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Issue 28 – March 2004

In February (refer to my Mid-Feb column) David Rice, a DE in Illowa Council, IL, had asked: “What would District Commissioners and Unit Commissioners like to receive from their District Executive?” I responded, and David wrote back to give me some background on why he’d asked that particular question…

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your insightful analogy. I must confess, I asked the question to help me prepare a training session for the professional staff in our council. I carefully avoided telling you that I, myself, had been a Unit Commissioner, a BS Roundtable Commissioner, and an Assistant District Commissioner, because I hoped for a fresh perspective. I’ve also been a Scoutmaster, and I hope to be the best possible “Scoutmaster” for my new “Troop.” Thanks for your help! (David Rice,District Executive)

Well, David, all I can tell you is that I’m honored and humbled that someone with the depth of background you have would send a question like that in my direction…. And the use what I’ve said!

Now, let’s take a look at some new questions that have come my way…

Hi Andy,

In our Pack right now, we have a controversy over the placement of the axles on Pinewood Derby cars. Two families just altered their cars’ axles (moved from original position). We didn’t have anything in our Pack PD Rules & Regulations about this because we never had this problem before, and I’ve been handling our Pinewood Derby for nine years! Apparently even the official rules that come with kits don’t mention anything, either. Is there a set of rules somewhere, that I can show these parents, that states that the wheels and/or axle placement can’t be altered? I’ve been searching different websites trying to find something, but I’ve come up empty-handed. Is there a site or rule I’m missing ? Please let me know right away, because we just had our second tune-up, and the race is scheduled for early March! (Chuck Rutter, WDL, Den 5, Pack 389, Maryland)

Good news! The “rule” you need has been staring you in the face, the whole time, and it’s a real simple one! First, let’s take a look at the instructions that come with the BSA Grand Prix Pinewood Derby car (I’m assuming you’re using these kits and not one of the alternates out there), and then we’ll sharpen our eyeballs for the “rule” you need.

Here’s what’s in the kit…



Please read these Rules and Instructions before building your car.

The Pinewood Derby is open to all Cub Scouts. Cars should be built by the Cub Scouts with some adult guidance. Any technical assistance should be fully explained to the Cub Scout so that he can use that knowledge on future projects. Because it is difficult to establish how much help was given in building the car, some Packs have a separate Pinewood Derby Race for adults.


The Race Committee should decide on rules and race procedures, then have them printed and distributed to all participants at least two weeks before the race.


  • · Width: – 2-3/4″ – Length – 7″ – Weight – Not over 5 Ounces
  • · Width between wheels – 1-3/4″
  • · Bottom clearance between can and track – 3/8″


Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited. The car shall not ride on springs. Only official Cub Scout Grand Prix Pinewood Derby wheels and axles are permitted. Only dry lubricant is permitted. Details, such as steering wheel and driver are permissible as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width and weight specifications. The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting devices. Each car must pass inspection by the official inspection committee before it may compete. If, at registration., a car does not pass inspection, the owner will be informed of the reason for failure, and will be given time within the official weigh-in time period to make the adjustment. After final approval, cars will not be re-inspected unless the car is damaged in handling or in a race.


Check the grooves to ensure that each is at a perfect 90-dearee angle to the car body. A car with untrue axles tends to steer to one side or the other, causing it to rub up against the side of the lane strip, slowing it down. You can check the groove angles by using a square, a protractor, or even a piece of paper. Lay square on block to check for squareness and alignment of slot. Use two hacksaw blades side by side to redress the slots. Use the edge of the square as a guide.


If the car design you chose has a narrow body, make sure the area where the axles are inserted into the body remains 1-3/4″ wide, or wheels will not fit over the guide strips of the track.


