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10 things I learned staffing Wood Badge at Philmont

Just like your favorite film, Wood Badge is even better the second time around.

Last month, I served as a Troop Guide for Wood Badge course S2-571-13-3, known within the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council simply as Wood Badge 106.

Loyal blog readers will remember I had a mountaintop experience as a participant of Wood Badge 102 last summer at Philmont Scout Ranch. (Read my five-part recap here, and send to those who haven’t yet taken Wood Badge but should.)

But this time I was a Wood Badge staffer, again at a course held at Philmont. And this time I learned even more. Staffing Wood Badge is like having a backstage pass. From that new vantage point, you know what’s going to happen, how it happens and why it happens at that exact moment. That new perspective comes with a greater appreciation for why this is Scouting’s top training course for leaders.

I learned a lot more than I could put into one blog post, but I thought I’d share 10 lessons I learned staffing Wood Badge. If you’ve staffed, please share your own takeaways by leaving a comment. 

10. A Scouter’s creativity is limitless

It’s not spoiling the course to say that each Wood Badge patrol must participate in a project and present it to the group.

At WB106, the Bobwhite Patrol created one of the most innovative visual ways to show how all the Scouting programs work together.

You’ll see what I mean in the pictures below. The prop starts as a pinewood derby car, representing Cub Scouting. The wheels of the car are merit badges, for Boy Scouting. The car unfolds to become a V for Varsity Scouting, and it further unfolds to form the Silver Award, Venturing’s highest honor.

Big props to Emily Demarest and the rest of the Bobwhites for this creative prop.

WB106-8 WB106-9 WB106-21 WB106-22

9. A patrol full of Brians: cohesive, convenient

WB106-10Call it fate or simple luck, but the Beaver patrol at Wood Badge 106 had three members named Brian. (My alternate spelling must explain why I wasn’t their Troop Guide.)

The two non-Brians in the five-person patrol underwent temporary name changes for the week. Sherri became Brianna, and David became Brian David — they even had freshly reprinted nametags to show off their new monikers. The Beavers’ unified name helped them bond quickly and became a running joke for everyone.

And as for the rest of us, it sure made it easy to learn the Beavers’ names. Your odds of calling a Beaver the wrong name were zero.

8. The stages of team development are real

WB106-11If you’re not a believer in the four stages of team development — forming, storming, norming, performing — staff a Wood Badge course.

As a staffer you get to observe as patrols take that journey, each at a different rate. At our nightly staff meetings, we Troop Guides discussed our patrols’ current stage. The conversation was positive, healthy and judgment-free. It helped me see the importance of going through all four stages as a group of strangers becomes a high-performing team.

This all happens in just six days, and that accelerated process is intentional. The creators of Wood Badge have purposefully constructed the course to add stress at times and guide Scouters through each stage. Does that mean we, as staffers, actually wanted our patrols to clash, or storm? Yes. It sounds almost sadistic, but it isn’t. In actuality, that storming passion comes a more effective team. After all, “Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel.”

The takeaway to your home unit is pretty obvious. Your dens, patrols and crews won’t advance from one stage to another quite as quickly as a Wood Badge patrol will. That’s mainly because patrols don’t spend 18-hour days together for six days. But by allowing the natural progression, and stepping in to support when needed, you’ll see a real team blossom.

7. The Wood Badge creators are geniuses

WB106-14A magician never reveals his tricks, but if you staff a course, the secrets of Wood Badge magic will be revealed to you.

I’m talking about the Wood Badge course syllabus, with its detailed explanations of why each element of the course happens when it does. When I flipped through my copy way back in February, I found myself saying “ah-ha” frequently. My understanding of the course increased exponentially.

The course creators, to put it simply, were geniuses. Each element builds off the one before it. And, to build on my point in No. 8, the creators have intentionally crafted what I’m calling “a crescendo of stress” that tests nerves but builds character. I’m being vague so I don’t give away any of the methods here, but I will say that the creators give patrols too much to do and too little time in which to do it.

That’ll ramp up anyone’s stress level, but at Wood Badge, it’s done with purpose.

6. A chance to practice the patrol method

WB106-1The Senior Patrol Leader calls the troop to order, and the program patrol leads everyone in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. The troop guides explain the opening game and then sit back and let the patrols play. The Scoutmaster only leaves the back of the room once: for the Scoutmaster’s Minute at the end of the troop meeting.

Sound familiar? It should. That paragraph describes a unit employing Baden-Powell’s patrol method perfectly. It’s youth-led, and at Wood Badge, we don’t just learn about that troop method, we use it.

