I’m a new Assistant Scoutmaster who was looking forward to joining my son (Arrow of Light Cub Scout) in Boy Scouts this year. But, being in the National Guard, my country came first. Now I’m stationed in Iraq until mid-2005, looking at pictures of my son making his achievements without me. It saddens me, but that’s not why I’m writing. I came across Net Commish Online Training and it looks good, then found you and your column. While over here, I should have many hours available to read on the Internet. Are there any other sources or web sites I can go to? What do you recommend? I want to be on-track once I return home–should be back before the next summer camp. Thanks! (RLD)
You have my highest and unreserved admiration for what you’re doing right now, and my very best wishes for a successful tour that returns you safely to your home and family! May God watch over you and all you are with. For reading, I’m guessing you’ve discovered the US Scouting Service Project, where my column is based. This has an enormous base of information in virtually every area of Scouting you could imagine, and it’s all good reading. There’s also the BSA’s http://www.scouting.org, http://www.scoutingmagazine.org, and http://www.boyslife.org. Also check out http://www.scoutingdigest.com — a new, privately published periodical that has lots of good stuff.
Editor’s Note: We at the U.S. Scouting Service Project all join Andy in saluting you and wishing you home safely. In addition to the site’s that Andy has suggested, I would also recommend Lew Orin’s http://www.pinetreeweb.com which has an enormous amount of material on Scout leadership and history. Steve Tobin’s http://www.netwoods.com/ website offers a lot of good resources and reading. And of course we would welcome you to visit us at http://usscouts.org – The NetCommish.
No one I’ve contacted locally seems to have much information about how to do this, so maybe you can help… I noticed that Part VII of the Guide to Safe Scouting says that “All youth members and adult leaders should have unit fireguard plan training,” and references BSA Publication No. 33691A (which evidently is a “UNIT FIREGUARD PLAN CHART”). As a Webelos Den Leader I think I ought to do this. But what is the training, actually? The only references I find on the Internet are copies of the Guide itself—nothing about any council or district training, or outlines of training materials. (Paul Wengert, WDL, Pack 167, National Capitol Area Council, Arlington, Virginia)
Yup, “pub. no. LT33691A” is a Unit Fireguard Plan Chart; it costs 19 cents. Go ahead and order it from National Supply (800-323-0732), if you want, but I have a feeling its gonna be a “how do we get outa this room” thing. The “training,” I’m going to guess, is Scouts look at the chart and figure out where to go, and maybe you do a practice or two. But I don’t get the impression that it’s yet another training course to take, or badge to earn.
I was just appointed ADC, and I have units that need Commissioners; however, I’m new to the area and was wondering how I go about recruiting new Unit Commissioners. One way that would be really easy would be to recruit from within the unit or chartered organization itself. But, as you know, we’re supposed to be impartial to our units. Do you have any ideas I could explore? (Tim Gelvin, Snydertown, PA)
First of all, I have to tell you that I’ve been a Commissioner for well over a dozen years, and of all the various Commissioner positions I’ve held, being a Unit Commissioner is my very favorite job! In this time, I’ve served nine different Troops and five different Packs, plus two Sea Scout Ships, and two Explorer Posts (No, not all at the same time!). As their Commissioner, I’ve always been an absolute advocate for the units I’ve served, and totally “biased” toward what was best for them, in every possible way. The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’ve never really understood what folks mean when they say that we Commissioners are supposed to be “impartial.” I’ve always been as “partial” as I could be—That’s how I still do my job! But, at the same time, I’ve never shown “favoritism” toward one unit versus another, because each unit is unique unto itself—unique history, unique “personality” and unique Scouts, leaders and parents. So, as you can guess by now, I’m an absolute believer in Commissioners coming from the units they were originally registered with, because they have a powerful interest in remaining “the unit’s very best friend”—and isn’t that, after all, what the job of Commissioner is all about? And, when I’ve served two or more similar units (two Troops, for instance, or two Packs) in the same community, I’ve considered it part of my job to help build bridges between the units, so that they can deliver the Scouting program cohesively and in concert with one another. Even when there’s been some rancor between one unit and another, my job is that of mediator/facilitator, and I have no trouble being equally fair to both, because in a situation like this I bring the leaders of both Troops together and never, ever meet with one without having the other present—when there’s an apparent problem between them. And I’m no “superstar”—just a regular guy doing his Scouting job!