Apply several coats of sanding sealer; then sand entire car with a fine-grade sandpaper. Give model at least two coats of fast drying paint, in your choice of color. When paint is completely dry sand with a fine sandpaper, apply a final coat of paint and allow to dry thoroughly. TO FINISH, rub entire car with a rubbing compound. Details such as windshield, driver, racing numbers, etc., should be added now. For a super finish apply a coat of auto wax and rub to a high gloss. Pre-lubricate axles and wheels using, dry powdered lubricant. Do not use regular oil or silicone spray, since it may soften the plastic. Slide wheels over axles, then gently tap them into the car body grooves with a 1/4″ dowel or similar object to within 1/32″ of car body. (See Figure 4). Make sure wheels turn freely.

Due to many requests we have eliminated the cockpit section in the Pinewood Derby block to allow for more designs.

Now, do you see where it says, in the paragraph on Painting & Wheel Assembly, “Slide wheels over axles, then gently tap them into the car body grooves”? That’s the “rule” you’re looking for. It says, in effect, USE THE SLOTS PROVIDED FOR THE AXLES AND WHEELS. It doesn’t say to use them if you feel like it or make others if you’d like. It says use the existing body grooves. Period. This means you don’t have to write some sort of “Pack rule” on this—You can use what’s already printed.

I still have my own Pinewood Derby car. It’s now more than 50 years old! It never won a race, but it still reminds me of when my Dad and I built it—TOGETHER! My sons still have their cars, and the newest of these “next generation” cars is now 15 years old! And what do my sons remember? Not whether they won or lost, but how they built their cars with their Dad! That’s what this is all about, and any Cub family that thinks that the object is winning doesn’t “get it.”

Dear Andy,

Do you have any ideas for a display for Pinewood Derby cars that Bear Scouts can build? Our Cub Scouts have built and raced their cars. What I’m inquiring about is actually building a display for their Pinewood Derby car that they could set on the bookshelf or dresser at home. A good Den project idea to meet the Bear Achievement 21b—”Build a display for a model”—would be for the Cubs to build a display for the Pinewood Derby car and the trophy they received for racing. Any examples of this? (P.B., Den Leader, Harrison City, PA.)

First, go here:


What you’ll see if you scroll down a little bit is a pretty simple, and pretty cool-looking car display. No, I’m not suggesting you buy these, but this one might give your Bear Cubs a starting-point idea for what a display might look like. They could simply copy this one, of course, or they could come up with an original idea of their own—maybe even one original idea for every Bear Cub in the Den!

That said, I have to ask you: What’s with doing rank requirements in a Den meeting? A Den meeting is supposed to be made up of activities related to the Pack’s monthly theme and upcoming Pack meeting. Not requirements! When you work on rank requirements in Den meetings, did you know you’re actually undermining a central aim of the Cub Scout program, that being to strengthen the bond between the boy and his parents? That’s not my opinion, either—that’s a BSA-stated aim! Here are three key quotes from the BSA: “Cub Scout advancement involves PARENTAL approval of requirements,” “A parent or adult family member should approve his work and sign his book, signifying completion of the requirement,” and “Cub Scout leaders approve only a few requirements, which are indicated in the book.” Got it now? Good!

If you want to work on “requirements” and “advancement-type stuff,” and there’s time in the Den meeting after getting ready for the Pack meeting, then have your Bear Cubs work on BELT LOOPS & PINS. There are two programs for this—one is ACADEMICS-oriented and the other is SPORTS-oriented, and they’re both great “supplemental” programs for an active Cub Den. You and your Den can choose from over 30 different activity areas, ranging from Art to Basketball to Chess to Geography to Physical Fitness to Science to Weather. There are activity areas that can work beautifully “inside” and a whole bunch that are “outside.” Doing these as a Den does NOT get in the way of a key aim of Cub Scouting. Check these out. There are belt loops (and pins, too) and books on every one of the 31 activity areas available at your local Scout Shop or at “”

Dear Andy,

If going into Boy Scouts do you have to pick a Patrol name and badge of one that is already issued? Or can you pick one that’s not issued now but has been, for example, “Lion Patrol”? (Shari M.)

