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Troop 26 Boy Scouts help Christopher Guyer with his Eagle Scout project this week at the Europaische School in Karslruhe.

Troop 26 Boy Scouts help Christopher Guyer with his Eagle Scout project this week at the Europaische School in Karslruhe. (Courtesy to S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — If volunteer leaders don’t step forward, Boy Scout Troop 26 may soon be extinct.

The problem is not unique to Heidelberg, according to Boy Scout officials in Europe.

“We go though this a lot with the military turnover,” said Paul Beauregard, a Trans-Atlantic Council Scout executive. “There’s no one who’s here for the longer term.”

In the case of Troop 26, scoutmaster Jeff Slaker moved in April after 18 months leading the troop.

Scout father Jim Guyer, 47, stepped in to help despite his busy schedule as a physician in Mannheim. Unfortunately, the former Eagle Scout deployed stateside with the Air Force Reserve. Now, Guyer and his family are heading home to Montana.

Another volunteer, Stew Sauders, came in August, but he is also ready to rotate stateside, Guyer said.

“It’s a concern to us as parents,” Guyer said. “There’s really not anyone who’s stepped forward to take his [Sauders’] place.”

In early December, the troop ran an advertisement in the local military newspaper, seeking volunteers. By this week, no one had responded.

In a “worst-case” scenario, Troop 26 would not reapply for a charter with the Boy Scouts of America in January. The remaining Scouts would be placed into one of Heidelberg’s three other Scout troops.

“Someone just needs to step up to the plate and become the unit leader,” said Jack Gaylord, senior executive for the Barbarossa District, which covers much of Germany.

Gaylord, a retired Army major, began working with the Boy Scouts Trans-Atlantic Council in 1995. Since then, only a few troops disbanded for a lack of leaders. Often a troop folds due to military communities drawing down.

On average, Scout troops lose about one-third of their membership and volunteer leaders due to military rotation, Gaylord said.

“We live in a nomadic society,” Gaylord said. “It’s a continuing challenge to keep units viable.”

Meanwhile, Troop 26 Scouts continue to meet each Thursday at Patrick Henry Village and work on merit badges.

On Sunday, Guyer’s son, Christopher, 14, wrapped up his Eagle Scout project — creating an outdoor meeting place for students at the Europaische School in Karslruhe, the international high school the teen attends.

Storms last year damaged benches where students would often congregate. Christopher installed new benches made from recycled plastic.

A troop the size of Troop 26 — with more than 40 Scouts — requires 10 to 15 adults volunteering to support the program, Gaylord said.

At first, Gaylord looks to Scout parents, then to the community for volunteers, he said. Single soldiers who meet the criteria also could lead a troop.

“We’ve had some soldiers in the past do that and it turned out very well,” Gaylord said.

Volunteers interested in serving Heidelberg scouts can call Gaylord at DSN 489-7447 or civ. 0631-536-7447.

For other communities in Europe call the Trans-Atlantic Council at DSN 375-7087/4039 or civ. 0621 487-7087.

More information can be found at the council’s Web site: www.tac-bsa.org.


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