Tennessee Military Department Welcomes First Merit Badge University

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On April 30, “Ready Now” met “Be Prepared” when the Tennessee Military Department welcomed Boy Scouts from across the Middle Tennessee region to attend a merit badge college.

This is the first time the Tennessee Military Department has hosted an event like this at Joint Force Headquarters Nashville. More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen offered 23 different specialized merit badge classes for Scouts to choose from. Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class.

“This event has benefited both the Boy Scouts and the Tennessee National Guard,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ken Weichert, the program coordinator for this university’s merit badge. “These courses were given by guards specialized in these fields; the scouts learned from us and we learned a lot about them. It was another great opportunity for our Guard members to engage with the community.

Courses ranged from recreational activities to the merit badges required by Eagle Scout; Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes taught architecture while members of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency taught search and rescue. Some Scouts had the opportunity to tour the Capitol during the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge class, while others navigated the woods with a map and compass. Other merit badge courses offered included law, photography, journalism, personal fitness, engineering, first aid and more.

“There is a high percentage of former Scouts who say when asked that they ended up choosing a career or life hobby based on the experiences they had working on a badge. of merit,” said Lt. Col. Dallas Clements, the project manager for the event. “For me, I vividly remember being fascinated by the college radio station and several other commercial stations that we visited when I went through an MBU. I think that experience influenced my decision to join the Signal Corps branch when I was commissioned into the military.

Clements earned his Eagle Scout in 1997 with Troop 48 in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. Now two of his children are Boy Scouts, and Clements is the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 135 as well as the Assistant Scoutmaster and a Merit Badge Advisor for Troop 135.

During the courses, the Scouts learned skills in their respective fields while completing the various tasks to meet the badge requirements. Each Scout ended the day with at least one new badge, some even earned two.

For Eloy Caban, a 15-year-old Life Scout with Troop 106, he’s about to earn his Eagle Scout.

“I’m glad they offered this university with merit badge; I have never attended an event organized by the army before,” Caban said. “I took the Journalism Merit Badge course because I can use it for one of my Eagle Palms. This course helped me get a little closer to my goal.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to unfold and the summer season approaches, the Tennessee National Guard hopes to increase community outreach events like this.

“It was even more of a success than we had originally anticipated; it was a great opportunity for us to get involved in the community,” Weichert said. “We look forward to the next Merit Badge University and hope to bring even more courses and participation in the future.”

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the Central Tennessee region to attend a University of Merit Badge held in Nashville on April 30. (Photo by: Lt. Col. Darrin Haas)

Tennessee National Guard Col. Jimmy Reed and Sgt.  1st Class Ken Weichert helped lead the Scout oath at the University Merit Badge commencement ceremony held in Nashville on April 30.  (Photo by: Capt Kealy Moriarty)

Tennessee National Guard Col. Jimmy Reed and Sgt. 1st Class Ken Weichert helped lead the Scout oath at the University Merit Badge commencement ceremony held in Nashville on April 30. (Photo by: Capt Kealy Moriarty)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30.  More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts.  Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class.  (photo sent)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30. More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts. Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class. (photo sent)

Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes teaches a class on architecture during the University's merit badge course April 30.  More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts.  Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class.  (Photo by: Lieutenant Colonel Marty Malone)

Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes teaches a class on architecture during the University’s merit badge course April 30. More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts. Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class. (Photo by: Lieutenant Colonel Marty Malone)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30.  More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts.  Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class.  (Photo by: Captain Kealy Moriarty)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30. More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts. Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class. (Photo by: Captain Kealy Moriarty)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30.  More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts.  Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class.  (photo sent)

The Tennessee Military Department hosted Boy Scouts from across the central Tennessee region to attend a college merit badge on April 30. More than 50 Soldiers and Airmen donated 23 different specialty merit badge classes for Scouts. Over 400 participants registered with approximately 20 Scouts per class. (photo sent)

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