else drives it’s purpose.  It is adventure found in Scouting that invites young men to join.  It is fun in the unit that makes them stay.  It is the learning that is discovered that one day shows itself and causes the Scout to reflect.
The Boy Scouts of America has found that strength for 104 years.  There have been rocky times and times of great celebration.  The BSA has been there in peace and in war and through it all, the membership, the strength shines through.
Controversy and differing opinion has not stopped Scouting and it never will as long as units stay alive and continue to deliver the promise.
Politics and Religion can not stand in the way of great program.  In an organization where everyone is welcome and everyone’s ideas and opinions are valid and heard.  An organization with a firm foundation built on strong values.. the values of the strength, the members that believe in being Trustworthy and Kind, Loyal and Obedient, Helpful and Friendly, Courteous and Brave, Thrifty and Clean, and of course Reverent.  We have these values that support a promise that we.. the strength of the organization… live out in our daily lives.  That is why it has lasted 104 years and will continue to last.
Scouting’s strength is in all of us.  From the Chief Scout Executive to the brand new Tiger Cub.  We are the organization that is a game with a purpose.
We know that when we follow the Vision of the organization great things happen.  There are no other youth groups like it.  Not in size, scope, or program.  This is Scouting and this year we celebrate 104 years.
I had the pleasure of celebrating the 100th Anniversary at the National Jamboree!  I am so glad that my son’s and I got to be at that extra special event.  The night of the big arena program left a lasting impact on me as a Scouter.  When we lit the candles and about 80 thousand Scouts and Scouters all pledged to live the Oath together I was moved.  Then in a flash, we blew out the candles on a great event, but the dawning of the next 100 years of Scouting in America.  The candles extinguished ushered in a fire works display that was so big it reminded me of just how big and great Scouting is.  And the fun can not be matched.
Lots of thoughts today about 104 years of Scouting in America… not one of those 110 or 125 type celebrations, but very significant given the climate of the country we are in.  The Boy Scouts of America is still the values based organization that teaches young people to be great adults.  Character, Citizenship, and fit for our future.
Happy Anniversary to the Boy Scouts of America!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Saturday Quick Tip – Sleeping bag storage

TOWHere is your Saturday Quick tip.  This week we are talking about taking care of your sleeping bag.  The best way to store your sleeping by laying it flat.  But most of us just do not have that kind of room in our house, so the next best method of storing your sleeping bag is by hanging it.  This allows the air to circulate and keep the bag fresh as well as maintain the loft of the insulation.  It does not matter if it is synthetic or down, the insulation once crushed will tend to stay that way over time.  Crushed insulation will take longer to loft when needed and because synthetic fiber have memory, you will, over time lose much of the “R” value of your sleeping bag.
If you can not hang your gear, storing the bag in an over sized cotton bag is the way to go.  An extra-large pillow case or bag like that will do.  The point is get your bag out of the compression bag and let it air out and maintain its loft.
Remember, you paid a lot of hard-earned cash for that sleeping bag with the hope that it will be there for you when you want a nice comfortable sleep in the woods.  Take care of it and it will take care of you.
If you have comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Have a Great Scouting Day!