Summit Bechtel Reserve hosts its first Wood Badge course, creating a template for other councils

Even as Wood Badge prepares to turn 100 next year, it’s still charting new territory.

Last month, a group of Scouters from across the country held the first Wood Badge course in the history of the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

While the syllabus for this essential leadership training for Scout leaders was unchanged, this was a Wood Badge course like no other.

And the course’s unique West Virginia location — at the BSA’s newest national high-adventure base — was only the beginning.

The course’s motto was “Do Something. Big.” Thanks to the awesome staff, enthusiastic participants and prime location, this course did something very big indeed.

Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh was among the presenters.

Great people, great places

Participants learned from an impressive array of business leaders who were involved in developing the Summit Bechtel Reserve. They included Wayne Perry, Christine Perry, Jack Furst, Dan McCarthy, Russell Smart and John D. Tickle, whose name graces the John D. Tickle National Training and Leadership Center at SBR.

Participants heard from several top BSA professionals, including Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh, General Counsel Steve McGowan and National Director of Outdoor Adventures Al Lambert.

And because they were at SBR, nestled near the stunning New River Gorge National River, they went whitewater rafting. Each patrol had its own raft and guide. Nothing tests your patrol’s cohesiveness quite like paddling together through Class III’s.

Most Wood Badge courses don’t include whitewater rafting, but this one most definitely did.

A ready-to-use template for your council

While the course was hosted by the Indianapolis-based Crossroads of America Council, the participants and staff represented 14 different local councils.

The staff’s goal, in addition to delivering this essential leadership training, was to create a template for future Wood Badge courses at SBR. The syllabus didn’t change — this was a standard six-day Wood Badge experience — but the staff had to figure out from scratch all the logistics of hosting a course at SBR. Where would participants camp? Where would they eat? Where would they hold the overnight experience in the second half of the course?

Thanks to their efforts, any council that’s interested in hosting a Wood Badge course at SBR can follow the example set by the Crossroads of America council.

The course director for this history-making event was John Stewart, the BSA’s Sustainability Director and the department manager for corporate engagement.

He says the Crossroads of America council plans to return to SBR next year, but any local council or area could host their own course using this template.

“If someone is interested in hosting their own course at the Summit, feel free to have them contact me for more details on the location, facilities and materials,” Stewart says.

Jack Furst (in purple), who has been a supporter of SBR since the beginning, met with some of the participants.

Read the Gilwell Gazette

For a taste of life during Wood Badge at SBR, read the course’s Gilwell Gazette.

Each Wood Badge course has a Gilwell Gazette. When I served as scribe for a course in Dallas, creating this daily newspaper was the main part of my job.

A patrol leaders’ council meeting during Wood Badge at SBR.

Be a part of WB@SBR2

The second Wood Badge at SBR course, known as WB@SBR2, will be held June 9 to 15, 2019.

This will be an excellent opportunity for adult volunteers at the local, regional and national levels. Professionals at local councils and the BSA’s National Service Center in Texas are welcome, too.

Anyone interested in learning more should email wbatsbr@gmail.com.

Mike Surbaugh takes a selfie with some Venturers who served on staff at WB@SBR.

Wood Badge courses at other national high-adventure bases

Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico partners with individual councils to provide a location for them to host their own Wood Badge course. Circle Ten Council, based in Dallas, hosts a course there every August, but this opportunity is offered to any council.

Sea Base in Florida has hosted Wood Badge courses, too, including a centennial pilot course earlier this year. Its conference center welcomes councils that want to host trainings or other events.

Northern Tier in Minnesota has a training center suitable for hosting Wood Badge in a picturesque location.