November 11th, Veterans Day, is the date the United States of America recognizes and honors those who have honorably served in all branches of the United States Armed Forces during times of peace and war. Originally known as Armistice Day, November 11th is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice which ended World War I.
Joshua Wilberger, an Eagle Scout from Heart of Virginia Council, currently serving with the National Capital Area Council and member of the BSA Alumni Social Media Subcommittee, recently sat down with Joshua Batten, a Veteran and BSA Alumnus, to have a conversation on how Scouting helped Mr. Batten prepare for military service.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living.
I always laugh a little when asked that question. Honestly, while I’ve had a successful career in public service, I often feel like I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Fresh out of high school, 5 days to be exact, I left home and joined the Army. From there, my career has taken me to 45+ countries and offered experiences I never thought possible. I’ve guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, shaken hands with Presidents, been a Chief Technology Officer for a federal agency, managed critical programs in the Pentagon, worked with and for some of the most amazing professionals on the planet, and have been afforded the opportunity to affect positive change at the national level. While these are all incredible experiences, I guess I would describe myself as someone who is just trying to make a difference and leave our nation a little better than I found it.
Describe your background in Scouting as a youth?
Growing up in West Virginia, the outdoors was always center stage in my life. My father was an avid outdoorsman, so hunting, fishing, and camping were already the “norm” for me when I discovered Scouting. I joined in the 5th grade and rose through the ranks, earning Eagle Scout at age 16. The journey to Eagle for me, however, was far more impactful than actually earning the rank. While we didn’t have the resources for Jamborees or treks at National High Adventure Bases, I was able to attend multiple weeks of summer camp each year. Our troop was also very active with monthly merit badge programs and quarterly campouts/camporees.
Have you maintained your relationship with Scouting as an adult? If so, how?
As an adult, I’ve been active since I turned 18. Over the years, I’ve supported multiple efforts at the unit, district, and council levels. Currently, I serve on the Executive Board for National Capital Area Council, and I also chair our National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) and Alumni Committee. My children are just now getting interested in Scouting, so I’ve recently been involved with their units as well. After a number of years giving back and supporting Scouting as an adult, it’s wonderful to witness your own children as they progress through the program. Really brings things full circle and makes me feel proud to be part of such a great organization.
Describe your military service, particularly as a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard”?
As I mentioned, I joined the Army immediately after graduating high school. Originally, I joined under contract to try out for the 75th Ranger Regiment, but soon after arriving at Fort Benning, GA, I met the Old Guard recruiter and learned about the many opportunities with the Army’s honor guard near DC. The rest, as they say, is history. I made it through Infantry school, arrived at the Old Guard and completed their basic ceremonial training, and then proceeded to explore all the unit had to offer. I conducted service member funerals both inside and outside of Arlington National Cemetery, participated in large scale ceremonies for foreign dignitaries, was a member of the U.S. Army Drill Team, and was even a tour guide in the Pentagon. My favorite position, however, was serving as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is America’s shrine to her unknown fallen service members, and it was truly an honor to have served there.
How do you feel Scouting influenced your decision to serve? How did it influence your experience during service?
Scouting gave me purpose and a focus on public service. It’s really what started my career, well before I had my first job. Joining the military was an inevitable next step for me and an easy transition, and once I was in uniform, the lessons and discipline I learned in Scouting helped immensely. I was able to plan out my career, achieve my goals, and excel at my duties and responsibilities. To put it in some perspective, getting to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider meant that you were a 4-time volunteer – volunteering for the Army, the Infantry, the Old Guard, and then service at the Tomb. At each of these levels, there were significant obstacles to overcome and standards of performance to meet. Once at the Tomb, the training was 6-9 months of intense mental and physical challenge. Only after repeated practice, conditioning, and testing were you able to become “qualified” to serve as a Sentinel. Without my Scouting-influenced foundation in self-discipline and perseverance, I never would have made it through.
Interestingly enough, after becoming fully qualified at the Tomb, I asked the other Sentinels about their scouting experiences. To my surprise, nearly a third of the active Sentinels at the time were Eagle Scouts. Truly a testament to what Scouting does to prepare us for both the challenges and opportunities of life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just to express my heart-felt appreciation for everything Scouting has given me over the years. The difference Scouting makes in the lives of our youth is immeasurable, and I feel fortunate to be a part of it.
About Josh Batten:
A longtime Scouter and recipient of the NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, Joshua Batten is an accomplished business and technology executive with 25 years of experience in the areas of defense, intelligence, and public safety and has served in a number of senior-level federal positions with the Departments of Defense and Transportation. A veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, he currently serves on the Executive Board of the National Capital Area Council and Chairman for the DC Chapter of the National Eagle Scout Association. Josh is a Fellow with both the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS) and the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), holds professional certifications in project management and human resources, and has an Executive Certificate in Public Policy from Harvard University.
To learn more about the National Eagle Scout Association, including the NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, please visit http://nesa.org.
To learn more about the BSA Alumni Association please visit http://scoutingalumni.org/about.