I’m guessing you’re asking about this because a Webelos Den is about to cross over into a Boy Scout Troop as an intact Patrol. This is a terrific way to go, by the way! ANY name can be chosen (within limits of decency, of course)… Lions, Dragons, Gila Monsters, whatever. If there’s no Patrol emblem, the Scouts can use the “blank” patches (Yes, your local Scout Shop should carry these) and then someone with some artistic ability can draw in the symbol with permanent markers. In this genre, I’ve seen “Ice Cube Patrol,” “Gumby Patrol,” “Hot Dog Patrol,” and lots of others. When possible, it’s a good idea to give the Patrol name an adjective, like Rampant Lions, or Growling Lions, or Charging Lions, because this helps the Scouts create the “Patrol yell,” and also adds some “personality” to the Patrol. Also, this prevents others from “labeling” the Scouts (boys will be boys!), like “Lame Lions” or “Lazy Lions.” Go for it, and HAVE FUN!

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to find sheet music (for piano) of scouting songs. The main purpose is for playing an instrumental accompaniment at Eagle Courts of Honor. Some that I’m particularly interested in are “The Philmont Hymn” and “On My Honor”. I have the Scout Songbook and the Philmont Songbook, but these give melodies only, and no accompaniment. I have also tried extensive Internet searches. Any suggestions? (Donald A. Sonnefeld,Greater Yosemite Council, CA)

The Philmont Hymn, written first as a poem by John (“JB”) Westfall in 1947, is one of those songs, it seems, that you either know or don’t, and there ain’t no in-between!

Here are the chords…


Silver on the sage, starlit skies above


Aspen covered hills, country that I love


Philmont here’s to thee, Scouting paradise

A D – G – D

Out in God’s country, tonight.

Bm G D

Wind in whispering pines, eagles soaring high


Purple mountains rise, against an azure sky


Philmont here’s to thee, Scouting paradise

A D – G – D

Out in God’s country, tonight.

If you have the melody, and now the chords, you may be able to get both hands workin’ to make up an accompaniment of your own. You might also want to try emailing the Philmont Staff Association, c/o Mark Stinnett ( and see if he can be of more help than me. If that doesn’t work, there’s one more thing you can try… Find a piano player who “plays by ear.” This kind of musician has a very special gift—they merely need to hear the melody line and they “know” where not only the notes are but also what the “fill” chords are!

Dear Andy,

I have three quick questions for you regarding the new BSA Kayaking Patch.

1 – While I’ve found the requirements for this patch I’ve been unable to locate a book or pamphlet to teach it. Do you know of one?

2 – The application calls for the counselor’s name, but our district, which keeps the merit badge list, doesn’t keep a list for this. I’m an Official for the USCAK (United States Canoe & Kayak Association), so I figure I’m qualified, but do I have to be on an actual list? Could I just put my name and qualifications on the Kayaking BSA application form?

3 – My son, who is a Junior Olympic Kayaker, is very excited about this patch and wants to know if at 16 he can qualify to teach it (he’s currently ranked #11 in the country in the 18 and under age category). He’s also interested in if or when this might become an actual merit badge rather than just a patch.

Any thoughts? Thanks for your great service and keep up the good work. (Clint Bruce, Scoutmaster, Troop 24, San Diego, CA)

Kayaking! Great sport; great fun! But, as we both know, water activities, like flying, while not inherently dangerous, are terribly unforgiving of any incompetence, incapacity, or neglect. That’s why the BSA has a fair amount of training and literature available for us, when it comes to activities on or in the water. Let’s start with publication 34416D: GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING. As a Scoutmaster, you’ve probably already been through training (including YPT) that acquaints you with the BSA guidelines. Your own credentials in Kayaking are terrific. Now, combine these with getting your training (your son can do this, too!) for Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat. Both will give you cards certifying that you’ve taken this training and have agreed to follow the principles. Safety Afloat is, of course, essential to have for Kayaking, and SSD usually comes along with it. Your District or Council is probably offering these regularly.

Next, get your hands on pamphlet 19-510: KAYAKING BSA. You also might want to read pamphlet 33405A: WHITEWATER MERIT BADGE. There’s also some information (not a lot, but still worth checking out) in the FIELDBOOK (No. 33200).

