Troop 111 is a diverse group of scouts and scouters from North Arlington, Virginia. We meet regularly on Monday nights from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at our chartering organization, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church.
Troop 111 Background
- Historical Introduction
- 50th Anniversary Comments
- Troop 111 Eagles
- Troop 111 Scoutmasters
Membership and Organization
Troop 111 was originally chartered on July 31st, 1939, about three years after our sponsoring organization, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, was incorporated as an independent Parish. Prior to 1936, St. Agnes was an unstaffed branch Church associated with St. Charles Parish (over on N. Washington Blvd.), and all St. Agnes Scouts of the time were members of St. Charles’ Troop 102 (which has since folded). We were the 14th Troop chartered in Arlington, Virginia, and are now the 4th oldest Troop remaining in the area. Our first Scoutmaster was Frank W. McGrail, Jr. Click here for a listing of all 19 Scoutmasters.
The membership has varied through the years from as low as 6 to a high of over 60 Scouts. Through the years, most of the Scouts have been Catholic and members of St. Agnes, and either attended St. Agnes School or one of the other nearby grade schools. At present, we have about 60 Registered (50 active) Scouts, which makes us the largest Troop in Arlington County. 50 Scouts is high for Troops inside the Beltway, but is by no means an upper limit; some Troops outside the Beltway to have over 100 Scouts. Roughly three quarters of the Troop’s Scouts are Catholic.
Troop 111 in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) Hierarchy
The BSA’s general organization scheme is geographically based; thus, Troop 111 is located in the Chain Bridge District of the National Capital Area Council (the “NCAC”) in the Northeast Region of the BSA. North Arlington contains about 300 Scouts in 12 Troops. The Chain Bridge District includes all of Arlington and the parts of Fairfax County just north of Arlington almost to the Beltway, basically McLean. The District was one of four created in June 1998 out of the former Patawomeck District. At the time of the Patawomeck subdivision, it was the largest District in the country with nearly 10,000 scouts. The NCAC is subdivided into about 30 similar Districts, and contains about 1200 Troops and better than 50,000 Scouts in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia; it extends to Pennsylvania to the North, Baltimore to the East, Woodbridge/ Fredericksburg to the South and the Shenandoah Valley to the West. The Council is the sixth largest in the entire country, and is just one of dozens in the Northeast Region, which includes all the Northeastern United States from Maryland and Northern Virginia to Maine.
A Few Comments on Troop Numbering
Scout Troops are numbered from 1 through 1999. In general, lower Troop numbers indicate older Troops; in Arlington, Troop 101 was the first number utilized (for the first Arlington Boy Scout Troop at Cherrydale V.F.D.). Troop numbers are unique internally in a Council; i.e., we are the only Troop 111 in the NCAC, but one of several dozen across the Country (the closest, to my knowledge, is in the Robert E. Lee Council to our immediate South). The BSA was founded in 1910; there are probably less than 300 units country-wide that are 75+ year units (of which three, 104, 106 and 149, are right here in North Arlington). Similarly, there are somewhere around 3,500 50+ year units across the Nation, of which Troop 111 is one.
As was noted above, the Troop is “chartered” through St. Agnes Church, meaning that the Parish/Community has accepted responsibility to provide a meeting hall, storage facilities, (rarely) adult leadership, (partial) financial support and some general oversight of Troop operations, all in cooperation with the Troop Committee. The extent of Chartered Organization support varies widely from one Troop to another, and internally from one time period to another, depending on the relationship between the Troop Leadership and the Chartering Organization. St. Agnes’ support has historically been pretty reasonable, with some notable (but fortunately brief) exceptions. At present, our support from St. Agnes is excellent.
The Troop is formally organized by the Adult Leadership (the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmasters and Troop Committee), but is supposed to be actually run by the Scouts themselves. This is a most unusual arrangement for youth organizations (and is often a genuine shock to parents), but is one of the reasons why a “true” Scouting program is invaluable for a boy’s development into an Adult. It is one of the maxims of Scouting that “a Troop that is running very well is not running well at all”, because a “perfect” operation usually indicates that the Adult Leadership has taken too firm a hold on Troop operations. There is a very fine line that has to be tread between total anarchy and iron-fisted control – a line which, of course, constantly changes with the size of the Troop, the age, maturity and participation levels of the older Scouts, and the number and experience of the “Front-Line” Adults. As every experienced Scoutmaster can personally attest, it is a tricky line indeed to walk well.
