Adventure

Reflection

campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

New Pack- Quick Look

Hey gang.. Been awhile.. certainly got away from my blogging goals over the last couple weeks.
No real excuse other than to say other things have taken priority.
The Troop obviously, Staffing Wood Badge once again, and of course family life.  Other Scouting opportunities have been popping up in the world of training also.  I have recently taught Train the Trainer for our Council and Trainers EDGE over the last month or so.. so lots going on and I have not really had time to sit down and bang away at the computer.
In the mean time I got some new gear and I am super excited about my new Backpack.  I ordered it direct from Osprey back in January, but due to the striking long shore men the pack just got here yesterday.  Ah well.. it is what it is..
So I will be doing a thorough review and video on it in the near future, but today (after painting the living room and hall) my wife said I could play with my new toy.
I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the Pack with you and like I said, I will get into the weeds with it soon.
First of all I now have the Osprey Aether 60.  I went with the Aether 60 pack as that volume seems to be the sweet spot for my backpacking gear, style, and they way I pack.
I have tried to go smaller, but find that I struggle with loading the pack and having my gear accessible while on the trail.  Any bigger on the other hand, and I find that I want to fill it.  Unneeded gear and extras that I can do without.
So I went with the 63 liter pack. The Osprey Aether series packs come in various sizes ranging from 55 liters to 85 liters.  The 55 is just a hair to small for me.  I have been using my Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 this past year and have really been unhappy with the way I have to fight it.  The 85 liter packs are designed for expeditions and does not fit my needs.  Again, when choosing your next pack, know your sweet spot.
The Osprey Aether 60 also comes in 3 different sizes Small which is 3478 cubic inches of space or 57 liters, Medium which is 3661 cubic inches or 60 liters, and Large which comes in at 3844 cubic inches or 63 liters or space.  Again, I went with the Large or 63 as it meets my needs and fit my frame.
Which brings me to sizing.  It is important to size your pack.  I went to my local REI and met with a sales rep.  He is trained in sizing for the custom fit of the Osprey packs.  Using the Osprey measuring tool at the store we determined that I needed a medium pack to fit my torso.
The nice thing about the Osprey packs are that they are custom.  You can mix and match pack components.  The Shoulder straps, hip bet, and Frame are all interchangeable.
The hip belt can be custom molded to your hips.  This is highly recommended, but if you do not have an authorized retailer with the hip belt oven near you, just wearing the hip belt as you hike will heat it enough to mold it to your hips.
So why did I pick this pack over others?  After all I have carried a good Kelty External Frame pack, the Mountain Hardwear pack, a Granite Gear light pack, and the ULA Ohm over the last couple of years.  Well, it came down to fitting my needs and my style of backpacking.
Since we have been back from Philmont (2012) I have been toying the idea of getting a new pack.  I carried the Granite Gear pack at Philmont and it was not big enough to handle the gear we carried as a crew.. namely all the water.  The ULA pack, while I loved how comfortable it is did not fit my needs for winter camping and I found myself worried about its durability.
An Assistant Scoutmaster in our Troop had been carrying the Osprey pack and after our big backpacking trip in the Olympics last summer I started looking at his pack and how it may fit my needs.  After doing my homework.. I came to conclusion that the Osprey Aether 60 was for me.
Here are the specifics:
The pack weighs in at 4 lbs 11 ounces.  A bit heavier that I would like in a pack, but I had to make a compromise somewhere.  With my overall gear getting lighter I am ok with the base pack weight being a little heavier.
The Aether is made of 210D and 75D Stretch woven ripstop nylon and 500D plain weave nylon oxford.  I got the Arroyo Red pack.  It also comes in a Blue and Green.
Features of the pack that I drew me to it; A nice removable top pouch that can become a Lumbar pack for day trips.  I like the separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom and I love the Airscape Suspension (back panel).   It breaths well and is super comfortable.
With this pack it is the little details that I really love.  All of the zipper pulls are fantastic.  They are a molded plastic covered pull, comfortable to pull and usable with gloves.
There are plenty of ways to compress the pack for a custom fit.
Finally the outside back panel is a huge stretch pocket.  Great for storing all of those need to get to fast items.
The pack is a top loader, but it also has front panel access.
Ok.. so am starting to get a little to far into the weeds with this.  I will be doing a good video review soon.  In the mean time, here is a short video put out by Osprey.  It will give you an introduction to my new pack.
My first impression is that I like it a lot.  I love the ease of access, the design, and the over all detail in the features.

