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Issue 42 – October 2004

“Merit Badge ‘partials’ expire after a year”…“Eagles have to be at least age 16 because younger than that they don’t understand the significance of what they’ve accomplished or have the maturity to be a ‘real’ Eagle”…“Merit Badge Counselors can’t counsel their own sons”…“Unless a Scout completes a requirement while with his Troop or patrol, it doesn’t count”…“A boy joining Cubs at the Bear or Webelos level should go back and earn the prior badge(s) so he’s even with the others in his Den”…“Life Scouts should ‘practice’ by doing ‘mini-Eagle projects’”…“It’s OK to be a Den Leader and a Cubmaster at the same time”…“Swimming Merit Badge is required to take Lifesaving Merit Badge”…“Eagle projects can’t be started until all Merit Badges required for Eagle are completed”… These are just a few samples of the “urban legends” I’ve heard of—nonsense promulgated by ill-informed, wrong-headed, self-appointed Scouting “authorities” in councils around the country since I started this column. They’re all dangerous, not only because they lead us adults in the wrong directions but, more so, because they only serve to damage the very youth we’ve volunteered to serve!

What can YOU do about it? Simple. When someone approaches you with something that somehow just doesn’t seem to make sense, MAKE THEM SHOW YOU—IN WRITING. You shouldn’t have to be the one to hunt for proof or refutation; let them do it! And, if they refuse, you can refuse to buy into such nonsense! Here’s another one…

Dear Andy,

We have a Den of Webelos Scouts where their leaders have done a terrific job (Isn’t that a nice problem?). We are at October of their second year and they all have earned their Arrow of Light. All the boys are at least 10-1/2 and several are already 11. We’ve been talking about bridging them up to the Troop earlier than usual, but someone told me that they can’t graduate into a Troop until at least December because they had to be Webelos for a certain number of months, first. I can’t find any reference to that, anywhere. Can you shed some light on the subject? (Susan Swepston, CC, Pack 447, Mecklenburg County Council, Charlotte, NC)

Know why you can’t find any reference to some sort of “tenure” before a Webelos Scout can become a Boy Scout? Because there’s no such stipulation, that’s why! And whoever told you that nonsense needs to re-take their training — They’ve got it wrong by a country mile!

According to the BSA, there are three different ways a boy is eligible to join Boy Scouts, and any one of these is enough: Be 11 years old, OR complete the fifth grade in school, OR EARN THE ARROW OF LIGHT. Yes, your Webelos Scouts, by earning the A-O-L rank are ELIGIBLE RIGHT NOW! And, my personal advice is this: Graduate them into the Boy Scout Troop of their choice IMMEDIATELY, and let them begin the adventure that all of their years in Cub Scouting have been aiming toward.

Dear Andy,

Help me! We have a small, frighteningly under-staffed District. In three months, I have gone from being a Webelos Den Leader and un-official Cub Roundtable “helper” to Cubmaster and Cub Roundtable Commissioner. My Pack is in the process of re-organization, I first asked our DE for a copy of the BSA “Pack Organization” packet six weeks ago and have not yet received it. I’m getting even less help in the Commissioner job. I’m doing both jobs better than they were done before, but I want to do more. For the Cub Roundtable Commissioner job, please tell me what literature I need to request from my DE, what literature I need to buy, and what’s the training progression for a new Cub Roundtable Commissioner. (Roland Scroggs, Wilkes District, Old Hickory Council, NC)

It takes a strong man to step up to the positions you’ve taken on — and it also needs training and support to do your jobs! First off, get to your council’s website. There, you’ll find these training opportunities…

– Trainer Development Conference (for your role as RTC).

– Leader Position-Specific Training (for you as CM plus your Den Leaders).

– Pow Wow (same as above).

For catching up on your reading and help you with both roles, check out these BSA publications…

– Cub Scout RT Commissioner & Staff Basic Training Manual (No. LT33013A).

– Cub Scout Ceremonies for Dens and Packs (No. LT33212B).

– Cub Scout Fun Book (No. LT33213A).

– Cub Scout Leader Book (No. LT33221B).

– Cub Scout Leader How-To Book (No. LT33832A).

Your council’s Scout Shop should have these in stock (call first). If they don’t, you can order them directly from the BSA Supply Division: 800-323-0732 or
Dear Andy,

After reviewing the Den Leader award requirements, I think you’re on target with your reply. Assistant Den Leaders don’t earn the DL award and “co-leaders” don’t work at the Den level (they’ve been removed from the Tiger cub level as well). Another way to manage the “knot quest” is after someone’s been, say, a Wolf DL for a year, the Pack can swap, and let the Wolf ADL be the Bear DL the next year! (The “old” Wolf DL could be a Bear ADL or, better yet, Assistant Webelos Leader or even Assistant Cubmaster!! That way, assistant leaders can actually earn their awards and previous DLs can start working on their Webelos DL award, then become the WDL the following year.)

