Jump to content

So, what qualifies you to take boys on hikes? - rant!

Recommended Posts

I agree that there are those of us who probably do not have all of the training that we could.

But as a volunteer organization that relies on fairly heavy time commitments by the uniformed front line leaders - SM's and ASM's, 1)what is a reasonable level of wilderness experience to require - 2)and if it requires training outside of BSA then how is it going to be paid for - is it another part of the opportunity to volunteer, 3)and if so does only one adult(per outing) need the training or does every adult who goes have to have the full training continuum? To include any parents who come along to ensure YPT?


I, for one, agree that you should never be done qualifying, requalifying or adding to your skills - even if you reach the point where adding to your skills is reading about others mishaps.


To date, with-in BSA, I have completed:, YPT, Fast Start: Boy Scouting, Troop Committee Challenge, Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat, Trek Safely, Climb On Safely, New Leader Essentials, and Scoutmaster Specific.

In the same period I obtained American Red Cross certifications in: Standard First Aid; CPR/AED Adult and Child with CPR Infant. And attended one of three scheduled Roundtables - (one canceled, one work conflict)

Have I mentioned I have only begun working on training as Scouter since May 1st this year?


*** Caution Sarcasm follows***


Can I take the boys for a hike yet?

Not necessarily High Adventure - I am only a PADI Advanced Open water diver - with deep dive and night certifications. (>100 dives)

I've only spent two years climbing (free, lead and top rope) in Joshua Tree. But no Instructor certifications in either. And no I wouldn't take them without the services of a qualified instructor and the requisite training for the boys.


Oh did I mention, 21 years of service to our country where believe it or not they taught us a little bit about getting along in the woods and in saving our fellow service members lives (Basic training)(First Aid Training)(Combat Lifesaver certification) a little bit of leadership instruction was thrown in on the side (Basic again)(NCO school - local) (Formal NCO school) (Formal Staff-NCO Academy) with essentially 19 to 21 years of laboratory work(depending on when you think being a leader started) doing it every single day. Too many deployments to austere third world environments, with and with out outside logistical support, to list.


Can I take the boys out yet?

Or must I complete BSA Intro to Outdoor Skills first? Oh, and Woodbadge? Oh, and Wilderness First Aid - with Delayed Response?


Oh there's more? Well when you finalize the list, let me know and I'll see if I can get all of that to be fully trained up and still stay current and available to go on those hikes. In the meantime someone less qualified will just have to fill-in.


Oh and does Outward Bound have a perfect safety record? I seem to remember lots of negative press about that organization when I was in High School, have they come along way, sure. But do they use volunteer leaders? I'm not sure but I doubt it. Does any one know?


Or maybe we just need to retreat behind our little suburbanite fences and just let the boys suffer.



Link to post
Share on other sites



Ready on the Left! Ready on the Right! The firing line is no longer clear!


Firers: Breathe, relax, aim and squeeze, Commence Firing!



Remember all those "check-a-blocks" in my thread? You've hit a bunch of them, and helped the Council get Quality Council. What did they do for you???


Truth be told, the only gap I know of in your MILITARY adn LIFE EXPERIENCE training regimen was "ages and stages" for youth. As a Gunny, you're used to 18-21 year olds, with 22 year old LTs who act like 18 year olds, ... Dialing back to the point where you are working with young minds who have lots of discoveries to make is a significant learning point. (Granted, I don't know how big a family you are Dad and Uncle to!)


Beyond that, being able to set aside the Drill Manual (it'll always be FM 22-5 for me) and using a limited amount of drill to get tasks done is perhaps the most important training point you need to undertake. B-P was a Cavalryman, he had specific views of imposing the parade ground upon these young men in the Grand Game.


I haven't taken OLS yet, and I got my Scouter's training award several years ago. I think you know how to teach others to sleep, eat and operate "in the cold, in the dark, in the wet" (to quote a corps arty commander of mine).


When it's time, take WB not for the leadership fundamentals (you first saw them when you went to school to be a Buck Sergeant), but for the friendship and the network of others. You're like two friends of mine: She's a Captain (USN-line), he's a Chief Master Sergeant (zoomie). They concluded they needed all of half an hour overview to teach any module of WB.


I suspect you are ready to take the kids to Philmont. I suspect you'd be a huge advantage to any Camps Lakefront staff as either the Director or a LF Commissioner.


You didn't say so in your introduction, but were you Force Recon?


