Ten years ago tomorrow, I got up before the light of dawn, got in my car that I had packed the night before, and drove an hour and a half to a conference retreat camp for what was at the time an unknown journey.
Many of my fellow Scouters had been urging me for some time to attend, so I planned for the two Fridays off, renewed my medical record and registered. Now the first weekend of my Wood Badge course was beginning.
Upon arrival at the camp, I took a deep breath and checked in at the main lodge. To my comfort, many of the staff members who greeted me were people I already knew from my district service and from attending Roundtable. It was great to be among familiar faces and eased some of the apprehension I had about beginning what would become one of the best Scouting experiences I’ve had.
I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was first assigned to “Den 2”, it would lead to me and the other five Scouters (four of whom I’d never met) into forming the Bobwhite Patrol later that day. As Baden-Powell told us, our critter would become our defining characteristic. You could say indeed that we met as strangers and left as friends – or “birds of a feather”.
The course had its ups and downs, but it was nearly all positive. Scouting is like that – there are no real “winners and losers”. Sure, sometimes there’s a game and one patrol wins, but it’s not about the final score – rather, it’s about the experiences and lessons learned. Wood Badge is an excellent model for the entire Scouting experience, and we were able to learn that everyone can be a winner.
What did I take away from Wood Badge, besides six great friends? I learned that I can do something important if I’m determined enough. I can work with others toward a common goal. I have a clearer idea of how a troop is organized, how a patrol functions, and how indeed the patrol is the fundamental unit in Boy Scouting. I learned to camp in 95-degree heat and torrential rains, how to be of cheerful service to something larger than ourselves, to trust in others to help solve our problems, and to leave a legacy to benefit generations of future Scouts not yet born. The last ten years would have been different in many ways had I not completed the course.
Most of all, I have the pride of being a Bobwhite, and a particular song that I just can’t get out of my head. If you haven’t already, why not consider going “Back to Gilwell” and experiencing Wood Badge for yourself?