By GSCCC New Troop Support Specialist Angie Bright
I have spent most of my life as a military dependent. My father was a naval medical officer stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina when I first stepped into the Girl Scout Friendship Circle. The beautiful thing about being a Girl Scout is that you have a built-in community or circle of friends waiting to greet you at each new duty station. This was certainly true for me. Between my Brownie and Junior years my father was transferred from Cherry Point to Pensacola, Florida. Joining a troop shortly after our arrival helped me with the transition. When girls are taught early on that making new friends while keeping their old ones is a veritable treasure of silver and gold, the adjustment to a new school and a new home in a new town seems a little less daunting. While everything else is topsy-turvy in her world, a Girl Scout who is a military dependent can pick up the program wherever she goes and retain at least that one constant in her life. It was true for me and remained true for my daughter. The first thing she wanted to do at each new duty station was check out what the local Girl Scouts were doing and join in!
The benefit is not just for the girl. Because we are a military family, my adult involvement in the Girl Scout movement has been varied and extensive, spanning nearly two decades and three continents. As a stay-at-home mom, being a Girl Scout volunteer also provided a sense of security and stability for me as we moved from one duty station to the next. I was able to meet new people and forge friendships amongst the troop parents and other volunteers far faster than I would have otherwise. This allowed me to feel settled and comfortable in my new environs. I also found that volunteering helped to fill the empty hours (months) that my husband was deployed with a sense of purpose.
I first became involved as an adult when my daughter, Madelynn, joined her first Daisy troop in Virginia Beach in January of 2005. I had eagerly been awaiting the day that she was old enough to be a Girl Scout so that we could go on this journey together.
After my role as troop helper in my daughter’s two Daisy troops here at GSCCC, my husband was transferred from Dam Neck Naval Base to the USS Fitzgerald at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. From 2007 to 2011, I was a Brownie and Junior troop leader. Overlapping my leader role, I was also the Overseas Committee Management Team Secretary for the Yokosuka Girl Scouts from 2009 to 2011. In addition, I was the Host Nation Liaison from 2010 until 2013. In that role, I planned projects and events with our local Japanese Girl Scouts, assisting each USAGSO troop to partner with a sister, host nation troop for intercultural exchange throughout the year. As Host Nation Liaison, my responsibilities also included overseeing our JASSY program (Japanese American Sister Scouts of Yokosuka). With this program we paired individual American Girl Scouts with a Japanese Girl Scout buddy and the families would spend a membership year getting to know about each other’s culture on a more direct and intimate level. This perfect partnership between the Girl Scout program and our military lifestyle provided opportunities that many only get to dream about. We were able to experience all that Japan had to offer without the culture shock that impedes many visitors. Instead, we were granted an all-access welcome into the lives and culture of our host nation.
From 2011-2013, I assumed the role of Overseas Committee Chairperson for the Girl Scouts of Yokosuka, to include the main base and its two satellite housing complexes. This position is most similar to our SU Coordinator volunteer role, but also included duties relating to ongoing base relations through MWR, the base legal department, Hospital Health Services, various commands as well as providing updates to the base CO’s office, ensuring that all local military regulations and Status of Forces Agreement statutes were observed. Honing my business acumen and interpersonal communication skills while performing my volunteer role helped me to maintain my business savvy at a time and in a place where I was otherwise unable to do so.
My husband’s naval career then brought us to Jacksonville, Florida where I continued to volunteer as a troop helper for my daughter’s Cadette troop for two years. Our next PCS saw us moving to Rota, Spain where I also spent another year as a troop helper, moving into the leader role for a multi-level Cadette/Senior/Ambassador troop when the current leader was transferred stateside.
Our final permanent change of station brought us back to Hampton Roads and GSCCC, and Madelynn completed her Ambassador years with Troop 438 in SU 330 where I was a troop helper for a year and half before joining the staff at GSCCC in late 2018.
Being an adult Girl Scout has been one of the most rewarding and adventurous experiences of my life. I have earned the International Friendship Recognition Pin, the Lady Baden Powell Award, the Honor Pin, and the Girl Scout Appreciation Pin. Over the course of my volunteer service, I have had the opportunity to be a catalyst for change in the world just by supporting the girls that I have worked with. Countless communities and individual lives have been shaped through the course of Take Action, Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects. Horizons were broadened through the planning and execution of travel to international Girl Scout and Girl Guide camps in Singapore, Tasmania, South Korea and Our Chalet, the Girl Scout World Center in Switzerland. I strongly believe that we are encouraging our girls to be the leaders of tomorrow — leaders who are not afraid to be the change that is needed, who can be strong advocates for justice, while expanding their world view and building bonds that last a lifetime. My volunteer and professional Girl Scout roles have just been a drop in the bucket, so to speak, but the ripples have global implications.
The girl-led component of the GSLE means that even at an early age, girls are honing their leadership skills through judgement-free expression of feelings and interests, choosing what they want to accomplish and becoming the architect of their own their experiences. The progressive nature of the program empowers girls to ramp up their understanding of the needs in their communities and develop their advocacy skills while also providing fun, adventure and comradery. This fun with a purpose helps to strengthen a girl’s confidence and gives her the power to turn dreams into goals and goals into realities. By investing in the girls, we have two outcomes. First, we are securing a future of strong go-getters, innovators, risk-takers and leaders who are prepared to effect the changes needed to make the world a better place. But we reap the rewards of the second benefit; by facilitating this program for the girls, we are making that difference in their lives and in the process also gain our own sense of purpose, make lifelong friends and become more involved in our communities. We do this all the while making amazing memories and developing skills and talents that you never knew you had.
I believe that the Girl Scout program is one of the most powerful resources available to the military community because it provides a safe, supportive environment for girls to spread their wings regardless of where the armed forces send you.
Jeanette makes being a volunteer, a military leader, and a mom look effortless.
GSCCC volunteers were honored at our “Shine Bright!” awards event on April 22.