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Issue 37 – Mid-July 2004

Dear Andy,

As a Scoutmaster, I must respectfully disagree with the BSA’s absence of restrictions on merit badge counselors signing off on their own son, particularly when other counselors for the same merit badge might be available. How can Scouts “learn how to initiate contact with an adult they don’t know,” when that “adult” is Mom or Dad? Scouts would be better served, I believe, by receiving counseling from non-relatives whenever possible. (Paul M. Bangiola, SM, Troop 34, Morristown, NJ)

Actually, you, as Scoutmaster, have more to say about this particular issue than you might realize, and this provides for your philosophy to prevail! Open your current BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK to page 187, and see what it says there. It specifically instructs the Scout to “Obtain from your Scoutmaster a signed merit badge application (the famous “blue card”) and the name of a qualified counselor for that merit badge.” So, it’s YOU, the Scoutmaster, who decides what merit badge counselor the Scout will go to. Now, in the case of a parent who is a counselor for a merit badge his or her own son might be seeking, this might be just fine so long as the next thing is says on page 187 is upheld: “Along with another Scout…” (that is, a BUDDY). When the Buddy System is employed, much of your concern would likely be diminished, because there are at least two Scouts involved and any thought of favoritism goes out the window. But, that’s so long as a parent doesn’t think he or she can counsel their own son, exclusively. So, your decisions here can definitely fit with your understanding of the aims of the merit badge program. Just always be on the lookout so that you, yourself, don’t become too rigid with “rule-making.”

Dear Andy,

I have an adult in my previous unit that wants to transfer to my current unit—no problem here. But, while this adult was in the other unit, a letter was sent to the Cubmaster stating that this individual had to sever all ties to Scouting. My District Executive has told me that this person is not allowed in my new unit, because of this letter (which I don’t have a copy of, so I don’t know its contents or actual source). I have no problem with this adult. I was his Scouting trainer, and I also know his volunteer work outside of Scouting as well (he volunteers for the Sheriff’s Department as one of their Citizens-On-Patrol). What can we do to appeal this? I have no problem allowing this volunteer being with his Tiger Cub son in my unit. In fact, I know this man’s whole family—his brother-in-law and sister transferred to my new unit. They’re all wonderful volunteers! (Christopher Cherrington, COR-Pack 106, Manatee District, Gulf Stream Council)

Based on what you’ve told me here, it’s difficult to know if your friend is or is not aware of a problem. Perhaps he isn’t and simply wants for himself and his son to be in a unit you’re personally involved with. Perhaps he is, and that’s what’s motivating him to seek new registration in your unit. But, whichever it is, this is his problem, and not yours in any direct sense, it seems to me. It’s he who needs to initiate a “discovery-and-appeal” process with the council; not you. He needs to speak with the Scout Executive, determine what the contents of the letter you refer to are, and then proceed with his response to whatever allegations might be contained in that letter. The council should have a process for this. What you can do is to inform him of the DE’s directive to you, so that, if your friend is unaware, he can be made aware and then decide whether and how to best pursue a remedy. If you choose, you (and others as well, it sounds like) can certainly act as a “character witness” for him, should the occasion arise.

Dear Andy,

What’s the best way to fund our monthly Roundtables? We have a relatively new staff, and they’re excited about doing the training, but we have no real mechanism for funding it. The result is that the staff spends their own money on materials, prizes, and so on. I feel like there must be a better way. (Dennis Fairbairn)

It’s neither fair nor right for Roundtable Commissioners and staff to be spending out of their own pockets every month. Roundtables are generally considered part of the TRAINING program of a district and/or council, and consequently there should be district or council funds available for Roundtables. This is typically part of the overall council budget. If you speak with your council or district training chair, and also with the council’s Director of Field Services (or, if that person’s not on the paid staff, then the council financial officer) about funding your Roundtables. But, before doing this, the RT Commissioner should prepare an annual budget, including what the funds will be spent on (i.e., the “line items”), so that a proper and reasonably accurate allocation can be made. If it should turn out that the training budget can’t free up the money needed, then go to the PROGRAM people in your district/council with the same request.

Most good Roundtables that I’ve attended have coffee/tea/cocoa and cookies available, and this is usually handled differently — Here, a “donation hat, basket, cup, can, etc.” is used. You know… The old “drop in a buck or two for next month” routine. This usually works pretty well, although occasional “salting” might be necessary.

