Boy Scouting - What lies behind the merit badge
Most of us have seen a Boy Scout proudly displaying badges on his uniform. However, seldom do people truly understand the depths of what it means to be a Boy Scout. After interviewing Mark Linville, who recently spent a week of his time serving as an adult leader at Boy Scout Camp Shenandoah in Swoop Virginia, I quickly became aware that Boy Scouting encompasses so much more than just merit badges and community service.
Although both are extremely important and vital components in becoming a Boy Scout, there is much more to the process and behind each merit badge lies new skills, experiences, lessons and great achievement.
“One of the most important things I think the boys learn as a Scout is teamwork. I’ve seen the Scouting program take a “difficult” child and mold them into a different person. I’ve seen WONDERFUL things come from youth and Scouting,” said Linville.
Linville who is the Executive Director of General Services at Boone Memorial Hospital serves as Scout Master of Troop 289 in Madison in his free time. The Troop is comprised of approximately 22 boys, ten of whom attended camp. Nearly 300 total campers attended the one-week camp.
“If a child wants to go and doesn’t have the means we will make sure they can go. No one is left behind,” said Linville. “I have served as an adult leader the past 9 years, and the purpose of camp is to train the boys and further advance their skills of Boy Scouting. The Summer Camp introduces first year Scouts to the Scouting program and the others strive to get as many merit badges as possible,” he added.
A typical day at camp starts with the raising of the flag. They share a “thought of the day”, typically providing words of wisdom and encouragement. The boys recite the Pledge of Allegiance, eat breakfast and then participate in a number of programs throughout the day.
“Although we were in Virginia, we actually raised the United States Flag, Virginia Flag and the West Virginia flag because part of their council encompasses part of WV,” Linville said.
Some of the programs in which the boys participated gave them the opportunity to receive merit badges. They were allowed to complete up to 4 or more merit badge activities in one day. Some of the activities consisted of shot gun shooting, rifle shooting, archery, sail boating, swimming, life saving, reptile study and more. The Scouts also participated in service programs such as trail clean-up and trash removal.
“The boys learn so many valuable life lessons along the way, but the ultimate goal in the Boy Scout world is to become an Eagle Scout,” explained Linville.
“An Eagle Scout is someone who has gone through the various rankings or advancements of Scouting of which there are many. A lot of people think when you first join Scouts you come in as a Tenderfoot but actually you come in as a Youth. You just have to recite the Scout oath and law, go over a few Scout details, facts and history and you become a Scout. It takes time and dedication to become a Tenderfoot followed by a 2nd Class and a 1st Class Scout,” said Linville.
Linville explains that it usually takes up to a year to get a 1st Class ranking. It is more about advancements, skills and training than it is about merit badges. Scouts learn to tie knots, perform first aid, and cooking skills, among a number of other duties.
Once a Scout becomes 1st Class, he then moves to Star, Life and finally Eagle.
The Scouts have several advancements, skills and merit badges they must complete before obtaining Eagle status. National Statistics show that only 2% of all boys who register as Scouts actually become an Eagle Scout.
“Once you reach one rank, there is a time limit before you can get to the next rank. It takes time to do all of this. There are tons of merit badges, service hours, skills training, etc before you can get to those ranks,” said Linville.
Linville has a long line of Boy Scout history in his family. Both his parents were Scout Leaders; his dad a Cub Master and mom a Den Mother. Linville’s brother, Joe also became an Eagle Scout.
“I was a Scout when I was young. We had a change in leadership and I lost interest and didn’t make it very far into Boy Scouting so I got out of it for several years. However, my youngest son Nathaniel got involved and actually became an Eagle Scout. He went on to college and I enjoyed it so well that I just stayed with it even after he left.”
Linville’s job as Scout Master is to keep the kids motivated, focused and to ensure that they are cared for.
“The parents entrust their children to us. Therefore, our job is to be leaders, mentors and protectors of these youth,” said Linville.
Two adult leaders joined Linville to help at camp; his brother Joe Linville and Chris Lester. Both Joe and Chris assist Linville with Troop 289 in Madison along with Assistant Scout Masters Chip Shaffer, Joe Gero and Troop Committee Chair Person, Annette Felty.
“I can’t say enough good things about Annette. She is the Mother Hen of the Troop. She’ll do anything and everything to help out,” Linville said.
“These guys do so much, if not more than I do. I may technically be the leader but Joe L, Chris, Joe G, Chip and Annette do so much. Chip Shaffer has forgotten more about Scouting than I’ll ever even learn. Cooking is my favorite thing to do at camp but Chip is the one who taught me how to do it. He is like the Master Chef of the Wilderness and from the time we arrive to the time we leave - we eat…and we eat GOOD,” laughed Linville.
Linville has received some great honors - The OA (Order of the Arrow), being one, which is like the Fraternity of Boy Scouts. There are 3 parts: Ordeal, Brotherhood and Vigil. Linville joined the Order as a youth and explained that you can stay in as an adult. As an adult he completed his Brotherhood. He was then chosen to be a Vigil, which is the highest level in the Order of the Arrow.
Linville has also been awarded the Scout Master’s Key and several other knots that a Scout Master will wear on his uniform. However, the highest achievement he has received is the Silver Beaver.
“You have to be nominated by someone and they complete a biographical sketch of you. To qualify you must have been in Scouting for many years and have attended various Scouting functions, among other duties. You are also voted on by a selection committee,” said Linville.
Linville also conducts an adult leadership training called Wood Badge. He took the course in 2004 and has been on staff since 2005. In 2010 Linville became the Course Director.
Linville said, “It’s very in-depth and comprehensive. This same training in the corporate world would probably cost around $5000-$6000 and we do it for $225. An example of some of the things we do in Wood Badge is conducting teambuilding activities, learning the different styles and formations of leadership along with fun activities such as building soda bottle rockets.”
I am very humbled by the awards and appreciate them greatly but the best reward is when I see these boys leave camp or Scouting as a whole with a sense of leadership! We can teach them skills, how to cook, how to find their way in and out of the woods but if we can take these boys and make them into good leaders then that is the ultimate reward; They may be the followers of today but they are the leaders of tomorrow,” concluded Linville.