U.S. to Send Boy Scout Troops Into Libya
“We’ve stretched our troops as far as they can go for ten years now, and the Army, Navy, Marines, and National Guard have all been tapped to the limit,” Petraeus said Saturday. “The Scouts are the next line of defense.”
The order comes on the heels of Thursday’s United Nations Security Council authorization to create a no-fly zone over the embattled nation. The U.N. decision allows air strikes on Libyan aircraft and ground forces surrounding the vastly outgunned opposition strongholds in Benghazi and Tobruk. U.S. officials insisted that while there will be “no boots on the ground” in the increasingly brutal uprising, the metaphor “does not extend to hiking boots.”
Jimmy Weber, 15, of Olwein, Iowa, heard of his deployment from Troop 79 leader Marshall Kent on Friday. He spent most of Friday packing his sleeping bag, Skittles, and Nintendo DS game into a large Justice League backpack. “I guess we’re ready,” he said. “We just got back from a weekend jamboree last Monday. Marshall wasn’t happy about it, but he says that it’s our duty.” When asked about the situation in Libya, Weber seemed to draw a blank. “I heard that guy’s a dick,” he said of Quadaffi, “and we just had an assembly at school on bullying, so I guess it’s, like, the right thing to do. And I hear they've got beaches and drone planes and stuff, so it should be pretty cool.”
The scouts, who are not expected to carry weapons or face the Libyan army directly, will assist fraying rebel forces in the volatile African nation by leading patrols and training them in first-aid, tying knots, making safe fires, archery, and camping. Once the rebels are battle ready, the scouts will hand over power and start withdrawing in stages starting in 2013. Petraeus said that a small division of scouts will remain in country “indefinitely” to oversee the rebels. “We expect many of them to become homesick, so we don’t want to invoke the stop-loss to scouts for more than two deployments,” he said. Girl Scouts and Brownies are on hold for the time being and may eventually be called to service, but only “in light-combat support roles.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she believes the scouts’ presence will be a morale booster for the beleaguered rebels. “Just the sight of those boys leaping off landing craft in their uniforms, badges and shorts will show the international community that we are taking strong action against a brutal human rights violation,” she said.
“We’re prepared to tap Explorer-Scout posts and Pop Warner leagues all over the U.S. and train them to confront a post 9-11 world hands-on,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Bahrain’s heating up, and those kids are shovel-ready for duty,” he added. “Our youth are our greatest resource as a country. They’ll be something to be proud of.”
The defense department, meanwhile, has put on alert all United Parcel Service drivers and U.S. Postal Service employees for duty “whenever and wherever they are needed throughout the world.”