Scouts

…As our campfire fades away

fireAt the end of every Troop meeting our Troop circles up, joins hands, and sings Scout Vespers followed by reciting the Scout Law.  This has concluded our meetings for years and has become a great tradition in our Troop.
A couple of weeks ago a young Scout asked why we sing that particular song, since we are not really at a campfire.  He thought it was odd that we say “as our campfire fades away” when we are in a meeting hall.
I explained to him, and then the Troop that we always have the spirit of the campfire in us.  It is Scout Spirit.  There is magic in every campfire and we carry that with us every day.
The campfire within us burns bright showing the world that we are Scouts.
And that is why we say the Scout Law after we sing the song.  As the campfire fades we need to add more fuel to it to keep it burning.  As we send the Scouts away from the meeting each week we rekindle in them their fire.  We remind them that they have a fire burning in them and that they need to live that Scout Spirit using the Oath and Law as their Guide.
So we sing and remind one another of the fire inside each and every one of us.
This is a great tradition in our Troop.  I hope your Troop has similar traditions that make Scouting not only fun but meaningful.
What are some of your Troop traditions?
Let us know.

Softly falls the light of day,
As our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask
Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
Everything to be prepared?

Listen Lord, oh listen Lord,
As I whisper soft and low.
Bless my mom and Bless my dad,
These are things that they should know.
I will keep my honor Bright,
The oath and law will be my guide.
And mom and dad this you should know,
Deep in my heart I love you so.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Leadership according to Me.

Sticky-Note-with-I-Am-a-LeaderI have been receiving emails lately requesting information about leadership.  I have been pretty heavy on the leadership subject matter as of late.  New youth leaders in the Troop, a batch of great new Assistant Scoutmasters and the idea that we really need to focus our attention on leading and not just reacting to the things that seem to come up from time to time and executing the vision of our Troop.
One emailer asked where I get my information from.  Simply put, lots and lots of training, learning, and developing those leadership skills, traits, and habits that I have seen and done that works.  I was formally trained in leadership while in the Army.  Attending every leadership development course from the Primary Leadership Development Course to graduating from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.  Over the course of my career in the Army I served in many direct leadership roles culminating as the Command Sergeant Major or an Infantry Battalion.
One thing that I know for sure is that Leadership is Leadership.  Whether is it good or bad what you learn and how you apply it is what matters.  Leadership in the Army has the same principles as leadership in a Boy Scout Troop.  That is not to say that the missions are the same, nor are the styles.  But the principles that are applied by the leaders are the same.
In Scouting, I have made it a point to learn and attend every course I can that would add to my leadership tool box.  Understanding the vision and mission of the organization plays a great part in how we lead it.  Wood Badge has played a major role in adding to my leadership tool box.
Another emailer asked if I could narrow down my leadership focus to some simple things that would be effective for him to teach to junior leaders.
Certainly.  Again, over the course of a 21 year Army career and serving as a Scoutmaster for 10 years I have narrowed down how and what I teach to adults and youth alike.  I think that we can get overwhelmed with leadership philosophy and technique, but at the end of the day, it is all about leading.  How you do that effectively is what matters.  I have distilled my leadership down to 5 things.  Now, these five things have a multitude of sub tasks and sets, but essentially it [leadership] comes down to how we do these 5 things effectively.
1.  Learn to lead yourself.  You can not lead others until you learn to lead yourself.  Establishing good habits, getting trained and understanding the institutional values are a part of learning to lead yourself.  Developing in yourself a want of life long learning and a willingness to share that knowledge.
2.  Focus on the little things.  The little things make up the big things and when they are correct, the big things fall into place.  Develop a critical eye and stay focused on those things that drive success.  A leader must be willing to be critical and constructive.  Letting the little things slide are a sure-fire way of killing the big things.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.  Set an example of what you want.  Know what right looks like and be the model of it 100% of the time.  This takes work and does not allow for lazy leaders.  If you expect those you lead to act a certain way, model that way of acting.  Modeling expected behavior is critical in leadership.  As a young leader I hated and still do hate the mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do”.  That is a leadership failure.
4.  Communicate Effectively.  The ability to communicate is paramount in leading.  Written and verbal communication must be effective to lead effectively.  Develop communication skills to be an effective leader.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.  Leaders are to serve first.  The praise, glory, or rewards for a leader are in the success of those they lead.  Servant Leaders put those that they lead ahead of themselves.  Develop a heart to serve and you will be a great leader.
So those are the basic 5 principles that guide my leadership and the way that I lead and teach leadership.
I will elaborate on each of those five things in future posts.  None of this is new or creative, they are things that leaders since the beginning of time have done.  They are packaged this way by me because it is what I know works in leadership.  I am certain that if you dug around the writing of authors like Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Colin Powell, and others you will find these principles throughout.  Like I said, Leadership is Leadership.  From the US Army to the Disney Institute they all teach the basics of being an effective leader and when it comes down to it, it’s all really the same stuff, just different packaging.
That’s leadership according to me in a nut shell.  Those 5 things work in effective leadership every time.
What are some of yours?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Backpack cooking- Patrol Method

