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Issue 33 – Mid-May 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!

Dear Andy,

I was reading the current Scouting Magazine and learned about the Cub Scout 75th Anniversary Award. I’ve looked at the BSA website, but was unable to find any information regarding this award. What are the requirements for earning it? (Rodney Brow, CS Roundtable Commissioner & Den Leader-Pack 74, Black Hills Area Council) ward.

Actually, there’ll be four awards—for Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts, Cub Scout leaders, and Webelos Scout leaders—plus a “commemorative” that can be simply purchased. The requirements are being finalized right now, and will be published at the “Top Hands” meeting of council Scout executives, in August. This means everything will be available by your Pack’s September program kickoff! Tell ’em you heard it here, first!

Hi Andy,

My nephew will be receiving the Arrow of Light award soon and I’m very proud of him. I am not that familiar with the ceremony but I know he’ll be receiving the “Arrow.” He no longer has grandparents, and I want to get him something special but I also don’t want to overshadow the award he’ll be receiving from the Troop he’s joining. Do you have any suggestions? (Jodie H, Proud Aunt)

Congratulations to your nephew, and I’m delighted to learn that his aunt will be attending the ceremony, too. He’s quite a lucky young man, to have someone like you in his life. A very appropriate gift from a special aunt would be an item he can use as a Boy Scout, like a Scout pocket knife or multi-purpose tool. The local Scout Shop at your council’s service center keeps these in stock. Don’t buy the most expensive one, because there’s a pretty good chance he could lose it somewhere along the way (he’s a boy, we must remember). But, no matter, what delightful memories he’ll have of a special ceremony and a very special woman in his life!

Dear Andy,

Recently, I went to my Council Service Center asking the process to register Merit Badge counselors for our Troop. They gave me the basic information about completing the adult application, and so on, but they also told me that if a person was interested in counseling for a merit badge, he or she had to pay the annual BSA registration fee. I had made my research on the Internet before asking my council about this, and everywhere I looked it said that there was no fee for counselors. But they told me that the National Council had sent a notification in January, stating that beginning this year counselors had to pay. Is this accurate? Is there any other Council that does this? And if that’s not the way things are done, is there any official BSA publication I can get that confirms the no-fee for counselors policy.

Also, a group of leaders (including myself) of our council are developing a new Website designed to inform our local leaders (since we live in Puerto Rico, there are very few Websites dedicated to informing about BSA stuff in Spanish). We’ve been reading your column for months, and want to ask you for permission to translate it and start posting it on our Website. Thank you for your dedicated time to the Scouting movement. (Armando Negron, Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 96, Ponce, PR, Puerto Rico Council 661)

Mucho gusto, Armando! According to my own council, and according to national BSA policy of many, many years’ standing, if one is registered as a Merit Badge Counselor (“code 42”), there is no registration fee. Unfortunately, the BSA Adult Volunteer Application is silent on this, and so policy and not the application itself must be referred to. Coincidental with this, Merit Badge Counselors do not “accrue tenure” toward “veteran” status, either — the other edge of the sword, I guess! So, to check this out, I called the BSA national office in Irving, Texas. But, the good little “Scouting soldier” I spoke with in the registration office there “stonewalled” me—she literally refused to answer the question. Instead, she referred me back to my own council. But, pit-bull that I am when it comes to getting questions like this answered, here’s what I’ve dug up on my own and here’s what my local council’s registrar provided…these two, combined, will kill this nonsense your own council’s giving you. Read on…

First, there’s a BSA national book titled ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES (you can buy it at your local Scout Shop, or order it through the National Supply Division— In that book, in the sub-section titled “Qualifications of Counselors,” it says (this is an exact quote): “Merit badge counselors are not required to pay a fee if they are only registered as merit badge counselors.”

