Twentynine Palms -- The sound of morning colors echoed through the Combat Center as the National colors were raised, unfurled and honored by Marines and local Boy Scouts working side-by-side for the daily tradition aboard the installation.
Approximately 60 scouts from Boy Scouts of America troops 72, 77, 78 and 180 from the High Desert area visited the Combat Center for a Boy Scout Camp Out March 17-20, 2016. The camp out allowed the scouts to temporarily set up shop at Camp Wilson and showcased many of the installation’s training capabilities, facilities used by Marines in preparation for deployment and base conservation efforts. The scouts also received a Crash fire rescue demonstration and conducted their own competition and ceremonies.
“Everyone has been so accommodating since the beginning of coordination with the base,” said Nicole Fenstermaker, unit commissioner, Boy Scouts of America. “When one event got locked on, every parent and volunteer began throwing in more ways they could contribute to make this camp great.”
The event included tours of the Battle Simulation Center, Exercise Support Division, Archaeology and Paleontology Curation Center, and the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer.
“Some of the scouts have parents who serve or have retired and some don’t have a parent who has ever been in the military, but allowing the group to see sides of the Marine Corps none of them get to see on a regular basis made the camp a unique experience for everyone,” Nicole said.
The Boy Scouts’ visit to ESD allowed the children to see several of the Marine Corps’ more prominent vehicles used on today’s battlefield such as the Armored Breaching Vehicle, Amphibious Assault Vehicle, Mine Resistant Ambush Preventive vehicle and the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle among others. ESD personnel guided Chaperones and members of the group through the vehicles describing their design and purpose.
“A lot of the culture in the Boy Scouts mirrors the military because of how it began,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Fenstermaker, troop leader, Boy Scouts of America. “This organization was started by a man who was a commander in the British Army and he brought those skills back to England because he saw the value in passing those on to the youth.”
Scouting's history goes back to the turn of the 20th Century, beginning with British Army officer, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell. While stationed in India, he discovered that his men did not know basic first aid or the elementary means of survival. Baden-Powell realized he needed to teach his men many frontier skills, so he wrote a small handbook called Aids to Scouting, which emphasized resourcefulness, adaptability, and the qualities of leadership that frontier conditions demanded. This would lay the groundwork for him to begin teaching these skills to children and the early Boy Scout organization, according to the Boy Scouts of America resource website, www.scouting.org.
“When the scouts are out here we have them do everything from resource management to leadership amongst themselves,” Brandon said. “That leadership skill is something we stress upon them so they can work as a team and rely on each other, much like small unit leadership in the Marine Corps.”
The scouts also visited the installation’s Curation Center allowing them to see "Thelma and Louise," ambassadors of the Desert Tortoise, up close along with the Combat Center’s efforts toward conserving artifacts and history found aboard the Combat Center. The center also stores artifacts from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow.
“It’s very satisfying to show anyone how much is actually going on here at this center,” said Charlene Keck, collections manager, Archaeology and Paleontology Curation Center. “Because the Boy Scouts are so focused on camping and how people interact with the natural environment, it seems [like a good fit] for them to visit this center and find out more about what was in the local area and what they can find today.”
The scouts also visited the Battle Simulation Center where they had the opportunity to experience the Combat Convoy Simulator and Vehicle Rollover simulator. The group’s trip to the ISMT also had scouts participating in weapon simulators for the M240B Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and Mark 19 Grenade Launcher. These events gave the scouts a different perspective on the kind of training Marines conduct to prepare for any mission.
“This is all really cool,” said Devin Castanon, boy scout, Troop 72. “Being able to be around all the [weapons] and other [vehicles] up close is different and new.”
The scouts used this event to not only observe aspects of Marine life, but to also conduct their annual Order of the Arrow Call Out, which selected scouts from each troop who were nominated by their peers for exemplary scouting skills, leadership and willingness to learn. The order is an honor society within the organization symbolized by a white sash with a red arrow for members who have been officially accepted, which is a title they earn and keep for life.
“This portion of the camp is a big deal for a lot of the scouts,” Brandon said. “Once they officially become a member of the Arrow, it is something that stays with you for life, like earning a title they can always have with them.”
The scouts concluded their camp with a scout competition encompassing trust, leadership skills, endurance, knowledge and knot-tying techniques. Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 Crash Fire Rescue Marines also visited the group at Camp Wilson to demonstrate the nature of their job, equipment they use, and the mission of crash fire rescue.
During the Installation’s daily flag-raising ceremony Sunday morning, the Combat Center allowed three scouts to become part of the base’s flag detail and assist in the unfurling and raising of the American Flag alongside Marines.
“I really hope this becomes a tradition,” Nicole said. “You get the same expression of [excitement] whether they have lived around this environment or not. That first ‘Aha!’ or ‘Wow!’ moment you get from the kids makes all the work worth it and its memories they will keep with them.”