Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

Scouts test survival skills in Academy’s outdoors

Cadet 1st Class Talon Pope sets up a three-tiered water filtration system. Photos by Rachel Boettcher

Cadet 1st Class Talon Pope sets up a three-tiered water filtration system. Photos by Rachel Boettcher

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff

Freez-O-Ree lived up to its name, with temperatures dropping to 17 degrees during the Scouts’ overnight stay Feb. 26.

About 450 Scouts from across the Pikes Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America attended the event Feb. 26 through Sunday in and around the Academy’s woods near the Preparatory School.

This year’s winter event marks Freez-O-Ree’s return to the Academy since the events of Sept. 11, 2001 closed the base to many outside groups.

“It’s nice to have it back here,” said Mike Bartusek, Troop 698 committee chairman, adding that the environment is more hospitable than past Freez-O-Ree events held at Eleven Mile Reservoir.

Cold weather camping takes some preparation and bringing the right equipment, such as a low-temperature resistant sleeping bag, ground pad and fleece liner, plus wool socks with liners. A full stomach also helps ward off the cold, as does exchanging damp clothes for dry ones.

Mr. Bartusek said he has been involved with the event since his son was in first grade. The son is now 24, but Dad keeps helping out with Scouting.

“It’s fun to see them grow and mature,” he said.

Highlighting the weekend were challenges involving outdoor survival skills in a possible scenario.

“The idea is that you’ve crashed in a plane here in the Rocky Mountains,” said Steve Fisher, assistant scoutmaster for Troop 537.

Preceding the event, Scouts in individual troops built sleds to carry gear, which included first aid kits, tarps, two liters of water for each Scout, extra clothes, a compass, flashlight, signaling mirror and fire starting kit made up of flint and steel, petroleum jelly, steel wool and a 9-volt battery.

Events included archery, building a natural fire, gully crossing, capture and release, water treatment, signaling to the sky with a mirror, relocating, and verification, which tests Scouts’ knowledge and serves to verify they are indeed Boy Scouts when approached by rescuers.

Playing a key part in Freez-O-Ree was the Academy’s Eagles Club, made up of Eagle Scouts and Gold Award Girl Scouts, plus volunteer cadets.

Cadet 1st Class John Oliphint of CS 36 readily volunteered to help out.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I wasn’t a Boy Scout,” the Eagles Club member said. “It’s a great time. We’ve been having lots of fun.”

Cadet 3rd Class Andrew Gibler and other volunteer cadets at the archery range received special training before they staffed the range station.

“Scouting was a big part of my life growing up,” said Cadet Gibler, a Wisconsin native assigned to Cadet Squadron 39. “I wanted to give back to the Scouts the benefits I had.”

Sam Hoskins, 13, with Troop 537 is a first-class Scout nearing completion of requirements for the star rank. His favorite parts of Scouting are being outdoors and being with friends in his troop.

“I’m having a great time,” he said.

Chris Early, 16, has been a Boy Scout for about six years following his Cub Scout experiences and is currently working on a merit badge for citizenship and nation. Cub Scouts advance to Boy Scout ranks at about age 11 or fifth grade. The Troop 777 Scout’s favorite part of Freez-o-Ree is, in one word, “Camping.”

Anthony Astle, 13, is a Life Scout in Troop 537.

“I enjoy going camping and doing the achievements,” the first-time Freez-O-Reer said, adding that he also looked forward to getting the sleds judged.

The Pikes Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America consists of four Districts: Ute, Frontier, High Plains and Jamboree. Between 25 and 40 troops compose each district.

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