In exclusive tour, New York Boy Scouts see Navy’s side of the Army-Navy rivalry

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When Scout parent Matt Testerman heard that in 2009 his troop visited West Point, he formed a plan.

You see, Testerman is a graduate of a different service academy, Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy.

And in the spirit of the Army-Navy rivarly, he wanted to take the guys of Troop 336 to see his alma mater.

“When I heard that Troop 336 visited West Point two years ago, I wanted our Scouts to visit the Academy—and reach their own conclusion as to which one is better!” he said. Testerman returns to Annapolis next year as a professor.

Last month, Testerman got his wish. Twenty-five Scouts, parents, and siblings from his Pittsford, N.Y., troop loaded up and began the seven-hour journey south to the Maryland site.

Once there, Troop 336 got its first taste of the Army-Navy rivalry on the hardwood at Alumni Hall, where the Navy’s men’s basketball team played Army. The Midshipmen beat the Black Knights, 75-58 in a game that illustrated the rivalry’s passion. The Scouts even got into the spirit, shouting “Go Navy, Beat Army!” alongside the Midshipmen. Testerman must have loved that.

The troop’s quarters for the weekend were aboard three Yard Patrol boats moored at the pier on the Severn River. These are the vessels that train midshipmen in seamanship and navigation.

Scouts accustomed to a spacious, plush bedroom at home were in for a surprise aboard these boats. The boys slept six to a berthing quarter, and each bunk had three levels. The bottom and middle beds were fine, but the top one offered just inches to spare with pipes running above an unlucky Scout’s head.

This type of sleeping arrangement is not for the claustrophobia-prone. But then again, those afraid of close spaces probably wouldn’t join the Navy anyway.

The next morning, the guys got a personalized tour of the Academy from Midshipman 3rd Class Ian Sonnenberg, an Eagle Scout from Vernon, Ill.

Sonnenberg majors in aerospace engineering and Chinese and serves as tour coordinator for the 400-member U.S. Naval Academy National Eagle Scout Association.

Sonnenberg explained to the Scouts the Academy’s mission: to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically. “Does that sound familiar?” he asked. “Think of the Scout Oath—to ‘keep yourselves physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’”

On the tour, Troop 336 saw gold-painted footballs in trophy cases that symbolized Navy victories over—who else?—Army. Photos of Navy Hall of Fame athletes lined the walls, including such legends as quarterback Roger Staubach and basketball great David Robinson, a three-time Olympian.

Those legends made careers out of sports, but that’s not the case for the majority of Midshipmen, Sonnenberg said.

“This is a military institution that trains officers for the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to receive an appointment, so if you want to come here, make sure you focus on your studies, especially math and science, and keep in great physical shape.”

Pointing to the Olympic-size pool and a 10-meter diving platform, Sonnenberg joked, “And you better like the water!” All midshipmen are required to jump from the platform, roughly one-third the distance from the top of an aircraft carrier to the ocean.

“It teaches you courage and to be brave,” Sonnenberg said. “When you’re up there, it’s a long way down, but you master your fear.”

Finally, Sonnenberg guided the troop to the chapel and then to “the coolest place at the Academy:” the crypt of John Paul Jones, father of the U.S. Navy. His remains were buried in France for 113 years before being discovered and returned to America in 1905.

So after this once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Scouts, what’s next, Scoutmaster Bob Cooper?

“First West Point, then the Naval Academy,” Cooper said. “Now we have to figure out how to get to Colorado to see the Air Force Academy!”


Thanks to Troop 336 assistant Scoutmaster Tony Hoppa for sending me the story idea and information, and to parent Matt Testerman for taking and sharing his photos from the trip.

Send me your What a Weekend ideas:

Did your pack, troop, crew, or team recently return from an amazing adventure? Send me your story with the subject line “What a Weekend.” Include a 500- to 600-word writeup about the event and three or four of your best photos.

Dallas-based Circle Ten Council holds its Centennial Camporee


Scouters and Scouts have been celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America all year. All across the country, we've heard from volunteer leaders who have attended celebrations large and small. The one common thread: They all involve Scouts doing what they do best—getting outside to have some fun!

The Circle Ten Centennial Camporee in Dallas last month was no exception. Some 6,500 Scouts and Scouters met at Dallas Executive Airport for a weekend of excitement.

Activities included a human-size game of foosball (pictured above), pioneering, archery, orienteering, an Order of the Arrow village, patch trading, rock climbing, and much more.

