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Issue 44 – November 2004

Dear Andy,

I’m currently helping out with my son’s Cub Scout Den as an assistant. Meanwhile, my church is starting a new Pack, and might ask me to be a Den Leader there. Can I serve in more than one Pack? Is there any official policy that would prevent me from helping out? (Pedersenta6)

Of course, there are two ways to “help out” – as a registered Assistant Den Leader, and as an involved parent. But, to answer your question directly, if you have the time, and you’re willing to make the commitment, there’s nothing to get in the way of your being a registered adult volunteer in more than one Scouting unit. And, of course, as a non-registered “helper,” you can help out wherever you’d like. That said, the importance of your church and its efforts in the Scouting movement not withstanding, you’ll always want your first priority to be your son and his friends in the Den and Pack.

Hi Andy!

Here’s another advancement question for you. With the uniform changes… on the blue uniform, the boys can wear their tiger, bobcat, wolf, and bear badges. On the tan uniform, they wear the Webelos badge. If they are NEW their Webelos year and earn their Bobcat badge, WHERE does it go? That’s one to ponder…Please let me know. (Beverly Adamson)

I guess it’ll depend partly on which Webelos badge he’s given when he earns the rank, and partly on which color shirt he’s wearing. If he’s given the diamond-shaped one, then he could certainly wear the Bobcat badge of the same shape directly above it, on the left pocket of either the blue OR the tan shirt. On the other hand, if he’s given the oval Webelos badge, it means he’s wearing a tan, Boy Scout-style shirt, and then he (and everyone else wearing tan shirts, for that matter) will wear just the Webelos badge.

Hi Andy,

Just want to let you know of a couple units that are thriving from ONE committee; Troop 430 and Pack 3430 of Selinsgrove, PA and chartered by the “Members of Church of Christ for Scouting.” I was a Unit Commissioner for both units when I approached their committees about combining forces. This could be a problem if not done right, so I asked both committees and the COR if the idea of combining to make one would be an option they’d consider. I was motivated to ask this because both committees were small and one was on the verge of disappearing! The COR (this was a key play in the whole deal) was totally in favor of a single committee. The one committee brought in more participating members that would be able to take on a task. I made sure I wasn’t forcing or railroading anyone into something they didn’t want to do. The Pack and the Troop obviously differ in what’s needed for each unit, but they’re pretty similar in terms of actual committee structure and functions. I made some recommendations on how the new committee should be organized… and that would be based around the Troop Committee structure found in the Troop Committee Guidebook. The COR came to his first meeting after the new committee formed and was overwhelmingly impressed at the way the entire meeting flowed and how the agenda was organized. The trick is to get a strong person that loves to learn and lead and delegate the work; and then get a person that would be willing to be the hub in three-way communication between the Cubmaster, the Scoutmaster, and the committee itself. All committee members have agreed to get training in both Pack Committee and Troop Committee…and this was also key for this to work. The other restructure that happened was that both units now meet on the same night – the Cubs meet at 6:30pm and the Scouts meet at 7:30pm. With this plan, the leaders of both units get to mingle and converse with one another, and it also gives the Cubs an opportunity to have Den Chiefs! I’m telling this story in case there’s someone “out there” who could use an idea like this. (Tim Gelvin, ADC, Susquehannock District,

What a terrifically unique solution to these units’ mutual problem! Gotta tip the ol’ Commissioner’s cap to you for getting everyone to share the same vision—successful units that’ll keep the Scouting program strong for the boys in both the Pack and Troop! Great example of creative Commissioner service in action!

Dear Andy,

About that Military Ribbon/Medal you mentioned in an earlier column, as a retired military man, I can tell you that that medal is not to be worn on the Scout uniform. However, there is a square knot awarded by civilian organizations to folks who have earned the MOVA. Thanks for your continued outstanding help. (Bruce Stohlman< Mid-America Council)

Yup, you’re 100% correct. Thanks for writing!

Dear Andy,

Read your Mid-October issue and the question about wearing the merit badges on the sash. Here is a great page that touches on that topic:

My own experience as a former Scout is just to sew them on in rows of three, in the order of their earning. Doing stuff like angling them, wearing the required ones at the front and the like are just a major pain.

Another point that should be made is on the proper wearing of the sash, which I see abused too often. Too often, Scouts drag out their sashes and wear them at a lot of inappropriate times. Here are some points that should be made: The sash needs to be worn over the right shoulder. It is never to be worn hanging from the belt. This is BSA Uniform policy.

Too often I see this happening for two reasons. First, it’s inconvenient to wear the sash properly, probably because it’s not a proper time for it. Or, second, the Scout wants to wear his OA sash as well. One or the other: either the merit badge sash or the OA sash. Not both.

