Wood Badge: Part 2

It was with great anticipation 37 participants returned to Camp Herms in El Cerrito to finish up their 6-day Wood Badge (W3-23-17) training. The first portion of the course was taught September 15-17, if you missed any of the excite, you can relive it by reading Wood Badge: Part 1. Being part of the Bobwhite patrol, we had teleconferenced twice over the break in order to plan our approach to the weekend, as well as finalize our patrol presentation, which could be seen as a “final exam.” This break between sessions as gave each of us individually, time to work on our “ticket items” that would be worked on after the completion of the course.

Saturday started early, as campers started arriving prior to 7:00 AM in anticipation of hiking the rim to our camping area. The morning would actually begin once we finished the hike and began setting up our camp sites, down in the redwood grove. This meant the quicker we got organized we could depart on our hike. The Bobwhites were a bit tardy, as our final member arrived about 20 minutes late. But we donned our packs with a quick photo opportunity with Eric Gee before we set out.

Along the hike we learned more aspects of Lord Baden-Powell’s military service, life and his service to boys, which would end up being the basis of scouting in the United States. The hike was just over a mile, but was to represent a 5-mile hike. It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose, lighting shining and shimmering through the trees.

We wasted no time to set up camp when we dropped our packs on the large, grassy area, with Gilwell Field set up at the north end in preparation for our flags ceremony to open the weekend. Along with tents being pitched each patrol had to grab their stove, patrol box, propane tank and camp light, as we were assigned patrol areas, where we would meet and eat during the weekend.

Our first presentation covered the Leave No Trace principles, which is what our patrol presentation would cover. We also watched Venturing crews put on a skit about the “model camp.” Leave No Trace also features as one of my ticket items to complete my Wood Badge.

 One aspect I found interesting with this weekend as opposed to our first was the fact we were last or late to many of the calls of the Kudu. It’s wasn’t our intention to regularly be tardy. While Patrol Leader on Day 4, I was conscious of times, sometimes I wonder if we, as a patrol tried to do too much, especially when it came to our meals.We had a great meal plan, as Praveen provide some excellent Indian food, but we weren’t able to completely clean our patrol site after lunch and it was quite disorganized when we returned hours later for our patrol meeting and dinner. This seemed to be a trend for the Bobwhites, one that was a bit frustrating at times, as I felt we led by example the month prior.

Much of our training revolved around change, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We learned the value of change and developed skills to lead it successfully. We learned how to coach versus mentor and have an appreciation for leading change through lifelong learning. We also tackled problem-solving, which was shared with other patrols, some were successful, while others not so. In the end we learned valuable lessons.

After lunch it was a presentation on Generations in Scouting by Quartermaster, Ken! We learned the generational differences as another aspect of diversity, considered how these differences impacted each group and finally, learned ways to work together across generations for a better future. It was another great presentation by our Wood Badge staff, whom we had grown to love and cherish for all they did.

Gilwell Field just after the Troop 1 flag ceremony

After getting an overview of problem-solving, patrols had the opportunity to solve a variety of different problems, given just 8 minutes for each. Thanks to the Venturing crews, they explained each problem and we, as a patrol had to solve it. Overall, we achieved a varying level of success over the 6 different problems. Given more time we could have been highly successful with 5 of the 6 problems, which required us putting principles we learned into action, practice teamwork and most of all HAVE FUN!

Our final piece for the day dealt with managing conflict from a leadership point of view. It opened with an image of Normal Rockwell’s painting, ‘The Scoutmaster’ where we saw a man deep in contemplation, his face serene and satisfied. Or was it?

We were provided different strategies in order to resolve conflict; bribery, concern, persuasion, interest, straightforwardness. We also took into consideration the group and how we could get them to accomplish what we, as leaders asked. They needed to know we, could be trusted and that we truly cared about them. Leaders who have experience are often looked upon to be reliable and an ally. Finally our resolution had to be the best decision for the group. One of the most important questions we learned to ask, “What do you want?”

Bobwhite’s camp set up for the weekend

We then put into practice what we learned and attempted to get the hand of our partner open. They had been told to make a fist and the other leader had to use one of the strategies we just learned. I went with the bribery option and started pulling out money in a feeble attempt. In the end I was unsuccessful, but did learn something about managing conflict. I failed to ask the simple question, “Would you open your hand please?”

Our patrol meeting preceded dinner and we worked on our ticket items to share with Rand, our Troop Guide. I felt confident in where I was with my tickets, with just one questionable ticket, which would be resolved later with help.

Dinner was amazing! Each patrol member doing their share of the work, while it was Praveen who took lead and fixed some great Indian cuisine for the Bobwhites to partake in. We had guests for dinner, just like we did for lunch and got to share stories and look at potential leadership opportunities at upcoming scouting events. I had the opportunity to talk to Debbie Roark, who is leading the next NYLT course at Camp Herms. I hinted I would be interested in being her Quartermaster for the week long event, time permitting of course. But it would be all the training leading up to the actual event, which would take away from my wife and son, as well as the obligations and responsibilities I have elsewhere in life. Still, I am keeping the door open for looking at this opportunity.

Day 4 closed around around our eco-friendly campfire near Gilwell Field, as each patrol got to perform two skits. As a troop we shared laughs, promoted friendships and watched the performances in to the evening.

