Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Flying through Army aviation history

Troop 50 Scouts and leaders celebrated the Veterans' Day weekend by centering its monthly campout around a visit to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum—which also served as the site of the troop's first out-of-town outing after its founding in 2012.

The U.S. Army Aviation Museum, located at Fort Rucker in Enterprise, Ala., maintains a collection of more than 160 military aircraft, including one of the largest collections of military helicopters in the world. Scouts has the opportunity to browse the approximately 50 beautifully restored, historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft displayed both inside the museum and on its surrounding grounds. Since first opening in 1968, and since moving into its current facility in 1989, its public galleries have offered a retrospective of the Army's involvement in military aviation, as well as provides the the human side of Army Aviation by featuring photo galleries, memorabilia and photo essays that capture the human spirit of the Army's proud aviation heritage.

While most Scouts opted for a self-guided tour (which included visits to the museum's flight simulators and gift shop), a few Scouts dropped in periodically for the museum tour directed by the troop's resident historian, Scoutmaster Andrew Baird. Actual and replica aircraft document the beginning days of Army aviation with the Wright brothers and the early combat aircraft of World War I, up to the highly technological machines such as the AH-64 Apache and the UH-60 Blackhawk flown by Army aviators today.

After touring the museum and enjoying a picnic lunch on the museum's grounds, the troop made its way to its campsite at Blue Springs State Park in nearby Clio, Ala. Scouts had the opportunity to enjoy some downtime after setting up their tents before beginning dinner preparations as the early sunset cast the campsite in darkness by 5:30 p.m. While it was dark, local fire bans due to extreme drought conditions forced the troop to conduct its "campfire" program around a Coleman lantern. Campfire master of ceremonies and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Louie persevered and provided everyone in attendance a program full of skits, songs, and fellowship.
ASPL Louie serves as master of ceremonies for Saturday evening's "campfire" program.

It's unclear if the fact that the days are getting darker earlier had any impact on how early the Scouts retired for the evening. However, by 10 p.m., most Scouts (and leaders) were settled in for the evening's cooler temperatures, which dropped to roughly 50 degrees.
Sunday morning's devotional service
Scouts were slowly bounding out of their tents by 6:30 a.m. Sunday as they readied breakfast and began packing their gear. Before departing the campsite for the return trip home, the troop gathered for a Sunday devotional service, Chartered Organization Representative and Troop Chaplain Michael Tullier. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, the scripture readings and discussion centered around being thankful in all circumstances—during the times we find ourselves extremely blessed, as well as the times we are challenged and the valuable lessons we learn during those times.
At the troop's monthly Patrol Leaders Council meeting the following Monday, the troop's youth leaders noted that, while the museum left a little to be desired for some Scouts, everyone enjoyed the campfire program and the campsite location..
For more photos from the campout, visit the troop's online photo album.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Are we there yet?

During the weekend of Oct. 15-16, Troop 50 Scouts and leaders set out to Heflin, Ala., for a two-day backpacking trip covering 14 miles of Section 9 of the Pinhoti Trail, located within the Talladega National Forest. ​The Pinhoti is a premier southern Appalachian long distance hiking trail and it is also a southeast region Appalachian Trail connector. The total distance of the trail is 339.0 miles. There are 171.2 miles in Alabama and 167.8 miles in Georgia, which makes the Pinhoti the longest hiking trail in either state.

The Eagles

Before embarking on the excursion around noon, the troop divided into its two patrols. The Eagle Patrol, led by Assistant Patrol Leader Carl, included Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Louie, Scoutmaster Andrew Baird, and Assistant Scoutmasters Clyde Wikle, JP Pendleton, and Billy Lytle.

The Mountaineers

The Mountaineers Patrol was led by Assistant Patrol Leader Trey. Joining the Mountaineers were Senior Patrol Leader Creighton, Lead Troop Guide Everett, Assistant Scoutmasters Wes Williams and Christian Dagg, and Chartered Organization Representative Michael Tullier.

An example of the expansive views seen from the Pinhoti Trail.

Scoutmaster Baird assists Everett with getting his bearings.
Throughout the backpacking trip, the troop used trail maps to navigate their way. The trails took the troop through varying elevations that included steep climbs to high altitudes with scenic views and shaded valleys where signs of water were more prevalent despite the drought most of Alabama has experienced during the past six to eight weeks. It was one of those shaded valleys that the troop chose as its lunch spot, where Scouts and leaders dined on a bevy of high-energy snacks like Slim Jims, fruit snacks, and applesauce.