Next (here’s the heavy iron!), there’s a book the national office publishes for use by council registrars, titled (you guessed it) “REGISTRAR’S PROCEDURE MANUAL.” And here’s exactly what it says (this is another direct quote): “All adults serving as merit badge counselors must be registered as a Merit Badge Counselor, position code 42, in the local council through districts by completing the Adult Registration Form. They may pay a registration fee, multiple, or pay no fee. (This is optional*.) However, they must complete the adult application even if no registration fee is paid, for the purpose of processing their name through the computer system. They must be at least 18 years old and qualified to teach the merit badge subjects that they want to teach.”

* Note: The “optional” part is for the volunteer; not the council. This absolutely does not mean that it’s the council’s “option” to charge a fee or not. It means that if a MBC has another registered position in Scouting, he pays the fee for that one, BUT NOT FOR BEING A MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR TOO, or ONLY.

So, if your local council folks are still blowin’ smoke about some letter or notification “from national” that counters this, there’s just one thing to do: Tell ’em flat out – LET’S SEE THAT LETTER! And, when they can’t produce it, “game over, man!”

Finally, I’m deeply honored to learn that you’ve been reading my columns, and I’d be thrilled to have them translated into Spanish! I’d do this myself, but all I know in Spanish is how to find my way to el baño! Here’s what I do ask, though: Please include the “copyright” information as well as the actual text, and if you’d like to use my caricature (Yes, that’s really me—not just some sketch!), let the identification and copyright information apply there, as well. When your website’s up and running, let me know, so I can visit!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Scoutmaster. We have a Scout who’s a candidate for Eagle, and I’ve already signed on the “Scoutmaster’s Conference” line, but the Eagle “packet” hasn’t been turned in to the council for review, yet. This Scout has had some “issues” in the past; yet, he’s completed all requirements for Eagle, per the Boy Scout Handbook. He’s not a strong leader, and he’s shown poor judgment in the past. I’ve spoken to him about this, various times. Then, about a week ago, I was contacted by the Cubmaster of the Pack, who told me that, when his Webelos Scouts recently visited our Troop meeting, this Scout, along with two others, used profanity and scare tactics when speaking with the Webelos Scouts about proper uniforming at Troop meetings. I have no tolerance for such behavior, and I’ve already spoken with all three Scouts. I’m having them each write a letter of apology, as well as a “composition” on the specific parts of the Scout Law that they violated. My question is this: Do I have the authority to rescind my signature from the one Scout’s Eagle rank application, since his actions are clearly not what I would say are in the “Scouting Spirit”? I’d want to give him a period of time, and detail how his attitude and actions must change. (I must admit, it was very difficult for me to sign off on his Eagle application at the time of the conference, yet I felt I had no solid ground to hold him off, and had this Cubmaster come to me sooner, I would have not signed off on the Eagle application.) I’m going to speak with our Unit Commissioner this week as well as the Eagle Coordinator for our council, to get their thoughts on this and understand where my authority rests. (John Brennan, SM, Troop 66, Pomperaug District, Connecticut Yankee Council)

Your question is not (thank goodness!) in the arena of “rules” but, rather, about how to deal with the growth and maturity needs of an individual Scout. Of course, the first question I have to ask is: As Scoutmaster, where were you when this “incident” at your own Troop meeting took place? But, that’s not going to help this Scout. So, here are my Scout-related thoughts on your dilemma…

It’s an emotionally difficult thing to contemplate the notion of “un-signing” a rank application, especially for Eagle, so let me first put your mind at ease: YOU CAN’T DO IT. That’s not “Andy’s Rule”—That’s a BSA national policy. A rank or requirement earned (and signed for) stands. Period. But, that still doesn’t help this young man. So, read on…

A while back, after I put my signature on the Scoutmaster’s Conference line for First Class rank for one of my Scouts, he proceeded to instigate a rock-throwing fight at our campout! Ouch! But, rather than “un-signing,” I talked with the people who would be sitting on this young man’s board of review. They agreed to bring up this incident in the review and, if necessary, tell this Scout that the board would be suspended at that time, to be reconvened in 30 days—during which time this Scout would be expected to “show Scout Spirit” in some very specific ways. This was a pretty diplomatic way to handle it, I thought, and the Scout did rise to the occasion. And, 30 days later, he had a successful board of review. He went on to reach Eagle, and we never had this particular behavioral problem again (although, if truth be told, he did need further counseling in other matters related to both leadership and Scout Spirit – and, thank goodness, he did learn!).

