Socially Distant SPL

Tristan Fluhr

Bradley Kelley Details Journey as Senior Patrol Leader of Scout Troop During COVID-19

Being a senior patrol leader of Scouts BSA Troop 199 is no easy task. The troop of over 80 scouts aged 11-17 is one of the largest in all of Central Indiana and the SPL is in charge of all troop operations. Everything from planning meetings, to campouts, to the well-being of the troop is under the jurisdiction of the young man elected by their troop every six months. In February of 2020, it is fair to say that HSE senior Bradley Kelley did not expect to lead the troop through a global pandemic. But throughout all the challenges and obstacles, Kelley remained the figurehead of the troop through it all.

“The most difficult part was making the transition from an in person meeting to zoom meetings,” Kelley said. “It was a big learning curve and I had to adapt the meeting to be most efficient.”

The format of the meetings switched in large part due to not being in person, but Kelley and his patrol leaders’ council kept attendance and optimism high throughout the six months through encouraging patrol bonding and monthly virtual campfire programs. In July, the troop even had its annual summer camp, the only differences being the location at local Fishers parks and following CDC guidelines and social distancing procedures.

“While the six months was difficult, the troop got to hold some in-person activities,” Kelley said. “One was summer camp in which I led the planning… the adults secured the locations for us, but the scouts planned the merit badge classes… I found this the most rewarding part.”

Kelley experienced the highs and lows of leadership throughout his term, but even after having been a leader in the troop for the past five years in various roles, he believes that he learned the most throughout his run as SPL.

“From the experience I expanded my knowledge that a back-up plan is always needed,” Kelley said. “I learned that even a back-up plan should have a back-up. The reasoning for that is that no scout wants to be on a zoom call more than they have to, so some people will not participate even when on paper they should. We had to improvise at times if someone was not there.”

The scout slogan is “Be Prepared,” and it is the philosophy most attributed to scouting as first popularized by the founder of the Boy Scouts, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Through a six-month term in unprecedented circumstances, Kelley had to use this principle of preparedness to be successful and overcome the obstacles. Even though it was not conventional in a lot of ways, the term of Bradley Kelley will always be looked at as one of strength through adversity. Story by Tristan Fluhr