At about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30, Yelm High School freshman Emily Turbeville — who until then had been standing firmly on the carpet at her cousin’s house at JBLM — suddenly took off and soared around the home on powerful 7-foot wings.
The 15-year-old had just become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
“We were all just cheering and hugging,” Turbeville’s mom, Julie Turbeville, recalled.
Turbeville joined Scouts BSA in March 2019, a month after the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow girls to join for the first time in the then 109-year history of the organization. The new name — Scouts BSA — reflected the change from its former all-boys designation.
“I was really happy when girls were allowed into the Boy Scouts,” Turbeville said. “I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts more than the Girl Scouts because there was more opportunity with the Boy Scouts to pursue outside activities.”
Turbeville discovered she’d earned the prestigious Eagle Scout rank after a Zoom meeting that Wednesday night of the Pacific Harbors BSA Council, which oversees BSA troops from five South Sound counties, including Thurston, Lewis and Pierce.
Turbeville, who lives in Rainier near the Yelm border with her parents Julie and Jim Turbeville and younger brother Jimmy, Jr., 9, was on pins and needles as the council deliberated its verdict. Council members had questioned her about her Eagle Scout project for about 20 minutes before retiring for another five minutes or so to deliberate her fate.
Turbeville remembers thinking: “Oh my gosh, I hope I passed. I really want to be an Eagle!”
When the council returned, a member asked her: “On this day, what special event happened to the Boy Scouts of America?”
Turbeville was stumped: “Ummm, I don’t know,” she replied.
The member replied: “Today, a girl named Emily Turbeville became an Eagle Scout.”
Pandemonium ensued as shouts of joy rang through the house amid hugs aplenty.
After advancing for 22 months through the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America, Turbeville had finally achieved her goal. She’d begun her BSA career as a Scout, advanced to Tenderfoot, then Second Class, First Class, Star, Life Scout and finally Eagle Scout. Along the way she needed to earn 21 different merit badges that would demonstrate camping skills, leadership, environmental responsibility, first aid, citizenship, family responsibility and others.
According to Turbeville — who has earned 33 merit badges — meeting the requirements to earn the badges took from one day to a whole year.
“There are just a bunch of requirements to earn the merit badges, and there are vastly different requirements for each of them,” she said.
And at first, the endeavor required to advance from one BSA rank to another seemed especially daunting to the brand new scout — but she knew what she wanted and went after it.
“I wanted to become an Eagle Scout because I knew (that through the scouting program) I would learn a lot of cool stuff that I wouldn’t learn otherwise,” she said, noting such skills as making fires, using a pocket knife, erecting tents and rope lashing. “It seemed like it would be super fun.”
But it wasn’t, in fact, until Turbeville conquered the Scout rank that she believed she would eventually achieve Eagle Scout, a distinction that according to BSA only 4 percent of scouts have earned since the organization’s inception in 1911.
“I was not confident about making Eagle Scout when I first joined the SBSA until I hit Tenderfoot,” Turbeville admitted. “But after that my confidence kept gaining and gaining because of how much knowledge I had acquired and I began to think I could reach Eagle Scout.”
Turbeville, a member of BSA Troop 1932 chartered by the Yelm Lions Club, is one of nine teenage girls in the Pacific Harbors Council to attain the Eagle Scout rank. The group — which is among the first national class of female Eagle Scouts — will be honored Feb. 8 in a hybrid in-person/virtual ceremony at the Creighton Scouting Center in Tacoma and in a national Facebook telecast on Feb. 21.
Turbeville is the third Yelm-area female scout to earn the Eagle Scout rank. She joins two others from Troop 1932 to be so honored: Roy’s Colleen Fanning, 16, and Yelm’s Tayler Thomas, 17.
Turbeville attained her Eagle Scout rank after planning, organizing, and building — with help from five Troop 1932 mates and various family members — a pinwheel obstacle course at the Hope for Heroes Horsemanship Center in Yelm.
The center helps military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using horses as therapy. Veterans guide the horses through a variety of obstacles to help them learn coping skills and in the process how to control animals.
Turbeville was the right person for the job, said Chris Fanning, Troop 1932 assistant scoutmaster.
“She is a spitfire for sure, very strong willed and likes to take charge,” Fanning wrote via email.
Debbi Fisher, 62, a Gold Star military widow and Hope for Heroes Horsemanship Center operations director and head PATH instructor, praised Turbeville’s perseverance and organization.
“Emily did an excellent job of putting together a crew and organizing work-party days to get the job done, as well as supplies needed to make this new obstacle for the veterans,” Fisher wrote via email. “Emily has a great work ethic and understands how being a volunteer here in her own community can benefit a lot of people.
“Having people like Emily step up and make a difference in the lives of our veterans by building this obstacle for them shows how even a teenager can make a huge difference by doing volunteer work.”
The pinwheel project and the effort it required to reach that point in her BSA career taught Turbeville a lesson that could benefit her for life.
“It taught me that I’m really independent, and I push myself to accomplish my goals,” she said.
Julie Turbeville elaborated: “Emily’s outgoing and persistent. She has a good sense of humor, and she’s one of those ‘get it done’ kind of girls.”
And Turbeville expects to keep getting it done for the next couple of years in Scouts BSA until she ages out of the program at 18. These next two years in Scouts BSA — which is one of five programs BSA offers — should be especially pleasing for the new Eagle Scout, who may finally have a little breathing room to just enjoy herself.
“Now that she’s an Eagle Scout she can continue to have fun without worrying about fulfilling her merit badge requirements,” Julie Turbeville said.
But once Turbeville graduates from Yelm High School, she’ll most likely be off to college in her quest to become a nurse or a veterinarian. In the meantime, though — COVID-19 permitting — she’ll fill her free time riding horses, fishboat crabbing, fishing, playing Xbox video games, and hopefully participating at some point on the YHS softball team.
And we have a sneaky feeling she’ll want to earn even more Eagle Scout merit badges as she traverses through high school.
She’s a spitfire, after all.