To deny a Scout the opportunity to sit for a board of review, for any rank, is a difficult course of action to follow. There’s a fairly good chance you could “lose” this young man entirely. As a consequence, he may well experience regret and possibly resentment for the rest of his life, to say nothing of having lost the true meaning of Scouting in his life. If your Scout has written his letter of apology, and his “composition” on the Scout Laws—which are the justifiable consequences of his actions, then don’t you think it should be considered that his debt has been paid? The question remaining is: Has he learned from this experience? This can be determined in the board of review by asking him about the situation… What happened, what were the consequences, and what did he learn? If his responses satisfy the board’s members that he’s “learned a lesson here,” then the result should be unanimously positive. If not, then the board needs to “take a recess” and tell this Scout—in very specific terms—what they expect from him, in a precisely stipulated time-frame. Then, the board can reconvene at the stated date and review this young man’s progress toward the goal of “showing Scout Spirit in his daily life.” But, the board must be very specific, and provide actual behavioral guidelines. It’s not enough to say “we want you to be nicer…” The board must give him actual behaviors…like “we want you to show Scout Spirit by training three new Scouts in the Troop on how to XXX and we also want you to use the word, ‘Sir,’ preceding every conversation you have with an adult leader of this Troop.” (I’m just making this stuff up, you understand—Create your own list of behavioral requirements, appropriate to the exact situation.) Also, this is a TROOP problem; not a District or Council problem. Keep it inside the Troop. And help this young man succeed. This might even involve a special conference with his parents, telling them of the board’s decision, the reason why, and their expectations that these parents can help this young man achieve. Get everybody on the same side—the side of this Scout. And be sure to let this Scout know, in no uncertain terms, that you believe in him and believe that he will be the Troop’s next Eagle Scout! B-P put it something like this: “Treat a Scout not as the boy he is today but as the man you expect him to become.” My thoughts are with you. I believe you’ve got a young man to save here…and I believe you WILL!

Hi Andy,

I’m about to “commission” my Commissioners and I’m looking for a suitable certificate and words. We “invest” them with the power to open and close courts of honor; they’re to be a “friend of the unit;” they’re “officers” of the council… Do I need to be properly invested by my Council Commissioner? (like papal succession and ordination) Should I “bless” them with my old fishing vest? Or make a special “vesting” vest? Is there an official certificate? Or can I make up our own? (George Fosselius, DC, Mount Diablo-Silverado Council)

You’ve gotta start reading my “back” columns! Here’s what you’re looking for, worth repeating…

“‘Commissioning’ Commissioners isn’t mysterious. It’s a brief ceremony that ideally takes place at a Council’s or District’s annual meeting. As you’ll remember, Commissioners aren’t elected; they’re appointed…so, we want to “commission” them—that is, install them in their office. This can be done by the DC, for his staff, or, if it includes the DC (or DCs) as well, it can be done by the District Chair or the Council Commissioner (or an ACC), or by the Council President. Presenting a certificate is always appreciated. And here’s a simple “Commissioner’s Oath” that all being commissioned can repeat after the person leading the ceremony:

Raise your right hands in the Scout Sign and repeat after me…

– On my Honor…

– I will do my best…

To fulfill my responsibilities…

– To my District and my Units…

– To help the units and leaders in my care at all times…

– To keep their membership strong…

– Character-building alert…

– And program straight.”

Meanwhile, your council service center can get you the certificates you need (talk to your DE)—they’re available through the BSA National office.