As far as actually teaching KAYAKING BSA and certifying Scouts, here’s what the BSA’s GTSS has to say: “All kayaking activities must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth and who is experienced with the type of kayaks and activity under consideration. One adult supervisor is required for every 10 participants, with a minimum of two for any one group. All supervisors must complete Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training, and at least one must be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).” However, I did notice that, unlike how it treats other water-oriented activities (e.g., Swimming MB, Snorkeling BSA, etc.), the GTSS is silent on the kayaking-specific requirements (if any) for a kayaking counselor. So, the best bet would be to check with your District or Council Advancement Chair and see if there is a vetting process in place, so that you’re “legal” to sign off Scouts so they can receive the KAYAKING BSA badge (which goes on their water-wear; not their uniforms!).

As for your son, he’d be a great instructor, but this would probably be on an unofficial basis until he’s at least 18; probably 21 will be more likely.

One last little wrinkle, Clint, on a slightly different subject… When your son hits age 18, he can be a Merit Badge Counselor (in addition to being, say, an Assistant Scoutmaster in the Troop), but MB Counselor registration is the ONLY registration that does NOT count when it comes to Veteran status or years counted.


Hi Andy,

Its me again. Still bumping heads on the Bridge-Crossing Ceremony issue. There are two moms—one the Pack Committee Chair and the other the Treasurer—who want their sons to “cross the bridge,” even though neither of their sons will be joining a Boy Scout Troop. The Chair said she felt it was “up to the Pack’s leaders” to decide how the bridge ceremony will be held, and since they have two of the three votes on our Pack Committee (no one else shows up at committee meetings) it looks like their way will prevail. I’m still hoping to turn them and their sons on to the idea of joining Boy Scouts, but who has final say in how this event will be run? (Tom Lake, Cubmaster)

It’s “hardball time,” my Friend! The kind of people you’re dealing with like dictatorships when they think they can get you to knuckle under, and they like democracies when they think they can swing the vote! The chairperson you’re dealing with is blowin’ smoke. She’s out to get the “vote” she wants, and at the same time set herself up so that she can later say, “Well, that’s what the leaders wanted” and never mention that that’s what SHE wanted! If your “Bull**** Detector” is operating properly, you already know that the Cubmaster is ultimately responsible for the program of the Pack meetings, so here’s when you say “No.” That’s right, “NO.” If you’ve already described (notice I said “described” and not “explained”—because “explain” is something you do with a boss or parent or judge, but, when you’re in charge, you DESCRIBE) what the Webelos Crossover Ceremony (let’s call it by its right name) is, then there’s nothing to do but to tell these people this: “It dishonors the Webelos Scouts in our Pack, and the Boy Scout Troops represented, to have ‘cross-overs to nowhere’ and so, unless a boy is joining a Troop, he won’t be crossing that bridge, because that’s what it’s for. Period.” To this, you may want to add: “This is not a case of ‘your opinion and my opinion’—this is an instance of FACT.” End of story.

That said, let’s not forget something very important along the way… It sure would be wonderful for the Webelos who haven’t picked a Troop yet to get going on this! The best result all the way around would be for EVERY Webelos Scout leaving your Pack to connect with and join a Boy Scout Troop, and I’m hoping you and others might be able to help make this happen for them.

Dear Andy,

I’m a retired high school teacher looking for employment possibilities in Scouting programs such as at Philmont. Do you have any idea who I should contact? Thanks! (Stephen Bailey Bloomington, IN)

Well, you mentioned Philmont, so I’m guessing you’ve got some volunteer Scouter experience. If so, you may want to check out Philmont directly–the ranch has a website, and it has an “employment” button. Also, since you’re in the Hoosier Trails Council, you may want to have a conversation with them, as well. You’ll find them at 562 East State Road 46, Bloomington, IN 47401. The service center’s phone is (812) 336-6809 and the Scout Executive is Randy Brown, according to their website.

