May I copy your article titled “The Day the Music Died” for use at our next Roundtable. I will, of course, include the appropriate credits. (Dave Hudson, UC, Ojibwa District-Clinton Valley Council)
I’m honored that you’d ask, and the answer is absolutely YES! May I also ask that you encourage your folks to read the column — that’s how I get so many great questions! Did you know that I’ve heard from virtually every state in the US, plus Puerto Rico, too!
I’m looking for a couple of good program ideas for conducting Troop Uniform Inspections that are fun, interesting, and rewarding. (Pat Levesque, ADC, Mecklenburg County Council, Charlotte, NC)
I’m guessing that you’ve already reviewed the COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE, and know how important these uniform inspections are to helping units deliver the Scouting program, promote Scouting’s ideals, and help the Scouts in the Pack or Troop feel more “connected” to the movement, with a greater sense of belonging and pride.
It’s important to always remember that uniform inspections are much more a morale feature and hardly at all a “military-type exercise.” Borrowing from the book, “The One-Minute Manager,” our job as Commissioners is to “catch units, leaders and Scouts getting it right.” So, be sure that the unit you’ll be visiting for this has the best possible opportunity to “get it right.” Make sure they have uniform inspection sheets to pass out at least two meetings ahead of the inspection. Make sure the adults in uniform “get it right” at least one week before the inspection. And finally, make sure the unit knows that the youth leaders will be doing the actual “inspecting”–not you or any other adult!
Whether Pack or Troop, the “award level” needs to be the Den or the Patrol, and not any individual Scout. Yes, definitely reward all Scouts in “perfect” uniform (including badges/patches), and the reward is a small candy bar (or small bag of M&Ms, which are perfect for sharing) — carry a whole bunch in your pocket that night, and make sure you have more than enough! Then, after the Senior Patrol Leader and his Patrol Leaders (or Den Chiefs and Denners) tally the results, the “top” Den or Patrol gets a blue ribbon for their Den/Patrol flag staff (be sure you tell the unit leaders about this ahead of time — nothing worse than ribbons ribbon and no staffs to tie them to!). Yes, give out red (second place) and white (third place) ribbons, too. And, if possible, add some yellow (for Cubs) or green (for Scouts) ribbons for “honorable mention,” too.
The FIELDBOOK describes how to go Den-by-Den and Patrol-by-Patrol, with the “top youth” in charge. At the end, and after the ribbon presentations, be sure to congratulate everyone on a job well done!
Last item: Be sure you’ve reviewed the inspection sheets and even the UNIFORM & EMBLEM GUIDE published by the BSA — you never know when someone’s going to throw you a curve on some uniform or badge fine point!
I always remember as a Scout (back in the early 80’s) being told that the Eagle Scout Badge was the only Boy Scout rank you could wear as an adult. As a boy, I took solace in seeing some of the adult leaders in my Troop wearing the Eagle Scout Badge (not the knot) on their uniform. It told me that leader had been where I was working so hard to get to. Now, as an adult leader myself, I’m disappointed that we hide the Eagle Scout Rank in a knot, and I’m finding other fellow Eagle Scouts who feel the same way. Is the “knot only” for adults regulation something new, or were the leaders in my old Troop just defying the regulation? If this is a relatively recent change, (I say “recent”, but it’s been this way since I was a Scoutmaster back in ’92), why do you think we’re hiding this award that we hold so high in a knot? (I say “hiding” because most boys have no idea what 95% of the square knots mean, but probably 110% of all boys know what the Eagle Scout Badge means). How do we right this wrong? (Michael O’Donnell, DC, Gravois Trail District-Greater Saint Louis Area Council)
Terrific question, ‘cept for one little thing… There’s no “wrong” to be “righted.” As a Scout back in the — actually, I don’t think I’ll tell you, other than to say that Scouting’s 50th anniversary hadn’t been celebrated yet — I was responsible for uniform inspections in my Troop and, at that time, it included the adult leaders, too. And even back then, in Scouting’s Jurassic period, no adult wore a Boy Scout rank on his adult leader’s uniform. That’s exactly what the square knots are for — they’re for adults (i.e., over age 18) to wear, to signify what they did as youth members and then as adult members of Scouting as well. Rank badges are for the youth, and it’s been that way for many, many generations of Scouts and leaders. So, sorry to tell you this, but your own leaders made a mistake by wearing a rank badge reserved for the boys. What your leaders meant to say (or should have said) was that the Eagle rank is the only Boy Scout rank that has a square knot for adult uniform wear. There are no knots for Life, Star, or the three primary ranks. Just Eagle. So, don’t be disappointed, because nothing’s being “hidden.” As an Eagle Scout, you get to wear the red-white-and-blue square knot designating that achievement. If, as a Cub Scout, you earned the Arrow of Light, you can wear a square knot for that. You can wear your Scout-earned religious award knot, your Explorer Silver Award knot, and your Sea Scout Quartermaster Award knot, too. So, I’d be hard-pressed to say that the achievements of our youth are hidden. But, the left pocket itself is the province of the boys — That’s where they wear their ranks, and that’s the story.