Since word is out that our Troop is doing a 10 day backpacking trip this summer as our summer camp, there has been some concern as to how we are going to incorporate all of the “Scouting Methods” that normally come with the summer camp experience.
Well, I would first of all suggest that our Scouts will have more of the Scouting methods during our 10 day adventure than most Troops will have during your typical Summer camp experience, namely in the area of cooking.
Most summer camps offer a dining hall with cafeteria or family style dining.  This is great and takes a lot of pressure off of the Scouts during the day.
Our Scouts this summer will be using the Philmont cooking methods for our meals.  This will ensure that the patrols or crews will eat together, share responsibility, and eat the appropriate amount of calories that will be required on the trail.
I visited the Philmont web site and recalled a video we shared with our Crews before we went to Philmont.  This video basically sums up how we will be doing our cooking this summer while we trek through the Olympic National Forest.

Our Scouts will be eating on the go for breakfast and lunch, much like the Philmont experience.  We downloaded the Philmont menus plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to get a good feel for our planning.  It looks like we will pretty much stick to their plan.  Why reinvent the wheel?
Patrol or Crew cooking in this fashion will be a great experience for our Troop.  We are going to start using this method with our next camp out and continue to practice this through summer camp.  This means each camp out till July will incorporate our meal plan and methods for preparing, cooking, and cleaning while on the trail.  This should be real fun at Camporee this year.
I’d love to know how you all cook on the trail or in camp.  Leave a comment.
Thanks!
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

My Fire kit

It is a requirement for all Scouts to build their own First Aid kit.  This gets them in tuned with what they need, have, and how to use it all.  Being a backpacking Troop, building the personal first aid kit is an important task and requires a little more thinking than just band aids and mole skin.  The nature of backpacking takes you away from the cars and so the Scout needs to develop a kit that is compact, light, and serves his first aid needs.
In our Troop we also require the Scouts to build a fire building kit.  It should be compact, light, and serve the Scouts need to make fire.  Simple requirements right?
The ability to make fire is an important skill.  Fire is a motivator, cooking option, and method of warmth and cheer.  I was asked once what ‘survival’ skills we teach our Scouts.  I answered none.  We teach them to be prepared.  With a kit designated to build fire there is no need to rub sticks together or wait for lightning to strike.  The Scout reaches into his pack and makes a fire.
I carry my fire kit with me every time I enter the woods.  On a day hike or a 50 miler, the fire kit is as much a part of my pack as my first aid kit.
My kit is simple, light, and works 100% of the time to start fire.
I am not a fan of flint and steel or primitive methods of making fire.  I do not pretend to be a bush crafter and am not fascinated with that whole life style.
I use what works and that is it.  Again, I need not know how to ‘survive’ I will survive because I am prepared.
Here is a short video on my Fire Kit.
Question or comments?  Please leave them here at the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**NOTE- my batteries died twice in the camera and a part of the video I thought I was shooting was lost.  The SOL Tinders somehow got cut out.

