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Issue 59 – Mid-September 2005

Webmaster extraordinaire and equally terrific Scouter, Mike Bowman, responds to a question…

Does your primary registered position need to be as a Commissioner (UC, ADC, or otherwise) in order to serve as a Commissioner?

We maintain as one of our sites—It’s devoted to Commissioner service matters. Your primary registration should be that of Commissioner to be a Commissioner in a perfect world, but the world is imperfect. National policy is that you should only serve in one primary role as an adult leader. We know that many people serve in multiple roles and that things can be complicated. If you’re registered as a unit leader and changing your primary registration would leave the unit with insufficient leaders to renew their charter, then the preference of the local council is almost universally that you stay registered as a unit leader and treat any other role (including that of Commissioner) as secondary. There can be an impact on your eligibility for adult recognitions, of course: If you’re registered only as a unit leader and you’re simultaneously performing Commissioner work but not multiple-registered as such, then tenure in that “informal” role can’t be recorded, or recognized. So you want to also be registered as a Commissioner as well. Generally, your local council registrar will be able to help you with how they prefer to handle these issues. My esteemed colleague and the author of our twice-monthly Commissioner feature, “ASK ANDY” may have some additional information or views on this—He is more actively involved in Commissioner work that I am these days and so I would defer to him.

So, here’s what Ol’ Andy has to say about this…

A Scouter’s “primary registered position” really only matters when it comes to the annual BSA registration card. If you want it to say “Commissioner” (as in UC, ADC, DC, CC, etc.) then you’ll want to make this your primary position when you go through annual registration or re-registration. But this doesn’t mean you can hold only a “Commissioner code” position and no other. You can certainly wear other hats in Scouting, if that’s what you like doing (and you have the time and a very forgiving spouse!). But—and this is a little-known and even more rarely observed fact—the BSA says very specifically that you’re not permitted to be both a Commissioner and a unit leader. Yup, that’s actually in writing. You’ll find it in the book, COMMISSIONER ADMINISTRATION OF UNIT SERVICE. “Unit leader,” of course, refers to the key positions of Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, (Team) Coach, (Sea Scout) Skipper, and (Venturing) Crew Advisor, and it implies (but doesn’t expressly specify) the Assistants to these positions as well. To my way of thinking (think about Mike’s “perfect world”), this should include Den Leaders and Webelos Den Leaders, too. Why? Because the adult volunteers who most directly serve youth—the folks who are “where the rubber meets the road”—are the folks who least need to clutter their vision, objectives, time, or resources with any other Scouting responsibilities!

And then our Scouter friend wrote back…

The actual issue is this: I’m on my council’s executive board, and registered that way. A while ago, my home district asked me to serve as an ADC, and I agreed. My district duly took my new application to the council registrar, but I somehow wound up registered as a district member-at-large instead of as an ADC. No big deal, I thought. But when it came time for Commissioner recognition, they told me that even though I’ve been serving as an ADC, no tenure in that position can be counted because the primary registration must be that of Commissioner. I’m in my 50th year as a Scout and Scouter right now—The year is almost over, and now the council is telling me that I can be recognized for my Commissioner tenure if I just pay another registration fee, which they’ll make “retroactive.” (They’re doing this to others, to, and they’re also asking for a capital campaign pledge.) What do you make of this? I’m doing my job, it’s known that I’ve been doing the job, but unless I pay another registration fee, it’s “Sorry, Charlie”!

Here’s what Mike had to say:

This isn’t the way I’d do it, if I were “king for a day,” but it’s fairly common practice in a lot of councils where meeting financial goals is a struggle. When I was the ADC for our district, I paid a separate registration fee for the position, in addition to the one I paid as a member of the District Committee and the one I paid as a Unit Committee Member. (I had more than five years of service as a Commissioner before registering as such and over ten years before I received the Distinguished Commissioner Service award.) I applaud you on keeping registered continuously for nearly 50 years—That’s outstanding! If I had kept continuously registered, I’d be at 45 years now, but with moves around the country, that did not happen.