All this is to say GO FOR IT in my book! I’ve discovered for myself that, in recruiting new Commissioners, the very best people come from the units themselves. But, if you imagine there might be a problem, you can, of course, assign them to two or more units that they don’t know, if you think that will keep the playing field level. But I think I can tell you with assurance that this “impartiality” thing is more myth than reality.
I have a Cub Scout question – There are two Wolf dens in my pack. I am the leader of Wolf Den 10. Two Cubs have gotten out of Den 8 (the other Wolf Den in our Pack) to be in my Den. At the same time, the Den Leader of Den 8 has declared he Den closed to any other new members. At our School Night for Scouting, we had a new Wolf recruit, and my Den took him in, bringing Den 10 to nine Cubs, with six in the “closed” Den 8. Now, there’s another boy who wants to be in a Wolf Den in our Pack. My question is this, at what point do I say, “Den 10 is full—we can’t take any more”? Do I try to force the other Den to take more, or what? I can’t stand the thought of this new Cub fending for himself, with no Den at all! How do Packs make new boys feel welcome when the Dens are loaded and there aren’t enough new recruits to make Dens of themselves? (Name withheld)
In the first place, this is NOT an issue between you and another Den Leader—this is a PACK PROBLEM and should be addressed by the Chair of your Pack Committee. That’s one of the responsibilities of the Chair. Secondly, the ideal number of Cubs in a Den is eight. This is in the BSA literature, and the “Program Helps” booklets are based on Dens of eight. Den Leaders need to be accommodating to this, but there’s no “rule” to “force” them into it. So, it looks like there’s at least one Den Leader in your Pack who’s a little short in the “Scout Spirit” and “accommodation” areas. But, again, you can’t force ’em!
Now, if you take this second new Cub in, you’ll have a Den of ten. Not wonderful, but maybe not impossible. Suppose the Pack’s Chair were to tell the parents of this tenth boy that, yes, Den 10 will take him, BUT the Den Leader (that’s you) needs a TRAINED ASSISTANT to do this, and so one of these parents needs to register as your assistant, take the training (youth protection AND Essentials AND Den Leader-Specific), and promise to show up at every Den and Pack meeting to assist you. If these parents refuse, the answer’s straightforward (although certainly not easy): The Pack can’t take their son without help from them, the parents. You, like the other Den Leader, do have the right to “cap” your Den size.
Also, your Pack Committee’s Chair (and these new parents) need to clearly understand that a boy can’t operate “solo”—he really needs to be in a Den, or the program’s kinda pointless. (Yes, I know there’s a “Lone Cub Scout” program, but it doesn’t fit this situation at all!)
There is one last option that’s worth exploring: Take in this new boy and create two Dens of five Cubs each, with the plan to “grow” each of these Dens by one to three new boys each, recruited by the existing Den members. This may actually be your best option, especially since even your own Den is pretty new, and bonding between the Cubs is still at an early stage.
I’d be careful about saying, “…That’s exactly what the square knots are for—they’re for adults,” because not all square knots are for adults only. There are several knots that can be worn by youth, and saying that knots are only for adults leads to nonsense like adults brow-beating Scouts for wearing, for instance, the religious award knot. (Yes, I’ve seen this happen!) Knots that youth can wear are:
OA Distinguished Service Award
Venturing Leadership Award
Venturing Silver Award
Youth Religious Award
Medal of Merit/Heroism Award/Honor Medal
James E. West Fellowship
Explorer Achievement Award/Young American Award)
Sea Scout Quartermaster Award
The Eagle “square knot” has been around since about 1947. Before that, there was a ribbon bar for adults (1934 to 46). So the tradition of adults NOT wearing the oval pocket insignia has been around a long, long time! (Michael Brown)
Of course, you’re correct, and I’ll fully admit to not going as far as you have. That’s because I didn’t want to muddy the water with all sorts of extra details that might get in the way of the essential message, which was, of course, ADULTS DON’T WEAR RANK BADGES ON THEIR LEFT POCKETS.
