Williamsburg’s First Female Boy Scouts Troop

Girls are joining Boy Scouts all over the United States, even here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Williamsburg’s First Female Boy Scouts Troop

Troop 20 carrying all of their gear for their weekend camp out.

Troop 20 carrying all of their gear for their weekend camp out.

Eric Smith

Troop 20 carrying all of their gear for their weekend camp out.

Eric Smith

Eric Smith

Troop 20 carrying all of their gear for their weekend camp out.

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In February of 2018, Boy Scouts of America, Troop 20 was founded in Williamsburg, Virginia. Eric Smith, one of the assistant scoutmasters in the troop, when asked about what it was like to start the troop, he said, “There were no systems in place. We needed to plan everything from the beginning.” The troop has been active ever since, going on camp-outs, hikes, and attending summer camp at Camp T. Brady Saunders in Maidens, Virginia.

Early morning at the Troop 20 campsite at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Fort Story Photo credits to Eric Smith

At summer camp the girls got the opportunity to earn merit badges, meet other scouts and participate in a variety of challenges. Such as canoe races and the half mile and mile swim. All the contestants that placed first in these events were girls from Troop 20. Kirsten Smith, a founding scout and Assistant Patrol Leader in Troop 20, said, “Summer camp was a great experience. I had a great time getting to interact with the other troops. The staff was friendly and willing to help you with any of your merit badge needs.”

The scouts have collectively earned over 59 merit badges and many scouts are currently working on a variety of merit badges including Automotive Maintenance and  Geocaching. With a starting group of around only 13 scouts, the group now has over 18 girls involved and is, as of now, the only girls’ troop in James City County–and one of the largest in the Tidewater area. Girls have been learning a variety of skills such as knot tying, cooking,  how to start fires and handle axes.

Scouts learning about how to construct their own hammock shelter Photo taken by Eric Smith

With such a drastic change, it would not be unexpected for a mixed-gender group to run into some outcry or criticism.  However, Mr.Smith stated, “We haven’t really received any criticism. There have been moments where we had to explain some things to some people, but overall, everyone has been accepting.”

Of course one of the recurring themes in the conversation around girls joining BSA is that there is already Girl Scouts. “They are two different organizations,” said Mr. Smith.  “Families need to find the program that best works for them. What I like about Scouts BSA is that it allows scouts to progress and learn at their own pace whatever that pace may be.”

Nearly every scout in Troop 20 has been in the Girl Scouts program at one point or another and all have found that the program doesn’t work for them. One of the most notable differences in the programs are the differences in their highest rank. In Girl Scouts the highest rank a scout could earn is called the gold rank. The gold rank requirements are that a girl recognizes and investigates a problem and then builds a team and tries and solve the problem and inspire and encourage other Girl Scouts. The highest rank in Boy Scouts is the well-known rank of Eagle Scout. A scout must complete a service project, earn 21 merit badges including some off the list of required badges, and serve in a leadership position in the troop. While it might seem insignificant to some, the different achievements carry weight with their names. Almost every girl in the troop has a brother or father that has been in Boy Scouts and they have grown up hearing about the great adventures they’ve had and want to try it themselves.

The troop has gone on many hikes while camping. This photo was taken after the group climbed to the top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Photo Courtesy of Eric Smith

Kirsten Smith is enjoying having the opportunity to be a part of Troop 20.  “It’s been great. I have been so grateful to get to know girls I would not have gotten the chance to know otherwise. Starting it [the troop] was a big shock at first because it’s a very unique program. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but it has all been worth it. It’s been a ton of fun designing our patrol flags and picking out our troop colors.” Her take on the criticism some scouts have faced for joining Boy Scouts?  “I think people are looking at the names rather than the structure of the program. Girl Scouts is structured around one leader and that’s it. That program just didn’t work for the girls in our troop.”

As for what the future holds, Troop 20 plans to be in the Williamsburg Christmas Parade and go backpacking this upcoming spring, as well as many more exciting adventures to come. The Troop is open to all girls ages 11-17 and meets on Mondays from 7:00-8:15 at King of Glory Lutheran Church on Longhill Road.