Written by Chief Warrant Officer Russell Tippets.
What’s the U.S. Coast Guard doing in West Virginia? That was a question Coast Guard members heard a lot during the 2013 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. As it turns out, the Coast Guard was at the jamboree to offer scouts and visitors a unique educational experience in boating safety, search and rescue, damage control and many other Coast Guard missions.
During the jamboree, the estimated 50,000 scouts, staff members and visitors had a chance to earn the coveted 2013 Coast Guard National Jamboree patch. Just like earning a merit badge, scouts had to earn the patch, which consisted of getting their performance qualification standards signed off as well as passing a test demonstrating their knowledge in boating safety and Coast Guard missions.
In addition to the knowledge-based test and performance qualifications, the patch had another challenging element. Scouts had to hike to visit two Coast Guard locations at the summit, one at Freedom Field and the other at the Coast Guard cove. The distance between the two sites was approximately 1.5 miles; not an easy hike in the hot and humid July weather.
“Earning your Coast Guard patch is just like earning the Eagle Scout Award. Many of you will start, but few of you will finish,” said Cmdr. Jeff Westling, the Coast Guard joint task force commander for the jamboree.
Westling, a 1991 Coast Guard Academy graduate and an Eagle Scout, displayed an unmatched, unbridled enthusiasm for scouting and the Coast Guard. He would stop thousands of scouts a day and challenge them to earn the Coast Guard patch. With his enthusiasm and contagious smile, you could almost picture him as a young scout attending jamborees 30 years ago.
“The skills and experiences gained throughout the scouting program are the building blocks for leadership success,” said Westling. “Doing a ‘good turn daily’ and living the motto ‘be prepared’ have guided me as I ‘do my best’ to protect and defend those who use and rely on our maritime domain. The lessons learned in scouting have prepared me well for service in the Coast Guard as we forever remain Semper Paratus-Always Ready.”
For the Coast Guard members participating, it was a true labor of love to organize and coordinate a unique experience for the scouts. The 52 Coast Guard members – all attending at their own costs – were made up of active duty, reserve, auxiliary and civilian members.
The experience was well worth it as many of the team members are Eagle Scouts themselves. In fact, there were a total of 27 Eagle Scouts among the Coast Guard members at the jamboree.
“The Coast Guard is honored to be a part of the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. The scouting world’s commitment to producing men and women with strong leadership skills is directly in line with the Coast Guard’s core values,” said Rear Adm. Dan Abel, 1st Coast Guard District commander, and this year’s Coast Guard flag-officer sponsor for the jamboree.
A highlight of earning the Coast Guard patch was the damage control wet trainer. In the wet trainer, scouts helped save a sinking ship. In the trainer, water would gush out of pipes, and scouts would have to work as a team to patch the leaking pipes. It was a true Coast Guard experience as retired Chief Petty Officer Turner Reaves, of Albuquerque, N.M., would motivate the scouts, as only a Coast Guard Chief can, by yelling at them to hurry up and save my ship!
After Linda Kearney, an attorney from Austin, Texas, and her son, Matthew Kearney, earned their Coast Guard jamboree patch she could not thank the Coast Guard enough. In an email, she wrote, “Thank you!!! We completed all the stations yesterday to earn the patch. Your event was well done, interesting and fun.”
Throughout the jamboree the Coast Guard also had a key educational goal –boating safety. Many of the scouts and visitors are from land-locked states and have never been on a boat, much less even heard of the Coast Guard.
“When it comes down to it, scouting and the Coast Guard go hand in hand,” said Westling. “Even our mottos are a perfect marriage: ‘Be Prepared’ and ‘Semper Paratus, Always Ready.’”