Pickerington Times-Sun

Pickerington scouts attend West Point Camporee

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Alex Hertl, a member of Pickerington Boy Scout Troop 256, pulls himself across a one-rope bridge after tying a Swiss seat harness during the scouts trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Members of Pickerington's Boy Scout Troop 256 last month were among a select group invited to train with and observe activities of cadets at the United States Military Academy.

April 26-28, 33 Troop 256 members and 15 troop leaders traveled to West Point, N.Y., for the 51st West Point Camporee, an annual in- vitation camping event organized by the U.S. Military Academy.

It was the troop's first visit to the camporee, and the group was invited after applying to be included in the event.

"It's the largest annual camporee in the country," said Tom DeGeeter, assistant scout master of Boy Scout Troop 256 and coordinator of the trip to West Point.

"You apply to get, and about 25-35 percent of the units that apply get into it.

"This was our first trip. There were about 5,200 total scouts and leaders that attended this year, and this particular camporee also was open to Girl Scouts and Venturing Crew."

After caravanning approximately 10 hours to West Point, Troop 256 arrived and toured the West Point Museum, where members learned about the U.S. military and military history.

They also took three-mile hike up Bull Hill.

"All the scouts were able to get to the top of Bull Hill," DeGeeter said.

"It was a pretty rigorous hike and that earned them an extra pin."

Throughout their stay, scouts camped in tents. They also both observed and participated in cadet fitness and tactical exercises, some of which began at 6 a.m.

"They had these stations where we had to do military drills, tactical exercises and trust activities," said Connor Thompson, a 13-year-old Troop 256 member and son of Brent and Bethany Thompson.

"What was interesting was the tactical course they had us go through," he said.

"We had to rescue this person that was being held hostage. We had to do what (the cadets) said, and it was pretty cool."

DeGeeter said another component of the tactical challenge required scouts to work together to scale a "ranger wall" and they were taught how to camouflage themselves using natural elements.

"The whole camporee was about developing leadership and teamwork," DeGeeter said.

"During the tactical challenge, they had to get down on the ground and crawl through the mud, stuff like that."

Scouts also got to view a cadet exercise involving a Lakota helicopter and Humvee, and there was a ceremony to remember a 2011 West Point graduate recently killed in action in Afghanistan.

The activities concluded April 27 with a party for camporee attendees.

"On Saturday there was a 'thank you' party and they had a huge bonfire," Thompson said.

"The cadets were really nice and they were very helpful.

"It was a really long drive, but it was really fun."