Scouts BSA Troop 209 members Cam Kirsch, Carter Langdon, Senior Patrol Leader Alexander Shunk and Jeremy Salisbury salute as a flag is burned during the retirement ceremony on Nov. 19 in Clinton Township.

Scouts BSA Troop 209 members Cam Kirsch, Carter Langdon, Senior Patrol Leader Alexander Shunk and Jeremy Salisbury salute as a flag is burned during the retirement ceremony on Nov. 19 in Clinton Township.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Troop 209 celebrates 50 years of Scouting at Selfridge

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published December 1, 2022

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Selfridge Air National Guard Base is a place full of activity. Whether it’s operations at the airfield or life at the barracks or homes, there is rarely a dull moment at the more than 100-year-old facility.

Every Tuesday evening, the youths and adult leaders of Scouts BSA Troop 209 meet at Selfridge, just like they have for the past 50 years.

Currently chartered by the Central Macomb Optimist Foundation, Troop 209 is led by its 20 scouts with the support of 15 adults. Scouts in the troop come from “all over” Macomb County, with some being from as close to the base as Harrison Township and as far away as St. Clair Shores.

Troop 209 was formed through the merger of three troops over the years. There was the original Troop 209, and then Troop 173, both based out of Selfridge and chartered by U.S. Army families from units garrisoned at the base.

“One of the troops was for the enlisted personnel on base and the other troop was for the officer personnel boys on base,” Scott Davis, former troop committee chair, said. “And … I think it was in the late ’90s that the troops merged into one troop, Troop 209, and continued its legacy at Selfridge as part of the chartered organization.”

There was also a Troop 76 that merged into Troop 209, although there is little information available about Troop 76’s past or when the merger occurred.

Through its 50-year history and mergers, community service has remained a core part of Troop 209. The troop participates in the Scouting for Food canned food drive and conducts remembrance activities like laying wreaths on the graves of veterans for Wreaths Across America. They also retire worn and tattered U.S. flags.

Eagle Scouts (Troop 209 has had 104) work on a community project in order to achieve the organization’s highest rank. Some Scouts have helped local organizations, such as building kickball fields for TCB Youth Mentoring and improving the St. Peter’s Catholic Church community garden. Other Scouts have gone across the state for their projects, such as building fire pits and benches at the Proud Lake Recreation Area in Commerce Township or building a lakefront observation deck for the Van Buren Youth Camp in Bloomingdale.

One of the most significant changes in the troop’s 50 years has been its organization. All Scouts BSA troops need a chartering organization, and policy changes have required some organizations to cease troop sponsorships.

“We were very comfortably chartered by the U.S. Army garrison, and then there was a decision that said federal agencies and entities can’t sponsor Scouting,” Davis said.

The troop became internally sponsored for a while after the Army could no longer sponsor it, with “The Friends of Troop 209” taking over the chartering duties. This lasted until 2016 when the Central Macomb Optimist Foundation became the chartering sponsor.

“The Optimists have been just fantastic in their support,” said Troop 209 Scoutmaster Steve Buckman. “One thing that they have done over the years is provide funding for several of our Scouts to attend National Youth Leadership Training, to the point where some of our youths have actually gone back and staffed that program.”

Another big change the troop has had to deal with is a drop in membership. According to Davis, the number of Scouts in the troop dropped from around 60 in the 2000s to the 20 that it has today.

“We’re competing for all kinds of extra activities for these boys,” Davis said. “I think there’s been an escalation in academic expectations. There’s band, there’s all the athletics and sports … and all compete for both the boys and their parents’ time. Through all of that it has been hard to keep membership up and keep folks interested.”

Improving membership is the key goal for the troop in the coming years.

“We need to start recruiting,” Bryan Salisbury, current troop committee chair, said. “Whether that means going to the middle schools, reaching out to other organizations or folks in the neighborhood. The BSA is struggling with the numbers because there are so many things to do, but part of my goals is to build the troop up to get the membership up … I would like to see us around for another 50 years, and I think it can be done with the right leadership, getting the right youth involved.”