And here’s my own two cents…

Who are these council bird-brains? In the first place, you’re registered as a board member, so that your tenure of 50 years will be realized—and it darned well deserves recognition! In the second place, their “primary registered position” babbling is nothing but baloney! Third, they can easily go back and make your registration as a Commissioner retroactive to the day you began—there’s a form to do this!—and it doesn’t require a penny more. All that’s needed are a few keystrokes on their Scoutnet computer. That said, in your shoes, I’d give ‘em the ten bucks (or whatever it is) and tell ‘em, “I’ll be making my decision about my capital campaign pledge as soon as I’ve received my registration cards.”

Dear Andy,

I have a question about the new Good Turn For America patch. I can’t find any reference as to the placement on the uniform, not in the INSIGNIA GUIDE or anywhere else I’ve checked. Can you let me know the placement, or, if you don’t know, maybe another source to check out? (Bob Childress, UC, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

This isn’t as tricky as it might seem! The GTFA patch falls into the “temporary” category and, as such, there’s only one place goes: On the right pocket. Nowhere else.

(By the way, only a National Jamboree patch is permitted above the right pocket; only an OA flap is permitted on the right pocket flap; only a rank badge is permitted on the left pocket; nothing is permitted on the left pocket flap; and only the world crest is permitted above the left pocket of a Boy Scout’s shirt. Got it? Good!)

Hello Andy,

What are the similarities between Venturing and Varsity? Also, what roles do parents take in these two programs? I see words like “shadow,” but that’s not really clear. Also, what adult positions are there and how is the committee structured in each of these programs? I have been to websites for both of these, but they’re kind of vague. Any help you could give me would be appreciated! (Wayne Christiansen, SM, Troop 537, Twin Rivers Council, NY)

Your own SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK should answer most of your questions at length, so here are some “short answers” until you can do some reading…

Inside a Troop, one can have a VENTURE (NOT “Venturing”) Patrol, and this is for Scouts age 13 up to 18. They wear their standard Scout uniform with a “Venture” strip worn above the Boy Scouts of America strip over the right pocket. They are a functioning patrol within a Troop, and will have supplemental activities in the “high adventure” realm—there are pamphlets about these at your local Scout Shop.

A VARSITY Team, like a Venture Patrol, is for Scouts age 13 up to 18. Of course, they’re engaged in sports (in addition to their Scouting activities within their Troop) and have an adult coach (like an ASM) to guide them. There are sports pamphlets for Varsity teams, too.

VENTURING is a Scouting unit called a CREW and is for young men and young women age 14 through 20. A Boy Scout in your Troop may be a member of a Venturing Crew in addition to being a registered member of your Troop. Venturing Crews have an Advisor instead of Scoutmaster, and they have a unit committee of adults, just like a Troop, that supports the activities the Crew’s members elect to do.

Just like in a Boy Scout Troop, adults associated with a Venturing Crew are supporters; not leaders. The committee structure of a Venturing Crew is a little different from that of a Troop, but I leave it to you to get a VENTURING LEADER MANUAL and learn more about that.

Venturing has an advancement program, open to both genders. A current or former Boy Scout who’s reached the rank of First Class before joining the Crew can work toward Eagle, if he wishes. Venturing is most typically high adventure-oriented, but doesn’t have to be—the Crew itself (that is, the youth) decides on what it wants to focus on.

That should be enough to get you started—But definitely do some reading! (I’d say more, but this is a column; not a training course!)

Hi Andy,

When I was young, I started in Tiger Cubs and worked my way all the way through Eagle. After a ten-year hiatus, I’ve gotten back involved with Scouting, and I’ve recently been asked to be a Commissioner. The main question I have for you is about “square knots” that I can wear. During my Scouting career, I achieved the rank of Eagle, earned three religious awards, and received my Arrow of Light. Also do you know where I can find a copy of the INSIGNIA GUIDE? (Jim Riley, Honest Abe District, Abraham Lincoln Council, Springfield, IL)