From my vantage point as a staffer, this became even clearer. On several occasions I saw our outstanding Scoutmaster, Debbie Sullivan, quietly chatting with our amazing Senior Patrol Leader, Ernie Carey. I noticed she resisted the urge to give the troop instructions, instead relaying them through Ernie when she needed to. But most of the time, she was able to sit back and watch the course she had spent years preparing for unfold beautifully. A well-run troop in action is one of the signatures of Wood Badge.

5. Games should have a purpose

WB106-12Pretty much all games are fun (though I’ve been in some Monopoly tussles that didn’t feel like it). In Scouting, games should also serve some sort of higher purpose.

Wood Badge demonstrates that well, and it provides Scouters with plenty of easy-to-run games they can take home with them.

Games in the Wood Badge syllabus showcase different leadership styles, test a person’s communication skills and challenge the ability of a patrol to execute a plan. Afterward, we were sure to leave time to reflect on what was learned.

4. Tradition matters

WB106-2The symbols of Wood Badge — beads, tartan neckerchief, ax and log, kudu horn, Gilwell Field — remind us that many have come before us. Even more will follow in our footsteps. Thinking that 100 years from now another group of Owls will be walking (or teleporting?) around Philmont gives me goosebumps.

In fact, you could say the same holds true for the 103-year-old Boy Scouts of America. Just like Wood Badge has evolved, so too has the BSA. But the traditions remain the same. Those physical symbols, like elements of the Scouting uniforms, have evolved but still have remnants of the originals.

My takeaway: Don’t let tradition box you in, but always honor those who led the way in past generations.

3. Philmont has still “got it”

WB106-17Philmont makes 75 years old look good.

Wood Badge shines anywhere, but taking the course at the Philmont Training Center in New Mexico amplifies the experience.

This was my eighth visit to Philmont, including two treks as a teen. Each time I find something new to appreciate. This year it was the Rayado Ridge Leadership Camp, a new facility that was our backcountry home during the course’s second half. Our Wood Badge course was the first to inhabit the camp, making it extra special.

Only Circle Ten Council offers Wood Badge courses at Philmont, though I’m told that will change beginning next summer. But Scouters from any council are invited to attend Circle Ten’s Wood Badge 110, held at Philmont in August 2014. Details to come.

2. A generationally diverse group will soar

WB106-4Something amazing happened at the Wood Badge presentation called “Generations in Scouting.” As each generation was named, Scouters from that generation were asked to raise their hands.

That’s when I realized each member of my Bear patrol was from a different generation. Four Bears, four generations. What a great opportunity to see how someone who was born the year Bing Crosby’s Going My Way was released could work with someone born the year Forrest Gump won Best Picture.

I’m biased, yes, but I submit that the Bears were a perfect team. They embraced their diversity and turned their differences into advantages.

I won’t reveal who was from which generation, but I’ll just say that Craig, Judy, Ricky and Scott impressed me all week. Putting a 19-year-old and a 60-something in the same patrol turned out to be a recipe for success.

1. People make the difference

WB106-3Wood Badge, like the Scouting organization as a whole, is great on paper.

You can read the Wood Badge syllabus or the Boy Scout Handbook cover to cover, but without real human beings, each is merely kindling.

People provide the spark. So I want to thank everyone involved with Wood Badge 106, including my fellow staffers, the members of the Bear patrol and all of the participants, for being a part of an experience I’ll never forget.

During our monthly staff developments, in which we spent entire Saturdays indoors preparing for the week at Philmont, it was difficult at times to envision the actual course with actual participants. We practiced games with one another, presented in front of one another and painstakingly went through each day’s schedule line by line.

It was a little like sitting in a high school chemistry class. The explanation is important and necessary, but really you’re itching to move to the lab tables to try it out. Once Day 1 arrived, it was even better than I had imagined. And it’s the people that made it so.

Staffed Wood Badge? Do tell.

If you’ve staffed a course, answer me this: What did you get out of it as a staffer that you didn’t get as a participant? Share your experiences below.

Photos by Don Wendell. Yes, we’re related, and sharing this course with my dad was awesome.

71 Comments on 10 things I learned staffing Wood Badge at Philmont

  1. Kristin Wardle // September 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm // Reply

    You nailed it! I staffed two courses immediately after being a participant, and attending Wood Badge three years straight was amazing. Most definitely a back-stage pass, with as much personal and team development as your first time through. Great memories.

