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The U.S. Naval Academy’s lesser-known tradition: Scouting

Tradition is a big deal at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where young men and women train to become officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Every midshipman must jump off the 10-meter (33-foot) diving platform to graduate. It’s said that if you step on the academy’s seal, embedded into the ground near the dorms at Bancroft Hall, you won’t graduate. And at the end of their freshman year, plebes attempt the Herndon Monument Climb, a frantic race to the top of a 21-foot, grease-covered obelisk.

But a lesser-known Naval Academy tradition is just as vibrant: the academy’s strong ties to Scouting.

During Sunday’s visit, the Report to the Nation delegates learned how Scouting’s values and the Naval Academy’s values align.

It starts with the Naval Academy’s mission, prominently displayed in the entrance to one of the academy’s main buildings. The mission begins like this: “To develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty…”

Sound familiar?

One out of 10 — at least

The Scouts were told that one out of every 10 midshipmen at the academy is an Eagle Scout. If you consider that more than a quarter of the brigade is female, the number of Eagle Scouts among male midshipmen could be closer to one out of eight.

Indeed, Sunday’s tour was led entirely by Eagle Scouts, including Zach Cammer, a midshipman who earned Eagle in the Suffolk County Council. Cammer, who will graduate in May and begin serving as an officer in Quantico, Va., is the president of the Naval Academy’s National Eagle Scout Association chapter.

Fun fact: the Naval Academy’s NESA chapter is the largest chapter in the country.

Forrest Gertin, Eagle Scout from New York and National Chief of the Order of the Arrow, spotted the parallels between Scouting and the academy right away.

“One of the things that I noted was just how closely their mission matches with that of Scouting,” he said. “It’s such a continuation — that growth and honor and service to your fellow man.”

Back to Philmont

Summer 2017 will be the first summer in years that Cammer hasn’t spent at Philmont Scout Ranch.

In yet another example of how Scouting and the Naval Academy are aligned, the academy sends midshipmen to serve as Philmont Rangers and Northern Tier Interpreters — coveted summer gigs that benefit the BSA high-adventure bases and the midshipmen equally.

Cammer served as a ranger and then a ranger trainer, and he’s even had a hand in selecting which midshipmen get sent to the hiking paradise in Cimarron, N.M. Demand for those jobs is high.

“We had 300 applicants for Philmont, and we interviewed 60,” he said. “Thirty got to go.”

Cammer said he selected applicants who could make a crucial shift when arriving at Philmont: from a midshipman used to giving and following orders to a Ranger who must guide and enable crews to follow the Philmont way.

Submarine life

The delegates said one of their favorite moments was meeting Andrew Lee. The Eagle Scout midshipman is a self-proclaimed submarine geek.

“I’m a huge submarine nerd, so I could talk about these things all day,” he said. “Submarines are our most powerful weapon — and it’s been that way for a long time.”

The Scouts and Venturers listened in awe as Lee described how a 560-foot submarine could sit undetected beneath the enemy for as long as needed to complete the mission. Anyone on the surface above the submarine would have no idea that a giant, nuclear-powered vessel lurks below.

Come to the Naval Academy in 2018

I have to put in a quick plug for the STEM Merit Badge Jamboree at the Naval Academy. Every year, midshipmen lead 700 Boy Scouts through a weekend of fun and learning in Annapolis.

The event is so popular that it requires a lottery and a waiting list. The next one will be held in 2018. You can express your interest on this page set up by the Naval Academy’s NESA chapter.

Follow the Report to the Nation

Find more coverage here, and follow me on Twitter: @bryanonscouting.

Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland. See more photos here.

Video recap of Day 2

5 Comments on The U.S. Naval Academy’s lesser-known tradition: Scouting

  1. Len Brunotte // March 6, 2017 at 10:29 am // Reply

    My Eagle scout son just received an appointment to the Class of 2021 at the United States Naval Academy.

  2. Deaf Scouter // March 6, 2017 at 10:34 am // Reply

    WOW. This was an eye opener Bryan. THANK YOU for bringing it to our attention. Locally in New York State, we know about West Point and their connection to ScOUTING as they host an annual camporee: http://www.usma.edu/scoutmasters/SitePages/Home.aspx

    Makes me wonder what the other military branches host for ScOUTING along these veins? Future articles after the BSA Report to the Nation is over?

  3. joselepervanche // March 6, 2017 at 12:11 pm // Reply

    During my Venezuelan Navy exchange program back in 1975 we were hosted by the USNA and they assigned us to a dorm in Bancroft Hall. It was a great learned experience that had a lifelong impact. #GoNavy

  4. Capt. W. C. Wheaton U // March 6, 2017 at 2:52 pm // Reply

    Glad to see you had a good visit to USNA. As an alum (USNA’59) and former scouter was thrilled to see your group enjoying Memorial Hall in front of the replica of Perry’s battle flag. Keep up the good work.

  5. My brother, whom I am so proud of, is an Eagle Scout and graduated with honors from the academy. He spends his days tooling around in a Super Hornet fighter jet. Nice gig and allot of it can be traced back to his roots in scouting. Couldn’t meet a more stand up guy if you tried.
    Now my son is an arrow of light Cub Scout getting ready to bridge over to Boy Scouts and my every hope is, he sees it through to Eagle scout. I use my brother’s success as a naval aviator as often as I can to stress at least a part of it is owed to his experiences in the scouting program.

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