Brenna Futrell’s Journey to Becoming the First Female Aquia District Eagle Scout
A Leader Breaking Trail for Others to Follow
Let’s celebrate and congratulate Brenna Futrell, her entire family and Troop 199G Scouting family! Brenna is the first Aquia District Scouts BSA young lady to earn the lofty rank of Eagle Scout, as a Scout and leader of Troop 199G, sponsored by Stafford Crossing Community Church. In fact, she’s the first female Eagle Scout in the entire Stafford/Fredericksburg area! How she conquered that rarely hiked part of the Scouting advancement trail to the summit of Eagle mountain – only about 4% of all youth who join Scouts BSA earn the Eagle rank – is a lifelong story of perseverance, persistence, and a loving and supportive Scouting family. Please enjoy this wonderful and epic journey as her Dad, Eric Futrell, an Assistant Scoutmaster for both Troop 199B and Troop 199G, takes us on Brenna’s long and winding trail to Eagle. Along the way, you’ll see that Brenna’s positive, can-do attitude, leadership strengths and steadfast trailblazing spirit are examples we can all take to heart and strive to emulate.
The Founder of Scouting, Robert Baden-Powel said that: “No one can pass through life, any more than [they] can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after [them] in finding their way.”
It’s often said, everyone must follow their own path in life, and for Brenna Futrell it would be no different. Brenna began her journey in Scouting with the Girl Scouts. She wasn’t able to join Girl Scouts as a first grader because she never attended first grade – Brenna skipped first grade. She was a great student, kind to others and loved competitive sports. She didn’t care much for watching them though; she preferred instead to be out there in the arena giving it her all. While in elementary school she joined several sports teams, including swim team, gymnastics, and soccer.
Brenna is two years older than her brother, Nicholas. She loved to throw the football around with him and she had a pretty strong arm. She used to watch Nicholas play flag football on his Dolphins’ team at the local field house. One practice, the coach invited her to play with the team. She was reluctant at first but gave it a try and soon found herself on the team, playing alongside her brother. She wore a headband to hold her hair back, which was adorned with a large flower. I’ll never forget that one Saturday morning as she arrived for a game, wearing her Dolphins’ uniform and her “trademark” flowered headband, she passed several boys from the opposing team. She later shared with me how those young men laughed at her headband and even made a snide remark about the game being an easy win since they would be playing against girls. Oh, how Brenna loved that headband and wore it at every game! Unbeknownst to us, this game would be a little different. Not only did the Dolphins win the game, but Brenna also scored three touchdowns and that flowered headband remains a topic of conversation still today.
Brenna attended Ferry Farm Elementary School in Stafford County and was blessed to have incredibly supportive teachers. She was in the gifted FOCUS program and always busy with additional work. She was challenged often and encouraged to succeed with a range of topics like engineering, robotics, and even participating on a first place Destination Imagination team in fifth grade.
Brenna has always been aware she would be the youngest among her class peers, and her Mom and I always encouraged Brenna to never allow it to define her nor become an excuse for not seeking success. It wasn’t always easy. She was frequently challenged. Sometimes Brenna would find success, and other times she would find herself figuring out how to overcome unexpected bumps in the road. Each bump she overcame became part of Brenna growing stronger and more resilient.
Brenna moved on to middle school where she again found success. Brenna was confirmed as a member of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She was one of three sixth graders to make the field hockey team in Stafford county’s first year allowing sixth graders to play sports. She was one of two sixth graders in Stafford County to be selected to the All-County Chorus group. She was president of the National Junior Honor Society as an eighth grader and became the president of Youth of Virginia Speaks Out (YOVASO), a peer advocacy group promoting safe driving at Edward E. Drew Middle School. Brenna finished eighth grade by receiving the highly prized female athlete of the year award.
While a fifth grader, her brother, Nicholas, was diagnosed with a medical condition which eventually led to him undergoing an ablation procedure. During one of Nicholas’ visits to the cardiologist it was recommended Brenna be screened as well. A routine electrocardiogram (ECG) resulted in Brenna’s diagnosis for Long QT, a serious heart condition. Suddenly and without warning, the doctors determined that all sports activities for Brenna would be too dangerous to continue and she would have to cease them immediately. This was devastating, especially since so much of Brenna’s joy in life was derived from participating in sports. We purchased an automated external defibrillator (AED) for use in an emergency. She was also prescribed beta blockers, essentially an insurance policy against an adrenaline release which could result in sudden cardiac arrest. These medications were not without side effects and that vibrant personality of hers became difficult to find. Brenna eventually made the decision to stop taking the medication and we soon after sought a second opinion with a leading expert in the field at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After two long years, Brenna underwent several days of intense testing. At the conclusion, Brenna’s Long QT diagnosis was vacated. Brenna regained a sense of normal and picked up right where she left off.
Brenna began her freshman year at Mountain View High School in the International Baccalaureate studies program. While at Mountain View, Brenna was selected to YOVASO’s statewide Youth Advisory Council and played on the high school volleyball team all four years. She also played travel volleyball for three years as well. In her senior year she was selected to the All-Commonwealth District Volleyball Team and All Region 5D Team. Perhaps Brenna’s defining achievement came during her high school graduation when she was recognized for perfect attendance throughout her entire twelve years of public school.
