Lessons from the Boy Scouts and Shaping Tomorrow's Leaders - ITS Tactical

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Lessons from the Boy Scouts and Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders

By Bryan Black

Boy Scouts

I have fond memories of being involved in the Boy Scouts of America from my youth, the majority of those having taken place outdoors and on campouts. I believe scouting is what started my sense of adventure and gave me the confidence needed to explore not just the outdoors, but all aspects of life.

Scouting is that last true organization left in the US that’s promoting the leadership, integrity, confidence and life skills this next generation needs and can’t get anywhere else. Scouting is taking these young men out of their element of video games, socializing and organized sports for just long enough to teach them how to rely on themselves. While there’s certainly a place for team sports and what’s learned there, it’s still very much an “all about me” activity. Today’s sports superstars aren’t helping that stereotype either.

Fundamentally, I feel like this is what’s wrong with society today. People have lost the skill-set that should be held above all others. Self reliance. I don’t mean putting on a tin foil hat and being holed up in a bunker, I mean true self reliance in all aspects of life.

A Lesson from the Navy

One of the best quotes I overheard during my time in the Navy, that goes along with self reliance, was when I was at BUD/s. I was in a duty section before I’d officially started BUD/s and we had to clean up the grinder, or the large asphalt area where PT takes place. A fellow student was relaying to an instructor that he couldn’t find anymore trash bags and the instructors response was “if your life depended on it, could you find a trash bag?” Guess what, the student took off and found a trash bag. That may seem like a simple example, but it’s stuck with me since then and I’ve always remembered that when I wanted to mentally give up on a task or thought something I’d undertaken was too hard.

Granted this was an example used from my time in the Navy, but scouting is what helped me have the courage to get there in the first place. I strongly believe that. I’ll go off on a small tangent here and also say that knowing you can accomplish certain goals through practice and determination is what mental fortitude is all about. I’m proud to say that while never achieving my goal of becoming a Navy SEAL due to an injury, my mental fortitude is what got me through Hell Week and two thirds of BUD/s. I owe that all to not only what I knew about myself from growing up, but what I was able to achieve in the two years I spent training for it. Most things in life are 90% mental just like BUD/s was.

My Scouting Experience

I’ve been involved in scouting with my step-son for a little over two years now as a volunteer Assistant Scoutmaster. My step-son, who’s just turned 14, started scouting when he was 12 and we couldn’t have picked a better time for him to pick it up. I’ve been in his life since he was 5, but he hadn’t had the desire to try scouting until a few years ago.

I never wanted to push him into it, as he’s been very involved with baseball and football from an early age. I feel that since starting scouting he’s learned some very important life lessons, is extremely confident in his abilities (self reliance) and has exhibited great leadership skills. Again, scouting has played a big role in getting him there. He’s progressing well through the ranks, but again, I’m not pushing him. I do often remind him of the merits of making it to Eagle Scout and the great things it can do for his future.

I’ve often used the example that if he and another person were vying for the same position at a company, with the exact same qualifications, being an Eagle Scout would certainly tip the scale in his favor. I also point out all the public figures that are Eagle Scouts, including our Tactical Governor Rick Perry and Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, to name a few. I also particularly like Mike’s perspective on achieving Eagle Scout.

Volunteering my time as been a great way for me to give back to today’s youth and help them learn important skills that they’ll look back on one day in their lives. This may sound sappy, but it really lights me up to see a boy’s reaction when he finally understands how to tie a knot, accomplishes something like rappelling down a 50 ft. tower, or that look in his eye when he shoots a .22 rifle for the first time. This is what every young person needs in their lives, to accomplish life’s challenges and learn more about themselves.

This is why I’m such a big advocate of skill-sets and why I started ITS back in 2009, to continue to give back after I left the military the best way I knew how, to share my knowledge and build a community around it. Scouting has been another great avenue to do this and both it and ITS have been tremendously rewarding.

I’d encourage everyone to get their children, friends and family involved in scouting. The organization is doing well as a whole, but could be even better with your help. Please do what you can to support one of the last remaining avenues kids have these days for this kind of personal development.