Stay tuned for a full review.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Expectations

20150321_120648Like most units, our Troop has a new Scout Patrol that has started their Scouting adventure in earnest. They crossed over in February, like most Webelos and went on their first camp out with the Troop that following week.  The Troop went to Camp Meriwether to do some Shot Gun Shooting and start working their Trail to First Class.  The older guys shot and spent time either teaching the new Scouts or hanging out on the beach.
This last weekend, the new Scout Patrol (the Eagles) went on their second camp out as Boy Scouts.  A 10 mile backpacking trip down the historic Barlow Trail.  The trip was a perfect shake down trip getting these young Scouts ready for future adventures.  We had everything.  Rain, Snow, Sun, and perfect trail.  Great camp sites and lots of fun.
The Eagles did fantastic.  They were prepared and had a great time.
When we got home, I spoke with one of the parents of the new Scout patrol.  He asked how the weekend went and I told him that the boys did great.  He shared with me how excited his son is about being in the Troop and that this is what he wanted Boy Scouts to be like.  He has friends that joined other Troops and are not getting the same level of adventure.  I thanked him and told him that our Troop would have it no other way.
In our discussion we talked about why we can take first year Scouts out on these adventures immediately.  It’s about our expectations.  Scouts join our Troop expecting to go on great adventures and so we deliver on that expectation. There is also an expectation that the Scout participate and embrace the adventure.
We expect them to be prepared.  We expect them to want to be there and be engaged.  None of this is written down in a pamphlet or Code of Conduct.  It just is.
We wear the full uniform.  Again, not written down, just is.  A new boy paying the Troop a visit immediately see’s the team dressed alike, acting alike, and preparing alike.  It just is that way.
We have three rules in our Troop.  #1, Have Fun.  #2.  Be Safe.  And #3, Live the Scout Oath and Law.  Everything else takes care of itself when those three rules are meet.  It is expected.
Not every young man is willing to raise themselves to met these simple expectations.  Most however look for ways to be a part of our team.
We do not let money, time, or social status hinder our expectations.  Scouts are expected to pay their own way.  They don’t have to sell pop corn or candy… they can mow lawns, shovel snow, collect cans, or whatever.. but they are expected to pay their way.  There is no excuse not to go to Summer camp.  Money is not an issue when you earn your way.  Excuses do not get far in our troop.. just another expectation.
We expect the parents to be involved.  They don’t have to go camping or become merit badge counselors, but they do have to take an interest in their son.  We ask them to be drivers on occassion and show up to celebrate our Troops success.
Parents that are engaged in their Troop keep their sons engaged in the Troop and there is always help needed somewhere when you have an active Troop like ours.
So what of these expectations?  Why?
Simply put, Units that have high expectations are better performers.
They have a better product and do better in every measurable area of the unit.
Retention, Advancement, Participation, and developing Leaders.
I recently heard a conversation recorded with General (Retired) Stanley A. McChrystal.  Now, no matter how you feel about the military (which Scouting is not) you can not argue with Leadership and what makes an effective leader.  Stanley McChrystal is a dynamic leader and has proven that at multiple levels.  Now he owns a company that teaches leadership and develops corporate cultures to become high performance teams.
He states that raising the expectation level of an organization is key to building the High Performance team.
There was a study conducted by the US Army in the late 90’s.  They took a soldier from a Super High performing unit and placed him in a under performing unit.  The first couple months the soldier maintained his high level of performance, within 6 months, he began to adapt to the level of the unit.  Within a year, this soldier no longer wanted to be in the Army.  The opposite was also found to be true.  They placed a soldier from an under performing unit into a super high performance.  He had the basic skill sets and was qualified to be in that unit.  He was an average soldier upon entry.  Within months he had adapted to the rigorous physical training and skill level performance increased.  Within a year he was completely entrenched in the unit and a super soldier.
It all came down to the expectations of the unit.  In the Army a Ranger Battalion has the exact same configuration as any other Infantry Battalion.  Yet the Rangers are elite and other Infantry units are not.  Why?  Expectations.  They are indoctrinated in this culture of excellence from the day they arrive.   They are all volunteers and are expected to meet and exceed the norms of the unit.
So what makes one Boy Scout Troop different from any other Boy Scout Troop?  The Scout handbook and Field book are the same, the skills are the same, the configuration of Patrols, Committees, and Adult leaders are all the same.  The Training is the same (National Syllabus).   The Districts and Councils are all operating under the same rules and commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting.  So what is different?  Expectations.
We can see too why Scouts leave units.  Scouting in that particular unit fails to meet the expectations of the boy and the parent and so they leave.
Units that take Scouting serious and make a solid commitment to delivering the promise of Scouting do.  They do not make excuses and they do not compromise when it comes to delivering a great program.
They do not let money dictate their program.  They do not allow failure to stop them from getting back up and trying again.
They are youth led and use the Patrol method.  They do not make up their own rules, they use the program as designed.  They understand Scouting and what it is designed to do.  They have trained adults that care.
The new Scout Dad that I was talking with on Sunday asked what the little beads I was wearing meant.  I told them they are the Wood Badge and it is for completing Wood Badge training.  He asked if Wood Badge was mandatory in Scouting.  I told him no, but it should be.  He said that the reason he asked was because he noticed all of the Adult leaders in the Troop wear them.  I said it was because they believe in giving our Scouts the very best.
It is not mandatory, but clearly has become one of those unwritten expectations of our unit.  It is one of the things that makes us different, better, a High performance team.
What do you expect from Scouting?  What do your parents expect from the unit?  Do you have big expectations or is mediocre fine for you and your unit?
Just asking.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Boy in the Bubble