  2. Kathy Jacobson // September 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm // Reply

    This blog is coming to me as I am about to embark to camp this evening (after my Troop meeting) to the second weekend of Wood Badge in CT. I am serving as SPL. This is my second time on staff. I was a Troop Guide previously. I am amazed at how much more insight and knowledge I have gained each time around. I continue to develop my leadership skills with the rest of the staff. It is amazing watching the participants go thru the course. It validates all the preparation and dedication put into it from a staff viewpoint. I meet new friends every time. It reignites my Scouting spirit. It makes me proud to be part of Scouting. Having a program like this available to adult leaders is priceless.

  3. As a staffer I was able to fully understand the material, and discuss it with those who had better knowledge of it (veteran staffers) and give my take on the lessons in the program. Each successive course I staffed I learned a little something new. As Course Director a few years back I was still taking away new and more wonderous things. This next year I have been asked to be a mentor to a new CD and I know there will be yet another ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I especially love seeing the light bulb turn on for the new staffers during staff developments. It’s a golden time.

  4. I am not a staffer, but I wanted to comment on generational diversity. This weekend will be the first camping weekend of my Wood Badge Class. I am 52 years old. There is a young man in the same class who is in his early 20’s. I was his Den Leader many, many years ago! I think that’s kind of cool!

  5. Chuck Chatlynne // September 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm // Reply

    Frank Oppenheimer (J. Robert’s brother) said it: The best way to learn something is to teach it.

  6. Each visit to Gilwell is unique. I, too, recently returned for my first visit as a staffer, and had many of the “Aha!” moments that Bryan describes during staff development. As a staffer, I understood that Wood Badge and the special feeling that we get when reuniting is a matter of: a specific journey that we are guided through by one another (physical, emotional, etc.); direct experience with management concepts and immediate usage of exercises to re-enforce those concepts; and a factor of the combined passion and love that staff and participants have for Scouting. It is a complex equation that cannot be summarized easily, and will change even when you bring the same people to the same place to host a predetermined program. Gilwell thrives and survives because of the joy of discovery, and the thrill of sharing one’s most precious memories. As a staffer, you get to be both gifter and recipient, and are much more aware of your role in bringing the spirit of Gilwell to others. It’s the same thrill that you get when you give a precious gift to a beloved friend, as you can’t wait until they open the gift. It’s even more special when they “pay it forward” and pass that spark along.

  7. Program diversity is also important. I have staffed 2 courses and I have found that patrols with leaders from different program levels were able to perform faster than those from a single program. Those that were program diverse asked “how would you do this?” instead of saying “I have found that this always worked before”, worked together better.

    When sharing experiences, the patrols were able to see potential in all program levels that they had not experienced or had forgot about since it has been out of their primary duties for a long time. Those patrols that were focused in on 1 program level seemed to struggle longer than others.

    This was part of my post course discussions with the participants to remind them that resources come in all forms as long as we are open to them.

    • Great point, Don, that I neglected to include. We had several Cub Scout leaders, in addition to Assistant Scoutmasters, Scoutmasters and Venturing Advisors.

  8. Debbie Sullivan // September 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm // Reply

    Awesome, Bryan. Simply awesome. You write so well and have a depth of understanding and an ability to convey the picture.

    Thanks again for staffing! And thanks once again for writing an article in support of Wood Badge. I know your articles are making a difference and encouraging people to attend and experience all the course has to offer.

  9. As an Antelope (that’s the patrol for all the really loony people) in SR-1009, I had a great time. I was scheduled to be a staffer at Camp Strake (Sam Houston Area Council) last year, but the census was low, and they had to cut some staff (generally anyone w/ Assistant in front fo their position got the opportunity to contribute by resigning). So I didn’t get the full effect of the staffing experience – but it was great, and gave me a better appreciation for the course.

    That being said – have any of the senior staff at National taken Wood Badge? If they have, maybe they need a refresher course. Their respect for the rank and file who are volunteers, not paid, was not evident in the membership and the national fee debacles (as seen in your blog on the fee, with 400+ responses) which recently occurred.

    I’m not saying this to be ugly, or confrontational, or generate any other posts. I am firmly committeed to Scouting [although I only made tenderfoot back in the ’50s, due to a troop that I wish had had leaders who had taken Wood Badge], I have a grandson who achieved Eagle back in December, and who attended Jambo 2013 as his troop’s SPL, and I work on the Troop Committee, am COR for his troop and a pack, and also work at District level. I believe scouting is the premier youth organization.

    But I am afraid that those who are at National may be distanced from the reality out here, and it would be good for them to interact with the cub and scout leaders as equals, with no deference expected by them in the course by any of the staff or fellow patrol members. Perhaps involving them in a manner similar to the “Undercover Boss” TV show would be beneficial for Scouting and their leadership perspective as well.

