There's a difference between the waters of the California Delta around Stockton, Calif., and those of Lake Hefner.
But for Matt Lebo, 21, of Mustang, the common denominator of the two is that they both carried him toward his goal.
Lebo has been involved in Sea Scouting, a coed program offered to youth to not only promote better citizenship but to improve boating skills, since he was 14 years old.
Now, he has achieved the program's highest award, that of Quartermaster. He has enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and has a deployment date of May 22.
What started as spending time on the California Delta with his grandfather, Harry Williams, a former Sea Scout himself, is an interest Lebo maintained upon moving to Oklahoma. This came in early 2011 after his father, Arthur, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, was assigned to Tinker Air Force Base.
In California, Lebo would go on Sea Scout cruises aboard an 82-foot retired Coast Guard cutter. Here, he participated in Sea Scouts Ship 131 offered through the Last Frontier Council with activities including among other things, spending Sunday afternoons in a 27-foot sailboat on Lake Hefner.
“Sea Scouts gives me a sense of responsibility, a sense of accomplishment,” Lebo said. “It puts you in a spot where you have to have leadership.”
It also, he said, never puts you in the same situation twice. Each day on the water, adds to the overall experience, Lebo said.
“I try to learn by noticing things I didn't notice before,” he said. “And then I talk to people about that and try to build on it.”
Preparing to serve
Sea Scouting had its beginning at a camp fire in England when Lord Baden-Powell voiced the hope that older Scouts would be interested in learning about boat management and seamanship. At that time, he stressed the importance of young men preparing themselves to serve later on their country's ships, according to information from the Boy Scouts.
After that campfire, Baden-Powell's brother, Warington, wrote the book “Sea Scouting and Seamanship for Boys.” It was well-received by the young men of Britain and after a short while made its way to the U.S., according to the Boy Scouts.
Sea Scouting in America was founded in 1912.
By the time World War II was under way, there were more than 27,000 Sea Scouts. “Thousands upon thousands of former and active Sea Scouts joined the Navy and made a tremendous impression on Adm. Chester Nimitz, who sincerely believed that Sea Scouts were better trained and better equipped to help the Navy win out over the enemy and the elements,” according to the Boy Scouts.
Among the lessons Lebo has learned are that accidents often occur when you rush. So it's important to maintain focus. In Sea Scouts, Lebo's journey has covered apprentice, ordinary, able and now Quartermaster.
Requirements for Quartermaster include completing 11 special skills, proficiency in skills such as piloting, signaling, swimming and first aid.
“The award is rich in symbolism,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website. “The blue ribbon stands for loyalty and country. The compass suggests the importance of carefully chosen direction in life. The wheel reminds us that we are the guide of our own future and that we must persevere with self-discipline.
“The Scout badge, the emblem of purposeful brotherhood, has challenged and strengthened the lives of more than 40 million men. It shows Sea Scouting as an important part of the Scouting tradition. The anchor reminds us that a truly worthy life must be anchored in duty to God.
“This badge of color, beauty, and symbolism, but most of all, challenge, awaits every Venturer who has the determination to achieve excellence.”
And Lebo maintains that focus as his reporting date nears for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Where would he like to take this some day?
“I think something in private maritime would be cool,” Lebo said. “Maybe, commanding a cruise ship.”
Sea Scouts gives me a sense of responsibility, a sense of accomplishment. It puts you in a spot where you have to have leadership.”
Matt Lebo, 21, of Mustang