Breckenridge Texan

BHS grad shares insights from his journey as Eagle Scout to flying combat missions in the Air Force  

BHS grad shares insights from his journey as Eagle Scout to flying combat missions in the Air Force  
June 22
08:14 2021

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

On Saturday, Scouts attending Breckenridge Scout Troop 63’s Court of Honor learned just how far the skills they’re learning in the Boy Scouts can take them in life.

Aric Holly, a 1995 Breckenridge High School graduate and retired Air Force pilot, gives “Insights from an Eagle” during Breckenridge Scout Troop 63’s Court of Honor on Saturday, June 19. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

In a speech to the Scouts and their families, retired Air Force Major Aric Holly, a 1995 graduate of  Breckenridge High School, described how the skills he learned while working on his Eagle Scout rank helped him with his military career and his life. Holly earned his Eagle Scout rank in the early 1990s as a member of local Troop 63 under legendary Scoutmaster Frank Pellizzari, Jr.

After graduating from BHS, Holly attended Texas A&M University as a member of the U. S. Air Force ROTC program and served in the Cadet Corps, where he earned his commission as a Second Lieutenant. Serving as a pilot in the Air Force, he flew over 3,000 hours in 12 different aircraft, including the AC-130 Gunship. He deployed 12 times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and supported hostage rescues and resupply missions in South America.

Holly was awarded the Bronze Star, seven Air Medals and two Aerial Achievement Medals. He retired from active duty in June 2020 and is now an Air Force civilian employee working as the Regional Operations Director for the Southwest Liaison Region.

Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Kight said the troop was honored to have Holly as a speaker at the presentations. He said it gave the Scouts a chance to hear his  “Insights from an Eagle” first-hand from someone who grew up in Breckenridge and earned his Eagle Scout rank right here in Troop 63.

Holly said the leadership skills he learned in the Boy Scouts while working on his Eagle Scout rank helped prepare him to be a leader both when he went to college at Texas A&M and became a Air Force ROTC cadet and then later as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and in his civilian job today.

When a Scout earns their Eagle Scout rank, Holly said, they need to remember it’s just the beginning of many other adventures in life and it’s important to realize that it’s a life skill, it’s a process with rewards.

Troop 63 Scouts, from left, Dirk Miller. Matthew Wunsch and Christian Lechner listen to former Eagle Scout Aric Holly’s presentation during the troop’s Court of Honor. Click here to see the photo gallery from the event. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

“At the end of day, you’re gonna get an Eagle Badge. OK, that and $5 will  get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks, right?” he said. “But, the process and the things that you learn along the way, and if you embrace the values, the Boy Scouts will pay off in spades the rest of your life, right?”

Before he spoke, Holly said, he had the chance to meet with some of the Scouts and was very impressed with what he saw. He said they all had a nice handshake, looked him in the eyes and said it was a pleasure to meet him.

“So that’s kind of a lost art today sometimes, right? Interpersonal relationships, showing courtesy and respect. And these kids so far showed it in spades,” he said.

Holly said even if a Scout doesn’t go to Texas A&M or into the military and joins the workforce instead, as employees they will do well and move up if they have the qualities instilled in them as Scouts.

“If they have integrity, do what they say they are going to and don’t lie, cheat or steal … things that I think I almost take for granted because I’ve been ingrained in that for so long since I was 10 years old,” he said. “You know, being out there in the world, I’ve seen…people that… just can’t tell the truth if their life depended on it, (people who) are lazy to a tee, take the shortcut every time they can, and cut corners. And in the military, that kind of stuff can cost lives. And you can’t do that; you have to be a man of action. You got to be a man of your word. You got to build those bridges.”

Holly said he spent a good part of his military career doing close air support with a gunship and had to build relationships with the ground forces they supported. He said the ground forces had to know that the pilots above would be there for them when they needed them.

When talking about his days as a Scout in Breckenridge, Holly said he has fond memories of his time as a Boy Scout under Scoutmaster Frank Pellizzari, Jr. He said Pellizzari was always singing, and if it was a nice day he would hold the meetings outside and teach them under a tree next to the Scout house. He said Pellizzari would sit in a little wooden chair that had a seat that was woven with nylon cord or rope.

“The secret really was that he let the Scouts kind of run the troop to some degree,” Holly said. “So, like, he had things that he did and took care of. But when I became senior patrol leader, he pretty much turned the meetings over to me. So he really showed faith in me to lead the other young men. He really empowered me to lead the troop in a lot of ways for the day-to-day type stuff. And it was really pretty cool.”

Holly said the experience he gained as a leader serving as senior patrol leader gave him confidence later as an Air Force officer, that he could lead and that people would follow. He also learned about discipline and how to be fair because troops had their own discipline.

“We had rules when we went on campouts and stuff like that,” he said. “And, and it was up to me to handle the discipline for the people who didn’t follow the rules, and that taught me to be fair, you know. Nobody left because of discipline.  They’re like, ‘Yeah, we were wrong, and we accept that.’ And so it allowed me to hold people to standards, (it) taught me that I should have standards and to be a fair leader.”

A never-ending journey of learning

Holly said his learning about leadership didn’t stop when he finished the Scouts. He continued to learn a little bit more each step of the way. For example, when he was at Texas A&M in the Cadet Corps, he went from being a Freshman “fish” all the way to being the Executive Officer (XO) of his battery when he was a senior.

