By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau
July 29, 2010 - The Utah National Guard's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion will deploy to Iraq in a few weeks with 83 soldiers who have earned Eagle Scout badges from the Boy Scouts of America. "It's easy being a battalion commander of Eagle Scouts, because you don't have to worry about them," said Army Lt. Col. Matt Price, the battalion commander and a scout leader for his sons, who include three Eagle Scouts. "They have high values, because they have been taught that as young men. You can trust them."
The 286-member unit is in field training at its pre-mobilization site, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
During a recent meeting with civilian employers, Price said, he asked all the Eagle Scouts in the room to stand. Almost half of his unit stood up. So during the next battalion formation, the Eagle Scouts were asked to stay behind for a group photo. That is when they counted off as 83 Eagle Scouts representing all ranks and many military occupational specialties.
The unit's senior noncommissioned officer, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Lofland, is a scout master.
"We feel like [part of the] the scout program," Price said. "To me, the Scout Law is similar to Army values."
Price said he believes Robert Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, would be proud of his creation. "We're celebrating 100 years of Boy Scouting this year, and if he could look back and see what is going on, he would be quite happy."
In Iraq, the battalion will conduct human intelligence missions with Iraqi security forces. "We will be directly training and advising them how to do force protection," Price said.
Price said he appreciates the uniqueness of his citizen-soldiers. They are older and college educated, with more real-world experience as teachers and police officers, he noted.
"I am bringing a group of community leaders with me to Iraq," he said.
Price said his Eagle Scouts also bring additional skills to the Guard. "The Boy Scout program itself teaches young men to be men," he said. "You teach them values. ... You are teaching them survivability skills. They are used to camping, and used to roughing it."
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men, according to published reports. The title is held for life.
Between the ages of 12 and 18, a Scout will work to achieve Eagle rank by earning 12 required merit badges and nine elective merit badges. He also must demonstrate "Scout Spirit" through the Boy Scout oath and law and through community service and leadership, which includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages.
Earning the Eagle Scout's badge was "the only thing I had done in my life that led me to think that I could make a difference; that I could be a leader," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told an estimated crowd of 45,000 gathered on 12,000 acres on Fort A.P. Hill, Va., as part of the annual National Scout Jamboree yesterday.
"It was the first thing I had done that told me I might be different, because I had worked harder, was more determined, more goal-oriented, more persistent than most others," Gates said.
Price said the key to scouting is service to others.
"To be able to protect yourself and your family but also look outwards and help others," he said. "These are different kinds of soldiers. They look beyond themselves. We are bringing a higher quality of citizen-soldier with us who is looking for ways to help other people."