The Little Stuff

bsa-tentOne of the big misconceptions in leadership is that the leader needs to worry about the big stuff.  Yes, the leader has to know or have vision and that requires a look from the 1000 foot view, but when it really comes down to leading, it is the little stuff that matters.  The little things that make all of the big things happen or lead to big success.
Lets go back to our example we have used here of “The Tent”.
When we set up our tent there is but one correct way to set it up.  As a leader to ensure that the tent is set up correctly a look at the details, the little stuff, is important.
Is the footprint extended beyond the flap of the tent?  If so, it’s wrong.
Are the stakes in so that it will actually hold the tent down?  Stakes improperly placed will allow for the tent to be unstable, not tight, and ultimately not serve their purpose.
Is the vestibule staked out properly?  Are the vents open or closed dependent on the conditions?  Is the tent located in a good position to leave no trace?  Out of the elements?  In low ground?
Are the guy lines being used properly?
Are the storage bags put away or just blowing all over the camp site?
Is the rain fly on correctly or inside out?
Is the door facing away from the wind?
Is there food in the tent?
Is the gear stored properly (not in the tent)?
You see there are a list of little things that go into setting up a tent.  Multiply that by the number of guys in the Patrol and how many tents are set up and you have a lot of little things to look at.  When all of those little things are done right, everything tends to fall into place.
This habit of doing all the little things right will lead one to doing everything right.  Once the standard has been set, it is something that becomes routine.  Leaders check and recheck and inspect what they expect to see.
They first teach the skill, the task, or the method and then hold those that they are leading accountable.  Doing it over is an option.  Not correcting something that is wrong is not.  That to is perceived as a little thing.
I have heard over and over that “well.. that really doesn’t matter”, “they are just kids”, “give it a break, it’s only a weekend”…  It all matters to leaders.  There are standards for every task and when they are done right, all of the big things are right also.  All of the little things matter to make the big things work.
There is no room for lowering the standard, when that happens it to become habit and that is when things go wrong.
This example works for every task our Scouts are asked to do.
There is a reason we have our Scouts earn their Totin’ Chip before they are allowed to use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip program introduces the standard.  The consequence for not performing to that standard is the inability to participate using a knife, saw, or ax.
When we allow the little things to slide we set our selves and those we lead up to be unsuccessful.  Mainly because they will tend to do more and more wrong.  Once the idea that everything is expected to be done right is accepted, and the leader makes sure that the little things are constantly being checked, you will see success in the big things.
So how do we make that happen?  Training and accountability.
This last weekend we conducted Junior leader training with all of the older Scouts in the Troop.  Since we have been having some issues with leadership lately, I decided it was time to get back to basics.  The Senior Patrol Leader had the Troop pack up everything on Saturday morning.  The days activities started with the Troop splitting up, the younger guys went to shoot shot guns and the older guys began their training.  We began with a discussion on packing a backpack the right way.  We demonstrated what right looks like and then made sure that every pack looked that way.  It was a lesson on attention to detail and not taking the easy way out.
Then we went on a little hike.  When we reached our first destination, the leaders were given the task to set up camp using leave no trace principles.  They set off to get camp set up.  I instructed the Scouts that when they were finished to come and stand by me.  Once they all were there, we talked about the little things and making sure all of the little things were right leading to the big thing (camp set up) being correct.  Each Scout had to go to a tent that was not his and stand.  Then one by one they instructed the group as to what was wrong with that set up.  Each and every tent had something that needed to be improved.  Corrections were made and then a second walk through happened.  This time everything was right and the Scouts could see the big picture.
After a quick reflection and discussion of the process, they were instructed to pack and move to a second location and do it again.  The same process happened the second time, this time with fewer mistakes.  Again corrections were made, this time including the use of the EDGE ™ method of teaching [Explain, Demonstrate. Guide, and Enable].  And pack it up again.  This time with a pause to inspect the packs to make sure they were packed right.  If it was not correct, do it again.  Reinforcing the idea that there is only one right way to do it and we will not settle for it being done wrong.
When the younger Scouts got back from shooting their Troop guide did this process with the new Scouts.  Packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down.  He made it a game having the Scouts race each other and in the process made it fun.  The new guys picked up on it right away.  I overheard the Troop guide explain to them that doing it right the first time will save them time and energy down the road.  There is only one right way of doing things right.
The focus is on the little stuff and making the little stuff matter.  Little things done right make the big things right.
When it comes to older Scouts and adults, modeling the expected behavior while doing the little things right and making sure that the little things are always done right will set you up to being an effective leader and leading a high performance team.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Going Camping

Merit Badges or Fun?Heading out into the woods this weekend with the Troop.  New Scout Patrol will be stepping off on the Trail to First Class, but not until after a fun morning on the range shooting Shot Guns.  Then the older guys will get to shoot all afternoon, but not until they develop some leadership skills in camp.  Modeling the Expected Behavior will be their theme for the weekend.
Weather calls for sun tomorrow.. we hope for the best.
So, I will let you all know how it goes on Sunday!
What are you up to this weekend?
Please share!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

FOS

Back in 2009 I had an email exchange with a “Concerned Eagle Scout” about Friends of Scouting.  As this month in our Council we are in full swing with our FOS campaign, I thought I would blow the dust off of this post and share it with you again.  My thoughts are the same on the issue and Concerned Eagle Scout helped me demonstrate that where there is a will, there is a way.
What are your thoughts on Friends of Scouting?
Here is the post from 2009.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Mr. “Concerned Eagle Scout” has concerns about justifying FOS dollars.
And I can appreciate “Concerned Eagle Scouts”concerns. His biggest issue seems to be the cost of Scouting. Well.. let me share his email with you. And yeah… I moderated it.. took out some stuff that really did not add to the argument. And my comments are embedded in his email. My comments are in Bold text.

