Mike Walton (blackeagle)

The Importance of Displaying one's Competence

By: Posted On: 2020-05-25


A long explanation to demonstrate why I -- and many other people involved in Scouting -- wear what seems like uniform shirts better fitting for third world dictators and military chiefs than those of volunteers or professionals interested in helping your family have a great Scouting experience. 




A person posing for the cameraDescription automatically generated

(Illustration of what I'm talking about)


The last time I was in Iraq, I suffered a serious eye injury. The year I was there, there were two really big dust storms which came up, one in which several other people and I were caught off-guard and were not provided immediate shelter and eye protection.  As a result, what started to be an irritation which Visene (TM) and similar products corrected at first, turned into something way serious.

One's pressure in the eyeball itself is tender and balanced.  Mine was completely out of whack. The "optimal solution" was for me to fly back to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from Iraq, get treated there, and then to return to the States, ending my tour (and perhaps my career as a public affairs officer).   The general officer in charge of the unit I was assigned to at the time refused to send me there.  He wanted me to get screened first at the medical center in central Iraq at a base I fondly called "Anaconda-Balad" (it was actually called Balad Air Base and back then was the main logistics, Air Power and special ops hub).  So I flew by chopper at the dead of night to "Anaconda-Balad."

I was met by our communications team who drove me to the medical center -- still being built in parts -- and someone in that medical center woke up Major Greg Power, the senior eye doctor there.   Greg told me to get some sleep and that he would look at me first thing in the morning and tell me what's going on.

In the morning, he first looked at my left eyeball and did the same screening things they did back in the little medical clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.  He looked me in the face and said, "they weren't screwing with you, Sir (I'm a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army), but, well, let's take a walk..."

He led me around areas still being constructed, with the hammers and nail guns, the sounds of drills and loud Arabic voices, to another area which was dark until he flipped light switches.  In the light, I could see boxes  -- some opened, mostly closed -- of various medical supplies and devices.

"Welcome to my office, Sir.  At least it will be when they can get more electrical power in here, and all of the boxes are opened," Greg stated.  "In the meantime, we can do things the manual way and I can take a look at what we can do for your eye..."

He moved plastic sheeting and boxes from his examining chair and motioned for me to sit there while he went about examining my eye using various tools.  He stopped and went to a different box, brought it around, and pulled out four framed things from it.

"I want to let you know that I'm a real ophthalmologist and that I didn't go to a Holiday Inn Express last night...", he smiled, referring to the commercials which were running back in the States whereby people who slept at that hotel chain were smarter, brighter, and more competent than those who did not stay overnight there.

"This is Axel, " he showed me, "and my wife Sandra."  Both are beautiful. "He's a stray that we got from the pound two weeks after we married.  We live right outside Chicago.  She's a dietician. We met at a hospital I was doing a residency at."  He put it away, replacing his hands with a large diploma, "Here's my Penn State degree -- " and then he placed it back into the box and took out another framed item and explained "-- and here's the thing which says I'm really an eye doctor..."  I looked at each item he showed me before I returned it to him and he placed it in the box.

He went back to examining my eye, looking at the cornea, looking at the socket, asking me if anyone had punched me in the face, or did I fall and hit my head, or anything else other than the dust storms which may have caused the damage. He asked if my parents wore glasses, and if I needed glasses earlier in my life.  No, my eyesight until coming on this tour was good -- had problems reading the very small type, but then everyone I knew of had that issue.

"You need to have some surgery done, Sir.  I wouldn't want any fly-by-night guy to do this...you have a great chance of losing eyesight from that eye", he soberly informed me.  "I can't do it.  As you can see, I'm not equipped right now to do it, so I'll refer you to Landstuhl, and they can.  How much longer do you have in theater?" 

"About a month and a half, " I responded. 

"You need to have some surgery done within the next four months or so.  I wouldn't blow this off...I would put you on the next thing smokin' for Germany right now, but there's a flight restriction which keeps me from doing it unless you are going to lose your eyesight now. "

We talked about care for this eye, he gave me some prescriptions and informed me on how to best care for it, and once again encouraged me to go get this done when I get off active duty and get back to whatever I was doing in civilian life.

"Whatever you do, insist on seeing the person's accreditations.  There's a lot of really shady people out there trying to do eye work nowadays, and they are screwing people's eyesight up with funky laser light shows and probing around.  Make sure that the person who does this really knows what they're doing and that they have a good track record of doing it!"

Fast forward that to my appointment with Dr. William Pringle Rodman at the Minneapolis Eye Clinic.  Looking around his office, I read his diplomas and accolades.  I also saw that he was avid outdoorsman, not too uncommon for those living in Minnesota -- but he was not from the "land of ten thousand lakes and one hundred thousand mosquitos.

I was in good hands.  The pieces of paper on his wall, coupled with the recommendations and advice I gathered from others, encouraged me to get my eyeball fixed with *this man*.   He performed the angle closure, which to this day, results in a scar on the lower part of my eyeball but retained 60 percent of my eyesight. 

When you see me or other adults wear what seems to be "show off material" on our shirts,  it is not for "hey, look at ME!!  I'm somebody!"  It is the simple fact that we cannot cart around binders of certificates and clippings verifying our Scouting service and level of recognition.  Nor can we carry a wall showing those things.  The BSA created the "cloth square knot" emblem so that those who have earned or received their training, heroism, service, and personal achievement awards can, *at their own option*, wear those items so you,  the parent or you, the fellow volunteer or professional, can visually say just how competent and experienced you are.

Or not.

Patches on a shirt do not automatically assure that one is experienced or confident enough to do whatever.  It is a positive indicator.  Even those new to Scouting can show their experience through the wearing of the small "TRAINED" strip below their badge of office.

Those things don't answer ALL of your questions. A good face to face interview will help calm your fears.  You are still encouraged to ask your friends and their friends, just like you would ask your friends about the best teachers, the best religious leaders, the best bookstore, the best coffee shop around.

The best eye doctor. 



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