The Boy Scouts of America celebrate their 111th anniversary this week. Troop 45 of Milbank celebrates 76 years. When you think about the Boy Scouts, if the first thing that comes to mind is their annual food drive, that’s great. It’s an important event, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Are you surprised to learn at the outbreak of WWI, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was the largest uniformed body in the US? It was twice the size of the US Army, twice the size of the Army National Guard, four times the size of the US Navy, and 11 times the size of the US Marine Corps.
After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Boy Scouts set up first aid stations, emergency kitchens, helped evacuate civilians, served as messengers, and manned 58 air raid sirens around Honolulu. Shortly after that, in May 1944, Milbank formed its local troop — Troop 45.
Troop 45 currently has 13 members. The scouts meet each Monday night to learn new skills, design projects, work on projects, and make plans for their monthly outing. They also prepare for their week-long summer camping adventures. Last year, the troop attended a camp in Nebraska.
Jeff Loutsch, scoutmaster for Troop 45, reports four scouts (with a fifth getting close) are now at the Life rank, which is one step below Eagle Scout. Eagle Scout is the highest achievement for a scout in BSA and only four percent of scouts have earned this honor. Loutsch says, “To become an Eagle, a scout must earn 21 merit badges —13 are specific and eight are selected by the scout.”
Today, there are around 137 choices of merit badges in contrast to 57 when BSA began in 1910. Options include everything from canoeing, camping, and kayaking to moviemaking, metalworking, reptiles and robotics. If it’s a constructive activity and boys like to do it, the Boy Scouts encourage it.
During BSA’s initial year, a total of 85 merit badges were earned. In 2019, over 62,000 first aid patches alone were awarded. First aid takes first place as the top badge presented perennially, partially because it remains a requirement. The swimming badge is next with 59,000 earned in 2019. Of the badges not required, the fingerprinting badge is the most popular. Around 36,500 scouts receive it each year. Rifle shooting attracts about 34,000 and archery 32,000. Far from the most popular, but growing in demand, is the American business patch. Interest in it increased by 166 percent in 2019. The backpacking patch experienced a similar surge at 78 percent. The dentistry patch lost favor with the most scouts in 2019. Demand for it fell by 22 percent.
Twelve of the original 57 merit badges were designed by beloved American artist Norman Rockwell. Merit badge trading, which grew to be a hobby amongst scouts, has recently attracted collectors. A search on eBay resulted in an array of single badges listed from $200 to $600 and several commanding between $1500 and $3000. Perhaps the badges retain and gain in value because of the difficulty involved in originally acquiring one. To earn an invention merit badge between 1911 and 1918, a scout needed to file and receive a patent.
“To reach the rank of Eagle Scout, Loutsch says, a scout must not only accumulate his minimum of 21 badges, but he must also complete a community project. Eagle Scout projects allow the candidate to showcase the leadership they have developed through scouting. An Eagle Scout project is not about community service, although sometimes that’s a bonus; it’s something that benefits the community. The scout must prove his merit to his leaders, local committee, and the Eagle Board of Review committee.”
When a Milbank scout earns the rank of Eagle, he not only improves our community, he joins famous Americans who also earned the title of Eagle Scout. Sam Walton became an Eagle Scout at age 13; Ross Perot at age 13; and President Gerald Ford at age 14.
President Ford is the only Eagle Scout to serve as President of the United States. JFK was the first Boy Scout of America to be elected to the office of President. In honor of the upcoming Presidents Day, we have reproduced the letter 12-year-old JFK wrote to his father requesting an increase in his allowance to finance more Boy Scouts supplies:
The Boy Scouts have also participated in the inauguration of every US President since Woodrow Wilson’s in 1913. During Eisenhower’s, a dozen Explorers and three Boy Scouts served as aides to the President on the reviewing stand. During Nixon’s, five Eagle Scouts served as ushers and were posted on the VIP reviewing stand across from the President’s.
The coldest inauguration on record forced Reagan to take his oath inside. He invited two Boy Scouts into the rotunda of the US Capitol to witness his ceremony. Bill Clinton asked a Boy Scout to lead the Pledge of Allegiance during his event. This year, at Biden’s inauguration, the Boys Scouts were not invited to appear in person. A troop from Germantown was contacted to create a virtual presentation of a parade.
Loutsch says, “Troop 45 scouts have been selected to throw out the first pitch at a Canaries game, been awarded scholarships, and selected for national trips. Later in life, they are usually a shoe-in for a job when they can list Boy Scout or Eagle Scout on their resume. Several of our Eagle Scouts have joined the military and it can mean an automatic rank advancement…or two.”
