Boy Scouts gather at Torii Station for Camp Dragon
TORII STATION, Okinawa – Arrows and hatchets whizzed through the air as dozens of scouts converged on a sub-tropical beach in the East China Sea for a gathering known as Camp Dragon April 6-12. While the scene may sound reminiscent of a Viking raid or a primitive military operation, the roving band of adventurers and outdoorsmen were mostly cheerful young men earning new merit badges, making new friends and having a good time.
For the third year in a row, the Far East Council of the Boy Scouts of America held its spring council camp at the home of the U.S. Army on Okinawa – Torii Station. More than 90 scouts from South Korea, Sasebo and Okinawa sojourned at Torii Beach for six days of outdoor activities including aquatics, marksmanship, archery, crafts and more.
The event is considered a long-term camp experience that is a requirement for the camping merit badge and qualifies participating Scouts for the Order of the Arrow – a national honor society. But the true aim of the powwow isn’t badges or qualifications; it’s simply fun and camaraderie.
“Number one, I hope they have a whole lot of fun while they’re out here,” said, Program Director, David Ingebretsen. “At the same time, learning some Scout skills and getting to know some of the Scouts that they haven’t met before and have a good experience interacting with other Scouts,” he said.
For Ingebretsen, a former Marine, scouting is a path to help develop young men into responsible adults by providing leadership opportunities through outdoor programs like Camp Dragon.
“Scouting is a great program for youth development because we have a structured program. We have adult mentors, leaders and youth [who become leaders]. We teach them a little bit about their country, about being a responsible adult and some outdoor skills, such as cooking and setting up tents and things like that. It helps prepare them to go on to become good citizens later on in life,” said Ingebretsen.
The Far East Council, Boy Scouts of America serves more than 2,500 youth members and its mission is to provide leadership opportunities through quality programs, mentoring and ongoing development through outdoor experiences, according to its website. One of those volunteers, Airman 1st Class Scott Fremming of Kadena Air Force Base’s 18th Wing, sees Camp Dragon as a chance to give back to a new generation of Scouts who, like himself, seek to serve the greater good.
“I remember the volunteers and everything that had to go into summer camps that I went to so I wanted to take a chance to come out here and volunteer and give back to scouting,” said Fremming, for whom Scouting is a Family tradition. “I made Eagle Scout. My father’s an Eagle Scout, my brother’s an Eagle Scout … so it’s a big tradition in the Family,” he said.
Fremming said he believes that Scouting is a great chance to immerse young people in a positive environment and teach them lessons that they can take with them for the rest of their lives along with giving them a sense of purpose and service.
“I think early on scouting gave me a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself,” said Fremming. “It taught me to think more for the group and not in a selfish way. I enjoy being part of a group being able to help on a large scale. Scouting was a great way to do that when I was younger and I feel that being in the military is a great way to do that now,” he said.
For the younger Scouts, the purpose is a little more obtuse but understandable never-the-less.
“If the world lost power and there was a giant world-wide blackout, almost every single child would go weepy willy, gnashing their teeth, completely freaking out,” said 13-year-old Landon Moroni Dummar, who remains unworried by such a predicament. “Being in Scouts would certainly help to build a fire and a shelter,” he said.
As younger generations rely more and more on technology for everything from entertainment to education, the Scouts here are garnering real-life skills and experiences that will serve them well in the future.
“A lot of kids forget what it’s like to be outside on a continuous basis, precisely because of technology,” said Ingebretsen. “It’s a great enabler, technology, but it’s also got some curses associated with it. One of those is that it tends to keep us indoors and keeps us focused on a screen instead of being outside enjoying the outdoors – enjoying one another. Just being outdoors is a great experience and a lot of kids aren’t getting that … and these kids are.”
Though most Scouts don’t get the opportunity to camp on a tropical beach during their spring break campouts, the Far East Council knows they’re lucky to be able to continue to use Torii Beach for Camp Dragon.
“The Army is totally behind us here,” said Ingebretsen. “I have to give a shout out to garrison. They’ve really bent over backwards to help us be here this week. We got some tentage and other support this week, so they’ve really enabled us to have this camp,” he said.