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  • DJ Wood

    I agree with you for the most part. Scouting is a rewarding experience and worth the participation. It also helps to find a good troop, for there are some I would consider lacking.
    My son, who just turned 19 and in the air force, made it all the way to Eagle Scout. Along the way I had to reinforce some of the skills they taught him so I could ensure he didn’t attempt some of these skills with a “false sense of knowledge”.
    90 % of my contact with scouting leadership was positive, but some things left me shaking my head.
    I once had issues with a Scoutmaster because I didn’t award a certificate of competence when two friends of mine and myself (They are certified climbing instructors and rappel masters) volunteered to run a climbing tower. I’m sorry some of the scouts just couldn’t perform the tasks safely, competently, or some even at all.
    Another time I was asked to second a canoe trip down the Arroyo Colorado to the bay for an over bivy. I met the instructor one day(we met but he only discussed the trip in general, no specifics. I showed up next morning and he couldnt make it, so they asked me to take the boys myself. Not a chance I’m doing that! That’s ridiculously a no-go! I havn’t scene a route map, a float plan, the bivy site, There was no written logistical plan (water, food). No emergency evac plans, nothing. They want me, a volunteer parent, to be responsible for these 10 boys, without be prepared. I don’t think so.
    Anyway, it sounds like I’m anti-scout but I’m really not. These are isolated instances I refer to. All I’m saying is parents should look for a good, qualified scout troop. Most leaders are volunteers and through no fault of their own, are asked to do things that they are not qualified to do.
    I highly recommend the Boy Scouts organization and the lessons they teach, just make sure parents reading this understand to keep vigil and actively participate with their child.
    By the way, I’m going through it again. My 7 yr old just graduated to Bear and we have a campout this weekend. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

    • Dave Vernon

      Hey DJ, good for you for not leading this canoe trip. Not only would proceeding as you describe have gone against common sense but also against some of the most basic rules of Scouting. Such an adventure would require AT LEAST two competent leaders to be officially sanctioned by BSA. By competent I mean BSA trained for the type of event planned. During this training the policies that BSA has in place to help ensure the safety of the youth (of paramount importance) would be learned and, hopefully, embraced by those attending.

      Your point about parents being involved is so important. BSA does not stand for “babysitters of America” as some drop off parents seem to think. To me, almost above all other aspects, Scouting provided me with an excuse to spend time with my son. I missed the Scouting experience as a youth but I was so glad to have had a chance to share my son’s with him.

    • Chuck

      Like Dave said, you did the right thing. I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster in our local troop and we go by the “Guide to Safe Scouting” word for word. If a trip doesn’t fit with the GSS in place, we don’t go. We know our kids have ma’mas and ma’mas aren’t happy if something happens to their little darling. Good call on your part!!

  • John Groves

    I was in the Civil Air Patrol, i believe i have learned alot about Leadership,Integrity,Respect with my CAP experience, CAP is the Auxillary of the United States Air Force. CAP is extremly Military based and teaches teenagers alot of the same things you learn about yourself in the Military to my understanding. I have learned self-disipline, a high amount of Respect for my country, and many many other things, but to get to my point is i have never really liked the boy scouts i have always had a more Military/Law Enforcement personality so i believe CAP has givin me alot of the same thing Scouts has gave many other teenagers just in my own way.

  • I believe that their are better youth organizations and believe that the Young Marines ranks up there as the best. Scouts anymore doesn’t teach you obiedence to orders, discipline, and grooming standards that are commonly found in the Armed Forces. In Young Marines I have learned Close Order Drill, Field Skills, Land Navigation, and many more skills that have benefitted me in my future. There have been times that I’ve seen Young Marines perform a land navigation course better than active duty soldiers.

    In the end, I would definitely agree with you but you should do some more research into the Young Marines, CAP, and Sea Cadets and write up on what those three youth organizations whom have a military emphasis can benefit our future youth.

  • John Groves

    jared, i wished i had heard of a young Marines im a HUGE MARINES fan!!!!!! but it sounds a whole lot like CAP!!!!!

  • Melissa

    One thing I’d note about the comments recommending military youth auxiliary organizations is that Scouting has a lower minimum age requirement: boys can join Cub Scouting as soon as they finish kindergarten. (This is often interpreted as age 6, but the specific wording is “has completed kindergarten”.) By comparison, Young Marines’ minimum age requirement is 8; Sea Cadets, 11; and Civil Air Patrol, 12.

    Joining an organization that aligns with your family’s values and introduces youth to lifelong hobbies and skills can add immeasurable value to their lives.

