*Written by Charles Osaki*
In early 2022, I was invited to a Court of Honor for Troop 1930 and at the event, I met a Life Scout, Kenton Bach and his parents, Kelly and Dean Bach. I soon learned of Kenton’s lifelong goal of attending the United States Military Academy at West Point (West Point). I would get to know Kenton and his family, and lend him whatever support I could in his journey to gain admission to West Point. This fall, Kenton will enter West Point as a new Cadet (freshman).
I interviewed Kenton in order for him to share the experiences of his journey to West Point.
How did you first get involved in Scouting?
My parents wanted me to spend more time outdoors because during my middle school years, I was very much invested in video games and technology. My dad was life-long friends with some Troop leaders in Troop 1930, located in Westminster, so he introduced me to the Troop when I was in 7th grade. I was more introverted at the time, so it was definitely a push from my parents during the beginning of my Scouting journey, but I soon began to make friends and enjoy the outdoors and other Troop activities.
What was the most influential thing about your desire to seek out a career in the U.S. Military and attempt to gain admission to the Military Academy at West Point?
My mother’s side of the family immigrated from Vietnam to the United States after the Vietnam War. My grandpa worked for the United States government at the time, so they assisted in bringing my mother’s entire family over to the U.S. and giving them the “fresh start”, they needed in a new environment. They gave my mom’s family a life that they didn’t imagine was possible during their lifetime. For that, I became motivated to give back, in the form of service, to the country that helped my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and mother live a better life. Being a student that has strived for excellence his whole life, I was motivated to attend West Point, since it would help me achieve the goal of attending a top school, while serving my country.
Looking back on your Scouting experiences, is there anything specific that was aligned with your desire to attend West Point and if so, what were they?
My Scouting journey gave me countless opportunities to do community service work. As I began to go to more service events and accumulate hours, I enjoyed doing it more. It felt extremely satisfying to give back to the community, especially to those in need. My Eagle Scout project mentor, Bryan Zuhn, was the catalyst to really developing my love for serving my community. He told me that people have a duty to give back to the community, and those that actively contribute in this manner are responsible for its prosperity. His lessons have inspired me, to this day, to continue giving back to my community and to become a future leader of this nation.
How has your Scouting experience prepared you for applying for admission to West Point and for attending college there?
West Point emphasizes leadership. Much of the application assesses your leadership qualities, and being in Scouting is a positive boost, since Scouting has built the reputation of being an organization that forges leaders. During my Scouting journey, I took on multiple leadership positions, from Patrol Leader to Junior Leader to Senior Patrol Leader. From my leadership experiences, I learned about effective ways to communicate with a group of people, which is to be encouraging, and ways to gain the respect of others. These are skills that I will be able to carry through to my time at West Point.
There are so many “boxes you have to check off” in terms of academics, athletics, leadership, service, and other things to be considered for admission to West Point.
How did you get it all done?
In terms of academics, I grew up in a household where there was an emphasis to perform well academically. I began to set standards for myself and became really focused in the classroom. I didn’t go out with my friends as often and spent many weekends studying or in other activities like piano or Scouts. In the end, it really paid off when I found that I was near the top of my class in terms of academics. As for leadership and service, joining the Scouting movement essentially fulfilled that. I gained experience guiding the younger Scouts in my troop, while planning and attending community service events. To stay physically fit, I would routinely devote a portion of my after school free time to working out at the gym. This is something that I enjoyed, so it made it much easier for me to continue going.
How did you stay motivated?
A large part of my motivation stemmed from the support of the people around me. My family, in particular, would give lots of verbal support. They have always been supportive of veterans, especially because my grandpa spent time in the Vietnamese military. In addition, I am motivated by the opportunities that are opened by West Point. I see many possible future path, such as pursuing a higher education, careers in the military, serving internationally for the U.S., and experiences that are not offered anywhere else. This inspires me.
What key skills have you learned from your Scouting experience that you incorporate into your everyday life?
Time management is a skill that I have developed through my Scouting journey and is something that I incorporate into my everyday life. During my time as Senior Patrol Leader, I took on many responsibilities that were especially time consuming, such as creating a weekly and monthly schedule. I learned how to balance my school responsibilities and Scouting responsibilities through scheduling. I plan to continue doing this at West Point, as time management will be crucial there, so I do not fall behind in my school work and athletics.
What one skill have you learned or improved, above all others, from Scouting that you will take with you once you leave Scouting as a youth member?
In my opinion, the best skill that I learned from my Scouting journey is the skill to socialize and network. Being involved in Scouting opened many doors of opportunity to meet other Scouts, giving me the chance to develop my social skills. When I first started Scouting, I was timid and quiet, staying inside my comfortable bubble. However, as I stayed in Scouting, I began to leave that comfortable circle and talk to others. I was able to make lots of friends along the way, like people in my Troop whom I can see myself staying friends with for years to come. The skill of communication is a skill that I will take to West Point and beyond, to further establish my social and professional network.
What has been your one favorite memory of Scouting thus far?
My favorite memory of Scouting would be our yearly camp down at Fiesta Island in San Diego. This camp is especially memorable because this is our Troop Birthday Camp, so we do a celebration toward the evening for it. During the day, we would do activities like cooking competitions and kayaking or paddle boarding in the bay. This is the only camp we go to that has water activities, so it is something to look forward to every year. My favorite part about this camp is the campfire at night. The campfire always takes place in a theater-like setting, where there is a campfire pit surrounded by large stairs forming a half circle. We get to come up with our own skits and perform them to the Troop, while sharing laughs with each other at night. This makes the camp a very memorable experience.
How has your Scouting experience exceeded your expectations?
I greatly underestimated how Scouting could develop my social network. When I went to Scouting events, such as the Orange County Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner, this year, I was able to connect to many people who were my age as well as those older than me. It was also extremely fascinating to see that many of these people were successful individuals, both personally and professionally, while giving back to their communities. This showed me that the vast Scouting network was larger than I imagined and filled with great individuals.
Looking back, if it were possible, what change would have liked to made to make your Scouting experience better? Why?
I feel that I would have had an even better Scouting experience if I joined earlier. I didn’t join until 7th grade, which was relatively late compared to other Scouts in my Troop. Sometimes, I felt a bit behind in certain areas like Scout skills, where the Scouts that have been there longer seemed to excelled in in comparison to me. Other than that, more accessibility to merit badge classes would have probably motivated me to explore and earn more badges.
What one change would you like to see made to Scouting to make it better in the future for Scouts youth members?
In today’s world, technology plays a significant role in almost every aspect of our lives. While Scouting emphasizes much more on the outdoors, I feel that equipping Scouts with digital literacy could also be very beneficial. This could mean more merit badges based on technology or certain requirements that require expanding on digital literacy.
What are your plans, personally and professionally, post-graduation from West Point?
Post-graduation from West Point, I hope to be ordered somewhere close to home, since I love where I currently live. I plan to pursue a career in the field of computer science, more specifically cybersecurity. I may also try to attend graduate school, in the hopes of obtaining a law degree or a masters of business administration.