Sunday, January 21, 2018

Harris honored as troop's 14th Eagle Scout

New Eagle Scout Louie Harris with (left to right) brother and fellow Eagle Scout John, and parents Diane and Robert.

On Saturday, Jan. 20, Troop 50 bestowed the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank during a ceremony honoring new Eagle Scout Robert Louis “Louie” Suess Harris. Louie appeared before the Saugahatchee District’s Eagle Scout Board on Aug. 15, 2017. He is among the four Troop 50 Scouts to earn the Eagle Scout rank in 2017, and the 16 Scouts to earn the Eagle Scout rank since the troop’s founding in 2012.

Senior Patrol Leader Rusty calls the court of honor to order.
Louie’s ceremony, held at the Founder's Chapel of Auburn United Methodist Church, included many of his fellow Scouts with whom he has served in leadership positions since joining the troop in 2013 after earning Cub Scouting’s Arrow of Light. As a founding member of the troop, he has served in leadership positions that have included patrol leader and assistant patrol leader, troop guide, instructor, senior patrol leader and assistant senior patrol leader, and his current role as junior assistant scoutmaster. The ceremony began with the traditional flag presentation (accompanied by a bugle call) and an opening prayer, followed by a ceremonial candle lighting by his fellow troop members, and welcomes from Scoutmaster Andrew Baird and Saugahatchee District representative Julie Hoff.

The reading by Assistant Scoutmaster Wes Williams of “100 Scouts” provided a poignant segue to a motivational speech by Will Herring. Herring, an Opelika native and friend of the Harris family, was an Auburn University football standout before an NFL career that included playing with the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams. He challenged Scouts and others in attendance to find something about which they can be passionate, and to devote their efforts on pursuing that passion and developing a strong work ethic.

Louie's mother pins his Eagle Scout medal to his uniform.

Louie pins a father's Eagle Scout recognition pin on his father.
As part of presenting Louie with the Eagle Scout rank recognitions, fellow Scouts outlined the challenge of being an Eagle Scout, and Scoutmaster Baird administered the official Eagle Scout Charge and Promise. His mother, Diane, presented him with his Eagle Scout medal, and father Robert and brother (and fellow Eagle Scout) John presented him with an Eagle Scout neckerchief slide. Because Louie had earned 26 merit badges at the time of his ceremony, he qualified for a bronze Eagle palm.

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Anders presents Louie with a
proclamation from the City of Auburn.
Following the presentation of his rank insignia and Eagle Scout mother and father pins to his parents, Louie also received membership in the National Eagle Scout Association as a gift from the troop. In addition to these recognitions, City of Auburn Mayor Pro Tem Ron Anders presented Louie with a proclamation declaring Jan. 20, 2018, as “Louie Harris Eagle Scout Day” in Auburn.

In concluding the ceremony, Louie expressed appreciation to those who had played roles in his development, education and advancement in Scouts. He honored several special individuals by presenting them with Eagle Scout mentor pins. Those included Scoutmaster Andrew Baird, Assistant Scoutmasters Wes Williams and JP Pendleton, Chartered Organization Representative Michael Tullier, Troop Committee Chair Rob Stanford, his brother John Harris, Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve Outreach Administrator Jennifer Lolley (who supported his Eagle Scout leadership service project benefiting the Forest Ecology Preserve), and family friends Jack Robertson and Gaines Lanier, both of whom shared valuable cattle management and life skills with him.

New Eagle Scout Louie Harris with Spirit, Auburn University's bald eagle, and other Troop 50 Eagle Scouts.

The Harris family arranged for a special guest to be present following the court of honor. Spirit, the only bald eagle that has ever flown in Jordan-Hare Stadium, made an appearance at the ceremony. Now under the care of the Southeastern Raptor Center, Spirit was discovered as an injured fledgling in Florida in 1995 and came to Auburn in 1998 to join the Raptor Center’s educational collection. His damaged beak makes him non-releasable. Spirit’s first pre-game flight in Jordan-Hare Stadium was in 2001. Bald eagles like Spirit are found throughout Alabama, and wild ones can sometimes be seen soaring in the skies above Auburn.

Louie (black hoodie) and the rest of Expedition 620-B atop Philmont's Mt. Baldy in June 2017.

