Influencing three generations of Scouts and Scouters, Troop 285 has excelled for nearly six decades at the art of creating lasting Scouting memories, including a great celebration of the B.S.A. Centennial in 2010. Troop 285 has changed outwardly to meet the changing demands of each generation, but has remained rock-solid in adherence to the tenets of the basic Scouting Program. It is flexible with the times but is “executed with dedication, vision and bodacious enthusiasm…still following the inherent basic guidelines as prescribed in the Boy Scout Handbook”, says Bill McCalister, the Scoutmaster since 1977.
Troop 285 was born in 1954, the same year the United States Air Force Academy was created, RCA introduced the first color television, “Sports Illustrated” began publication, M&M candies introduced their M&M’s with peanuts, and Shakey’s built their first pizza parlor. The troop has evolved from a few boys meeting in the dairy barn of Vivian Jones near the corner of Bitters Road and Jones-Maltsberger to an average of 70 scouts and 55 adults conducting troop meetings and related scout activities in the upscale McCalister Scout Lodge on the campus of the troop sponsor, Coker United Methodist Church.
With society and technology changing in unprecedented manner, Scouts now have nylon tents with floors and mosquito netting weighing less than five pounds; Global Positioning Systems (GPS) supplementing and even replacing the reliable compass for navigation; dehydrated and freeze-dried foods permitting chocolate cakes, pizza, and much more on extended backpacking expeditions; and lightweight synthetic clothing wicking away moisture from sweaty bodies while hiking. And yet, the steadfast Scout Values embodied in the Scout Oath and Scout Law remain unchanged and shine like a beacon in the night to guide our Scouts into manhood amidst the challenges of the 21st Century. Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent : the bedrock tenets of the Scout Law are clearly demonstrated through the dedicated adults providing a moral compass to our maturing Scouts on their way to becoming responsible leaders in our society.
Outdoor basics continue to be emphasized through camping and Scout skill activities. A typical summer features Summer Camp sessions at Lost Pines Scout Reservation near Bastrop, Texas and at Camp Wehinahpay near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The “Crown Jewel” of the troop program is its commitment to and focus on High Adventure activities. High Adventure expeditions include rugged backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico, canoeing in the boreal forest region near Bissett, Manitoba, and sailing to the Bahamas from the B.S.A. Seabase near Islamorada, Florida. More challenging backpacking includes expeditions in Alaska / Yukon, the Bob Marshall Wilderness in northern Montana, and the Weminuche Wilderness near Durango, Colorado.
International expeditions have included trips to New Zealand and Switzerland. It is not unusual for a Troop 285 Scout to visit several states and even foreign countries during his tenure in the troop.
The troop maintains high standards for advancement. Many merit badges are taught in-house by professionals in the particular fields and without compromise on standards.
Learning and practicing leadership skills are vital to the Scouts. Basic leadership instruction, based upon Fortune 500 corporate models and the B.S.A. models, are conducted twice annually for those Scouts seeking leadership roles. Scouts must apply for leadership positions with a written application and are mentored and evaluated on their performance over a six-month term.
What do the Scouts remember? Most of the time, the memories change as they age. While in the troop, they remember the physical challenges of the winter Pike Davis campout and the activities and cooking contests on the static campouts. Scouts in the Staff have memories of Mr. Mac cooking grits, grits, and more grits, all accompanied by grilled pork steaks, sausages, scrambled eggs and beignets for breakfast. And, there often are pastas, grilled salmon, hearty salads, and lavish desserts for supper. The bodacious Fish Fry at Goose Island and the stiff competition at the Bear Creek Challenge always come to mind, as does Master Storyteller, ASM Dave Kibler, relating another spellbinding Tale of Old-Time Texas from J. Frank Dobie around the warm glow of the evening campfires. They remember cycling, canoeing, and hiking through tiredness and sore muscles. They recall selling gourmet coffee, lawn fertilizer, and popcorn to finance their Summer Camp and High Adventure expeditions.
After graduation from college, the memories center on friendships, adult role models, and knowing how to persevere in life. All of this is made possible by leadership with vision and role models with strong moral convictions generously given to the Scouts.
The Troop has celebrated the Courts of Honor for over 200 Eagle Scouts