    Sorry to get so long in the post, but I am enthusiastic about the changes Wood Badge can make in your Scouting perspective. If they don’t cry at least a couple of times diring the course, then I will wonder if they understand the material. Wood Badge affects you that much!

  10. You covered the experience very nicely, Bryan. But you left out the total lack of sleep that a staffer gets! 😉 But seriously, a big part of the staffing experience is to better understand the “WHY” behind everything in the syllabus. And you’re spot-on when you say that it’s the people who make the difference. My fellow staffers are among the most impressive people I’ve ever met. They have a passion for leadership, and for sharing those skills with others. They pour their hearts and souls into the course, and like an all-star athlete they leave every ounce of energy out on Gilwell Field. One of the best parts of staffing is the opportunity to work with these like-minded individuals. We all become close friends during the process, progressing through the four stages of team development ourselves. It’s a privilege and an honor to be counted among them. Finally, I count the heads of the participants and I multiply by five – that’s the number of goals (ticket items) that will be completed in service to Scouting and its members. All as a result of the hard work the staff puts into running the practical phase of the course. That’s our paycheck!

    • Oh, yes. But whenever I thought I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I just asked the Scribes what time they went to bed…

      • Yup, I was a Scribe my first time around… I know exactly what you mean!

        • Patrick Huber // September 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm //

          I’m just stepping in to say hello to a fellow Huber and Wood Badge staffer! Being a Troop Guide was a fantastic experience. Watching the “Ahah!” moments arrive renewed my energy level all over again.

        • Patrick, PLEASE tell me that you’re a Fox! 😀

        • Patrick Huber // September 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm //

          Oops! Nope, I’m an Eagle and a Buffalo troop guide.

      • Martha Carlson // September 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm // Reply

        I learned from staffing WB that you don’t have to stay in a tent surrounded by Webelos in tents to get no sleep at a Scouting event.

  11. If you liked Wood Badge, you’ll LOVE Philmont Leadership Challenge!

  12. John Herrholz // September 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm // Reply

    I was a new staffer on the brand new Course known as Wood Badge for the 21st Century, as a Troop Guide. So new, that the syllabus we were given didn’t have page numbers on it. No one had ever seen the Course, let alone knew what the roles were supposed to be. We had questions, the participants had questions and we arrived at answers during epic staff meetings that went until 2 in the morning, most nights.

    Since 2002, I was a Staffer on 4 additional Courses, then I was asked to be Course Director for NE-I-259 in 2007. Each ensuing staff came to a deeper and better understanding of the intent of the Course and how to deliver on our personal commitment to deliver the very best adult training possible.

    As a Course Director, I learned that after Staff selection, recruiting participants for the Course, and staff development, I was “along for the ride of a lifetime” because my Staff Members were that good. A true High Performance Team.

    I do think that our Councils, Regions and National is squandering a very talented resource in the people of the former Course Directors. There needs to be a role for those “four beaders”. I understand and support the wisdom of allowing one person to only be Course Director once. But the talent base, the passion, the knowledge and experience of Course Directors should be tapped into, for the betterment of the program.

    • Randy Sorensen // September 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm // Reply

      Very good point John.

    • Hi John,
      Out here on the West Coast former Course Directors get to staff the Area Course Director’s Conference. It provides an opportunity to compare notes between each Council (or Cluster) implementation of the course. More importantly, it provides job-specific training for staffers of upcoming courses including the Course Directors who are required to attend the training.

      • John Herrholz // September 19, 2013 at 4:45 am // Reply

        Hello Alan:
        I wish I could say that were the case in the Northeast Region. In the two Course Director conferences I attended, both were staffed by the same people, and their presentations were not that good. In fact, my written comment to the head of that conference was “I would not accept such poor presentations from a first year Troop Guide.”

        On a larger point, with the expansion of this Course, the push to have more Courses and reach a broader audience, we are going to end up with more Four-beaders than ever before. Even if some of them were involved in Course Director’s Conferences, there would still be untapped resource that Councils, Regions and National should be able to reach out to.

        I hope all is well with you, NH is not the same without you!!


  13. Randy Sorensen // September 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm // Reply

    Bryan, I am so glad you have had the opportunity to staff such a wonderful course. The added pleasure you had was to do it with your father. I have spent 20 years around the Wood Badge program in one capacity or another. During those years I have seen several changes. The program continues to improve. Every opportunity I have had to staff I have gained a deeper knowledge of the concepts we teach and a greater respect for the good this course brings to people. I am sure someday you will have the opportunity to direct a course. Continue to prepare yourself for that day. I know of another great course to help in your preparations. PLC. Of course you know that course is at Philmont too. Enjoy.

