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Scouts' not only uniforms worn at 2013 Jamboree

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BECKLEY, W.Va. -- The Boy Scouts of America isn't the only group of young people in uniforms descending on Beckley this weekend. More than 1,300 service members from all five branches of the U.S. military are headed to the Beckley area to help facilitate the National Scout Jamboree, which starts Monday.

The military isn't directly involved with security at the Jamboree -- its members are there just in case, and to help out local law enforcement wherever needed.

"The Department of Homeland Security and the local state agencies, like West Virginia State [Police] troopers and local police, is handling most of the security," said U.S. Army Capt. Chad Elston. "We're only here if there's a terrorist threat or something like that. A lot of our stuff is a secondary role - in case something major happens - to assist."

Elston is one of about 100 soldiers coming from Fort Hood, Texas.

In total, 894 soldiers are coming to the Beckley area, some active duty and some from the National Guard. There are 237 representatives from the Air Force, 128 from the Coast Guard, 19 from the Navy, four Marines and 50 civilian military personnel.

Some service members are there to teach Scouts about what their branch of the military does.

Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Holt came from Atlantic City to run a tent at the Jamboree teaching Scouts about the Coast Guard.

They'll see small Coast Guard boats and also have a chance to run damage control on part of a big ship. A model of the internal workings of a ship will be on display and, while Scouts are examining it, a pipe will burst, drenching them with water and forcing them to act quickly to clamp and patch the leak.

"Its just education," Holt said, "what the Coast Guard is, what the Coast Guard does."

Capt. Lindsay Fletcher is one of more than 200 members of the Air Force coming to Beckley.

Fletcher, an Air National Guardsman and special education teacher from Philadelphia, arrived early because she is in charge of processing the arrivals of other service members.

Fletcher is one of 375 service members staying in the dorms at the University of Charleston's Beckley campus. The others are staying farther away, in Glen Jean and Summersville, and many of them are staying in tents or on cots in a gymnasium.

For the University of Charleston it's a positive experience in two ways, said Jerry Forster, president of the Beckley campus.

"We partner with the Guard in every way we can, mainly academic programs," Forster said. "So it's a partnership, plus it's an economic boost to our campus in July, when it's normally very quiet."

Fletcher, whose National Guard unit is based in Martinsburg, is familiar with West Virginia, but many others are not.

Spc. Clarice Canaii and Pfc. Maria Irizarry of the Army National Guard came from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, to help out with the Jamboree.

West Virginia might be considered almost heaven, but Canaii, who has been here for a week, is ready to head back to the tropics.

"It's paradise," she said.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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