These sashes are to be worn at formal events. Too often, I see them dragged out to OA events, Jamborees, NOACs, and the like. Please, leave them at home until you are at a formal event, like a court of honor or the like. A big fear I have is that the Scout will lose the sash and then have the high cost of replacing it and all the merit badges! (Michael Brown)

Good points all, and thanks for writing. On your very last point, the greatest cost, I think, if a Scout loses his sash, is the ointment to relieve the pain of a good butt-wupping by the Mom who has to sew ’em all on again!

Dear Andy,

For that Troop trying to get resumes on its adults, without their knowledge, there’s an even simpler way… When a Scout joins the troop, ask the parent right then and there for a resume of their own past scouting experiences. Then, just keep it on file, update it as things change, and when you need to submit someone for an award, you can do it without the individual being aware that anything is happening! When I was a Scoutmaster, this worked perfectly, and it’s a good job for someone on the committee! (Bruce Stohlman)

Terrific idea! Thanks for sharing!

Dear Andy,

As I near the end of my four years as Scoutmaster, I’ve agreed to transition into a Unit Commissioner sometime in December, for the Pack, Troop, and Crew at my Chartered Organization. I’ve signed up for training, and I’m planning on reading anything that would be of help in my new job. I’d appreciate any suggestions regarding things that would help me be the best Commissioner I can be. (Chuck Dombek, SM, Troop 809, New Horizons District, Greater St. Louis Area Council. “I used to be a fox…” C-34-98)

Congratulations and a tip of the Commissioner’s cap for deciding to join the finest service corps in all of Scouting! Of all the Scouting “jobs” I’ve had — and there have been quite a few, ranging from Webelos Den Leader to Council Board Member — the absolutely most personally rewarding for me has always been that of unit commissioner. The three books you’ll want to read are: Commissioner Helps for Pack and Troops, Commissioner Administration of Unit Service, and Commissioner Fieldbook for Unit Service. Each of these describes and gives hints on “how to” for the different aspects of commissioner service. Also, find a commissioner college or conference to attend, in your own council if possible, but if not soon, then look over the fence and see what your neighboring councils are offering.

And one more thing…even though you didn’t ask: Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t cover the units you know best (like, they’ll blather some nonsense about “favoritism”), because having grown from them and knowing the folks involved with them, you’re their best ally and very best friend! (“I used to be an owl…”)

Hi Andy,

I’ve just volunteered to be Cubmaster for my son’s Pack. I have a somewhat extensive Scouting background, including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts (Eagle and Assistant Scoutmaster), and I’ve served over a year as a Den leader. I’m following a gentleman who’s served our Pack well, and I’m looking for a way to thank him for his tenure as our Cubmaster. Any ideas? Also, any words of wisdom for the new Cubmaster? (Steve Anderson)

Cubmaster…maybe the best “job” in Scouting! I’ve said it before: If you work it right, you get all the glory and do none of the work! Of course, I’m joking, but I can tell you that it’s definitely a lot of fun for folks who are good team-builders and planners.

For your “retiring” Cubmaster, a plaque with his name, years of tenure and a big THANKS is always appropriate, but in addition you might want both Cubs and Den Leaders who have been in the Pack with him to write individual letters that can be presented to him (some to be read) along with the plaque. The plaque will eventually get dusty, but those letters he’ll keep safe for a lifetime — I guarantee it!

And, as for you, I have only one suggestion: The more fun you make it for the Cubs and other leaders, the more fun you’ll have, yourself!

Dear Andy,

First off I’d like to comment on several questions that you’ve received about the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal on the Scouter’s uniform. I’m a Naval Reservist and live in a highly military-populated area, and it’s been put out by our local council that, Yes, a military member earning the MOVSM can wear a Scout “square knot” for community service, but it’s only the knot that can be worn, and not the military medal.

Now here’s my question: In Cub Scouting, a boy who has served as a Denner can wear the tab (only) on his uniform, to show that he has been a Denner, but the books I’m reading talk about the blue uniform only. Where does a Webelos Scout wear the Denner tab (for previous service) if he’s wearing a tan uniform? Is it on the epaulet? I’m sure the answer is there and I’m just not seeing it. (George J. Seemann. Jr., Eagle Scout, CM-Pack 207, Merrimac District)

Taking your own question first, the Denner shoulder tab (No. 00369) is worn on the left shoulder of either the Cub Scout or Webelos Scout shirt. But you’re right–nothing says how. So, I’d imagine that if it’s the tan shirt (a la Boy Scouts), it’s attached to the top of the left epaulette, maybe by pinning it through the blue shoulder tab. That’s my best guess, anyway!