Take the elephant 1 bite at a time my friend. You are more than ready to be either an ASM or a SM.


To answer your questions:


1) Most troopers who've been an infantry squad leader or an artillery section chief, and most (line-ground) officers who've commanded a battery, have more than enough field experience to do the tasks we teach Boy Scouts in outdoor skills. I hope that gives you a good azimuth check!


2) I think you've hit one of BSA's problems: Fewer and fewer Americans can make our homes in the treeline. It takes time in the field doing the skills to be good at them, and then it takes time to learn to teach them (both of which I estimate you mastered a while ago).


3) Horse Manure. Just one experienced adult is "insurance liability defense" in action. Now, you may end up helping train a lot of adults who are far less comfortable in a bivouac (or a RON site on a long patrol) than you are, but we need to bring them along too.


I'll PM you.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most troopers who've been an infantry squad leader or an artillery section chief, and most (line-ground) officers who've commanded a battery, have more than enough field experience to do the tasks we teach Boy Scouts in outdoor skills. I hope that gives you a good azimuth check!


Nah, I disagree, KC.


First, military training definitely isn't Leave No Trace. Military style campin' is unethical and even illegal most places we take kids.


Second, as you mention, military leadership (mission-focused) definitely isn't da same as youth leadership (personal development focused).


They're different beasts. If you're rappelin' out of a helicopter or down a cliff where people can be shooting at you yeh use very different techniques than when you've got lots of time to be safe about systems and provide emotional support.




Link to post
Share on other sites

"They concluded they needed all of half an hour overview to teach any module of WB."


Wow, do I feel inferior, looking back at all the time I've invested as a staffer for the course that begins next weekend. Have they been invited to staff? Maybe they can come over here to Atlanta and teach me a few secrets. Heck, maybe they can teach our entire staff a few secrets.


Since Gunny (and other military personnel) has already seen the material, maybe he can just ask for his beads.


Gunny - sounds like you are ready. To learn "the BSA way" you might want to pick up the merit badge book on hiking and review it. I find the BSA Field Book to be very valuable. After that, nothing beats experience!

Thanks for your dedication to Scouting.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In all the discussion of what skills one needs to take youth into the woods, the big one that is missing is the one that we should have been learning starting with our parents and continuing forward. For simplicity's sake, most call it Common Sense - but anecdotal evidence suggests that so-called Common Sense isn't so common after all.


My undergrad degree is in Environmental Education/Outdoor Recreation. Not only did I learn advanced outdoors skills, I learned how to teach them, and how to lead groups safely into the woods (do you know who is often called upon to teach certain outdoors skills to the military? Civilian contractors with degrees in Outdoor Recreation - because they usually are most familiar with the latest techniques and equipment - and have spent far more time doing these activities than folks in the military (not dissing the military - just pointing out different priorities in folks lives - military personnel don't often get to climb rocks, for example, every day or every weekend - it may be something they do just a few times per year)) My degree and experience would mean squat, though, if I didn't also have the "common sense" to know that climbing above treeline in a thunderstorm (as an example) is just not a good idea.


There are plenty of training opportunities both inside and outside of Scouting that helps one be better prepared to lead youth into the wilderness. Obviously, some are more apt to take advantage than others. The real question is, what is missing from that training - does it make certain assumptions about what people should already know (aka Common Sense) and therefore passes right over some knowledge?


Lets take a closer look at some of those anecdotal stories that folks are all atwitter about being presented in an Outside Magazine opinion piece (sorry, I know I'm cross-pollinating but they seem to be related to this thread).


5 Scouters electrocuted at National Jamboree when the pole of their tent touches an overhead electrical line. "Common Sense" tells us that we should never set up a tent with metal poles (or frankly, any poles) under an overhead electrical line. Yet this tent was being set up under an overhead electrical line. That makes this tragedy perfectly preventable, and even more tragic because it was preventable(side note - not blaming the Scouters for this - as I understand it, an outside tent company was hired and they sited the tent - though I question why an experienced Scouter would not have had a "wait a second - is this really safe" moment). But maybe there was no common sense - did anyone in training say that tents shouldn't be set up under electrical lines? Maybe not - since it's not that common to be setting up camp near electrical lines in the first place, and maybe the assumption was that they should have known without being told.


