05-02-2019 Local Boy Scout troops spend weekend learning safety,  marksmanship, and respect at Colom

ON THE RANGE… Zach Kuehl, 13, watches an unidentified scout practices his sighting skills Saturday afternoon, while Chief Range Safety Officer Paul Adam of St. Joe provides guidance. (TCR photos by Kristy Noack)

Local Boy Scout troops spend weekend learning safety, marksmanship,

and respect at Coloma Rod & Gun Club

By Kristy Noack Area Boy Scout troops gathered last weekend at the Coloma Rod and Gun Club to camp out, become educated in firearms, bows, and safety, and to strengthen their relationships with their fellow scouts. Troops from Bangor, Coloma/Watervliet, Gobles, Lawrence, and St. Joe gathered together for the inaugural camp out and marksmanship event. After camping in tents on the grounds of the Club Friday evening, the youths participated in range and classroom time Saturday before a community dinner, a retired flag ceremony, and camp out in the snow. All campers dispersed Sunday morning in search of warmer temperatures at home. According to Bob Chaput, an Eagle Scout with almost 40 years of scouting experience, the goal of the weekend program was two-fold: education and safety.

SAFETY FIRST… Coloma Rod and Gun Club Range Master Charlie Kern, far right, instructs Collin Kerby, 11, and David Newman, 13, on the correct way to form and insert ear plugs prior to shooting. Kern owns Hug ‘Em and Squeeze ‘Em Firearms Training LLC and is a certified pistol, rifle, shotgun, and Concealed Pistol License instructor. Kerby and Newman are members of Troop 197 out of Lawrence.

The scouts learned about several different types of weapons as well as the different components that create the firearm. Scouts also learned they “are the main safety feature of that weapon,” Chaput said. “We teach them respect for the weapon. We teach them respect for each other.” Scouts were able to practice firing guns with live ammo as well as bows in an effort to perfect their marksmanship skills, all in the hopes of earning a merit badge. The process of earning a merit badge is not completed quickly. The scouts are given a workbook and, with additional instruction, complete exercises in the book. Then, it’s time for practical exercises taught by professionals or volunteers. Each scout receives a blue card for each merit badge they are trying to earn. Scout masters verify that all exercises are complete and, once all the requirements are met, the scout can earn the badge.

If a scout was unable to earn the badge over the weekend, they can take their blue card to any scout summer camp and complete the requirements. Kevin Needham, Assistant Scout Master of Troop 696 of Coloma/Watervliet, has plenty of scouting experience – and, for him, it’s a family affair. Needham has been involved with the troop for over 12 years and his son Cameron earned the rank of Eagle Scout last year. Needham enjoys scouting and all that it offers. “It’s more about turning things off and getting back outside,” he commented. Not only did the youngsters, who ranged in age from 11-17, spend time learning from instructors, they also spent time learning from each other. As one scout would practice his marksmanship, more were lined up watching, learning, and patiently waiting for their turn on the range. “I like to see the kids’ faces as they are having a good time,” Chaput said, as he smiled. “I want to pass [the love of scouting] on.” The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was established in 1910. According to the BSA, over 2.4 million youth participated in scouting last year. Additionally, over one million adult volunteers assisted local groups. The BSA stated over 110 million Americans have participated in the program since its inception. Zach Kuehl, 13, an eighth-grader at Watervliet Middle School and member of Troop 696, was one of the local scouts at the Rod & Gun Club last weekend. “I like [scouting] because I get to be outdoors, do activities, camp, and meet new people,” he said. In addition to the marksmanship skills Kuehl was developing, he advised he has learned “how to tie knots, build certain structures, how to shoot. We go to summer camp and Mackinac Island.” On the island, scout troops dress in their uniforms and participate in activities at Fort M