Dear Andy,

In “Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures,” under Boards of Review, it states: “When a boy satisfactorily completes his board of review for a rank or an Eagle Palm, tenure for his next rank or Eagle Palm begins immediately.” Does time served in “a position of responsibility” after achieving Second Class rank, but prior to completing requirements for First Class rank, quality for the Star requirement: “While a First Class Scout, serve actively for four months in one of more of the following positions of responsibility…” The Scout I have in mind here earned Second Class on 6/30/03 and served as Troop Librarian from 7/23/03 to 2/04/04, then earned First Class on 11/24/03. His total time as Troop Librarian was six months and 12 days; his time in this position after completing First Class was two months and 11 days. So, if tenure, as defined by THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY-UNABRIDGED is “The action or fact of holding anything; the possession of a position, power, or office; a term,” then for the next rank began immediately upon completion of his successful board of review for Second Class, does the entire time served in the position of responsibility count as served in that next rank, First Class, as required for his advancement to Star Scout? Does that service count as “while a First Class Scout,” since his tenure for his next rank—First Class—began immediately after the previous board of review? (The Admiral)

This is much simpler than you’ve made it appear, and I can definitely help you out…

You’ve already noticed, I’m sure, that, to begin with, there are no leadership requirements for the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class. Moreover, there is no “tenure” requirement for the rank of Scout, the only tenure-related requirement for Tenderfoot is the 30-day physical fitness improvement requirement (10b), there is no tenure requirement for Second Class, and there is no tenure requirement for First Class. Tenure begins only once a Scout has reached the rank of First Class. At that point, the tenure-in-leadership requirements for the remaining ranks are very specific:

STAR: “While a First Class Scout, serve actively for 4 months” (Req.5).

LIFE: “While a Star Scout, serve actively for six months” (Req.5).

EAGLE: “While a Life Scout, serve actively for…6 months” (Req.4).

The date of the successful Board of Review for the rank of First Class and the remaining ranks is the date the new “clock” starts ticking. Four months (and that means months; not 30-day periods or anything else) later, if the First Class Scout has held an appropriate leadership position, he has met the leadership tenure requirement for Star. And so on…

To re-look at your question, No, there is no “back-dating” (or whatever you want to call it) of leadership tenure. That is, time served as a leader in an appropriate position PRIOR to obtaining the rank of First Class does not “count” toward requirement 5 for Star rank, because the exact wording of the requirement is “WHILE A FIRST CLASS SCOUT…” Of course, this same stipulation applies equally to Life and Eagle as well.

Now, to answer a question you haven’t asked, but need to be equally clear on: Yes, a Scout can be completing requirements for Tenderfoot AND Second Class AND First Class concurrently—The only stipulation here is that he receive these rank advancements in the appropriate order: Tenderfoot first, Second Class next, and First Class after Second. Go it? Good!

And “The Admiral” writes again…

Dear Andy,

I have a few more questions…

Where can I find a complete list of BSA publications? I’m most interested in information on policies and procedures.

Is there an avenue through the BSA—an “appeals process” of sorts—for dealing with questions or problems with Troop leadership, or does the Chartered Organization have total responsibility here?

Is it possible to contact the BSA national office directly, or is that information (phone numbers, address, names, etc.) not available to the general public?

Thank you again. (The Admiral)

– The BSA publishes a catalog titled, “Library of Literature/Audiovisual Products” (No. 70-080A), that you can obtain from your council service center or by calling the BSA Supply Division at 1-800-323-0732 or by visiting

– Your best resource for dealing with unit-related questions or problems is your District’s COMMISSIONER STAFF—a group of dedicated unit service volunteers many of whom have already “walked the walk” and can be of immense help in facilitation resolutions.

– Of course the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office is an open office! It’s in Irving, Texas (a suburb of Dallas)—Check the “White Pages” or call Information, or visit the BSA website at HOWEVER, be aware that each Council, including your own, is an independent corporation not “owned” by the BSA. Councils take direction from the BSA National Office, but are not “managed” by it. Overall management is local, through a volunteer President and Executive Board, and day-to-day management is handled by a Scout Executive, who is the top salaried employee of the Council. So, if you’re thinking about “reporting” or “appealing” or some such, you’ll need to start with your local council—trying to skip past your local council is sorta like what happens when you try spittin’ into a fan!

