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Issue 64 – December 2005

So far, this column is regularly read by Scouters, parents, and Scouts in at least 154 councils across 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, Germany, Hong Kong, and even Iraq!

Here’s a special request: Would YOU be willing to tell five of your Scouting friends about this column and the website where it can be found? Do this in-person, or using email, or whatever way works best for you! The more readers, the more questions to keep me on my toes, the more we all get to learn new stuff! Thanks for reading—and writing!
Hi Andy,

I received a reply from that Scoutmaster with the Scout who won’t go in the water, and here’s what I’ve discovered: There hasn’t been a real Scoutmaster Conference with the boy since he earned Second Class, and that was almost three years ago, and no one’s spoken to him in any real way since then, since he won’t attempt the swimming requirement for First Class. However, I’ve personally had numerous meetings with this Scout, and with his parents (separately, because they’re divorced and don’t get along with each other), as well as with his ASM-Patrol Adviser. The boy’s father always promises to “do something,” but never does. The mother seems uninterested in doing anything, even though the parent of a good friend and fellow Scout, who works at the local YMCA where he could learn, has offered to help. The Scout says he’ll “try,” but when we’ve presented him with opportunities, he’s refused them. I understand there are alternatives for physical and mental disabilities, but I don’t think there’s a true disability here. Nor is it the Troop’s ultimate responsibility, in my opinion. Someone at our Roundtable suggested it could be called a disability, but I don’t think that’s the case. I agree with you, Andy, that the goal is citizenship and character development; not advancement. But it seems to me that advancement is designed as a positive reinforcement and a method in which to keep a boy’s interest. I also agree with you that the rules shouldn’t be broken or even bent to accommodate a Scout unless he truly has a real, permanent disability, otherwise, like you said, ranks become meaningless. Scouts must earn their ranks, by doing the requirements. It’s just a shame that there are no alternatives in this case. (Perhaps I’m more sensitive to it because I myself never learned to swim until I was in my early 20’s.) The Eagle-required merit badge can be either Swimming, Cycling, or Hiking. But if one can pass the First Class swimming requirement, he should pretty much be able to do the swimming merit badge also. (My own son did them both in one session at a local pool—luckily, he had had lessons at a young age and knew how to swim before entering Scouting.) It sounds like we just have to live with the fact that basic swimming is a Scouting requirement and, if he can’t do it, he can’t advance. Not getting support from the parents really doesn’t help. I don’t know if there’s much more to do, but the Scoutmaster and the Troop are doing what they can to make Scouting a meaningful experience for him. (Art W.)

Good “CSI work”! From what you’ve described, the ones with the mental disabilities are the still-feuding parents, and we’ve got a Scout stuck in the middle. OK, let’s take a look, here… He got through the Second Class swimming requirements, so this means—contrary to this “afraid of the water” stuff—he’ll go in the water, and it also means he has rudimentary skills. Nevertheless, I’d probably track down his prior Scoutmaster, just to make sure no one bent the rules back then (this former SM might also be able to shed a little light on background, which might be useful). Now, let’s get clever…

If “personal pressure” is going to motivate a boy of this age, it definitely won’t come from parents, teachers, pastors/rabbis, and not even from Scoutmasters! It’ll come from his peers. The SM that raised the question needs to “conference” with this Scout’s Patrol Leader and maybe some Patrol members, too. The idea will ultimately be to have his Patrol gently “persuade” this boy that the Patrol needs First Class Scouts, and then go swimming with him… Let them do the coaching, and if there are Scouts in the Troop with Swimming or Lifesaving MB, let them go to work on this Scout, too. The Scouts themselves are the best resource a Scoutmaster has — Show me a Scoutmaster who, when a job needs getting done, gives it to the Scouts, and I’ll show you a wise man!

Dear Andy,

You’re correct on that question about a Blue & Gold theme—It should always be a big birthday party. The BSA does recommend a different theme for the party each year; the usual theme would be whatever the current February Cub Scout theme is. The theme suggested for the ‘06 B&G is “Cubs in the Future:

“How will Cubs celebrate the B&G in 2106? What vehicle will take them there? Make models of these new forms of transportation, and a home or school of the future, then use these as B&G decorations. Create designs for future Cub Scout uniforms and awards. Build an exhibit of model campsites on a distant planet. Be creative with your ‘futuristic’ menus. Top off the evening with intergalactic games.”

