Boy Scouts converge on fairgrounds to earn new merit badge

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Forget merit badges in basketry and bugling, today’s Boy Scouts are looking for more adventure and excited about the group’s new award in search-and-rescue techniques.

Nearly 400 members of Boy Scouts of America from across Southwestern Pennsylvania converged this weekend for a camporee at Washington County Fairgrounds to earn what is becoming an extremely popular merit badge in search and rescue.

“It’s awesome. We have guys from all over the area to help support us,” said David Diesel, a district scouting activities chairman from South Franklin Township.

The boys set up camp Friday at the fairgrounds off North Main Street in Chartiers Township to undergo three days of training in the division, after having already completing three hours of study and testing online through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The first night’s activities involved training in how searches are carried out with thermal imaging, much like how investigators confirmed the hiding place of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was taken alive after ducking into a dry-docked boat during the manhunt last month.

On Saturday, the Scouts rotated through seven stations where they learned such skills as mapping out a search area, using amateur radio communications when cellphone service is down and properly placing an “injured” person into a Stokes basket during a rescue on rough terrain.

“It actually gets the kids out for a practical situation,” said Bill Millron, a scouting venturing advisor from Jefferson Hills. “The Boy Scouts motto is, ‘Be prepared.’”

Washington County’s deputy public safety director Ron Sicchitano provided training Saturday on how to carry out urban and wilderness searches and rescues.

“There’s a lot of adventure to come out of this,” Sicchitano said. “And, maybe some of them will look into this as a career.”

The scouts will spend today carrying out an exercise where they will “lose someone” and then apply what they learned to find the person, Diesel said.

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