Scouting magazine

How one leader makes Scouting work overseas in the United Arab Emirates

Scott Smith started his Scouting career as a Cub Scout in Delano, Calif. He participated in Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting there before moving to Tacoma, Wash., where he became an Eagle Scout.

During a decade in the military, Smith tried to stay engaged in Scouting, but his schedule and frequent relocations made consistent service difficult. That changed when he moved to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. A friend recruited him to lead a den of second-year Webelos Scouts in Pack 36, chartered to the American Community School of Abu Dhabi (ACS). Before long, he found himself serving as pack committee chairman, the position he now holds.

What’s the size and makeup of your pack? We had 70 boys registered for our 2014-2015 year, up from 38 two years ago. A large portion of our membership is composed of ACS families — embassy staff, military personnel and expatriates working for U.S. and foreign companies. But not all are Americans. Last year, we had more than 25 countries represented, including Jordan, UAE, India, Pakistan and several western countries.

The cultural interchange must be fascinating. Yes. Last year, we kicked off our program with a Cub Scout Olympics. Each boy drew a flag of his home country, and then we had a parade of flags.

How has the pack nearly doubled in size in two years? Mostly by word of mouth. Other boys see the uniform and want to be involved. Parents talk to parents. It’s as simple as one family inviting another over for dinner on the night they have a Cub Scout meeting. That family asks what Cub Scouting is, and we have a potential new family.

What challenges do you face being so far removed from the United States? Training is rather hard for us. Apart from online training, we are starting to get some more formal training set up among the four units located here in the UAE. One of our biggest challenges has been getting awards in time to present them at pack meetings. Our nearest Scout shop is the Transatlantic Council shop in Germany. In the past, we have had to order all supplies through scoutstuff.org, but since we moved to Transatlantic Council we deal directly with them.

How many of your pack families are transient? Every year about 50 percent of our pack and leaders transition to another place, whether they move within the country or back to their home countries. Despite this, our program has consistently grown. At the beginning of each year, we gather all the parents, figure out schedules, get boys placed in dens and set meeting times. Once this is done, we look at the parents and explain that they need to become den leaders.

How do you take advantage of your location for outings? The temperature in the winter months here makes camping ideal. Other than the need for privacy, it is quite comfortable to camp without a tent. A few of the available sites are beach sites, so it is easy to keep the boys entertained and interested with a variety of activities.

What kind of growth have you seen in your Cub Scouts? When I was a den leader, one of my boys was very, very active and often had trouble focusing. I was having a difficult time getting the boys to complete the exercises for the Fitness and Athlete activity badges. I decided to have this boy lead the others in some stretching and warmup exercises, and he took to the role like he was born to be a leader.

You have a favorite volunteer, right? When I entered the dating scene again a couple years back, Scouting came with me. My fiancée, Elizabeth, whom I married in May, became my committee secretary. I thought I had an excitement for Scouting, but it’s nothing compared to hers. She wants to hurry and have kids so she can do all these activities with her boys. She says I can do Boy Scouts with them, but Cub Scouting is hers.


Fact Sheet: Scott Smith
This Scouter earns his World Crest every day when leading a Scouting unit overseas in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Years as a Scout Volunteer: 3

Current City: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Current Position: Committee chairman, Pack 36

Day Job: Aviation quality control/technical inspector, UAE military

Proudest Moment in Scouting: Becoming an Eagle Scout. “My dad was a long-haul truck driver. While he tried to always be there, it was tough for him. When I had my court of honor, he was there and pinned my medal on me. I don’t think I have ever seen him more proud of me.”

Favorite Camp and Why: Philmont Scout Ranch. “It has a special place in my heart after I attended Cub Scout training at the Philmont Training Center last year. I cherish the memories and friendships I gained there.”