Too often, the same person progresses from Wolf to Bear to Webelos along with their son, making their son very dependent on that parent as the leader. I’ve found this “carry over” into the Boy Scout program hard to overcome: “I’m not going camping with my Troop this time because Mom/Dad can’t come”. (Don McDow)

Thanks for your suggestions about how Den Leaders and assistants can transition from year to year. More than providing an opportunity to earn a recognition (which importance is certainly not diminished), it importantly gives the Cub Scouts some variety of personalities and leadership styles, and also helps reduce the volunteering burden on families, which can be intense in the Cub Scouting years.

Dear Andy,

As a Cub Scout leader, I earned three square knots. Then, transferring into a Scout Troop, I earned the Boy Scout Leader’s Training Award square knot, and then the Scoutmaster’s Training Award square knot. These, I’m told, aren’t supposed to be worn at the same time. What’s the case for the Cub Scout square knots? (Don McDow)

If memory serves (I’m not gonna go look this up), all of the Cub Scout square knots are different color arrangements, and so wearing multiple square knots earned while a leader in that program should not produce duplicates. However, the Boy Scout Leader’s Training Award square knot (solid green) is the same whether earned as a Scoutmaster or Troop Committee Chair or member, or District Committee Chair or member. Consequently, the BSA has stipulated that multiple identical knots should not be worn (this one is “in the book”). Same with the square knot for the “key” (white-and-green), which can be earned in a variety of positions–earned more than once (the requirements are different each time), still only one square knot is worn. — Andy

Editor’s Note: Andy is right on and here’s some more scoop on the subject. You can visit to see each of the knot awards. On this page in the left column, click on Devices to see the small devices that can be placed on a knot. When a knot has been earned multiple times in different phases of Scouting, the wearer can wear a device for each program phase where the knot was earned. So if a Scouter earned the Boy Scout Leader’s Training Award as a Scoutmaster, as a Commissioner, and as a District Committee Member, the knot would be worn once, but could be worn displaying three devices for each program phase where it was earned. This page has lots of information on what may be worn, when, and how. — The NetCommish

Dear Andy,

I’m the mother (still very personally involved in scouting) of one Boy Scout, one Cub Scout, one “in training” to be a Tiger Cub Scout, and a Girl Scout. They are third-generation Scouts (My father was a Boy Scout and I was a Girl Guide and Venturer). Here’s what I’m at my wit’s end about — The Scoutmaster in my son’s Troop says there is a one-year time limit for a Scout to earn a merit badge. But, despite this blanket statement, every time my son goes to summer camp and earns a “partial,” the Troop drops the ball by not assigning a Counselor to help him finish the badges! Now, they’re turning to me, and telling me it was/is my responsibility, as a parent, to finish the requirements with my son! Is this right, or what? (Sonja Skrzypczak-Safadi)

I’m here to tell you straight out that this is one dismally ill-informed Scoutmaster and Troop, and they’re actually doing damage to the Scouts in the Troop!

The book you’ll want to get (just in case you get further arguments from this) is a BSA publication: ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES. This is usually available through you council’s Scout Shop, but call before going, just in case they have to order it for you. Now, I’ll tell you what’s in it…

First off, the only so-called “time limit” on partially completed Merit Badges is age 18, because that’s when all rank advancement stops, since the Scout has now aged-out of Boy Scouts (he can still be a Venturer, by the way, until age 21, but he can’t work on Boy Scout advancements past the age of 18).

Second, Merit Badge Counselor is a registered adult BSA position in Scouting, and your council should be maintaining a list of such Counselors. These people are available to help Scouts earn, or complete, Merit Badges. In fact, Merit Badge Counselors are the only ones who can sign off Merit Badges as completed! All your son needs do is to contact a Counselor close to home, go visit with him or her, and continue to complete the requirements for any Merit Badge that he has a “partial” for.

Third, and going one step further, on page 187 of your son’s BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, it states that the Scoutmaster gives the name of a Merit Badge Counselor to the Scout, along with a “Blue Card” (Merit Badge Application) signed by himself, and the Scout uses this to keep a record of his progress, after the Scout has contacted and begun working with the Counselor.

If the Scoutmaster and/or Troop persists with their nonsense, your son has the right (with your support) to report this to the Council’s Advancement Committee–a group of volunteers that oversees the advancement programs of the units in your Council.
Dear Andy,

I’d like to reprint a Q&A from your December 2003 column for our Troop’s Newsletter. OK? (Judy Peterson, Troop 305, Bellevue NE)

By all means, go ahead and use it– That’s what this is all about! The more folks get on the same page, the better the Scouting program is for the youth of our communities! Hey, a small favor, though… do you think you could print the “” website and also print my email address, so that when folks have questions, they know where they can get answers?
Dear Andy,

Any ideas on how to sell popcorn? Here, we sell to friends and door-to-door. But I see that some Packs sell outside of stores. Are there any other ways? We have a really small Pack—maybe a dozen boys. (Mike Donnell, DL, Pack 200, Thunderbird District, Memphis, TN)

I’m seeing two issues here. Popcorn is one, and recruiting is the other. Let’s take them in reverse order…

Small Packs can certainly be successful. But if you’re looking at a third of your present Pack graduating in a few months (your Webelos), it might be a good idea to do some membership-building right now. Two people can help you– Your District’s Membership Chair, and your District Executive. They can help you run a “School Night for Scouting.” That’s where you can reach out to boys from Tiger Cub age all the way up to age 10, and their parents as well. Talk to these folks and get some help.

