All star scouts soar to top rank

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katherine Windish
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Two Team Aviano members recently joined the ranks of such influential men as former President Gerald Ford, astronaut Neil Armstrong, former Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld, and Academy-Award-winning film director Steven Spielberg as Eagle Scouts of the Boy Scouts of America.

The Eagle Scout rank is the highest award attainable in the boy scouting program and is held for life. More than 110 million Americans have been members of the Boy Scouts of America since its inception in 1910, with only two percent attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. For Joshua Stevens and Michael Corson, both seniors at Aviano High School and Boy Scouts with Troop 323, the hard work has paid off and instilled lifelong values.

"Boys who make it to Eagle have demonstrated an incredible amount of leadership ability, persistence and hard work," said Watson. "They have set goals, achieved them and once they have reached those goals, set an even higher goal. That's an incredibly valuable life lesson for young men to learn at that point in their lives. They can take it with them into adulthood and use it to become extremely successful at whatever they do."

To achieve the Eagle rank, young men must earn at least 21 merit badges, display scout spirit, service and leadership. They must also complete an "Eagle Project" that benefits the community. The scout must plan, organize, lead and manage the entire project from beginning to end.

"It's something for boys to work hard at during a very critical point in their life -- those critical years between 12 and 18," said Lt. Col. Bryan Watson, local Boy Scout leader. "It really gives them something to focus on, something they can see development on, something they can watch themselves and their peers progress in."

Both young men have been in the program since age 12, the earliest they could join, and were in the Cub Scouts before that.

Stevens was influenced to join the Boy Scouts by his father, a Boy Scout leader, who started taking him on camping trips and volunteer projects from a young age. His interest was piqued by the adventure of the outdoors.

"It seemed like it would be a lot of fun," said Stevens. "There were always tons of campouts and outdoor activities. We would play capture the flag with glow sticks, learn how to build fires and campsites."

Corson joined the Cub Scouts at age 9 and since then, he has participated in many volunteer projects, most concerning environmental preservation.

"I find that [volunteerism] is so important," said Corson, who plans to major in history and modern literature in college, potentially becoming a university professor. "As a Scout, you do a lot of camping and fun things for yourself, but you're also part of an organization that helps out other people and improves things around us."

For his scout project, Corson collected five car loads of clothing and non-perishable foods for Punto Caritas, a local Italian charity organization. Stevens chose to paint and refurbish all 12 dugouts on the Area F baseball fields.

Both projects required extensive coordination and effort from Stevens and Corson, their fellow troops and families. In addition to the normal challenges most Scouts have to face when working on an Eagle project, these young men also surpassed the constant road blocks that come with volunteering in a foreign country. Because Italian law states that no one under the age of 18 can have a driver's license, they had to rely heavily on their parents for transportation. Italy also has strict insurance laws that made it difficult for them to find volunteer work anywhere.

"Both of these young men will tell you that they could not have earned Eagle Scout without their parents help and without help from the other boys in the troop," said Watson. "That is the most important lesson that these boys can learn: Their success is not only their success. Their success is attributable to other people who helped them along the way and they wouldn't have gotten to where they are without relying on other people too."

The Eagle Scout project not only benefits the community, it also helps scouts learn skills that will hopefully help them they become a contributing member of society.

"[The project] requires them to 'rally the troops,'" said Watson. "They've got to get workers, money, resources, equipment, set schedules and assign work to other people. They have to develop those leadership skills. That's hard, especially for a boy in his teenage years. It's designed to be a challenge."

Both Stevens and Corson plan to take the life lessons learned from the Scouts and continue volunteering after they graduate this coming year.

"Even though I'll be going off to college, I plan on staying involved in the Scouts as much as I can," said Corson. "There are so many ways to help people not just in your own community but in other communities also."

Stevens plans to go on a two-year church mission abroad after completing a semester in college. He also plans to stay involved in the Boy Scouts.

"It's great to be a part of a group that helps people feel like they belong, a group that actually endorses good beliefs and morals," Stevens said.