Hi Andy,

Where can I purchase a Deputy District Commissioner position patch for my Deputy? I can’t seem to find one anywhere. Thanks! (Barry Vavak, DC, Ahwahnee District, Orange County Council, CA)

The “Deputy” position (and patch) changed some years back and no longer exists under that name. The present name for the same position is ASSISTANT DISTRICT COMMISSIONER, and this badge is available at your local Scout Shop.

Dear Andy,

What provisions has the BSA made for when members of a chartered organization refuse to provide their social security number for a background check per the adult application? This isn’t a hypothetical question! A Cub Scout Pack in my District, is sponsored jointly by two elementary school PTOs. Up to now, one of the school principals has been the Executive Officer. Now, both schools have new principals, who are very willing to make the schools’ facilities available, and to enthusiastically support Scouting, but—because of their concerns regarding identity theft and laws involving privacy—they object to providing their social security number on the BSA adult application. The Pack’s charter is still pending because of these refusals, and now access to the schools has come into question. Is there an exception available that will permit the processing of an “executive officer” adult application? I would think that the school district’s and the state’s department of education would have adequate criminal background and youth protection provisions that would meet BSA requirements. It will be most unfortunate if a Scout unit loses the partnership of a school over an issue like this. (Jay Oakman, Training Chair, Mid-America Council, Nebraska)

Of course this is a very serious issue, and the best source of information on it will be the staff in your council’s service center, particularly your District Executive but ultimately your council’s Scout Executive. Here’s what I know, but I absolutely recommend that you check further…

First off, not only does an adult who intends to register with the BSA as a volunteer need to provide social security number, but drivers license number as well, plus date of birth, and the names of three personal references.

But…I’m not sure that the principal of either school needs to be a registered adult member of the BSA—”executive officer” is a designation that appears on the charter documents, but I don’t believe formal registration is required of this position or person. So, if “executive officer” isn’t a position that needs actual registration, at least one problem is eliminated, because in the case of a PTO-sponsored unit, it’s much more likely that the current president of the PTO (who more often is a parent and less often in the school’s principal) will be the Chartered Organization Representative.

The Chartered Organization Representative position is a very important one. The person holding this position (designated “CR” on the adult application) is absolutely a registered member of the BSA, and has a very specific set of responsibilities, not only as a voting member-at-large of the district and council, but—even more important—as the ultimate approver of all other registered adults associated directly with the unit.

So, without challenging the character of the objector, one might nonetheless wonder why he or she is reluctant to have a background check carried out. After all, the question becomes: “Just what do you think an organization with the known integrity of the BSA is going to do with a drivers license or social security number other than what it says will be done?” With that thought in mind, here are some suggestions you may want to consider presenting to those who are reluctant to provide the necessary information…

If the BSA allowed exceptions, how secure would you feel not knowing whether the leader your own son is assigned to, and is spending time with, has been “cleared” or not?

How do you think parents of other young children would feel, if they knew that some leaders in this unit haven’t been checked because they refused?

These questions are important, and I hope the folks at question will see the larger picture, because—as I’ve been told—if there are any blank places on the application (like DL or SS number), the application will be returned. Period. No exceptions. Because this is not about invasion of privacy; it’s about protecting the youth members we are entrusted with.

Hi Andy,

As a DC and former UC, I’m concerned that people are asking too much of Unit Commissioners. I’m well aware that it’s difficult to get people to help out at the district level, but I’m concerned that UCs are being stretched too thin. Unit service is supposed to be their primary and foremost job. Things like helping at day camps and such does take time away from unit service. We have one guy in our district who’s a UC, ASM, ACA, and Associate OA Lodge Advisor. When will there be time for his UC job? I certainly don’t want to discourage what people do, but either burnout, poor unit service, or both are strong possibilities. I speak as a person who is on Wood Badge staff, the District FOS Chair, District Boy Scout Training Chair, and in my “spare time” the District Commissioner! I’m just asking that, besides the praise you give these great volunteers, add a little advice about doing too much and something’s going to get left out—If you do five jobs, you do each of them one-fifth as well. And I guess I’m no exception! (Ty Roshdy, District Commissioner, Golden Empire Council, Sacramento, CA)

Audiences respect great musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. We respect them when they play the guitar. We respect them when they play the guitar and harmonica, too. But I’ll guarantee you this: The instant they strap a pair of cymbals or set of bells between their knees, we consider them a sideshow act and start chuckling! Instead of being accomplished musicians, they’ve become “one-man bands.”