Hi Andy,

Where can I find a location to purchase the Scoutmaster’s Key and the Scouter’s Training Award ribbon medals? (Bill Hogue, SM, Troop 175, Geneva, NE)

These are available through your local council service center. Usually, the Scout Shop can order them for you, when you provide proof of their having been earned (like, show them your certificates). Proof is typically required because, like rank badges, these items are in the “restricted” (to those who have earned them) category. (That’s why you don’t see them in the BSA Supply Division catalog.)

Dear Andy,

Where can I get plans for making stilts? (Bob Milazzo, ADC-Staten Island, Greater New York Council)

Just Google “how to make stilts” and you’ll get more than a thousand entries! Find the one you like, and just print it out!

Hi Andy,

Wonderful column! I’m an Assistant Cubmaster and Den Leader and an Assistant Scoutmaster to boot. A few weeks ago, I saw a Boy Scout with two “position” badges on his sleeve (left-to-right). I thought it was cool idea. I enjoy “reading” a uniform. It tells the Scout’s/Scouter’s story. Is this practice OK? Would it be appropriate for an adult leader to wear both ASM and ACM position badges on the same uniform, positioned like this? My second question is, can an adult Scouter wear a leather “50 Miler” patch in the temporary position on his right pocket, if he earned it as a Scout? (Jon from DC)

For your current badge and badge placement questions, just use a Wolf, Bear or Webelos Book, or the Boy Scout Handbook. In these, on the insides of the covers, you’ll see where most badges go. Or, get yourself a copy of the BSA’s Insignia Guide (No. LT33066C) for just about everything else you’d ever want to know. Meanwhile, here are your answers…

No one—youth or adult—should ever wear more than one position badge on the left uniform sleeve. Period. In your case, just pick whichever Cub Scouting “job” is the more important to you (I’m hoping you’ll say Den Leader!) and that’s the one you wear on your Cub Scouter uniform shirt (the one with the BLUE shoulder loops and the Pack numeral). Then, on your OTHER uniform shirt (the one with the RED shoulder loops and Troop numeral), you wear the Assistant Scoutmaster position badge.

No, you don’t ever wear the “50 Miler” patch—leather or otherwise—anywhere on a uniform. Period. That patch goes on your BACKPACK, and nowhere else!

Hi Andy,

I love your column! It’s so informative for someone who’s new to Scouting! I’ve volunteered to assist the Advancement Chair for our Cub Scout Pack. My question is about the placement of devices that Cub Scouts receive when they earn the Religious Knot. I understand that only one knot is issued. A “device” is given to signify at what level the knot is earned. A Cub Scout can generally earn his religious knot twice during the Cub Scout years (and two more times later as a Boy Scout). Or put another way, most religious emblems have two levels during the Cub Scout years—one knot is given and two devices can be issued. How are the devices worn? Is only one device worn at a time? The latest one? Where does a Scout wear a device for each program phase where the knot was earned? How do you “center” up to four devices on a single “square knot” badge? Please help! (Donna from NJ)

Welcome to Scouting—the best hope for the future of America! Here are some basic guidelines to consider…

First, get yourself a book titled INSIGNIA GUIDE (No. 33066D) from your local Scout Shop or the National Supply Division. In there, you’ll find that some faiths have a single religious emblem for Cub Scouts (the Jewish “Aleph” and the Buddhist “Metta” for example) while others have two—one for Cub Scouts and one for Webelos Scouts (the Protestant “God and Me” plus “God and Family,” for example). That’s usually it for “pre”-Boy Scouts: one level; sometimes two. Then, for Boy Scouts, there’s usually only a single level (the Catholic “Ad Altare Dei” and the Islamic “In The Name Of God” are two examples). So, as far as “devices” are concerned, there are only two that would ever be worn by a youth in Scouting: One for the Cub and/or Webelos level (but not for both) and one for the Boy Scout level. That’s it. So, if there’s one device, it would be placed in the center of the “square knot” badge and if there are two, they would be placed equidistantly one-third in from the outer edges of the same badge. And, by the way, the religious square knot (silver-on-purple) that’s earned as a Cub or Webelos Scout can be transferred to a Boy Scout uniform upon graduation into a Troop.