Representatives from Lockheed Martin Corp., the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks, the City of Dallas, and the Dallas Police Department were there, too.

In fact, instead of telling you all that went on, why don't we just show you? Find more photos after the jump.

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In running 195 miles, Scouts find strength in teamwork


The next time your guys whine about long miles on the trail, tell them about Troop 460 of the Las Vegas Area Council.

A group of Scouts from that troop recently participated in the Ragnar Relay Las Vegas, a grueling, 195-mile relay from Valley of Fire State Park to Red Rock Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Drawing on teamwork and perseverance, the group of 12 boys ages 12 to 18 completed the relay in 32 hours, 29 minutes, and 4 seconds—well under their goal of 34 hours.

Before you worry about the sanity of a group of Scouts willingly running that distance, know this: It was a relay. That means each team member ran three legs, each between three and eight miles.

Each team could use two support vehicles to transport team members who weren't racing that leg from one relay exchange point to the next. 

There's much more to the story. Read the full tale of how the guys pulled off this impressive feat by checking out the story in their words. The Scouts of Troop 460 drafted an excellent press release that they sent to us. 

Find the press release and some more photos after the jump. And thanks to Troop 460 Scoutmaster Jon Wayne Nielsen for bringing this story to our attention.

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One square knot at a time, Pennsylvania Scouts create a record-breaking rope chain


Take the simple formula for tying a square knot (right over left, left over right) and repeat 4,189 times. 

That's how a group of more than 2,000 Scouts, adult leaders, and parents broke the world record for the longest knotted rope chain created in five minutes. The event happened earlier this month at a huge event held by the New Birth of Freedom Council in York County, Pa.

Once the 4,190 lengths of rope were tied together, the chain stretched 9,744.2 feet, or about 1.85 miles. That shattered the previous record of 6,788 feet set in May in Japan.

To put it in different terms, the rope would span more than 32 football fields.

This type of record-breaking event is well-suited for Scouting. It combines the skill of tying a square knot, something every Scout learns, with the spirit of teamwork that the Scouting program helps instill in young men and women.

Read more about the record at the event's official Web site. It even received coverage in the local newspaper and on the local Fox news station.

(Special thanks to the New Birth of Freedom Council's scout executive, Ron Gardner Jr., for sending us this story.)

What a Weekend: Scouts dive into Navy’s Rescue Swimmer School


When the boys of Troop 128 sat down to watch The Guardian, the Kevin Costner action flick about Coast Guard rescue swimmers, they had no idea what was in store for them. They didn't know that hours later they would be learning some of the thrilling lifesaving tactics employed in the movie.

But Sandy Ingle, assistant Scoutmaster of the North Florida Council troop, knew what was the boys were in for. He recently shared with Cracker Barrel the exciting story of his troop's weekend trip. Follow the jump to hear about the weekend in his words and to learn about how your troop can plan a similar adventure.

It's the latest installment in our What a Weekend series in which we highlight the fun that you and your pack, troop, or crew have all year. If you have a story to share, e-mail us.

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What a Weekend: Go green, earn some green for your Boy Scout troop


Today’s hottest tech toys eventually become tomorrow’s
electronic waste: E-waste. And it ends up in landfills all across the
country—especially in California, which is home to Silicon Valley.

That’s where Scouting came in. Earlier this month,
Sacramento-area Troops 640 and 217 organized an e-waste drive for their
community, collecting 80,000 pounds of gadgets for proper and safe recycling.
Not only were they helping make the planet greener, they also earned money for
their troops and district.

The event drew a lot of attention, too. People lined up 75
minutes before the scheduled start of the drive.

Harriette Carr, committee chairperson, and other members of
the Pony Express District helped organize the day. Partnered with CEAR
(California Electronic Asset Recovery Inc.), a local electronics recycling
company, she arranged for Scouts and Scouters to staff the e-waste drive,
which was supervised by a CEAR representative. After the event, they weighed the
electronics collected, and the Scouts got a check based on how many pounds they

Net profit from the one-day drive amounted to about $6,000, said Bill
Condray, publicity chairman. Not bad for a day’s work. But the big payday
didn’t come easily.

Carr and her crew of adult volunteers researched California
recycling regulations, informed the community about what they planned to do,
and established safety guidelines for the boys. And they had to follow CEAR’s
regulations. The company wouldn’t accept batteries, and anything with a screen
had to be logged individually. Other than that, anything else—from PCs to
hairdryers—was accepted with open arms.