Dear Andy,

We just returned from a Cub Scout Family Camp, where my son—a Tiger Cub—was allowed to begin working on his World Conservation Award. I was told that the award requirements vary by Cub Scout level, and I’d like to know where I can access more information about the WCA—It’s not in the Tiger Cub Handbook, and I haven’t been able to locate anything Online. Can you refer me to some information, so he can complete the requirements? Thanks! (Laura Luter, Den 3 Parent-Pack 28 Tiger Cubs, New Port Richey, FL)
The reason why you’re not finding any WCA requirements for Tiger Cubs is this: There aren’t any! As my sponsor, the U.S. Scouting Service Project (among many others, by the way) describes: “The World Conservation Award provides an opportunity for individual Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers to…preserve and improve our environment. The Cub Scout version of the World Conservation Award can be earned by Wolf or Bear Cub Scouts, and by Webelos Scouts.” If you check out the requirements, you’ll see that they’re based on the Wolf, Bear, and Webelos “books” and utilize specific opportunities within each. So, I’m guessing your son’s a little bit ahead of the curve, and he’ll be better off waiting on this till September, when he’ll start on the Wolf Cub Scouting trail.

Hi Andy,

In my son’s Webelos Den of four boys, all earned the Arrow of Light. Then, the Den Leader had nothing more for them to do (according to him), so they were given the option to cross over to Boy Scouts, and they did, but this was before the Pack’s annual May graduation and advancement ceremony in May. I’d like for the boys to celebrate with the Pack, still, and I need a idea for a ceremony theme for them to do. They’re now in official Boy Scout uniforms. If you have any ideas, please send them my way. Thanks! (Brian Chacon, AWDL, Pack 688, Whittier, CA)

So, the question is: What might be done to recognize former Webelos Scouts who are now Boy Scouts, at a meeting of their former Pack? If I have that right, maybe there’s a way to encourage other Cub Scouts to “go the distance” and become Boy Scouts, too! Since Pack meetings are “for and by the boys,” maybe a brief presentation by these new Boy Scouts, on some of the things they’ve learned since joining their Troop, would do the trick… not necessarily something they say, but more along the lines of something they can show or do or demonstrate. Or, maybe they can be the color guard, and conduct the meeting’s opening ceremony. Then, after they’ve concluded their presentation, you and the Cubmaster could present them with a Boy Scout item, like a pocket knife or compass.

That said, I’m having trouble trying to figure out why Webelos Scouts wouldn’t have gone “across the bridge” in a special ceremony… After all, the Pack’s schedule is supposed to be adjusted to fit the progress of the boys in it, and not the other way around. I sure hope some precedent isn’t being set here! Moreover, May is much, much too late for a graduation to Boy Scouts — That’s supposed to happen in February, or March at the very latest, and for some very specific reasons! That process has been in place for 15 years now, and I hope that Pack can get in step with the times!

Hey Andy,

I’ve been asked to a Pack’s Blue & Gold Banquet, and the leaders have asked me to open the meal with a short prayer. Do have a resource for Scout prayers? (Joseph Howes, UC, Casco Bay District, Alfred, ME)

I do recall an old book along the lines of what you’re asking about, but that was way back in the early 60’s, when I did my first turn as a Scoutmaster. It’s probably years out of print, so maybe something like this might help…

Heavenly Father and Master of all Scouts, we here join together this evening to celebrate in Blue and in Gold. We ask Your Blessing upon us all here gathered, as we thank You for the Blue of clear skies and placid waters, the Blue in the flag of our country, which we cherish, and of the uniforms of the Cub Scouts and their leaders and parents, whom we celebrate here tonight. Likewise, we thank You for the Gold of mornings afresh and of wheat fields of plenty with which You have graced this land we call home, and the Golden promise of brighter tomorrows for our sons, ourselves, and all of our children. Bless the food we will share, to strengthen us as we carry out our duty to You and to our country, and Bless all who cannot be here with us tonight, that they may yet embrace the comfort of Your peace. Bless our nation and its defenders, both here and in lands far away, and strengthen our own resolve to “Do Our Best” in all ways.

May God Bless us all, and America, and…

Happy Scouting!


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


(Mid-May 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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