fboldI am often critical of how our boys are being, or seem to be being led down a path that is removing them from adventure, fun, and testing their ability to grow into men.
I am talking about how we hypocritically rail on about how things were when we were kids.. you know, drinking from a hose, climbing trees, mud clod fights, staying out till the street lights came on, loading up our packs and getting on our bikes and heading out for over nighters… You know, that stuff that made our childhood and for many of us our Scouting experience fun and exciting.
We talk about the good old days with fondness and make it a point to tell those stories to our kids and our Scouts, but no way in hell are we going to allow our kids to do that great stuff… No way in hell.
We are so afraid of lawyers and our kids getting a little hurt that we have placed them in a bubble.
For the record, I am not one of those.
My boys climbed trees and we made it a point to allow adventures. The first time I ever took my two sons backpacking we hiked about 2 1/2 miles up to a little lake. They were 5 and 7 years old respectively. The weather was not the best, but it was time to get out. Hey if you live in Oregon you can’t be a fair weather camper. I will never forget that outing. After I showed them how to use a MSR Whisperlite stove, we cooked dinner and the temperature started to drop. We climbed into the tent. It started to snow. We made up stories and ate dehydrated ice cream sandwiches.
Why do have to change things? The answer is that we don’t.
I am a collector of Scouting literature. I have a nice collection of all of the Boy Scout Field Books. The worst of which is the current edition.
Looking back at some of the older Field Books, especially the Field Book from when I was a Scout, they are full of skills and adventure. They open the doors for boys to develop self reliance and skills that help them both in the outdoors and in their daily lives.
Cooking fish over an open fire, building shelters, heading out into the woods to hang out with your buddies. Pioneering that could actually be used for something other than demonstrations.  The picture in this post.. God for bid we actually build a bridge today over real water.
So why? Lawyers? Really? It’s not the lawyers… it’s the parents. After all, who is calling the lawyer. Lawyers don’t hang out in the woods waiting for you to allow a Scout to climb a tree. Lawyers are not there when you head to a lake and take a swim. Lawyers are not there to say no.. we say it because we are afraid that a parent would not approve of her little darling be let out of the protective bubble.
I was talking to a group of new parents (to Boy Scouts) the other night. When we presented the annual plan to them, I could see on their faces that they were not to comfortable with some of the high adventure activities that we do. Backpacking, canoeing, shooting sports, you know.. scouting. Seeing this look, I asked what concerns they have. It turns out that they are just concerned about their son being able to do all of this without them.
That, I told them, will be just fine. The boys do well without their parent hovering over them. I went on to explain that we don’t just drop off their son in the woods and pick them back up on Sunday. We have qualified adults that are there to teach them, coach them, and mentor them. Not do it for them, but prepare them to do it alone or with their patrol. I told them that it will ultimately come down to trust.
You either trust that we doing Scouting right or you don’t. If you do, your son will have an awesome time in Scouting. If you don’t, he will not be able to participate because you won’t let him. If that is the case, you should find another activity for him.
Building that Trust is up to the unit leaders. Assembling the right group of adult leaders that are willing to go the extra mile to be trained and seek additional training for the type of activities your unit does. It is easy to be a STEM troop. You just take your Scouts to the Science museum and pick them up in an hour. Having skilled , trained leaders to execute a Scouting program is important. I have mentioned this before but it is not our job to tell the Scouts no. If they want to put something on their calendar that is adventurous, find a way to do it. In our Troop we never say no. And we find a way to facilitate their adventures. Among the Assistant Scoutmasters and I we have thousands of miles on the trail. Hundreds of hours climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and winter camping. If we can’t find an expert, we become on. I can not tell you how much money has been spent to get extra training and gear just so we could do a great outing. We are not afraid to share that resume with the parents, it is all about building their trust and confidence in us so they will let their boy out of the bubble.
I don’t blame society on this. Nothing has changed. The water is still wet, the trees still grow, and night falls about the same times as it did when we were kids. The BB gun stings just like it did when I was kid, and fish still taste better than ever over an open fire. What was fun for us is just as fun for our kids today. Let them be boys.
Bob Mazzucca once said that we need to take Scouting where the boys are. So we have taken them to the zoo, to the museum, and to all the safe places that parents have pushed the boy into the bubble. Boys used to be outside and looking for adventure, and that is where we need to take them. Taking Scouting to where the boys are used to mean something a bit different. I don’t want to take Scouting where they are right now. Scouting belongs outside not behind a computer or in the lab. Yes, before I get beat up by all the STEM guys.. there is a time and place for that, but Scouting is Scouting.. just take a look at what it is in the old field books.
Flipping through those pages I find that there is nothing in them that we can not do today. We just won’t because it is to comfortable in the bubble.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Looking back

