AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- Boy Scouts from three troops visited the base here April 20-21 in a comprehensive tour coordinated by the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and Qatar Emiri Air Force to earn merit badges, including the Aviation Merit Badge.
According to Col. Thomas A. Bongiovi, commander of the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, hosting the multinational Boy Scout group was significant because it was a “truly collaborative effort between the Qatari Air Force and U.S. Air Force” that paved the way for future growth in community relations and international partnerships.
“This is an amazing spark that has been started and a tremendous step forward,” Bongiovi said. “It’s not very often that we have an opportunity to host large groups of civilians from all around the world. You have all these children from different countries all wearing the Boy Scout uniform and working together. They’re exhibiting and exemplifying those core principals of the Boy Scouts that, in the end, reinforce how we work together internationally.”
From aircraft and flight line displays, C-17 Globemaster III aircraft simulators, military working dog controlled aggression tactics and aircraft maintenance demonstrations — the scouts were exposed to various inner-workings of many different careers in the U.S. Air Force.
According to Karolanne Pacheco, public relations and recruitment chair for Boy Scouts of America Troop 970, the invaluable experience doubled as an opportunity to display the importance of cross-cultural communication.
“Their experience here — you can’t put a value on it,” Pacheco said. “The impact that this experience will have on these kids will last a lifetime. You have them engaging in questions and conversations. Their eyes are being opened to a whole world they didn’t know existed.
“We’re leading by example for our kids,” Pacheco continued. “We’re sending the message that we can all work together and get along — that we can and we should.”
Bongiovi stressed the importance of passing on these lessons to the scouts who are in a critical stage in their learning and growth.
“These are the young boys and girls in uniform that are going to grow up and be the future of our military services and national leadership,” Bongiovi said. “They’re learning at an early age the importance of international cooperation and partnership with people from other cultures.”
Bongiovi noted that while the visit began with the simple idea of helping the scouts earn merit badges, the tour opened the door to more community engagement.
“It really provides awareness and increases support with the local community,” Bongiovi said. “What started as an idea from the troop leader of the Boy Scouts expanded into what is the beginning of hopefully many more visits.”