Scouting shapes your future, says retired Army colonel

As Yvonne Lindquist designed her son’s retirement gift — a quilt featuring squares of meaningful moments in his life — one organization quickly came to mind: the Boy Scouts of America.

Col. Robert Bertrand of Carlisle, Pa., retired this past summer after nearly 30 years in the U.S. Army. He was an Army Ranger, an arctic paratrooper and a brigade leader. He tackled dangerous assignments in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Before all of that, he was a Scout in Troop 12 of Ferndale, Wash. The ideals and responsibilities he learned then proved valuable in his military career — and he saw their value regularly.

“It will all come back when you’re an adult,” Col. Bertrand says. “There’s nothing more exciting than the heritage that Scouting provides.”

The small things

When Col. Bertrand joined U.S. Army Ranger School in the early 1990s, he was tested to learn and tie 10 different knots in 20 minutes. Because of Scouting, he already knew them.

“It was a small thing that Scouting provided me,” he says.

The same thing happened for first aid training. He had already gained that knowledge from taking the First Aid merit badge when he was 14.

“The merit badge system offers a lot of experiences and service opportunities,” he says. “The Eagle-required badges — those are well-chosen.”

The badges not only helped him in his military career, but in life. When he worked on the Personal Management merit badge, he researched related careers by talking to a stock broker, who told him to invest in companies he believes in and have solid foundations. That advice later led him to invest in companies like Starbucks, Kodak and Microsoft. Those investments didn’t make him wealthy, but they were profitable — all thanks to what he learned in Scouting, he says.

Leadership learned in Scouting also proved helpful later in Col. Bertrand’s military career. He mentored a 3,000-man Iraqi brigade and was the second-in-command of another 3,000-man unit assigned to defend an oil pumping station. In Afghanistan, he coached Afghan police.

Stepping up

The quilt from his mom, a 24-inch by 24-inch wall hanging, features squares commemorating his Eagle Scout Award, which he earned in 1985, and his induction into the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society. 

Those honors and his subsequent accomplishments, Col. Bertrand attributes to adult leaders. That’s why when he was stationed stateside, he volunteered by serving as an assistant Scoutmaster for a troop in Georgia and why he recommends adults get involved.

“Adult leadership was critical in my success,” he says. “Scouting provides opportunities to expand your horizon.”

Many Scouts go on to join a military branch or academy. If you’d like to share your Scout’s story, you can visit go.scoutingmagazine.org/showandtell or email us at scoutingmag@gmail.com.

About Michael Freeman 215 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.