  • JAE

    When boy scouts came on base to camp in the 90s my friends and I would give them the HARDEST time. See we were all brats that lived on base and we were in charge of leading the on trail walks and plant identifying etc. We would make them walk the clinic route threw swamps and any thing we thought was hilarious. They were all mostly military hopeful teens so we had them run the PT course in 20mins or redo it. The estimated time was 45 mins for adults and if they they completed it on time I would have the winners race me threw the mock ranger course witch I did for fun all the time so you know how it turned out. We only made 2 best friends out of this both named Ryan they ended up joining us in the fun. We all always remissness those 3 summers.

  • Great article Bryan! Both my sons are in scouting and I just sewed on my patches as the Pack 621, den 2 leader. It’s a great program for the boys and teaches them many values that I’d have a harder time to teach on my own. I didn’t do scouts as a boy and had to get slapped into shape by the Navy years later.

  • JAE


  • Amen!

    I’m a second year cub scout den leader. I’ve only got 4 boys in my den, 25 in the whole pack. There’s not near the community support as in years past. It also seems popular to openly disrespect BSA on social media. I’ve actually run into people who equate scouting with a paramilitary hate group. Sometimes my morale is down, but reading stuff like this inspires me to put more effort into lesson plans.

    I openly admit to using your “knot of the week” videos for instruction. Each of my wolf cubs (2nd grade) has a 20ft length of paracord which they practice on. I also showed them the video where you escape from the ziptie using paracord shoe laces. That was better than my best magic trick in their minds.

    In other words, it’s tough keeping 8 year olds engaged, but some of the ITS material has really caught on with them. Thank you!

  • Dan Dreelin

    Good Article Bryan I couldn’t agree with you more. I am sorry that you had a couple of Rough experiences with some leaders. Today Scouting is trying to make sure that every leader is getting trained so that some of those safety issues do not occur. As you well know this is a Volunteer Organization and getting adults trained is a challenge. I believe that Every Boy Deserves a Trained Leader. I would like to see every Charter Organization that has a Scouting Unit make sure that every direct Contact leader has been trained and follows the BSA’s Sweet Sixteen of Saftey. The Very First one is “Qualified Supervision” so thank you for saying no when put on the spot to lead that trip.

    For anyone’s knowledge I am including a Link to the Sweet Sixteen http://www.boyscouting.com/forms/Sweet16Safety.pdf

    Dan Dreelin, District Commissioner
    Stonewall Jackson Area Council Boy Scouts of America

  • Mike H

    Great article. I had the luxury of amazing scout leaders growing up, who taught me discipline and encouraged me to get my Eagle Scout. If done correctly, scouting is an amazing program that will positively influence you for the rest of your life. Also, I’ve had several employers see it on my resume and comment on how impressed they are with Eagle Scouts in general.

  • Olly

    i think this is a great article. I am an Explorer Scout in Great Britain and couldn’t agree more with what you say above. as well as Scouting i am a member of the Combined Cadet Force at my school which is like scouting but much more military orientated. we have a core syllabus of: SAA (skill at arms), first aid, navigation, drill, military knowledge, fieldcraft and PT(physical Training). it is run by ex and serving military men and it is great. the level of skills and professionalism is amazing especially among the older cadets and NCO’s. i am a JNCO myself (Lancecorporal) and as a result of my experiences in scouting and CCF i always try and conduct myself with a high level of professionalism which i think everyone should try to do. i intend to join the Army or the RAF when i leave school and scouts and CCF provide a great foundation for that as well.

  • Tzu

    Great stuff. As a lifelong scouter, Eagle scout and committee chairman for my local BSA COPE and climbing program, I can only reinforce that it is definitely in your best interest to do your research. Find a troop with quality leadership that aligns with what you want. If things aren’t going the way you want, be the change you need. Scouting is made up of volunteers for the most part and a troop is only as good as its scout masters. If you want something with a different emphasis there are also Explorer posts that offer different experiences such as firefighter posts, etc. There are definitely benefits of being an Eagle scout. I’ve had several instances where after getting a job I was told it was the deciding factor.

  • Dave

    Bryan, I have to thank you for writing an article that expounds upon some of the virtue of being in Scouts. The experience of working my way toward Eagle Scout taught me so much more than just leadership or outdoors skills. I got to grow closer to nature and also learn about myself. To those that think that Scouts should be some some sort of pre-military training to turn you into a hard-ass, I wish you saw the true purpose of Scouting. That is to turn young men into the leaders of tomorrow, not the next bare-knuckle boxers. Sorry for the rant.