Numerous stories about Scouts "wandering off" and getting lost in the woods - there seems to be a recurring theme - they aren't getting lost on a trail from one place to another - they mostly seem to be getting lost after wandering away from camp. My question is Why?? Is the Buddy Method no longer being taught/adhered to anymore? When I was a Scout, you didn't go anywhere without your buddy around - not even the Kybo (your buddy didn't go in with you, but you certainly walked to it together). If you were working in the Axe Yard, your buddy (or someone elses - it was perfectly acceptable to trade as needed - as long as the trade was made) had to be present. Washing dishes - buddy needed to be present. When I was 14, I joined my school's Cross Country team - I wanted to run every morning in Summer Camp - and had to find a buddy willing to get up early and run with me in order to do so. The biggest tragedy of these lost Scouts is that this should have been preventable.


I've got quite a few friends from my college who are park rangers/naturalists in National and State Parks who tell me that they cringe when they hear the term "I (am/was) a Boy Scout/Scoutmaster" This is all anecdotal so take it as you will - but the general impression these professionals get is that Scouts/Scouters often times aren't as open to instruction and suggestions because they are already "experts".


I've experienced this phenomenon myself at a BSA National High Adventure base - there is a significant minority out there that do have this type of attitude. Some things I've heard: "I'm an expert canoeist because I own a canoe and paddle on the lake at my weekend home all the time (said just before training on how to canoe through whitewater rapids and 5 foot lake swells). "You're splinting that broken leg wrong because thats not the way the Red Cross taught it to me 15 years ago" (said to this Wilderness EMT/Paramedic who just finished canoeing 30-miles to tend to this lad and faced a 30-mile upstream canoe ride back to the nearest road and ambulance). "See this plant? This is Poison Ivy so you want to stay away" (said while standing in a patch of Poison Ivy while pointing to Virginia Waterleaf). "That mountain is less than a mile tall - we can easily hike up and back before dark" (said at around 4pm not realizing that a flat one mile that can be done in 20 minutes is not the same as a vertical 1 mile that may take 3 or more hours to complete - one way - depending on the trail).


We need more than just skills training. We need training in "common sense" (which becomes common when we are exposed to it over and over and over again), we need to make sure we aren't glossing over what we think is obvious (so what if they've heard it 50 times before, a 51st time won't hurt), and maybe some training on humbleness (is that a word?) - we all need to be humble enough to be able to take suggestions from others who probably know a little something something about things that we just aren't aware of.






Link to post
Share on other sites

I was a brand new WDL and took the den plus some parents and my then 8 year old daughter on a hike. I can put one foot in front of the other pretty good. If you know to much to go to training call your district training chairman and volunteer to be a trainer. You can attend training as a trainer and as a participant. Most of the trainings are divided into distinct sections with specific things to be covered its all modular and the best way to do it is to have enough people to each teach one module. Especially if you have real world experience which relates to one module you teach that module and participate during the rest and you get credit for taking the training and teaching it. I have never heard of a training chair that does not need more help maybe there is one somewhere.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you qualified to take the boys on a hike?




If you are heading into the high country of Colorado in mid summer, you better know the weather patterns. It can save your life. If you don't and lead a group of 12 year olds above timberline and get caught in a very predictable thunderstorm (at least to the experienced), you are a fool.


If you're heading into the Canyonlands of Utah, you better know how where your water source is. If you don't, you are a fool.


If you take scouts to a place over an hour from help and don't have wilderness first aid training, you are a fool.


If your heading into a popular, heavily traveled park with lots of potential quick support, you probably don't need many skills. Yet BSA doesn't distinguish these treks with more hazardous ones.


My problem with BSA is there is no standard beyond the DRP, a travel permit and YPT to distinguish the qualified from the unqualified. The public image of a boy scout leader in uniform is someone who knows how to live and survive in the woods. However, any fenced in suburbanite can take kids into a potentially dangerous situation without any skills required under the shield of the BSA. Our track record demonstrates it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My training?


The only training that I've received from BSA that ACTUALLY taught me how to lead boys in the woods was earning my First Class when I was a lad.


Truth be told, there's nothing I've learned in the BSA adult training that I already hadn't known from my Scouting days. I'm NOT knocking adult training. Many people didn't have the experience of being a Scout in an active backpack-oriented Troop. Plus, we all have to be working "off the same page."


However, I don't think that you need to have certification cards spilling out of your wallet in order to lead Scouts on a backpack trip.