Promoting the event was more difficult. Troop members
peppered houses within a five-mile radius with printed brochures that included
information on which types of electronics could be accepted and which could
not. Scouts also posted notices at local stores, on craigslist, and in the
PennySaver. Even the Sacramento Bee
wrote up the event (nothing like free advertising).

An exit survey of the e-waste drive attendees indicated that
69 percent of the visitors had heard about the event either from the circulars
or the newspaper article. When you’re planning a similar event, keep that in

Also keep in mind one important safety regulation: Only
adults 18 and older can touch the electronics. So the 20 or so adult volunteers
donned safety goggles, while some of the 40 to 50 Scouts helped greet visitors,
administer the exit survey, and provide paperwork to donors who had items with
screens on them (California law requires that
those waste items be documented individually). Other boys stood at nearby intersections with signs that
advertised the event. For safety reasons, an adult leader stood with each pair
of boys.

By 1 p.m., the troops had finished the drive. The boys and
leaders had succeeded at helping the environment while helping their budgets.
That’s why they’re planning another drive for the spring.


Your troop can plan a similar event. How? It’s easy.

Visit this link on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web
. You’ll find tons of ways to get hooked up with a local program.

An electronics recycling drive helps your community lessen
its impact on the earth while also bringing in extra income for your unit.

It’s simple: Go green. Earn some green.


Follow the jump for more photos from the event, courtesy of Bill Condray.

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What a Weekend: Utah’s 911 Emergency Cub Scout Day Camp


One Saturday last month, a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter
began circling overhead and then descended into a large field. About 300 people
had gathered, but they weren’t onlookers craning their necks to see an
overturned SUV. They were Cub Scouts and leaders eagerly awaiting the start to
911 Emergency Cub Scout Day Camp in Tooele, Utah.

Organizers intended the event to enable boys to interact
with emergency personnel, learn about what they do, and, most important, have
fun. The local fire department, police department, sheriff’s department,
search-and-rescue team, and AirMed helicopter showed up to teach and entertain
the Cub Scouts.

Follow the jump for the rest of the story.

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What a Weekend: Troop 229′s Texas adventure (Part 3 of 3)


Over the past two Wednesdays, we’ve taken you along as Troop
229 made an 11-day road trip from Winamac, Ind., to Texas. (If you missed it,
read Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing.)

Well, the troop’s leaders have spent some time reflecting on
this exciting excursion, and Cracker Barrel wanted to find out what they
learned. That’s why we chatted with one of the journey’s organizers, Richard
Conn—to see what lessons he and the other adult leaders took away from the
trip. Follow the jump to find out how their successful experience can inspire
your troop’s future plans.

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What a Weekend: Troop 229′s Texas adventure (Part 2 of 3)


Last week we chronicled the first five days of Troop 229’s
journey from Winamac, Ind., to Texas. We took you along for for some adventures
of the historic, culinary, and medical variety as the troop visited the NASA
Space Center in Houston, ate alligator in Louisiana, and spent some unexpected
time in an emergency room in Corpus Christi. But they weren’t even half done!

If you haven’t read about Days 1 to 5, do that first by
clicking here. If you’re ready for Days 6 to 11, follow the jump
for the story and pictures.

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What a Weekend: Troop 229′s Texas adventure (Part 1 of 3)


If you’re planning a trip to Texas, what should you see? For
the boys of Troop 229 of Winamac, Ind., the answer was simple: everything!

Twenty-one Scouts and 12 Scouters took off on the 11-day
trip that sent the group through seven different states, with most of their
time spent in the Lone Star State. From the Alamo to the Johnson Space Center
to the site of President Kennedy’s assassination, these boys saw it all.

Boy leaders in the troop, with the adults serving as
advisers, spent the past two years planning the trip and raising money for
expenses. Richard Conn, an assistant Scoutmaster with 229, told us that boys were responsible for raising $550 of the $750 cost per participant. The money was used for transportation in two rented
15-passenger vans, meals, lodging, and activities. 

Several boys raised their share entirely through money-earning
programs. For others, contributions from parents and generous donations from
local companies made up the difference.

You’ll read about the fun time the group had below, but
people in the northern Indiana town of Winamac already know all about it. In
fact, the post-trip publicity for Troop 229 has been a valuable recruiting
tool. Three new boys joined the troop after hearing about the Texas adventure.

Follow the jump for the story and photos from Part 1 of
the three-part series about their exciting journey.

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