Same with us Scouters. We wear one hat, and do a good job at it, and we get admiration for our accomplishments. So what do we go and do? We add a second hat, figuring that that’ll get us twice the admiration. When it doesn’t, we add a third hat, and fourth, and more, and we wonder why, like Rodney Dangerfield, we ain’t gettin’ no respect! Of course, we have that wonderful speech impediment, too—We don’t know how to say “No.”

In the book, COMMISSIONER ADMINISTRATION OF UNIT SERVICE, it says this about recruiting Commissioners: “There will be no encroachment on unit leadership.” Even more specifically, in the COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE it says this: “Commissioners must not be registered as unit leaders…their principal obligation must be with Commissioner responsibili-ties.” These statements aren’t made by accident. They’re not matters of opinion or interpretation. And they’re sure not supposed to be ignored, although I’ve seen them ignored time after time, and always wondered why.

Now some will argue, “Haven’t you ever seen an ‘Iron Man’ competition, or an Olympic Decathlon—in those, you’ve got to be proficient in three, or five, skills!” And I’d answer this way: “Yeah, and they do them one-at-a-time; not all of ’em at once!”

Commissioners themselves, if they’re not part of the solution, are part of the problem! When day camp help is needed, Commissioners can certainly be called on to help find people to do the job. When a chair for the District’s FOS campaign, or for training, is needed, Commissioners can be called on to help identify candidates that the District Chair and committee can approach. But take the job? Hey, what happened to unit service? THAT is the principal job of the Unit Commissioner, and the principal job of the ADCs is to find and recruit more UCs and the principal job of the DC (that’s YOU, my Friend) is to keep the whole thing moving forward.

That said, if you have a 1-to-3 ratio of UCs to units, and one ADC for every five UCs, and the majority of your units are in the Quality Unit category, you might want to consider taking on an additional, short-term, responsibility, like Wood Badge course director (a one-year commitment, or should be!). But, unless that’s the situation, you’re putting your energies where they don’t belong.

Now, I know it’s a very human condition to work on stuff that doesn’t relate to our primary job—we do this in the workplace, too! But, very often, the reason we do this is to AVOID doing stuff we don’t like doing, or that intimidates us, or is otherwise distasteful. Somehow, we convince ourselves that doing a secondary job well makes up for doing our primary job poorly or not at all. BIG MISTAKE! In the workplace, we’d be counseled, or even fired! So, why should Scouting be any different? If you don’t want to do the job you took on because of your “speech impediment,” or you’ve discovered that you really aren’t having any fun with it or aren’t too good at it, then resign and do what you like doing before you fail at what you’re supposed to be doing! And, while you’re at it, help your friends in the District find a replacement for yourself. In other words, it’s really pretty simple: Find the Scouting job you really, really like, and then do it with absolute, single-minded focus. Then, never take on a secondary job without asking yourself this question: “Am I doing this because I’ll like it, I’m gonna be good at it, and I’m NOT using it as an excuse for not doing what I first signed on for?” Remember this: Taking on more and more jobs doesn’t get you a higher rung on the ladder to Scouters’ Heaven; they weigh you down, and put you closer to the bottom!

