Not every boy who joins a Boy Scout troop will earn the Eagle Scout rank; only about five percent of all Boy Scouts do so. It’s Scouting’s highest rank and one of the most familiar icons associated with Scouting.
Men who have earned the Eagle Scout badge count it among their most treasured possessions — a signifer of leadership skills. Those who missed it, remember exactly which requirement they didn’t complete.
If you ask a Scout, they’ll tell you that the award is much more than a badge on a uniform. Being an Eagle isn’t just a one-time thing, it becomes a state of being. Once you’re an Eagle, you’re always an Eagle.
In the words of the Eagle Scout Promise, you do your best each day to make your training and example, your rank and your influence count strongly for better Scouting and for better citizenship in your troop, in your community, and in your contacts with other people, to this you pledge your sacred honor — and 17-year old Vincent Schwamberger has done just that.
Schwamberger has been with the Boy Scouts for over six years, and has nearly completed the Eagle Scout process. He is a member of Troop 12.
To earn the rank of Eagle, a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills. A number of specific skills are required to advance through the ranks—Scout rank, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. To advance, a Boy Scout must pass specific tests that are organized by requirements and merit badges.
There are over 130 merit badges that a scout can earn. 21 must be earned to qualify for the Eagle Scout ranking. Of this group, 13 badges are required, including First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communications, Cooking, Environmental Science, Personal Fitness, Personal Management, Camping, and Family Life. In addition, a Scout has a choice between Emergency Preparedness and Lifesaving and a choice among Cycling, Hiking, and Swimming. These projects have to be completed prior to the Scout’s 18th birthday, or they age out of the program and miss their chance at the Eagle rank.
Part of becoming an Eagle Scout is completing an Eagle Scout Service Project. The project provides an opportunity for the Scout to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit of his community. This is the culmination of the Scout’s leadership training, and it requires a significant effort on his part. The project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts, but it cannot be performed for an individual or a business or be commercial in nature.
For Schwamberger’s Eagle Project, he negotiated with Shawnee State Forest and Shawnee State Park officials to recreate a lookout-post on Lookout Trail in Shawnee Forest, which allows visitors to a full view of Lake Roosevelt.
“The original structure was built sometime in the 1930’s,” explained Schwamberger, “In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt started the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC employed 250,000 impoverished young men between 18 and 25. They worked in Parks all across the United States, building structures, like roads, campgrounds, hiking trails, and more. Shawnee State Forest was one of the recipients of the CCC workforce, and it was likely that they built the old lookout.”
Schwamberger studied various structures and lookout posts built by the CCC as references for his post. His father, Jim, an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 22, helped him to conceptualize and carry out the design.
Unfortunately, the elements had taken hold of the lookout, rendering it weak and all that remained was the old foundation.
“The idea of the project isn’t for him to do all the work by himself,” said Troop 12 Chairman, Stephen Harvey. “The project is designed for him to demonstrate his leadership skills, he’s organized the entire thing, from working with park officials, to finding laborers, to buying the materials, it’s all on him.”
In addition to planning the project, Schwamberger had to go through the approval process.
“They can’t just come up with a plan,” explained Harvey. “They have to have approval from the Scoutmaster to do it, and then they have to have approval from me since I’m the committee chairman for the Troop. I put them through the ringer, they have to have their plan designed in such a way that they can show leadership. Once it’s approved by me, they have to go through the district for approval, then they can do their project. He started out with Plan A, which as you know, they almost never happen, and that’s part of being a leader. ‘Okay, what did you have to do when Plan A, B and C didn’t work out?’ After he gets finished, he has to do another report reflecting on instances where he showed his leadership and problem-solving skills.”
Over $1,200 has been spent on the project so far. The materials were purchased through Schwamberger’s Scout account, money raised throughout his career as a scout and scout-affiliated fundraising. He also received donations from his uncle Bill Schwamberger, the Shawnee Nature Club, and other donations from friends and family.
The project wasn’t met without difficulty, Schwamberger had to find a way to haul materials to the site — 0.9 miles uphill. Working with Shawnee State naturalist, Jenny Richards, Schwamberger arranged for ATV’s to be provided for hauling materials. In addition, Schwamberger arranged for state officials to re-cut the trail, trimming back trees, and picking up debris along the trail, making it accessible to hikers.
Other Scouts, family and friends have volunteered their time to help assemble the structure.
“Since Phil Malone and I took over the troop back in ‘94, we’ve had 44 Eagle Projects, and this is by far the largest and most extensive project we’ve seen a Scout take on,” said Harvey.
Schwamberger’s lookout will cover an 8 x 10 area, and will consist of pressure treated lumber, for lasting durability. It will also feature two attached benches for hikers to rest and take in the view.
Since working, he’s been met with enthusiasm from hikers.
“They really love it, we had a couple from Chicago up there and they said they were big supporters of Boy Scouts, we’ve had one couple from Cincinnati taking pictures of the work site with me and my dad. It’s been fun,” said Schwamberger.
He hopes to have the structure finished by Wednesday.
“The hike is short, but it’s very steep,” said Schwamberger’s mother, Debbie. “It’s a beautiful walk, when you get up there, that post is going to be so welcoming. Once they clear out the brush, so that the lake is visible, you can sit down and enjoy it.”
For more information about Lookout Trail, you can contact the Shawnee State Park office at 740-858-6652.
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