By Mr. Richard L Rzepka (USAG Okinawa)April 20, 2016
The beach area at Torii Station was transformed into a spartan encampment of scouts April 11-17 where more than 80 Boy Scouts from Okinawa, Korea and mainland Japan weathered downpours and gales during their annual Spring Camp on the U.S. Army installation.
The U.S. Army and the Boy Scouts of America have a long tradition of providing mutual support since the organization's inception in 1910. During World War I, the Boy Scouts answered the Army's call for peach pits to be used as filters for gas masks, by collecting thousands of bushels. Today, the link between the Army and the tradition of scouting remains strong on Okinawa where 85 Scouts, supported by 40 adult volunteers, strove to achieve more than 30 merit badges offered at the weeklong camp.
"The [Boy Scouts of America] and the Army have always had a strong relationship in Okinawa, and everywhere else," said Darrin Nicholson, Okinawa, District Director, Far East Council. "While the words may be different, the Army core values and the Scout Law are very similar in meaning. Both give a moral compass on how to be better individuals and how to serve our Families, communities and country," he said.
From tangible skills like archery and wilderness survival to the intangibles of making ethical and moral decisions, the camp provides a positive experience in a unique setting. According to Nicholson, the overseas scouting program is vitally important for military youth who are constantly moving because the program is consistent regardless of location.
"It allows youth to immediately associate with a program they are already familiar with," said Nicholson. "Scouting overseas also gives them opportunities to interact with local Japanese Scouts and have experiences most Scouts will never get … like camping on a beach in Okinawa," he said.
This year's Spring Camp is the fifth year-in-a-row that Torii Station and Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted the event.
"It's a great opportunity for the scouts to visit the Army's Home on Okinawa, while getting outside and enjoying the scenery," said Justin Evers, U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa MWR Director. "We've got a solid relationship that continues, each year, to grow and expand," he said. "Being in such close proximity to the beach and to MWR facilities makes for an excellent experience."
For 16-year-old Boy Scout Kyle Powell, the scouts are setting him up for success in the future while teaching him valuable life skills.
"It helps me get through life and help other people," said Powell who said that it's important to be able to serve the community. "[It's] very important. As a scout we make sure that everywhere we go, we make sure we leave things better than we found it," he said.
During the dark days of World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said of the Boy Scouts, "No organization of boys has been more universally respected or widely accepted than the Boy Scouts. Their international rallies, where boys of all races used to meet on common ground have been an inspiration to all. In these dark days, when the war clouds hang so low, it is for the Boy Scouts of all nations to cling to their ideals. To trust that the teachings of honor, of clean living and of brotherly love will once again be dominant throughout the world."