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Issue 34 – June 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’m a Patrol Advisor in my son’s Troop. Recently, we’ve had a series of debates at our committee meetings about who’s “qualified” to be on a Scout’s board of review (any rank). We know that parents or guardians aren’t allowed, and neither is the Scoutmaster. But we have parents who feel only parents who have taken SM/ASM-specific training plus the “outdoor skills” workshop can be on a board of review. Also, our Advancement Chairman won’t allow a Patrol Advisor to be on a Board of Review if the Scout being reviewed is in that parent’s/Patrol Advisor’s patrol—even if he or she has the training stipulated!. Can you shed light on this matter for us? (Deb Alarcon, Troop 273, Union City, CA)

I don’t think your Troop’s gone far enough here… Maybe parents of blue-eyed Scouts should be eliminated, too! Or maybe folks who have two feet. Or maybe a parent of a former Scout who has a younger brother still in Cub Scouts and has less than ten arrow points and isn’t named Bill… Well, you get the point. The stuff that’s being artificially imposed is silly, stupid, and self-defeating, and it should be made to STOP! And, to make the ridiculous sublime, this nonsense is coming from people claiming to be “trained”! Maybe we should start using “trained” cards like Totin’ Chips, and start tearing off a couple of corners when you’re handed nonsense like this!

Here’s the deal, and it’s real simple…

For the ranks Tenderfoot through Life, and for Eagle Palms (there’s no review for the rank of Scout, and Eagle boards of review are altogether different), the composition of the board of review is simple: A minimum of three to a maximum of six MEMBERS OF THE TROOP COMMITTEE. That’s it. And that does mean adults REGISTERED as Committee Members—not unregistered volunteers or Assistant Scoutmasters who really do the committee work but the Troop registers them as ASMs anyway. And, yes, parents of the Scout being reviewed are excluded from attending their own son’s BOR (but they can sit on others on the same evening, if they’re for Scouts other than their own, and they, themselves are registered Committee Members). Scoutmasters (and ASMs) are NOT excluded from attending, so long as they are observers who neither speak nor vote.

So, let’s get real here. To put up arbitrary roadblocks, as your Troop’s been doing, defeats one of the key purposes of Scouting, which is called INCLUSION. It also prevents newer parents who serve on the Troop’s Committee from “learning by observing-and-doing.” Case in point: If you, as Patrol Advisor, are registered as a Troop Committee person, and the Scout being reviewed is not your own son, you can absolutely participate as a member of a BOR. This is decided in collaboration with the Troop Advancement Chair and not with “parents in general.” And, for any parents who want to dictate arbitrary “rules” I’d suggest they get registered, get trained, and get some dirt under their fingernails.

Most important, BORs are absolutely not “tests” or “final exams.” No Scout should be asked to show, tell, or demonstrate any skill learned through the BSA advancement process—that’s not what BORs are for! (I’m mentioning this because of that “must have outdoor skills training” malarkey.)

Dear Andy,

Our Troop had an Order of the Arrow election about ten months ago, but the elected Scouts weren’t able to attend the Ordeal that came a couple weeks later. Now, they’re saying that, because of schoolwork and sports, they can’t attend the Ordeal coming up in about two weeks. Can they wait till next year, and do it then, or is there some kind of time limit? (B.S., Scoutmaster, West Virginia)

The way it works is that, if a Scout who’s been elected to the OA by his Troop doesn’t complete the Ordeal within one year of when he was elected, his eligibility for the Ordeal is terminated and he goes back “into the hopper” again. Yes, he can certainly be elected again, at the next annual Troop election, but it’s not an “automatic” thing—he stands up right alongside all other candidates for election at that time. So, although you didn’t ask me, I’d sure suggest that your elected Scouts reconsider their decision and figure out a way to attend.

Hi Andy,

I just went from being a Unit Commissioner to ADC. I saw one of our other Commissioners wearing a green tie, which looked good since we’re representing the District. So now my problem comes that our Scout Shop doesn’t have them and aren’t ordering them. Do you know any other place where I can buy one? (Paul Callegari)

Have you tried “going direct”—to the BSA Supply Division? Their URL is and their phone number is 1-800-323-0732.