Dear Andy,

I’m bugged by a question about a Scout who had received a Council Certificate of Merit for life saving. The council was supposed to send in for the National Award, but the application kept getting lost. When the Scout’s father (finally) called the national office and told them the story, they said his son should get a national award. But now the council people say that, if the Scout got one award, he can’t get the other (a recognition from the national council). Some of the leaders in my council are saying that a council-level award has no real merit. This is a ongoing thing, and it keeps getting brought up. Now, the Scout’s father feels his son was cheated out of a National Award. (Percy, Unit Commissioner)

The BSA National Council has a National Court of Honor that recognizes lifesaving and meritorious actions by youth and adult members of the BSA. For a fuller description of the three levels of recognitions—Heroism Award, Honor Medal, and Honor Medal With Crossed Palms—get yourself a copy of this book: ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES. Your local council’s Scout Shop should have these in stock. In the meanwhile, if you have a Scout who saved a life, here are a few encouraging things you’ll want to know…

The application for one of these recognitions is submitted by the local council to the national council, after a committee formed at the local council level as been convened to conduct an investigation and carry out interviews with individuals and eyewitnesses.

If application is made after six months from the date of the deed, a written explanation of the reason for the delay, from the council’s scout executive, should accompany the application.

Statements from eyewitnesses (other than the rescuer) are expected.

Caution “not to submit weak cases” (in terms of meaningful action or documentation) is advised.

Here’s what the three national levels are for…

HEROISM AWARD: Heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at minimum risk to self.

HONOR MEDAL: Unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.

HONOR MEDAL WITH CROSSED PALMS: Both unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.

There are also national MERITORIOUS ACTION AWARDS in two levels for “a significant or outstanding act of service.”

Finally, there’s a LOCAL COUNCIL CERTIFICATE OF MERIT for recognizing acts that are significant but that the council committee doesn’t feel would qualify for national recognition.

However, in my personal opinion, the last should not be used out of laziness or feelings of intimidation when a life truly has been saved as a result of timely and appropriate action by a Scout or Scouter. So, check these out for yourself and best wishes!

Percy writes back…

The Scout was given a local council award of merit; not a national award. The dad was told that the council had put his son in for a national recognition and the National Office had lost his paperwork. The paperwork was resubmitted. The dad called the National Office about this award, and was told that the Scout should get the national award when it was sent in first time, but now was told that the National Office won’t give the award because he’d already received the Council award. The dad feels his Scout was cheated out of the national award. It’s a touchy problem, and it’s been going on for almost a year. There are Scout leaders that say the local award has no merit. The main question I have is: Can a Scout receive both awards—national and council? Second Question: If Yes, can anything be done now?

Your local council is the primary decider when it comes to recognitions like this. If the father in this case did call the national office in Irving, Texas, he would have been referred back to the local council (the national office doesn’t supercede your local council when it comes to deciding what should be sent “up the line” and what should receive recognition at the local level, and absolutely doesn’t assure anyone—particularly in a phone call!—that an recognition will be peremptorily “granted” without having first thoroughly reviewed every bit of documentation). So, an “appeal,” if any, wouldn’t be made to the national office—it would be with your local council and the committee that originally decided to make this a council-level recognition. Now if the national office did, in fact, “lose” the paperwork, it would have been a simple matter for your council committee to send a copy of the first set of documents to the appropriate person at the national office (your council made copies, Yes?) So, if your local council wasn’t willing to do this, then maybe they truly believe the local recognition is the correct level for the deed. Or, what may have happened is that the national office, on reviewing the documentation, sent it back to your local council because, as described, the deed wasn’t deemed appropriate for national recognition. Perhaps your council’s committee didn’t include all or enough of the facts surrounding the original incident. So maybe what needs to be done is to provide more, or more detailed, information about what the Scout did, how he did it, and under what circumstances. Then, with an appeal made at the local level, the committee can revisit the case and might at that point determine that a higher level recognition is in order. If so, they definitely have the option to re-submit to the national office and National Court of Honor. But doing an end-run around the council’s decision won’t amount to anything, I can assure you. I can definitely appreciate the father’s feelings, but what’s really most important to me is this: How does the Scout, himself, feel about all this? If the Scout’s OK with how things turned out, best to leave it alone (even though the father might still be dissatisfied). Local councils are pretty much autonomous when it comes to recognitions in this category. Finally, as far as others saying that a council-level recognition has “no real merit”—Horsepucky!

Happy Scouting!


Got a question? Send it to me sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(March 2004 – Copyright © 2004 Andy McCommish)


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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