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Success of Scout Camporee due to you, Team Keesler

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- I'm so proud of our Keesler's Airmen and civilians! 

This past weekend, we opened our gates and our hearts to the Boy Scouts of the Pine Burr Council in our inaugural Merit Badge Camporee. For the first time since 1956, scouts came back to Keesler for a camporee and I'm pleased to report to you it was a HUGE success! 

Despite a Friday night rain storm that rivaled the one confronting the bishop in the movie Caddyshack, both the Scouts and our people proved the Scout motto of "Be Prepared" is a trait shared by both Boy Scouting and the Air Force. We started the event with a Friday night arena show in Hangar 3. With 480-plus Scouts and their leaders being entertained by drill teams from Mississippi Gulf Coast high schools and our own 334th Training Squadron, the monsoon and lightning show began outside in earnest and that's where pre-planning paid off. 

We had great support from our weather shop. Mike Tischer, the Scout program director, and I decided the weather was too dangerous to allow the boys to camp outside Friday night. Once we made the call, the planning team, led by the company grade officer council, sprang in to action and transported the campers to Blake Fitness Center for a safe and dry night. 

Saturday's weather was MUCH better. The boys set out for classes in 26 different merit badges taught by Keesler Airmen and civilians (we had to cancel golf due to the rain.) I traveled around the base, personally saw most of the classes in action and can testify these were some of the best merit badge courses I've seen. 

The best part was that many were merit badges that the boys probably couldn't get any other way. Aviation, dentistry, medicine, electronics, radio, computers, fire prevention, crime prevention, architecture and engineering were among the great courses taught by you and your colleagues. The boys loved it and told me it was the best they'd ever seen ... they were "wowed"! 

Meals were provided in a team effort, too. Organizations such as the CGOC, Air Force Sergeants Association, Rising 6, and Top 3 stepped up to help. We had 150 volunteers identified before the event and approximately 300 volunteers showed up to help prepare the meals, serve them and clean up afterward. When a car accident caused our pancake batter to be lost, the Magnolia Dining Facility team stepped up with a loan of pancake mix to help out. What a great team effort! 

I can't thank everyone enough for their leadership and spirit in making this a great success, yet I want to extend a special thanks to a couple of key individuals who stood out for their leadership. First Lt. Michael Newson and 2nd Lts. Timothy Bourcet, Jeremy Dobbs and Phillip Hinson were the core leadership team. I'm proud of how they shaped their team, grew as leaders and executed their plan. 

Sam and Michelle Foster and Master Sgt. Debra Wright provided great leadership in managing the meals and forged a volunteer alliance of the base organizations to yield great meals that included pancakes, hamburgers, hot dogs, and spaghetti and meatballs. 

People from every organization on base -- active duty and Reserve -- rolled up their sleeves to help and showed the boys of Southern Mississippi what a great Air Force they have. 

I'm so proud of the entire team...you are AWESOME! Thanks for a job very well done!