You’re about to PCS overseas, and your daughter is a Girl Scout. Your life is about to change dramatically -- new hair dresser, new babysitter, new favorite coffee shop -- but as a military spouse, you strive to make the transition as seamless as possible, especially for your kids.
You want your daughter to continue as a scout but don’t know where to turn. Girl Scouts Overseas, or USAGSO, is there to help.
What’s the first step? After getting your PCS orders, visit USAGSO’s Military Support page to begin the transfer from Girl Scouts of the USA, said Katherine Nolan Brown, manager of fund development and partnership strategy of USAGSO. Then email firstname.lastname@example.org, where you will receive help navigating the process as you move to and from overseas.
The process, which is similar to moving from one council to another, includes transferring membership, troop placement and/or purchasing new uniform insignia.
“There’s the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Law, and the girls that you’re going to meet in Poland or wherever know the same promise and law,’’ Brown said.
How Girl Scouts Overseas Can Ease Transition
Air Force spouse Rebecca Jaeger’s two teenage daughters have been involved in Girl Scouts since they were in pre-K. They've been active in Girl Scouts in Texas, overseas at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and now are moving back to Randolph Air Force Base in Texas.
Jaeger knew a new country would be a big change, and Girl Scouts would help them adjust to the culture, meet people and experience local events.
“Not only have my girls had amazing Girl Scout experiences, but my husband and I have also enjoyed working alongside other Girl Scout volunteers and local nationals throughout our overseas tours,” Jaeger said. “We have made lifelong friends and connections all over the world."
Like Jaeger, Marine Corps spouse Shellii Roach’s family has PCSed from stateside to overseas and back again. Roach’s daughter started Girl Scouts in Northern Virginia, and they were very excited to continue the experience when moving to Okinawa, Japan.
Scouts use translation devices and earn special honors only available overseas, such as the International Friendship pin and the Lady Baden-Powell Award, Roach said.
“We absolutely love Girl Scouts, and the experiences and friendships are for a lifetime," Roach said.
Is Being a Girl Scout Different Overseas?
Girl Scouts stationed overseas have the same opportunities and traditions as those stateside. USAGSO says they earn the same badges, awards and sell cookies -- though their selling season may be at a different time of the year.
If you’ve not been a part of Girl Scouts before, joining while overseas is a great opportunity. By registering your daughter, which you can do online, you will find a group of girls who are in the same age range and share similar interests. Overseas troops have the unique opportunity to earn community badges, which are done in conjunction with other scouting groups, Brown said.
“Additionally, only Girl Scouts living overseas are eligible to earn the Lady Baden-Powell Award,” Brown said, “which strives to bring together USAGSO Girl Scouts with their sister host nation WAGGGS [World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts] organization. Girls who earn this award must be motivated by their desire to know individuals from a culture different from their own.”
The most common challenge that families encounter regards the transfer of paperwork from one council to another. Brown said USAGSO has taken steps to make it easier, including creating a support page in early June 2021 and hiring a military-connected business services manager.
The way in which some badges and projects are earned also can be challenging overseas.
"With the local rules and language barriers, completing a service project off base is typically not an option,” Jaeger said. “If trying to complete a project on base, often several levels of approval are required."
Then there is the issue of recruiting new members and volunteers, especially if you were not associated with Girl Scouts before PCSing. Roach said they rely on word of mouth to recruit, but finding new volunteers is a problem across the military community as spouses feel pressure to volunteer everywhere. Volunteer opportunities are plentiful and range in time requirement and level of involvement. You could volunteer to help the girls earn a specific badge or assist with administrative tasks instead of leading a group of girls.
“We are grateful to have had a wonderful relationship with base leadership and the base elementary school,” Roach said. “Thankfully we had a strong response to an open house and gained new girls and volunteers.”
Boy Scouts also have opportunities if their military families PCS overseas. Boy Scouts of America is part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, and its members can participate in activities with one of three BSA councils that service members who live overseas. If there are no BSA services where you are moving, the Lone Scout program is an option.
Make Your Next PCS/Transfer with Girl Scouts Easier
About 35% of USAGSO, which currently has more than 6,000 girls registered, is affiliated with the military, Brown said, and the other families who participate are ex-patriots or those who are working overseas in another capacity. The customer care team for USAGSO is based in Italy and Japan so they can be aligned with different time zones to help volunteers and troops.
Roach suggests incoming families search social media for information on Girl Scouts at their new duty station.
“You might discover a Girl Scout volunteer or another Girl Scout parent who you can connect with and get the scoop on upcoming activities or a welcome-back event,” she said.
Roach is moving from Japan to Tampa, Florida, and returning to the council where she was a Girl Scout as a child. Jaeger also hopes her daughters will continue to remain active in Girl Scouts, as she has.
“No matter where they are in the world, their daughter can continue with the Girl Scout program, either in a troop, through virtual programming or as an individual,” Jaeger said.
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