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Simplified Advancement for Navigators and Adventurers

posted Jun 22, 2018, 5:57 PM by Chris Weinkopf   [ updated Jun 28, 2018, 9:04 AM ]

By Jim Martin
Troopmaster, Troop CA-7401
Next Generation Ministries, Mission Viejo

In the Navigator program the first rank award is for Recruit Trailman. This is either a joining requirement award that is focused on learning the essentials of Trail Life Traditions and Citizenship or, if the Trailman is advancing from the Mountain Lion Patrol, it will be a simple confirmation of his commitment to the oath and is given instructions regarding the Troop’s safety policies and advancement opportunities. It is also the Trailman’s first opportunity to conference with his program leaders and mentors. During the conference the leader will confirm the Trailman has learned the Oath, and is committing to live by that oath. The Trailman will also learn about his patrol, troop safety, and how the advancement program works. This is a simple conference that shouldn’t take too long and can be done within the regular meeting of the troop.


Able Trailman

The next advancement award is for Able Trailman. The Able Trailman award is a little more difficult for the Trailman to achieve and will necessitate the troop’s Outdoor Activity committee’s help in providing the opportunities for Trailmen to complete the Trail badge requirements within a reasonable amount of time. In order to complete the Able Trailman award, the Trailman must complete four of nine required Trail badges and an additional 3 Elective Trail badges for a total of seven Trail badges.

I believe there is a logical order to facilitate the completion of the Able Trailman award. First, in order for the Navigator program to run the way it is intended to run, the Trailmen must learn to run their own campouts. This means that each patrol must plan, organize, and conduct their campout. Each Patrol must plan, purchase food, and cook their own meals.

However, if they have not received appropriate training in the areas of both Fire and Edges, they are not qualified to prepare and cook their meals, as they are not qualified to use fire or knives. Therefore, completing work on Fire Rangeman and Wood Tools Trail badges (both required for Able Trailman) is required and, once completed, achieves two of the four required Trail Badges. These Trail badges are simple and probably can be achieved during a weekend campout that has been arranged by the Outdoor Activities Committee.

Additionally, if the Trailmen sleep in tents or under the stars, they should keep track of those nights camping for their third required Trail badge: Camping. Probably the hardest part of earning the Camping Trail badge is achieving the required 15 nights of camping, so it is essential that the Troop provides plenty of opportunities. This is easier done if the Troop participates in a long summer camp where they can chalk up many nights in a single event. However, most troops don’t do this unless there is a regionally sponsored opportunity.

So, we now have three of the four required Trail badges for Able Trailman knocked out and only need one more. Probably the most logical Trail Badge to complete for Able Trailman would be the Outdoor Cooking Trail badge. Since the Trailmen are working on their other required Trail badges during a campout or two, why not complete the Outdoor Cooking badge as well?

And there you have it. A simple plan to achieve all four required Trail Badges for the rank or award of Able Trailman. Now, all the Trailman needs to do is choose three elective Trail badges to complete to earn the Able Trailman award.


Ready Trailman

The final Rank Advancement Award for the Navigators is that of the Ready Trailman. To earn this award the Trailman must complete four more required Trail badges and an additional three Trail Badges of their choice (except those set aside for Adventurer level Trailmen). Aquatics, First Aid, and Rope Work are a little involved and take more time, while the Trailman can probably make quick work of Our Flag and Trail Skills to achieve the four remaining required Trail badges to earn the rank of Ready Trailman.

Oddly, the difficulty I have found is not in completing the required Trail badges, but rather in getting the Trailmen interested in working on their elective Trail badges. I think what you may find is that some Trailmen will be motivated either by their wanting to complete the elective badges or by their parents motivating them to complete Trail badges. Others will just refuse to work on elective Trail badges as they see them as just doing more homework or schoolwork. So the key here is to integrate elective Trail badge work into the fun activities your Troop is planning throughout the year. Remember, too, that Troop involvement and attendance are required for both Able and Ready Trailman. And, there are 15 service hour requirements that must be earned each year for both Able and Ready rank Awards as well. 



Adventurers really only have two awards to work on. First, they must complete the Horizon Award. If an Adventurer-level Trailman joins the troop as an Adventurer, he must complete 25 Trail badges, 20 service hours each year, Troop involvement, and leadership before he attempts the Freedom Rangeman Award — and complete that award before he turns 18 years old.

That is a tall order for a young man just entering a program like Trail Life for the first time. Even if a Trailman crosses over from Navigators after a year or so in the Troop, he is still looking at a lot of work to earn his first rank award before moving on to the Freedom Rangeman award. I believe only the truly dedicated Trailmen who become Adventurers without the Ready Trailman experience will be able to accomplish the Horizon Award and be able to move onto the Freedom award. However, as the Troop matures the opportunity for the Adventurer program to develop becomes more possible, and more Trailmen will move into Adventurers as Ready Trailmen, so the task is less daunting than someone entering the Adventurer program without that advantage.

Of those 25 required Trail badges, there are six very specific required Trail Badges that only Adventurer-level Trailmen are allowed to work on. These are Emergency Preparation, Family Man, Personal Resources, Citizenship, Outdoor Life, and one Fitness Trail badge (cycling, fitness, hiking, or swimming). The difficulty of these specific Trail badges is enhanced to challenge the Trailmen at this stage of the program. In other words, they are much more difficult and will take more time to accomplish, which is why they are specific to only Adventure-level Trailmen. 


Planning Ahead

As you can see, it is important for the Troop leadership and planning committees to make sure the Navigator program has plenty of opportunity to complete advancement objectives each year, as this will affect both their current Navigator program and the future of their Adventurer program. It will give the Navigators the skills they will need to gain the confidence and ability to advance to greater levels of accomplishment and result in producing Freedom Award recipients that will advance the program as a whole. When you think about it, the success of the Navigator program is the key to producing Freedom Rangeman.

While advancement is not the whole objective of the Trail Life program, it is an indicator of how well a Trail Life program is being run. In order to achieve advancement, the troop must have active outdoor programs that give many opportunities for Trailmen to complete Trail badges and work toward the few awards offered in the program.

Advancement gives leadership the opportunity to further mentor the Trailmen. Advancement requires service to others, which teaches our Trailmen to be servant leaders. Advancement requires Trailmen to learn leadership through leading their fellow Trailmen and mentoring to younger Trailmen who will, in turn, develop into leaders themselves. Advancement gives Adult members the opportunity to mentor our Trailmen through Boards of Review, where they may never have had that opportunity before and, as such, gives our adult members purpose and opportunity to mentor Trailmen other than their own sons. Once they see how important they are in the process of mentoring our youth, they may become more involved in other aspects of Troop leadership, too.

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