FORT BENNING, Ga. -- On a foggy evening in the early 1900s, William D. Boyce, an American businessman, found himself lost on the streets of London. The legend surrounding those events goes that as he was trying to find his way through the city, an unknown Scout served as his guide, and upon completion of this task refused to accept the tip offered by Boyce.
This act of service impressed the American so much, he sought out the Scout’s headquarters and met with Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the British antecedent to the Boy Scouts of America.
While the events surrounding the meeting are cloudy, it is certain that Boyce acquired a copy of Baden-Powell's guide, “Scouting for Boys,” during his time abroad. When he returned to the States, he incorporated BSA Feb. 9, 1910.
Thirteen years later, on Jan. 2, 1923, BSA Troop 1 was chartered at Fort Benning under the Columbus Council. The troop would undergo several name changes during its early years before being designated as Troop 27 in 1944. On Feb. 8, 2023, BSA Troop 27 celebrated its 100th birthday on the installation.
Ryan Yearicks, current Scoutmaster of Troop 27, gave remarks at the event that highlighted the partnership between Fort Benning and the scout troop. “Throughout its history, Troop 27 has contributed to Fort Benning, the Columbus area, and even the nation,” he said. “The troop built the pool that is now known as Russ Pond, built benches along the walking trails, and during World War II collected 10 tons of scrap metal.”
“I want to tell you, on behalf of the of the citizens of Columbus … how very proud we are of all of you,“ said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, who spoke at the event. “Thank you for the difference you have made in a variety of areas. Thank you for the character that you model. Thank you for the works you put into our community.”
Yearicks touted the values learned in the Scouts including communication, teamwork, a sense of community pride, and service to others. “Through merit badges, Scouts can learn about any number of skills – cooking, automotive maintenance, financial management, many of which lead to careers as adults,” he said.
Henderson echoed the importance of pursuing those skills wholeheartedly. “Don’t be afraid to fail. The only people who are able to say they never failed at anything are people who have never taken on any challenges,” he said. “When you fail though, make sure you fail forward, make sure you learn from the experience.”
Troop 27 has a long history of creating leaders who embodied the characteristics about which Yearicks and Henderson spoke. During its century of existence, the troop has conferred the rank of Eagle Scout on over 200 individuals.
The troop’s first Scoutmaster, Capt. Gustav J. Braun, who would eventually earn two Distinguished Service Crosses and achieve the rank of brigadier general, oversaw the activities of the first 14 boys who comprised the original troop. Two years later, Charles “Tick” Bonesteel III was the first individual to earn the honor of Eagle Scout. He would go on to the U.S. Military Academy and rise to the rank of four-star general.
While Tick was the first to put on Eagle Scout in Troop 27, the latest additions to the Eagle Scout roster, Tom Putnam and Evan Archer, both received their Eagle Scout designations during the celebration held at the Benning Club’s Supper Club room Feb. 8.
“It’s definitely made me a better leader, made me become more capable,” said Putnam at the event. “That’s what I think should be the biggest part of any Eagle Scout … learning how to be a great leader.”
Putnam plans to put the leadership skills he has learned on his journey to use in the future. “I plan to go through [Reserve Officers Training Corps], and into the military to become an officer,” he said. “I want to become artillery or infantry. I want to go through Ranger [training].”
Another Eagle Scout who followed the route Putnam aspires to was also in attendance that evening to observe the pinning ceremony. Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. was a special guest at the event and said that scouting affected his life in every way. “Everything about the scouts was a challenge, an obstacle, a goal to be achieved,” said Puckett.
Puckett found his father’s scout manual when he was ten years old and was hooked immediately. “It set goals for me and standards of character. Generally that standard can be summed up as ‘do your best,’” he said. “I think Scouting is a challenge with all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional challenges … I think it’s one of the greatest programs.”
Chaplain Paul Vorhees, a local supporter of the troop, echoed Puckett’s sentiments. “If [the Scouts] will live by the values they are taught and keep those values above all things, they’ll be the most successful people,” he said. “I think [Troop 27] is a very valuable asset to the county, the region. This crowd here, they’re just wonderful.”