And Mike writes back…
We’ll have to “agree to disagree” about whether they’re hidden or not. As a boy, I remember not knowing what any of the knots meant, so right or wrong (actually wrong) I am glad my leaders chose to show us that they were Eagle Scouts. Perhaps the best way for us adults to show our pride in our own accomplishments is to be sure to wear the Eagle Medal at all Courts of Honor. Thanks for taking so much of your time to facilitate these great discussions. I always look forward to reading your latest postings. (Michael O’Donnell)
I sure hate for dedicated Scouters like you ‘n me to disagree, so how about a fresh way to accomplish a goal we both seem to have: Educating Scouts (in a fun way)…
On the internet, there are any number of sites that list most or all of the BSA “square knots” and what they are for. My own host — the US Scouting Service Project — has this information! Get yourself a list of all the knots, and a parallel description of what each represents and convert it into a patrol game — Identify as many knots as you can in 60 seconds, or something like that (with a “key” or guide of some sort, of course). Prizes for the winners. Do it a couple of times over the course of a couple of months and all that “hidden” stuff will become real and identifiable and meaningful for your Scouts!
You see, Mike, I was a Scout in an earlier era — one in which there were no “names” at all on any badges! The SM’s badge was a silver first class emblem on green, the ASM’s was gold-on-green and the JASM’s was brown-on-green. The Patrol Leader wore just two simple green bars on his left sleeve. Even Commissioners — first class emblem with wreath — had simply different color combinations to designate their actual positions. The Quartermaster was a key-and-wheel; Scribe was crossed quills, and so on. So, I, along with a whole host of other Scouts at that time, learned how to “read” badges that had no names! And, guess what? We deciphered ’em all, all by ourselves. No one “taught” us or “spoon-fed” us — we just figured it was something we, as Scouts, ought to know, and so we did!
I HAVE A COMPLAINT and I want the issue addressed by the Boy Scouts of America–not a local. We are the parents of a young boy, and we signed him up months ago and have received nothing after calls and asking around. Now that he’s starting school again, they want him to sign up again. I am outraged that an organisation of this reputation could allow this to happen. He was promised a summer camp, we paid for the tee shirt, we and our neighbor’s son has either. And all the meetings planned missed. Makes me wonder if these people were really Boy Scouts. If you can’t help, I WANT TO KNOW WHO CAN and will get to the bottom of this!!! (Chris Summers, Florence, KY)
It sure sounds like you have every right to be furious. What a mess! And, the worst part is that your son may have missed out on some Scouting fun. When a family signs their son up, this usually means joining a Cub Scout Pack or a Boy Scout Troop… I’m taking a guess that your son is about 7 or maybe 8 years old? Do you know what Pack (or Troop, if I’ve guessed wrong and he’s age 11 or older) you signed him up with? Do you have the name of the leader, or a phone number? Did you provide the registration fee (typical maximum is $10.00, plus Boys Life magazine for $10.80 a year) at the time you signed him up? Did they give you a receipt? If you still have nowhere to turn, call the Scout headquarters that serves your area–the Dan Beard Council-BSA (the address is 2331 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45206) — at 513-961-2336 and ask to speak to the District Executive who serves the Florence, KY area. This is the person who can be your best ally in getting things straightened out. But, when you call, try to be calm and cooperative, because folks respond to that a lot better than when you try to “read ’em the riot act.” Do remember that, in the first place, the person you’ll be talking to didn’t cause the problem and may not even know there is a problem, and in the second place, Scouting is 90% a VOLUNTEER organization; it’s not a business. This means that when people are contributing their time and efforts freely, sometimes things get messed up. Be assured that no harm was intended and they’ll do everything possible to get the situation fixed.