And, thanks for your further clarification on the MOVSM award. Yes, the square knot can certainly be worn, and–to be technically 100% correct–the medal may not be worn on a Scouter’s uniform. My further comment on this (in an earlier column) had more to do with intent than technicality, and it’s my opinion (and just my opinion) that the “special occasion” wearing of such a medal, especially when received in recognition of service to Scouting, would not be such an effrontery as to cause lightning to strike!

Dear Andy,

Can a Commissioner have sons or grandsons in the Pack or Troop that he
serves as a commissioner? This question was brought up, and we couldn’t find a clear answer for it. (Percy Shackles, Great Rivers Council, Missouri)

I’m guessing there’s a very good reason you couldn’t find any policy on this —that’s because there isn’t one! In other words, there are no restrictions in this area. The only restriction that might have some bearing—although it’s a pretty long reach—is that a Commissioner should not also hold a direct unit leadership position, such as SM, ASM, CM, ACM, or DL.

Dear Andy,

I’d like your permission to use excerpts from your column as a presentation handout in a training program that I’m doing for Venturing Commissioners. I’ve found that your answers have been very helpful in our quest for answers in a program that very few really understand. These excerpts would be used as examples of questions that a Commissioner for Venturing may have to deal with. I will follow proper procedure and post all copyright information and give proper credit that’s due. (Blair McGinnis, Buckeye District Commissioner, Simon Kenton Council, Ohio)

I’m honored that you’d ask, and of course the answer’s YES! Have a wonderful training day!

Hi Andy,

My husband’s cousin (who is also his Godson) will have his Eagle Scout ceremony this weekend! Apparently this is quite an accomplishment! But we know nothing about Scouting… Are you expected to give a gift for this occasion? Can you give me an idea of the usual gift (if any), and, if monetary, how much? Thanks for your help!!! (Kristen Fitzgerald)

Wow! Glad I caught this in time (I hope)! No gift is expected beyond your presence—This isn’t that kind of event! HOWEVER, if you can find a Scout Shop (a store usually run by the Scout Council in your area, and located at the Council’s service center—check on-line or in the phone book), you can—only if you choose to, and if you have the time—stop by and purchase a small Eagle Scout item, such as a pocket knife with the Eagle emblem on it, or something along that line. This can also be done AFTERWARDS, so don’t go crazy trying to work this into your schedule. But, trust me, in most cases what matters most is BEING THERE! ENJOY!!!

Dear Andy,

What is the “Commissioner Scarf” (not neckerchief) I have heard some people speak of, that is given to new Commissioners upon completion of Commissioner basic training, and how do we obtain them? (Frank Berthold, DC, Amangi Trail District, Concho Valley Council)

Well, this one has me baffled! I know that a “scarf” is usually what British Scouts call our American neckerchiefs (Scots Scouts call them “neckies”), and I know that the BSA Supply Division has a Commissioner’s neckerchief for sale, but I have no idea what an American Commissioner’s scarf is! I’m going to publish this, and maybe one of my readers can enlighten us both!

Dear Andy,

Where on the uniform does an Eagle Palm go? (David Mannas)

Technically, it doesn’t… Eagle palms are pinned on the ribbon of the Eagle medal and thereby worn on special occasions. Palms add up to the total number of merit badges earned beyond the 21 for Eagle — 5 = bronze, 10 = gold (and the bronze is removed), 15 = silver (and the gold is removed), 20 = bronze plus silver, etc. You’ll see some folks wearing palms pinned to their Eagle “square knot,” but this is — strictly speaking — no supposed to be done. You’ll also see some folks wearing, say, a bronze and a gold when they should be wearing just a gold (they’ve earned a total of 10 merit badges).

Dear Andy,

I’m the Crew Advisor for a young and energetic Venturing Crew. We were working up a list of potential activities, and paintballing came up. Most of these young adults have gone to the local paintball range with their respective church youth groups. How do you “sell” the safety factor of Scouting to these 16 and 17 year olds, who are just being exposed to the program? (John Walker, CA, Venturing Crew 419, Crockett, Texas)

Having raised a number of children who successfully passed through their teenage years relatively unscathed, the best advice I can give you is that “reasoning” and “rationales” may not be too successful at the moment. Plus, it puts you in the center of the controversy rather than on their side. So, I’d be tempted to simply show them the BSA’s GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING and the section that states clearly that paintballing is not an approved BSA activity. Then, since these young people can apparently paintball-at-will when it’s a church activity (which does seem a little weird to me, since paintballing differs from shooting and killing people only in its choice of ammunition), they can do that there, rather than as a Crew activity. In other words, don’t you be the “authority,” and be sure to provide a “workaround” whenever possible.

Hi Andy,

While looking for Scouting history information, I came across this web page that has the history of the square knots:

(George J. Seemann, Jr., Merrimac District, Tidewater Council)

Terrific site! Thanks!

Happy Scouting!!


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

(November 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.

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