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  • Military and Scouting

    I remember the days back in the '60's where the military was taking heat for the Vietnam War. It was politically incorrect and a PR nightmare to compare scouts to the military, BUT.... the number of my scouts that went on to fulfill their civic duty because of their scouting background is quite large.

    Is it about time we put the war behind us and go back to the basics that scouting once provided under such military protocol?

    From other threads it is apparent that the terms scout, troop, patrol, etc. are all based on a military model. Leadership training of the BSA is remarkably similar to that of the US Army. I don't know who copied whom.

    Green Bar Bill has been sent off to oblivion because of his patrol method is remarkably military in focus.

    How far are we to carry the double-standard. We do flag ceremonies, we wear uniforms, we salute in military style, we form troops and patrols,... and yet we are not supposed to be reflective of the military.

    Well, 50 years have passed since Vietnam and still the knee-jerk response has seemed to now be some sort of permanent cramp.

    One used to be a baby-killer if they were in the military, now they are heroes, what's it going to be for the scouts?

    Stosh

  • #2
    I am a Vet I was never a scout. But now I am a Scout Dad. I was a vet long after Vietnam. I served from 1988 until 2000.

    Several of the scouts in my troop want to pursue the military as after high school. I will assist and encourage the boys who want to make that choice.
    Do we do some militaristic things in scouting absolutely. however the scouting program is also fine for boys that do not want that career.
    We teach skills that can be applied for the military if the boy chooses.
    As of this writing my son has indicated that he wants to join the USAF and has his MOS. OK what merit badges would apply for that MOS so when you hit the school you dont get dropped:
    All Eagle requirements
    hiking and swimming
    Scuba
    rifle
    Shotgun
    etc...


    But if I had a scout that came to me and said I was watching project runway and I want to do that....
    OK let make sure you are on a path to Eagle you will need those skills for business
    textiles
    leather work
    entrepreneurship
    Art

    Both are valid goals for the boys. Our job i think is to prepare the boys so they have the best chance at success in whatever choices they make.

    Comment


    • #3
      I remember in college (a little later than you would have been going, Stosh) a buddy of mine and I were in the same class. He was always looking sharp, and I -- well let's just say I never left the wilderness too far behind. The prof was just a few years older than us (maybe more, but she looked very young) and a very competent instructor, who was generous with office hours. I remember going her office and he was just leaving -- in full dress ready his ROTC meeting. Her first comment to me was "Students didn't dress like that when I was in college! Times have changed."
      "For the better?" I asked.
      "Yes, I think so, she said. We were so unfair to soldiers."

      I think people have gotten a grip. They understand that not every uniformed individual or every citizen who salutes our flag is part of the military establishment. And even if they are, it's because they believe that we are worth it. I hope that the same attitude extends to scouts. IMHO, good citizens make good soldiers - not the other way around. And even if they don't enlist they make good soldiers of their countrymen who choose to serve, by voting and participating in their government.

      Comment


      • #4
        So Stosh, just for clarification, what end-game do you have in mind? Are you suggesting we should re-institute drill, h2h combat training, PT, etc. Or are you just thinking we need to relax our attitude about camo pants? FWIW, I observed a number of scouts at the Brownsea Island display at Jambo. The lifesaving drill, whale harpoon game and the stave-combat stations were all very popular with the scouts. Survival skills sure but clearly a military bias as well. That said I'm sure marching and drilling wouldn't be terribly popular.

        I'm also struggling a little bit to think about how we'd incorporate citizenship training without the military edge of some of our program. The flag ceremonies, flag retirements, saluting, color guards, etc. are a huge part of that Aim. If we moved away from the military edge would citizenship training suffer or would it become more of a progressive looking program?

        FWIW, I'm a Navy vet, 81 - 87. I appreciate the work President Reagan did to change the perceptions of America's Armed Forces after the problems of the 70s. I'm also the son of a vet (USAF 56 - 60) and an Eagle Scout. My Scoutmaster was a WWII vet and landed in France on D-Day. I stand when the flag goes by because of them and those that continue to serve. Being a scout reinforced citizenship for me. I'm not sure many scouts today have the same influence I enjoyed as a youth.

        Anyway, I'm curious to know what end-game you have in mind.
        Last edited by dcsimmons; 08-02-2013, 11:49 AM. Reason: added a few more thoughts.

        Comment


        • dcsimmons
          dcsimmons commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks for the feedback.