In the early 80’s, as a Scout in Troop 906, in Sanford, NC, I was inducted into the Occonneechee Lodge-Order of the Arrow. I’ve told my son this many times with really no proof to back it up. Is there a list of members that I can finally prove this event in my life? I now live in Florida, and my Troop no longer exists. Any info on how I can find my name somewhere would really help! (George Little)
So, you were a member of the Occoneechee Lodge #104, and the good news is that the lodge is still around! Here’s their web address: http://www.lodge104.com/. My suggestion is check ’em out and see if they still have your name deep in their archives. Also, most lodges give out membership cards when one joins, and another when a member attains Brotherhood membership, so you may want to dig through your Scouting memorabilia one more time… Maybe you’ll even find your sash! You can also re-join your original lodge by simply telling them what you’ve told me and then paying the annual dues (usually a small amount), and that would make you “official” once more! Meanwhile, what’s the problem with your son, that he seems to have trouble believing you? Maybe he simply needs to remember that “A Scout is TRUSTWORTHY.”
I’ve looked in the Commissioner manuals, but I can’t find what I’m looking for… What is the minimum age requirement for Commissioners? Can they be age 18, or is there a requirement that they must be at least 21? I hear that it’s 21, but I want to verify this because I have an 18 year old who wants to help as our Boy Scout Leaders’ Roundtable staff, and I don’t want to turn away a Eagle Scout who’s energetic! (Joe Macone, DC, Sons of Liberty District-Boston Minuteman Council)
Three cheers for that young man! Roundtable staffers are in short supply and the need is great! On the age thing, yes, the age is 21 for all adults except ASSISTANT SMs, CM, DLs, WDLs, and Varsity Coaches–These few positions can start at age 18 (check out the BSA’s “Be A Volunteer Leader” adult application). So, technically, your enthusiastic 18 year old can’t officially hold the position of RT Commissioner or RT Staffer. That said, if I were in your shoes, I’d sure make sure this young man is registered as an ASM with a Troop, and then I’d ask him to take on the job at Roundtables, if he’s willing. The only drawback is he can’t wear the Roundtable Staff badge on his left sleeve for three years, but he sounds like the kind of guy who wouldn’t let that get in his way!
In an earlier column you discussed the Webelos-to-Parent/Adult ratios. There are changes in the wording of this in the most recent version of the Guide To Safe Scouting: “A Webelos Scout may participate in overnight Den camping when supervised by an adult. In most cases, the Webelos Scout will be under the supervision of his parent or guardian. It is essential that each Webelos Scout be under the supervision of a parent-approved adult. Joint Webelos Den–Troop campouts including the parents of the Webelos Scouts are encouraged to strengthen ties between the Pack and Troop. Den leaders, Pack leaders, and parents are expected to accompany the boys on approved trips.” Note, that it’s not necessary that they be under the supervision of their parent/guardian, but that they are to be under the supervision of an adult approved by their parent/guardian. So the question is: “Does this new wording allow for Webelos to camp without a parent?” It would appear so to me. Also, the wording is vague enough to allow for an adult to be responsible for more than one Webelos Scout. I know your view from your previous column, but there are real-world scenarios that would eliminate several Webelos Scouts from attending a weekend campout with our Troop unless we can allow for doubling up boys to adults. Any comments? (Doug Milstead, ASM, Troop 59, Braidwood, IL, Rainbow Council)
Good judgment calls, in Scouting as in life, usually involve balancing–balancing multiple goals or balancing advantages and disadvantages, or sometimes balancing both! In Scouting, the judgment calls that I’ve made in my “career” have been based–insofar as I’m capable–on what’s ultimately best FOR THE BOY. While I strongly endorse and promote the pairing of one-boy-and-one-parent when it comes to a Cub or Webelos outdoors event such as an overnight campout (for reasons I’ve already expressed), I simultaneously practice “Absolutely Rigid Flexibility” (otherwise known as “ARF”)! So, in the case of true hardship (as differentiated from “inconvenience”), I might be tempted to say OK to one dad and two boys, because I’m motivated to have Webelos Scouts graduating into Boy Scouts, and the outdoor experience for the adult-less boy might help make this happen. But, there is a down-side, and it’s not a fun one. The very real down-side is that the father-son bonding that the event is designed to have happen becomes severely at risk and may not happen at all! Either the father’s own son gets short shrift, or the boys do the bonding and the father gets left out, and neither of these is the intention of the event. So, use your very best judgment, at all times, and absolutely case-by-case.
