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Issue 31 – Mid-April 2004

Want to add my “Ask Andy” column to your council’s website? Easy! Just check with your scout executive and webmaster first, then have one or the other of them send me an email requesting the full column twice a month, as I complete them, and giving me the name and email address to send them to, and you’re in business!


And now, the saga of the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” continues…

Hi Andy,

Got another question for you. One of the parents who didn’t like the bridge-crossing ceremony and who’s also chairperson for our Pack, is now telling parents of our Scouts that crossed the bridge (thanks to your suggestions last month) and joined Boy Scouts that their sons can’t be part of the Arrow of Light ceremony that our Pack’s doing in May. Is this correct? My wife was Den Leader for these boys and didn’t have knowledge of that, and we want these boys to be recognized at the AoL ceremony. Is this still possible? (Tom Lake, former Cubmaster, Pack 325)

Based on your description, sounds like a vendetta—pretty nasty, and sure not a lot of “Scout Spirit” there! ‘Course, the whole thing seems a little weird to me… Usually, the bridge-crossing takes place AFTER a Webelos Scout receives his Arrow of Light award. Honestly, I’ve never run into a situation like yours, where the bridge to Boy Scouts happens a couple of months BEFORE receiving their AoL! Well, if they’re still registered in the Pack, then they oughta get their AoL at a Pack meeting. But if they’ve actually joined a Troop, and are registered with the Troop they picked, then I’d say “don’t bother looking back”—Get their Scoutmaster to present the AoL to them, right away, and maybe their “Scout” rank badge right along with it, because it sounds like they’re “beyond” the Pack at this point, and there’s no reason I can think of to go backwards! Especially when it means another fight with nasty, misguided people.

Dear Andy,

Thanks so much for being our on-line commish! I have couple of questions about the Den Chief Service Award. First, how much discretion is one allowed in interpreting the award requirement to “serve the Pack faithfully for one full year”? Is that one full calendar year, or one full “Pack” year (say, Sep-Mar)? Second, what if a Scout is Den Chief-trained, repeatedly offers his service to a Pack, is repeatedly told by the Pack that he will be kept involved, but spends much of that “one full year” waiting for the Pack’s invitation until he’s actually involved with the Pack or Den? Did the Scout in this situation “serve the Pack faithfully for one full year”? The reason I’m asking about this point is that the Webelos Den Leader who our Scout finally served during the full “Pack-year” was so impressed and grateful that he wants this Scout to receive the Den Chief Service Award; however, that first award requirement in particular seems to stand in his way. (Craig Burrell, Committee Chair, Troop 34, Jackson, NJ)

You mention only a couple of the twelve specific requirements for the Den Chief Service Award — Tenure and Training. Can we assume that the other ten requirements — knowing the purposes of Cub Scouting, helping Cubs achieve those purposes, being the activities assistant in a Den, setting the example, being a friend, participate in weekly meetings, assisting at the Pack meetings, knowing the importance of the monthly theme, meeting with adults leaders as needed, and four of the seven options in requirement 12 have been met? If so, that’s a lot. I’m wondering if these all can, in fact, be completed, in addition to a Scout’s other activities both in and out of Scouting, in significantly less than a year. But, to address your specific question, when the BSA states a requirement, the exact words are to be followed. For instance, if a requirement says 30 days, then the month of February can’t be substituted for that. If, on the other hand, a requirement stipulates one month, then any month or two month-parts will be OK. Just like “show” means show and “write” means write and “demonstrate” means demonstrate and you can’t substitute one verb for another. So, in the case of “one full year,” that’s what it means. If the BSA meant something other than this, it would have stipulated something other than this. And, as far as interpretation goes, personally, I’d interpret “serve” to mean the Scout’s doing something besides waiting to serve.

All that said, if this Webelos Den Leader wants to recognize this Scout for his contribution to the Webelos Den, his gratitude can be expressed in a whole bunch of ways besides trying to “justify” an award that has stated requirements by subverting those requirements! Throw a party for the Scout. Get a “THANKS” plaque and have every Webelos Scout in the Den sign it. Purchase a special Scout knife for him, and have it engraved with the Den number and date. Take a collection and offer the Scout a “campership” for summer camp. In other words, get creative, and make it meaningful, and don’t try to bend an award’s requirements. After all, the Scout can still earn the DCSA if he continues as Den Chief for another Den and completes the “full year” (look at the requirement again–it says “serve the Pack,” not one Den only)!