To date, Louie’s Scouting participation has included accruing 81 nights of camping, 130 hours of community service, and 81 hiking and backpacking miles. He received the troop’s 2016 James J. Baird Jr. Honor Scout Award, earned the BSA Mile Swim Award, and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society. In addition, he completed the Boy Scouts’ National Youth LeadershipTraining, a six-day course equipping Scouts with leadership skills and experience applicable to both Scouting and personal situations. Among his other Scouting activities is participating in a 12-day backpacking expedition at Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts’ largest national high-adventure base located in Cimarron, New Mexico, in June 2017.

The finished product of Louie's Eagle Scout leadership service project at the Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve.

For his Eagle Scout leadership service project, Louie and volunteers constructed three arbor swings for the nature playground at the Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve in Auburn. These swings provide a place for parents and visitors to sit and relax comfortably while watching their children play. His project accrued 353 volunteer hours from planning to completion, including the 84 hours he spent personally planning, leading and supervising the various stages of the project. Louie received contributions and support for the project from an Auburn University Concession Board grant, the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Russell Building Supply, Garden of Eden Landscaping, and family and friends.

Outside of his Scouting involvement, Louie currently is a 10th grader at Auburn High School, where he plays trombone in the symphonic band and is a member of the Junior Honor Society. He and his family attend Opelika United Methodist Church.

Since the first Eagle Scout was awarded in 1912, more than 2.4 million Boy Scouts have completed the Eagle Scout’s performance-based rank requirements, which currently include serving in progressive leadership positions, demonstrating outdoor and Scouting skill competencies, earning at least 21 merit badges, and planning and executing a seminal Eagle Scout leadership service project. During 2016 alone, 55,186 Boy Scouts earned Scouting’s highest rank.

For more photos from Louie’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor and Eagle Scout leadership service project, visit the troop’s online photo album.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Troop concludes 2017 with annual court of honor, Christmas party and toy drive

Conner, the troop's newest Scout, receives his first
merit badge – Veterinary Medicine Merit Badge
It should be no surprise in December that Troop 50 Scouts look forward to two things — advancement awards and Christmas presents. The troop’s annual December court of honor failed to disappoint on Monday, Dec. 18, when Scouts gathered with their families for the presentation of merit badges and ranks, as well as a spirited “Dirty Santa” gift exchange. The court of honor featured the presentation of seven rank advancements and 38 merit badges — the majority earned during the troop’s recent Veterinary Medicine Merit Badge class at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Merit Badge Day.

Scoutmaster Baird installs the newly elected youth leaders.

With Scouts having elected new youth leadership two weeks prior to the court of honor, Senior Patrol Leader Jacob presided over the event as his last official act in the position. As part of the court of honor, Scoutmaster Andrew Baird installed the recently elected class of youth leaders by administering the oath of office. New troop leaders for the first half of 2018 include (pictured above, left to right): Jacob, lead troop guide; Josh, instructor; Hunter, patrol leader of the newly created Big Money Monkeys Patrol; Rusty, senior patrol leader; Olen, assistant patrol leader of the Big Money Monkeys Patrol; Luke, quartermaster of the Big Money Monkeys Patrol; Trey, patrol leader of the newly created Combat Wombats Patrol; Joe, assistant senior patrol leader; Joey, assistant patrol leader of the Combat Wombats Patrol and troop chaplain’s aide; Miles, patrol quartermaster for the Combat Wombats Patrol; Camp, troop quartermaster; Liam, assistant troop quartermaster; and Boone, instructor (not pictured is Michael, lead troop guide). Continuing their service are are Everett, instructor; and Jason, troop historian.

Mr. Baird installs the troop's junior assistant scoutmasters.

In addition to installing the troop’s newly elected youth leaders, Mr. Baird administered the oath of office to the troop’s growing cadre of junior assistant scoutmasters: (left to right) Louie, Aiden, Nicky and Creighton. The troop promotes Scouts to this advanced level of leadership following their completion of the Eagle Scout rank, but before they would be old enough to serve in an adult position. Aiden and Creighton — by virtue of their continued merit badge work beyond the presentation of their Eagle Scout ranks earlier in the year — also received Eagle palms during the ceremony.

Jacob with his outgoing senior patrol leader recognition.

Mr. Baird made two additional presentations to close out the evening’s court of honor. The first was a handmade neckerchief slide, which he presented to Jacob. The neckerchief slide has become his traditional means of recognizing outgoing senior patrol leaders for their terms of service.

