Coast Guard, agency partners help Boy Scouts become rescuers of tomorrow

That’s the scenario that was presented to scouts attending the Eklutna Fall Campboree near Trapper’s Creek, Alaska, Saturday. Many of the scouts were attempting to earn a search and rescue merit badge and members of the Coast Guard, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and MAT+SAR Search and Rescue K9 unit were on hand to help them along.

“The search and rescue badge was only established about a year ago, and the scouts are required to learn the basics of the incident command structure in order to earn it,” said Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitney, a watchstander in the Sector Anchorage command center who volunteers with the Boy Scouts’ Eklutna district committee. “The incident command structure is a system often employed by agencies like the Coast Guard for large events like oil spills and other national response efforts, but it’s also used by smaller response agencies for things like local search and rescue.”

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitney from Sector Anchorage instructs a group of Boy Scouts in map making during a campboree near Trapper's Creek, Alaska, Sept. 7, 2013.  Whitney, along with members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and MAT+SAR K9 team were on hand to assist the scouts with earning search and rescue merit badges during the event.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitney from Sector Anchorage instructs a group of Boy Scouts in map making during a campboree near Trapper’s Creek, Alaska, Sept. 7, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

The scouts were presented with a series of objectives where they learned skills that might be required in an actual search and rescue event. Mapmaking, first aid and the simulated transport of an injured victim were just some of the tasks facing the scouts.

“The scouts’ teamwork and listening skills were put to the test with these objectives,” said Whitney. “The stations the scouts visited were designed to teach them how to take care of themselves or others if they get into trouble in the wilderness.”

The day’s events culminated with a simulated search for a missing man near the scouts’ campsite. Playing the role of a state trooper, Brian Aho, of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, enlisted the scouts’ aid for the search effort.

“A lot of people volunteer to help when we conduct searches, but the challenge is in finding people who are trained for it,” said Aho. “Getting young people involved and teaching them these skills sets the stage for having trained searchers in the future.”

After successfully completing their search, the scouts were treated to a demonstration and received valuable advice from the MAT+SAR Search and Rescue K9 unit.

Members of the MAT+SAR search and rescue K9 unit give a presentation to boy scouts attending the Eklutna Fall Campboree near Trapper's Creek, Alaska, Sept. 7, 2013.  Members of the Coast Guard, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and MAT+SAR K9 unit attended the event to help the scouts earn their search and rescue merit badges.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

Members of the MAT+SAR search and rescue K9 unit give a presentation to boy scouts attending the Eklutna Fall Campboree near Trapper’s Creek, Alaska, Sept. 7, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

“Having members of the Coast Guard, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and the MAT+SAR K9 unit here to offer their knowledge really enhances the experience for these kids,” said Owen Stribling, a senior district executive for the Boys Scout’s Great Alaska Council. “Especially here in Alaska, the potential for someone to become lost or go missing is high so it’s very useful for the scouts to learn these skills.”

More than 100 boys attended the Eklutna Fall Campboree, and most of them attempted to earn a search and rescue merit badge. Between the skills they acquired at camp and the lessons they learned from professional emergency responders, it should be of little surprise if the next hiker or camper to go missing in the Alaskan wilderness is rescued with the aid of a Boy Scout.

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