By Pat Maurer
Six Boy Scouts and three Scout leaders from Scout Troop 614 of St. Joseph, spent the night –outdoors – at the Clare Municipal Airport last Saturday.
The event, sponsored by the First Church of God in St. Joseph and hosted by the airport, was organized to help the scouts earn their “Wilderness Survival” merit badge.
The group had planned to hold the event at another location, but the weather and deep snow made them seek an alternate location.
Arrangements were made through airport manager Gary Todd and former Airport Manager Dick Acker to hold the event at the airport and surrounding wooded area.
The scouts and leader arrived from St. Joseph on Friday evening, set up a base camp with a mess tent and individual scout tents where they spent a chilly night.
Leaders were Assistant Scout Leaders Mark Acker and Tim Hutchinson and one parent Steve Breitkreuz. Scouts at the even included Senior Patrol Leader Nick Hutchinson, 14; Assistant Patrol Leader Liam Wright, 14; Hayden Augustiniac, 13; Nick Bush, 13; Jack Breitkreuz, 13; and Travis Wright,14.
After a Saturday morning breakfast and survivor review class covering safety, shelter types and construction, first aid techniques, fire starting, survival training and items needed for survival kits, leader found appropriate locations for shelters in the wooded area, scouts paired up in two-man teams, found their location and began work on their shelters, where they would spend the night.
Senior Patrol Leader Nick Hutchinson, 14, said “This is a real life challenge, but this is a really good environment and we are ready for it.”
Temperatures dropped to minus four degrees Saturday night and the scouts had only their training, the shelter they built, a ground pad and sleeping bag to protect them from the cold.
“Scout Nick Bush, 13, said Saturday night, “It is really cold, but we are learning to stay calm, think about the situation and don’t give up.”
Scout Hayden Augustiniac, 13, added, “Things are going pretty well. Other than the cold, we have good weather. We have a good place for our shelter.”
After their long, cold night, Sunday morning scouts were “debriefed” on what preparations they made, what they could have done better, and what they would do next time.
The scouts broke their camp, packed up their gear and drove back to St. Joseph, much wiser and better prepared to survive under extreme conditions if they have to.