Hundreds keeping watch over World Scout Jamboree

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — As the second week of the World Scout Jamboree begins, safety personnel continue their efforts to keep attendees safe.

Across U.S. Route 19 from the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, hundreds of people from local, state and federal agencies watch over the jamboree from inside the Glen Jean Armory.

Two teams — the Joint Interagency Task Force and the Joint Task Force — are responsible for tracking and responding to incidents at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, ranging from broken buses to injured Scouts and jamboree attendees.

Many Scouts will not notice the work that is taking place, which is exactly what West Virginia Assistant Adjutant General Christopher Walker wants.

“Our challenge is to remain in the background silent but protecting,” he said.

Walker is the dual-status commander of the Joint Task Force. The body consists of members of the West Virginia Army National Guard and Air National Guard, as well as National Guard units from other states and active duty personnel from U.S. Northern Command.

According to Walker, service members were at the armory a week and a half before the World Scout Jamboree began. The Joint Task Force will have around 1,000 members at its peak.

The U.S. Department of Defense is required by law to assist with the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamborees and World Scout Jamborees. The Summit Bechtel Reserve became the permanent site for the National Jamborees in 2013.

“West Virginia National Guard is going to be the premier organization for handling this sort of thing because we’ve seen it over and over again,” Walker said. “We’ve built the relationships with federal, state and local communities, as well as the Boy Scouts of America and the World Scout personnel up there.”

Walker added the Summit Bechtel’s Reserve location is ideal when it comes to safety; the armory in Summersville can provide additional support if needed.

Across the hall from the Joint Task Force, state Director of Homeland Security Mike Todorovich presides over the Joint Interagency Task Force as its director. The task force includes various agencies such as the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Just a multitude of people that if a major event happened on Summit itself, we’d be able to get that response to either the camper or the staff or the public as quick as we could,” he said.

Todorovich, who is supervising his first jamboree at the Summit, stressed communication as a key part of the task forces’ success.

“If you’ve got two, three, four events going on, you’ve got two, three, four different agencies plus the ancillary agencies working with them, so it gets pretty hectic,” he said.

“It’s not just looking at a fire and a car burning; it’s what are the effects of that,” Todorovich added. “It’s the whole package, not just the single little thing.”

The key difference between both units is the Joint Interagency Task Force’s ability to dispatch civilians to the Summit Bechtel Reserve; if there is a problem with internet services, for instance, AT&T representatives will report to the site to better understand the problem.

Walker said preparation for the jamboree has been underway for a year, but noted the benefits of National Jamboree in 2013 and 2017.

“Each time, we have after actions reports and try to build from the previous one,” he said.

There are notable differences between this jamboree and prior events; more than 40,000 Scouts from 170 national scouting organizations are attending, and 45% of attendees are female.

Walker said scouting organizations are responsible for handling the differences among the contingencies.

“You’re going to have the combination of hormones, different cultures and adolescence. That makes for quite the interesting stew,” he mentioned.

Communication is crucial for the relationship between the two task forces; Todorovich explained his team talks to someone from the Joint Task Force at least four times a day to understand its efforts and any unmet reports.

Both task forces are operational throughout the jamboree; the Joint Task Force has three shifts set up to monitor the site, while the Joint Interagency Task Force has day and night teams.

Todorovich compared the experience to his own as a grandfather; he is not afraid to double-check on something if it means keeping people safe.

“When they go somewhere, I feel responsibility even though I may not be there for their safety,” he said regarding his 11 grandkids. “To me, this is almost the same identical thing. This is our season to adopt a great, ol’ big family.”

The World Scout Jamboree’s closing ceremony will take place Thursday evening. The first groups will depart from the Summit Bechtel Reserve on Friday.

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