Boy Scouts are interesting critters. A troop typically spans quite a range of ages – from Middle School through High School. And, with that age comes various abilities to stay focused, keep their head in the game, to ask questions, to leave the “attitude” home – typical issues young men moving towards becoming adult men face every day.
I’ve worked with Scouts for around 13 years now – about ten as an assistant scoutmaster which meant camping every weekend, annual High Adventure trips, Courts of Honor watching scouts advance and watching my own son achieve the rank of Eagle. It’s a warm, rich and satisfying experience and memory.
Over the past 3 years or so, with my son “grown” and about to be married – my interaction has contracted to merit badge counselor. I do much of the “geek” stuff – radio, astronomy, orienteering, wilderness survival, photography and the shooting sports – rifle and shotgun. The BSA change requirements for merit badge counselors a few years ago (?) now requiring that all be NRA certified instructors. Honestly, this feels more than a bit overboard. I can see requiring the NRA basic courses, but instructor courses?? Very expensive for the counselor – yet – there it is.
A couple years ago I struck up a relationship with Troop 29 and was asked to teach the rifle and shotgun merit badges. I do them is two segments – classroom time and range time. This weekend was the classroom time for both the rifle and shotgun merit badges.
Their course of learning is dictated by the discipline’s specific merit badge book, one for rifle and one for shotgun. Not surprisingly, much of the information mirrors (and I do mean MIRRORS) the NRA course. I view that as a GOOD thing, the material is excellent.
So the morning 9AM to noon was spent working on issues basic to both – firearm safety, some basic first aid, basics of handling a firearm, stance, grip – items that are shared between rifle and shotgun. And then, items specific to rifles – different actions, nomenclature, the “weld” points of a proper stance and grip – basics, basics, basics . . .
What I enjoy so much about Troop 29 is that the guys in the troop commit to a full day – 6+ hours – of classroom time and exercises and they actually sit there, ask questions and truly “show up” for the entire class. Amazing. They have done this consistency for the past 3 years – regardless of the kids that walk through the door.
Morning over – a typical “scout lunch” followed. Sloppy Joes, chips, apple sauce – good old camp fare . . . . that was cooked on a kitchen stove in the chapterhouse rather than an open camp fire. I gave them an appropriate amount of crap about this, thoroughly enjoyed the lunch – and then we got back after it focused on the specifics of a shotgun. It’s always fun to watch how they react when they see how much of the nomenclature transfers from one firearm to the other, be they rifles or shotguns, bolt action or semiautomatic or pump, lager caliber or the lowly .22 – they quickly learn the “words”, tuck them away and easily recognize the common components on the different types of firearms.
By midafternoon, the topic was wrung dry, all questions asked and answered and all butts ready to head outside for some R&R. Blue cards were initials for some that had completed earlier requirements and notes were made for my next time with Troop 29, in late spring, when we will move to the range for the fun stuff!
Here they are . . . . if my past experience is any indication – you see future military officers, corporate leaders, teachers, insurance reps, nurses, sales reps . . . . . it gives me hope that all is truly not lost . . . .