Dear Andy,

If a Boy Scout, whatever his rank, transfers to a new Troop, should he expect his rank and all his requirements to transfer with him, especially those requirements signed off by his former Troop’s leaders toward future ranks? (Kim S., Saratoga, NY)

The answer’s ABSOLUTELY! He retains his present rank and all requirements completed toward the next rank, and all Merit Badges and “partials,” if any. He NEVER, EVER is expected to “start over.” It is, in fact, a BSA policy that a rank, Merit Badge, or requirement, once earned, is NEVER “re-earned.” The Scout himself is a significant part of the records transfer process, by way of his having kept his HANDBOOK containing all signatures and dates on the appropriate advancement-related pages up to date, and having retained all signed and dated rank cards, merit badge cards, and “blue card partials” that he’s received since becoming a Scout. When he shows these records to the leaders of his new Troop, it’s a simple matter for them to enter the necessary information into their “Troopmaster” or other computer software, or into their record book, as the case may be. This way, the Scout simply continues from exactly where he was before transferring.

And Kim writes again…

Hi Andy,

I don’t mean to be a pest but where can I find this in print (either text or online) in order to print it out or make a copy? I would like to be as specific as possible—National Policy, source, etc. There’s no doubt my Scouting will be much happier when I have printed proof in my hand!! (Kim)

Hmmmmm. It sounds like you’re facing a problem of some sort, maybe with a new Troop? First off, print out my first message back to you, and tell those guys to find written evidence that refutes it (make THEM do the work!). Now, let’s “do our homework”…

Starting with the obvious, beginning on page 438 of the current BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, the ranks and their requirements are listed, with places for the leader’s initials and the date of completion, and there’s no place for a second set of initials and dates. This makes it obvious that the requirements and ranks are completed ONCE. In addition, the “rank cards” that are presented to the Scout on completion of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and so on, also state a specific date and are signed by a Troop leader (usually the Scoutmaster). These are non-revocable, and this should be equally obvious.

Now, let’s look at Advancement Rules and Regulations, as published in the book by the BSA National Council titled ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES (you can buy this book yourself, at your local council’s Scout Shop). Here, Clause 5 says (in part): “There shall be four steps in Boy Scout advancement procedure: learning, testing, reviewing, and recognition.” Notice it doesn’t say either “re-testing” or “re-reviewing.” Further on in this same book, it states: “Each Troop is responsible for keeping its own records and reporting advancement to the local council service center.” This means that, if a Scout has incomplete records, he can fall back on his former Troop’s records as well as the records retained at the council service center, to verify what he has earned.

Remember this: You’re not in this pickle barrel alone. Call your council service center and get the name of a Commissioner (this is a volunteer Scouter who is committed to unit service) and also the name of your District’s Advancement Chair. Contact either or both of these good folks and tell them your problem. They’re there to help!

Oh, yeah… One more thing that needs to be considered here, and that’s the possibility that this is one of those Troops that dishes out malarkey like, “Well, the BSA has it’s ‘minimum standards,’ but in OUR Troop…” If this is the case, get outa that Troop fast as you can. Go find another Troop that “gets it” and don’t waste any more time than you have to with a bunch of self-important, misguided fools.

Dear Andy,

Could you tell me the history of the Arrow of Light from its beginning to the present? Was there anything before the Arrow of Light?

(George Cooke)

Googling “arrow of light award” slapped me with nearly 16 thousand Web-citations! But nothing about the award’s “history” showed up. So, back to my personal library and start diggin’ around… There they were: My own Cub Scout books — Wolf, Bear, and Lion — from more than 50 years ago! They told me that, at that time, the highest Cub Scout rank was WEBELOS (meaning “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts” or, alternatively, “Wolf-Bear-Lion-Scout”), and that the symbol on the Webelos badge was that of an “arrow of light,” as taken from an American Indian sign. Since Cub Scouts was only about 20 years old at the time, I imagine this hadn’t changed much, if at all, from “day one.” Of course, over time, the Lion rank was eventually dropped, the Webelos rank (with its own diamond-shaped badge) was added, and the arrow of light symbol became the Arrow of Light rank and badge.

