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Fort Campbell Eagle Scout installs habitat boxes for bats on post

The Fort Campbell Courier
Fort Campbell | October 12, 2018

Rafael Cerritos, 16, of Boy Scout Troop 101, mounts a bat box he built for his Eagle Scout service project in the Old Clarksville Base area on Tuesday.

Boy Scout Troop 101 Scoutmaster George Soliz (left) advises Rafael Cerritos how to mount a bat box Cerritos built for his Eagle Scout service project in the Old Clarksville Base area on Tuesday.

Rafael Cerritos, 16, of Boy Scout Troop 101 installed six bat boxes in the Old Clarksville Base area of Fort Campbell on Tuesday as part of his Eagle Scout service project.

The boxes will provide a habitat for Fort Campbell’s bat population, which includes the endangered grey bat and the endangered Indiana bat.

“We have lost over seven million bats since 2006,” said Morgan Torres, a biologist with Fort Campbell Fish and Wildlife. “Between habitat loss and white-nose syndrome, [the bat population has] been hit hard.”

Cerritos, son of retired Sgt. 1st Class Henry Cerritos and Donna Gatto, is a junior at Fort Campbell High School.

He said helping the animals was what drew him to the project.

“When I started [researching] public service projects, I was put in contact with [biologists] Gene [Zirkle] and Morgan [Torres],” Cerritos said. “The helped teach about the bats and the need there is.”

Cerritos built 12 boxes. The boxes he did not install will be placed later this week in the bunkers that line Ohio Road.

“This area is great for the bats,” Torres said. “The road and trail act as a natural corridor the bats can fly through to hunt, and there is a fresh water source [nearby].”

An Eagle Scout service project, sometimes called an eagle project, is one of the necessary requirements in order for a scout to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank a scout can achieve.

“Only about 4 percent of scouts reach the Eagle Scout level,” said George Soliz, scoutmaster of Troop 101. “As the scouts grow and progress, many have trouble finding the time to complete a project.”

Cerritos said that the scouts actually helped him in this regard.

“I really like the things I learn [being in the scouts],” Cerritos said. “They teach us useful skills like personal management that will help us throughout our whole lives.”

The other requirements to earn the Eagle Scout rank are the scout must have been a Life Scout for at least six months, have earned a minimum of 21 merit badges, have demonstrated Scout Spirit, and have demonstrated leadership within his troop.

Soliz said that Cerritos has definitely grown in his leadership role within the troop.

“He started off humble, because we don’t always want to be telling people what to do,” said Soliz of Cerritos. “As the project progressed, he would teach the other scouts how to build [the boxes]. “He learned how to lead by showing instead of telling,” he said.

Cerritos said the project took him about a year to complete.

“During the summer I was able to focus on [the project] full time,” he said. “It became more difficult when school and sports started up again.

“It’s been a long project. I’m happy to see it finally finished.”

Soliz said he is happy that Cerritos is completing his project, but is not looking at it as the end of a journey.

“Scouting never stops,” Soliz said. “It is about being great citizens and leading new scouts.”

Soliz’s son, George Soliz Jr. was on site helping Cerritos lead the scouts in the project.

“Even though [the younger Soliz] is an Eagle Scout, he still isn’t done leading,” the elder Soliz said. “He also helps me out as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.”

For information about helping Fort Campbell Fish and Wildlife, call 270-798-9824.

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