    • Randy knows what he’s talking about too, he was my Scoutmaster.

    • Larry Ross // May 25, 2014 at 7:01 pm // Reply

      Randy, My Papa Bear-Troop Guide. You helped me “Experience” Wood Badge and then I got to Cook for your course, how Awesome. All I can say is I wish Everyone would not only go to Wood Badge, but Staff it as well. After 7 years I keep learning!! Right now I am finishing up for this week’s course; W1-611-14. PS. Mr. Phil Peck is ASM Troop Guides this year, Yeah!!

      • Donna F. Williams // March 31, 2015 at 6:58 pm // Reply

        Any suggestions for me, I have just been selected as ASM of Troop Guides for next years course and I am so excited!!! I have had the priviledge of being a Troop Guide and want to be the best ASM of Troop Guides ever! Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  14. I was lucky enough to attend WE1-611-10 under the leadership of a previous commenter, Randy Sorensen. An amazing Scoutmaster he was and I learned so much from him. Wood Badge truly did change my life. This year I was lucky enough to be a Troop Guide for the mighty Bear patrol of W1-611-13 and it changed my life once again. I found a new confidence in myself and built some bonds with complete strangers that I new call my close friends. For me it was an emotional journey that made me reflect on my life as a Scouter, employee, father, and husband. I learned so much by teaching and now understand what I was taught years ago as a participant. I can not thank the creators of Wood Badge enough for designing such an amazing program. My only wish is that everyone take the opportunity to go. Think about the difference we could make in the lives of young people if we all had the same training and passion. Kudos to you Bryan for serving. The Bears were lucky to have you.

    Phil – Bobwhite

    • Randy Sorensen // September 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm // Reply

      Phil, Thank you for your kind words.

  15. Bryan,
    After avoiding Wood Badge for many years I was finally cornered to take the course in 2004 (WE4-58-04 Eagles!). Thinking I knew Scouting pretty well I didn’t think I would learn much of anything. I was so wrong!. I have now served on eight courses in two states and look very much forward in the future if I am lucky to serve as a Course Director. The old adage you learn more after you teach someone what you just learned is true. To see how the course is put together, to be part of the process and watch how individuals become a high performance team is amazing.
    I would love to see National encourage the hesitant ones with a Knot and reward those who have been on staff to have another knot. (just my thought) since we have a knot for everything else except the highest training one can take.
    Keep up the great work!
    Dave Lear

    • I love this idea! Especially considering many Wood Badgers don’t always wear their beads when they wear their field uniform.

      • Sea Badge, the Sea Scouting version of Wood Badge for that specific program uses a knot instead of beads, because of the danger of having something around your neck on board a ship, so there’s precedent. Besides, we often use knots in addition to a medal, for field use. Those of us that earned (or were awarded) a youth or adult religious medal wear the appropriate knots, and wear the medals on Scout Sundays. Adult Eagle Scouts wear their red, white and blue square knot, and then bring out their medals for Eagle Courts of Honor. There are unofficial two-bead, three-bead and four-bead square knots available. Why not just make them official so we can tell a Wood Badger when they don’t wear their beads for some reason.

        Officially, we staffers are also supposed to remove our third bead when our course and the ticket period is done, although I’ve never seen a staffer do so. Weraring both a two-bead and a three-bead knot might help people be correct.

        That said, my staffer beads and my Vigil amulet from my OA lodge go around my neck as soon as I put my uniform on.

        • Where is this information about removing the third bead?

      • Patrick Huber // September 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm // Reply

        There is an unofficial “knot” you can purchase online.

      • Personally, I’d hate to see such a simple and universally recognized award get reduced to a knot. Wood Badgers not wearing their beads in field uniform? They should. Mine have summited several peaks with the rest of my field uniform and have opened the doors of conversation with other Scouters MANY TIMES. Why would I not wear them? (Definition of awkward – running into a patrol member who is not wearing his beads at a council event after you drove an hour to his beading ceremony last summer.)

        BSA has done Scouters a great service by reducing the number of adult knots in recent years. It would be a shame to take one of our oldest and most unique awards and reverse that trend.

        (PS – I’d be willing to bet 75% of all registered Scouters cant identify more than 4 adult knots anyway. Why would we want Wood Badge to become another “unrecognized recognition”?)

    • Dave, I like the idea of the knots. However, it’s a little hard to justify adding knots for senior achievements when knots for core achievements were eliminated (for example, being a Tiger Den leader, a Webelos den leader, or a Cub Scouter). Why were they discontinued? I suspect it is because staff at national don’t earn those awards, so don’t see the value in promoting and celebrating those parent volunteers who stepped up, as opposed to the clear value of reducing Scout store inventory.