But, you mentioned something else…BROWBEATING SCOUTS. Here, I don’t care what the infraction is, we in Scouting NEVER “browbeat” the young men we’ve been given responsibility for by their parents. I don’t know what that browbeater was thinking, but I can tell you he was thinking WRONG!
I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. According to the Venturing Handbook, “If you are a Venturer who has achieved First Class rank as a Boy Scout in a troop or as a Varsity Scout in a team, you may continue working toward the Star, Life, and Eagle rank as a Venturer until your 18th birthday,” and in the Venturing Leader Manual, it says, “Any male Venturer who has achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout in a troop or Varsity Scout in a team may continue working toward the Star, Life, and Eagle awards while a Venturer up to his 18th birthday…He must meet the requirements as prescribed in the Boy Scout Handbook and the current Boy Scout Requirements…He may be registered as a Venturer only…Leadership requirements may be met by the Venturer serving as president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer in his crew, or as boatswain, boatswain’s mate, yeoman, purser, or storekeeper in his (Sea Scout) ship…The Scoutmaster conference will be conducted by the crew or ship committee…The Eagle board of review follows procedure established by the local council.” This information is repeated in the book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures. (Dale Hines)
I missed the boat! You’re absolutely right about Eagle-Venturers. I’ll take my twenty lashes with a wet lanyard! Thanks for helping me (and my readers) get it right!
If you think just one of our readers has sharp eyes, read on…
I just read your remarks about Venturers and Eagle Boards of Review. What you wrote about Boy Scouts not wearing a uniform was spot on, but you needs to get it straight about Venturing & Venture. These are two separate programs. The Venture program is an option program for Boy Scout troops for their older boys. Venturing is the BSA’s co-ed program for 14-21 youth. There IS an official Venturing uniform. I wear it at all Scouting events: the forest green shirt with charcoal gray pants/shorts. However, each crew is free to determine what, if anything, their uniform is going to be. My experience is that many Venturers get this uniform, especially those earning Venturing awards. However, you’re totally wrong to say Venturers don’t earn Eagle Rank. ANY male Venturer who has earned at least First Class Scout CAN earn Eagle AS a Venturer! In fact, because of some of the misinformation about Venturers earning Eagle, the Venturing Division released the following statement: “It is recommended that the Eagle rank Board of Review (for a Venturer) have at least one member who is familiar with the Venturing program…Without a person knowledgeable of the Venturing program, it is human nature to use the knowledge that is known, Boy Scouting. Even though the boy before the Eagle review board was a Boy Scout, he probably has earned much of the award in a different arena, Venturing. Even though Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing all share the same aims and purposes, their methods are different. As an example, in Boy Scouting, the uniform is a method, whereas in Venturing, the uniform is not a method. Even though Venturers are encouraged to wear the Venturing uniform, they are not required to do so. So, requiring a boy to stand before the Eagle review board in his Venturing uniform is not mandatory. Nor is it a requirement to wear a Boy Scout uniform. Questions should be relevant to his program, crew leadership positions, and activities. These questions could be similar or quite different than the traditional review board questions based on a troop experience. That is why it is important to have at least one board member who knows Venturing”. (Michael Brown)
So, it looks like I’m gonna get twenty more lashes with a wet lanyard for getting the Eagle-by-a-Venturer issue wrong! Mike and Dale are both absolutely right!
What’s the current policy on married Venturers (both under 21, over 18) sharing the same tents, buddy system, etc? This question also applies for over 21 and married to and under 21 (both over 18)? Do you have any references for this policy? (Dale Hines II, UC, Riverside District-California California Inland Empire Council)
I think the best bet here is to check with your own council’s Venturing chair. But, in the meanwhile, it sure looks to me like marriage takes precedence over Scouting’s “gender separation” guidelines. That’s “unofficial,” of course, but it does seem to make sense! Of course, if you’re significantly separating the tents of the males and females, then you might want to ask these young people to sleep with their own groups for a night or two and not make a big deal about it. But, if they don’t want to do that—which is understandable—then I can’t see as how you can’t accept that response. But, I do have one little question of my own, and that’s why are these married folks still participants in a “youth development program” alongside teenagers who are much, much younger (like, ages 14, 15 and so on)? This actually seems a little weird to me, and I’m wondering what’s going on with them! Used to be, when you got married, you and the world considered you an adult. But maybe that’s just old-fashioned me!
