Interesting, (a bit lengthy) journal from LTC Mike Walton of his Day on the Hill...(Tuesday, 07/26)
Today was a very busy day for me, in more ways than one. It seems that some guy named Murphy was following me around most of the day today too.
I woke up this morning, thinking that I had two hours before I was to be at my post in the Media Reception tent on the Jamboree grounds; turned out that instead,
I had about 20 minutes to get to the post from the "Jamboree truck stop" where I was resting (and where I am posting from this morning). I didn't make it on time.
Little did I know that there was a nearly all-night powwow session to determine what would the message be today to the press, who would deliver it, and what about
press and visitors today. And how will we honor those who have died.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a row of sat trucks, cars with logos on them (some I don't like) and reporters and "talking heads" all lined up slanted so that their
cameras can focus on the "Fort AP Hill" signage across the four-laned highway and catacornered from their "watch positions." It was clear to me that some of them
have been there since 4 or 5 am this morning. As I made my way into the Jamboree "egg", I heard several accounts on the radio of what happened yesterday.
This morning at 10 am (actually it was closer to 11am with some technical delays), both the BSA's national spokesman Gregg Shields and the Jamboree Task Force
public affairs officer Major Vince Mitchell addressed some 60 or so press agencies all corralled into the Hometown News press tent. Yesterday, Gregg pointedly told
me that the Gatorade in the coolers were for the "staff there and not for you and your army buddies. We paid for those drinks..." to which I apologized and offered to
pay them for the drinks we were given and told we could have. This morning, I saw the other side of Gregg Shields as he visiably broke down in trying to explain the BSA's
strongest condolences for the deaths which occured yesterday evening. It wasn't practiced...Gregg had to stop twice before he could regain enough composure to continue
his prepared statement -- one which he, Mitchell, and several other BSA and military folk were preparing overnight.
By the time Major Mitchell reached the podium, most of the reporters have already captured what the "story of the day" is going to be: the loss of "Scouting leaders" (when
did we change what we call adult volunteers? To me, those men are Scouters!) and the BSA's plans for this day.
First, no visitors. None. Those here will be asked to leave and those who do not leave then, will be escorted off the premises. Let the Scouts grieve, reflect and encourage
each other this day.
Second, a safety stand-down will be performed on the military side. No significant operations, but rather a specific review of what safety precautions are to be taken and how
can we make those precautions better.
Next, a statement saying that a part of the Opening show will feature a memorial to those four Scouters and that the President of the United States of America is still scheduled to attend.
Finally, a listing of the Scouters who were killed, along with those injured. At that point, I thought that Gregg should have stopped and I attempted to signal his "point man"
(that's the guy or gal who gives the briefer first the "last question" warning and then whisks him or her off stage before another question can be posed...) of that fact but he
wasn't looking at me when I was giving the "high sign" and Eric was looking at me when I was scanning the audience. Finally, we got our signals coordinated, he gave the
word to Gregg for "one more question please" which turned into two questions, and finally, he left the stage.
The Public Affairs Operations Center (PAOC, a public affairs "battalion headquarters") personnel got the reporters and videographers back onto the buses, out the gates, and
off the reservation. But still...reporters hung around, for they were not given the direct answers -- those "bites" -- of the "story of the day."
Staff members of American Scouting Digest (http://www.americanscoutingdigest.com) came to the Jamboree today. We took a group photo and then Gregg asked me through
one of the youth staff members working at the media relations area to "please escort them off the base". While I apologized to Rob Miller and Jaime Rodriguez for what I had
to do, I know that they understood that I am doing my job and that the BSA does take the lead in such things...it is THEIR National Scout Jamboree.
So we found a Chinese resturant and had lunch. I also received some trading material (patches) and some extra issues of ASD to hand out along with some subscription information.