      • THE AWARDS WERE NOT ELIMINATED – THE REDUNDANT KNOTS WERE. Each one one of those parents you speak of can still earn the Den Leader Training Award! Quite simply, it is reasonable to recognize a Den Leader for a year’s worth of service and training. It is not reasonable to continue awarding that volunteer more knots for essentially the same service over the next couple of years (which is in line with every other position in Scouting. Quite frankly, I think some former Cub Scouters were getting a bit sheepish about bridging up to a troop wearing 3 or 4 training knots when the ASM’s in that troop with 5 or 10 years worth of service wear wearing just one.)

        Even after the recent reduction – a Den Leader with two years of service and training is the only Scouter from any segment of the program that can earn 2 training awards in that time. Are we “promoting and celebrating” the newbies? We certainly are. In fact, that 1 year Den Leader will now be able to wear the MEDAL his knot actually represents because it is now in the inventory for the first time in a LONG time.

    • Some of us are in scouting for the boys..

      Evidently you have not experienced Knot snobbery at roundtable or summer camp.

      • Unfortunately I can see where you might think that. My point was to have another recruiting tool. Some councils are much smaller then others as you know and to recruit participants as well as some staffers can be challenging, I was one of those. If you knew me, knots are the last thing I am in Scouting for. Someone else might like to use it to promote a conversation that may not have started in the first place. I do it all the time to new Scouting parents who might just show potential to be the next Cub leader or Scoutmaster.
        Dave Lear
        47 years dedicated to Scouting

  16. Good Point Bob!!

  17. For the record that “19 year old doesn’t turn 19 until December”, also I hear he is a pretty cool guy. Great article I enjoyed reading it. I think the bears are trying to meet up with you here in a couple of weeks.

    • Haha, he’s definitely a cool guy. 🙂

  18. James Lehman, Jr. // September 19, 2013 at 6:03 am // Reply

    After taking (hoot hoot( and staffing Woodbadge, I did something, evidently, that nobody previously had done: I asked the WB Troop “why?” and this is what they told me :

    “REASONS WHY I TOOK WOOD BADGE” or, Why YOU should take Wood Badge)

    *I took away a lot of ideas from everyone else, not just the staff.
    *It reminds me of how much fun Scouting can be.
    *The fellowship.
    *It helps to build leadership in my Troop.
    *My sense of obligation makes me want to payback to Scouting.
    *Self-empowerment. I can do more, because I can.
    *To grow spiritually.
    *It keeps the Pack trainer off my back.
    *It’s my Eagle. To accomplish it as my special project.
    *To hear awesome bugling.
    *To learn leadership skills.
    *A chance to play and camp as an adult.
    *Train to make better project planning.
    *Gives you the BIG picture of Scouting, not just the day to day stuff.
    *Gets you in a Scout Spirit atmosphere.
    *Looking for the “AHA” moments. Found’em.
    *Make the transition from Cub Scout to Boy Scout more seamless.
    *Gain in understanding the “other” Scout.
    *I am not alone.
    *Seeking ‘Personal Growth’, it’s not just about the boys and girls, but adults too.
    *It renews your energy for Scouting.
    *Big chance, not just happenstance, to interface with lots of other Scouters.
    *“A raven is like a writing desk”.
    *Supreme networking.
    *Observing excellent exampling of Scout leading..

    *Learning that everyone has their own strengths and talents and weaknesses – that the group can often accomplish more together than anyone singularly.
    *To experience the very best in leadership (what they told me before I came!). I think I did.
    *I gained tools to look at one’s past to be a better leader in the future.
    *You can’t help your Scouts “get it” until you “get it”, and Wood Badge is where I “got it”.
    *“Rehydrate” for Scouting souls: Water for the physical body, Wood Badge for the “Scouting” body.
    *For the Coffee.
    *Obtain a deeper understanding of the purpose of Scouting.
    *If you choose to do something, if you volunteer to do something, don’t you want the best skills to enable you to do that something the very best way possible? Why do it half way?
    *To benefit from them that have “been there and done that”.

    • Nice list. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I went through as a participant on WE1-492-09 as a Beaver. I was Troop Guide to the Bobwhites for W1-492-11. While I knew what was going to happen, I caught myself several times having my own aha moments. I would turn to the more seasoned Staff and say, so that’s why. They would just smile and nod. You learn the reasons better as you teach.

    In our Troop Guide Shack the guys would debrief everynight as we fell asleep. That was so magical. My friend took the Philmont Leadership Challenge and said it was mindblowing and a lot of fun. So, that’s on my bucketlist.

