by Major Gary Van Hoesen
The girl guard program has its roots in Scouting. While stationed in India, British Army officer Robert Baden-Powell realized his men lacked the ability to perform first aid procedures and the basic skills for survival in the wild. In turn, he wrote a small handbook to teach army men first aid, outdoor survival tactics and leadership. The book caught the attention of young English boys, so Robert began to explore the possibility of developing a training program geared toward this age group. This was the foundation for the birth of the Boy Scouts.
In 1913 Robert Baden-Powell invited General William Booth to become a member of the governing body of world scouting. The general saw great potential in the program for The Salvation Army and out of it inaugurated the Life Saving Scout Movement. This step marked the beginning of a multi-faceted troop program for boys and girls in The Salvation Army.
The first girl guard troop sprouted in London, England, in 1915 and was called the Life-Saving Girl Guards. It reflected the structure and tenor of the Life Saving Scouts program. Much of the training was similar, but other focuses such as homemaking skills were included.
The original Life-Saving Girl Guard badge featured a lamp, representing guarding the soul; an eye, representing guarding the mind; crossed clubs, representing guarding the body; and a patrol of girls, representing guarding others. The motto was “To save and to serve.”
After the first girl guard troop was inaugurated in the United States by National Commander Evangeline Booth in 1916, the program spread across the nation.