By Naeisha Rose
Earlier this year, James Knapp, a Marine, decided to be a part of a different troop by trading in his dog tags for Girl Scout badges.
When Knapp learned his daughter Shayla’s Brownie troop leader had moved away, leaving the Maspeth chapter with no guidance, becoming a Girl Scout leader was a no-brainer.
“I was helping out before, but now I can be more hands-on, teach them things and learn more about their way of life, “ Knapp says.
Quickly, he approached Jennifer Johnson and Jessica D. Antonio, co-leaders of the junior troop, about combining forces with them as a third leader.
“When the leader of our girls quit, it was either we take over or there wouldn’t be a troop,” Antonio says.
The Brownies and the Junior Girl Scouts merged into l troop.
His friends at the community organization where he works, the Marine Corps Brooklyn League, occasionally wisecrack about his most recent title. But he takes pride in his work as a Girl Scout leader and enjoys that it enables him to spend more time with his daughter, while having the privilege of taking part in the lives of the future movers and shakers of America.
Since he joined the troop as a leader, Knapp, Shayla and the other members of the troop have gone on horseback riding trips at Lynne’s Riding Academy in Flushing and stargazed at Fairlawn Cemetery in New Jersey, while a few of the Scouts will even be doing volunteer work in Ecuador this summer.
Knapp believes all parents should sign up their daughters for the Girl Scouts because it is an institution that teaches amazing life skills. He also thinks that other fathers who have the time should become leaders as “a good way to learn how to bond” with their daughters and see them “progress and flourish and grow into very strong young women.”
The person who is the most excited about Knapp being a Girl Scout leader is Shayla.
“One thing that I learned about him as a Girl Scout is that we girls bring fun back to him,” Shayla says.
After serving 13 years of active duty in the Marines, Knapp had to retire as a result of a knee injury, and after he joined the Scouts he could not help but see the similarities between being a Marine and a Girl Scout.
“It’s a real sisterhood for these kids,” Knapp says. “Being in the Marines there is a lot of structure, rules and things you have to abide by and it’s great seeing a lot of structure geared toward the girls.”
The Girl Scout moment that moved Knapp the most was the symbolic coming together of the Brownie troop and the junior troop.
“Every Girl Scout troop gets a crest and they had to decide on one,” Antonio says. “He brought the idea of the girls sitting down and picking a crest together.”
Although a majority of the girls wanted to go with the Hawaiian Lei, a symbol that means friends, the Scouts in the minority felt very strongly about the waterfall symbol, which means always moving forward, according to Shayla. In the end, all the girls came to a compromise.
“We decided to do both and came up with ‘always moving forward with friends,’” says Shayla. “That will be the troop leader’s logo until forever.”
“It’s one of the best things to happen to me,” Knapp said.
And when being teased about being a Girl Scout by his buddies, Knapp simply replies, “Yes…I’m one of the biggest Girl Scouts you’ll ever meet.”