Yes. Scouting opens doors! And every Boy Scout probably dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout, but it is a rare scout that completes the task. However, for millions of Boy Scouts, the camaraderie, the skills, the leadership training, and the support received from scoutmasters, parents, and the community also adds up to valuable opportunities.
The Boy Scouts of America program has fueled the achievements of thousands of American leaders. Neil Armstrong, astronaut and the first man to walk on the moon, was a former Boy Scout. In fact, of the 12 men who would eventually walk on the moon, 11 were former Boy Scouts. Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron were scouts. Jimmy Buffet and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons were scouts. Harrison Ford, Chris Pratt, Jay Leno — all scouts.
Walter Cronkite said he learned about news reporters around the world in the Scout’s official magazine Boys Life, and it prompted his journey to becoming the anchor of the CBS Nightly News for over 20 years. Mike Rowe probably learned everything he needed to know for his show, Dirty Jobs, as a Boy Scout. (Although, it might go against one of the 12 Boy Scout Principles —a Boy Scout is clean.) And you can find a myriad of other examples.
But, getting back to the tip of the iceberg mentioned earlier. What if Admiral Byrd had not chosen Sea Scout Paul Siple from over 600,000 enrolled Boy Scouts to accompany him on his first Antarctic expedition? Siple, who went on to be the only other person to participate in all five of Byrd’s Antarctic expeditions, also wrote several books about his experiences. And most important of all, he coined the term wind chill and calculated it’s original formula. South Dakotans would have a lot harder time monitoring their winter weather without Boy Scout Paul Siple
Troop 45 is chartered by the American Lutheran Church and supported in part by the Grant County Combined Appeal. These 13 young men make up the current roster:
James Conrad- Senior Patrol Leader
Zachariah Ringsaker- Assistant Senior Patrol Leader
Avery VanOverbeke- Quartermaster
Gabriel Beckman- Dragon Patrol Leader
Jesus Rethke- Assistant Dragon Patrol Leader
Landon Novy- Eagle Patrol Leader
Braydon Bauer- Assistant Eagle Patrol Leader
Noah Falk- Chaplain Aid
Asher Young- Troop Historian
Sebastion Vogel- Scribe
Their leaders include:Jeff Loutsch, Scoutmaster
Assistant Scoutmasters: Jeff Conrad, Andrew Falk, Wade Falk, Elijah Fraasch, Wayde Fraasch, Christopher Loutsch, Nathan Loutsch, Christopher Mobley, Chad Novy, Ben Shelstad
Greg Grajczyk, Committee Chairman
Kirk Baldwin, Committee Treasurer
Dewey Athey, Committee Member
Marie Loutsch, Advancement Chair/Popcorn Kernel
Gary Wellnitz, Executive Officer
Justin Neugebauer, Charter Rep. American Lutheran Church
If your son is interested in joining them, call or text Jeff Loutsch at 605.949.1354. Troop 45 welcomes new membership year round. Young men from age 11 to 18 are welcome to visit the troop at one of their regular Monday night meetings or join them on a monthly outing..
Troop 45 has produced over 60 Eagle Scouts and evidence of their ingenuity and hard work is on display around Milbank. A quick drive in the area nets this list of projects and Loutsch says there are many more:
1. Landscaping planted around Milbank’s historic windmill 2. Landscaping planted around the Lake Farley Sign 3. Two flagpoles erected, sidewalk put in leading to the flagpoles, and landscaping added at Pribyl Park. 4. Wood duck houses placed on Flynn Trail and in other strategic spots 5. A GaGa ball pit created at the elementary school 6. The Welcome to Milbank sign installed on south Highway 15 7. The landscaping developed around the Milbank Visitor Center sign 8. Split rail fencing put in on Flynn Trail 9. The memorial stone path constructed and sculptures and statues cleaned and mounted at the Catholic Cemetery 10. Work on the tree restoration project at the Indian Church 11. Picnic tables added to the grounds where the threshing bee takes place 12. A retaining wall built and landscaping established outside the high school library
Pictures: *Summer Camp *Troop 45 takes care of 2 1/2 miles of cleaning road ditches along SD State HWY 12 *Working on Truck Transportation Merit Badge *Some of the boys choose to go on a Halloween “Scare” Event- they didn’t know where they were going- leaders drove them to a Haunted house and walk through event *Alex Farrell’s Eagle Scout Project- GaGa Ball Pit at Koch Elementary. Troop enjoying a game of GaGa Ball after building it *Cross over ceremony at Camp Iyataka during Spring Rendezvous *Part of troop 45 working on Animation Merit Badge *Troop after winning the Klondike competition at Camp Iyataka (on Big Stone Lake) *This year’s district bowling tournament- they took first place * Elijah Fraasch’s Eagle Scout Project. This is located outside High School Library- a retaining wall with landscaping