Army cadets teach Boy Scouts how to survive in the winter


By David Gerhold, Iowa State Daily  Fire starter

On Saturday, a group of more than 200 Boy Scouts from all around central Iowa took part in a winter survival training on campus. In a variety of indoor and outdoor classes, Army ROTC cadets taught them how to build a shelter, start a fire and find water sources.

“It’s all going very well, we tried to keep them as active as possible,” said Trenton Speer, senior in interdisciplinary studies. “The more they are able to move around, the happier they are.”

Since some of the Boy Scouts have been to winter survival trainings in the past, the cadets try to get a little different take on the classes they teach, Speer said.

“Some of the Scouts last year wanted a little more in depth information on cleaning and skinning the game, so one of our cadets made a life-sized replica of an animal that we used as a dummy to demonstrate how to skin and clean game prior to using it,” Speer said.

One of the outdoor classes taught the most effective way to gather water in a winter environment when everything is frozen.

“It basically comes down to how to collect the cleanest snow possible, how to filter it as well as proper ways to boil and clean the water because in the end you have to consume it,” Speer said.

Dalton Ballard, 12, has been a Boy Scout for almost a year. He said he found some stuff very easy while other parts offered more of a challenge for him.

“It’s far too cold out here, but I think that’s kind of the point,” Ballard said. “Most fun for me was the maps and compass class where we had to find certain coordinates all by ourselves.”

Some of the Scouts already knew about the basic skills of winter survival, but that was not a bad thing at all, said Todd Eipperle, field director for the Boy Scouts.

“Redundancy doesn’t hurt, because there are always things that you may have forgotten. Maybe something new comes up that they didn’t know before.”

Eipperle said that not only do the Boy Scouts learn how to survive outside in the cold weather, but they also learn how to interact with actual soldiers from the Army ROTC.

“Part of our hope is that some of them will later say, ‘Hey, I want to do that, I want to go to Iowa State and join the ROTC,’” Eipperle said.

Boy Scout Russell Seibert, 15, said he enjoyed the hands-on approach of most classes, because they allowed him to practice what he already learned.

“I also took away some ways of teaching the younger Scouts,” Seibert said. “I observed the cadets and how they talked to them, because I want to do that myself in the future.”

Speer said that at the end of the day, a lot of information was thrown at the Boy Scouts.

“But if they learned at least one thing from each class, then they’ll have everything they need to know if — God forbid — they ever got into a survival situation like this,” Speer said.