Service Members Build, Run Scout City
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT A.P. HILL, Va., Aug. 1, 1997 At 8 a.m. July 27, this post in northern Virginia looked like a ghost town. By noon, it was a thriving city of 35,000.
Thousands of service members helped the Boy Scouts of America build Virginia's sixth largest city for the 10-day National Boy Scout Jamboree. The jamboree, held every four years, has been held here since 1981.
Active duty and reserve component service members work with the boys and in support. "We have MPs, cooks, public affairs, engineers, all sorts of people to pull this off," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Maryann M. Mirabella, an Army reservist with the 363rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Forest Park, Ill. "Many work in support, but some service members are helping the boys earn merit badges at the Merit Badge Midway, and the Army sponsors an Army Action Alley, so the kids can get an idea what America's Army is all about."
Much of the work occurred before the boys arrived. National Guard units cleared woods, built trails and improved roads. Workers at the post put up more than 1,000 general-purpose medium tents to support the jamboree.
The Boy Scouts and the Army -- DoD's lead agent for the event -- began planning for the jamboree right after the last one in 1993. "Action really picked up in January," said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jill E. Morgenthaler. "The Army put in $5.8 million in infrastructure improvements and [Army] Reserve MP units from Arkansas and Illinois are doing their annual training supporting this."
The Army Adventure Area was the hit of the jamboree. In it, Scouts got a hands-on tour of the Army. Greeting the Scouts was an M-1A1 Abrams tank from Fort Knox, Ky. Staff Sgt. James H. Journey of the Army's Armor Center said the Scouts enjoyed getting into and climbing around the tank, but were a bit confused. "They keep asking if we can shoot napalm or lasers like on their video games," he said. "We tell them, no, this is reality and that's science fiction."
Scouts also could call for fire using a simulator at an exhibit set up by soldiers of the Army's Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill, Okla. Special Forces soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., built cable bridges for Scouts to cross. Experts with the Army's Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Ga., gave lessons in shooting. Aviation soldiers showed off an Apache helicopter and cooks from the District of Columbia National Guard passed out cookies baked in a field mess. When they completed the adventure area, Scouts earned a patch.
Almost 100 sailors helped Scouts earn merit badges at the Merit Badge Midway. "We teach everything Scouts need to earn the energy merit badge here," said Navy Lt. James Martin, an engineer stationed in Norfolk, Va. "We've got other [sailors] teaching aviation, computers, fire safety and wilderness survival.
"I was a Scout, and we all volunteered to come," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."
Navy SEALs provided expertise to run the scuba and snorkling adventure area.
Air Force personnel worked on the aviation merit badge as well as communications and weather. 1st Lt. Mike Rue, an intelligence officer at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., taught the communications merit badge. "My father is working here with security," he said. "It was a good opportunity to see him and to help some of these boys get a badge required to earn the rank of Eagle."
Marines helped Scouts earn the orienteering and emergency preparedness merit badges. "The difference between us and the Army is when the kids get a wrong answer, we make them do push-ups," said one Marine instructor.
Soldiers helped with merit badges from dentistry to climbing to fingerprinting to insect study.
Filling the airwaves at the jamboree were the sounds of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. AFRTS operated a broadcasting van and broadcast on post. Scouts stopped by the van and requested songs and solicited news.
Military units also performed for the Scouts. The Army's Golden Knights parachute team jumped in with the American colors to begin the arena show for the Scouts. The 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus from Fort Bragg performed, as did the band of the 4th Marine Air Wing. Other bands, military working dogs, drill teams and color guards also participated.
"We have tremendous appreciation for the support we've received from the military," said Boy Scout spokesman Gregg Shields. "The site was in great shape, the military made arrangements for hospitals and first aid. We can't thank them enough."
Once the 1997 jamboree is history, Boy Scout and Army planners will get together to plan for the next one at Fort A.P. Hill in 2001.