|As the world’s premier leadership institution, West Point’s mission is to train commissioned leaders of character for service to the nation. As an organization, the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) mission is also character-centric as it strives to prepare its members to make moral and ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath, values also consistent with those instilled at West Point. Thus, the historical relationship between West Point and Scouting is not surprising with many of West Point’s graduates first donning Scouting uniforms before entering the Academy. Over 110 million young people have been members of the BSA since its founding in 1910, to include a number of West Point’s most successful graduates1.|
While numerous former Scouts had always attended West Point, the Academy’s Scoutmasters’ Council was formally established in 1961 as an official club that enabled cadets to continue their participation in and association with scouting while at the Academy. At that time, nearly 50% of the Corps of Cadets were Eagle Scouts. William J. Dieal, a junior (“Cow”) in the Class of 1962, founded the club as a cadet after he had approached the Superintendent, Lieutenant General William J. Westmoreland (USMA 1936), with a group of his friends to seek authorization to conduct the 1st Annual West Point Camporee at Stillwell Lake in late April 1961. Westmoreland, who coincidentally was an Eagle Scout as well as a member of East Coast BSA Organization’s Executive Board, readily approved Cadet Dieal’s plan. That year, five Boy Scout Troops attended the initial Camporee. The next year as a senior (“Firstie”), Cadet Dieal again organized the 2nd Annual West Point Camporee in late April 1962 at Stillwell Lake. This time, fifteen Boy Scout Troops attended. The year after Cadet Dieal graduated from the Academy, the 3rd Annual West Point Camporee in April 1963 was moved to Lake Frederick where it remains to this day.
Since then, the United States Military Academy has hosted the Annual West Point Invitation Scout Camporee for members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Girl Scouts of America (GSA), and BSA Venturing Crews across the nation. Interestingly, Girl Scouts were invited to the Camporee at about the same time the Academy began admitting women. In the late 1970s, Troop 999 from New Jersey applied for invitation to the West Point Camporee, and was accepted by the Scoutmasters’ Council without knowing that the troop was a Girl Scout Troop. Since then, Girls Scouts have been invited, along with Venturing Crews, which were founded in 1998.
West Point’s Camporee has become the nation’s largest annual Scout Camporee (the BSA National Jamboree is larger but occurs every four years) and now hosts over 4,000 campers annually. With the number of campers exceeding a brigade-sized unit, the annual Camporee at Lake Frederick requires meticulous planning and execution by over 200 cadets in the Scoutmasters’ Council.
The Scoutmasters’ Council thrives as a result of its rich history and works every year to make the Annual West Point Invitation Scout Camporee better than the previous year. The club organizes itself in the same manner as a military brigade staff and consists of cadets occupying positions of leadership and administrative responsibilities to include Commander, Deputy Commander, Executive Officer, Command Sergeant Major, and primary staff functional areas (personnel administration, operations, supply, etc). During the 52nd Annual Camporee in 2013, a record 5,500 Scouts attended. The annual Camporee has evolved into a weekend-long event in which Scout Troops experience a variety of military and Scouting -based competitions and sites to include: land navigation, first aid, weapons safety and maintenance, zodiac boat race, fire building, military drill, and physical fitness. The Camporee also includes military equipment static displays, mock demonstrations of military operations such as air assault missions with helicopters, a large bonfire, and a military review parade involving the Academy leadership.
Scouting’s influence in preparing and shaping young men and women before they enter the Academy remains strong – nearly 20% of the Corps of Cadets are Eagle Scout or Gold Award (Girl Scout equivalent) recipients, and 40% have some former experience in the Scouting program2. The Academy further recognizes the importance of that relationship and continues to highly value cadet participation in Scouting with the annual presentation of the Captain Christopher B. Johnson Award to the graduating cadet who contributes the most to Scouting while at West Point. Johnson, who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq on 16 October 2004, was a member of the Class of 1998 and the Commander of Scoutmasters’ Council as a Firstie. West Point Scouting’s “founding father,” now-retired Colonel William J. Dieal Jr., continues to be an active member of the Scoutmasters’ Council. Dieal, a resident of Cinnaminson, New Jersey and member of the West Point Society of Philadelphia, frequently attends the Camporee every year and also presents another award, the William J. Dieal Memorial Award in honor of his father, to a First Class Cadet making a significant contribution to Scouting while at the Academy3. In addition to the annual awards, West Point has also held two special Camporees in honor of former cadet members of the Scoutmasters’ Council who have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 43rd Annual Camporee in 2005 memorialized Captain Johnson, while the 51st Annual Camporee memorialized Second Lieutenant David Rylander, Class of 2011, who served as the Scoutmasters’ Council Assistant Operations Officer as a Firstie and was killed in action in Afghanistan on 2 May 20124.
1 Alvin Townley. Legacy and Honor: The Values and Influence of America’s Eagle Scouts (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007), 12.
2 Current statistics taken from the United States Military Academy’s Admissions Office.
3 Interview with COL (Retired) William J. Dieal on 26 March 2012. COL Dieal provided historical background of the Scoutmasters’ Council.
4 Information for CPT Johnson can be found on the West Point.Org website at http://www.west-point.org/users/usma1998/55145/, and for 2LT Rylander at http://www.west-point.org/users/usma2011/67949/; (both accessed on 19 September 2013).