Since 17-year-old Arthur R. Eldred, of Oceanside, New York, attained the rank of Eagle Scout back in the spring of 1912, more than 2.5 million boys have earned the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America program.
For those that earn their Eagle awards, it takes years to complete the requirements. The Scouts must earn 21 merit badges, including 13 in specific categories, and complete a lengthy review process.
“Nationally, it’s like 3 to 5 percent who are associated with the Scout program that make it,” said Tom Klipfel, who has been involved with Boy Scout Troop 161 in Philomath since 2007, the last eight years as scoutmaster. “In terms of Philomath, we’re from like 12 to 17 (troop size) … they start at sixth grade and they have to be done by the time they’re 18, so seven years they can typically be in the program. It really does take six to seven years for the boys to work through all the requirements to achieve it.”
In short, not a lot of boys earn Eagle Scout status. Klipfel said on the average, Troop 161 sees about one per year. And that’s why an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony that took place April 29 was so rare. That afternoon, three Troop 161 members earned the special rank — Keltin Benson, Jayden Jensen and Colby Pellett.
“The fact that I had three this time, it was a bit of a spike,” said Klipfel, himself an Eagle Scout along with his two brothers. “You might have two at once but you’ll average one a year for a town the size of Philomath.”
Benson, an 18-year-old senior at Philomath High, started scouting seven years ago.
“My great uncle in Ohio is an Eagle Scout himself so he was a huge motivation for me,” Benson said. “He kept checking in on me about every week. That definitely helped me a lot.”
The great uncle, Rick Benson, issued reminders to him on how much it means to become an Eagle Scout. His final two months were a true challenge. He had just finished wrestling season and although he qualified for state, he was still disappointed to not compete better in Portland.
“I accomplished a goal to make it to state and I didn’t have much drive to finish scouting,” he admitted. “I didn’t think the Eagle Scout was really worth it and I was done with it.”
But help arrived beyond the great uncle in Ohio.
“Misty Jensen basically took me under her wing from the moment she saw me in scouting and was always there to help me along,” Benson said. “Brian (Jensen) was always a huge help with my Eagle Scout project. And along with Mr. Klipfel and Mrs. Klipfel always being there and allowing me to go over to their house and accomplish the merit badges, I needed the last couple of months after wrestling.”
Said Klipfel, “I’m proud of him for getting over the hump."
“They definitely, all of those people I mentioned, were pushing and prying on me and with the unconditional support I got from my stepmom (Candace Benson) definitely helped, and my dad reminding me how I really wanted this,” Jensen added.
Benson, the son of Ron Benson and Maria Hughes, earned 25 merit badges in all, one short of earning an Eagle Palm pin. Since Benson is now 18, he’s “aged out” and from this point forward would be an adult leader. Continuing with the Boys Scouts is something he wants to do.
“I will most certainly be involved with the Scouts,” Benson said. “It has helped me too much to just turn my back on it after what I could accomplish. I want to help as many kids as I can to reach the exact same level I did. Even if I can’t get them there, I hope to teach them lessons I’ve learned.”
Jensen, son of Brian and Misty Jensen, moved to Philomath from Idaho back when he was in the fifth grade. Getting his first taste of the organization at the Cub Scout level, it wasn’t long before he had his sights set on achieving Eagle Scout status one day.
“When I started, it was just because my dad was in Scouts and I wanted to give it a try,” Jensen, 17, said about his dad, who is the troop’s assistant scoutmaster and himself an Eagle Scout. “It was just something that I wanted to do.”
In all, Jensen has earned 30 merit badges, which qualified him for an Eagle Palm pin. Scouts who earn five more merit badges than required earn an Eagle Palm. And since he hasn’t reached his 18th birthday yet, he can still earn more, which he said he plans to do.
“It got me away from school on the weekend … it was pretty much a guys’ weekend,” Jensen said about the fun excursions and activities. “We did some fun stuff and also learned something that will help me in life.”
Pellett, son of Ken and Sally Pellett, started in the Cub Scouts back in the first grade and has been involved with the organization ever since. He believes pursuing Eagle Scout status has given him leadership skills that will do nothing but help him down the road.
"It's a really good title for people to look up to and it looks good on a resume," Pellett said. "All this hard work will pay off and help out later in life."
Pellett, 16, is actually the second Eagle Scout in the family. His older brother, Tyler Pellett, earned the distinction in 2012.
Pellett has earned 24 merit badges and with two more, he'll receive an Eagle Palm pin.
"For different ranks, you have to put in various amounts of community service," Pellett said. "For the Eagle Scout project, I put in 40 hours of community service."
But through the years, Pellett has been involved in various other activities that count toward community service hours, such as wood-stacking for the Philomath Youth Activities Club. In all, he believes he's right around 100 community service hours.
Jensen said scouting involves a lot of work, estimating his community service hours at 50 to 60, but there was also a lot of fun along the way. His Eagle Scout project was clearing three miles of the Corvallis to the Sea Trail in the Harlan vicinity during the spring of 2017.
“I had a pretty good group of guys but it took weeks working both weekends … eight man hours for each person,” said Jensen, who took a suggestion from his dad for the project and ran with it. “It was a good chunk of time.”
Benson completed his Eagle Scout project in late summer 2017.
“I cleared three miles of trail for the Corvallis to the Sea council,” Benson said. “What they are doing is clearing a trail from Corvallis to Newport. I just kinda piggy-backed off Jayden, who did the upper three miles of Bull Run and I did the lower three miles.”
Benson enlisted the help of his stepbrother, Pellett and Brian and Jayden Jensen.
“They were definitely a big help through all of it,” Benson said. “I was the oldest kid in the troop from eighth grade on and I fell back on them a lot to keep me going.”
For his Eagle Scout project, Pellett chose to spruce up the Philomath Middle School baseball fields with new signs.
"There were old signs up there, all torn up and beaten down, so I got some donations and made new ones that were nicer looking with a new design," Pellett said. "There are three signs on three different fields.
"Playing baseball through the years, that was part of the idea and that's what inspired me to do it,” he added. “And Dad helped me come up with the idea.”
Pellett believes scouting is a lifetime commitment.
"I'll still be helping out from time to time," he said. "I still want to kinda stay involved with the troop and maybe later become an assistant scoutmaster or something along those lines. I'll be involved for the rest of my life, probably."
Jensen said, “If I ever have the opportunity, I’d love to at least be involved.”
The April 29 ceremony featured a slide show organized by Klipfel that illustrated some of the challenges along with fun activities that each Eagle Scout had been involved with through the years.
“You watch them come in as these little runny-nosed sixth-graders and you literally get to watch them become young men,” Klipfel said.