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Once a Scout, Always a Scout

November 06, 2017

Nursing professor James "Ron" Hilliard used his expertise to benefit Boy Scouts of America. This past July, he traveled to West Virginia to serve as an Assistant Chief Nursing Officer on the Medical Team at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree.

The National Scout Jamboree is a gathering of thousands of members of the Boy Scouts of America, typically held every four years and organized by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Scouts from all over the nation and world have the opportunity to attend. The first jamboree was held in 1937 in Washington, D.C. and attracted 25,000 Scouts, who camped around the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin. Hilliard attended his first Jamboree in the sixties in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

“I still have memories of that first jamboree I went to,” Hilliard said. “Scouting was a huge part of my life.”

When the opportunity came around for Hilliard to offer assistance to the 2013 National Scout Jamboree 50 years late, he decided to go for it.

“It was an amazing opportunity to get to go back for my 50-year reunion,” he said.

The jamborees are now held at The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Mount Hope, West Virginia. He had such a great time during his 2013 stay that he decided to offer his expertise again for the 2017 gathering. So what exactly was he doing there?

First off, it’s important to note that 20,000 scouts, 2,200 adult leaders and 5,300 volunteers all appear for this event. Due to the volume of people, Hilliard said they have to create the infrastructure to support any potential accidents.

“In four days we create a city,” he said. “A city needs police, a fire department, EMS, all the things it takes to support 30,000 people.”

Eight base camp medical facilities and two hospitals were added to the mix. These were staffed with nurses, physicians and technicians. Hilliard served as a transportation officer and worked every day from 5 a.m. until midnight, taking those with illnesses and injuries to get their required medical attention.

“We had 7,000 contacts for health care that week,” Hilliard said. “Most were heat injuries and fractures.”

With the 2017 theme being “Live Scouting’s Adventure, it is no surprise that fractures occurred. The jamboree is known for being high-adventure, high-risk, offering BMX, skateboarding, roller skating, rock climbing, ziplining and whitewater rafting.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Hilliard said.

President Donald Trump made an appearance at the jamboree and offered these words: “Each of these leaders will tell that you their road to American success, and you have to understand, their American success was paved with the patriotic American values and traditions they learned in the Boy Scouts. And some day, many years from now, when you look back on all of the adventures in your lives you will be able to say the same, I got my start as a Scout, just like these incredibly great people that are doing such a good job for our country. So that's going to happen. Boy Scout values are American values. And great Boy Scouts become great, great Americans.”

Hilliard encountered a 91-year-old Scout at the last jamboree. He hopes to continue experiencing these gatherings until he is the oldest Scout in attendance.