In essence, the Troop is organized as follows: The Scouts themselves are organized into “Patrols”, which are sub-groups consisting of from 6 to 12 boys of widely varying skill levels and ages (typically 5th through 9th Graders). Each Patrol has a Patrol Leader, an Assistant Patrol Leader, a Quartermaster, and several other more minor functionaries. Patrols are the primary organizational unit for campouts and – to a lesser extent – in Troop Meetings. Much of the teaching of Scout Skills occurs internally in the Patrols; alternately, all Scouts in the Troop are subdivided into Skill levels and taught as specific subgroups regardless of Patrol orientation – Troop 111 uses both methods. Each Patrol may have a dedicated Assistant Scoutmaster as an overseer. Troop 111 currently has four Patrols, each with about 12 Scouts, and – although this is on the high end (the BSA ideal is 8), it tends to ensure that viable Patrols will exist for most camping events; i.e., if half the Scouts are sick, off on vacation, involved in a sporting event, etc., we’ll still have enough Scouts for effective Patrols.
The Patrols are under the Scout Leadership of a Senior Patrol Leader, an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, a Senior “Troop” Quartermaster, “Troop Guides” (Senior Scouts beyond the Patrols) and “Junior Assistant Scoutmasters” (Eagle Scouts of age 16 and over). The Scoutmaster interacts with the Troop primarily through the Senior Leadership plus the Patrol/Assistant Patrol Leaders; this group is collectively known as “The Leadership Corps,” and meets with the Front-Line Adult Leaders in “PLC’s” (Patrol Leader Conferences), where policy and upcoming events are planned in detail. At present, the Troop PLC’s are sporadically held on the last Sunday of the month.
Troop Guidance and Supervision is via the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters (the so-called “Front Line Adults”). They act as organizers and overseers during both the Troop meetings and on the outdoor events. It is their collective job to develop Leadership skills in the Scouts, assist in teaching basic Scout skills, and in maintaining Health and Safety standards in all activities. Ideally, a Troop will have a 1:5 ratio of Front-Line Adults to Scouts, and Troop 111 is currently below this “ideal” ratio.
The Troop Committee
Establishment of basic Troop Policies is the collective responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Troop Committee (i.e., the Parent’s Committee). Parent’s Meetings are generally held about once every two months, at which Troop operations are detailed. The Committee Chairman and Unit Commissioner (a representative of the Council) ensure that proper Boy Scout standards are maintained in the Troop operations. The Parent’s Committee is also responsible for numerous other support tasks, including: transportation, fundraising, Boards of Review, Courts of Honor, Merit Badge Counseling, Troop Mailings, Secretarial Duties, Treasurer, liaison work with the Chartered Partner, etc.; these duties are detailed in the Troop 111 Committee Guide.
Finances and Related Matters
There is a basic yearly fee of $150 collected each year during the month of September. This fee covers Registration, Boy’s Life and Outside Magazine Subscriptions, Troop Insurance, Troop Printing and Mailing Expenses, various Uniform and other Scout patches and gives the family access to the Troop Uniform and equipment exchanges. Transfer Scouts are charged only $45 for their initial registration (unless it occurs in January or February), as the transfer registration fee we have to pay to Council is only $1. New Scouts joining from May through September still have a $150 registration fee, which includes getting a new Scout Handbook, a Troop Bolo Tie and slide and several Uniform patches. All Merit Badge Pamphlets, Rank, Merit Badge and related advancement patches (e.g., mile swim or 50 Miler Awards, etc.) are always provided at no charge through the tenure of the Scout.
Individual Activities are charged at the time of the event; e.g., $25 for a weekend Camporee. The Troop always charges more than the actual expected cost, and a continuous Troop Credit Accounts Ledger is maintained, which families can utilize for campouts, equipment purchases, or other Troop expenses (including Registration). Although it’s rather thin, the Troop equipment and Uniform exchanges are available for all Troop 111 Scouts (including new Scouts); if a Scout doesn’t have anything to exchange, the Troop charges very nominal fees for the used equipment in the exchanges (e.g., $10 for a uniform, up to $50 for a backpack and much lower fees for simple gear like canteens, messkits, flashlights, etc., if we have them).
Unlike many Troops, Troop 111 has an inventory of Group Camping Gear; i.e., Tents, Tarps, Cookware, Utensils, Lanterns, Stoves, etc., everything needed to go on a camping trip. This equipment is very expensive, and the Scouts are pretty rough on it, so a constant renewal is necessary to keep the gear up to standards. The Troop registration fee does not cover this (it’s a basic fee to cover the expenses detailed in the Finances section above); therefore, the Troop holds various Fundraising events to generate sufficient income to run the Troop and its many programs. The estimated cost for Troop operations this year will be somewhere in the $5,000 range.