It was funny -- Jaime should have taken a photo -- of both Rob and I looking for photos taken of ourselves in the latest issue and showing each other at the same time!!! *smiling*
We then went to visit one of my old friends -- Chris Jensen and his family, doing business as Streamwood. ( I had to leave the truck stop...they had a fire alarm to go off!)
Chris and I have been trading and I have been purchasing Scouting items from him and his family since the middle 90s but this was the first time we met face to face. The last two
Jamborees, he was off either at some other place or he was taking a break. When we arrived, a TV crew from Charottesville was interviewing Chris and you can swear that he was
an experienced pro at answering those questions (maybe it was the fact that he has been answering the same questions for several TV stations before we arrived!). Streamwood
put up their display and merchandise wares on the grass in front of a hotel close to the main entrance of the Fort. They have been doing some strong business from that location.
I owe Streamwood $10 for a widegame patch I have been looking for.
Eventually, I'll go back to him and pick up some special merit badges for presentation here and back home (and perhaps to my honies -- she's been asking "where's my merit badge"
for doing things for me....) before they pack up on Friday.
I went to the Public Affairs Office and delivered the first of my several military and Scouting stories along with some photos.
The rest of the afternoon...well...let me first explain that the van I am using - a 1992 Chrysler Town and Country - is just that. It is mechanically in good shape, but there's signs
that it's an old beat up minivan. It is my office and sleeping space while I am on the road to, during and from the Jamboree. It holds all of my "stuff" and where I sit and work on various
projects until the heat gets too bad and the AC can't keep up.
It doesn't smell like stale cigarettes any more, thanks to many of you and your suggestions. Thank you -- a lot of them really worked!!
Leaving the small Shoppette with a load of water and tea, some teeshirts and a hat, I opened the door and the sliding door slid....right off the track of the van and almost into the street!!
So, being really mad, I took my hat off and started to attempt to fix the door back onto its track. I was getting nowhere fast. Two Scouts walked by and offered to help, but I turned them
down thinking that "if I can't get it on here, I know that they couldn't do it."
"Sir, excuse me." The guy was wearing a MP brassard and glasses. "Sir, I know you're trying to fix your car, but I've got some impressionable Soldiers here and...." he was looking at
my sweating, wet hat-less head. I caught the clue. I apologized, found my hat on top of the van, and placed it back onto my head.
"Look sir, instead of you fighting this...drive your van down over to that second building over there, go inside and tell them that the "skinny white boy" told you to ask them to put your door
back on...they'll hook you right up, sir!" He smiled at me. That Master Sergeant will never know that I was three points from sitting in tears and sweat before he smiled and offered to help
"Thank you, Sergeant!" I meant it, as I got the door affixed so that it would not fall off with too little effort, and turned the van around and drove it to the motor pool.
There, three mechanics attempted to put the fool door back onto the van...when they failed, they put the door back on the van so that I could drive it to a repair shop. Now, I just need repair
My Scouting highlight for today comes from my experiences in the Shoppette. The Shoppette is like a 7-11 or Stop and Save without the gas pumps in the front. Mostly junkfoods and mostly
high energy stuff and cold soft drinks are found in there. As I was walking around, two Scouts were talking about the Shuttle liftoff today. One was older than the other, but both were in
their 16 or 17s...
"You thnk they'll get it back down to earth in one piece?" one asked the other.
"You gotta have faith, Henry." the other Scout stated.
Faith is what brings up to doing things like the Jamboree. Yeah, yeah, it's a lot of money. But you have to have some degree of personal faith to get you to hand over the cash, to get here,
and to participate as far as you can and are willing to do so. There's a lot of Scouts here who are thinking "is this all worth the money I spent to get here?" They'll find out during the day
tomorrow (today, Wednesday) that they placed their faith in the right lane.
Meanwhile, I will see what my faith will get me as I deal with the door and other issues back home (I haven't received my paycheck from the last two times I performed military duties...)
Stay Safe and Cool (and yes, I have been drinking water and juices all day today....)
LTC Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
On the Road between Minnesota and "The Hill"