“On my honor, I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Dozens of Howard County Scouts recited the Boy Scout oath together Dec. 14, a century after the county’s first troop learned those same words. County Scouting veterans say the oath, and the values it embodies, stick with you for a lifetime.
Kent Logan and his brother, Bruce, were the first in Howard County to earn the rank of Eagle Scout when they advanced in 1962, and Kent Logan said he can still recite the Boy Scout oath by heart.
“The values of being honest and truthful and helping people were values that I just absorbed, I think, from being a Boy Scout,” Kent Logan said. “ It’s such a part of me that I don’t think about it, because the values that I took from it are just part of who I am.”
Since organizing in the county in 1917, Scouting has given hundreds of boys the chance to not only participate in camping, hiking and other adventures, but to give back to their community. The county is now home to 19 Scout Troops or Packs, including Troop 361, which is not only the oldest Troop in the county, but is also celebrating its 80th anniversary as an organization this year.
Since its founding in 1938, Troop 361 has welcomed hundreds of Scouts and seen 167 boys earn Eagle Scout rank. The Troop has been chartered by the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County for its entire history.
The Troop saw a changing of the guard this month, as Gary McNeil stepped down as Scoutmaster, the adult leader, after more than seven years at the helm. McNeil passed the torch to Kirk Leaning, who is the Troop’s 24th Scoutmaster.
McNeil was successful in helping to grow the Troop over the last several years. When he took over as Scoutmaster, McNeil said the Troop had approximately 50 Scouts; today it has around 100.
On Thursday, Troop 361 celebrated both its own anniversary and the anniversary of Scouting in the county by granting dozens of Scouts merit badges and rank advancements at a court of honor at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County.
Kent Logan, who with his brother was a member of Troop 361, said what Scouting can provide to members — such as leadership skills, teamwork, outdoors experience and community service — is what has kept the organization alive for so long, even as more youth activities crop up competing for kids’ time.
“There was a sense of you are responsible for who you are,” Kent Logan said. “The other issue there is teamwork. People need to work together. You go out into the adult world and you’re evaluated as much on your ability to work with others as much as anything else. There was freedom and responsibility that came together for me during those years.”
Kent and Bruce Logan first joined Scouting in 1959, when Kent was 11 and Bruce was 13. Both their parents were also involved in Scouting; their mother, Faith, was a Den mother when the two were Cub Scouts; and their father, Rex, went on to be Scoutmaster.
While many of their peers gradually drifted away from Scouting, the two brothers completed the requirements to earn Eagle Scout, including an in-depth, service-oriented Eagle Scout project. Less than 4 percent of Scouts will go on to become Eagle Scouts.
“I certainly am proud to say I was an Eagle Scout, not that many people can say that,” Bruce Logan said. “And it reflects a certain commitment, a ‘stick-to-itness,’ a willingness to see things through.”
That willingness is still seen in the Eagle Scouts that continue to emerge out of Troop 361. Connor McNeil, 17, earned his Eagle Scout rank this fall, and said the accomplishment was “bittersweet” as it marked the end of his time as a Scout. A third-generation Eagle Scout, Connor built 15 jazz stands for the Centennial High School jazz band as his Eagle project.
Connor said a life spent in Scouting has given him the “opportunity to do things other people don’t get the chance to do,” with its exposure to extensive time outdoors hiking and camping.
Today, the Boy Scouts of America is evolving to become a more inclusive, diverse community. In 2013, the organization ended its ban on openly gay scouts, and in 2015 ended its policy against openly gay adult leaders. Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts made history when it announced that in 2018 it will begin admitting Scouts of all genders, opening the door to female and transgender members.
The changes mark the beginning of a new era for Scouting, changes which members from Kent Logan to Gary McNeil say they applaud.
“I was thrilled that Boy Scouts accepted gay leadership and accepted transgender folks. That’s a very important social issue for me,” Kent Logan said. “When my girls were Scouting age, they were not interested in Girl Scouts, it wasn’t outdoors enough for them. So I think that’s an important step to accept girls.”
A century after the first boys in the county took their oath and pledged to serve their community as Scouts, the dozens of boys standing together last week proved to McNeil the longevity of Scouting.
“There was another Troop going back 100 years; [I’m] not sure even it had a number back then. And then 80 years ago we became 361. It’s really an incredible thing,” McNeil said. “We are the longest-serving Troop in the Baltimore Area Council. And to still see the vigor that our Troop has even today is remarkable.”