  20. Reblogged this on Scouter Adam's Blog and commented:
    If you need a reason to go to Wood Badge, here are a few.

  21. As a staffer, you move from just having a hammer in your toolbox to adding a pair of needle nose pliers. Kinda like the evolution of our opposable thumbs. Pliers are the opposable thumbs of the home workshop. Keep a pair handy as a stafffer.

  22. I have staffed twice and both times as a Staffer I came away with a renewed love for the program. Bryan, You really hit the nail on the head with this blog post and I could read between the lines and hear the enthusiasm that Wood Badge has brought to your life.
    Wood Badge made a lasting impact on me personally in 2005 and the fuel was added to my life the first time I staffed. The first time I had the honor of being a Troop Guide. The ultimate “AH HA” moment in my Scouting life. The second time I was on Admin Staff as an Assistant Scoutmaster. This too brought the course to life in me for all of the reasons that you stated.
    I would love to staff down at Philmont for a 6 day course. It seems that would be fantastic!
    Love Wood Badge… I could go on and on about it… but I will save space for other Great Wood Badgers!
    GREAT POST. Thanks

  23. ScoutingManiac // September 20, 2013 at 4:20 am // Reply

    I hope my council (Great Alaska) doesn’t cancel Wood Badge again, I really want to go as a participant!!!!!!!!!! I haven’t had a chance to yet, I’m 22!

  24. Kevin L. Warmack // September 20, 2013 at 5:40 am // Reply

    Bryan, you are right in that you learn more about WoodBadge as a staffer than you do as a participant. I had the opportunity to staff C-17-06 as a Troop Guide and C-24-08 as the Scribe. The picking up on the Forming, Storming Norming, Performing was so key. The other part was when I taught the Project Planning course as a part of C-24-08. I became such an expert and then discovered the greatest project planner in the world = Wyl E. Coyote!! Yes, think about it. He had intricate plans but the Acme products just didn’t perform.

    One other part was the Campfire and the talk by Lord Baden Powell. I cried as a participant and i cried as a Staffer. That always gets me.

  25. Brian, your next step now should be to sign up for one of next year’s two opportunities to take the Philmont Leadership Challenge (PLC)! I just returned from this year’s course and it was outstanding. It will take your Wood Badge knowledge, and knowledge of yourself, to the next level. Check it out here:

  26. When will the information/registration come out for the 2014 course at PTC? Might be interested, since I will most likely be there already for Philmont staff. How would it work since I am not in Circle 10?

    • Circle Ten Council has registration for Wood Badge located at http//

  27. I haven’t staffed Wood badge or taken the course. Yet that is. It sounds interesting and looks like fun. I bet it would have been a great experience to take the course at Philmont.

  28. James Metcalf // September 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm // Reply

    I’m currently serving on my second staff and the things learned through practical use are amazing. You are right the writers are amazing the way the course is put together. I learn not only the skills but something new about myself each time

  29. Jerry Kearns // November 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm // Reply

    Staffing a Wood Badge course is much more than having a backstage pass to get a greater learning and appreciation for the course, that’s it’s disguise! Its actually another learning experience where you grow and develop…just like the first time you attended WB!
    The staff goes through similar stages of team development as they learn what is needed to run a program sucessfully. And talk about putting the group under pressure with impossible deadlines? (Can you say “Scribe”?)
    Every part of Wood Badge is intentional, even for the staffing element. And when you staff a second time?…Same thing happens! A new learning and growth experience. New group dynamics, new roles and responsibilities, new staff members. I think that it what makes it so fun. It is never the same twice and you always learn something new with each experience! Go Gilwellians!

  30. I attended Wood Badge as a participant in 2008 and have been on staff every year since, in fact, I leave tomorrow to go staff a week long Wood Badge experience in the mountains of Idaho. I learn something new every time and have other things reaffirmed every time. It’s amazing to watch the participants go through the stages of team development and become a high performing team. It’s fun to see the staff do the same through the staff development meetings and while on the ‘Hill’. There’s always something new to learn from it.

  31. Kevin L. Warmack, E.J.D. // September 7, 2014 at 9:20 am // Reply

    I had the opportunity to staff two courses, the first as a Troop Guide and the second as the Scribe. When I was the Troop Guide, the forming , storming,.. came into focus as I watched my Patrol come together. The biggest push was to help get the Patrol Members to get their “Tickets” together. I had one “young” man, who made me really work to get his ticket done but in the end, he was pleased with the effort.