Hi again, Andy,
Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, these young people are under 21 and not considered “adults” and thus have to join as youth members. If given the chance, they would much rather register as adult leaders (e.g. associate advisors) and avoid the whole “why are those kids together” type of deal. It is understandable why they’re confronted by adult leaders who don’t know they’re married, but I’d sure like to see some specific guidelines on how this couple can remain active in Venturing. After all, Venturers are “youth” until the age of 21 and this couple is active with a crew that meets at a local junior college, so the crew is mostly age 17 and older. There’s another couple interested in joining; however, one is over 21 and the other is three years younger. You’d like to think that if you’re married, the world (and BSA too) would think you’re an adult, but if you’re under 21 you’re considered a “youth,” so where do you go from there? I’ve checked with my council’s Venturing Chair, as you suggested, and she wasn’t sure how to respond. However, isn’t registration a national policy that can’t be changed from council to council? (Dale Hines)
Well, we sure do have a conundrum here! And, since your own council Venturing chair wasn’t able to shed much further light on this, I have some good news… Keith Walton is the newly appointed Associate Director of Venturing, at the BSA National Office. Why not direct your question to him and see what recommendations you get. And, when you get ’em, write to me again and I’ll be sure to publish whatever you’ve learned!
Thanks for the tip! I contacted the BSA National Office today and spoke to the National Venturing Division Secretary. She told me that it’s acceptable for married couples to join as youth members—they just have to act as youth members and be appropriate. It isn’t the policy of the BSA to discourage relationships amongst youth members; however, these members need to be mindful of the group they’re with, namely single (and younger) Venturers who might feel uncomfortable. It’s more in the area of “guidelines” as to how youth members should act…common sense. So, I don’t expect to see anything in writing for awhile…the National folks want crews to set up their own rules in their by-laws, and it’s up the chartering organization to have the final say on membership guidelines, but leave it up the youth members to make that final rule. The same goes for over 21 married to under 21–They can be active in the crew; however, no “romantic” physical contact can be made. As for the ethical concern (adult leaders in relationships with youth), this is something that can be debated through the crew and established through their by-laws (think “ethical controversies” for the Silver Award). What youth members do and adults do (within legal rights and according to current BSA policy) outside of Scouting is their business. National does not want to see advisors dating their Venturers; however, it is OK if they belong to two separate crews. The key message is: Venturing is a place for young adults to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in their outdoor world—not for romantic relationships. (Dale Hines)
Couldn’t have put it better, myself! Thanks for your efforts in getting further clarity.
Remember that Scouter who wanted to know about the Community Organization Award square knot for the United States Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal? Well, I did some checking on my own and Yes, he can wear it! But, he’ll need to get it from the BSA Relationship Division; not his council office. Here are the recognized Community Organization Awards (per BSA Fact Sheet #02-582): BPOE (Elks) Marvin M. Lewis Award, Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award,VFW Scouter’s Achievement Award, American Legion Scouting Square Knot Award, United States Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and the Herbert G. Horton-Alpha Phi Omega Youth Service Award. (Michael Brown)
Great piece of research, and wonderful information here! A tip of the ol’ Commissioner’s Cap to you, Mike!
