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Issue 56 – August 2005

NEWS FLASH: SCOUTS DON’T “BOO”! I read in the newspaper the other day that, when it was announced that President Bush would be unable to attend the Scout National Jamboree on a predetermined day, due to storm and lightning activity in the area, Scouts were heard to “boo,” even though this was merely a postponement; not a cancellation. I sure hope the news people got that wrong, because that’s not what Scouts do. Brooklyn Dodgers fans used to boo, and booing can be heard today at various other venues (think wrestling, for instance). But Scouts? Nope! We don’t do this – among other things, it’s counter to the concept of “reverent,” which teaches us to respect the viewpoints of others. Pass this along. Re-teach your Scouts, by example: SCOUTS DON’T BOO. EVER.

Dear Andy,
This isn’t a question, but an observation about how Scouts view their Patrols and Troops. Back around 1969 or 1970, when I was a very young Assistant Roundtable Commissioner in Princeton, NJ, I left a Saturday afternoon Philmont crew recruiting meeting, and, on the way to my car, noticed an interesting used book store. I went into the store, still in uniform, to browse around. The sales clerk looked at me and asked whether I was a Scouter. He then told me of his own time in Scouting, in Bristol, England in 1909. He didn’t remember the name of his Scoutmaster, Troop number, where the Troop met, or any other adult in the Troop. But he did remember his Patrol name (Wolf), his Patrol cheer, his Patrol song, his Patrol signature, and the names of every other Scout in his Patrol, and what had happened to each as they grew up. I just realized that I don't remember my first Scoutmaster or Troop number from 1958 in Springvale, ME, but I do remember my Patrol (Beaver), and my Patrol Leader, even though we moved away at the end of that year. I thought this might be useful when talking to people who just don't “get it” about the importance of the Patrol. (Warren Bentley, ADC, Dulaney District, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Thanks for a wonderful recollection. Yes, we sometimes do forget that the essential, critical, irreducible, all-important “unit” of Boy Scouting is not the Troop – the Troop is merely the “umbrella” – it’s the PATROL! Couldn’t have said it better myself. A tip of the ol’ Commissioner’s Cap to you!

Dear Andy,

We have some questions being debated in our Troop…Is the COR (Chartered Organization Representative) a member of the Troop Committee, and does that position entitle the COR to a vote at Troop Committee meetings? Thanks! (Stephanie Quick, CC, Connecticut Rivers Council, CT)

The COR is a volunteer position that sits between a unit committee and the Chartered Organization (CO). Ideally, the COR is actually a member of the CO; for instance, in a church, the COR might be the youth minister or possibly the member of the congregation who oversees the youth program at the church. However, unless this person is “double-registered” as both the COR and a unit committee member, he or she is not a member of the committee and has no vote on the committee. This is a liaison position; not a “power” position except that the COR operates along with the CO to approve all adult volunteers associated with the unit (the decision ultimately rests with the head of the CO, of course). The COR is, interestingly, a voting member of the District Committee, but that committee can’t and doesn’t “pull rank” on unit committees!

Stephanie, what I’ve just told you is definitely not my “opinion.” I’ve laid out for you the structure of the relationship between the CO, the COR and the unit committee according to the Boy Scouts of America. And by the way, good luck with your “problem child”!

Hello Andy,

My son has just received his first Palm and this is the first Eagle Palm awarded in our Troop in anyone’s recollection! But, this means no one has any experience with this. It is customary in our Troop for the Eagles to wear their rank badge; not the medal. I’ve read that the Palms go either on the ribbon of the Eagle medal or on the Eagle square knot badge. Do Scouts wear a square knot, or is that just for Scouters? Where should he wear his palm? (Rochelle Ray, MC, Mohegan Council, MA)

Congratulations to you and your Eagle Scout son! Yes, Scouts who are Eagle rank wear the oval badge of rank on the left pocket of their uniform shirt. “Square knot” badges are reserved for adults (age 18+) only and are never, ever worn in addition to the oval badge. Scouts wear their palms on the ribbon of their Eagle medal and not pinned to the oval badge. The Eagle medal is worn at all Courts of Honor, and at special Scout events (e.g., recognition dinners, etc.) but not in the normal course of a Scout’s life. (You and your son might have been hoping that I’d tell you BSA policy permits palms to be worn somewhere on a Scout’s “everyday” uniform, but they’re not.)

I hope your son goes on to earn more palms, and when he does, please understand that the next one replaces the one before it — they’re not worn “cumulatively” (like Cub Scouting’s Wolf, Bear, Webelos, etc.). Bronze means five MBs beyond the first 21; Gold means 10; Silver means 15; and then the pattern is repeated: Silver plus Bronze means 20; Silver plus Gold means 25; etc.; etc. Got me on this?