Jeez. It's hard enough to find volunteers with enough free time to go on the trips, let alone attend lots of training sessions.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, thanks for the feed back, like John-in-KC often says, its a gift - that in this case lets me rethink and evaluate my position.


1)It was a knee jerk response to an article - a long knee jerk but still.


2) John, thanks!


3) Beavah, a)not all military style camping is the kind you are thinking about. There is plenty of military camping that takes place with 12 or fewer people, packing in and packing out, never making a fire, packing in and packing out EVERY SINGLE THING(I knew the cat hole soup thing 18 years ago) and where the entire goal is to not ever let anyone know you were there.


b)yes, mission focus is primary in the military - but leadership/character(development) training is ongoing also and another focus of effort. How can I say that my focus is on the mission if I haven't trained my subordinates (often two levels down) and know my superiors job one level up?

And in that, is included that they have the character to implement the plan.

Usually, the character development plan is guided by trying to emulate the 14 traits of a USMC leader and being a good leader can often be defined in adherence to the 11 USMC leadership principles of the Marine Corp. see link http://www.usmc1.us/marine_leadership_trait.html


c) true I won't encourage or show a Scout how to FAST rope, SPIE rig or even rappel Aussie style, because they don't need those skills and they are more dangerous than the sport version of those activities that have sport counterparts.


Brent, I am in no way stating that I know every thing, read para 2 of the rant and the first section following the Sarcasm warning.

And I can't wait to get to go to WB. But I'm being told to put it off (locally) for at least a year if not two. I'm sure that you are putting in the hours ensuring that what you are going to cover in WB will be of real value to your students, and thank you for doing so.


CalicoPenn, absolutely you are correct, Common sense is an uncommon virtue(to borrow a phrase).


will continue...(This message has been edited by Gunny2862)

Link to post
Share on other sites



Environmental friendliness has become an increasing part of how the military bivouacs in peacetime. We have the same problems the recreational industry does... limited land.


As far as who can do what, depends on the skillset. A young Eagle I know was our Lodge Vice chief a few years back. His Dad took my Eagle through Personal Fitness. This young man has done his time in Hell. He enlisted for the 75th Ranger Regiment after 9/11. Got it. Went to Benning, to Jump School, and to the Regiment. Last winter he declined the opportunity to re-enlist. He's working in Colorado now, at one of the Outward-Bound look-alikes. His resume was his DD-214 and his last evaluation from his company commander.


I'm not saying every soldier, sailor, Marine or airman can immediately make the transition to outdoor competency. I am saying many Veterans, on the strength of their military fieldcraft, can teach the outdoor skills tasks to standard to kids upon seeing BSA requirements and perhaps looking at an MB manual.

Link to post
Share on other sites


CalicoPenn, and you are also right about what we think people know. The tent comment was spot on - I think to myself, "What could they have been thinking" even without the metal there is the possible electrical hazard if the tent material got wet from rain, and the combustibility of the tent material if the wire is warm or falls, and the fact that you are under a wire - even if it is a permanent install, and not an expo install, it could still fall on the tent. That was just crazy.

And I love your last paragraph, no really, notice no sarcasm warning.

"We need more than just skills training. We need training in "common sense" (which becomes common when we are exposed to it over and over and over again), we need to make sure we aren't glossing over what we think is obvious (so what if they've heard it 50 times before, a 51st time won't hurt), and maybe some training on humbleness (is that a word?) - we all need to be humble enough to be able to take suggestions from others who probably know a little something something about things that we just aren't aware of."


Scotteng, I would love to be a trainer, and before my SM made a decision recently, was the Committee post I was looking into - realizing of course that I was still short on a) having been even exposed to the BSA way and b) being trained for my primary position as an ASM. Both things I am trying to rectify. And think that part of my job with the boys is, to train when they a) want help, b) are trying to kill themselves and NEED help, and c) can't see the Scouting trail and need a little guidance.


Gern, no arguments, 1 question. Are consultations with a local expert on weather and water and mapping multiple water options prior to setting out, not as good as having the expert along but, reasonable precautions to your first two scenarios.


orennoah, but is your first aid current, do you know how to operate an AED if you are lucky enough to be near one when you need it? Or is brought in to you?

If you are operating off of your prior knowledge and not staying current then you MAY be part of the problem -probably not.

But your point of the time commitment is valid and does go back to an earlier question of mine, Is it sufficient to have one qualified leader on a trip? Or at lest two, because what happens if I'm the one who gets hurt? Assuming I'm wilderness certified "Whatever that means as a standard". And goes to Gerns last paragraph in the above posting.