It’s come to my attention that Venturing Crew members are showing up at their Eagle boards of review wearing the Crew’s “uniform.” This may consist of a T-shirt and cutoffs if the Crew so decides. This is distressing to me since I have so diligently stood on the complete uniform. I am getting some flack from some District Committee members who are starting to bend on this. They’re also starting to bend on the Boy Scout uniform. Their argument is that “if the Troop only requires ‘belt-up’ then why should the Scout have to buy a pair of pants and socks to only wear once.” We’ve visited this discussion before, and were in agreement on the dress code for Eagle boards. But this Venture twist is perplexing. I still believe they should wear the complete uniform. Plus, the parents are upset because there’s no set Venturing uniform–the Crew votes on it. Your input would be most welcome here. I can understand their point, but this is Eagle and an Eagle Scout should look and dress like one. I think National should revisit the “Official Venture Uniform” or this issue will not go away. (Ty Roshdy, DC, Pioneer District-Golden Empire Council, Sacramento, CA)
You’ve asked a terrific question here! Let’s put “uniforming” in the category of “proper attire” and then deal with it…
The Board of Review for the rank of Eagle Scout is the very last step in achieving the very highest rank in all of the movement. It will mark the Scout for the rest of his life. It will make a difference on his college application, it makes a difference in military service, and it will make a difference in applying for employment. Outside of academic achievement or school sports skills, the rank of Eagle stands proudly as a mark of a man, for the rest of his life. At that Board of Review, the members will be thinking to themselves throughout, “Is THIS young man an EAGLE SCOUT?” Therefore, one must ask the obvious: “Why would any young man want to do anything whatsoever that might send the wrong message to the people who will be making the final decision?”
“What should I wear to my Eagle board?” Any Scout who asks this question doesn’t “get it”–to one degree or another. Any Troop or adult Troop leader who proposes the notion that, “Well, in this Troop we don’t wear the uniform that described on page 12 of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK doesn’t get it, either. Any Troop leader who thinks that less than the national standard is somehow acceptable just doesn’t get it. Any Scout (and his Troop) who has already gone before five prior Boards of Review and hasn’t gotten it by the time of his sixth and final Board has to be classified as clueless.
“Troop uniform”? Nonsense! There’s no such thing. “Wear just once”? Baloney! After up to seven years on the trail to Eagle, after how many summer camps, hiking trips, overnights, Troop and Patrol meetings, and on and on, we’re not going to argue about thirty bucks for a pair of pants! Besides, the Scout can borrow them–from a friend or even from the Troop–if this is truly a financial hardship.
In my own experience, which covers more than two dozen troops, close to 200 Eagle Boards, across multiple councils and districts, as a representative of the highest ideals of Scouting, I have never, ever permitted a Boy Scout to present himself in anything less than a complete uniform. Now, that’s not to say there hasn’t been some last-minute fancy footwork! I’ve had Scouts swap uniforms right then and there (the Troop meeting was going on in another room), wear their brother’s uniform pants, send their parents home for their belt and socks–but, when the Board started, these Scouts looked like the Eagle Scouts they had worked so hard to become!