Dinner with our guests, Linda Heasell and Scoutmaster, Steve Laren

The sun dawned on Camp Herms as it was leftovers for breakfast. As campers woke up, we took note of an early morning presentation on coaching and mentoring presented by Linda, who did a great job. We then had an opportunity to take the role of either Tom R. Sage, Venturing Legend or Megan Mecham. It was an interesting session going one on one in an attempt to resolve the problem. While I didn’t fail, I am not quite sure I succeeded, but from what I gathered in our wrap up discussion, I fared well.

As a troop, we headed towards the Quarry to meet Shaun, caretaker of the camp. It was time for our conservation project, work that is always needed around the camp. For our group we would be removing brush, spreading wood chips, picking up firewood, painting, sweeping and repairing wheelbarrows. The next 2 hours were spent working these projects, our patrol was assigned high on the ridge to fill a trailer with firewood and pile up branches to be chipped.

Prior to lunch it was a quick break and another presentation in the confines of the redwoods on self-assessment. The troop learned the importance of self-assessment in maximizing leadership potential. Self-assessment is also a valuable avenue for receiving feedback. Finally we built our own tools for self-assessment roles in Scouting and other leadership situations.

Following lunch we returned to the grove for what we had been preparing for nearly the entire session, our patrol presentation. Our patrol was awesome! We came up with a few ideas, which were submitted during the first 3-day session and was approved by the troop leadership. Our topic dealt with Outdoor Ethics and the Leave No Trace principles. We used a scouting song as the basis of our skit to review the seven principles to LNT. The performance was awesome! Mike too lead as our guitar playing narrator, while Lisa donned wings and a plume as our magical Bobwhite angel. Praveen, Matt and myself took the roles of different scouters, continually being scolded by the angel, while the narrator attempted to explain each principle.

After hours of sitting it was back to our patrol area, as each member spent time with the Troop Guide formulating their 5 ticket items in order to complete Wood Badge. The 6-days of class is only part of the experience. The 5 tickets require you to apply what you learn in order to achieve success. Thankfully my tickets were nearly complete, but they did (and still do) require some tweaking. In fact, as I write this, I might change one of them, after talking to the Scoutmaster in our troop.

Our final night together but we were without guests. Troop leadership left us on our own after reviewing our tickets. It was interesting to see by this time, now 5 days in that patrols were starting to intermingle more with each other. Just that morning we were provided a troop yell, thanks in part to the Fox Patrol, who was acting as the Program Patrol. Amazing to think it took 5 days to come together as a single unit.

Mike Oravec practicing before our presentation

The troop grew even closer that night as the Fox Patrol arranged and organized our own cracker barrel near the campfire. All the patrols took part as campers stood around talking, laughing and growing as Troop 1. It was an amazing night and it was unfortunate that the following morning would be our last together as a troop. Still many left that evening making a friend or two, with memories to carry home.

Day 6, our final hours at Camp Herms went by very quick, as the morning was remembered in part to the interfaith worship service provided by all the chaplin aides in the troop. While not a very religious individual, I am finding a new found interest and respect for faith and worship. This means I might be changing and growing as an individual and hopefully, as a leader. As we walked away from the service, it was time to break down camp in preparation of the Servant Leadership presentation.

Servant leadership was summed up by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest-priority needs are being served.” We as adult leaders, leader to create more leaders, not followers. It was one of the best presentations, in my opinion to this point, but the best, most powerful was yet to be revealed.

As noon approached the staff had the closing luncheon up at the lodge, as patrols made their way into the wooden room with troop leadership on hand, as the Quartermaster staff moved confident around in preparation for lunch. It felt good to be back in the lodge, where we first met. It would be the last time we gathered in there, together as Troop 1.

The final two presentations discussed leaving a legacy and summarized the enter session. For me, Craig Mizutani developed a very powerful and inspiring message. This was not the first time he had done this. During the first 3-day session, his message about change surrounding the characters in the movie, October Sky really hit home and left me teary-eyed at times, as I reflected on my life, my spouse, co-workers. I never want to hear my wife tell me again, “you won’t change.” I can. I will. The message for me hit home and was very personal.

The Bobwhites working on their ticket items with Troop Guide, Rand Mahoney

Craig discussed setting priorities; family, work come as no surprise were the “big rocks” while things such as the Internet, social media and yes, even fantasy sports were nothing more than grains of sand and rather insignificant when compared to big rocks and pebbles (read rock, pebbles sand analogy). His words again cut right through to my heart, knowing in my mind I need to make changes to be the person I should be and not the one who I currently am. Change. Again, there was that word, if you don’t like something change it! He told personal stories and how individual’s in his life left a lasting legacy on him and those who came in contact. I feel Craig has left a lasting impression on me, not only as an adult leader, but as a father and a spouse. Surely his words won’t be lost as I go forward to complete my Wood Badge training.

As 5:00 PM drew near, after the patrols had cleaned up the local around and the lodge, we gathered for one, final time at Gilwell Field. It was a somber mood, as Scoutmaster Laren delivered final words from the staff as our growth as Troop 1 over the 6-day course. It had been an amazing time. The flags were lowered, as the scoutmaster pulled the ax from the log and one final time asked that question, “Is there a beaver in the house…” This time each patrol was joined by staff based on their critter. Again, I found it tough to sing ‘Back to Gilwell’ as we truly had a wonderful time together.

I’ve got some more personal thoughts in the next piece in the Wood Badge series.

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