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for a “PowerPoint” presentation on Advancement for Boy Scouts, for presentation to Troop Committee members. Do you have any suggestions? (Chris Hopkins, Revolutionary Trails Council)

Have you checked my sponsor’s site—the U.S. Scouting Service Project? Also, I’m sending you a “Word” presentation on Boy Scout Advancement, and a “quiz” to go with it, written by a Scouting friend. Convert it to PowerPoint if you like, or make transparencies for an overhead projector.

Publisher’s Note: Visit, enter the search term “boy scout advancement filetype:ppt” in the search box, and then click on search. You’ll get about 98 results – all of them will be PowerPoint presentations with some relationship to advancement. — The NetCommish.

Hi Andy,

I’m a Den Leader in need of help at Den and Pack meetings. I’m told there’s a Boy Scout leadership position called “Den Chief.” How do I get a Den Chief? (S. Campbell, NNJ Council)

What I’m about to share with you ain’t “in the book” — It comes from my own experience on both sides of the fence: As a former Den Leader and Webelos Den Leader, and as a Scoutmaster…

Often, Den Chiefs are sorta like “mail-order brides.” They’re “picked” by Scoutmasters, agreed to (sometimes) by Cubmasters, and then just told to show up at some Den meeting. So, they walk in, and there’s the Den Leader, already coping with maybe eight boisterous Cub or Webelos Scouts, and now they’ve got some brand new “kid” to deal with, too. How do they get their Den meeting going and keep it on track, and at the same time try to figure out who this “kid” is, what he’s good at (or not so good at), and how he can best fit in. Ouch! Then, there’s the Scout. He’s going to some strange home, meeting some adult he’s never met before, and there’s a bunch of boys in blue uniforms runnin’ around. He’s supposed to “lead” these? Ya gotta be kidding! (“Color me outa here,” is what he’s thinking—and who can blame him!)

So, let’s rewind and start over…

You’re a Den Leader who wants a Den Chief? Great, because if you do this right, you’re gonna have yourself a right-hand man who can help make your Scouting job easier and more rewarding! Start out by finding out where a nearby Troop meets. Arrange, through your Cubmaster or committee chair to visit a Troop meeting. Then, get yourself a copy of the DEN CHIEF’S HANDBOOK, so that you’re very clear on just what kind of job this is, and what you’ll be looking for. Then, contact the Scoutmaster ahead of time, and let him know you’re coming, and what your goal is. Go in full and complete uniform, BUT stay on the sidelines. Arrive on time, so you can see the start of the meeting. Remember that, in Boy Scouts, it’s not the adults who run the meeting and lead the Scouts — it’s the Scouts themselves who do this (in a well-run Troop, the adults are on the sidelines, too). Stand to the side, and simply observe… keep watching… watch the Scouts and not the adults… keep watching… pretty soon THERE HE IS!

He’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He may not be a leader in the Troop, but he has a sparkle about him that doesn’t fade. He’s well-uniformed (he’ll set a good example for your Cubs), and he’s at least Second Class rank. He’s quick to respond, carries himself well, is alert, and doesn’t appear to be a cut-up. He’s the kind of young man you’d feel comfortable with, if he were with your own son. Now that you’ve spotted him, what next?

Approach the Scoutmaster, quietly. Point out the Scout and get his name. Ask about him…How long has he been in the Troop? What kind of boy is he in the Scoutmaster’s opinion? Was he a Cub Scout? Is he advancing in rank? How well does he get along with the other Scouts? Then, if you get the answers you’re looking for, ask to meet him. Right then, at the Troop meeting’s end.

Introduce yourself, and get to know the Scout a little bit… What Patrol is he in, what school does he go to, and a couple of other questions (without making this sound like it’s a “third degree”). Then, ask him if he has time (and transportation!) after school, to come and visit one of your Den meetings.

