As I noted in my post Jamboree Bound, I served as a volunteer staff member at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.

The 2017 Jamboree was quite a bit different from my experience in 2013, which I dubbed the Electric Jamboree. This year’s Jamboree was actually rather dry and dusty. Rain didn’t happen until the last few days of the Jamboree. That at least helped us stay on the air, since we didn’t have to shut down for lightning storms.

Of course, one lightning storm did come to town. The U.S. President arrived and provided a speech for our Scouts and leaders. It went reasonably well, if you talk to those who were there rather than listening to the media. But it did require quite a bit of rearrangement and preparation to comply with security issues. Hats off to those staff members and leaders of the Jamboree who made everything happen on time and safely.

K2BSA Operation

Our amateur radio operation went pretty well, once the Scouts arrived. However, our set up could have been much, much better. While our sponsors delivered all their gear as early at December 2016, some vital antennas couldn’t be found. It took three days to find them in the warehouse. In addition, we had to scrounge up tables, chairs, and partitions as those were not in place either.

Even so, once things were in place we introduced nearly 2,500 Scouts to amateur radio through our demonstrations, contacted over 1,000 amateur radio stations, helped 300+ Scouts earn the Radio Merit Badge, and launched a couple of balloons with amateur radio payloads. You can find the full report at 2017 K2BSA Jamboree Report.

The big disappointment for me was that our scheduled contact with the International Space Station, after over a year of preparation, was cancelled due to the astronauts’ workload.

Our Sponsors Delivered

I noted that all our equipment was delivered well before the Jamboree, with a few additional trailer loads showing up behind staff member cars and trucks when we arrived. During setup one of our radios couldn’t be found. So Icom America shipped one overnight with hand delivery to the K2BSA tent. Then, we discovered that we didn’t request the 30 meter option for our verticals. One note to DX Engineering and it was delivered the next day. Our sponsors delivered and then delivered again to help us out. Thanks Icom America, DX Engineering, and MFJ Enterprises, our amateur radio sponsors.

Staff Experience

Our 40+ staff members for the K2BSA operation worked very hard to get the station prepared and then throughout the Jamboree introducing Scouts to amateur radio. It was a real high point for me to meet everyone in person and to see their enthusiasm and expertise at work.

I’ll note, too, that for 2017 there were plenty of buses to transport us to and from our staff camp to our workplace. The previous Jamboree required hiking everywhere. This time staff tents were assigned to just three adults instead of four. That worked nicely. I will also note that they improved the showers with a solar heating unit. That moved the water temperature from bone-chilling cold to reasonably lukewarm.

Meals were OK, with breakfast a bit repetitive (eggs and over-cooked sausage), lunch lacking protein (tiny can of tuna and lots of crackers), and dinner serving up some good brisket on happy occasions and several other options. Of course, arriving late for dinner doesn’t help with the selection.

Balloon Launch and Tracking

One fun and technical side of the Jamboree was launching two balloons with amateur radio payloads that allows us to track the balloons. Both balloons reached around 30,000 feet in altitude and starting drifting where the weather sent them. In the nearby map you can see that one has traveled to the Caribbean and now both are probably over the Atlantic outside of tracking range. We hope to pick them up again when they reach land, either Europe or Africa. You can track them at https://www.k2bsa.net/jamboree-balloon-tracking/

Recognition

It was nice during the Jamboree to receive recognition from the ARRL, the national amateur radio association, with a plaque with the following inscription:  The Roanoke Division and the West Virginia Section Salute the Dedicated Staff of K2BSA — For Advancing Amateur Radio at the Boy Scout National Jamboree, July 19-28, 2017, the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Glen Jean, West Virginia.

Volunteering

This is how I’ve chosen to do what I can to pay it forward. It combines my hobby of amateur radio and my passion for Scouting. I encourage you to include in your PathForeWord, volunteering and paying it forward for the next generation.

 

What do you think?