Dear Andy,

I have a suggestion for those who have so many really neat patches and no place to show them! I use a nylon tote bag to carry my Scout stuff around in, and I sew those patches on the tote bag. I’m on my second bag now, with my favorites since becoming a Commissioner. It’s a great way to display those patches, especially from activities such as Camporees and Cuborees and adult training events such as Commissioner’s College. It’s also a wonderful conversation starter, especially among the Scouts, who are curious about patches they’ve never seen, from past events. I always bring it with me to uniform inspections, filled with treats for good inspections, along with those score sheets to help the parents get those uniform patches in the right place. (Vivian Gulledge, Unit Commissioner, Mountain Lake District, Atlanta Area Council)

What a great idea! I’m sure other readers can benefit, so here it is. Thanks!

Dear Andy,

First, thank you for this website—It’s the best I’ve found. Now, the question… Before he resigned, our former Scoutmaster appointed our current Committee Chair. This Chairman is making Troop policy changes and decisions, such as starting a Venture Patrol with no input from the Committee at all. She also decided that the Committee would no longer follow the BSA published Committee guidelines, but would instead be “governed” by a set of guidelines—created by an ASM—that give the Committee no input at all in any Troop decisions. She’s essentially turned the Committee into a secretarial pool. How does a Committee choose a new chairman? Do we have any right to call for a vote? Who decides how to choose the chairman, and how often? This isn’t in the Committee Guidebook! (Neon from Florida)

Whoa, Bro! In the first place, the SM reports to the Committee — the tail doesn’t wag the dog! Second, the “Chair” is responsible for delegating responsibility to the Committee — the chair isn’t the decision-maker but is there to arrive at consensus among the Committee members. This is a democratic process; not a dictatorship! Now, as far as “input into Troop decisions,” what are we talking about here? The Troop’s PROGRAM OF ACTIVITIES is developed by the Patrol Leaders Council (that is, the SCOUTS), under the guidance (but not the direction) of the SM, and the SM presents the program to the entire Committee for approval. All other decisions are made by the Committee as a whole. BSA guidelines, including policies and procedures are to be followed; they are not “suggestions.” The Troop’s Committee also selects the SM, and not the other way around. The Troop’s Committee members have a specific set of responsibilities, from health and safety to advancement to membership, and so on. The Committee isn’t a bunch of “go-phers.” Now, the TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK is silent on the method of selecting/electing a Chair, so you have some latitude here. It seems to me that, if the Committee as a whole is unhappy with the way the Chair is running things, SPEAK UP! Don’t grumble to one another or feel you have to knuckle under — you’re VOLUNTEERS and you don’t have to take it! If the Chair’s out of line, speak up, even to the point of saying, “We don’t want things run this way–they’re not in accordance with BSA policies and guidelines–and unless you change your ways immediately, we’re going to elect a new Chair right now, tonight.” Then DO IT. But, before you have this confrontation, get your Troop’s COMMISSIONER involved, tell ’em what’s going on, and what you believe you need to do, and why. Your Commissioner will come to the meeting and help with the transition. Get this straightened out before the Troop program and the Scouts begin to suffer!

Dear Andy,

Thanks for stating the “no” requirement for a uniform for a board of review so directly. We should all remember that, as leaders or members of the Committee, we all should wear our uniforms at EVERY scouting meeting or event and encourage Scouts to do the same. Yes, members of the Unit Committee should wear Scouters’ uniforms, too! And how many members of a Board of Review have you seen wear THEIR uniforms! Don’t set expectations for others that you’re unwilling or unable to follow, yourself. Like compulsory uniform for the Scout at a BOR, but not the leaders. (Don McDow, UC, Greater Alabama Council)

Thanks for continuing to be a reader, and for writing! In addition to agreeing with you that a uniform should never be “mandatory” (but certainly the goal) for a Scout participating in a Board of Review, and also agreeing that we adults should be fully and correctly uniformed at as many Scouting events as possible, I’ll go even further…We ask or expect the Scout to come to a BOR in full uniform, and a little spit-and-polish never hurts. Yet, despite this, I’ve seen adults who sit on the board show up in T-shirts, cut-offs, and flip-flops, dirty jeans, unshaven, and a whole variety of attire that, if worn by the Scout, would be judged “unacceptable.” If we expect a high level of dignity from our Scouts, shouldn’t we be according them the same courtesy and respect for the occasion? No, this doesn’t mean unbagging the ol’ tuxedo. But it could sure mean dressing as if you’re going on a job interview. How can we expect Scouts to show respect if we don’t set the example… Can’t have it both ways!