Now for popcorn sales. This can take place among friends and relatives, as you’ve been doing, and door-to-door in the Cubs’ own neighborhoods is a good way, too. Door-to-door can be done like Halloween “trick-or-treating”–parent walks along with son, son goes to front door while parent remains on the sidewalk out by the curb. An additional way is to arrange with a busy local supermarket or other store to have a group of your boys (and some parents, too) set up a table outside the store’s door on several Saturdays, for direct, on-the-spot selling. This doesn’t have to be limited to the one-dollar packs; it can include the larger packages as well, including taking orders. But, whatever you do, be sure to make a contest out of it, with prizes for the top salesman, etc. Of all the opportunities for fund-raising available to Scouting units, popcorn is still one of the very best ways, if not the actual best way, because it benefits your local council as well as your Pack and the Cubs in it!

Dear Andy,

In your answer to Mike Dallago, you stated that, “It’s BSA policy that Commissioners do not hold key unit leadership positions”. I’d like to know what publication you found that in. I’m having a problem with Scoutmasters wanting to register as each other’s Unit Commissioners. (Ed Logsdon, ADC, Lincoln Heritage Council, Louisville, Ky)

Go to the COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE (Publication No. 33621C) and turn to page 23, under the section titled, “A Special Note on Priorities.” There it is, in the fourth paragraph…

“Commissioners must not be registered as unit leaders. Although some commissioners may be registered on a unit committee because they have a son in the unit or because of previous personal history in the unit, their principal Scouting obligation must be with commissioner responsibilities.”

Hi Andy,

Is there a program that will help underprivileged children get Scout uniforms and supplies? We are unemployed due to disabilities and are raising a grandson who is joining the Cub Scouts (he’s a Bear) and we can’t afford all of the uniform. (Mary Ann)

God bless you for what you’re doing for your grandson! Yes, there are definitely opportunities! Just Google “used scout uniforms” and follow the listings that come up. I’m sure you’ll find something that fits your grandson AND your pocketbook! Be sure, if at all possible, to get a COMPLETE uniform and not just a shirt. Also, you should bring this to the attention of your grandson’s Cubmaster or Den Leader, because often there are Scout Councils that have uniform exchanges that can help out!

Hello Andy,

HELP! I used to be able to navigate through the USSSP website and find information on the Cub Scout Sports and Academic Achievement belt loops and pins, but I can’t find a way to even link to it anymore! Please help me out! I have parents that want to access the information without having to go to the local scout shop and purchase the whole book listing them if their son is interested in just one thing. I have the book, but I’m not willing to loan it out only to have to replace it yet again. I have it at the Pack meetings to look over, but most of the time people aren’t going to take the time to write down all the requirements. (Donna Winston, ACM, Pack 40, Middle Tennessee Council, Nashville,TN)

Just go here: — Andy

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to provide the requirements online at the link Andy has indicated, but we also encourage Packs to have a library of the booklets for each award that can be used by Den Leaders to teach the sport or help the Scouts through an academic requirement. These books offer invaluable information. In our Pack when I was Cubmaster we had a box with these booklets that showed up at each Pack Meeting. Sometimes it was empty and we figured this was good. We also had a poster sized chart listing each one and who had it that was displayed. Generally this helped to assure returns or that a booklet was passed on after a time. For those new to our site, please check out Each month we feature tips on Cub Scout Webelos awards with two featured each month. You’ll also find some great program ideas for your Pack and Den meetings. This month’s issue ( features information on Webelos Craftsman and Scientist. We also have information on Tiger achievements. — The NetCommish.

Hey Andy,

I’m not new to Scouting, but fairly new to Cub Scouts. I’ve taken on roles as an Assistant Cubmaster, and as a UC. The ACM job is what I’m new to, and want to do the best job I can. Your column and the USSSP site is explosive with information! so I just want to thank you for doing this for us, and also to thank others for sending questions and comments to share with all of us, so we all learn. Thanks! (Lewis DeBoard, Black Creek District, North Florida Council)

Welcome to the wonderful world of Cub Scouting! For many years, I had a pen-pal friend in the UK who, even in his 70’s, stayed with the Cub Scout program there, because he firmly believed that “This is where I can make the greatest difference in the life of boys.” This from a man who, after WWII ended, helped reestablish Scouting in war-torn Italy!

Happy Scouting!!


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

(October 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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