Thursday, December 13, 2012

One more reason to hit the trail

A recently published study finds that time in the outdoors boosts creativity.
"When you get away from that hustle and bustle and out in nature, where it is soft and fascinating, your brain can replenish, become sharper and focus on thinking."
- Study author David Strayer

"Some people say children have a right to be connected to the Internet, but what about the right to be disconnected from all technology?...We need that affiliation, that connection with nature. Without it, we do not remain fully human."
- Outdoors advocate Richard Louv
Maybe having empirical evidence touting the benefits of being outside will help put the kibosh on Wednesday "Scout Classes" (or worse, an exclusive program of "Duty-to-Spalding" nights) in favor of a more hands-on approach.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I asked my Stake Young Men President to pass the following message to the Stake Presidency:

I will sponsor one person - any ward, any position (bishopric, PrimPres, cubs, committee, ymp, ywp) - to attend Wood Badge in 2013, provided one member of the Stake Presidency also attends in 2013. I also believe  that I will not have to pay up. Please prove me wrong.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to list my golf clubs for sale.

Update, 12/10 - Two Caveats:
(a) Register by June 2013
(b) Both complete the course

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The meaning of trained

“…adult leaders are considered trained when they complete the following training:
  • Youth Protection
  • Leader Position-Specific training
  • Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills”
(LDS Scouting Handbook, 2012 ¶2.0)

What does that mean exactly, “considered trained?”

Does it mean “We have got [training] and there cannot be any more [training]?” Does completing those three items mean to say that you have all the information, skills, background and experience that you will ever need, or does it connote a basic level of education and competence to start being effective?

In 2001, I attended USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training at the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. I washed out of training early on, and did not receive my wings; I became an intelligence analyst instead of a pilot. However, my class-mates and friends who did complete the training went on to become Air Force (and Navy/USMC) pilots, and all served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they didn't serve combat tours before completing graduate flight training, too. Earning your wings does not mean you are qualified to fly operational combat missions. Completing UPT means that you have satisfactorily demonstrated the level of competence necessary to safely operate an aircraft, and bring it and yourself home safely, and that you can be trusted to move to the next level. Yes, you’re a pilot, but there’s still much, much more to do before you’re a useful asset. There’s type-rating (F-16, C-17, UH-60), mission qualifications and myriad other tactics, techniques and procedures to master. A pilot’s training is never “complete,” it’s every day.

You have to master the basics first, but you can't stay there, either.  Above, a US Navy T-45 Goshawk rests in the early-morning sunlight next to its big brother, a F/A-18C Hornet at the MacDill AFB 2004 AirFest.  The T-45 is an advanced trainer, used for learning the basics of air combat and aircraft carrier operations.  The USAF uses the T-38C Talon for much the same job, minus the carrier quals. Both the T-38 and T-45 have prerequisites; the T-6A Texan II, or in my case, the now-retired T-37 Tweet (so named for its screeching engines), used for teaching basic aircraft handling and flight procedures (and guess what? they're both called Primary trainers). Image © Eric J. Larson.

To put it another way, my cousin’s husband is a professional Muy Thai fighter and instructor. They were visiting us a while back while he was preparing for a fight, and the conversation turned to my oldest, who was wrapping up his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He explained that the years of learning and progressing through the colored belt system to the first Dan black belt (there are eight Dans, or degrees), is simply the necessary preparation for when the real training begins. That black belt is not the end, but the beginning of being dangerous.

In short, it is all called basic training for a reason.

So, while completing the three modules listed above will earn you a “Trained” ribbon, they’re just the first step. There is so much more to learn, from Roundtable discussions and presentations, to University of Scouting seminars, to Wood Badge, and a host of other opportunities both within and outside of Scouting, to build your own arsenal of tactics, techniques and procedures. But a trained ribbon is just like newly-pinned wings, or a freshly tied black belt – the beginning of being effective.

Make it your New-Year's resolution to be trained beyond the minimum standard.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, December 3, 2012

By Assignment

“The bishopric calls several capable adults (including fathers and mothers of boys and young men) to serve as committee members.” (LDS Scouting Handbook, 2012 ¶4.3, emphasis added)

“Several capable adults.” Not a Chair over a committee of one. Not the Young Men Presidency. Certainly not the adult Scout leaders themselves.

When you sign up your kid for little league, isn’t it expected that you, the parent, will take on some active role in the experience – fill-in (or assistant or even full-time) coach, transportation coordinator, snack-master…? But then, he turns 11 or 12 and in the Mormon Church is “assigned” to his Scout troop. What, then is expected of your parental participation, other than making sure he makes it the 2 blocks (or 12 miles) for his AIS time (Arse in seat)? It sometimes seems like the only expectation made of parents is to ensure the kid gets out the door each Wednesday, regardless of what may or may not be planned. It may be raucous jungle-ball, again, but hey, at least he’s at the church house, right? Yep, at least he’s in the right place while getting nothing of value…

The priesthood operates by assignment. Let me ‘splain. Several years ago, a member of my Stake Presidency led an EQ discussion about volunteering vs. assignments. He pointed out, rightly, that no one ever signs up for those “we need a coupla volunteers” sheets that get passed around each week (or if they do, it’s the same three guys every time).* This, to fill the stake temple or cannery assignments.  The solution was obviously to make a direct assignment of quorum members – in effect, invite them, by name, to help with the work that needed doing, just like cleaning the building each week. Under the stake’s direction, we re-established the three Priesthood committees with specific “mission-oriented” responsibilities. (Of course, our EQP was fairly efficient at giving assignments, we were all AF officers.)

Scouting, like it or not, is your son’s – by assignment – Church activity program. Parents should know as much – if not more – about the man-molding program which the Church endorses and which their sons participate in, as they do about the soccer schedule.

Every parent of every Scout, Cub or otherwise, should automatically be assigned to their son’s (sons’) respective Scouting committee (excepting those who are already called into Scouting positions), with responsibilities as directed by the Chair, and irrespective of other callings. It’s not a calling, it’s an assignment. Training is simple, YPT and Committee Challenge, and minimal materials need be purchased, as the Guide to Advancement is a downloadable PDF. At the very least, this would provide a corpus of “several capable adults” who understand how to administer a Board of Review.  Parents would learn what Scouting is supposed to be accomplishing in their sons’ lives, and they'd be in a better position to wave a big “BS” flag when things are amiss.  Parents and Scout leaders would be true partners.

This is just the most basic of outlines. To make it work, there needs to be a willingness to get over our inhibitions and reluctance to ask parents to take an active role in the programs their sons are assigned to. Many hands make light work.

*Because either (a) Nobody is ever Somebody, or (b) Somebody is always Someone Else. Try this experiment: go home and ask Somebody to set the table for dinner and watch nothing happen. Then assign Bobby to do it, and after he complains that "it's not my job" and you explain it's his assignment for the night, watch it get done. Assign washing the dishes to Bobby's brother or sister.

Prepared. | For Life.™