Concomitantly, I’ve sometimes had to advise the adults intending to sit on the Board that excusing themselves for a quick shave might be a nice idea, or that the beer-logo tee-shirt doesn’t seem to fit with what we’ve gathered for, or that cut-off jeans doesn’t honor the Scout who’s about to appear in full uniform! Guess what? Once advised, they get it, and it doesn’t happen again!
Now, on to Venturing (this is gonna be a no-brainer—just watch!)… True, there is no “official Venturer uniform.” However–and this is the key to the whole uniform mess, when it comes to Venturers–VENTURERS DON’T EARN THE EAGLE RANK–BOY SCOUTS DO. So, somewhere in his closet, the young man should have a Boy Scout uniform hanging. He needs to put it on, because he’s earning Eagle as a Boy Scout. No “Crew uniforms” at all, because he’s not earning Eagle as a Crew member—he’s earning it as a TROOP member! Now, you may get the argument that he’s “grown out of” his uniform. Oh, really? Then how has he actively participated in his Troop, in a significant leadership position, for six months? OK, maybe he did his six months a couple of years ago, and that’s alright. In that case, ask him: “If you were appearing before your church’s senior committee for full adult membership, or if you were seeking a scholarship from your town council, or if you were at an interview for the college of your choice–your “reach” college–what would you wear?” If he doesn’t say, “Jacket-and-tie,” he STILL doesn’t get it! In that case, you’re just gonna have to clue him in.
Where can I find information about Den Chief training? Not the syllabus and books, but the requirements for the boys, who can lead the training, etc. Thanks! (The Admiral)
In most councils, the best source of information such as you need is your Training Chair. Your council service center should be able to give you that name, phone and/or email address. In fact, if you go to your council’s website, you might even find a date or two on which training for Den Chiefs is being held! If that doesn’t work out for you, let me know and we’ll go at it another way.
I’m currently an Assistant Webelos Den Leader with Pack 15 in the Georgia-Carolina Council. I started as a Scouter as my son’s Tiger Cub den leader, onto Wolf and Bear Den Leader. During the Wolf and Bear years, I was deployed to OIF and again to OIF2, where I was awarded me the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for my work there with Scouts and youth sports. Since being back here in the US, more than a couple of Scouters have asked if I was awarded this medal. I didn’t know why, but now after reading about the different square knots, I think I’m eligible to wear the Community Organization Award square knot. But, I don’t think I’m supposed to just sew it on. My question is, does my military unit have to make a recommendation to BSA for the award? And if so, is there a “grandfather” clause (I got the award as I was leaving and now I’m in a different Pack, Council, state, and country). (Guy Kerby)
The best answer I can give you is that I’m not sure. I know there’s a new square knot recognition for Scouters that can be presented by specific civic organizations. Right now, I know that the Masons have the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, and Rotary International has a similar recognition, and the square knot is identical for them both. But I’m not certain that this applies to a military recognition. Some years ago, I received from the U.S. Army a Certificate of Appreciation (for outstanding support, etc., etc.) and although they presented me with a pin, also, I’ve never worn it on my Scouter’s uniform because the BSA doesn’t permit military recognitions to be worn (even though Baden-Powell did, but that’s another story!). I’d say your best bet is to ask your local council’s Scout Executive, who may be able to track down a better answer for you. In the meanwhile, keep on keepin’ on!
One the question about the origin of the 13 folds of the American Flag, one place I’d suggest checking out is the United States Army. They use this as part of their Flag Etiquette brochure. (Bob Campbell, ASM, Troop 755, Beaverton, MI Lake Huron Area Council
Terrific suggestion, and THANKS! If you have access to the brochure you mention, maybe you can send me information on the origin of the folds, and if you do I’ll be sure to put it in the next available column!