And again John-in-KC makes an excellent point in his last para in the posting of Friday, 7/27/2007: 9:25:58 AM


Thanks for your posts!

Link to post
Share on other sites

In a program run by volunteers, there is going to be a very disparate level of training and competency from one troop to another. When I joined the Troop I serve, we had a Pediatrician for a Committee Chair (she makes most trips) and a Dentist (we refer to them as our Paradox). We also had the Deputy Chief of the regional SAR as an Assistant Scoutmaster, he used to bring his dogs with him as training and was an EMT, High Angle Rescue Certified, Fast Water Rescue Certified and a few other certified as well. As he transitioned out of the troop we added an Intensive Care Physicians Assistant and for a brief time had an ED physician as an asst scoutmaster. Throw in a few nurses and a Fire Dept Lieutenant and I would match our adults training and competency against any another unit, and even some ED's I have been to. Personally I am an X-Ray Tech, certifed in CPR, but unless there is a radiology unit handy in the woods, I wouldnt be of much real use


The problem is, this is just one unit and I in no way beleive that every unit should/can/might have this individuals and while I like the current situation, I have no idea what the composition of the adults will be in 3 years.


So, what qualifies us to take boys on a hike? The fact the Chartering Organization allowed us to be placed on the units charter is the basic answer. Now, where will that hike occur? In the 100 mile wilderness of the Appalachian Trail in Maine or the local county nature preserve?


Beavah has used the mantra we should respect other adults who volunteer their time to the organization and have faith in them and their abilities to do the right thing by the boys and always have their best interest at heart. This may be one of those times we trust each other

Link to post
Share on other sites

BSA expects people to use common sense and make reasonable judgements.


Anyone remember the sandwich principal? Qualified supervision and Discipline on the outside, Scouting Safety on the inside.


How about the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety (from the G2SS) (italics added)?

1. Qualified Supervision. Every BSA activity should be supervised by a conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children and youth in his or her care. The supervisor should be sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the activity to be confident of his or her ability to lead and teach the necessary skills and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency. Field knowledge of all applicable BSA standards and a commitment to implement and follow BSA policy and procedures are essential parts of the supervisor's qualifications.

7. Safety Procedures and Policies. For most activities, common-sense procedures and standards can greatly reduce any risk. These should be known and appreciated by all participants, and the supervisor must assure compliance.


No, BSA doesn't specifiy what is "sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled" for every circumstance - they depend on leaders and parents to reasonable assess their own and other leaders' abilities.


I wouldn't "knowingly accept(s) responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children and youth" in my care if I didn't think I was qualified. Me, I stick to cub scout events at established campsites.


But I trust the leadership of my son's troop to take them on remote, high adventure trips. If I didn't think it was safe to send my son, I wouldn't, and I would let the leaders know. That has only happened once in 16 years with this troop - and the leaders modified the plans and added more practice before the trip, satisfying my concerns.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Beavah has used the mantra we should respect other adults who volunteer their time to the organization and have faith in them and their abilities to do the right thing by the boys and always have their best interest at heart. This may be one of those times we trust each other....


No, BSA doesn't specifiy what is "sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled" for every circumstance - they depend on leaders and parents to reasonable assess their own and other leaders' abilities.


Yah, I agree with both of these statements, eh?


The only spot where I think there are issues is when a CO doesn't have a lot of depth in youth/outdoors programmin', and where the adult scouters are beginners. Advanced beginners, people with some real experience are usually pretty good at evaluatin' their own competency. Novices ain't.


I think da risks happen when you get beginners who just don't understand the issues and get in over their heads (maybe they were great summertime hikers, but just didn't get what it's like in winter, or what it's like with a bunch of inexperienced kids). I think the other risk is when there's adult turnover and experienced scouters get replaced by less experienced, but the new leaders feel they "need to do the same activities." Kinda like sendin' the 15-year-old CIT's out to supervise Wilderness Survival MB. The experience is low, but there's a feelin' yeh have to go.... and then yeh burn down a forest.


Both of these happen enough to be noteworthy, eh? We all recognize that a lot of the incidents in da Outside article were exactly like that - novice leaders in high-turnover troops, thinkin' they had to do the activity. We gotta find a way to catch them, without puttin' too much of a burden on all the rest.




Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...