Scouts back from jamboree

Posted: Sunday, August 07, 2005

During the 10 days they attended the 2005 National Scout Jamboree, nine of Juneau's Scouts saw President Bush, traded badges with Scouts from all over the world, and participated in activities ranging from shooting an air rifle to designing a lunar base.

Between July 25 and Aug. 3, they camped with 35,000 Scouts and leaders at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. This year's jamboree was the largest since 1964.

The Scouts said they had a good time although four Scout leaders from Alaska died in an electrical accident while pitching a tent beneath a power line.

"We were busy setting up our tent across the street when it happened," said Randy Greer, 14.

After the accident, the group's leader, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, made sure all the boys called home and told their parents they were safe and sound.

Jeff Hartman, whose son Chris was at the jamboree, said his wife was worried after they heard of the accident.

"We had friends and relatives calling us, asking us what happened," Hartman said. "But the kids were pretty insulated from the incident because they were not right at that tent."

Carleton Shorey, 15, said the Anchorage Scouts were able to keep in good spirits. The Juneau Scouts played soccer with them and with Scouts from Russia.

"They were having fun," Shorey said.

Boy Scouts from other states asked Juneau Scouts all kinds of interesting questions.

"They asked us if it snowed year-round in Alaska. Some asked us if we had any polar bears or penguins in Juneau," Chris Hartman, 14, said. "I don't think people know anything about Alaska."

Life at the camp was challenging.

Many of them ran an obstacle course, crawling under wires, jumping over beams and climbing over walls. Every morning, the boys woke at 6 to the scream of a bugle and prepared their own breakfast. Dinners were mostly military food packages.

They said adjusting to the extremely hot weather was the most physically challenging part of the trip.

"It was about 120 degrees every day until day four, when it cooled down to 90 and 80 degrees," said Shaun Nesheim, 14. "All the staff and personnel at the medical tent suggested we drink two liters of water between each meal. I drank about one gallon of water between each meal."

During the day, the Scouts chose their activities. Modern Scouts have more to learn than making fires.

Alex Botelho, 14, picked photography and fire safety. Nesheim, who aspires to be an aerospace engineer, took chemistry and space exploration. Chris Hartman took genealogy and chemistry.

"We learn about science, health and outdoor stuff," Hartman said.

Bruce Botelho, who has been friends with U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts for 10 years, arranged for the Juneau Scouts to meet him.

"He is very laid back and funny," Greer said.

The boys toured the Supreme Court building and walked behind the justices' bench. Roberts answered their questions, which ranged from the confirmation process to the Supreme Court's high ceiling.

"He said it was for air conditioning," Nesheim said. "The Supreme Court was the first building in D.C. that had air conditioning."

Seeing the president was the highlight of the trip, the boys said.

On the last night, Bush addressed more than 75,000 Scouts, leaders and guests of the jamboree. He was supposed to talk to the group a few days earlier but canceled the speech because of a thunderstorm warning.

The first time the president was supposed to show up, the Scouts said about 300 people had heat stroke while waiting for the president because the security agents asked people to dump the water in their water bottles. The second time, the Scouts were allowed to bring water in their water bottles.

Despite the heat, Juneau Scouts said they were excited to see the president.

Alex Botelho said he didn't like it when the president talked about USA Freedom Corps, an organization that Bush created to match volunteers with community service opportunities.

"It sounded like an advertisement, but it was still exciting to hear the president speak," said Alex Botelho.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at

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