Deployed Sailor, Scout Son Reunite at Jamboree
(August 6, 2010)
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Pickens smiles at his son Travis, a Boy Scout, as
he arrives at the mountain boarding station at the Boy Scouts of America's
2010 National Scout Jamboree, July 30, 2010. Pickens, recently deployed to Iraq
and used his midterm deployment leave to return to see his son and
participate in the 100th Boys Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree.
Photo by Senior Airman Andrew Lee
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (August 2, 2010) — There are many places that U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James
Pickens could have spent his mid-tour leave from Iraq: a theme park trip with
his family; a romantic getaway with his wife; or maybe just some peaceful alone
time back in the United States.
But even after five months of his job as deputy chief of civilian military plans
with U.S. Forces-Iraq at the Embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone, Pickens decided to
spend his vacation as a safety observer at the mountain boarding section of the
2010 National Scout Jamboree here, July 26 - Aug. 4.
Momentarily trading the harsh heat and windy sands of Iraq for his
leave, he traveled the more than six thousand mile journey to stack
small bales of hay and monitor dozens of complete strangers
safely roll down a hill on a board.
While most people would probably not choose any of these elements for their time
off, Pickens made the decision all for one reason: to see his son Travis, a
16-year-old Eagle Scout, attend his first Jamboree.|
“I had a little bit of a journey,” he said. “I left Baghdad International
Airport on the 18th of July. I arrived here the 21st and jumped right in with
everyone else so we could setup.”
Pickens met up with his son when his troop, #1619 from Corpus Christi, Texas,
arrived here July 26.
“The feeling of only being able to see him on a webcam and then really seeing
him is just unbelievable,” Travis said. “He comes from Iraq to spend his R-and-R
at the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America with me.”
Pickens' wife Zosie and youngest daughter Jesta flew up from Corpus Christi the
next day. When he's not at mountain boarding section with the scouts, he spent
time with his family while visiting the local area.
|“My family is used to me going out to sea and being gone several months,” he
said. “But after not seeing them for five months, it was just like a
A former Life Scout, Pickens has been involved in Scouting for nearly 20 years
as an adult. He's also served as a scout leader while stationed in Japan and
worked closely with two troops in Iraq since 2004.
“We're trying to send them that same message so they see that the United States
is trying to help them on all fronts,” he said.
Pickens said that be being here as a safety observer at the mountain boarding
section he hoped to have touched the life of at least one scout.
2010 -- Sailor, Lt.
Cmdr. James Pickens, U.S. Forces Iraq (USF-I), J-5 Strategy,
volunteering his mid-tour leave time from his current deployment in Iraq
with his family and the National Scout Jamboree 100 year anniversary
celebration at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Produced by Staff Sgt. Michael
“Scouting means a lot to me,” he said. “I hope that by being here I'm helping to
develop character and show sacrifice and commitment to the service of others. I
hope it gives them a memory for life and something they're going to carry with
As for his last statement, his presence seemed to make a lifelong memory for at
least one scout: Travis.
“This is one of the biggest things we share together,” Travis said. “Some people
would go somewhere else to have a relaxing moment, but he came out to be with
the scouts. This is great, and I am proud of him every day of the week.”
And before he packs his gear, says goodbye to his family and heads back to Iraq,
Pickens said he never second-guessed the time-consuming nature of the trip at
“I know a lot of guys I've talked to have said I'm crazy,” he said. “I'm sure
the chaplains who recommended I get some rest aren't looking fondly on this, but
I had to make this work. There's only going to be one 100th Anniversary
Jamboree, and I got to spend it with my son. I wouldn't have given this up for
anything else in the world.”
By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
Joint Task Force – National Scout Jamboree
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