The Sportsman Activity Badge for Webelos list belt loops that can be earned for individual sports and team sports. Between the two, all sports belt loops are listed except BB Shooting and Archery. I know both of these belt loops may only be earned by a council-sponsored camp such as day camp, resident camp or adventure camp. My question is, why aren’t these listed under requirement 3? And here’s the kicker—The picture on the page that begins the section on the Sportsman Activity Badge is of a boy shooting a bow and arrow! (David Murphree ADL, ACM, Pack 4304, Ider, AL, Sequoyah District-Greater Alabama Council)
As we know, the Webelos Scouts in a Pack operate in their Den in a quite different fashion from Wolf and Bear Cub Scout Dens. One of the differences is that, in the Webelos Den, all of these Scouts will usually be earning advancements together, rather than as individuals with their mom or dad as “Akela.” So, the activity badge requirements are structured for in-Den earning. Now, let’s suppose that an activity badge had one or more requirements that demanded a venue other than at the purely Den level, such as a Scout camp or other council-operated facility. If that were the case, this might put an “outside” restriction on completing an activity badge, I’m guessing. So, and I’m also guessing here, the BSA “requirement gurus” decided to leave BB shooting and archery off the list for Sportsman, for the reason that, if the council didn’t have such a facility, advancement might be restricted. But, as I said, these are guesses. As for why a picture of an activity that doesn’t apply appears, I think we’d better just chalk that up to an uninformed art director and a review committee that missed the glitch — they didn’t have your sharp eyes!
A question’s come up at our Roundtable this month about a BSA program called the “Risk Zone”. To be honest with you I have no clue what this program is and wonder if National has approved it. Can you set me on the right course? (Mark Pettie, DC, Jenny Jump District-Central New Jersey Council)
A little bit of research tells me that the Patriots’ Path Council—the ones running Risk Zone training—is just to the north of your own in New Jersey. So, I’d suggest you give them a call directly, get the name of their council training chair, and get the information direct from the horse’s mouth! The phone number there is 973-765-9322.
In an earlier column, you said this about the Cub Scout 75th Anniversary awards: “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!” Well, now it’s September, we’ve already had our first Roundtable, with no information on the 75th Award or how to earn it! Scouting Magazine, on the other hand, makes it sound like this award is well-known and common. Well, no one in our district or council has heard anything about it yet! When ARE the details of this coming out? Or is this just a cruel SM (Scouting Magazine) joke? Our pack is wanting to know details so we can gear up to earn it! Thank you for any help! (Beverly Adamson, Advancement Chair, Pack 514, Northeast Georgia Council)
Yeah, I saw the same thing in Scouting Magazine. But that’s it so far! Keep buggin’ your council — I’m sure the stuff is on its way from the national office, but not everything happens exactly on time! Be patient — In the BSA, there’s less than one paid staffer for every hundred or more volunteers, so things don’t always happen as quickly as we’d all like. But, they do happen, as so we just roll with it!
CONFIDENTIAL TO SD:
Thanks for writing again, and I’m very glad to learn that you’ve contacted your local council office. I’m going to answer both of your questions to me, and then I’m going to add some observations that may be important as you proceed further…
First, no, I’m not affiliated with the national BSA office, except that I’m a registered member of the BSA, just like all Scouting volunteers.
Second, the address of the national office is: Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, Texas 75015.
Now, the observations, and these are very important, especially since it’s critical that you’re not disappointed, frustrated, or think you may be getting the brush-off…
Each of the more than 300 local councils that cover the United States is an independent corporation and is totally responsible to and for itself. The national office does not “out-rank” local councils, has no direct jurisdiction over them, and is not a “higher power” to which the local councils report, or take orders from. The highest ranking person of direct authority over Scouting in your area is, in fact, the Scout Executive in your local council. The national office and its personnel are responsible mostly for paperwork, record-keeping, development of training programs, publishing, maintaining Scouting “high adventure” bases, like Philmont Scout Ranch, in New Mexico, and putting on national Scouting events like the Jamborees. The national office does not govern the local councils, and the Scout Executive to whom you spoke does not directly report to anyone at the national office. He reports to the executive board of the council, and that board is made up of volunteers. I’m mentioning this because, if you choose to write to or call the national office, there’s a good chance they’ll refer you back to your local council, and when they do this, unless you understand the relationships here, you could be frustrated or offended that you’re being referred back, when, in fact, this is the way the national council is supposed to be operating, relative to the local councils. In other words, when the national office does the “right” thing, it might look to you like it’s the “wrong” thing, unless you understand the points I’ve made.
Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com-be sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!
(September 2004 – Copyright © 2004 Andy McCommish)