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Issue 15 – July 2003

Last month, my “Scout Trivia” Question was: A boy can become a Boy Scout 3 ways: Be age 11, finish 5th grade, or _________? Here’s the first correct answer…


Hi Andy:

The answer to your “quiz” last month is: EARN THE ARROW OF LIGHT AWARD. Scott Hemgren, Assistant District Commissioner, Zimmerman, Princeton, Milaca, MN

Right on, Scott! Thanks for reading — and for your answer! You’re the first to get it right so here’s your name in lights! Now, ask ME a question!

Greetings Andy!

I just read your November 2002 issue (#6) of ASK ANDY — “The Other 98%” — and I’d like to ask you for permission to reprint your essay in an upcoming issue of our Council newsletter, with proper acknowledgment of course. It really hits at the core of the aims and methods of Scouting. Thanks! Roy Fisher, Assistant District Commissioner-Sioux District, Alamo Area Council, San Antonio, Texas (Our District lies along the northern part of the Council and is primarily Guadalupe and Comal counties). PS, I’ll be sure to send you a copy of the “Alamo Area Scouter”

You absolutely have my permission, Roy! I’m honored that you’d elect to do this. Just identify the author — Andy McCommish — and include my Web address and email address, so that word gets “out there” and folks ask more good questions!

Hi Andy,

Regarding the posting at: can you pass along my contact info to him? I am also involved with one of the Ships from Patriots’ Path Council, in New Jersey, or he can find ships local to him on the National Sea Scout website. Martin A. Flynn, Hardware Administrator, Sea Scout Internet Services (

I’ve passed your contact information along directly, and I’m also publishing it here, for others interested in Sea Scouting. Thanks for letting me know who you are and how you’re involved in Sea Scouting — the fastest growing youth program in all of the BSA!

Hi Andy,

How did the BSA come up with the 1-3 Ratio for unit commissioners? I’m currently at 1-4 ratio. Rick Gimbl, Council Commissioner, Suffolk County Council, New York.

Well, I think it goes like this… No one pays to see someone juggle ONE ball!… TWO balls is something, but not exactly exciting for very long… THREE is pretty good… But more than that and you’d better be a long-practicing expert! Now Commissioners aren’t experts — They’re folks like you n’ me. So, three is not too much and not too few — sorta “just right.” Of course, I’m making this up, because I really don’t have a clue how that number was picked. But, from experience “where the rubber meets the road,” I can tell you that more than three gets burdensome and less gets boring. I know that’s not a “policy-type” answer, but it’s a pretty good “practical” one!

Dear Andy,

In 1973 I was awarded a green square knot – the Scouter’s Training Award. I have a 1973 Adult Leader Development card signed by the Council Coach Counselor and the District Leadership Training Chairman. I dropped out of Scouting in 1981, and rejoined in early 2001. I’ve been serving as a Unit Commissioner for 6 months and in the last two years have completed the Fast Start Training, New Leader Essentials, Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills, and Boy Scout Leader Specific Training. I earned a Bachelor of Unit Service in 2003 at my councils’ University Of Scouting. camp work crew (over 100 days) as a volunteer since early 2001. Am I entitled to wear the square knot award? Jack Boeldt, UC, Indianapolis, Indiana.

When it comes to “square knots” and other adult recognitions, the same principle applies to adult volunteers in Scouting as applies to Scouts: Once earned, no award can ever be “taken away.” So, YES, you should definitely wear an award you’ve earned and are entitled to wear. And, as a Unit Commissioner for the past 6 months, you should be right on the brink of earning your Commissioner’s Arrowhead Honor (this has a “progress card” that you should have signed by your DC or ADC). This is particularly important for Commissioners, because they instantly tell the leaders of the units you service that you’ve “paid your dues”! Welcome back!

Dear Andy

Now I have another question for you – On several occasions, I’ve seen Scouts and camp staff lower and remove the American flag during the day to prevent it from getting wet from rain. It was raining, and thunder from lightning could be heard. People are in grave danger when doing this! I want to make a strong appeal to put a stop to this practice. Will you send me some specific Code or Rules and specific examples that will help me make my point? I have a degree in electrical engineering, am licensed by the State, and have over 40 years experience working for the local power company, but the camp staff ignores my advice. I need more authoritative documents to show them. I’ll be visiting the national office of the American Legion to see what they can give me. Jack Boeldt, UC, Indianapolis, Indiana.

I have great news for you… You DON’T have to fight a safety battle here, because the Flag doesn’t have to be taken down! Here’s the source document:

The Flag Code: Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1, Paragraph 6, Sections (A) and (C), states: “It is the universal custom to display the flag…from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open; however, when a patriotic effect is desired, the Flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness…The Flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, EXCEPT WHEN AN ALL-WEATHER FLAG IS DISPLAYED.”

Since virtually ALL flags these days are “all-weather” flags (e.g., nylon, etc.), it’s absolutely not necessary to take them down during any sort of rainstorm! Just let them fly! This keeps folks away from metal flagpoles very easily! And, Jack, if the camp staff doesn’t get the point that gathering around a tall metal object during a thunder storm isn’t the brightest thing in the world to do, no amount of credentials on you part is gonna make ’em any smarter! Sometimes, there’s just no accounting for stupid!

Hi Andy,

The question about what’s “current” and what isn’t, when it comes to merit badges for ranks above First Class is going to be going away soon, but you didn’t quite explain it fully. Here’s a scenario: Before the change, Scout Sam earned Star rank with Woodcarving (opt), Basketry (opt), Sports (Eagle req), Citizenship-Nation (Eagle req), First Aid (Eagle req), and Environmental Science (Eagle req). The change came, and now Sam’s going for Life rank with Nature (opt), Fingerprinting (opt), Citizenship-World (Eagle req), Citizenship-Community (Eagle req), and Hiking (Eagle req). You’ll note that Sam didn’t earn another Eagle-required merit badge, which would make a total of seven from the “required” list, because, to earn Life, Sam only had to earn three more required merit badges. When he goes on to earn Eagle he will have to earn all the 12 required merit badges on the list at the time he applies for Eagle. The other twist is that for Star and Life is it says Eagle required merit badges, so for example he could earn Hiking, Cycling, and Swimming and have them all count as Eagle-required merit badges for those ranks. But when he goes for Eagle he would only be able to count one of them as required. When a new person at the Scout office here in town took over checking Eagle applications, she got some Eagle candidates and their parents upset because she didn’t realize there had been changes in required Merit Badges. We should be coming to the end of confusion about the change in ’99. Just in time for them to change it again! Curt Eidem District Commissioner Former District Advancement Chair Mt. Baker Council Everett, Washington


Yep, you’re right, in principle, but that’s not the end of it. I agree that it can seem pretty confusing, and I’ll be glad, too, when it all finally comes to one resting place – probably just in time for another change! That said, let’s take one more look at your Scout Sam scenario… If he’s really on the ball, he’ll look ahead on the “trail to Eagle. When he does this, he’ll see that the word “OR” appears between merit badges like Swimming-Hiking-Cycling. So, does he really think he can “double up” for Eagle? Doesn’t take the brightest light in the harbor to see that, staying with the same example, if he earns all three of these, two become “optional” for the Eagle rank! So, is there a way to help Scouts stay on track? Well, one of the keys to rank advancement success that I’ve seen is for a Troop to have – in addition to the Advancement Chair – another adult with the designated position: EAGLE CANDIDATE ADVISOR. Here’s where Life Scouts can go, to make sure they’re on track with all of this sort of stuff!


Happy Scouting!



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(July 2003)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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