Navigators Patrol Structure

Boys in the Navigators Patrols range in age from 10 to 14 years old. Boys can experience fantastic personal growth as they progress in this particular age range. They will become competent in the outdoor program through learning the nine Ready Trailman required Trail Badges and participating in the outdoor program. They have great prospects for accomplishment and maturity if their energies are properly focused.

There is certain wisdom involved in separating out the Navigators from the older Adventurers most of the month, and allowing these boys to learn within their own leadership structure. Thirteen year old boys gain an opportunity to try on a real leadership role that is not readily afforded when older boys are present. Yet they still have monthly mentorship from the older boys which provides them with a model to emulate the rest of the month. Consider the potential in our middle school Trailmen:

  • "David Farragut, the U.S. Navy's first admiral, became a midshipman on the warship Essex at the age of 10. At the age of 12, a mere boy by modern standards, Farragut was given command of his first ship, sailing a capture vessel, crew, and prisoners, back to the U.S. after a successful battle. Young David was given responsibility at an early age, and he rose to the occasion."
  • "The father of our country, George Washington, though never thought to be particularly bright by his peers, began to master geometry, trigonometry, and surveying when he would have been a 5th or 6th grader in our day and ceased his formal education at 14 years of age. At the age of 16 he was named official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia. For the next three years, Washington earned nearly $100,000 a year (in modern purchasing power). By the age of 21, he had leveraged his knowledge of the surrounding land, along with his income, to acquire 2,300 acres of prime Virginian land."

"These examples astound us in our day and age, but this is because we view life through an extra social category called "adolescence", a category that would have been completely foreign to men and women just 100 years ago. Prior to the late 1800s there were only 3 categories of age: childhood, adulthood, and old age. It was only with the coming of the early labor movement with its progressive child labor laws, coupled with new compulsory schooling laws, that a new category, called adolescence, was invented."

Navigators have a simple patrol structure. The youth leader is a Junior Patrol Leader, and members are called upon as needed to step up and handle certain jobs during meetings or activities according to the duty roster. They should camp, cook, and eat by patrol during outings whenever practical. Junior Patrol Leaders should maintain order unless they encounter undue resistance from the patrol members in question. Preferably the Trail Guide or Trailmaster only gets involved when youth leaders are not making satisfactory progress and then, if possible, only to the extent of backing up the Junior Patrol Leader's authority. Direct involvement in correction should be an avenue of last resort.

Junior Patrol Leaders

The only formal youth leadership position in Navigators is the Junior Patrol Leader. This youth officer is tasked with helping his patrol (typically of six to eight boys) succeed by delegating responsibilities among patrol members as needed and working alongside them to reinforce the value of leadership by example. It is his job to arrange duty rosters on outings. He is a member of the Officers' Conference.

In smaller Troops, Navigators and Adventurers may be blended together into a single mixed-age Patrol, with an Adventurers Patrol Leader and a Navigators Junior Patrol Leader working together. However when there are enough boys, it would typically work best to have separate age-level patrols for the Navigators and Adventurers programs. Trail Life USA Child Safety Guidelines for Youth Protection dictate that boys should share tents with other boys of the same program group (e.g. Navigators tent with Navigators, Adventurers only tent with Adventurers, etc.). That is easiest to accomplish in separate Patrols.

Voting for Junior Patrol Leader is the first experience with democracy that many of these boys have. They learn important lessons about voting for capable leaders rather than always voting for popular ones.

On a joint activity with Adventurers, JPLs are subject to the direction of Adventurers Patrol Leaders but they themselves remain in charge of their own patrol members.

Remember that a boy is not necessarily serving as a Junior Patrol Leader because he is a good leader. Rather, he typically leans how to be a good leader by serving as a Junior Patrol Leader. That means that by default, the boy leadership structure is a challenge. Often it is the failures that teach the best lessons. So as an adult leader, don't be afraid of failures, but welcome them as learning opportunities. Often times the lessons learned will depend on how you as an adult leader cast the situation as a learning experience.