A Boy Scout uniform often becomes a forgotten childhood artifact, shoved deep in a closet alongside barely used karate gear and a guitar that only made it through a handful of lessons.
According to Scouting Magazine, only about 6 percent of kids who join the Scouts stick with it long enough to attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout. But that’s not the case among scouts in Agoura Hills’ Troop 127. Over the past two decades, 10 percent of boys who joined the troop have reached Eagle status.
The high-achieving troop held its annual Alumni Reunion and Court of Honor at Chumash Park in Agoura Hills on Monday evening. The troop, founded in 1946, marked a milestone by awarding its 100th Eagle Scout badge to 17-year-old Garrett Klinge of Oak Park. Dozens of former Scouts returned to celebrate the achievement of the teen, who became a Scout in 2014 when he was in the eighth grade.
“I earned my Eagle Scout in four years and three days, or something like that. It’s almost a record,” Garrett said. “I didn’t know that I’d be the troop’s 100th Eagle Scout. It was surprising (to learn).”
Garrett joined the Scouts after he broke his fingers playing volleyball and wanted to find an activity in which his injuries wouldn’t be a problem.
His said his favorite part of Scouting was learning to scuba dive. He spent two weeks last summer at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, teaching Scouts of all ages how to scuba dive. For his Eagle Scout project, Garrett renovated a section of the Agoura Hills Animal Care Center.
Formula for success
Many parents attribute Troop 127’s success rate to its longtime Scoutmaster, Geoff Gunn.
Gunn, 64, is a former member of Troop 127. He joined in 1962, when he was 10 years old. He didn’t make it to Eagle Scout, but when his sons came of age in 1995 he took training classes to become a Scoutmaster and took over leadership of the troop the following year. Since then, he’s awarded Eagle Scout medals to 85 young men.
“I’m trying to get to 100 (Eagle Scout medals awarded). After that I want to help out but I want someone else to be the Scoutmaster,” Gunn said. “Scouting gave me some of my fondest memories when I was a kid. I was one of eight kids, so I did anything I could to get away from home.”
When Gunn was boy, Scouting was a highly popular activity, but kids rarely became Eagle Scouts. He said there were too many Scoutmasters back then—too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak—which made the tracking of each Scout’s progress often difficult and hard for each one to complete the ranks.
As a result, Troop 127 only had one Eagle Scout when Gunn was a member. He’s been determined to change that, which is why he’s stuck around as Scoutmaster for more than two decades.
The best Scoutmasters are hands-off leaders, Gunn said, and they make it a rule never to step in and do anything a Scout can do himself. Gunn simply makes the sure members of his troop have the tools they need and a safe environment in which to perform.
“The kids are trained by other kids that we trained a long time go. Rarely do we have to retrain because they learned (the first time),” Gunn said. “If they’re not doing it right, Scoutmasters set them straight and they take it from there. It reinforces their skills when (fellow Scouts) are teaching skills.”
Agoura Hills City Councilmember Denis Weber attended Monday’s reunion. His son became an Eagle Scout in Westlake Village Troop 775, but Weber is familiar with the Agoura Hills Scouts because they often take part in the flag ceremonies at City Council meetings. He said Troop 127 is a local treasure, and one of the facets of the city he’s most proud of.
“Seeing your son grow from a little boy to become a man—he evolves, he matures. But they couldn’t do it without their parents pushing them,” Weber said.
“There were times with my son where we had to push. Boys are lazy sometimes, and there’s the three Gs—girls, gas and grades.”
Weber said it’s a common refrain among parents of Scouts that when their sons reach a certain age, Scouting becomes uncool and their focus shifts to more social endeavors.
Gunn said he sometimes has to remind his Scouts to wear their complete uniform—shirts tucked in, green socks, appropriate shoes—but that the kids in his troop are proud to be Scouts and proud to wear their uniforms.
“I keep in touch with a lot of them (after they graduate),” Gunn said. “I love doing it, meeting new people. It’s all great.”