Thousands flock to GTA for Intercamp
June 4, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- When most people think Grafenwoehr, they think military training. This Memorial Day weekend, however, Grafenwoehr provided Scout training as well. As part of an annual event coined "Intercamp," short for International Camp, more than 2,300 Scouts and Scout leaders from nine nations flooded to the Grafenwoehr Training Area to participate in a multinational rendezvous of Scouts.
This year's theme was "An American Rendezvous," and was taken from the days of old when trappers would gather once a year to tell tales, conduct business and play games, according to Dr. Peter Grunau, camp director of Intercamp 2012.
In addition to a challenging 20-kilometer hike, Scouts participated in events like axe throwing, canoe carrying, fire making, knot tying, orienteering and other team-building events aimed at teaching communication and adventure. Grunau said the ultimate goal of the three-day gathering was for the Scouts to make new friends and bring home great memories.
Col. James Saenz, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr and Bavaria Military Community, or BMC, which includes Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Hohenfels and Garmisch, attended the opening ceremony and thanked Intercamp for choosing to hold event at USAG Grafenwoehr.
"It is an honor to host Intercamp 2012 and we as a community are happy to welcome you," said Saenz. "Scouts helps develop young boys and girls of character and instills values which are similar and important to the Army as well. We here in the BMC are proud to be a part of that."
Intercamp was formed in 1967 by co-founders Fred Wurm and Piet Decker, both of whom have attended every Intercamp since its inception. The idea came to them after both of their Scouting troops were invited by the British Scouts to join in an International "Team of Friendship" in 1966.
Wurm and Decker's troops had so much fun and made such good friends, they "decided we must do this again," said Decker. More than 400 Scouts from four nations showed up for the first Intercamp and the number participating Scouts and countries has grown ever since.
"The largest Intercamp was 3,000 Scouts back in 2000," said Wurm, "but any more than that is just too many."
Wurm said the organization doesn't advertise in any Scouting magazines and instead relies on repeat "customers," as well as word of mouth to keep the thousands of Scouts coming back year after year.
The event was a hit from the opening ceremony, which included Native American dancing and a spectacular fireworks display, to the closing ceremony, where thousands of Scouts and leaders held hands and sang an emotional rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," with many Scouts belting the words in their own language.
"The excitement, joy and happiness brings goose bumps to my arms," said Grunau, who held out his arm to show the bumps. "It's not just because the song is emotional or that you will miss the friends you made … It's simply an incredible emotional experience."
All 2,500 Scouts and leaders left the event with new memories and friends, along with a new patch to proudly sew on their uniform.
Intercamp is not only unique in that Scouts from nine nations came together for a weekend, and despite language barriers or cultural differences, they all have one thing in common -- Scouting. And with the exception of the Boy Scouts of America, who are not co-ed until the Scouts are older and can join a Venturing Crew, all eight other countries have co-ed scouting, which makes Intercamp an even more unique experience for those in the Boy Scouts of America who are living in Europe.
Although the first few Intercamp events were planned just a year out, nowadays a committee plans the location five years in advance and even chooses the next camp director. At the closing ceremony, officials announced that Intercamp 2013 will be held in the Netherlands and Chess Patelski, a Scout leader from the country, will serve as the camp director.
Looking out over the sea of Scouts and tents, it's hard to grasp the magnitude of the event unless it is experienced firsthand. Despite poor economic times, the registration fee remains at 15 euros for the weekend, a small price to pay for the friendships and memories it buys.