Hi Andy,

I read your comments about a Scout being failed from a board of review because he didn’t have the full uniform. I agree with you that at the Troop level a Scout should never be “failed” because he doesn’t have the uniform. It’s my understanding that a Scout isn’t even required to have the uniform, to be a Scout. I certainly want to encourage them to do their best to get one. It helps with the feeling of belonging. Just like wearing “gang” colors appeals to gang members. It gives a sense of belonging that will keep him in Scouting. This matter recently came up for the Eagle Board of Review. It’s always been our District’s policy that a Scout appearing before the board be in complete uniform. It’s our belief that if a Scout can get the resources together for the Eagle project, he can certainly get the resources together to appear in front of the board in uniform. If it’s a case of extreme hardship, then he can beg or borrow a uniform. I certainly don’t want to eliminate an Eagle candidate from getting his Eagle. If a conference with the parents or Scoutmaster reveals extreme hardship, I think then perhaps that that requirement can be waived on an individual basis. The District Committee’s concern is that when we start to relax the rules then no one will show up in full uniform or they will be sloppy in appearance. There must be some respect and responsibility to the uniform if a Scout is to be considered Eagle material. Your thoughts on this are most welcome. I have always respected your opinion. I believe that we must uphold the high standards of the Boy Scouts of America when it comes to the Eagle rank. We are trying to produce character and responsibility in our youth. To appear in the Scout uniform for the Eagle rank is part of that responsibility. Somehow, I know you’ll disagree with me (grin). Thanks! (Ty Roshdy, Pioneer District Commissioner, Golden Empire Council, Sacramento, CA)

Thanks for continuing to read — and for writing again! Now it’s my turn to grin — I very much agree with you! Although, I’d put it a slightly different way (but with the same overall intent)…

Yes, a Scout is hoped to be in full and correct uniform, not only for Boards of Review but throughout his other Scout-related activities as well, including Troop meetings, outings, summer camp, and, in fact, any place or occasion when he is operating as a Scout. This, without question, applies to his adult leaders as well, right down to correct placement of badges and such. And it includes proper attire by non-Scout adults, such as those sitting on his Board of Review — I would expect them to present themselves in business attire and not worn-out jeans, T-shirts, “Budweiser” ball caps, and such. One of the methods of Scouting is “association with adults” (that’s right out of the BSA Policy book!) and this means we need to set the example at all times.

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Baden-Powell put it this way: “No Scout is expected to have a uniform, but a boy who has Scouting in his heart will surely have one.” I’ve never found a way to say it better!!

Hello, Andy!

Greetings from Omaha, Nebraska! My husband is Den Leader for Den 10 in Pack 380 (The Cobras!) and I’m his wife who just so happens to also be a long distance walker. My employer is the Douglas County (NE) Health Department and we are sponsoring a Scout Family Fitness event in response to our city-wide “Activate Omaha” program. Activate Omaha is a program designed to encourage Omaha neighborhood groups, community groups, churches, etc. to get active and get fit. Activate Omaha, the Health Department, and the Boy Scouts of the Mid-America Council are teaming up to host “The BIG Scout Walk.” Four other long distance walkers and I plan to walk 70 miles of the city’s walking/biking trails in three days. Dens and Patrols are invited to join us along the way with their families and leaders, to walk a mile or two, or all 70 if they feel adventurous! Here’s my question: I’d like to put together a sheet of all the awards the Scouts can earn—from Tiger Cub up to those working toward Eagle Scout, if they join us. What would all fall into this event? Hiking, bird watching, clean up, map reading etc., etc.? I’ve printed off the Awards, Badges, and Cub Scout Recognition page and the Awards listed on the USSSP Awards page in the hopes to pick out some that seem logical for the event. These don’t list Tiger Cub awards. Can you please offer some direction? (Connie Lehman)

Your local Council’s service center can probably point you toward Tiger Cub advancement requirements, and a little reading should put you on the right track… Cub Scouts have their Wolf, Bear, and Webelos books, of course, and the best compendium of Boy Scout requirements — ranks and merit badges both — is the book, BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS, which your Scout Shop should also have in stock. With that answering your question, I’m going to make another suggestion, and here it is…

Generally, Scouts don’t participate in Scouting events and meetings to “advance.” Advancement is, after all, just one of the eight methods of Scouting. In the best Pack and Troops, advancement is serendipitous—it happens almost as a “surprise” when a Scout ACTIVELY PARTICIPATES. And, why do they participate? For FUN, ADVENTURE, and DOING NEW THINGS! When fun, adventure and the opportunity to do something new are the “carrots” (Scouting uses no “sticks”), then the Scout discovers afterwards that something he did qualifies as having competed some requirement or another. So, my suggestion is this: Motivate not with advancement as the “reward” but with fun, adventure, and a chance to do something new as the reason to show up!