Jerry –

I have a real problem with FOS or what it should be called is SMJ (Save My Job). I and many others in our town have a real issue contributing funds to council when everything and I mean everything for scouting has become so expensive.
OK CES (Concerned Eagle Scout), here is where you start in the wrong direction.
Everything in Scouting is getting expensive because things are expensive. But you do know that the Scout Shop (uniforms and supplies) are not part of your council and receive NO dollars from FOS. Salaries, benefits, and materials for running the Councils day-to-day operation is where the money goes.

We run a very effective program for our cub scouts and we do it all with the money we raise through popcorn. Like JC states, we have families in our pack that are experiencing financial hardship with the current economic situation. Welcome to the club.. things are tough all over. So don’t support FOS.. and watch your Scouting programs go away.
How can we as scouts expect or even think of asking these families to put out more money when their having problems meeting their own financial needs. Well… how can I expect it.. I love Scouting. I can afford 42 cents a day for FOS.. heck a Scout is thrifty right. I collect cans and recycle them for FOS. You mean to tell me, you can’t do that? You mentioned running of the camps and the staff that supports them; how can I or any scout leader expect a family in financial hardship to pay $300 for camp (yes it costs that much in our council to send a boy to day camp)? Again, if that is the cost of doing business in your Council.. which seems a bit steep to me.. then that is the cost of doing business. Sell more popcorn.. have a car wash, participate in the candy sales and hold a Garage sale. Thrifty. Explain to me so that I can explain to my scouts and their parents why they should give to FOS when the top officers of scouting make over 140K annually. What Council are you in? I know that there is no one in your council that makes that much. Maybe at the National level, but then again… none of your FOS money goes to National. That’s almost double the annual household income for some of our scout families. Explain it to me Jerry so that I can justify it to my scouts and their parents. It’s this simple. don’t support it and you will have no Scouting. If your families are making 70,000 a year. Then you are doing better than most. So I would suggest you act like an Eagle Scout and remember your obligation you took to Scouting. Be Thrifty and Helpful and figure out a way to raise the funds. Families in our area make much less than what you have suggested and we keep our Council vibrant and healthy. Rather than make a bunch of excuses and whine… figure out a way that you can support Scouting. We have become very creative. Bake sales, car washes, dinners, etc. I’ve asked my local council for an explanation and they can’t or won’t give me an explanation, they just want the money. I do not think you are being intellectually honest here. Every Council brochure that I have looked at (via the internet etc) disclose where the money goes and how your dollar benefits the Council. If local councils want money to support the program and pay their paychecks, then they need to get the funds from corporations.You have heard about the FOS Community program right? They get money from your local corporations. That is what a lot of your DE’s time is spent doing. Oh and about 85 cents of every dollar from FOS goes to programs.. not paychecks. Endowments, and other funds are used for paychecks. At least in our Council, I can’t imagine your Council being to different. In my eyes and the eyes of other in our pack, families give enough to support scouting. I think you need to open your eyes a little wider and see the program for what it really is not as a target. I know times are tough, but that is no excuse for Scouting to suffer.
We all budget our time, energy and money. As we sit at our dinning room tables and work out our families monthly budget we cut what is not important and spend on what is. FOS is one of those items that we are not willing to cut because we see, directly, the value of our dollar.
We see that Scouting does good things… not just for my two sons, but for all the Scouts in my Troop. So I can assume that it is doing good in every unit.
I justify giving to FOS because I see the camps that we go to… in fact we camping at one of our Councils 18 fully paid properties this weekend. That can’t happen without FOS.
I look beyond emotion and look at real numbers. I can understand where you are coming from… really I can, but I think if you all took the time and penciled it out.. you could easily justify to your Packs families the benefits of making contributions to FOS. I am not sure where you get your numbers and information from, my guess is it is probably from another disgruntled Scouters. But my friend, you are an Eagle Scout. Somewhere along the way people paid and you benefited from this program. Give back. That simple.

Just my thoughts….
Thanks for your thoughts.I hope that my comments do not come across as smug or unfriendly. It is a simple fact that no matter what, we need to do what we need to do to keep Scouting alive and well, if that means we give to FOS..then that is what we need to do.  Call it something else…it still pays for Scouting.

Concerned Eagle Scout, I am not beating you up, I am calling you to learn more and really look at the dollars. It pencils out.. I promise you.

Have a Great Scouting Day!