By Eric PilgrimOctober 13, 2018
More than 4,000 Boy Scouts and their families arrived at Fort Knox's Keyes Park this weekend to camp out, hang out and participate in this year's Patriot Games.
With a little something for everyone, Scouts wandered all over the park in search of new, exciting adventures. At the center of it all were information tents and military vehicles and displays from the Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, with troops on hand to answer questions and encourage young Scouts to explore.
Along one edge of the grounds were the games, where packs and troops could compete for top honors. Archery and BB rifle ranges were also available for the younger Scouts to practice their skills. Older Scouts were given the opportunity to practice skeet shooting at French Range.
The commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., who is also an Eagle Scout, kicked off the games with a story about the inventor of the Scouts, British officer Robert Baden-Powell. He revealed to those gathered that the first Scouts were a mix of boys and girls, and asked the crowd to consider accepting that original structure by embracing girls among their ranks.
"Be inclusive in what you do and welcome [girls]," said Evans. "You should always treat everybody with dignity and respect."
Jason Pierce, CEO of Lincoln Heritage Council, agreed with Evans' advice and said it is a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to again set up at Fort Knox.
"We've been doing this event here for a couple of decades," said Pierce. "Scouts look forward to it every time we offer it because, it's not many times they have a chance to come on a military base like this -- particularly Fort Knox with its history -- and do great activities."
The Scouts that represent the Lincoln Heritage Council converge onto the installation every third year to celebrate the regional games. Headquartered in Louisville, the council's reach spans 64 counties in four states -- Kentucky, Indiana, and small areas in Tennessee and Illinois -- and serves 26,000 scouts.
Pierce said holding the event at Fort Knox fits well with what it means to be a Boy Scout.
"We call it the Patriot Games for a reason," said Pierce. "Scouting's about duty to God and duty of country. We're celebrating both of those this weekend."
Some of the events pitted scout troops against each other in friendly competition. Throughout Saturday, troop members took advantage of five stations to try their hand at timed games like A-frame walking, semaphore messaging, and knot-tying.
A group from Troop 208, out of Morgantown, Kentucky, took the lead early in A-frame walking after a couple of dry runs, crossing the finish in 50 seconds. The station leader explained how ropes allow two members of the team positioned in the front and back to balance the scout who stands on the heavy wood A-frame while two other teammates stand on the sides to help "walk" it forward.
The troop then moved over to semaphore messaging. Scouts divide into two groups, each with a set of flags and a sheet of paper that contains a message. One group sends the message by positioning the flags to represent letters of the alphabet. The other must accurately decode the message.
Afterward, they received their score from the station manager.
"How'd we do?" asked the troop's team leader.
"Second place, so far," said the station manager.
"Not bad, considering you guys didn't even practice beforehand," said a Troop 208 leader, laughing.
The team leader smiled as he and his fellow competitors walked toward a new adventure -- "We've done pretty good."
Pierce said that's what scouting is all about.
"We promise kids the opportunity to go rock climbing, shoot guns, do really cool things," Pierce said. "They get to do all that here, and they get to do it in a really neat venue."