Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: "Returning to the Scene of the Situation" (1/2)
"Returning to the Scene of the Situation" (1/2)
Settummanque, the blackeagle
Mon, 9 Aug 1999 04:37:02 CDT
(this posting is in two parts; I struggled with trying to shorten this
today, but because the content all is important to the overall story, I
decided to leave it in. Here's why those "old geezers" are so important
even to people my age (at the time, I wasn't even 30 yet!). This was the
last entry in "Patches and Pins" and how I closed it. )
Returning to the Scene of the Situation
(from "Patches and Pins...", (c) 1988 Mike Walton)
I had a couple of occassions to return home -- back to Rose Terrace, my
hometown -- and I took advantage of those occasions to always stop in on my
old Scout Troop and give them a bit of encouragement. It was almost ten
years since I was their Scoutmaster, and an equal amount of time since I've
served as the Advisor of the television/radio/communications Post and as
Skipper for a slowly sinking Ship which moved off the base due to lack of
I was feeling pretty pitiful for myself, and I thought that this trip
around, I would be picked up by saying a few words to those Scouts and
Scouters still struggling to provide a program at a military installation
that have clearly seen its better days when I was younger. Fort Knox is
still bustling with activity, even today...but the activity was different
back in my day. It was basic training and "AIT" (advanced invididual
training, where you go to receive additional training in a specific set of
skills supporting an military occupational speciality, or MOS. Fort Knox is
the Home of Armor and Cavarly, and soldiers would be assigned after basic
training to learn how to drive, repair and utilize the Army's leading ground
mobility weapons). It was a heavy Brigade of some 4000 soldiers and leaders,
ready to go to Iraq or Panama or some other place as part of the Army's
"Rapid Deployment Forces." They were proud of that distinction over at the
Armored Brigade -- both the active side, the 194th and the Guard side, which
served as the "100 percent backup" to the active troops should they go
away...the 149th Armored Brigade.
That was my military unit...my first military unit I was assigned to as a
soldier. That was before the Army decided that it didn't need the 194th
anymore, taking up one-quarter of the installation and a likewise amount of
the training area. It was important to the local community...it was
stability. Confidence that the Fort would still be there. Not anymore.
As for the Guard Brigade...well, it too had to find a new mission in life
since we citizens didn't need the active unit, we sure didn't need the Guard
Likewise, because of the number of people, the installation's Scouting
program has been reduced sharply. Both Boy and Girl Scouting had to deal
with changes in military policy which curtailed their programming abilities;
with increased "operational tempo" of the military Scouters trying both to
do a military and a community support mission; and with lazy chartered
partners that no longer had to worry whether or not their support -- or lack
thereof -- of their Scout Troop will reflect on their evaluation reports.
And the 194th - or its subordinate units - chartered the majority of the
Scouting units on the base.
Today, Fort Knox is a shell of itself. Kinda like the way I was feeling.
There was activity going on inside the installation and my body...but we
both felt numb. We looked great but we were hurting badly and only those
whom knew us really well could see the distinction.
I saw the flyer for the District's SME (Sustaining Membership Enrollment)
Banquet while at the hospital. In the mazes of detours while they build an
addition (for whom, I really don't know...it was like me buying a new Scout
uniform the week before), I read where and when they would hold the dinner
recognizing those contributors whom assist the four counties and the Fort
with their financial support to Scouting.
It was to be three days from the day I read the flyer, so I made a mental
note and later asked my parents to allow me to "crash out" in my old bedroom
so that I could attend it and maybe see some old friends.
I expected to get the same arguments, the same discussions, that have kept
me from informing my parents as to my Scouting activities. It was a lot
easier to just not even bring it up than to frankly tell them "Hey...I'm
going to a Troop meeting..." to the disappointment of my father and my
mother's comments asking me "when am I going to give all of that junk up?"
I got no argument, and when I called Millie later to let her know that my
two day stay will be a week-long, she didn't mind either. I guess she
needed a break from my blahs too. She and my mom talked for a few minutes
after I caught up on the kid's activities and her classwork. She also told
me that I had orders for some kind of thing in Texas coming up.
The evening of the Dinner didn't come soon enough for me. I enjoyed the
drive to Elizabethtown Community College, the place where my sister obtained
her Associate's degree in ' 84. I wasn't there for her then...I was busy
being frozen solid in Hohenfels back then.
I opened the doors and remembered exactly where I needed to go. Right
across from the water cooler. I walked in, looking back at the cooler as
the compressor inside the box started to cycle the cold water through.
The cafeteria was sharply dressed in Scouting's colors. I shook hands with
the current District Executive and made small talk about how the District
has narrowed down since I left. "Things change, Mike," I was told. They
It was a little like a family reunion, that evening. I got to see some
Scouters that I haven't seen in many years: Paul Boals, Lanny Watkins, Bill
Dodge, a couple of Colonels from the base whom were there as Lieutenant
Colonels, and a pair of fellow Scouts whom became Scouters like myself. It
was good to see them until I was reminded why I was there: "Hey, what are
you doing now?"
"Starting graduate school. Maybe this time around the BSA will hire me," I
replied. More like a wish than a response.
While the emphasis was on thanking people for their money, part of the
program was also to recognize a Scouter that earned their Wood Badge. I
stood and sang with other Wood Badgers, and then I recognized one of several
familiar faces. He was a lot older than I recalled, but still very strikenly
handsome in his modern Scout uniform with the silver shoulder loops. I
waved to him on my way back to my seat, waiting for the "staffers" stanza in
the Wood Badge Song to stand again. "If I hurry, maybe I can get to stand
beside him!" I thought.
The man was Willis Treadwell, and he was one of the three members of my
Eagle Scout Board of Review. Mr. Treadwell was a fixture in the Lincoln
Trail District and its precedessors before it. He was a Cubmaster, a
Scoutmaster, an Explorer Advisor and a Commissioner at every possible level
in a District. He was nominated twice to serve as Council Commissioner, but
there seemed to always be some lawyer or banker from Louisville that ended
up with that key role. It didn't bother him, for he wasn't in it for the
titles. He told me so on the evening of my Eagle Board of Review. He also
told me that he would never be caught wearing one of those new Scout
uniforms. "What does a fashion designer know about Scouting??" he would
constantly ask during Roundtable meetings when people teased him about his
wearing of the old khaki uniform.
He gave me some advice that I almost forgotten about.
That Eagle Board of Review was one of the most stressful things I'd ever
endured. Nobody asked me as many personal and thought-provoking questions
as Mr. Treadwell, Dick Harland and Sam Swope.
Harland was a retired Navy Captain and smoked a pipe like my Dad did at one
time. Always tamping the tobacco down with some sort of thing and
relighting. Dick was the Skipper of the Ship that I eventually served as
Skipper of in Elizabethtown. Swope owned every car dealership in full or
part in Hardin County, the county in which Fort Knox is located within and
was the District's Commissioner (or Chair; he keeps going back and forth
between the two top jobs). All three are Eagle Scouts, and knew exactly
what questions to ask, what pieces of paper to pull out and when to back off
when a Scout starts to cry. All three were fathers and grandfathers, and
didn't take any lying or half-baked answers from any candidate. They were
brutal and every Eagle candidate and their Scoutmasters knew it. They did
their homework on every candidate and as I was briefed by Eagles that went
through them, they don't leave any stones unturned. "So watch out, Mike!"
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
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