Can you provide guidance on BSA policy on the rules for “approved” fund-raising activities for Boy Scouts. Our Troop has some Scouts who want to do fund-raising to pay their way to the 2005 National Jamboree, and can’t seem to find anything on the web. (Rich Bails, Troop 1776, Great Plains District-Circle 10 Council, Dallas, TX)
If Scouts want to earn money so that they, themselves, can go to the Jamboree, that doesn’t sound like “fund-raising.” Check with your own council’s financial officer, of course, but to me what you’ve described sure sounds like “work for pay” to earn the money to go to the Jamboree. Fund-raising is for not-for-profit organizations, including your council and frequently Troops and Packs, and certainly for Eagle projects. But for Scouts, themselves? I don’t think so! What these young men need to do is GET JOBS. Mowing lawns, washing cars, special paid-for chores around their own homes, part-time at the local supermarket, and so on. They can also sell stuff (like those ads in Boys’ Life tell about) BUT they can’t do that in uniform (BSA doesn’t “endorse” the products, and so on…). Help them figure out how they’re gonna EARN the money—they, themselves, aren’t a “charity”!
First, I enjoy reading your column. Always interesting topics show up. I have some alternate thoughts about a response you gave George about the Order of the Arrow back in your September column (He asked how he could prove to his son that he was inducted as a member of the Occonneechee Lodge). It may not be possible for him to rejoin his original lodge by paying dues and becoming “official,” since he’s since moved to Florida. If the Lodge covers the area where he lives, then that’s fine. But, he’ll probably have to join his local OA lodge, instead. According to the OA, you’re a member, once inducted, for the rest of your life, but if you move from the area, you need to sign up (again) with the lodge where you’re is registered in Scouting. Your suggestion to look for membership cards was right on, and that’s what I did, myself, a while back, to show my current lodge that I was a member and earned Brotherhood as a youth. (I also had to buy the longer sash, as I’ve substantially outgrown the original!) I think that’s what OA’s thinking when it states original members should hook up with their (now) local lodge, since it’s so much easier to attend local functions. Wouldn’t it also be nicer for George to be active in the Lodge where his son is, or soon will be, active? (Dennis Rosauer, ADC, Mid-Iowa Council, Des Moines, IA)
Good points! I, too, was thinking further about George’s situation, after the September column went to press, and it occurred to me that the easiest, simplest answer of all, to his son (who, I’m presuming is an Arrowman himself), from a “proof” point of view, is to give the Ordeal admonition, or (if Brotherhood) ask about that mysterious arrow and see if his son knows the response!
Since you “know all”…What’s the word on Leader’s knots? From what I’ve read, it seems that as co-leaders, such as Assistant Den Leaders, would also qualify for the leaders’ knots. We have a couple new ADLs who were very excited after New Leaders Training, except they were told they wouldn’t get a knot for being an assistant, even though they’ll be working the whole year. The forms don’t say they can’t earn it, and others I’ve asked said that ADLs would also qualify to receive it. I can’t see how, with working all year with their Dens, they can’t be recognized, too? What’s the “official” word? (Beverly Adamson)
Ah… He Who Knows All And Sees All (I’m feeling like Johnny Carson’s “Karnak the Magnificent” right now!) tells you: Scouting’s TRICKY! Ya can’t pull down an award without bein’ a LEADER! The structure of the adult recognitions for Scouters is designed to encourage leadership and produce leaders; “worker bees” are just that! The awards for Cub Scout Leaders are specific: Den LEADER, CubMASTER, and so on. Being a “follower” (that’s what assistants do—they follow the lead of the leader) doesn’t count nearly as much when it comes to recognitions. But…there is a way, and now I’ll tell you how to do it…
Tiger Cub Den Leaders, Cub Scout Den Leaders, and Webelos Den Leaders serving a single year and fulfilling the other requirements are eligible for their leadership awards. To earn the Cubmaster Award, one must serve for TWO years, BUT that can be as a CM for both years OR as an Assistant CM for one plus CM for one (but adds up to two, of course). There is, however, a path for Assistant Den Leaders (all three levels) and Assistant CMs who never become Cubmasters, and it’s called the Cub Scouter Award. For this one, tenure is two years in ANY registered position with the Pack. This means that this one can be earned by assistants as well as by committee people, so long as they’re actually registered (and not in the category of “well, call me if you need cupcakes”) and, of course, they fulfill the other requirements on the progress record, too. And, this isn’t “Andy’s opinion”—this is right off the progress records for these recognitions.
