A History of Troop 1203, Community of Mira Mesa, San Diego California.
Black Mountain District and Desert Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
by: Pat O'Donohoe, Scoutmaster 1994-2000
Troop 1203 had its first organizational meeting on January 4th in the home of Pam and Pat O'Donohoe. Attending were Pam and Pat O�Donohoe, Maat Pittman, Ronnie Bell, and Don Haran- adults, and scouts Justin O'Donohoe, Dain and Eric Sandoval, and Dustin Bell. After deciding to pursue this new adventure, Pam and Pat participated in a meeting with the District Executive, Leo Ronces, and Al Gordon, of the Mira Mesa Lodge 2108 of the Loyal order of Moose. We were all in agreement to proceed and the troop came into being. The initial membership consisted of Scouts Justin O'Donohoe- the first Patrol Leader, Dain Sandoval, APL, Eric Sandoval, Dan Luong, Jason Biltz, Dustin Bell, Anthony Zamora, Joe Kilian and Josh Cha as the Charter Members. The adult leadership was Pat O'Donohoe, Scoutmaster; Maat Pittman, Don Haran- ASMs; Pam O'Donohoe- Committee Chair; Kathy Lindahl, Ronnie Bell, and Jim Clayton as Committee Members. Al Gordon was the original Charter Organization Representative. Our first meeting was held on January 13th at Challenger Junior High school. Since we didn't have the money for an official BSA Troop flag yet, Pam O'Donohoe made the first troop flag, Black Field with Red fleur-de-lis and 1203 to match our neckerchiefs, which continued to be flown after we got an official flag but became known as "The Battle Flag". It continued in service as the flag which new scouts held and repeated the Scout Oath after they bridged into 1203 from Cub Scouts. It was also used on campouts, camporees, summer camp, etc. to mark the Senior Patrol Leader's tent.
The first campout was to Borrego Palm Canyon the weekend of 21-23 January. It was here that the original boys decided that the name of the Patrol ( the only one back then) would be the Ridgebacks. And no amount of memory racking can tell us where that name came from or why it stuck.
Our first Camporee was the Heritage District Camporee at Mataguay. All 9 scouts attended as did Pat O'Donohoe, Don Haran, Maat Pittman, and Jim Clayton. We didn't win any awards but we set the tone for the future with our campsite organization and cleanliness.
The Troop grew quickly that year with boys joining from Cub Packs in Mira Mesa and Penasquitos and by May we had three patrols - The Outlanders, Foxes, and The Phone Company ( no idea of the story there either but the Patrol Yell was interesting. "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company. CLICK!)). Justin O'Donohoe was elected first Senior Patrol Leader. The Patrol Leaders were Dain Sandoval, Eric Sandoval, and Dan Luong.
The Troop's first Summer Camp was to Lost Valley, an Orange County Council camp in northern San Diego county. 17 Scouts, led by SPL Justin, and 2 adult leaders, Don Flores and Pat O'Donohoe, attended. Dan Luong was awarded the Pa-Axwe award by Lost Valley as the best all around scout in the troop that week, as elected by the scouts. The troop established its reputation as one of the best Capture the Flag troops by going undefeated in 3 straight nights of competition topped by overcoming 3 troops at once on the last night. The captured prisoner compound looked like the gathering for a camporee bonfire. There was some scouting going on that summer as well since the post-summer Court of Honor saw nearly 100 Merit Badges and numerous advancements awarded. That figure pretty much became the standard for future summers as the troop never had less than 100 merit badges to present at the Fall court of Honor. This meeting was also where the Troop 1203 Scout Spirit Award was first presented. Consultation between the Scoutmaster and Al Gordon (CR) of the Moose Lodge about a recognition program for the scouts resulted in this special award being created. The first recipient was selected by Assistant Scoutmaster Tom Hoehn, a volunteer with no boys in the program, based on the established criteria of Leadership, Advancement, and Cheerful Service to the troop. The first recipient was Dan Luong. From this point on the recipient was selected by the current holders of the award, making it a truly scout based recognition award.
Back to regular meetings in the fall but in a temporary location at Ericson Elementary School due to some work being done at Challenger.
Our first annual Family Campout and Planning Meeting took place at Heise Park. The first annual Camp Cook-off also occurred and the tone was set for fierce competition in the coming years as the Leadership Corps of Justin O'Donohoe, Dan Luong, Eric Sandoval, and Jason Biltz took the initial honors. As the year would down the life of the troop settled into the normal routine.