You certainly do get to wear “square knots” as a uniformed leader! You absolutely should be wearing the red-white-and-blue Eagle square knot. It also sounds like you should be wearing one silver-on-purple square knot for youth religious award (only one knot, even though multiple awards earned—but little “devices,” as they’re called, can be pinned on that knot). There is also a square knot to indicate your having earned the Arrow of Light. So, you can be wearing three right now. Other square knots are “earnable” by completing requirements of tenure, training, and performance listed on specific progress records—The first one for you will likely be the Commissioner’s Training Award. If your local council’s scout shop doesn’t have the book you want, you can order it directly from the BSA’s National Supply Division by calling 1-800-323-0732 or going to

Hi Andy,

Our son’s been in Cub Scouts for a year and has earned several badges and patches, but I have no idea where to put them on his blue shirt. I’ve looked in books and on the Web and can’t find anything. Is there a proper place to put certain ones? Do you have a picture of a shirt you can send to me? He has his first meeting in a couple of days and I’d like to get all of his badges and patches ironed on. (Rashelle Groskopf, Overland Trails Council, North Platte, NE)

Yes, there are several places you can go for exactly what you need! And let me say right now that you’re terrific parents, for wanting to get this right, and going the extra mile to make sure! First, refer to your son’s Cub Scout book—either WOLF or BEAR, whichever one he has. Look on the insides of the front and back covers of the book and 90% of your questions will be answered, because these are actual templates for proper positioning (yes, the inches up or down do matter!). You can also “Google” cub scout uniform inspection form and that will pop up a “pdf” file that you can print—this form gives you EVERYTHING! If you have a patch or badge that you just can’t figure out where it should go, write to me again and I’ll help you solve the mystery!

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner and need to get access to the 2005-2006 Roundtable Planning Guide, preferably online. I at least need to know what the themes are for Sept 2005 through August 2006. Where can I find this information online? (Dan Williamson, BSRTC, Colonial Virginia Council, Ft. Monroe, VA)
Even if you do find the 2005-06 BSRT Planning Guide online, are you really prepared to download and print over 70 pages? Wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier, and cheaper, to just buy one for a few bucks at your local council’s Scout Shop? If that’s too far away, go to the BSA’s National Supply Division to buy it: 800-323-0732 or


For the third Jamboree in a row, I was told at the Merit Badge Midway to, “Get out of here and leave us alone! If you have any problems, take them up with National…They approved it.” The problem I had was the one hour and forty minutes it took a Scout to complete First Aid Merit Badge. I asked them how that’s possible, when it takes me six to eight hours to complete it, with six Scouts, and the first requirement alone takes an hour per Scout. At the Stamp Collection (sic) Merit Badge, which takes two to three hours (at the MB Midway), the boy fills an album that’s provided with stamps from a box. When I noted to them that the Scout doesn’t have a collection, as the requirements state, I was given a shrug of the shoulders and told, “The Scout is learning something.” Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World could be completed in two to three hours at the Midway. There were no “Blue Cards” issued or accepted—The Scouts were given a form that said they’d completed the merit badge, or they were given a “partial.” So, if a Scoutmaster had a policy that he doesn’t let an 11 or 12 year old Scout do First Aid Merit Badge, that is completely circumvented. When I questioned, this I was told by a Scouter, “I’m just a volunteer. Take it up with National.” One Scoutmaster in my sub-camp questioned the completions of a merit badge from two Scouts in his home Troop–His problem was that the boys had to visit a sewerage plant, as required, and then report on it, which they did not do. He was told that the Jamboree Merit Badge Midway had different rules approved by National. He replied that he, also, has “different rules,” and that, when the Scouts visit a sewerage plant at home, they’ll be given Merit Badge. Another Scout told the people in the medical tent where I was working that he’d completed Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge in 92 minutes! I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t ask him if that included the one hour and forty minutes for First Aid, or was that “extra.” I also saw a father dragging is son around the Midway on the last day, trying to find merit badges that could be done in an hour or so. Not one person work-ing there saw any problem with this! In fact, the woman who told me how long it took to do First Aid had a big smile on her face and was proud of it! As I told one Scouter at the Midway Headquarters, “Why don’t we just have ‘Eagle on-line’ and get it over with?” (B.C.)