The primary fundraiser is a “Poinsettia/Christmas Wreath Sale” held early in December at the Parish Center. This is the only fundraising event we have in the Parish proper, and the Parishioners have always responded quite generously. This is also a personal fundraising opportunity for the Scouts, as the Troop pays them for labor during the Sale. We have also held several “Yard-Sales” where the Troop takes a 50% commission on all sales; these are generally held during the Spring. Both options are pursued in order to keep the Troop on a sound financial footing. Note that we do not receive any funding from the Parish (and haven’t for over 20 years now), although the Parish did help me repair one of the Troop Vans several years ago. Finally, we hold a general solicitation of funds each year from the Troop membership, half of which goes to the Council, the other half of which goes to purchasing “Wish List” items such as new backpacking tents or rock climbing and repelling gear, for the Troop. This is also held in the Spring.
Troop 111 is an extremely active Troop, with at least one major outdoor activity per month, plus a host of minor (day) activities interspaced through the year (Troop Calendar). In addition, we have a Senior Scout activity superimposed on the normal Troop schedule which consists of more challenging events more suited to older Scouts (e.g., Whitewater Rafting). We attend Summer Camp every year, usually at the end of June, plus various long-term “High Adventure” treks each summer; some of the High Adventure activities are open only to the Senior Scouts, others to the entire Troop. The last Troop High Adventure trek was held in 1996, when we canoed a 90 mile stretch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
Current weekend activities are generally as follows:
- January – Skiing
- February – Winter Cabin Campout/Skiing/Snow Boarding
- March – Bike Hike Weekend
- April – Chain Bridge District Projectoree (a multi-Troop area campout)
- May – Canoeing and/or Whitewater Rafting
- June – Summer Camp
- July – BSA High Adventure Camp
- August – Troop High Adventure Trek
- September – Rifle and Archery Campout
- October – Caving or Rock Climbing/Repelling
- November – Backpacking Trip
- December – Beginner (Instructional) Ski Trip
Day activities include ski trips, movie nights, laser tag sessions, bluefishing on the Bay, Orioles games and other sporting events, minature golf, Troop soccer, softball and basketball games, day hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, orienteering championship challenge and still more. For the interested Scout, a tremendous variety of things to do.
We consider each new Scout to be a potential Eagle Scout, and work extensively in the Troop meetings to guide him to that goal. Junior Rank advancement is handled on a “module” system, with Assistant Scoutmasters and Senior Scouts as instructors. A formal schedule of advancement in occasionally published in our monthly newsletter. Older Scouts (beyond First Class) either teach younger Scouts or take Merit Badges at Troop meetings. Advancement in 111 is not a “show up and pass” triviality; rather, the Scouts are expected to know the material and earn their ranks. It generally takes an entry level Scout about 5 years to earn Eagle in this Troop; the boys have until their 18th birthday to complete all requirements, but most are done long before then. It is important that the Scouts regularly attend the Troop meetings and summer camp in order to advance at a steady pace. However, it is also important that he go camping on the regular weekend events as well; Scouting is not very exciting if all he does is come to the Troop meetings. Camping is where the advancement skills are applied, relearned and reinforced.
The Information Explosion
The Troop puts out a monthly newsletter, which is a basic account of Troop activities plus a variety of other important information. It is highly recommended that you keep this and all other mailings on file – they are an ongoing history of your son’s involvement in Scouts, and will be precious to him in future years, especially if he has Scouts of his own. Permission slips are generated for all activities, and include detailed information on the event. They must be turned in in order for your son to go on an activity. Weekly Notes are occasionally emailed, providing specifics on a small number of important issues that can’t wait for the next monthly newsletter. Finally, Parent’s Meetings are held and the minutes of those meetings published on-line.
The Balancing Act
Most of the boys in the Troop are hyper-scheduled, which can cause endless grief with schedule conflicts, particularly with sports. No Scout is mandated to come to any activity, meeting or campout – we attempt to have an interesting enough program that he will choose Scouting over other events, but we never dictate attendance. We do, however, ask that once the boy has made the commitment to attend an event, that he follows through; otherwise, we’re forced to plan extensive logistics for nothing (planning and executing a campout is not a trivial task!) With respect to sports, Arlington County unfortunately has a surplus of those type coaches who insist on attendance at every practice and game, with membership and playing time contingent upon compliance. I’m sure you’ve all already run into this; it ought to be illegal, but it’s not (at least, not yet).
Anyway, please do not force your son to make the Hobson’s choice between activities and Scouts; we’ll be here for the next seven and a half years, whereas most other extracurriculars last but three months at a time. Note that there’s no such thing as being “too far behind to catch up;” anyone can come back after a leave of absence and pick up right where he left off. As long as you keep us informed, and your son makes a good faith effort to make whatever meetings and events that he can make, no problem. We’re always here, and always will be.
– Dr. Bob, Scoutmaster (1988-2008)
[September `98 Printing]