Rare air: Southampton’s retired Lt. Gen. Scott Rice receives highest Eagle Scout award

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 09-05-2023 8:33 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Growing up a Boy Scout, retired Lt. Gen. Scott Rice of Southampton learned to embrace core values including integrity, patriotism, respect and leadership at a young age.

Now, he is one of only three western Massachusetts residents to receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA) for his leadership and service in the military and career as a pilot — joining presidents, governors, senators and CEOs to be designated with the honor.

“It’s pretty amazing, and I’m truly honored,” said Rice. “I’m humbled to be put in this group of very few people who get this award each year.”

 The Distinguished Eagle Scout Award is given by the National Eagle Scout Association to Eagle Scouts who “achieve extraordinary national-level recognition, fame, or eminence within their profession and/or service to the nation and have a strong record of voluntary service to their community,” according to the website.

With over 40 years of service in the military, Rice distinguished himself as director of the Air National Guard for the whole country. In that role, he formulated, developed and coordinated all plans, policies and programs that affected over 105,500 Guard members, along with civilians across 213 locations.

“Frankly, I’m still humbled and honored that somebody thought that I could do that job, that I was selected,” said Rice. “And I did that job, and I was very proud of my service.”

Rice points to the mobilization and deployment of forces in the National Guard in May and June 2020 — the largest mobilization of the guard since World War II — as one of his proudest accomplishments during his service.

“That was a big accomplishment for all of us. We had more than 20% in the National Guard across the country activated, both air and army, for racial riots and discord, for COVID, and then for overseas deployments, and it was pretty special,” said Rice.

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Previously, he served in the Massachusetts National Guard for over 20 years as commander and adjutant general. He also served as commander of the U.S. Air Forces in the Middle East.

And for 30 years up until his retirement this year, Rice was also a Boeing 777 captain for United Airlines.

“Being able to be very successful in both careers and make a difference for people, not just one person at a time, is really what Eagle Scouts is about,” said Rice. “Being able to do that individually and being able to do it nationally.”

Highest honor

First established in 1969, the DESA is the National Eagle Scout Association’s highest honor for Eagle Scouts, and is only given to those with over 25 years of experience after achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

Out of around 2.7 million Eagle Scouts, only around 2,000 have received the award.

Among recipients of the award are former President Gerald R. Ford, governors, senators, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, university presidents, military flag officers, and nationally recognized lawyers, educators and doctors.

The only other two western Massachusetts recipients include Presley Blake, founder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, and Denis Gagnon, president of Excel Dryer.

“You look at a number of the people that have received the award are people like presidents and astronauts, senior statesmen, very successful business people,” said Rice. “To be placed in that group, that’s what’s so humbling to me because I had never looked at myself as part of that group.”

Rice said much of his leadership and career success can be attributed, in part, to the lessons he learned from Boy Scouts. He became an Eagle Scout on Dec. 19, 1973 in Troop 414 in Bedford, New Hampshire.

“Being an Eagle Scout gave me some just fundamental, intuitive leadership skills on how to listen, how to follow, how to show other peopl e respect, and I didn’t know it at the time, but absorbing all of that stuff really set me up for success when I joined the military, became a pilot and then went from there through my career,” said Rice.

Another source of leadership advice came from his father.

“My father said, ‘Hey, people are different. Some people are older, some people are younger, some people are smarter and some people are not… But as far as adding value to society or value to what you’re doing, everybody has an equal opportunity to add value to a situation.”

“He instilled in me that it’s my job to find what value somebody brings to the table, and then to use that and put them in the right place so that they can use their value,” said Rice. “That has really helped me in leadership roles in the military.”

Rice, alongside his wife, went on to become a Cubmaster and Assistant scoutmaster of Pack and Troop 210 of Southampton, their son’s troop.

“I think the proudest moment we had as a couple through scouts was not only did we help our son become an Eagle Scout, but a number of his peers…. I think we had eight scouts that we brought from very young scouts all the way through to Eagle Scout.”

Rice currently serves as the executive vice president of the Western Massachusetts Council for Boy Scouts of America, the council that nominated him for the award.

“We are highly honored to be presenting this prestigious award to Scott,” said Gary Savignano, executive director of the council.

An official recognition ceremony will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Penthouse 650 in Springfield. The event will feature Vanessa Ford singing the national anthem and music by the 215th Army Band of the Massachusetts National Guard.

The event will also include councilwide recognition of those who have earned the Eagle Scout rank within the past three years.

Tickets are $100, and include dinner. More information can be found at www.wmascouting.org.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com or on Twitter @MaddieFabian.]]>