After lunch, the troop again split into its two patrols for the roughly six miles remaining until it reached its overnight camping spot at the Lower Shoals campsite. By six p.m., all Scouts and leaders had arrived at the campsite and began pitching tents, and each patrol set out preparing their respective dinner. The Eagles chose Italian and prepared a dinner of chicken alfredo, while the Mountaineers went Mexican and prepared chicken and rice soft tacos (with Jiffy Pop popcorn added for good measure). Several Scouts who were lacking the Cooking Merit Badge requirements for trail cooking were able to complete those requirements. Suffice it to say, the eight miles backpacked on Saturday caught up with everyone, and heads were comfortably on pillows by 9 p.m.

The Mountaineers pause amid nature for a picture before hitting the trail Sunday morning.

The troop reflects on the spiritual Buddy System
represented by their close friends.
The troop was up bright and early by 6 a.m. Sunday morning preparing a breakfast featuring items mixed with boiling water, multigrain bars and anything else that would fill Scouts' bellies. By 8 a.m., the troop was packed up and back on the trail. The troop took a break a mile or so into Sunday's journey for a Duty to God devotional service, during which the topic centered on the Buddy System and how God blesses us with "buddies" who can pray with us and support us in times of need and trouble. The troop then resumed its roughly five-mile trek toward the finish line.

Gathering vehicles and personal gear gave most Scouts (and leaders) a much-appreciated respite from the 14-mile, two-day trip, which included several first-time backpackers. Even for some of our more seasoned Scouts (and leaders), the trip represented their longest backpacking excursion to date.

At the troop's Patrol Leaders Council the following Monday, youth leaders cited the good food and challenging trails. It also seems that many would recommend earplugs for future backpacking trips to filter out some of the complaining on this trip!

For more pictures from the backpacking weekend, visit the troop's online photo album.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Troop 50's Newest Arrowmen Endure Ordeal

After a troop election for the Order of the Arrow (OA) several weeks ago, two of the elected members headed to Camp Lumpkin in LaGrange, Georgia on Friday night to participate in an "ordeal" that would seal their membership into the OA.  Everett and Louie, accompanied by Committee Chairman and OA Arrowman Rob Stanford spent the weekend in cheerful service with other members of the Chattahoochee Lodge.

Everett & Louie after the induction ceremony
The scouts participated in an ordeal which tested their strength, discipline, and character while they learned many significant values.  The weather was magnificent for the weekend which made the ordeal and the entire weekend a good experience.

The OA is a brotherhood of cheerful service and serves as an organization of those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.  Members are voted in by their troop peers and are official members after attending the ordeal weekend, which Everett and Louie have.

Everett ready to enjoy a steak dinner after the ordeal
OA members have the opportunity to attend chapter meetings each month with other OA members in the Auburn-Opelika area.  In addition, there are several other events that they can participate in that help maintain our council's camp property and promote leadership and camping skills.  There is no doubt that others will follow in their footsteps as we have future troop elections for the OA.
Louie ready to enjoy a steak dinner after the ordeal

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Whitewater fun

The weekend of Aug. 19-21, Troop 50 Scouts and leaders took to Columbus, Ga., for wet and wild whitewater jaunt down the Chattahoochee River. During the three-day, two-night campout, the troop called Uchee Creek Army Campground at Ft. Benning home.

After spending Friday evening setting up the campsite, preparing dinner, and adjusting to the hot and humid camping environment, the troop suited up for its whitewater adventure. Scouts and leaders split themselves between large-group rafts and two-person inflatable duckies for the roughly two-and-a-half-hour trip. The river offered scenic views of historic Columbus, and for a few, underwater experiences at the hand of a few rough rapids!

Everett demonstrates his
virtual piloting skills.
The troop picnicked on the grounds of Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center before touring the facility’s offerings. Scouts were able to view space-themed exhibits, try their hand at maneuvering spaceflight simulators, and watch astronomy shows in the center’s domed, omnisphere theatre. Many Scouts (and leaders) also favored the cool, air-conditioned environment the center offered the heat- and humidity-stricken troop!

The troop returned to its campsite later Saturday afternoon, where patrols were able to prepare dinner at a leisurely pace and enjoy time for fellowship while awaiting the cooler evening temperatures to arrive. On Sunday, after preparing breakfast and packing up troop gear, Chaplain’s Aide Aiden led the troop in a Sunday devotional service centered around the traps we fall in with petty fighting and quarreling, and their adverse effects on our relationships.

At the troop’s Monday Patrol Leaders Council, youth leaders praised the spirit of cooperation observed at the campout. Patrols were complimented on efficient set-up efforts, menu-planning and meal cleanup, and the overall fun everyone experienced. Youth leaders also noted the benefits of sharing the lessons learned when planning didn’t always prove successful, the need to better follow the quartermaster structure of using troop gear, and pre-campout food shopping.

The troop’s next outing will be Sept. 10-11, when it goes canoeing at a location to be determined. For more photos from this month’s campout, visit the troop’s online photo album.