Hi Andy,

I’m parent of two Cubs–a Webelos and a Wolf. We’re going to Hawaii, and plan to visit Pearl Harbor. Are there any patches or other types of awards my sons can work toward on this trip to the Aloha State? (Sam Justice)

Visiting the Arizona Memorial is a profound experience, and your sons are fortunate that they’ll have this opportunity. It would not be a mistake to pack their uniforms (full uniforms, please!), and for them to wear them on the day you make your visit. There are a few things you’ll want to know ahead of time. Here’s some information direct from the Arizona Memorial Museum:

Due to the terrorist attacks on the United States and the location of the USS Arizona Memorial on an active military base, strict security measures are currently being enforced. No purses, handbags, fanny packs, backpacks, camera bags, luggage or other items that offer concealment are allowed in the visitor center or on the memorial. Personal cameras are allowed. Baggage storage is not available and there are no alternatives in the local area for bag storage. Valuables should not be left in parked vehicles in the parking lots.

The USS Arizona Memorial visitor center’s operating hours are 7:30 am to 5:00 pm seven days a week. The first tour begins at 8:00 am and the last tour begins at 3:00 pm. The tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and includes a film and Navy boat to the memorial. Tours are free, first come, first serve and wait times for tours may exceed two hours. Visitors should plan to arrive at the visitor center no later than 12:00 pm during busy times of the year. For further information, please call (808) 422-0561.

The Arizona Memorial Museum Association and the National Park Service initiated a Junior Ranger program for children age 12 and under (but not restricted to this age group). The program consists of a workbook which you can pick-up at the front desk along with your free tour ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial. Upon completion of three of more activities in the workbook, you will receive a Junior Ranger badge and certificate from a National Park Ranger.

While the recognitions described aren’t worn on the Webelos Scout or Cub Scout uniform directly, they are certainly appropriate to be worn on the red “patch vests” that are popular (your sons may already have these). Also, while you’re visiting, find the office for the Aloha Council and visit their Scout Shop, where you can pick up council shoulder patches (also something that can be worn on a patch vest—refer to the BSA catalog for these). Have a wonderful and meaningful visit!

Dear Andy,

Do you have any motivating words for a new commissioner? I’d like to send a letter to each new commissioner in our council, welcoming him or her to the commissioner staff. (L.H.A., CC)

I’d probably say something like this…

WELCOME to the commissioner service team for our council — The most influential and necessary teams in all of Scouting! As you begin to do carry out your responsibilities, I’d like you to keep in mind just one thought: “Commissioner” is just Scouting’s fancy word for folks who are OUR UNITS’ VERY BEST FRIENDS. You’re the person a unit’s leaders and parents can go to when they have a question, or need information, or have to learn something new… You’re the one who helps them figure out how to do a charter, or file a tour permit, or where are Roundtables held, or where there’s a camping spot that has drinkable water, or how to do a fund-raiser… You’re the one who’s always there for them, no matter what!

Commissioners have been a vital part of Scouting since the BSA’s very first days, back in 1910, and you and your fellow commissioners are truly the backbone of all of Scouting today.

A commissioner is one-part Mohandas Gandhi, one-part General Dwight Eisenhower, and one-part Moses. Why these three? Gandhi stood for what is right, always, but never raised his voice or fist in anger. Ike had the unique ability to bring disparate egos and agendas together, without rancor or mistrust, to reach a common goal. Moses led the way to the promised land despite all tribulations — and our “promised land” for the Scouts we all serve is the best possible Scouting program our units can deliver. You have my respect and admiration for the venture you’re about to undertake — And my full and complete support. As you are “always there” for your units, I’m always here for YOU! Godspeed –

That’s what I’d say.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a fan of your column for a long time, and wish to thank you for the work you do with it. I would also like to ask a favor… I’m assembling some materials to use in our unit committee training course, ad I’d like to use portions of your column from the last couple of years. My goal is to use the Troop Committee Challenge training offered by the BSA, but I want to show how it works in “real life.” I’d present the situations to the participants and then ask them to apply their “new” training to each situation, in a roundtable-type open discussion forum. Then I’d present your response, and continue the discussion. Your mid-January 2005 column is especially appropriate for this training, since it contains a “unit challenge”—that dominating COR-ADC! Would this be OK with you? (Dennis Fairbairn, ADC,

South Plains Council, Lubbock, TX)

What a great idea! By all means, go ahead and use whatever questions (and answers) you’d like… All I ask is that you give ol’ Andy here credit (which, in turn, promotes readership, with the result that more good folks ask questions and get some answers—The whole thing builds!). And, please accept my personal thanks for considering some of my “solutions” workable!