The Scout comes as a visitor, you introduce him to your Den, and he participates (as a semi-leader) in some of the Den meeting. If all goes well, after the Den meeting’s over, you ask him if he’d like to come again, regularly, as the Den’s Den Chief. Tell him it’s an important leadership position, approved by his Scoutmaster IF he wants the job. Tell him what’s expected of him, in terms of schedule and commitment (maybe he wants to talk this over with his parents?) and tell him you’d like to have him as your Den Chief, if he’d like to do this. Be sure he understands that he doesn’t have to say “Yes” — This is at his option.

If he does say Yes, give him a schedule of your Den and Pack meetings, their location, your name and address and phone number (probably email address, too!), and then give him that copy of the DEN CHIEF’S HANDBOOK that you already read! You’re on your way!

Contact his Scoutmaster, and tell him of this mutual decision. Be sure the Scoutmaster knows that this Scout is now eligible to wear the special den Chief’s cord on his uniform, and agree on how this will be presented to him.

At the next Den meeting, introduce him to your Den as their Den Chief! At the very next Pack meeting, be sure that you and the Cubmaster together introduce him to the whole Pack! Then…HAVE FUN!

Dear Andy,

In our Troop, when a Scout needs a leadership position (for advancement) but hasn’t been elected Patrol Leader or SPL and hasn’t been appointed Historian or Quartermaster because these positions are already filled, we often tell the Scout to be a Den Chief. But, we’ve been telling them that so long as they go to Den meetings, that’s enough—they don’t have to go to Pack meetings. In talking about this with our Commissioner, he told us we’re missing the boat—that Den Chiefs definitely do attend Pack meetings. Is this right? Or is it optional? Or what? (P.W., Patriots’ Path Council)

Your Commissioner’s right on-target. Going to Den meetings and not Pack meeting’s like wearing your shirt but not your pants—and you know what hangs out! So, let’s begin at the beginning…

The Den Chief is a Boy Scout selected by the Scoutmaster in cooperation with the Den Leader and/or Cubmaster. He can be any age or rank, but he can be the greatest help if he’s been a Cub Scout himself and—regardless of his chronological age—if he’s mature enough to assume this important responsibility. As the selected leader of younger boys, he has the opportunity to help them complete their Cub Scout and/or WEBELOS Scout advancement requirements and live up to Cub Scouting’s ideals. The Den Chief is a member of a leadership team that also includes the Den Leader, Assistant Den Leader, and the Denner (the latter a Cub Scout elected by his Den). The Den Chief is already what every Cub Scout and WEBELOS Scout wants to be: a Boy Scout. He’s the guy they’d like to follow and be like. When the Den Leader uses a Den Chief’s talents properly, he can be a great influence on the Den. The Den Chief’s responsibilities include both Den and Pack meetings – and attending Pack meetings isn’t just a “maybe I’ll be there, maybe I won’t” sort of thing. Participating in Pack meetings is AN ESSENTIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DEN CHIEF. Den Chiefs and their leaders in both the Pack and the Troop need to understand that being a Den Chief, although an important responsibility, won’t be so demanding on his time as to interfere with his Patrol and Troop activities. Den and Pack meetings are usually scheduled at times that don’t conflict with Troop meetings and other activities. And, Den Chiefs should receive training at your Council’s Den Chief’s Training Conference. Finally, the Den Chief’s shoulder cord is presented in front of his Troop, while the Pack may use an appreciation certificate as a method of recognition.

Dear Andy,

In the LAW Merit Badge book, I see that it makes no mention of how juvenile law differs from that in the book. It seems it would be most appropriate for Boy Scouts to know the differences. What e-mail address can I send suggested Merit Badge book changes to? (Jack Boeldt, Crossroads of America Council, Indianapolis, IN)

On the Law and any other Merit Badge, for that matter, you do realize that it’s perfectly OK for a Counselor to go beyond what’s in the pamphlet—and that would, of course, include acquainting Scouts with issues related to juvenile law as well as any other aspects the Counselor, through his or her knowledge and experience, chooses to impart to the Scouts he or she counsels. The only point to keep in mind is that additional learnings shouldn’t turn into “additional requirements”—you need to stick to the requirements, exactly as written, without adding or subtracting. If you have specific thoughts regarding improvement of this or any other Merit Badge, the best thing to do, I’m guessing, is to write directly to the Boy Scout Division-BSA, in Irving, Texas. Your Council service center can give you the exact address.