“Every step of the way, I learned more and more,” he said. “When I went to my initial field training with the Air Force, I learned even more there. And then I joined the Air Force as a (Second) Lieutenant, bottom of the totem pole. Because, you know, leadership’s great, but followership is very important, too. And, so, again, I learned all that because when I came in as a Scout, and my name was under the turtle in the Scout house, and I had all these older boys, like high school guys, that would show us the ropes and everything. And it was great, I learned how to be a follower as well, which is also important, you know, because you can’t have everybody leading.”

Learning to balance many activities

Holly said one of the biggest challenges a Scout faces when working to earn their Eagle Badge is trying to balance the many activities they face at home school and church. He credits his mother, Sherry Strickland, with helping him learn to stick with things.

“You know, my mom saw me going every which way in high school, and she basically said, ‘If you don’t stick to this, you’re gonna regret it,’” he said. “And she’s like, ‘I don’t want you to go through that. You’ve worked so hard to get where you are.’”

He said Pellizzari was there, too, every step of the way to help him along the way. “But he didn’t put pressure on me,” Holly said. “He knows how these things go. He’s seen the folks come and go. But when I decided to buckle down and get back to it, you know, Frank was right there, helping me to get my Eagle project lined up and to get my required merit badges and all those things. So a huge support, huge asset. I would love to see him, 20 years before that, where he was able to get around a lot better and stuff. I just would love to. I loved being around him. Loved to listen to his stories. (He) told great stories.”

Bringing back the Court of Honor

Saturday’s Court of Honor was something Kight said the troop is planning to hold more of as the troop continues to grow since they re-established it a couple of years ago. He said the Court of Honor is designed to publicly recognize the achievements in the Scouts’ ranks and the awards they have earned along the way, rather than just giving them out at the Scout meetings.

Troop 63 is a Scouts BSA troop. Scouts BSA is the program for youth ages 11 to 17 in the Boy Scouts of America. The program includes both boys and girls, but they are in separate troops. Breckenridge’s Scouts BSA troop for girls hasn’t been set up yet, although there are some local girls who are interested.

Kight said that right now they only have seven Scouts in Troop 63, but they are going to try and hold the Court of Honor at least three times a year or maybe four if the Scouts are moving that far along earning their awards.

“We don’t want to do one every month, we want to accumulate some (awards), but we don’t want to do them, like once a year either,” he  said.

Because it’s only been a couple of years since they re-established Troop 63, Kight said, all their Scouts are young and just getting started. But he hopes in about three years or so they will have someone that earns the Eagle Scout rank. When that happens, he said, they will hold a special Court of Honor just for the Eagle Scout Badge presentation and no other awards.

Kight said one thing that is different when a Cub Scout transitions over to Scouts is that it’s then up to the individual Scout to take the initiative to move along through the ranks. He said they can move as fast as they want, or as slow as they want.

“So we’re going to encourage them; we’re going to push some, but we’re not going to sit down and say, ‘Here, you will do this,’” he said. “So that’s part of the trick to it. And that’s different than they’ve ever had to do. You know, it’s cool. They have a schedule to move along with this. It’s when you get ready for me to sign off or not. Let’s talk about it, and I’ll sign off or not. They have to come to us. And same thing with the merit badges. They pick what merit badges they want, we find a merit badge counselor, and then they work on it. And they might be able to do it in a month. If they’re really excited. It might take them six months to get a merit badge and that sort of thing.”

Awards at Saturday’s Court of Honor

Awards for Rank:

  • Kason Burchett – Tenderfoot
  • Brysen Hash – Tenderfoot
  • Reyse Hash – Tenderfoot
  • Ellis Hise – Tenderfoot
  • Christian Lechner – Tenderfoot
  • Dirk Miller – Tenderfoot
  • Matthew Wunsch – Tenderfoot

Other Awards

  • Kason Burchett – Astronomy, Citizenship in the Nation, First Aid, and Geocaching Merit Badges; Totin’ Chip
  • Brysen Hash – Astronomy and Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badges; Totin’ Chip
  • Reyse Hash – Astronomy and Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badges; Totin’ Chip
  • Ellis Hise – First Aid Merit Badge; Totin’ Chip
  • Christian Lechner – First Aid Merit Badge; Totin’ Chip
  • Dirk Miller – First Aid Merit Badge; Totin’ Chip
  • Matthew Wunsch – First Aid Merit Badge; Totin’ Chip

Click here to see the Breckenridge Texan’s Photo Gallery from the event.

Former Eagle Scout Aric Holly shows Scouts Dirk Miller and Kason Burchett some of the memorabilia from his Scouting days in Breckenridge. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Members of Scout Troop 63 held their Court of Honor on Saturday, June 19, at First United Methodist Church. Pictured, left to right, are Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Kight, Matthew Wunsch, Dirk Miller, Christian Lechner, Brysen Hash, Kason Burchett, Reyse Hash, Ellis Hise and Scoutmaster Matthew Hise. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Retired Air Force Major Aric Holly, a 1995 Breckenridge High School graduate and former Eagle Scout of Breckenridge Troop 63, helps Scout Brysen Hash try on a flight helmet during his presentation at the troop’s Court of Honor on Saturday, June 19, at First United Methodist Church. More photos are featured in the Photo Gallery. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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