Show a boy two doorways, and tell him, “If you go through the doorway on the left, you’ll advance; if you go through the doorway on the right, you’ll have fun,” and then watch what doorway he heads for (wanna guess?)! Scouting is “FUN—WITH A PURPOSE.” Just remember that, and you’ll never go wrong!

Dear Andy,

Does the position of Assistant Patrol Leader qualify for Star or Life rank advancement? (Bruce Friedman, ASM, Troop 18, Tampa, FL)

Nope. Assistant Patrol Leader doesn’t count for Star or Life or Eagle. The references you’ll want to use to confirm this is the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK and/or the BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book.

Dear Andy,

How often should Youth Protection Training (YPT) be given to adults? I do the training in our District and no one seams to know how many years apart the training should be…every three, every five, or what? I’ve looked at the National publications and I’ve asked at our Scout service center, and no one seems to know. Where do I find that information to back up the training that I’m giving? (Charlie Smith, ADC & District Training Chair)

The critical point for YPT is, of course, the FIRST time—Getting leaders and involved parents to take the initial YPT is the most important thing you can do! After the first time, based on my own investigations, the interval appears to be Council- and not nationally-driven. My own YPT card states that I must renew my training within 3 years of the original date. In other Councils, I’ve seen a similar 3-year interval, with the exception of summer camp staffers and/or trek leaders, who renew each and every year. So, it looks like you can establish your own policy, for your own Council. And here’s what’s really cool—The “online renewal” process is excellent! Quick. Involving. Educational. Painless. That’s how I renewed my own, just a few months ago, and it was a most enjoyable experience. This means that, whatever interval you establish, renewing before “time’s up” is a simple thing for virtually all to do. And, for those in your Council who may not have a personally accessible internet connection, there’s their local library, or even a computer at your Council’s service center on a specified week night or a Saturday morning!


Under what circumstances is it appropriate for an ASM meeting to be closed to the Troop Committee, or vice versa? I’m a Scout parent, and I have some concerns about such meetings in our Troop. If you can’t answer, can you please give me suggestions where I might find an answer without addressing it to District leaders? Thank you. (Concerned Parent)

Scouting is a totally open organization. There are no secrets, even including the Order of the Arrow…its ceremonies, etc. are all available in various handbooks that anyone can purchase and read, if they want to. Boards of Review may be sat in on by Scoutmasters, although they do not have a vote. BUT, saying that, parents of any particular Scout under review are, in fact, excluded from Boards of Review (even as observers) and this is done for the BENEFIT of the Scout (designed to remove “parental pressure” from influencing his emotions), and this is the ONLY “exclusion” that’s actual BSA policy. All these things being the case, I can’t think of a single reason why one group of folks in a Troop would want to exclude some other group. After all, we’re only dealing with volunteers’ functional titles—This ain’t the CIA, OSI, NSA, DEA, FBI, or Mafia! It’s the BOY SCOUTS for goodness sake! What’s with these people? They need to work together; not keep secrets from one another! If this persists, and the folks in the Troop refuse to change their ways and open up, I’d definitely bring this to the attention of the Commissioner (a key volunteer) who serves your Troop or District.

That’s what I said to CP when he first wrote to me. But, in putting this column together, I realize I didn’t go far enough. So, here’s more…

Get a GROUP of like-minded parents and SHOW UP at one of these “closed” meetings. Tell ‘em you don’t like organizations with secret meetings, and this has to stop RIGHT NOW. But, if that doesn’t break down the doors, and for some “political” reason you can’t go to your District Commissioner (like, your Troop’s SM is also the DC—which, by the way, is totally against BSA policy), then GET YOUR SON OUTA THAT TROOP. NOW. Don’t wait. Go find an “open” Troop, even if it means driving a little further. Boys join Troops… They don’t “marry” ‘em!

Happy Scouting!!


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


(Mid-April 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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