But, having been both a Cubmaster and a Den Leader myself, I can tell you that those devices are tiny, tiny little things, and the get lost faster than neckerchief slides! Besides, if a Cub Scout or Webelos Scout is wearing the religious “square knot” it’s perfectly obvious at what level he earned it—pre-Boy Scout! So, you don’t really need to concern yourself with things like these little devices for religious awards—there’s hardly a need for them, from any practical standpoint until the boy is at least a Boy Scout. Then, he can go buy his own, if he really wants them.

So, while your question is an important one, in the “Department of Getting It Right,” there’s a larger issue that I’d hope you’re focusing on, and that’s the earning of ranks, arrow points, and religious emblems. These ranks, emblems and recognitions represent a significant one of the overall methods of Scouting. They help these boys not only learn new things and new skills, and bond further with their parents (at the Cub Scout ages) while doing so, but they serve to build confidence and a feeling of accomplishment in the boy. This is why they’re a part of the program, and this is where the main focus of your energies and efforts belongs! Focus on the accomplishment; the badge is not the reward—the feeling of achievement is!

Dear Andy,

What do new Unit Commissioners need to know to be oriented by their ADC’s? (David Reiller, ADC-Training, Greater Niagara Frontier Council)

Go here: You’ll find excellent new Unit Commissioner training materials that you can download and use. Also, the BSA puts out a pretty darned good series of videos, plus the several FIELDBOOKs for Commissioners. All of these materials should give you just what you need to get a new Unit Commissioner off on the right track.

Hi Andy,

I’m writing for my fiancé. He’s an Eagle Scout—so is his father and so is his son! My question to you—Can tell me the oldest Eagle Scout, or are you aware of other “three-generation Eagles”? Thanks! (Sandy Hunter)

So you’re gonna marry an Eagle! Hey, good for you! And lucky him! Yes, there are Eagles of three generations around the country—quite a few of them, in fact. If your fiancé is a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, he gets a newsletter (it’s called the EAGLETTER) a couple of times a year, and in the section called “It’s A Family Thing,” any number of three-generation Eagles are cited in each issue. Now I don’t know who the oldest living Eagle Scout is, but I’ll bet if you go to the website, you might find some information not only about this, but also about the very first Eagle, back in 1912! (Can I mention that I’m a “Class of ‘58” Eagle with a son who’s an Eagle-Class of ’98!)

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Commissioner looking for a re-charter ceremony to do with the Chartered Organization. Can you help out? Bob Phillips, UC, Cape Cod & Islands Council, Yarmouth Port, MA)

I’ve got not just one but two resources for you. Get your hands on these two books: COMMISSIONER HELPS FOR PACKS AND TROOPS (No.3618A) and COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE (No. 33621A). One page 22 (or thereabouts, depending on the edition), of the HELPS book there’s a CHARTER PRESENTATION CEREMONY, and in the FIELDBOOK beginning on page 42 (or thereabouts), there’s an entire section on CHARTER PRESENTATIONS, including an actual script for a ceremony. Of course, you can modify the script to best fit the situation, but it’s a great guide and I’ve used it many times myself!

Dear Andy,

What is the emblem on the BSA badges and flags? (D. Olson)

The Scout Emblem is an amalgam of key elements and guides for members of the Boy Scouting movement. The main part of the emblem is taken from the symbol for North on the mariner’s compass (it’s often, but mistakenly, called a “fleur de lis,” the lily flower, with which it shares a similar symbolic shape). The sign of North was chosen (nearly 100 years ago!) to signify that Scouting points the right way in life, just as a compass does for the mariner at sea. The three main points of this symbol represent the three points of the Scout Oath: Duty to God and country, duty to others, and duty to self. Inside this, you’ll find two stars, which signify truth and knowledge. Then, in the center, the American eagle and shield stand for freedom and a Scout’s readiness to defend that freedom. If the emblem you’ve seen stops there, you’re looking at what’s referred to as the “universal Scout emblem.” But, if there’s more, then you’re seeing the Scout Badge.

The “more” part is a scroll below the North sign, from which a knot hangs in the center. The saying on the scroll, “Be Prepared,” is the Scout motto, and the shape of the scroll, with its ends turned upward, suggest to the Scout that he smile when he fulfills the Scout Slogan: Do A Good Turn Daily. The knot serves as a reminder to do so.

By the way, the sign-of-North shape is universal: Every Scouting organization in over 200 countries around the world has a similar shape to their Scout Emblem!



Happy Scouting!


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

(Mid-July 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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