‘It’s kind of surprising’: Boy Scouts salvage international experience after jamboree exit
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Hundreds of Boy Scouts are camped inside a middle school at Camp Humphreys for a weeklong stay after pulling out of the 25th World Scout Jamboree in a heat wave.
Cots were spread across the Humphreys Middle School gym Tuesday afternoon. Several Boy Scouts tossed a football while others played board games inside the gym.
Life Scout William Yungbluth of Milwaukee said parts of the jamboree campsite were flooded knee high and that Humphreys was a good change of scenery.
“It’s kind of surprising because I’ve only been to American military bases, and they were a lot less nicer than this,” he said Tuesday. “I’m sleeping next to my troop and we’re having a great time.”
Many of the Scouts were showing off their newly acquired troop patches and neckerchiefs. Scouts traditionally trade personal items with their counterparts from other nations and U.S. states.
Outside the gym, clothing still wet from the Scouts’ trip to a waterpark in nearby Asan city hung on clotheslines strung between metal pillars.
‘Behind the power curve’
The approximately 750 U.S. Scouts and their leaders exited the jamboree in the coastal city of Saemangeum on Sunday after three days of 90-degree heat. Many had fallen ill.
The jamboree itself broke camp early Tuesday, due to the approaching Tropical Storm Khanun, and the remaining 40,000 Scouts from 153 countries were relocated to other accommodations by South Korean authorities.
“Over time, we decided that the condition had the potential and was, we observed, eroding, and moving toward an unsafe condition,” U.S. contingent chief Brad Valdyke told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
The U.S. Scouts arrived at the jamboree Aug. 2, a day after the scheduled start of the 12-day event, according to Valdyke.
The campsite was still “behind the power curve” and lacked resources that “needed to be present on day one,” such as medical staff available at all hours of the day, Valdyke said.
The U.S. Scouts decided on Friday to leave the jamboree; the U.S. Embassy in Seoul arranged to send the Scouts to Humphreys, the largest U.S. military base overseas, until they return Friday to the U.S., Valdyke said.
Change of scenery
Eighteen buses shuttled on Sunday the Scouts 85 miles to Camp Humphreys, where they may shower at the school and their laundry is collected daily.
The Scouts kept a full schedule, taking in a South Korean baseball game, touring tech giant Samsung and visiting Starfield Coex Mall, one of Seoul’s largest malls.
Eighth Army soldiers fed the Scouts, or their meals were provided by South Korean businesses or government organizations.
The Scouts will pay a cleaning fee for their accommodations and reimburse the Army for their meals, according to Valdyke.
“The outpouring of support has been very gracious,” he said. “They have done a wonderful job of meeting our needs and our wants.”
The school gym isn’t exactly the jamboree experience but it’s an improvement over their previous campsite, according to Eagle Scout Jack Meagher of Edina, Minn.
“I like being in my tent [and] I’m used to camping like that,” Meagher told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday. “I’m not used to being in the larger group setting; but that being said, it’s a lot more air-conditioned and comfy than the tents.”
Despite the previous week’s "twists and turns," the Scouts' morale was still high as they continued their “international adventure,” Valdyke said.
“When I ask them what the best part of the jamboree is, they tell me it’s making friends, meeting people from other countries,” he said. “Some of these will be lifelong friends they meet.”