Rickie Allen grew up hunting and fishing with his grandfather around Asheville, N.C., but he didn’t think about trying Scouting until a friend joined a local pack. He joined, as well, experiencing the adventures and life lessons that Scouting offers.
During his 24-year Army career, Allen supported Scouting when he could, but he really jumped back in when he was stationed in South Korea. There, his son, Rickie II, saw a father and son in Scout uniforms, and said he was interested in joining. Allen quickly became an assistant Scoutmaster with his son’s new unit, Troop 81 at Camp Walker. He then served as a committee member with Troop 777 in Bel Air, Md., where he was also an active board member of the Aberdeen Proving Ground STEM in Scouting program, and in February 2017 became Scoutmaster of Troop 155 at Fort Knox.
What’s the biggest challenge in leading a troop on a military post?
One of the biggest is the rotation of military families. Unlike a traditional community where you’re together for five, six or even 10 years, in a military community you could lose Scouts at any given time. You might have a Scout in your area for two, maybe three, years max. By the time they connect with the troop, they might have a year or two with our Scouting program.
Do the losses happen throughout the year?
Yes; however, a lot of times, the service member moves on to their next duty station, and the rest of the family waits until school ends to join them, which is usually in May or June.
You lost big groups the past two summers, right?
Yes. We now have eight registered members. We have two Life Scouts, then we drop all the way down to Scout. Nevertheless, it’s a great group of lads. I have two that already volunteer with the American Red Cross, which is our chartered organization.
How do you get by without older Scouts to serve as leaders?
I use the younger ones. I told one of my Scouts, “I need you to teach these other three gentlemen how to do the square knot, and I need you to use the EDGE method.” Him being him, he also showed them what the EDGE method is: Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable. Later on at a campout, I saw them teaching some Webelos Scouts using the EDGE method.
What’s the plus side of being a troop on post?
You’ll have Scouts who have multistate and world experiences, which adds to the troop. Our troop in Korea did events with the Korean Scouts, so my son got to experience world Scouting. When we had a conversation about allowing young women into Scouting, he said, “We had that in Korea.” In fact, when he was working on the Wilderness Survival merit badge, he had some Korean Scouts with him, including a young woman who was outperforming some of the guys.
You have a heart for Scouts with disabilities. How does including them affect other Scouts?
Say a Scout can do a 10-mile hike with no problem, but then they have to help someone else out. They’re like, “I’ve got to control how fast I lead the patrol so I can keep someone else up with us. It’s not because they can’t do it; it’s just that they move at a different pace.” That causes them to be considerate in other things they do later on.
Some adults who didn’t make Eagle Scout put extra emphasis on that rank. Do you?
No. The quest for Eagle is an honorable quest, but that’s not what Scouting is. To me, the purpose of Scouting is to introduce youth to the what-ifs — what you can do — and to make you a better person. It gives you a foundation of what good is. In our troop, our goal is to get everyone to First Class, and they’ll get there.
And you’ll be confident in their skills, right?
Yes, I’m confident. I don’t believe in advancement without having at least a kernel of knowledge and being able to demonstrate what’s in the text. Having been in the military and having trained countless individuals, I know that you can study something and pass a test right now but then forget it later. A few steps in the process can bring the knowledge back if the youth had a solid understanding once before.
What do parents think of your approach?
In the military community, we have a lot of Type A personalities, a lot of parents who are officers and goal-oriented. They can be a little directive when it comes to the advancement tempo of their Scout, but I try to inform them that I’d like for the Scouts to enjoy themselves and get something out of Scouting that later on in life will benefit them and other people, and their advancement will come in due time.
Fact Sheet: Rickie Allen
Years as a Scout Volunteer: 5 years
Current City: Fort Knox, Ky.
Current Position: Scoutmaster, Troop 155
Day Job: Supply technician (contractor) with the U.S. Army Cadet Command; Sergeant First Class (ret.), U.S. Army
Most Satisfying Moment in Scouting: Each time I see the development in the youth as they gain their Scouting skills and the positive impact that it has on their lives.
Favorite Camp and Why: Camp Daniel Boone, Canton, N.C. “The location and staff were great. I remember going there as a youth and experiencing the wonders that a summer camp offers, and it is nice to see that the quality is still in place today.”