BSA reinforces commitment to safety during National Annual Meeting’s general session

“Safety is one of the most important things we do,” said Brad Tilden, the BSA’s brand-new national chair, as he kicked off the general session of the 2023 National Annual Meeting (NAM) this week in Atlanta.

It’s the continuation of a theme we’ve heard a lot recently, both from Tilden and from the BSA as a whole: Safety matters, now more than ever.

After a brief introduction, Tilden turned over the stage to the real stars of the show:

  • Michael Sears, director of leadership innovation at the Boeing Leadership Innovation Laboratory, Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland; and
  • Mike Manazir, vice president of The Boeing Company, graduate of Top Gun, and former commander of an F-14 squadron, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a Carrier Strike Group.

Over the next 30 minutes or so, the two held a candid discussion about the importance of a developing a culture of safety in every BSA meeting and outing.

“It’s an embedded concept that will help Scouting grow,” said Sears. “No parent will give their child to the BSA unless they feel assured that we can return them safely.”

Experience as a leader

Manazir went in-depth about his experience as the commander of the Nimitz, a Navy aircraft carrier and one of the largest warships in the world. Manazir was in charge of around 5,000 crewmen. Average age: 23. Some were as young as 19.

It was Manazir’s job to see that they were able to accomplish their mission safely. He sees a parallel with the adult leaders of Scouting, and, maybe more importantly, with the youth leaders of each unit as well.

“It’s all about the mission,” he says. “Think about your role leading Scouts to accomplish their mission.

“I realized early on I couldn’t lead with just my title. To be a person of influence you have to lead with your heart.”

As the commander of the Nimitz, Manazir said his job was to keep his crew “operational ready.” In Scouting, we call that being prepared.

I found it especially interesting how he tied that into safety.

“Is it safe to fly planes?” he asked. “Is it safe to climb to the top of that mountain?”

The answer, of course, is that there is always going to be risk. Being safe doesn’t mean locking the planes up in the hanger or staying home because you’re afraid to hike up a mountain.

“It’s about identifying the hazards in an activity,” he says. “It’s an awareness that, yes, what we do is hazardous.”

Mike Manazir (left) and Michael Sears

How Safety Moments can help create a safety culture

The general session opened with a safety moment about aquatics, noting that May is Aquatics Safety Month.

“Drowning is the leading cause of death for Scout-age kids,” said Pat Noack, the BSA’s chair for National Outdoor Programs and Properties subcommittee.

The BSA has compiled Safety Moments on a variety of topics. Incorporating them into your regular Scout meetings is a great way to start implementing a culture of safety and accountability.

Anyone can share a Safety Moment. Pick an age-appropriate topic relevant to everyone — any topic that focuses on improving the safety of Scouting is an excellent topic. For some activities, reviewing those Safety Moments are essential. If you have a personal experience relating to the Safety Moment, feel free to share that, too. Clear, concise and fact-based talks resonate best with others. 

About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.