HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (Nov. 30, 2009) - When the Soldiers of the 558th Military Police Company held their deployment ceremony last August, they had no idea that one spectator in the crowd would play a big part in raising their morale months later.

Toby Bledsoe, a Boy Scout with Troop 135 here, decided to make care packages for deployed Soldiers for his Eagle Scout project after witnessing his first deployment ceremony.

"The ceremony was kind of sad because there weren\'t a lot of family members there, and the commander asked how many Soldiers were going on their first deployment and more than half raised their hands," he said.

Bledsoe, the son of a retired Navy Chief, organized the care package project from start to finish. He briefed the Boy Scout troop on his concept for the project, recruited the boys to go to the Hickam commissary to ask for donations, and coordinated with the commissary manager so that he could solicit outside. Bledsoe also designed printed flyers that the troop handed out to commissary patrons, listing non-perishables that shoppers could pick up during their shopping trip.

"The response was tremendous," said assistant Scoutmaster Scott Dooley. "The biggest supporters were the old veterans - veterans of World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam. One gentleman told me that he wished that the scouts would've done something like this for him when he was in Vietnam. He said a small gesture like a care package makes all the difference in the world when you're deployed."

Each time the project started to seem out of reach, Bledsoe reminded himself what the 558th MP Soldiers were enduring in Iraq.

"I can just imagine it being 120 degrees with all of their gear on, and maybe they are feeling kind of down, but then they get a care package and realize that someone cares about what they are doing," he said.

Toby shipped more than 400 pounds of non-perishable items like beef jerky, Chap Stick, drink mixes, canned nuts, and bags of trail mix, Nov. 28.

"The actions of this young man are truly what this nation and our Army are all about," said Maj. Chris Heberer, executive officer, 728th Military Police Battalion. "His selfless service and support to our deployed Soldiers cannot be measured especially during the Holidays when our Soldiers get ready to spend it apart from their families."

"A project like this teaches a young man like Toby a slew of leadership skills, such as how to task organize and how to bring a group together into a team to accomplish a job," Dooley said. "Toby contacted the 558th MP company commander, the rear detachment commander and got approval from the 728th MP battalion commander for the project, who presented him with a battalion coin."

Toby is a non-traditional Eagle Scout candidate, who just about gave up his dream of ever achieving the pinnacle of Scouting. He was failing out of high school until a friend told him about the Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy. Following 22 weeks of academics, physical fitness challenges, and lessons on life skills, Toby got back on track and credits his Boy Scout Troops leaders - Fred McMillan, Sr., Fred Gellert and Dooley - with motivating him to finish his Eagle Scout project.

"They are some of the best leaders I've had in Scouting," he said. "I must admit, I started to drift away on my project because I started going to college, working two jobs to pay for college so I was having second thoughts about finishing the project. They've helped me tremendously."

To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, a Boy Scout must earn 21 merit badges; progress through the ranks of scouting; serve six months in a troop leadership position; take part in a Scoutmaster conference; plan, develop, and lead a service project; and successfully complete an Eagle Scout board of review. Since 1912, only five percent of all Boy Scouts earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Bledsoe has some simple advice for any boy considering scouting.

"Do it," he said. "Not only does it teach you Scouting skills, it teaches you how to deal with people, how to put together a project, and do it well and on time, it teaches you how to be a better person."