  • Tom

    Of course, if you are an atheist or agnostic or homosexual, they want nothing to do with you and will force you to quit. We all know that high moral character is defined by excluding and ostracizing people due to their beliefs and sexual orientation. A good solid foundation on which to teach values to young people.


  • Paul

    I started out in the Cub Scouts, and was able to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout in 1974 at the age of 14 (you do the math), and I can tell you there is simply no better experience you can give a boy. The life lessons, basic survival skills and confidence have served me well throughout my life. It was there I was introduced to camping, fishing, first aid and even firearms. I learned to read a map, use a compass, and so much more.
    The motto of “Be Prepared” is as important today (if not more) as it was then. Had I had children I ‘d have gladly introduced them to scouting…

  • Dan Bond

    “Scouting is that last true organization left in the US that’s promoting the leadership, integrity, confidence and life skills this next generation needs and can’t get anywhere else.” This hits me right in the chest. I’m putting my kids in scouts when they get old enough. I was in a total of 14 years and turned 18 before I could make Eagle but I love it and miss it so much. Truly makes up a great part of who we are today as individuals AND team players as well. Thanks, Bryan!

  • oldborderdude

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight

    Tom, these are the values that the boys scouts have embraced for over 100 years. If you dont believe in any of this why would you want to join?
    I have several boys and been involved in scouting for over five years. Some good leaders and some not so good. Everyone involved volunteers as much as their ability will allow them to. Encourage and support your good ones and give a little extra effort to help out the not so good ones. Remember, it is a volunteer position. Scouting is great. I have seen my 10 yr. old grow so much through scouting. Working on that Eagle Scout as we speak. God Bless and Godspeed!

    • Tom

      If the US Boy Scouts actually followed these values then I would have no problems at all and heartily endorse them. What would you tell your children if they came home and asked why their friend was kicked out of the Boy Scouts because he stated he was an atheist, or a homosexual? Or their beloved scout leader was drummed out because someone found out about his private life? Do you teach them that it is okay to ostracize people that are different than them or hold different beliefs? How will you feel about the Scouts if your son announces one day that he is homosexual and his troop kicked him out because he is no longer “morally straight”? Will you agree with their statement?

      Below link is the real reason for the homosexual and atheist ban.


  • Kilted

    Your advice about the benefits of being an eagle scout in the job market are spot on. I was an applicant to a large county police department. The chief took one look at my application and saw that I was an eagle scout. He asked me about my scouting experience and hired me instantly.

  • RSG


    Don’t forget 4-H. It’s a great organization too.

    Frankly, I’d recommend both for a well-rounded experience, albeit 4-H programs their activities and projects vary greatly by state…


  • Jacomus Winterhart

    Great article.

    I went through the scout organisation from Beavers through Cubs and then Scouts. I didn’t go on to be a Venture, because I went to the Army Cadets instead.

    Both organisations gave me a hell of a lot of life skills, in different ways, but probably the strongest lesson to come out of my time in both organisations is how to be a team player. I’ve played team sports for a long time and am a volunteer coach now, but being a team player is not the same as playing on a team. It is about knowing when to support, when to lead, when to agree and when to argue so that everyone gets the task at hand done together. The combination of scouting and being a cadet is one that I would encourage any kid to do.

  • sledge2216

    @Tom It is up to the individual Troops and the scoutmaster/assistant scoutmaster to be able to have a fair member base as far as the kids are concerned. While none of the kids should have been kicked out because of their beliefs/lifestyle, Depending on what Scoutmasters have done or how they act should indicate whether they are allowed to be active in the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately as far as the kids are concerned, How they act is a direct result of the ” adult figures” active in the troops. Like any other organization/ military unit, it is only as good as the leadership. While My father was Scoutmaster of out troop, He was very strict but fair, He expected any kid in a leadership role to literally “lead” and he did so by example. With that said, he never ostracized any kid based on who they were personally and never pushed them to do any activity they had no interest in doing. He also spoke up to other leaders that verbally attacked or be “mean” on the kids. Our troop had great dads as leaders and they were all like this. I however saw many troops that did not and fell short as far as the Boy Scouts as a youth organization are concerned. If kids happen to get kicked out of a Troop because of who they are and not by actions They should go to the Council and explain what happened. If you have good adult leadership in a troop it will promote everything that The Boy Scouts is supposed to represents.

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