Eagle Scout helps out deployed Soldiers
December 17, 2009
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE - When the Soldiers of the 558th Military Police (MP) Company, 728th MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, held their deployment ceremony August, they had no idea that one spectator in the crowd would play a big part in raising their morale months later.
Toby Bledsoe, a Boy Scout with Troop 135, here, decided to make care packages for the 558th MP Bn.'s deployed Soldiers for his Eagle Scout project after witnessing his first deployment ceremony.
"The ceremony was kind of sad because there weren't a lot of family members there, and when the commander asked how many Soldiers were going on their first deployment, more than half raised their hands," he said.
Bledsoe, the son of a retired Navy chief, organized the care package project from start to finish. He briefed the Boy Scout troop on his concept for the project, recruited boys to go to the Hickam commissary to ask for donations, and coordinated with the commissary manager so that he could solicit outside the store. Bledsoe also designed donation flyers that his troop handed out to commissary patrons, listing non-perishables that shoppers could pick up during their shopping trip.
"The response was tremendous," said assistant Scoutmaster Scott Dooley. "The biggest supporters were the old veterans - veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
"One gentleman told me that he wished that the Scouts would've done something like this for him when he was in Vietnam," Dooley said. "He said a small gesture like a care package makes all the difference in the world when you're deployed."
Each time the project started to seem out of reach, Bledsoe reminded himself what the 558th MP Soldiers were enduring in Iraq.
"I can just imagine it being 120 degrees with all of their gear on, and maybe they are feeling kind of down, but then they get a care package and realize that someone cares about what they are doing," he said.
Bledsoe shipped more than 400 pounds of non-perishable items like beef jerky, lip balm, drink mixes, canned nuts and bags of trail mix, Nov. 17.
"The actions of this young man are truly what this nation and our Army are all about," said Maj. Chris Heberer, executive officer, 728th Military Police Battalion. "His selfless service and support to our deployed Soldiers cannot be measured, especially during the holidays when our Soldiers (are) apart from their families."
"A project like this teaches a young man a slew of leadership skills, such as how to task, organize and bring a group together into a team to accomplish a job," Dooley said. "(Bledsoe) contacted the 558th MP company commander and the rear detachment commander, and (he) got approval from the 728th MP battalion commander for the project, who presented him with a battalion coin."
Bledsoe is a non-traditional Eagle Scout candidate, who just about gave up his dream of ever achieving the pinnacle of Scouting. He was failing out of high school until a friend told him about the Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy.
Following 22 weeks of academics, physical fitness challenges and lessons on life skills, he got back on track and credits his Scout leaders - Fred McMillan Sr., Fred Gellert and Dooley - with motivating him to finish his Eagle Scout project.
"They are some of the best leaders I've had in Scouting," he said. "I must admit, I started to drift away on my project because I started going to college, working two jobs to pay for college so I was having second thoughts about finishing the project. They've helped me tremendously."
To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, a Boy Scout must earn 21 merit badges; progress through the ranks of scouting; serve six months in a troop leadership position; take part in a Scoutmaster conference; plan, develop and lead a service project; and successfully complete an Eagle Scout board of review. Since 1912, only 5 percent of all Boy Scouts earned the rank of Eagle Scout, according to the Boy Scouts Web site.
Bledsoe has some simple advice for any boy considering Scouting.
"Do it," he said. "Not only does it teach you Scouting skills, it teaches you how to deal with people, how to put together a project, and do it well and on time. (Scounting) teaches you how to be a better person."