Surplus military equipment might be just the thing for local Boy Scout troops

Tuesday , July 04, 2017 - 5:00 AM

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

Hey, America! Happy Fourth of July!

Despite all of our many flaws, we really are a truly incredible country. And at this special time of unbridled patriotism, I salute and honor all aspects of this land of the free and home of the brave.

Especially our military. And I’m not just saying that because they have the largest arsenal on the planet, and just happen to know where I live. They also provide an invaluable and selfless service, putting themselves in harm’s way to keep the rest of us safe and secure.

And, apparently, they sell us cool stuff for cheap, too!

• RELATED: Kayaks, jungle hammocks among federal police gear in Utah

I read with great interest Standard-Examiner reporter Mark Shenefelt’s piece about the thousands of U.S. military weapons and other gear picked up by federal law enforcement agencies in Utah through the Defense Logistics Agency’s surplus program. Turns out, the government has a program to reuse all sorts of old military equipment by selling or distributing it to various organizations through DLA Disposition Services.

• RELATED: Utah police add 11 armored vehicles for SWAT situations

Among the items picked up by various entities in the state — like the DEA, FBI and BLM in Salt Lake City, and ICE in St. George — are a tracked, armored combat vehicle; a combat, assault, tactical wheeled vehicle; a four-wheeled ATV; a public address set; two motorcycles, motor scooters and bicycles; five helicopter evacuation fast ropes; eight kayaks; 10 parachutes; 11 jungle hammocks; 20 modular sleep systems; 27 night vision sights; 33 bayonet-knifes; 200 ammunition magazines; and more testosterone than you can shake a stick at.

All of which would make for one wild Fourth o’ July bash.

I happened to be poking around on the DLA Disposition Services website the other day when I found a press release from last October about a group of Boy Scouts in Colorado. The release starts out:

Boy Scout Troop 444 of Peyton, Colorado, takes the motto ‘be prepared’ very seriously, and its scouts rely on DLA Disposition Services to acquire needed equipment. The troop has recently used DLA to stock up on backpacks, sleeping bags, safety glasses, goggles, tools and even a small Army cargo truck and Humvee.”

A cargo truck and Humvee? Just what exactly are these Scouts planning?

“People think of the Boy Scouts as an organization that just does a bunch of camping, but we do a whole lot more than that,” said the troop’s quartermaster, Robert Herz, who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Air Force.

Yes, and now I’m starting to worry what that “whole lot more” might be.

I mean, let’s look at it objectively: A retired military guy in charge of a bunch of young men in uniforms, armed with a cargo truck, a Humvee and access to the Defense Logistics Agency’s surplus program? What could possibly go wrong?

I know what you’re thinking, because it’s the very same thing I’m thinking: Given the Boy Scouts of America’s track record, and the damage they’re able to inflict with just one lighted match, is it wise to give these groups of boys access to an agency that owns things like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Tomahawk cruise missiles?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing Troop 444 of any sinister motives here. I’m sure they do plenty of good in the community, and they claim to use their DLA equipment to learn about things like automotive maintenance for merit badges, and to haul gear to and from various service projects.

But imagine if the power of the DLA surplus program got into the wrong hands — say, the Scout troop in my own Farmington neighborhood. Forget flag fundraisers and charity car washes. Imagine how much money a resourceful group of Boy Scouts could raise if they just happened to mention to potential donors that they had in their possession, say, a surplus U.S. Air Force Predator drone.

Because these Scouts, too, know where I live.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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