          I think in regards to the world changing or scouting changing the answer is both. I wonder sometimes if what we are reaping today was sowed in the me-first mentality of the 60s and 70s. It is my personal opinion that our society has shifted from one based on the common good to one based on the individual good. That leads us down the path toward an excessive individualism instead of a collective belonging. No don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating some socialist agenda. I'm all for personal responsibility and individualism. I just believe that people who really are responsible and quality individuals can intentionally subjugate their wants to the collective needs.

          Again, my person opinion, the scouts are suffering here from the same issues that currently effect the American Legion and every other membership-based service organization I'm aware of. As the older members die off, there are no younger members to step up to take their place. Joining an organization where the individual needs are subjugated to the common good requires a selflessness that is sorely lacking in today's society. I wonder sometimes if the all-volunteer military will be able to survive the cultural mindset change.

          FWIW, I'm just a guy trying to get along so I won't be posting any scholarly articles to defend my opinions, they are just my observations.

          To your original question, could scouts benefit from a more militaristic mind-set, probably. But, that only works if the good of the unit comes before the good of the individual. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

        • jblake47
          jblake47 commented
          Editing a comment
          I tend to agree with you that since the '60's me-generation and the technology "revolution" we have lost a lot of our once sense of community. There was a certain amount of watching out for one's neighbors and now it's, do we even know who are neighbors are? Someone once said to me that once the couch on the porch disappeared, so did the community. Heck, it's obvious that people of today have to walk in the streets today because many of the 60's and 70's neighborhoods are designed without even sidewalks. Block parties are contrived, events. We used to actually block off the street and everyone would gather for a major potluck picnic. Now we can't even get a permit to gather in someone's tiny backyard.

          The me-generation and subsequent cultures have all refocused itself introspectively. People don't join organizations unless they are "getting something out of it". In the case of BSA, it's the Eagle classification they can put on their college entrance application and subsequent resumes. You are correct no one does it for the common good. Even politics for the common good have been replaced with personal power agendas.

          None of these dynamics work well in a military organization, where one is forced by the situation to watch out for someone besides yourself.

          I was surprised recently when one of my Eagle scouts achieved crew chief status in the Air Force rather quickly. He was an excellent leader and tended to be very much aware of "taking care of his boys" while in Scouts. I often wonder if his rapid ascension in the military is because mature leadership is not something that is often experienced by the military in its recruits.

          Families are shattering, neighborhoods are fragmented, communities are polarized, and instead of pulling together for the common good, it's dog-eat-dog individualism.

          A patrol used to be a group of tight knit pals, often described that way by BP, but with the mix and match attitude of adults, that even is fragmented. When I was a scout in the 60's a group of us joined, formed our own patrol, and when scouting disappointed us (4 years of scouting, made 2nd Class rank) we all joined Civil Air Patrol and had a far better time of it. After the first real search and rescue operation one is involved with, it was obvious that this was a "for real" adventure. It mattered to us that others were being looked after.

          Stosh

        • dcsimmons
          dcsimmons commented
          Editing a comment
          I recently had a brief (techonology-driven) "conversation" with a friend I served with all those years ago. He posted a picture or something musing about leadership. Now my friend rose to the highest enlisted rank in the Navy and served 20+ years. He's a deputy sheriff now in his home county. We decided the basis for good leadership is to "show up and give a damn." Obviously there's more too it than that but hopefully your young man that rose to crew chief has some of that work ethic instilled in him. Sounds like it to me.

      • #5
        With the changing technology based military, all the video games are possibly preparing the boys better for the future military than scouts can. Just a thought.

        Comment


        • st0ut717
          st0ut717 commented
          Editing a comment
          I think the new computer merit badges are a reflection of the needs of the military cyber warfare. they cant find kids that can code right out of high school anymore.

        • King Ding Dong
          King Ding Dong commented
          Editing a comment
          Computer skills especially coding are very important, but dangerous also. Scouts can offer a an opportunity to use that great power in an ethical way.

      • #6
        Scouting uses many elements that are similar to the military and I know some military veterans who are excellent scouters. I have also seen problems when adults with military experience try to make scouting too militaristic. Then there are the adults who were never in the military but wish that they had been and that can have some troubling impacts on their scouts.

        Comment


        • #7
          I'm still not sure what you're advocating; you say you're not advocating becoming para-military, but that we should put greater emphasis on military skills. How can we get any closer than what we already are in that regard?