While certain merit badge requirements have specific time elements (I’m thinking about Family Life, Personal Fitness, and Personal Manage-ment), most don’t. In your example, First Aid MB, the first requirement states, “Satisfy your counselor that you have current knowledge of all first-aid requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks.” Maybe you, as a Counselor, need an hour to accomplish this. Maybe another counselor needs more time than that; maybe someone else needs less. How does this matter? Time itself isn’t the issue—Merit Badges and their requirements are about learning and knowledge.

Let’s talk a little more about time and learning. When I was a Scout, I figured out a way to quickly teach new Scouts how to tie a square knot so that they’d get it right the very first time and keep getting it right. My technique took maybe 10 seconds. Someone else might be able to teach this skill faster; others might take more time. The question isn’t time; it’s DOES THE SCOUT “GET IT”? If the answer’s Yes, move on!

We also have to pay attention to the specific language of requirements. Let’s use your First Aid example again. Notice that the first require-ment doesn’t say, “Repeat each and every first-aid requirement for Scouting’s first three ranks from scratch, in excruciating detail, as if you’re being entirely re-tested, till you’re bored out of your mind and wondering if you should change counselors.”

(I almost get the feeling that you’d like to see Scouts run a marathon, and all come in last.)

I’ve read all of the requirements for all of the other merit badges you mentioned, and I do not find that any of those merit badges can’t be completed following the stated requirements at a Jamboree Merit Badge Midway. But, if you’re running a stop-watch on them, why?

As for Emergency Preparedness, there are three specific requirements that can’t be completed at a Jamboree. But, since neither you nor I know whether the Scout started it with First Aid MB already completed and a “partial” in hand for Emergency Preparedness, and since neither of us was there, I think we both have to reserve comment on this one.

As for your own “Scoutmaster’s rule” that imposes an age stipulation on a Scout interested in any Merit Badge – shame on you! You’re in direct and crystal clear violation of a BSA policy.

So is that Scoutmaster who’s withholding merit badges from two Scouts who have been told their work is 100% completed, by a registered MB Counselor – This is another crystal-clear violation of a BSA policy, and is about as mean-spirited as anyone can get. Shame on him, too!

As for that purported “visit a sewerage plant” requirement, maybe you mean the requirement in Public Health MB. If so, you didn’t bother to learn that there’s an “OR” in that requirement that might readily be done at a Jamboree! Get your facts straight be-fore you start criticizing.

While completing a merit badge “in an hour or so” isn’t, to me, some sort of Scouting sin, absolutely the idea of some parent “dragging his son around” is not the Scouting way and I’m wondering what other kinds of stupid stuff that father is dragging his own son through!

Now, let’s talk about you. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What was it that you expected to accomplish at the Midway, besides branding yourself as a loud-mouthed, criticizing curmudgeon? If you want to accomplish anything in a 99% volunteer organization, you’d have a lot better shot at achieving some success if you were known as a positive-thinking, non-finger-pointing, non-my-way-or-highway, proactive catalyst for the good and for progress. Three Jamborees in a row, you’ve made sure you accomplished the opposite, and you did so when it’s already too late—the Midway’s set up and happening, or hadn’t you noticed? What were you thinking?

If you truly want to make a difference, start by developing a plan and process that can help assure that all MB Counselors share the same vision about what their important role is in youth development, a way to train and them equally, and a way to help districts, councils, and, yes, even our dedicated National Scout Jamboree volunteers, find even better ways to help the Scouts we serve discover abilities they didn’t know they had and explore fields of interest they may not have heard of, which might ultimately guide Scouts toward a career, enrich their leisure lives, hone their fitness, enhance their abilities to help others, and stimulate their personal growth.

Dear Andy,

I’m the parent of a new Eagle Scout, and I’m getting ready to send out invitations for the ceremony. Are there any websites I can visit to see samples of the wording for invitations like this? (Barbara, Troop 50, Piedmont Council, Lynchburg, VA)

Don’t worry about looking for the “perfect” invitation—invitations for Eagle Courts of Honor follow standard practice…

You are cordially invited

to attend the







(day-date) at (time)

Very best wishes, and my compliments to your son!

Keep on keepin’ on!


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

(Mid-September 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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