His second presentation was to incoming Senior Patrol Leader Rusty — the American flag that honored Mr. Baird’s father during his funeral service in October 2017. A veterinarian by training, Dr. Charles Baird graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University in 1960, served in the U.S. Air Force, and practiced as a veterinarian for more than 50 years. Mr. Baird noted that his father would have wanted to know the flag was being used to benefit others, so he asked SPL Rusty to ensure it is part of the troop's instructional activities, including training newer Scouts about flag etiquette and the ceremonial procedures that are part of the earlier rank requirements Scouts are required to complete.

The pomp and circumstance of the court of honor quickly gave way to the annual madness associated with the troop’s “Dirty Santa” gift exchange. Among the traditional gifts of camping implements and supplies, knives and flashlights were a few oddities — including $9.95 in various coins that was frozen in a block of ice.

In addition to celebrating Christmas as a troop family through the yearly game of “Dirty Santa,” Troop 50 families also remembered others through its annual toy-collection drive. Bicycles, athletics gear, games and other toys were among the gifts donated by troop families and walked by Scouts and leaders to the main City of Auburn fire station on East Magnolia Avenue. This annual troop service project benefits the firefighters’ “Toys for Tots” drive and dates back to the troop’s first Christmas court of honor after its founding in November 2012.

The court of honor concluded the troop’s scheduled 2017 events. The troop will take a hiatus until its first meeting of the new year on Monday, Jan. 8.

For more pictures from the court of honor, visit the troop's online photo album.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Merit Badge Day continues troop’s advancement efforts

For the second weekend in a row, Troop 50 Scouts gathered to work on merit badges that would aid their rank-advancement efforts. At the troop’s annual Merit Badge Day, Scouts were able to pursue one of three merit badges: Eagle-required Citizenship in the World Merit Badge, and elective Aviation and Composite Materials merit badges.

Boone, Luke and Josh (left to right) mapped out similarities and differences
between rights and duties of U.S. citizenship compared to those in Djibouti and Italy.

Scoutmaster Andrew Baird counseled Scouts on Citizenship in the World Merit Badge, which addresses information relating to global relations and the individuals and entities that affect those relations. To earn the merit badge, Scouts must be familiar with the methods, rights and duties of U.S. citizenship and how they resemble or differ with those of citizens of other countries. They also discussed specific world events and how those situations affect matters of security, economy and health. Scouts learned about the types of government structures, international law and non-governmental organizations that exist and their global roles.

Assistant Scoutmaster Will Brett works with Scouts on creating models
they will use to test aviation principles.

New Assistant Scoutmaster Will Brett, who as an aviation management student at Auburn University, counseled Scouts on Aviation Merit Badge by sharing about the science, mechanics and training that comprise aviation science. They put some of this information into practice by building models that demonstrated those principles. The class included a brief field trip to the Auburn University Regional Airport, as well as a discussion of career opportunities available in the aviation industry.

Scouts pursuing Composite Materials Merit Badge met at Auburn University’s National Center for Asphalt Technology. There, they learned what composite materials are, how they are made, and the handling and safety precautions associated with them. They also discussed careers available in the composite materials industry and the types of projects these professionals would use composite materials for.

Following the merit badge classes, many of the Scouts participated in a troop outing to go bowling.

For more pictures from the troop’s Merit Badge Day, visit the troop’s online photo album.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Scouts explore vet med careers through merit badge class

It's no secret that the Boy Scouts' merit badge program introduces Scouts to a wide variety of career fields. Studies show that many Scouts — even those who don't obtain the Eagle Scout rank — find their future vocations of choice through exposure to one of Scouting's 130-plus merit badges. To that end, Troop 50 strives to connect Scouts with merit badge opportunities outside those like First Aid, Camping, Cooking and others that are required to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, several of the troop's Scouts took advantage of such an opportunity by participating in a Veterinary Medicine Merit Badge class hosted at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Virginia Stillwell, a third-year veterinary medicine student, led the course. In addition to her academic studies, she also oversees the college's summer program for high school and middle school students.

Veterinary Medicine Merit Badge requires that Scouts learn about and discuss the various fields of veterinary medicine — ranging from companion animals to large, marine and exotic species. They also must become familiar with the professional roles veterinarians play in public health, military, regulatory, academic and research environments. The Scouts learned from students and professors about the training required to become a vet. They also were able to tour the college's various research facilities.

For more photos from the merit badge class, visit the troop's online photo album.