Service members, Iraqi scouts conduct final camporee
Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Victory Base Council, unveil their respective flags during an opening flag raising ceremony as part of the 2011 Kashafa Spring Camporee on Victory Base Complex May 6.

With a full day of activities, a huge bonfire and smiles on everyone's faces,
service members from United States Forces - Iraq gathered together with Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of
Victory Base Council, who are children of Iraqi special forces soldiers, during the 2011 Kashafa Spring Camporee on Victory Base Complex May 6.

This was the last camporee hosted by USF-I service members, as the transition in Iraq with U.S. forces continues as part of Operation New Dawn. Kashafa is a local scouting group that involves volunteers working directly with Iraqi children ranging from the ages of 5-17, teaching them various lessons such as teamwork and leadership skills.

A camporee is a unit or group gathering together and learning scouting skills, said Maj. David Little, an operational analyst for USF-I Strategy Plans and Assessment section, and camporee director. The event is just pitching tents, sitting around a fire, telling stories and having a good time, he said.

The camporee began with a troop formation and an opening flag raising ceremony by the Iraqi scout leaders and service members, followed by various activities through which each of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide patrols would rotate throughout the day.

Activities included 'Totin Chip,' stressing the importance of tools such as pocket knives, axes and wood saws in scouting and 'Firem'n Chit,' a practical exercise in learning the concepts of fire safety, starting, maintaining, and extinguishing a fire. Scouts also learned cooking skills with proper food preparation.

Following the stations, the scouts and volunteers ate dinner and began a council fire, the focal point of the camp experience. It begins with a big campfire and as the evening festivities move along, the fire slowly dies down, as do the levels of activity.

Little, a scout unit commissioner, assistant scout master in Troop 746, and an associate advisor for a high adventure crew in Fayetteville, N.C., said about 50 volunteers assisted in the planning stage and about 20 helped set up and supported the event.

"There were a lot of people involved," said Little. "We had to make sure we had all the necessities like food, water, lighting, transportation, security, medical and safety all played a crucial part in having a successful event."

"I volunteered because I love kids and I wanted to make a difference in their lives," said 2nd Lt. Delena Roper, executive officer of 485th Medical Detachment in the preventive medicine department and an assistant camporee director. "Volunteering is rewarding when you get to build a close bond with several of the children, or you find that one child that stands out to you and develop that soft spot for them."

"I enjoyed working with the kids," said Sgt. 1st Class John Hughes, an analysis and production section non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the USF-I intelligence section. "They seemed genuinely excited to see me when they arrived and I had a great time while at the event."

For the service members, the camporee not only symbolized the involvement with the scouts, but also the continued cohesion building with their Iraqi counterparts.

"These events are important to build bonds by ensuring Iraqi children have new and fulfilling opportunities," said Capt. Jason Crawford, officer-in-charge of Sather Air Base veterinary treatment facility with the 218th Medical Det. and a primary volunteer-in-charge of the logistics of the camporee.

"Being a veterinarian, I have a background which involves animals and [the] outdoors, so I'm naturally drawn to outdoor activities, adding to the overall humanitarian experience while being deployed."

"The Iraqi special forces soldiers have mentioned on several occasions how they see us differently after watching our interaction with their children and seeing that we care about the kids," said Hughes. "We get to meet Iraqis in a non-military environment and build interpersonal relationships."

"Events like these are very important because we are helping to develop a different mindset with the younger generation, as well as renew with the older generations," said Roper.

The next morning breakfast was served, a baseball game was played and a final senior-scout leader time was conducted.

Concluding the camporee, inspections and final flags were carried out, ending the final camporee with U.S. forces on the camp grounds.

"You always need a final chapter, some type of closure," said Little. "We're going to have other small events, but this was the last big event. By giving some closure to the Iraqi scouts and U.S. volunteers, it's something that they can always remember."

With hundreds of hours of work to create this whole project, it certainly wasn't as easy as it looks, but we enjoy what we do," Little said. "This was a good opportunity for us to make a difference."

Page last updated Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 07:30