Huerta is part of a long tradition of plugged-in parents at the Chevy Chase-Bethesda-based troop, which on Saturday kicked off a year-long 100th birthday celebration. If a Boy Scout is trustworthy, thrifty, reverent and clean, at Troop 52 he is also very well connected.
The troop has been practicing an only-in-Washington brand of scouting since 1913, knotting their neckerchiefs for inaugural parades, protest marches and lots of inside-the-Beltway networking.
Over the years, Troop 52 scouts have been taught farming by a secretary of agriculture, citizenship by a member of Congress and automobile mechanics by a rear admiral.
That last was Joyce Johnson, who is also a medical doctor and was the first active-duty Coast Guard officer to reach flag rank.
“The kids didn’t care that she was an admiral,” said former scoutmaster Craig Iscoe, who was an associate deputy attorney general when he became scoutmaster and a D.C. Superior Court Judge by the time he left. “They were just really impressed with the way she could take apart a car.”
Former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith taught the citizenship merit badge in his son’s day. David Will’s father, columnist George Will, was around. And although scouts Robert, Dan and Benjamin Woolsey’s dad hadn’t yet been appointed director of the CIA when he was an assistant scoutmaster, he was at least a former undersecretary of the Navy. So James Woolsey was able to arrange an awesome tour of a nuclear submarine in Norfolk.
“At the time, there wasn’t much going in the [strategic arms reduction] talks President Reagan had appointed me to,” Woolsey said. “The Russians were just sitting there. So I was able to schedule my trips to Geneva around scout trips and little league.”
The scouts themselves have always remained largely oblivious to the high-wattage of their parent volunteers, current Scoutmaster Don Beckham said.
“They just know these parents as parents,” Beckham said, “and sometimes as someone who can arrange cool visits to an airport tower.”
Evidence of Troop 52’s century in Washington was laid out Saturday at Camp Seneca, the troop’s 87-year-old wilderness retreat near Germantown. Dozens of troop alumni, some of them carrying uniforms they could no longer squeeze into, swapped stories around folding tables lined with troop memorabilia.
In one photograph, Scout Walter Beach was being introduced to Princess Elizabeth, then in her mid-20s, on a 1951 visit to Washington. A newspaper clipping details how overnighters were rescued from Camp Seneca after the Blizzard of 1958.