Hi again, Andy –
You SO RULE! But I still think it’s a little unfair. My new ADL is all hyped up after his Leader’s training—like a kid on sugar sticks! (He may be happy with the Cub Scouter award, though.) I also hear that because of this “technicality”, many Dens just drop the “assistant” designation and have “CO-leaders.” A loophole, perhaps…I may just have him be full leader and I’ll step back (I already have my Den Leader knot, and I’m working on the Cub Scouter award—I “do advancements,” too!).
OH…one more thing: Service time, and pins. We have some Cubs who were Tigers and Wolves, then dropped out as Bears, and are now back as Webelos I’s. How is that recorded? Some say three years; I think it should be two. What do you think? (Beverly Adamson)
First answer: Beware “co-leaders.” This can lead to the old, “I thought YOU were gonna do that…” routine! Besides, you need to show to the boys how one person’s in charge! This is an important learning experience. Kids learn more through their eyes than their ears, and they’re “taking snapshots of you, all the time,” said Baden-Powell himself! There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant, if that’s what folks want, and with that one-rung-down position come some consequences! That’s life! On the other hand, I totally like your idea of training your new assistant by giving him the top job while you become his coach without letting your own ego get in the way!
“Loopholes,” as far as I’m concerned, have no place in Scouting—If they really want a piece of cloth-and-thread that much, they’re motivating themselves in the wrong direction. Like money, which is NOT “the root of all evil” (LOVE of money is), badges are not in and of themselves “evil.” But LOVE of badges is a dangerous animal to have to keep feeding! Baden-Powell put it this way: “Advancement should be like a tan—something you get effortlessly while having fun in the out-of-doors.” Not even Ol’ Andy here can say it better than that!
Second answer: Tenure’s real simple: One year = one star. Nuff sed.
Our Troop recently held an American Flag retirement ceremony where 36 Flags were respectfully burned. What is the proper treatment of the remaining grommets? Can they be used as mementos of the occasion, or should they be buried as the ashes are? (John Walker, SM, Troop 419, Crockett, TX)
Well, this one I’ve never seen any writing on—not even in government literature. And it’s a darned good question! My own call on it is that it’s optional. I really like your idea of making the grommets mementos of the event, but of there are too many to go around, then your other idea of burying them with the Flags’ ashes is certainly appropriate, it seems to me. Remember that the official literature on this subject simply says “dispose of the flag in a dignified manner.” Making mementos of the grommets is, to me, a very dignified manner!
Great column!. I’m looking for some information on the symbolism of the rank patches for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, and Varsity, for a Wood Badge project I’m working on. (Mike Trotter, WDL-Pack 209, Patrol Advisor-Troop 222, Pacific Harbors Council, Lacey, WA)
The information you’re looking for isn’t that hard to find… Just read the handbooks. In the Cubs’ books, the Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and Arrow of Light are described. The Boy Scout Handbook tells you about how the Tenderfoot and the Second Class badges combine to form the First Class badge, what each element symbolizes, and so on. The Venturing literature isn’t so detailed, but still helpful. Give ‘em a try.
Our Pack is having our monthly meeting soon, and we’re centering our activities around Cub Scouts in the 1930’s. I’ve been unable to find anything on this subject. Could you please tell me what kinds of activities Cub Scouts did in 1930? (Patty Smith)
Hey, just how old do you think I am! Actually, Cub Scouts in 1930 were doing most of the same things Cub Scouts do today—monthly themes for Pack meetings goes right back to “day one,” just as home-and-family was paramount to the Cub Scout program then as it is today! But, of course, the themes were much different, since there were no rockets to the Moon (except for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers), no TVs, no iPODs, no Nike’s… Hey! That’s an IDEA! Since Cub Scouting is centered on home life, how about having your Cubs interview their GRANDPARENTS, and write up little stories from them about what their homes and communities and daily lives were like, for kids in 1930? And, maybe there’s even some “memorabilia” that could be added, for a “show-and-tell,” like a picture of the President, what a 1930-model car looked like, what the tallest building in the world was in 1930, and so on… What do you think? Or, maybe if you have enough Dens, one could take 1930, another 1940, another 1950, and so on!
Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com-be sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!
(Mid-September 2004 – Copyright © 2004 Andy McCommish)