Dear Andy,

In our Venturing Crew, we’re trying to implement the new Quest program for two of our youth. We took Venturing Leader training, but couldn’t find how or where the Advisor is supposed to mark off in the Quest book when something’s accomplished. Can you provide any advice? Also, what is the procedure for submitting awards in the Venture, Quest and Ranger programs? Is there a specific form that should be used? Thanks for your help. (Janet Huddle, Associate Advisor, Rancho Cordova, CA)

For the QUEST program, I’m assuming you have at least one copy of the Quest Award Handbook (BSA Supply Division No. 33151). If so, then there should be instructions in there as to what to do. If not, then I’d recommend that you call your council’s service center and ask for the staffer who handles the Venturing program in your council—This is the person who can help you best at the local level.

Hi Andy,

I get it! I’m new to Boy Scouts, and I’ve always asked, “How you gauge ‘Scout Spirit’?” “It’s kind of automatic,” I’ve been told. I was never happy with that answer, just as I’m uneasy getting directions to go somewhere and being told, “You’ll know it when you see it”. Well, after a week at summer camp, I now know what it is. Scout Spirit is wearing your uniform proudly, not just a Scout shirt with denim shorts (like our Troop’s older Scouts do). Scout Spirit is showing the newer Scouts how to build a fire, like our camp host did, while these same older Scouts were swapping jokes at the opposite end of the campsite. Scout Spirit is saying, “I haven’t learned how to do that yet,” instead of, “I can’t do that.” Yep, now that I’ve seen it, I know what it looks like. But, I also now realize that Scout Spirit might just be one of the tougher requirements for some of our older Scouts to achieve, thanks to the Troop’s prior Scoutmaster, who told me the reason they were able to retain Scouts so long was that they “didn’t make it tough on them” (for instance, “from-the-belt-up” uniforming, don’t cause a fuss when they’d rather play card games among themselves than teach skills to new Scouts, and so on). Well, who needs Scouts like that, anyway?

When my son crossed over to the Troop, I volunteered to serve on the Troop committee, but I’ve been told, “Oh, no! You’ve got to be an ASM! You’ve got to work with the boys!” This has been repeated by other Troop committee members, too. But my son wants me to stay “uninvolved,” and I’ve been honoring his wishes. Lately, though, I’m beginning to think that my talents are needed more in the SM or ASM slot than as Advancement Chair. Maybe I should get someone else to talk to him about this? (Fred Philibert, Troop Advancement Chair, Northern New Jersey Council)

Starting at the top: Yup, what you described is indeed Scout Spirit. When it’s there, it’s infectious! It’s LIVING the Scout Oath and Law, especially the parts about helping others, cheerfulness, friendliness, and loyalty. Don’t let those younger Scouts lose that—As advancement chair for your Troop, you can definitely make a contribution to keeping Scout Spirit alive and well.

You’re also right that some just don’t “get it.” Some never will. But “going easy on them” isn’t a solution—It’s a cop-out. It’s a cop-out because it means the SM and other of the Troop’s uniformed leaders don’t have to exert themselves. The problem is, “good enough” ain’t! Shame on them for “going easy” on Scouts in an age group that knows better, and don’t think for a minute that these Scouts don’t know they’ve got a Scoutmaster who needs a spine transplant!

As the Troop’s advancement chair, you’re the chair of all boards of review for rank advancement (which the SM isn’t permitted, by BSA policy, to open his yap at, by the way). As such, YOU can be an agent of change—for the better. The next time you and other members of the Troop committee are reviewing one of these dead-head Scouts for a rank, ask him: “It says here that you’ve ‘shown Scout Spirit,’ and I’d like you to describe to us the ways that you’ve done this since your last review.” Then wait patiently for the answer. If it doesn’t meet with the principle of “living the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life” (which, by the way, means in LIFE and not just at Troop activities), you have the right and the obligation to tell the Scout that maybe he’s not ready to advance in rank until he does a better job in this dimension. Then, tell him exactly what you want to see him doing (full uniform, helping other Scouts, helping around his home and family without being asked, etc., etc.) for a specified period of time (one or perhaps two months), and then he’ll be invited back so that the board of review can continue and be successfully completed. You can do this, you know. Maybe it’s time for such reviews to be more than “rubber stamps.”

Now as far as you and your young son are concerned, in the first place SMs and ASMs are NOT “involved with the boys.” They’re in the background (read: “wallpaper”), in mentoring the Troop’s SPL and Patrol Leaders—They do NOT “run the Troop.” But here’s the most important thing: Don’t have someone “talk” to your son; instead, LISTEN TO YOUR SON! By listening to his wishes, and doing what he’s asked, you communicate without ever having to say the words, “Son, I value you and consider your points of view important and worth listening to.” This will do more for your son than any “affirmation speech” you could ever deliver! Besides, ASMs are a dime-a-dozen, but advancement chair is where you CAN make things happen!

Happy Scouting!!


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

(August 2005 – Copyright © 2005 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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