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D BADGE? by bryan wendell • photogr a phs by w. garth dowling

NO UMBRELLA-TOPPED drinks served poolside. No quality time with your Kindle. No seaweed body wraps, no room service, no hot- stone massages. Is Wood Badge a stress-free

vacation? No. But for a vacation that tests your

limits, gives meaning to your time spent in Scouting and makes your job as a leader easier, just say yes to Scouting’s pre-eminent training course for adults. Your deluxe six-day, all-inclusive

Wood Badge experience comes with decades of Scouting knowl- edge, a skilled and helpful staff and a guided tour through the entire Scouting program from Tiger Cubs to Venturing. And the price? Less than a single night costs at that fancy resort with the pool. Wood Badge is expertly designed

to stress you out, tie you in knots and take you on the same emotional roller coaster we put our Scouts on as they advance in the program. In other words, you might not

leave Wood Badge feeling relaxed, but you’re guaranteed to be recharged and ready to tackle any problem your Scouts throw your way. And it just might be the most fun you’ll ever have as a Scout leader.

JOHN STONE STOPS himself just in time. A split second before shouting

something to the entire troop, the Wood Badge Scoutmaster has a better idea. He walks over to Senior Patrol Leader Bill Hemenway, whispers in his ear and takes two large steps backward. Stone smiles as Hemenway

clears his throat. “Troop 1, let’s make this a short-

ened break and meet back here in 10 minutes,” says the senior patrol leader. “Then we’ll be back on schedule.” To the uninitiated, Stone’s audible

looks like a wasteful extra step. Why couldn’t he just say it himself? But Scouters know. The youth leaders run the program while Scoutmasters like Stone provide backup. Wood Badge, though, necessitates

a temporary and essential exception to that rule. This is an adults-only affair, so grown-ups play all the parts. That’s why Hemenway, whose gray-flecked hair signals he’s no longer a teenager, takes on the role of the troop’s top youth leader. At various times during Wood

Badge, grown men and women impersonate Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, den chiefs, troop guides, assistant patrol leaders, patrol leaders, scribes, chaplain’s aides, quartermasters, assistant senior patrol leaders, assistant Scoutmasters and a very hard-working senior patrol leader and Scoutmaster. The role-playing means that rather

than click-click-clicking through an online training course or paging through a two-dimensional hand- book, adults who attend Wood Badge experience Scouting fundamentals by living them. That’s just what a group of 50 men

and women did in August 2012 when they gave up a week’s vacation and several hundred dollars to meet at Philmont Scout Ranch for the Circle Ten Council’s Wood Badge course. To help keep the course accessible to as many Scouters as possible, many councils’ Wood Badge courses take


place at local camps. Circle Ten’s annual August course at Philmont distinguished itself as the only Wood Badge offering at the New Mexico paradise — that was, until the Fort Worth, Texas-based Longhorn Council joined the fun. Taking Wood Badge at Philmont

with the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains as your neighbor is an extra square of chocolate in your s’mores — awesome, but not essen- tial. In reality, where you take Wood Badge matters little. The traditions, games, classes, activities, leadership lessons and course schedule are the same whether you take it in winter in Wichita or summer in Seattle.

And the less you know going in, the

better. Ken Davis, a historian who has served on 30 Wood Badge staffs, says open-minded Scouters learn the most. “Even if you don’t know much

about it,” he says, “going to Wood Badge gives you probably the best preparation — better than any other thing we do — for completely under- standing Scouting.”


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