To Make a Difference

 To Make a Difference By W. Scott Olsen

Dave Mohn, an avionics technician at the Fargo Jet Center, is one of those people who believe in service, in mentoring kids, in making a real difference.  As a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America, he has recently seen his 275th scout earn the Aviation Merit Badge.

Like many school kids, Dave was asked in his 9th Grade Social Studies class to think about his future vocation.  He loved electronics.  He also loved airplanes.  “I used to watch them go by all the time,” he says.  “I still do.”  His teacher gave him an FAA pamphlet that described a career in aviation electronics and he was hooked.

“I had my intro flight when I was 16,” he says.  I don’t have a pilot’s license, but I do have about 35 hours as PIC.  And because I do all the certification and recertification flights, I sit in the right seat all the time.  I have more hours in the right seat than most pilots have in the left!”

One day several years ago, a friend of his son’s invited his son to a Boy Scout camp-out.  Dave’s wife wanted Dave to go along.  “Once I got involved, it was all over.”

“Every time I was around kids it was a lot of fun,” he says.  “I was always trying to create a positive atmosphere.”

Dave remembers the first aviation merit badge he guided.  It was in 2005.  Troop 244 from North Fargo.  Dave helped the scouts built a wind tunnel out of Lexan glass for a Scout Show at Moorhead, Minnesota, Center Mall, a gathering of dozens of Boy Scout troops that showcases projects and activities.  That air tunnel took Best-in-Show and is still on display at the Fargo Air Museum. 

The Aviation merit badge is one of the original fifty-seven Boy Scout merit badges offered in 1911.  To earn the badge, a scout has to complete ten activities which range from a preflight inspection to explaining how an airfoil creates lift, from creating a flight plan with destination times to building a gas powered model airplane, from visiting a tower to visiting the FAA.

Dave has acted as mentor, or counselor, for more than two hundred seventy five scouts who have earned this badge.  He’s acted as counselor for more than 150 merit badges in electronics.  In fact, Dave has been the adult behind more than 700 merit badges including hiking, small boat sailing, personal fitness, communications, orienteering, and more.  In 2010, he helped more than 300 boys earn their Centennial badges for Signaling, the old arts of communicating by semaphore flags and Morse Code.  Fifty-seven of them earned the badge in one weekend.

“You help them get there.  That’s what you do,” he says.  “You get to have a significant impact on kids.”

Dave recalls his most memorable badge.  “I was sitting on an Eagle board, the panel of Scout leaders who review the applications of young men who want the rank of Eagle Scout—the highest rank we have” he says, “and, as always, we asked the boy about his career aspirations.  He said he wanted to be an aerospace engineer.  I looked and I could not see the aviation badge.  It was way down on the sash—one of the more recent ones in this boy’s scout history.  I asked him about the badge and he showed it to us, and then reminded me that I was the mentor for his project.  He said he had thought he was going into Civil Engineering.  But his experience with the aviation badge really lit a fire and changed his mind.”

Dave pauses.  “That was exciting!” he laughs.

Another project Dave recalls happily was another Eagle project.  The Scout built a display table with a laminated Sectional Map on top and a CDI built into the wood.  You could manipulate the CDI and set up all sorts of approaches.  The scout put about 170 hours into it.  Dave put about 25 hours into it himself.

“It’s just so much fun,” he says.  “I was never a Boy Scout, but I wish I would have been one.”


–W. Scott Olsen



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