Hi Andy,

Thanks for all the great information and hard work it must take to keep “Ask Andy” going. It’s a must read for me every month.

I just read your April issue and saw the question about Camporee and Jamboree. Last week on vacation I read “Baden-Powell—The Two Lives of a Hero” by William Hillcourt. I had often wondered where “Jamboree” came from. According to Mr. Hillcourt, “Following the triumph of the Birmingham Exhibition in 1913…The term ‘rally’ or ‘exhibition’ no longer suited Baden-Powell. Something more picturesque was required. From out of his subconscious, possibly placed there on one of his trips to America, he pulled the word ‘Jamboree.’ ‘But you can’t possibly use that word for a Boy Scout event!’ someone told him. ‘And why not,’ B-P wanted to know. ‘Have you looked it up in the dictionary?’ B-P hadn’t. Now he did: ‘jamboree (jam-bo-re), n. [A slang word, prob. arbitrary.] A carousal; a noisy drinking bout; a spree; hence, any noisy merrymaking. [Slang]’ Although its dictionary definition was not particularly dignified, B-P happened to like the word, and with no better suggestions forthcoming, ‘jamboree’ it was.” You got to love it! A man who knew what he liked and was confident enough to know he could change the definition of a word! From Webster today (main Entry): “jam·bo·ree. Pronunciation: “jam-b&-‘rE. Function: noun Etymology: origin unknown 1 : a noisy or unrestrained carouse
2 a : a large festive gathering b : a national or international camping assembly of Boy Scouts 3 : a long mixed program of entertainment.” (Bob Carey)

Great information here, and too good not to share! Thanks!

Dear Andy,

On May 22, members of our Troop completed a five-and-a-half hour whitewater canoe trip on the Chattooga River (on the SC-GA state line). We were in process of landing the last of our canoes and kayaks when we heard cries for help from the river’s opposite side, some 150 to 200 feet away. We responded by immediately launching our canoes and kayaks, and some Troop members began swimming across the river. First to the scene was one of our adult leaders, who arrived by canoe and, with help, pulled a drowning man from the river. Another adult leader, after swimming across the river, performed CPR and revived the man. A third adult leader swam across the river and retrieved a baby (maybe 18 or 24 months old), from a man—a non-swimmer—who was standing on a rock in the middle of a deep water hole in the river, with only his head above water. Once the first subject calmed down, we placed him on an ocean kayak and transported him to the river’s opposite side, where we covered him blankets (to avert or reduce shock) and then we portaged him, still on the kayak, about a quarter-mile uphill to where the our cars were parked, and transferred him into the SUV of one of our leaders, who drove him to a general store where an ambulance met him about five minutes later and EMT took over. Although we had cell phones with us, none of them would pick up a satellite signal—so we just continually dialed 9-1-1 until we finally got a link. Practically every Scout in the Troop assisted with the rescue in one way or another–responding to the immediate scene, swimming with the victim on the kayak back across the river, running for blankets to help warm him, ferrying the victim’s family across the river, helping carry the man-and-kayak up the hill (the most strenuous task), staying with the victim in the SUV during transport). What awards or recognitions can we put our leaders and Scouts in for? Heroism? Medal of Merit? Any information on this would really help. (Todd Biggs, Troop Committee Member, Troop 305, Sumter, SC, South Carolina Council)

The folks who need to know about this are your council, beginning with your Scout Executive, who will know what to do, whom to interview and obtain testimony from, and so on. You absolutely did the right thing in saving lives, and now you’ll be doing the right thing when you report this incident to your council service center. They may even assign a special team to carry out the investigation. When they’re done, they’ll make recommendations to the BSA National Council Court of Honor, where the final decision rests. This certainly appears to represent Scouting in action and Scout Spirit at its very finest, and you certainly have my congratulations!

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!

(June 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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