BSA professional puts career on pause to fight the pandemic in Tennessee

Anthony Spencer administered a COVID-19 vaccination to a patient in June. (Photo by Lt. Col. Darrin Haas)

In desperate times, Scouts don’t watch from the sidelines. They step up and serve.

And so when COVID-19 began its deadly march through Tennessee in March 2020, Anthony Spencer knew what he had to do.

The Eagle Scout is a trained healthcare specialist with the Tennessee National Guard, giving him skills uniquely suited to a global health crisis.

But there was the matter of his full-time job as the district executive of the Great Smoky Mountain Council’s Cherokee district.

Spencer got the OK to take an indefinite leave from the position and join the Tennessee National Guard’s COVID-19 response team. For more than a year, he has been helping the state’s fight against the pandemic by testing and vaccinating the citizens of Tennessee.

“When my unit called and told me I was needed, there was no pause. I was excited to do what I was trained for,” Spencer said in a news release from the state. “It was a wonderful opportunity to really use my skills as a medic at home and live up to the Scout Slogan to Do a Good Turn Daily.”

Photo by Lt. Col. Darrin Haas

A lifelong Scout

Spencer joined Scouting in fifth grade as a first-year Webelos. He has been part of this movement ever since.

He was a founding member of Troop 271 of Crossville, Tenn., where he became an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle project, he created a memorial to firefighters killed in the line of duty.

After earning the Eagle Scout Award, Spencer stayed active in the program as a summer camp staffer at Camp Buck Toms. He spent nine summers at Buck Toms — three leading first-year campers, three more at the waterfront and the last three as aquatics director.

“My biggest takeaway from my time in Scouting is the leadership skills that you acquire through being put in positions where you can fail and learn how to adapt,” Spencer tells Bryan on Scouting. “My leaders in Scouting allowed me to learn these skills because they allowed me to mess up and then brought me back on track in a manner that allowed me to see what needed to be done.”

That way, when Spencer was placed in positions where there was no room for error, like at the waterfront, he “was up for the challenge.”

Photo by Lt. Col. Darrin Haas

A Scouting professional

At the end of his last summer at Buck Toms, Spencer learned of an opening within the council.

“I thought, what better way to continue my Scouting career than as a professional?” he says. “I thought what an opportunity to try to continue to give back to a program that has given me so much.”

Spencer was hired as a district executive, meaning he handles the day-to-day functions of the district, focusing on fundraising, membership and district activities.

While Spencer hasn’t been actively working for the council during the pandemic, he has remained in touch with the professionals and volunteers with whom he serves.

He is set to return to his duties as a district executive in October.

When he does, he’ll bring with him experiences gained while serving during a national crisis, including “strengthened patience and a hard work ethic,” he says.

A supportive boss

As Scout Executive of the Great Smoky Mountain Council, David Williams is Spencer’s boss. Williams gave Spencer his unconditional support to take an indefinite leave from his full-time job.

For Williams, the decision was easy. When a community is hurting, Scouts (and Scouting professionals) respond.

“We are incredibly proud to have Anthony as a part of our team,” Williams says. “It is truly awesome to see a young man who grew up in Scouting here in East Tennessee answer the call to serve God and country.”

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.