SHF Radio: Part II American Overseas Scouting

October 11, 2013

In the conclusion of my interview with Dan Coberly regarding American Scouting overseas we talk about what BSA Scouting has looked like in the War on Terrorism. Dan discusses how Scouting has popped up in Iraq and Afghanistan led by soldiers who are reaching out to the community. He also gives a neat history of the Overseas Arrowmen Association. This is Part II of my interview so if you missed the first part I invite you to listen to it in the archives or in iTunes. Feel free to contact Dan Coberly at

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In today’s radio interview with Dan, he mentioned that at some National Jamborees there were a small number of reunions held. At the 1985 NJ, I was kind of getting into collecting and documenting the issues from Black Eagle Lodge. I and a few other staff members arranged to have a note put into the 25 Jul 85 issue of the Jamboree newspaper about a Transatlantic get together to be held at the base snack bar. About 20 people showed up, and the biggest result for me was the identification of a few old Black Eagle Lodge patches that I didn’t know about and obviously didn’t have. In 1989 another reunion was held at the officers club. Again about 20 people showed up, and I saw a couple other Lodge patches that were unfamiliar. These 2 reunions were probably the root meetings for the OAA.

By Ken Kittelberger on October 11th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I was involved heavily with the Scouting effort in Iraq in 2010 through 2011, and I was Chairman of the US volunteers when we officially handed the program over to the Iraqis in 2011. By that time, the “Green Zone Council” had fizzled, and US Force Commanders in USF-I (United States Forces-Iraq) no longer lent any real support to the program. the reason behind this was leadership strategy — when General Patreus was USF-I Commander, leaders at all levels supported programs such as this as part of a robust COIN doctrine (Counter-Insurgency, Win the hearts and minds of the people, etc).

During the 2010-11 timeframe, COIN was not the prevailing doctrine, the mantra was “Retrograde” by turning over combat operations to Iraqis, and protecting US Forces and equipment withdrawing from the Country. This made a huge difference to us, because we had very little support to keep the program going, and in fact, many leaders were hostile to the concept. The biggest program, which was based in the Green Zone in Baghdad (later known as the IZ, or International Zone), was gone by 2010.

Another effort survived, however — started in 2008 to little fanfare, the “Victory Base Council” began operations. Victory Base was the area around the Baghdad Airport, which was controlled by the US, with civilian access to a public terminal on one part of the runway. By that time, the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) were based in “Area 4” near Victory Base (or BIAP). As the families of the ISOF soldiers were not safe in the outer community, they had a small community and school in Area 4 and an adjacent village called “the French Village”. Americans built a “Scout Camp” within the ISOF compound that served these children, it was literally the only entertainment that they had available to them.

To make a long story very short, the program had aver 100 (mostly US) volunteers, and served several hundred children. By 2011, however, volunteers were reduced to about 20 due to the retrograde, and we had virtually no US leadership support. To make matters worse, a tremendous storm destroyed many of the facilities in the approximately 5 Acre “Camp” in April 2011, and BIAP was regularly getting attacked during that time. Despite all of these challenges, these volunteers pulled together, with key support from the Iraqi SOF Commander, and made the program work. By June 2011, the US soldiers pulled down the US Flag from over the Camp, that had flown alongside the Iraqi Scouting flag and the flag of Iraq and the program was officially handed over to the Iraqis. I was proud to be the US Chairman for early 2011, and I turned the program over to a Scout volunteer from Fayetteville (a MAJ Little, who was deployed at the time with the 18th Airborne Corps from Bragg). There is no way that I can adequately explain the stress and difficulties that we faced to bring US involvement in the program to a successful end, we really had our energy, hearts and souls invested.

Interestingly, I found a retired gentlemen living in Florida who had the same experience in Saigon, Vietnam 1968-69…he shared with me pictures and a few stories. Unfortunately for some of his Vietnamese volunteers, they were placed in reeducation camps in 1975 for cooperating with Americans, and some did not survive…however, his facebook page shows a happy ending, as many modern Vietnamese Sap-san (scouts) are inspired by their story….

After 18 years of service in the National Guard, 4 mobilizations and 3 combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, this was by far the most significant thing that I have ever been involved with in the military. I have had the opportunity to “share the story” in a couple of scouting banquets, and share the flags, pictures and etc…and I hope to share the story again. It is the best example that I can point to in my life to show that it is indeed true what we learned in the ceremony years ago: “happiness spent in a life of cheerful service”.

Matthew L. Delk

By Matthew L. Delk on October 29th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

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