 

Cooper2005

Camp Cooper, 2005 Troop is 2 years old.

I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop.  I think about all of the young men that have come and gone.  Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works.  I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose.  I see those adults that give a ton to the program.  I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.

Baldwin2008

Camp Baldwin, 2008

As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end.  I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure.  It also changed our membership.  It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure.  I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to.  Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important.  I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting.  Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout.  A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs.  They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.

Holmlund2007

Camp Holmlund, 2007

Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure.  A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders.  Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s.  Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets.  Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands.  Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.

Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget.  Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off.  5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.

Jambo2010

2010 Nation Jamboree

In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720.  I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also.  The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.

If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go.  It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience.  Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want.  But 2010 was a special year.  Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special.  It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster.  It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop.  It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together.  The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly.  Those bonds remain.  That group will forever have a special place in my heart.

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Philmont, 2012

As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also.  I love Philmont.  In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop.  That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different.  The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch.  Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts.  The rest are still active in the Troop.  One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year.  Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664.  Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award.  We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience.  He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience.  On the contrary.  It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one.  We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth.  He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips.  Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.

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Camp Pigott, 2013

Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott.  It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic.  The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year.  In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year.  It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive.  It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting.  That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do.  In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey.  As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right.  The proof, they keep coming back.  They learn, they grow, they become men of Character.  All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing.  Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664.  I need to find the rest.  It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.

How’s your adventure?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Unit Culture

IMG_2059Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election.  Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership.  We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”.  When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders.  The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’.  At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow.  We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA.  I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now.  There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same.  A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout.  Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here.  Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap.  I asked why they think that is.  The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it.  If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee.  Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree).  Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire.  I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed?  Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look.  The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit.  New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture.  Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture.  Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled.  This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop.  They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp.  They like to show up with nothing but their packs.  This attitude is a big part of our culture.  It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from?  Well, certainly I had a part to play.  Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it.  As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other  adventurous activity.  It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are.  And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method.  The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring.  When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader.  They never stop hearing it.  The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”.  The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture.  More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session.  It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”.  Stuff that they just need to talk about.  To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust.  I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law.  Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here.  Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them.  That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence.  We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting.  We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program.  I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend.  That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is.  I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men.  I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous.  I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone.  I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times.  This has become our culture, this is our Troop.  I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell.  That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different.  My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it.   Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!