Wood Badge participant reflects on her ‘life-changing experience’

Estrella-Wells (middle) shared plenty of laughs with her fellow Buffaloes.
After her first day of Wood Badge, Renee Estrella-Wells was tired and more than a little overwhelmed.

“It felt like not just one fire hose of information drowning you, but three,” she said. “I questioned who told me this was fun and if I should show them the definition of fun.”

By the second day, though, things started to change. The magic of Wood Badge started to appear.

Wood Badge, a national-level course hosted and staffed by local councils, is the BSA’s advanced leadership training for adults. After six days (one week or two three-day weekends), Scouters leave recharged and ready to tackle any problem Scouts throw their way.

And, as Estrella-Wells began to realize during her course with the Minnesota-based Northern Star Council, Wood Badge isn’t always easy, but it’s always a lot of fun.

A team forms

By Day 2, Estrella-Wells realized she and her fellow members of the Buffalo Patrol were becoming a team and starting to lean on and encourage one another.

They were “laughing through situations and keeping each other on track and moving forward,” she said.

Having a great troop guide helped. Each Wood Badge patrol is assigned a staff member who serves as their guide through the course. As the course progresses, the participants rely on the troop guide less and each other more.

“By the end of the first weekend we went home with a list of things we had to accomplish — project, patrol flag, menus, supplies, tickets, etc.,” Estrella-Wells said. “We all realized that we missed each other, and we were excited to see each other and tackle our list.”

They met twice in the time between the first and second weekend. They were “busy Buffaloes,” Estrella-Wells said, trading phone calls and emails and texts to make sure they were prepared for the second half of the course.

A team performs

Friday morning came, and the Buffaloes returned to camp for the second weekend. They soon realized their preparation and bonding time had paid off.

“The second weekend we had all prepared ourselves to be drowned, but we realized that we were actually floating — heck, we were swimming,” Estrella-Wells said. “We found ourselves bonding, laughing and relaxed.”

Just a few days into the course, Scouters who had wondered how they’d make it through were already dreading its end.

“As we came to the closing ceremony and sang our song for the last time as a troop, there were many misty eyes,” Estrella-Wells said.

Experiencing is believing

My policy when blogging about Wood Badge is to omit specifics about activities you’ll encounter at the course. You might call these posts spoiler-free.

Reading about Wood Badge only takes you so far. You must experience the course to understand how it will strengthen your Scout unit.

Estrella-Wells is a believer, and that’s why she contacted me with her story.

“If you ever thought about Wood Badge, I would suggest don’t wait. Take it as soon as you can,” she said. “I have made friends that I am sure will be lifelong friendships. I have learned many new tools that I can apply in my life, family, work and Scouts. The staff made an impact on so many of us; I am not sure they truly realize the huge effect that they had. It truly is a life-changing experience.”

Learn more

To find a Wood Badge course near you, contact your local council.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.