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TEN DECADES OF MAPLEWOOD "SCOUTS' HONOR" by Adrianna Donat

Troop 5 celebrates a century of service and leadership

For as long as anyone can remember, the mayor of Maplewood has attended the Eagle Court of Honor ceremony. Held by Boy Scouts of America Troop 5, it’s an annual event to congratulate the new Eagle Scouts. But it hasn’t always been that way because Troop 5 of Maplewood is older than the township. (Maplewood officially became a town in 1922.)


Troop 5’s history goes back to 1920 when the first group of nine Scouts met at the newly built Seth Boyden Elementary School. Its first Scoutmaster was Hugh Sutherland and the Boy Scouts of America organization was a mere 10 years old.


One hundred years later, Troop 5 is still meeting weekly at Seth Boyden School. Surprisingly, it’s had just 27 Scoutmasters. Its latest, Roger Brauchli, has guided the troop for the past 50 years.

Troop 5 has long been regarded as one of the finest places in the SOMA area to teach young men leadership skills. For the past century it has taken 124 11-year-old boys and created Eagle Scouts. But it has had an impact on more than just the lives of those Eagle Scouts. Thousands of Troop 5 Scouts of all ranks have found the scouting and Troop 5 experience formative, with skills honed in everything from outdoorsmanship to public speaking.


“There is a process to develop leaders,” says Brauchli, who started in Troop 5 as a Tenderfoot in 1960, worked his way to Eagle Scout, and still serves as Scoutmaster after a half century. “Usually the boys join Troop 5 at about age 11. They work in the Patrol method, where a group of boys of different ages and experience levels work together to master new skills, with older Scouts teaching younger ones.”

Roger Brauchli, with his wife Mary Chris and son Daniel, has guided Troop 5 for 50 years.

The Patrol method has a number of steps each Scout must work through. “Within a year or two, Scouts become Den Chiefs helping local Cub Scout packs,” says Brauchli. “After a year, they work to become Warrant Officers in our Troop 5 Leadership Council. The next step is getting elected as Patrol Leader. Patrol Leaders plan meetings, activities, and the monthly camping trips. And each year one Troop 5 Scout is elected and serves as Senior Patrol Leader, who works with the 50-plus members of Troop 5 and the adult leaders to plan the year.”


As you might expect, this leadership training positions Troop 5 Scouts for success in college and beyond. By the time these young men leave high school, they have six to seven years of leadership training under their belts. Says Brauchli, “They’ve been teaching one-on-one, in small groups and large groups. They teach kids younger than they are and work with adult leaders and committee members.”


Many of the teaching opportunities include community service. Troop 5 has completed countless hours serving our parks, churches, synagogues, schools, and public spaces. In fact, over the years, Troop 5’s Eagle projects tally up to more than 25,000 hours of service.


Eagle projects run the gamut. One of the earlier projects focused on publicizing and organizing a Sabin polio vaccine clinic. Recent projects include refurbishing the garden and trail at the DeHart Senior Center, soliciting donations for and repairing more than 100 used bikes for children in need, and renovating the band room, music room and photography room at Columbia High School. One of the most remarkable Eagle projects completed by an Eagle candidate took place in 1976. This Scout taught a year-long course to help 15 immigrants (including his parents) pass the naturalization test and become U.S. citizens.

Troop 5 marches in the Memorial Day parade, carrying a very large American flag.

Even when Troop 5 isn’t working on Eagle projects, they are out in the community helping. You can see them marching in the Maplewood Memorial Day Parade, carrying the enormous American flag. Troop 5 Scouts manage the ducks in the annual Duck Race, operate an iconic concession stand at the Fourth of July celebration, and unload Christmas trees for the Rotary Club sale each year. Right now, Troop 5 Scouts are busy cutting fabric for masks for first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.


Long-time Maplewood resident Jim Buchanan remembers joining Troop 5 in 1953. His father was H. Elwood “Bucky” Buchanan, Troop 5 Scoutmaster from 1952-1954. “We’d bring our handbooks to the weekly meetings,” says Buchanan, who was Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 5 when current Scoutmaster Brauchli came to the troop as an 11-year-old Tenderfoot.


Buchanan points out that the basic skills back then were similar to what Scouts learn today: “We would work on skills like knot tying, fire making, wrapping rope and dipping it in paraffin, and planning and preparing for camping trips,” he says.


But most of all, he remembers the camping trips (three a year in his day, plus summer camping at Camp Ken-Etiwa-Pec near Stillwater, New Jersey, where, he says, “[w]e slept in tents, avoided rattlesnakes, built skills on the rifle range, swam twice a day in the lake, went out in boats, and maybe went fishing despite the lack of fish.”


What does being a member of Troop 5 mean to the Scouts? Matt Girardi, 2016 Eagle Scout and Senior Patrol Leader, says it best. “As I was privileged enough to go on in Troop 5, I learned that what made that group truly impressive was a mix of extraordinary values, exceptional leadership, and deep camaraderie. From learning how to pitch a tent to cooking my meals, there were countless useful and important practical skills I picked up in Troop 5 and use to this day.”

Troop 5 goes on many hiking trips and outings including the Klondike Derby held each February at the South Mountain Reservation.

Eagle Scout Tom Kincaid says, “Troop 5 has had a huge impact on my life. I joined Troop 5 in 1977 as an 11-year-old and have been involved either actively or occasionally ever since. I met Roger Brauchli and Tom Kilkenny through Troop 5…and 43 years later they are both dear lifelong friends.” He’s passed on his love of scouting to his sons. “I earned my Eagle Scout Award in Troop 5 and have two sons who earned their Eagle Awards, and my youngest son is awaiting a Board of Review for Eagle Scout in Troop 5 which will make it even more special. I currently (well, not currently due to COVID-19) commute 35 miles each way to meetings each week which either means I’m crazy or Troop 5 means that much to me.”


Of course, reaching a milestone such as 100 years of service demands a worthy celebration. And Troop 5 has a gala in the works for the Friday after Thanksgiving, should our world be deemed safe enough to hold it. In the meantime, it is accommodating the constraints of social distancing, with Scouts meeting remotely and conducting camping trips in their separate back yards.


Brauchli is confident that Troop 5 will continue to support our towns and mold future leaders: “Troop 5 continues to evolve along with the scouting program and remains in step with our society,” he declares. People in the SOMA area look forward to future Maplewood mayors congratulating Troop 5 Eagle Scouts and thanking them for service to their community. Says Brauchli, “Here’s to the next 100 years!”


Adrianna Donat is a freelance writer who lives in Maplewood.