Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reflections on the Jamboree

An experience of a life-time. That is how most scout leaders describe a trip to the National Jamboree. I sent my sons, one to the Jamboree in 1997, and the other to the Jamboree in 2001. Like this one, they were all held at Fort A. P. Hill outside Bowling Green, Virginia. It’s about 20 miles from Fredericksburg.

I was honored to be chosen to serve as the Scoutmaster for one of the 11 troops which were sent from the Connecticut Yankee Council. As the 42nd largest Council in the nation, CT Yankee sends the second largest contingent of scouts and scout leaders to the Jamboree.

A Jamboree troop consists of 40 people, four patrols of eight boys, four boy leaders, and four adult leaders.

My Jamboree trip (not including all the preparation) started at a very early morning hour as we gathered at the send off point. The departure was covered live by the local ABC station. It was a madhouse. The boys quickly settled down for the 12 hour drive to Virginia. We spent that evening in the barracks at Ft. Eustis, just outside Williamsburg. Saturday morning we went to Busch Gardens for the day. The boys had fun….as did the leaders.

Sunday morning after religious services, we headed for a short walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg. It was warm, and we were actually glad to get on the buses for the trip to Fort A. P. Hill. We were met by the trucks carrying our gear (a semi-trailer and a large box truck). We spent Sunday afternoon and evening unloading and setting up camp. Monday, much of the day was spent setting up the gateway. (When my photos are back, I’ll do a separate post on that.) After that, the boys scattered to the four winds, trading patches and participating in the myriad of activities. One evening was set aside for Scoutmasters (and their Assistants) to visit the Action Centers. That evening, my three assistants and I went to the air rifle range (my eyesight is not great….I had 2 out of 5 shots actually hit the target!), the archery range (I did much better here), and “motocross” (which was really BMX bike racing). I challenged my 2nd Assistant, and he beat me the first time (because he got a great start), but I beat him the second. Call it a draw. The next morning a huge bruise started appearing on the inside of my left arm just below the elbow. It took me a day or two to figure out it was from the archery.

Other than walking around watching the activities, the other events I participated in were small boat sailing and SCUBA. I qualified for the SCUBA BSA patch, which I will proudly wear on my swim trunks next to the Mile Swim patch.

We were in our site for breakfast and dinner every day. We rotated eating with the four different patrols, and that was a good way to get a feel for how the Jamboree was going. Some of the boys were very outgoing and vocal – those I did not really worry about. It was checking on the quiet boys which took my energy. There were often issues of minor personality conflicts. It was extremely hot at the beginning and the end of our stay, and only very hot in the middle. There was a constant concern about dehydration and heat exhaustion. Only a couple of the boys in the troop needed medical attention for heat related health issues.

One of the things which surprised me was the psychic toll of being responsible for 36 young men whose parents had entrusted me with their care. I ate less than usual, and also had much more exercise than usual. I also had less sleep. I came back exhausted.

The boys had a great time. Part of the pay off was at the return. The ten buses pulled into the parking lot at about 7:30 in the evening. After unloading the bus, returning various items (including all the medical forms and medications), several of the boys came up to me for a hug good bye, and even a photo or two, one is pasted here.

It was the experience of a lifetime, and I would not have missed it for the world.

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