Coast Guard offers unique educational experience at National Scout Jamboree

1st Coast Guard District News
Story by Chief Warrant Officer Russell Tippets

FAYETTE, W.Va. – 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 in force 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, but for those who chose to earn the patch, it was well worth it as there were less than 6,000 available at this year’s jamboree.

Coast Guardsman shows Cub Scout how to properly wear life jacket

Cmdr. Jeff Westling, a Minneapolis native and Coast Guard jamboree joint task force leader, shows a Cub Scout how to properly wear a life jacket at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree at the Bechtel Summit Reserve in West Virginia July 20, 2013. The Coast Guard educated Scouts and visitors in boating safety, search and rescue, and other Coast Guard missions during the jamboree. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Russell Tippets)

“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 Minneapolis native Cmdr. Jeff Westling, the Coast Guard joint task force commander for the jamboree.

Westling, a 1987 graduate of North High School in Minneapolis, a 1991 Coast Guard Academy graduate and an Eagle Scout, displayed an unmatched, unbridled enthusiasm for Scouting and the Coast Guard.“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 Minneapolis native Cmdr. Jeff Westling, the Coast Guard joint task force commander for the jamboree.

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 running around trying to earn merit badges.

“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 team Coast Guard members, it was a true labor of love to organize and coordinate a unique experience for the Scouts.

This year’s jamboree was especially challenging, as it is the first year the jamboree has been held at its new home, the Bechtel Summit Reserve.

The 52 Coast Guard members, made up of active duty members, reservists, Auxiliarists and Coast Guard civilian employees, shared the same experience as the Scouts by living in tents for two weeks.

Team members also got to experience the Summit Reserve’s ambient showers, which is just a nice way of saying ice cold showers. The real challenge for the Coast Guard staff was the grueling two-mile hike through the mountains to the exhibit site followed by long 8-10 hour days of educating Scouts and then hiking two miles back to base camp for the evening.

The experience was well worth it though 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.

Even for those on the staff who are not Eagle Scouts, there is no place else they would rather have been than teaching the future leaders of tomorrow.

“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, Coast Guard District 1 commander, and this years 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 had to help save the Coast Guard’s 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 Coast Guard 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 has had one goal – boating safety. Many of the Scouts and visitors here are from land-locked states and have never been on a boat, much less even heard of the Coast Guard. If the Coast Guard can instill these Scouts and visitors to wear a life jacket when on the water, then the Coast Guard has accomplished its mission here.

“When it comes down to it, Scouting and the Coast Guard go hand in hand,” said Westling. “Even our mottoes are a perfect marriage: ‘Be Prepared’ and ‘Semper Paratus, Always Ready.’”

The Coast Guard will continue its education efforts at the jamboree through July 24, when the jamboree comes to an end.

For pictures of the Coast Guard at the Jamboree, visit the Coast Guard News Flickr page


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