When I worked at Robins Air Force Base, I recall a two-star general at a meeting I attended stating something that has stayed with me all these years: 66 percent of the cadets at the academies (when they were all male) were Eagle Scouts. Since my brother had a friend who was an Eagle Scout and attended the Air Force Academy, the general’s words had a special impact with me.
The Eagle Scout rank is the highest rank achievable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since it was established in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men. This equates to just a little more than 2 percent of the Boy Scouts.
Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in this country: it has 2.7 million members and in excess of 1 million adult volunteers. Since its beginning in 1910, over 110 million Americans have been members of this organization.
The goal of BSA is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance via involvement in a broad range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and for the older scouts, career oriented programs with community organizations. BSA is divided into three groups, according to age — Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturing. Boy Scouts range from 10 1/2 to 18 years old, normally. Scouts with a disability are allowed to remain in the program past the usual time limits. This enables them to advance in scouting as far as they want.
Boy Scouts are taught to utilize the ideals described in the Scout Oath, Scout Law, the Scout motto (“be prepared”) and the Scout slogan. Scouts share duties, apply the skills learned at meetings and live with each other in the outdoors.
In the Boy Scouts, there are more than 130 merit badges a youngster can earn. To achieve the rank of an Eagle Scout, a scout must earn a minimum of 21 of these and demonstrate Scout Spirit for at least six months, and demonstrate leadership in the troop, team, crew or ship. It is essential for the Scout to plan, develop and lead a service project — the Eagle project — which demonstrates leadership as well as a commitment to duty. The Scout must then participate in the Scoutmaster conference. Following the fulfilling of all the requirements, it is essential for the scout to complete an Eagle Scout board of review.
Of the 21 merit badges, 12 are required. Among this latter group are:
— First Aid;
— Citizenship in the Community;
— Personal Fitness;
— Personal Management;
— Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving;
— Swimming, Hiking, or Cycling.
There have been many notable recipients of the Eagle Scout rank. Many astronauts, politicians, businessmen, entertainers and religious figures. Concerning astronauts, 40 have earned Eagle Scouts, including Neil Armstrong and Charlie Duke. They both walked on the moon. Among businessmen, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Marriott Corp. President J. Willard Marriott are Eagle Scouts. In politics, President Gerald Ford, Sen. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar earned this distinction.
In Albany, there exist multiple Boy Scout troops: each of them provides opportunities for youngsters to advance through the ranks. For example, in Troop No. 3, with Scoutmaster Michael Johnson and assistant scoutmasters Mike Patton and Dan Gillan, opportunities to earn merit badges abound. The Troop has 7-8 camps/outings annually so the scouts can earn merit badges. For instance, they travel to Camp Osbourne, Stone Mountain, Thunder Road, Maggie Valley, N.C., and Crystal River, Fla., for canoeing, skiing, snorkeling and other badges.
According to Mr. Johnson, some of the Eagle Projects completed by Troop 3 scouts have included (1) helping renovate four buildings in Blakely for the Historic Society and Agriculture Museum; (2) building a brick patio at St. Teresa’s Catholic School courtyard; (3) erecting Pappy’s Crossing monument at the Gillionville-Magnolia intersection, and (4) building bridges and birdhouses and doing landscaping at Radium Springs Park.
Since its inception, Troop 3 has produced 151 Eagle Scouts. Examples of this elite group now in the workforce include Michael Eric Hooper and David Hanks. Regarding the former, he was an honor student at Westover High School and then graduated from West Point. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Mr. Hooper attended Mercer Law school. He currently works for Moore, Clark, DuVall and Rodgers in Albany, and has recently been appointed as an adjunct professor at Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. Mr. Hanks graduated from Deerfield-Windsor with honors, and then attended Georgia Tech, where he majored in electrical engineering. Now armed with an MBA, Mr. Hanks works in Kansas City for Burns & McDonald Engineering Inc.
Concerning Eagle Scouts who have recently left the programs, Faro Palazzolo, Jared Gillan, Harry and Oscar Spruill are examples. Mr. Palazzolo is a graduate of Westover High School, and is currently attending Darton State College, majoring in pre-law. He has a goal of becoming an attorney. Mr. Gillan graduated from Lee County High School, where he ran cross country. He is presently attending Darton State College. Following graduation, Mr. Gillan plans to attend Georgia Southern and major in video game design. Mr. Gillan currently works part time as lifeguard at Albany YMCA. Harry Spruill graduated from Westover High, then Darton with an A.S. degree in education: he now works as a substitute teacher in Macon. Mr. Spruill teaches students with disabilities: he has a passion for this, having a learning disability himself. His brother, Oscar, attends school in Cleveland Tenn.
Trey Hardison serves as an example of an Eagle Scout still in high school. He is an Honor student at Lee County High Schcool, a member of the school swim team, as well as YMCA Quad-A, and worked part-time as a lifeguard at the Y. He has just received notification of his acceptance into the Air Force Academy.
Regarding Mr. Johnson, he was a Boy Scout as well as an Eagle Scout. Being in this organization helped Mr. Johnson in his decision to become an architect. Among the merit badges that aided him in this pursuit were drafting, architect and art. Mr. Johnson has been working with Troop 3 for 28 years. He is ably assisted by Joe Najjar, Larry Davis and Dan Gillan.
My brother’s friend, Richard McKinley, has made his mark, too. After graduating from Warner Robins High School with honors and attending the Air Force Academy, he became a career officer, initially flying A-10 Warthogs in the Gulf War. Lt. Col. McKinley’s last tour of duty before he retired was at Barksdale AFB, LA, where he served as 548 CTS commander.
Tom Connelly is a resident of Albany.