          Your historical couch is also off by several decades; Scouting has denied that it's junior military since its first decade of existence, it's BP who popularized the label "peace scouts."

          Comment


          • #8
            BP created scouting to ensure that young men had basic outdoor living skills.
            JB What you define as Scouting has only one thing in common with scouts in that it has the word scout. I would like you to review my previous post and read carefully.
            You say
            "I'm not advocating some sort of para-military organization, just using the skill set of a military scout. Remember, although trained in weaponry, a scout is not there to engage the enemy, just check out where he is and report back. I'm thinking this is why the word scout is so important."
            The skill set of a military scout? I dont think we need INTEL and CRYPTO merit badge requirements.

            Why are you surprised that a young man that attained Eagle would succeed in the military? this is exactly what the military is looking for a person with survival skills, with an understanding of the world around him and has and leadership experience.

            What about a youth that is really not into the military but whats to serve in another capacity either the peace corp where BSA skills would greatly enhance the young mans ability to succeed or as many youth in my area will attend universities that are DARPA centers.

            it concers me that you say you are civil air patrol but not a combat vet. Yet you want to impart military thinking on scouts. In short the BSA traiing and merit badge system builds good citizen. If that citizen desires to serve in the military then the BSA will give that youth (girls included via Venturing) the skill required to excel in that career path.

            Comment


            • jblake47
              jblake47 commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes, I am not a veteran myself. At the height of the Vietnam War, I was #64 on the first ever draft. I went in was 4-F 4 rejected. End of my military career. However, I have spent 59 years in the outdoors. I have hiked most national parks, even a few in Canada. I hunt, fish, and have had numerous times where my skills learned in the outdoors has played in my favor. However, my background is not part of any agenda in this thread. I simply realize the connection between the esprit de corps offered by the military, the leadership development, the logistical organization and the self-confidence one acquires in the military has benefits for the BSA program. By tossing out the military "slant" in the program, have they tossed the baby out with the bathwater?

              By the way, if BSA were concerned by the military nomenclature of the British designations, why didn't they accept more Native American naming conventions in it's place? Surely there was the outdoors/Indian connection that could have been capitalized on if they were worried about military naming conventions.

              However, the BSA program was and still continues to keep it's roots in a military convention. The early BSA uniforms were in fact US Army uniforms and modern Sea Scouts still carry the tradition. They have dropped the cutlass and cannon, but keep most of the other naval traditions from uniforms to naming conventions. I know of no other organization that uses the term Quartermaster except for the military and BSA.

              Stosh
              Last edited by jblake47; 08-05-2013, 07:12 AM.

          • #9
            I think scouting does engender the level of respect for military personnel that most enlisted folks would like to see. They don't want youth holding them up on a pedestal, but they do want to be understood and respected for what they are doing for their country.

            I remember watching one parade in a AnySmallTown USA, my host told me to make sure my son knew to take of his hat as the vets came down leading the parade with the flag; otherwise, a member who walks down the sidewalk beside the color-guard will chastise him for being disrespectful. I told my host "After all of the training in scouts, that boy will have more than the veterans to worry about if he doesn't already know how to behave." Sure enough, he followed protocol and took his hat off at the appropriate time. My host is now a cubmaster for his son's pack. I'm pretty sure that the prospect of his boys bestowing appropriate military honor was a selling point.

            Comment


            • #10
              One of the many highlights I had as a Scoutmaster was to arrange for our troop to go the the Scoutmasters Council Camporee at West Point. Every year the Cadet Scoutmasters' Council hosts a camporee at Lake Frederick for approximately 6,000 scouts and it is by invitation only. It was interesting for me to see the Cadets - some only two or so years older than the Scouts put this on every year. It was also an experience to see soldiers - trained in crowd control and not in Scouting - tell a group of scouts not to block a pathway at Ft. A.P. Hill. It is one thing to have a middle aged, overweight, "Dad" Scoutmaster ask you to do something as opposed to a physically fit, BDU wearing, M-16 carrying, 25 yr old soldier barking orders at you!



              Scouting does not want to be, nor should it be, a paramilitary organization. Yes, both Scouts, soldiers and marines may find it useful to have skills to survive in the outdoors. Also, due to the fact that a retired British officer who just happened to be a war hero was the founder of the scouting organization we do have some military accoutrements in our program. But, I think the Vietnam backlash and Operation Iraqi Liberation/Freedom hero worship is over. Now, I think the country is suffering from war fatigue - we've been fighting in either Iraq or Afghanistan for more than a decade.