Noteworthy from this year. The Troop added a total of 15 new boys from Webelos ranks during the year. By the time they were done 8 would go on and achieve Eagle rank; 53% when the national average is closer to 3%
January was our first recharter and our first National Quality Unit Award; the first in an unbroken string continuing to the present.
The troop held its first Order of the Arrow election that winter. Dan Luong and Kyle O'Donohoe were the first scouts elected from Troop 1203, joining Justin O'Donohoe and Eric Sandoval as members. Don Flores was the first adult elected by the troop committee as well, joining Pat O'Donohoe and Tony Vergara as Adult members.
Troop elections in May saw Dan Luong elected Senior Patrol Leader as Justin O'Donohoe was kicked upstairs to Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. Eric Sandoval became ASPL. Robert Rotti (Foxes) and Kyle O'Donohoe (Outlanders) became first home-grown Patrol Leaders in the Troop's history.
A couple of great campouts come to mind from this year. Warner Springs was the troop's first adventure with the instructors from the Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school. The survival training was realistic and the capture the flag game against the SERE staff was an eye-opener on both sides. The La Jolla Indian reservation was a great campout as well. After our advancement training sessions in the morning the rest of the day was spent tubing down the rapids of the Santa Margarita River ( big stream??). The capture the Flag game that night has become legend. The Leadership Corps (still Justin, Dan, Eric, and Jason) took on the rest of the troop ( 15 scouts that weekend). The road by camp was the border between the teams. The leadership had the uphill side to defend and the younger scouts had the area from the road down to the river. While Dan, Eric, and Jason distracted the younger scouts, Justin moved all the way to the upriver end of the playing area, sneaked down to the river undetected, darkened his face and wearing dark camouflage, slipped into the river and came down the rapids barely above water. The younger boys had placed their flag on a rock in the middle of the stream and had several guards posted on the shore. They were watching up the hill for an attempt. Justin drifted down the stream through some rugged rocks and rapids, past the guards and quietly took the flag as he went by. Coming out of the water further down stream, he got back to home base and announced the victory before the younger scout guards even noticed the flag was gone. These and other lessons were not lost on the younger scouts as they would carry the tradition with them into the future.
In addition to the normal monthly activities we had some special activities that members of the troop took advantage of. 4 boys attended the week-long spring camp at Hual-Cu-Cuish. Justin O'Donohoe attended the World Jamboree in The Netherlands as the Quartermaster of the Desert Pacific Council contingent. Don Haran and Jim Clayton took 5 scouts; Dan Luong, Eric Sandoval, Jason Biltz, Dustin Bell, and Anthony Zamora, on an 8 night backpacking trek to Philmont. And the rest of the troop traveled "27 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waiting for me" as we spent our second summer camp at Emerald Bay where a great time was had by all. Kyle O'Donohoe, Dylan Gibson, Charlie Vergara, and Mike Kilian put on the best flag raising ceremony of the week ( camp staff words- not mine). That and the fact we all survived the overnight war canoe trek made it a pretty good week.
Back to Challenger in the fall to our regular meeting spot. Consolidation of patrols saw the end of The Phone Company as membership dropped back to 20 or so.
1996 saw the troop settling in to the typical BSA life and rotation. Some special happenings did stand out, though. 1203 saw it's first New Scout Patrol formed. We had not done this in 1994 and 1995 as 94 was more accurately a New scout TROOP and 95 didn't add enough new boys for their own patrol. 9 new scouts in the spring of 96 gave us our first opportunity at this aspect of the Troop Operations plan and so was born "The Imperials" with Peter Godoy as their first Patrol Leader. Carl Morse, who had transferred in from a troop in England, became the troop's first Troop Guide. OA elections saw Chris Lindahl, Tom Mantione, and Mark Williford elected from the scouts and Don Haran as the adult selection.
A major milestone in any Troop's life occurred on April 10th when Justin O'Donohoe passed his Eagle Board of review and became Troop 1203's first Eagle Scout. Our first Eagle Court of Honor was held at Challenger on June 11, 1996. By the skin of his teeth Justin was also the recipient of the first Eagle Palm in the Troop; qualifying on 10 July, 1996, just 11 days before his 18th birthday and transition to Assistant Scoutmaster.
The troop attended the council camp, Mataguay Scout Reservation, for the first of two consecutive years of very successful scouting advancement and troop skill building.
The year wrapped up with 28 scouts in the troop led by Dan Luong, JASM, Eric Sandoval, SPL, and Dave Kurz, ASPL
The troop visited Philmont in 1998.