The Coastal Waters District of Scouts BSA confirmed 19 new Eagle Scouts in 2018. Six of them were matching pairs.
An unprecedented three sets of identical twins reached Scouting’s highest rank last year, representing three towns and troops across Grays Harbor County. In addition to common genes, they share a fierce dedication to their goals and solid support from family and community.
“We are so proud of these Eagle Scouts,” said District Executive Barb Perez, noting that only about 4 percent of Boy Scouts reach that level. “It’s an intense process that involves a lot of hard work.”
Trace and Jared Erwin of Aberdeen, Joseph and Daniel Malchert of Montesano, and Evan and Andrew Werner of Elma led a variety of service projects to earn their ranks:
• Trace organized a beautification project on the grounds of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Aberdeen. “I titled it ‘Landscape Reformation’ because our church needed a little change,” he said with a grin.
• Jared established six raised garden beds for Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, which the kindergarten class now uses as part of its science curriculum.
• Joseph took on an extensive restoration of the World War I memorial in front of the Montesano post office.
• Daniel built new horseshoe pits and created signage for them at the VFW Memorial Park in Montesano.
• Evan and a fellow Scout, Matthew Kimbrel, split up a large project to create a permanent memorial to Elma’s past and present first responders.
• Andrew undertoook an extensive research project to map the Masonic Cemetery in Elma, with emphasis on identifying veterans’ burial places. His digital database has been adopted by the city.
Paths to Eagle
The path to Eagle is different for each individual Scout, and that’s true even for twins. Each of these young men had different motivations and faced unique challenges along the way.
As many Scout leaders can attest, distractions start taking their toll as youth inch closer to age 18 — the cut-off for Eagle Scout endeavors. Jobs, college planning and social life demand more and more of their time. That’s part of the reason so few Scouts earn that lofty rank.
“You can’t always see how good it’s going to be until you get to the end,” said Andrew. “So a lot of times I was like, ‘Why do I have to do this? I want to go hang out with friends, I want to go do this instead.’ But it was all good.”
Sometimes, motivation comes from unexpected sources.
“To be honest, it was really hard in the beginning, when I started my project. I was all caught up in school,” said Jared. “But I remember there was this story on the news about these triplets who were blind, and they got their Eagle. That was kind of a wake-up moment for me to get this done.”
For the Malchert twins, inspiration came from a couple of different directions. First, they had three older brothers who’d earned that rank. Adding to that, they were two of the last three members of their troop, which had been dwindling in the years since its feeder pack folded. Their Scoutmaster vowed to stay on until he’d guided all of them to Eagle.
The “Three Amigos” — Daniel and Joseph, along with Eric Koecke — became ever closer as they worked together on the path to Eagle. “Summer camps were a fun time for all of us, especially toward the end,” said Joseph. “We had it down. The three of us were like: OK, we’ve got this!”
And, to their credit, all three achieved their Eagle rank last year.
“To Scouts who are still doing it, I’d say: Stick with it!” said Andrew. “I hear stories about people who were almost Eagles, and they regret that they didn’t get it — that they’d worked hard and then copped out at 17, 17 and a half. So stick with it, even though it seems like there’s more fun things going on around you.”
All of their Scout training comes in handy — sometimes, when they least expect it.
“It’s the small things you don’t know you know until you meet other people that didn’t go through Scouts,” Daniel said, giving this example: “Just recently I took a trip to Ecuador with a bunch of friends from church, and they were trying to light a gas stove by turning on the gas first, then lighting a match over it. And I thought: ‘We have learned from experience that that’s not how you do it.’ So finally, I got up and stopped them and said: ‘Match first, then gas.’”
Asked about the greatest lesson he learned in Scouts, Andrew said, “Teamwork is a big one, but before that comes listening to authority. I like to think sometimes that I know better than people who’ve been doing it for a while … and it took a while to learn that sometimes you have to just step back and let somebody else do the leading.”
Evan said his biggest takeaway was learning how to work with diverse groups of people. “On a 50-mile hike, you get placed with different patrols; people of all sorts would be hiking together,” he said. “You all start at the same time, and whether you’re fast or slow you have to stick with these people. You’ve got to work with them for the majority of the hike. So you get to know them and basically become friends with them as you achieve a greater goal as a team.”
The Scout motto pretty much encompasses what he’s learned, Joseph said — “but we don’t always remember to Be Prepared, and then we have to go by the Troop 15 motto: Wing It.”
The common thread among the twins’ favorite Scouting memories is camping trips.
The Malcherts’ father, Andy, summed it up best: “Disneyland is not the happiest place on Earth. Boy Scout camp is!”
One specific experience noted by several of these young men is the Klondike Derby, the district’s annual winter camporee. The three-day weekend of camping, competition and camaraderie takes place in late January each year — “because February’s too nice,” its leaders like to joke. (Late January is the height of the winter rainy season. Sometimes it even snows.)
“That was a pretty interesting experience — cold and wet the entire time. Just getting through that weekend is a big accomplishment!” said Trace. But he adds that it’s worth it “because you learn all these essential skills like map and compass, pioneering, first aid. All of that is at the competition.”
His dad, Mike Erwin, echoed that sentiment. “That’s where they got a lot of their real-life skills, at Klondike,” he said. “It’s more of a real-world stressful situation, because it’s cold. So they have to really put that aside and focus on their tasks.”
Evan served as his Troop’s patrol leader one year at Klondike. “All of Scouting was full of challenges, but I have to say the Klondike Derby was the biggest,” he said. “It was just fun leading everybody and trying to get that team spirit going.”
All six said they’d like to stay involved as much as they can as adults, especially once they start families of their own.
“Way down the road, I see myself becoming a parent in Scouting — Scoutmaster, maybe, or even helping out at camps,” said Trace.
Daniel, whose Troop is now defunct, said, “If they got this Troop going again, I would be willing to jump in, start some bonfires, show them the ropes.”
Giving their time and sharing their experience is important, of course, but Trace added that small gestures are meaningful, too: “Even just buying popcorn is helping Scouting,” he said, referring to Scouts BSA’s major annual fundraiser.
The Werners and Malcherts started in first grade as Tiger Cubs. The Erwins joined in second grade, as Wolves. And their families have supported their efforts all the way.
“We’ve always been volunteers. (Dad) Mike was the Cubmaster, and I was a den mom all through their Cub Scout years,” said the Werners’ mother, Jill. “And last fall, while they were earning their Eagle, Mike took over as Scoutmaster. So he was the Scoutmaster when they got their Eagle.”
The Malchert twins’ parents also were active volunteers throughout their Scouting careers — and they had their older brothers to guide them as well.
“I remember when we were Cub Scouts and they were Boy Scouts out in Longview, and we’d be the two little guys that showed up (at their Troop meetings),” said Joseph. “And then when we went into Boy Scouts, they were all, ‘No, that’s not how you tie your neckerchief — do it this way!’”
And, as the Erwins’ mother pointed out, every Eagle must fly solo in the end.
“It’s kind of been our philosophy that if you want to be an Eagle, great, we support you — but we’re not doing it for them. It was on them,” said Carrie Erwin. “I’m just proud that they did it. It was their goal, and they did it.”