    During my second staffing as a Scribe, the common theme was, “Sleep? What’s that?!!” Scribes really get taken to the cleaners because you really have to work. There is no time to relax. My fun was that I got to teach “Project Planning” and I used a common theme that for the “World’s Greatest Project Planner” – Wyl E. Coyote of RoadRunner cartoons! Got the point across. I sitll use that theme today.

  32. I staffed two courses the first as ASPL and the second as a Troop Guide. When I staffed for the first time it was just over ten years since completing my ticket. I went through the old Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge just before the new course was rolled out. I had some experience with certain elements of the new course at the Order of the Arrows National Leadership Seminar. One of my favorite things to do in Scouting is leader development. I always learn so much from instructing after going through as a participant. The last two years I have not been on course but was able to serve as a guest presenter for the Leave No Trace model campsite.

  33. Anna Sturdivant // September 7, 2014 at 9:28 am // Reply

    Bryan, articles like this are terrific promotion vehicles, and proof that fun is part if the exhausting and enlightening experience of Wood Badge.

    A statement in your item #3 was correct until this year. As of fall 2014, Circle Ten is not the only council offering Wood Badge at Philmont; Longhorn Council also offers Wood Badge at Philmont. They will be at Rayado Ridge and Zastrow in September (right after Philmont Leadership Challenge) instead of at PTC and Rayado Ridge.

    Having had the privilege of staffing at Circle Ten’s Wood Badge 83 at Philmont and many courses not there, I will quote that the music is not in the piano, and the success of Wood Badge is not dependent on where it is held. Gilwell Field is anywhere Wood Badge is. The magic is in the staff and the participants as they are moving through staff development and the course. Facilities frame the course, but are not the focus of the course.

    Hats off to councils providing Wood Badge courses for their Scouters everywhere!

  34. Cole Petersen // September 7, 2014 at 11:46 am // Reply

    I hadn’t read this before. There are a few good comments, and I have a correction for one of them. A staffer no longer goes back to wearing 2 beads once the course is completed.
    I don’t think that Philmont has anything to do with this conversation. I didn’t care for the Scouting magazine article at all. There seemed to be a clear undertone that ‘our courses are better than any others.’ I find that to be nearsighted, arrogant, and inappropriate. I’ll get specific off-line if you wish.

    • Bryan Wendell // September 7, 2014 at 3:33 pm // Reply

      Sorry you feel that way. I thought I made it clear that the setting doesn’t matter. I believe the magic of Wood Badge is that it’s a life-changing experience wherever you take it.

  35. Bryan Stephens // September 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm // Reply

    After 8 courses, the last as a course director this past spring, I can honestly say that I have had great experiences at each course. I learned a lot each time. I am going to miss staffing Wood Badge in the future. I can summarize what I learned this way. If we will remember to make sure that every activity and meeting we have with the scouts helps fulfill the mission statement of BSA, we will be successful and if we will learn, understand and utilize the WHY of Scouting, we will accomplish great things with our scouts.

    • Cole Petersen // September 7, 2014 at 7:35 pm // Reply

      I guess I would have appreciated the conversation if Philmont had not been part of the subject line, because you’re right … the setting doesn’t matter.

  36. Kent Bradley // September 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm // Reply

    I served mutiple times on the old course and the 21st Century course as well. I now serve as an Area Wood Badge Coordinator. Each time taught me new things and I had many of those Aha moments. But my greatest aha moement came as I watched the magic it had on each individual. I get to see it still as I teach the Course Directors how to teach that magic. I really loved the part where you said the creators were geniuses, because I too believe that fact. Great article

  37. I have the honor of staffing Wood Badge spring 2015 at Worth Ranch and looking forward to experiencing the behind the scenes part of the program.

  38. linda ship 111 // July 20, 2015 at 11:22 pm // Reply

    First Sea Scout leader at WoodBadge! W6-49-15 Welcome Aboard all SSers

    • Bryan Wendell // July 21, 2015 at 8:51 am // Reply

      Awesome! Go Sea Scouts!

  39. I am just seeing your article about staffing WB106. Thank you! I took legacy at Philmont in 1991 (Walking WB XVI). I staffed WB75 at Philmont and had a chance to revisit my memories at Zastro. WB and Philmont – tremendous and amazing. I also had a chance to meet your dad during my Circle 10 tenure. Amazing Scouter. Appreciate your article and comments.

  40. Bryan Wendell // July 30, 2015 at 4:17 pm // Reply

    Thanks, Bill! And thanks for your nice words about my dad. I appreciate that.

  41. How does one volunteer to staff WB at Philmont? Please tell!

    • Bryan Wendell // July 31, 2015 at 1:20 pm // Reply

      I’d suggest you contact a council that’s going to have a course there and express your interest.

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