My Eagle TrailPosted
Over the past 12 years, I've been involved in the Boy Scouts of America. I've gone from a Tiger in elementary school to an Eagle Scout in High School. I've poured thousands of hours in both volunteering and camping, both as part of the main BSA program and the OA, and I've gone to the largest Scouting event in the world, the World Scout Jamboree. As I've now reached the pinnacle of the Scouts BSA program, I figured it would be a good idea to reflect on what brought me here, and where to go.
I started my journey as a Tiger Scout. There's not much that happened here, except for MassJam 2013, which was my first really big event as a Scout. I credit this event with first getting me into amateur radio.
In 2014, I "crossed over" from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts. My scoutmaster at the time was Scoutmaster Dude. Dude was my scoutmaster for several years, and he oversaw my journey from Scout to Life, which, for those unaware, is the majority of the ranking system. At that point there was only one rank left, Eagle Scout.
At that point, my troop changed scoutmasters. The new scoutmaster had a... different approach to running a troop. Scoutmaster Dude was more focused on himself planning outings that we would all have fun on, while the new Scoutmaster was a lot more focused on us as youth planning all of our trips. By this time, I was one of the more senior scouts in the troop, and already hard at work on my Eagle Scout rank.
In the summer of 2017, my then-Senior Patrol Leader agreed to appoint me as Troop OA Representative. This was the first appointment in a series that would leave me in 2020 holding four leadership positions within the troop. I was already the troop Webmaster, but that fall I was appointed Scribe, then Troop Guide in 2019. Through these positions I've gained the confidence to carry out my plans (and actually plan).
The Order of the Arrow
In the fall of 2017, I completed my Ordeal and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow. That sparked my membership in an amazing organization that's shown me the power of cheerful service to others. In 2019, I worked on the New England Fellowship Shows Committee, and I was offered the ability to be the 2020 Shows Fellowship Coordinator. The 2020 NEF has, sadly, been cancelled, but I still gained valuable experience.
Update 2020-06-22: NEF 2020 was a virtual event, where I was responsible for running the minecraft server.
World Scout Jamboree
Also in 2019, I applied and was accepted to be a part of the BSA's contingent to the 24th World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. I've written about my experience there in another post.
In March of 2020, the Coronavirus forced my school and other activities to close. This, unfortunately, caused my scout group to stop meeting in person. By this point I only had one or two badges left, having completed my project in the spring of 2019 (more on that later). In keeping with my plan for COVID, I decided to muscle through the last few requirements that I had yet to complete, like Citizenship in the Community and the Hiking merit badge reflections. By late March I had completed my last badge and had my counselor sign off on Scoutbook, which is the BSA's official online record of advancement. Since I didn't have to worry as much about school and things like that, I was able to get them done fairly quickly.
Before the Board of Review comes the Scoutmaster's Conference, where the unit leader gets the chance to talk to the Scout and discuss what they've accomplished between this rank and the last. My Scoutmaster and I talked about my vision for the troop and how I was planning to stay involved after earning my Eagle. We discussed what problems I saw in the troop leadership and my ideas for how to fix them. I ended up with an appointment as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.
The Board of Review
After the Scoutmaster's Conference, the troop committee chair reached out to local Scout leaders like the Assistant Camp Director at Wanocksett, the former District Activities Coordinator, and adult leaders within the troop. It took a few days to get them to all agree on a date and time.
The Board was held on Zoom, and I was in my full Class-A uniform with the beret I traded for at the Jamboree and my Jamboree youth participant neckerchief. The Board went well, and didn't take as long as I thought it would (about 30 minutes). I was asked questions about my time in Scouting and what I learned from my experiences. They asked what I got out of the program, and especially the Eagle required merit badges. After the zoom I took the photo currently on the sidebar of the site at time of writing.
Hiking Merit Badge
This badge was, without a doubt, the absolute hardest merit badge I earned as part of my journey to Eagle. Over seventy miles of hiking were required to complete this badge, with the final hike being twenty miles in one day. Admittedly, I did pick some difficult routes. For one of my ten-mile hikes, I plotted a route over the Seven Sisters, which is a ridge in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The contour lines on the map did not tell us about the steep drops and climbs that we would face as we traversed that ridge. Then, for the twenty mile hike, I wanted a route without much elevation gain, so I chose a trail that was part of the Massachusetts Bay Circuit Trail. What I forgot about, however, was the hill at the start of the loop. By the end of the day, that hill was the last thing between us and the car, and it took at least half an hour longer to climb it than it would have had we not been as tired as we were. That hike made me never want to touch hiking boots again. My feet ached for days afterwards.
Now, that's not to say that Hiking merit badge is a bad badge. Without it, I probably wouldn't have made Eagle, certainly not during quarantine. I am not a strong swimmer. This badge let me bypass most of the swimming requirements in favor of something I enjoy and am good at. Some of the hikes we went on, like a hike up the side of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, were stunning and fun (even if we didn't make it to the top). I have hundreds of good pictures and memories from my hikes, but I would've had more fun had I not been choosing routes solely for the distance.
With the rank of Eagle attained, there's no higher place to go in the Scouts, BSA program. No further rank to achieve, unless you count the various awards. I have less than one year at time of writing (2020-06-22) until I age out to become an Assistant Scoutmaster. The Coronavirus has killed any hope I had of working at Camp Wanocksett this summer, which was my last opportunity to work as Junior Staff. Next summer, I've applied to work on staff at the 2021 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. My application is still pending at time of writing.
However, Scouting has been and is still one of the biggest and best forces in my life, and even though I'm "finished" with the advancement program, I plan on staying in the program for a long time.