By Capt. Michael Greenberger (FORSCOM)May 17, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The sun was barely over the horizon Saturday when Soldiers began lining up youths from six Boy Scout troops visiting from the Albany area for physical training, the start of a long day of activities meant to bring Scouts closer to their country and each other.
Born out of camaraderie, the Boy Scouts' visit to Fort Drum was the product of imagination shared between two old friends, Maj. Todd Clark, executive officer for 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, and long-time friend Ciaran Geraghty, chair of the outing committee for Boy Scout Troop 149 in Albany, who thought the boys could benefit from what Fort Drum had to offer.
This imagination grew into action, and the vision of an enduring relationship with the Boy Scouts became a permanent part of 1-89 Cavalry's community outreach program.
"This is a great way for the people of New York to see their Army in action," said Lt. Col David L. Sanders III, 1-89 Cavalry commander. "It's also a great opportunity to pass our knowledge and skills to some great young men who already serve their community."
"The military offers many skills the Boy Scouts could look to as an example, like lifesaving skills and teambuilding skills," said Troop 99 Scoutmaster Bob Watson. "A venue like this will allow these boys to go back and understand what it's going to take to set up their camp (and) break their camp down, (and) how important it is to pick each other up when they are falling behind and help each other out."
The Boy Scouts of America, like the military, share many values such as building strong character and being good citizens. This visit would serve to highlight those and other similarities in the training both Scouts and Soldiers receive.
"We're all from the same district, but this is the first time all these troops (from Albany) have come together," Watson said. "There's not much crossover other than our annual Jamboree, so this is really good for the boys to get out and see other Boy Scout Troops. It's going to enhance their Scouting skills -- their navigation, first aid and cooking skills -- and their camaraderie."
After physical training, the boys ate a hearty breakfast before receiving a crash course in field hygiene and sanitation from one of 1-89 Cavalry's medics, Spc. Richard Mohamed.
Mohamed was one of more than a dozen volunteers who came out to make the boys' trip possible.
"My cousin is a Boy Scout back home, and he looks up to me, so this will give me a chance to teach Boy Scouts just like him," said Pfc. Michael Francisco, a scout with A Troop, 1-89 Cavalry. "Since I can't be home at least I get to do something to give back."
Many of the Soldiers participating volunteered weeks ago to come out and train the Scouts over the weekend.
"I hope these kids have fun this weekend," said Pfc. Anthony Viator, also a scout assigned to A Troop. "As a kid, you don't really need to be serious. Learn what you want to learn, but have fun."
With the sun quickly climbing the sky, it was time to move on -- the Scouts had a busy day ahead.
At Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, several aviators at the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment hangar prepared helicopters for the kids to see. The next two hours saw the boys climbing into cockpits, flying imaginary missions and hearing pilots tell them about the aircraft and how they work.
"I found it rather interesting to see the various operations of the aircraft," said Max Thomas, a Boy Scout with Troop 46 of Albany. "I really love aircraft, and I am a fan of that sort of thing."
The sentiment was echoed by Jimmy Watson, a fellow scout who looked forward to this outing for weeks.
"The helicopters were pretty cool. The Black Hawk was my favorite type of helicopter," he said. "Being out at Fort Drum was an honor, and the guys (Soldiers) are very kind. They taught us a lot about how to help people out and how to treat certain wounds."
After the visit to the airfield, Scouts were given classes in first aid and land navigation, which would be tested later in the day.
One a Boy Scout's many goals is to earn merit badges, in everything from archery to orienteering to space exploration. The training the troops had lined up was right up their alley. Who better to teach boys about land navigation than Army scouts?
"I learned a lot of map and compass usage, basic orienteering," Thomas said. "We do a lot of hiking, so all that will help. The emergency first aid was good too, because you never know when someone will get hurt."
The boys set about proving their knowledge and testing their skills as part of earning their own Cavalry scarves. The yellow scarf, a significant piece of Army Cavalry lore and legend, was given by 1-89 Cavalry to those Scouts who had proved themselves worthy, worked as a team and shown they had learned from the Soldiers that day. Needless to say, every Scout got one.
"The day went absolutely fantastic," said Bob Watson. "The kids had a great time at the static display and learned a lot."
The Scouts' experience with Soldiers of Fort Drum was rounded out by a fireside chat, where the kids got to ask questions about life in the military. Scouts from Fort Drum Troop 26 also came out to spend time with the Albany Scouts in the evening, exchanging stories and patches and further adding to the camaraderie of the outing.
On Sunday morning, the Scouts packed up at the break of dawn to get back and spend Mother's Day at home with Mom.
Greenberger serves with 1-89 Cavalry.