Nicholas began his journey in Scouts as a Cub Scout while in first grade. Occasionally, Brenna was invited to attend field trips and hikes with her brother. She attended meetings and participated in some of the outdoor games and sports with the Cub Scout Pack. Her brother’s Cub Scout Pack invited local Girl Scouts to participate in a Pinewood Derby. Brenna loved this! She eventually asked us why Nicholas got to do all the cool stuff in Cub Scouts and she had to “sit around making scented pine cones.” Now don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with making scented pine cones. What Brenna was really trying to convey was she was more interested in the types of things Nicholas did with his Cub Scouts than what she was doing with her Girl Scout Troop.
Brenna later left the Girl Scouts to focus on other priorities. Occasionally she would accompany Nicholas and me on local Boy Scout outings as a family member. She was thrilled and always had a blast! I remember one camping trip, the Troop planned a day event to the county pool to work on swimming requirements. As an accomplished swimmer, Brenna volunteered to help teach some of the swimming skills to younger Scouts. She later showed some of them how to throw a football. As it turns out, one of the great joys of my life was observing the looks on the faces of young men watching her throw a perfect spiral about 25 yards.
When Scouts BSA first announced they would be accepting girls into the Scouting program, I was thrilled and immediately shared this news with Brenna. I told her all about my experience with Scouting and the lifetime of memories I made while a Scout. She wasn’t sure at first and questioned whether she would even have the time to do it. I enlisted the help of her brother to help her weigh the opportunity. She eventually agreed to show up to the first meeting and give it a go. After several meetings and the prospect of the challenges that lay ahead to attain the rank of Eagle, Brenna was all in. Since she was now sixteen, she knew she was up against the clock. Could she do it?
She joined Scouts BSA in February 2019 and began to advance. It was a lot of work to organize and coordinate school, volleyball, summer swim league, summer camp, and all of the other things life throws at a soon-to-be senior. Fortunately, Troop 199G had many great resources from which to pull. Adult leaders with many years of Scouting experience were willing to work with Brenna to help her achieve her goal. Nicholas’ own Troop 199B leaders were there as well to offer guidance. Starting a new Troop from scratch was a challenge but made less so as everyone pitched in to help. A Scout is Helpful.
Brenna served her Troop in several leadership positions. She served as Chaplain’s Aide, Scribe, Patrol Leader and Instructor. Brenna has always had a very deep faith in God. She especially enjoyed her time as Chaplain’s Aide. A Scout is Reverent.
Brenna was having a great senior year. She started off the 2020 new year with high school graduation within sight. What an exciting time! On March 12th, 2020, I dropped off a notebook to her at school. I met her in front of the school. As she turned to walk back inside, I yelled out for her to stop; It’s a habit of mine to take a quick photo. She smiled for me and I snapped a photo with my phone. Little did we know, this would be her final senior photo. The next day school was canceled for the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges of navigating the unprecedented pandemic inspired rules and regulations made it difficult for Scouts to complete requirements. This was especially difficult for Scouts like Brenna who had to maintain a tight schedule due to time restrictions related to their age, since all requirements must be completed prior to their eighteenth birthday.
Brenna was selected to attend the Order of the Arrow Ordeal and completed it in November 2020. She was proud to have been selected and now looks forward to joining her brother and me for a lifetime of cheerful service!
Brenna’s Eagle Service Project involved working with the non-profit group, Cooking Autism, Inc., to build plexiglass dividers to allow students to learn essential cooking skills during the pandemic in a safely distanced environment. She led the effort to construct a total of twenty dividers. She was challenged to complete this all while a full-time student at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. She traveled back and forth on weekends to finish merit badges and work on her Eagle project. It was a lot of work to stay focused on completing each task while looking ahead to the next.
Knowing Brenna’s tight schedule, Nicholas decided to slow his advancement towards Eagle and instead focused on helping his sister with her advancement. He helped out with the construction of her Eagle project, which due to the pandemic, made finding help outside the family difficult due to safety concerns. This past year has truly made us come together as family in ways we could never have foreseen. A Scout is Loyal and Helps Other People at All Times. For Nicholas, living the Scout Oath and Law started at home in supporting his sister’s deadline-constrained drive toward the summit of Eagle mountain.
On March 14, 2021, the day Brenna looked forward to for over two years finally arrived! She completed her Eagle rank Scoutmaster’s Conference and Board of Review and was given the news that she passed! She was incredibly happy and also reflective. Brenna was keenly aware not only of all the work she had put forth, but for the time and effort others had given her to help ensure her successfully meeting all the Eagle rank requirements on time. It is a great honor to be known as the first female Eagle Scout in the Aquia District and I have no doubt Brenna will be a great ambassador – a leader who encourages others to join Scouts BSA as an important way of creating future leaders for our communities, nation and world.
This coming summer Brenna, Nicholas and I will take on the challenges of a high adventure backpacking trek in the high desert of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. We are all very excited! Brenna is especially looking forward to this trip as a celebration of completing her Scouting journey. We have talked about this for some time now and this will certainly be an epic way to continue the great tradition of Scouting as a family.
As I reflect on Brenna’s journey thus far in Scouting, I have concluded it certainly didn’t begin just two years ago. She’s been on this path from an early age. Fortunately for Brenna, the stars aligned and Scouts BSA presented the perfect opportunity at just the right time. I think back to when I taught her to drive a car. Brenna was and remains attentive and careful, but for anything else, it’s one hundred miles per hour. That’s just Brenna. “Remember, the future belongs to those who show up” – Mark Steyn.
Congratulations to Brenna and Eagle Scouts everywhere!