              Comment


              • #11
                I think we strike a reasonable balance.

                In addition to what's in the program materials, my SM minutes nearest Memorial and Veteran's days always relate to the holidays. As a troop, we made a big deal of the return of one of our Scout's brother from combat in Afghanistan. We have a Blue Star flag in the window of our Scout House (now two stars) and for years have sent a couple hundred pounds of soldier boxes overseas at the holidays. No, in the end, it's not a lot, but I think we do keep service and those who serve in the minds of our Scouts.

                Comment


                • #12
                  Originally posted by qwazse View Post
                  I remember watching one parade in a AnySmallTown USA, my host told me to make sure my son knew to take of his hat as the vets came down leading the parade with the flag; otherwise, a member who walks down the sidewalk beside the color-guard will chastise him for being disrespectful.
                  Really? They would do that? What a jerk. That would make me want too put my hat back on if I saw that.

                  I never understand the self righteous attitude that says: I see something as disrespectful, so my response is to be disrespectful back. How about assuming that no disrespect is intended? Maybe they have a good reason for not taking their hat off (or whatever it is they are doing)?

                  Comment


                  • Pack18Alex
                    Pack18Alex commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Personally, if I'm in a situation like that, I use the double covering used on the Sabbath and holidays (European Jewish tradition is that one wears a hat on those days, but in Synagogue, only unmarried men wear a hat. So I have a Kippa on over my hat). If I'm not in a uniform hat that stays on (like a Scout Hat), I'll have a Kippa (skullcap) on, so I can take my hat off without problem.

                    But yes, Christian tradition was to remove the hat out of respect. Jewish tradition is to wear the hat out of respect. America is a Christian country, and I see no problem showing respect for the flag AND my faith.

                    Not justifying self righteousness, but one can show respect for both. One can also raise one's hat out of respect without uncovering their head.

                  • jblake47
                    jblake47 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Or one could just put their hand over their heart and let it go at that. There is no enforcement of the Flag Code, it is there to assist citizens in how to show respect for the flag. If standing and putting one's hand over their heart regardless of one's hat isn't enough, then I don't know what is. It sure beats sitting in the lawn chair digging through the cooler looking for their next beer and ignoring the flag altogether. Whether it be right or wrong, the flag going down the street is able to allow that person the freedom to do so.

                    I do notice the improper display of the Flag in many parades as inappropriate to the Code in the first place. If there are two flags, one the US Flag and maybe the state flag, the US Flag is on the right. Not a problem, but when someone adds a third flag, i.e. American Legion flag, the US Flag goes out front! On a vehicle it is the front center or right front corner that gets the flag.

                    Flags displayed on floats is inappropriate. They are meant to be carried and allowed to fly freely no matter how windy it might be.

                    And the big kicker for me is the horizontal display of the flag. Totally inappropriate. The flag is to fly high and free!

                    It's kinda hard to expect the public to show respect when many of the color guards have not done their homework.

                    Stosh

                  • dcsimmons
                    dcsimmons commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I am so totally with you on the horizontal display of the flag. Gak.

                    I also prefer the U.S. Flag out in front when marching with multiple flags but I think it's permissible to still have it march on the right. I'd have to dig out my docs .

                • #13
                  The course on hat etiquette went away a long time before I started grade school. Rather than chastise people, how about a pleasant conversation on the proper way to be respectful.

                  Comment


                  • jblake47
                    jblake47 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    At least they aren't trying to start the flag on fire as it passes by.....

                  • King Ding Dong
                    King Ding Dong commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Or challenging each other to see who can hit the flag the most times with the Tootsie Rolls the politiians toss out at these parades.

                • #14
                  Jblake, what are examples of "tossing out the military slant?" I'm not disagreeing with you, just want a better understanding of where you're coming from.

                  I agree with what you say about the leadership, teamwork, self confidence, etc of the military. Isn't this exactly why BP started scouting? He liked these aspects of the military but wanted to leave the violence out? At least that hasn't changed. Respect for any type of leadership has certainly dropped.

                  Comment


                  • dcsimmons
                    dcsimmons commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Well, I suppose one of the things the military has is the UCMJ. Screw up, go see the old man, give back some money, stripes, etc. Spend a few days on bread and water in the brig. In the armed forces you sign the contract, take the oath, and there are consequences.

                    In scouting we don't inflict consequences very often. Since we don't require a uniform to participate, people don't respect the uniform. Since we don't require attendance at meetings/events to participate (aside from 10 events to advance) people make it a lower priority than sports, band, etc. that do require participation to get a grade. Scoutmasters who refuse to sign a scout spirit/SM conference for lack of participation get crucified as a gatekeeper.

                    I could be full of it though. More than a few have accused me of that. .

                  • MattR
                    MattR commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Now I understand. Thanks for writing, this is a good thing to talk about. I'm not sure what the formula was. I suspect there wasn't one and it was just a part of our culture. In the military the formula seems to be that you're in it together and you truly depend on each other. I try to create that in scouts but I struggle with it because I haven't seen it before and neither have the parents. dcsimmons, while I do have consequences for lack of participation I think it's more than that. If I reduce this idea to a number in TroopMaster kids will just game the system. It's more of an attitude.

                    Maybe this is another thread but I see an underlying theme on several threads that somehow seem connected. This thread on the military, the one on scout spirit, honor, the out doors, and the ones on religion (aside from all the arguing). I can't easily put my finger on it but it has to do with believing in something bigger than ourselves. Whether it be our patrol, troop, nature, society, or God, it counteracts our selfish side and helps our selfless side. Logically, it makes no sense but, when done right, has a profound impact on people. I can't even describe it, yet teach it to the parents or scouts.

                    I had a SM meeting last night and we spent half of it talking about scout spirit, helping out without being asked, that sort of thing. We talked about every scout that was Star and above. There's one I need to have a serious talk with but most of them get it. They will try and help out. Many are not sure of themselves but they know the right thing to do. Very few of the scouts in my troop are just in it for the Eagle pin so they can quit. Some have even told me they started off with that intention but have since changed their mind. So, I think they are open to this, it's just up to me to provide them a way to experience it. But I admit, I could use some help.

                  • Pack18Alex
                    Pack18Alex commented
                    Editing a comment
                    It's a problem with numbers and values. When I went to Cub Scout camp, those boys were all determined to be there. Many of them had spent every weekend for two months selling camp cards to be there. If I told them to take a hill, they'd have taken it with nothing but rocks.

                    I'm going to have to dial down my expectations with my regular unit, while also trying to bring that "Scout Spirit" with us.

                    One thing that helped us, regional events. When we went to Cuboree (which we had never been to before), the boys came back "getting it." Sure they traveled with our Pack from event to event, station to station, but being in a field full of Scouts, our boys finally got "scout spirit" from the units that had it. But weekly meetings don't cut it. At the troop level, the weekly meetings are hopefully all building toward the troop activities. At the cub level, it's enjoyable activities to build camaraderie and learn skills.

                    One thing I've noticed, the recognition for accomplishment is huge, and gets the boys proud and excited. Obviously at the troop level you need to do this more maturely, but all people like recognition, and leadership and teamwork is a part of that.

                    But begging the parents is a problem. However, giving out a patch and recognition to the boys that participated in the event and getting the boys excited about the next one seems to work.

                • #15
                  "How far are we to carry the double-standard. We do flag ceremonies, we wear uniforms, we salute in military style, we form troops and patrols,... and yet we are not supposed to be reflective of the military."

                  My explaination to people is that we're a civilian uniformed service chartered by the US Congress. The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the much better known National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAA). We're not commissioned, but we are chartered by Congress. When we are in uniform, we're no different than any other civilian (non-military) uniformed Corps, we follow uniform protocol regarding the flag. When we are in Activity Shirts (Class Bs), we're no different than a soldier in their camoflauge field uniform.

                  We're not military, but we are uniformed. I mean, my local police, highway patrol, state troopers, and firefighters all have uniforms. Even TSA has uniforms. There are non military uniformed services.

                  "Your historical couch is also off by several decades; Scouting has denied that it's junior military since its first decade of existence, it's BP who popularized the label "peace scouts."

                  Well, I'm reading Scouting for Boys, and it makes it very clear (at least in the desire to excite young boys with a sense of adventure) that part of the reason to master these scout skills is so you can service King and Empire, filled with very militaristic and policing examples. We certainly have a history in the military, and while Scouting wasn't formed as a para-military group, the original manuals were teaching skills that would give you an opportunity to serve your King in the far flung regions of the empire.

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