Also, you recently had a question about a bridge for the Webelos cross-over. In the January 2005 “BALOO” there’s a ceremony that comes with directions for the bridge—the graduating Webelos Scouts build it as part of the ceremony (the planks each have meanings and are placed by appropriate people—mostly the Webelos). (Dave Lyons, CSRTC, Old Colony District, Southern New Jersey Council—and USSSP contributor)

NetCommish Note: We have Cross-over ceremonies at each of the following links:

Dear Andy,

Do you remember a coat of arms badge that Green Bar Bill designed back in the 80’s, that had a campaign hat as the top decoration? Is that emblem registered to or patented by BSA? Where would someone get permission to use it? (Richard Stone, Lincoln Heritage Council, KY)

Netcommish Note: Both Andy and I remember it and it took some doing to find it. Mike Walton, a U.S. Scouting Service Project Board Member, has a picture of the patch on his personal Scouting website at Mike writes “The “Crest of Leadership” was designed by William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt for a series of “get back to basics” youth and adult leadership experiences collectively called ALL OUT FOR SCOUTING! It was first used in 1975 in selected Councils and used in all local Councils from 1976-79.” To obtain permission to use the patch you should consult your Council’s Scout Executive who may wish to write to the BSA’s National Uniform and Insignia Committee for permission to use this crest.

Dear Andy,

My wife and I need a layout for sewing the patches on a brand new Tiger Cub’s uniform. Do the patches go on the sleeve or the front of the shirt, and in what order? (This is for our nephew, and my wife wants to help out with the sewing) (Gary West, West Allis, WI)

How terrific that you’re supporting your nephew this way! Scouting is a wonderful program for boys that’s fun, interesting, family-involving, and where he’ll learn things no other youth program in the country can give him! Go to this website: and then scroll down. You’ll find “Uniform Inspections Sheets” and, right under that, “Cub Scout/Webelos.” Click on it, and you’ll get a PDF file that you can print, that shows exactly where every patch should go. If your nephew is just starting out, the patches he’ll need are: Council Shoulder Patch and Pack Number (these two go on the left sleeve, starting right at the top seam of the sleeve), and Den Number (this goes on the right sleeve, just below the American Flag patch). He’ll get other patches, when he joins and progresses, directly from his Pack. By then, he’ll have his Tiger Cub Book, which will show just where everything goes.

NetCommish Note: Cimarron Council has a nice poster on it’s website at showing the Tiger Cub Uniform with the proper placement of badges. Three Rivers Council has a nice chart on patch placement for Cub Scouts at

Dear Andy,

I know about LEADER knots and RELIGIOUS EMBLEM knots, but is there such a thing as a “DEN CHIEF knot”? I can’t find any requirements for any awards for a Den Chief other than the award CERTIFICATE and the DEN CHIEF CORD. I have a young man who feels he has qualified for one. Please help me. Thank you. (Gina Brookshire, Pack Committee Chair, Cherokee Area Council, TN)

Nope, there’s no “square knot” for having served as a Den Chief (or any other Boy Scout leadership position, for that matter). In fact, there are no square knots for merely having served in any capacity in Scouting. For the Den Chief Service Award, there are very specific requirements to earn this. Check out the BSA book, BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS, to learn exactly what they are and determine if this Scout qualifies.

Dear Andy,

It’s been said in Scouting circles that the Boy Scout uniform, after it’s been originally sold from a authorized merchant or a Scout store, can’t be resold, for instance, the way people are selling Scout uniforms on eBay. Do you know if there’s an official policy on this matter? (Mark Pettie, DC, Jenny Jump District, Central New Jersey Council)

Ever hear of “experienced uniforms” or “uniform exchanges”? Ever wandered around in a thrift shop, Goodwill store or Salvation Army store? BSA uniforms are exchanged and re-sold all the time, everywhere in the country! For some folks, this is a great way to get a uniform that’s still in good shape more inexpensively that buying a brand-new one at the local Scout Shop. For others, the uniform itself, or the patches on it, become a new addition to their Scout memorabilia collection. Some folks even will buy the shirt, take the patches off for their collection, and then discard or resell the shirt itself. While from a very narrow technical standpoint, only registered members of the BSA are supposed to be buying Scout stuff, no one’s going to get arrested for this. A whole bunch of years ago, when I managed a Scout Trading Post that was a department inside a general retail store, I followed the policy of “show me your registration card before buying a uniform, parts, or patches,” but over the years this has gone the way of the dinosaur. Walk into any local council Scout Shop in America and I’ll guarantee you can walk out with an entire uniform and all the basic patches without showing squat!

Here’s the real deal: When you, as a Commissioner, encounter a unit that’s only partly uniformed (like, from the waist up, with the usual complaint that “pants, etc. are just too expensive”), you might want to actually recommend to them that they go to thrift shops, eBay, and so on, so that they can buy the rest of the uniform without damaging their wallets too much!

NetCommish Note: Check with your local Council. Many operate uniform banks. For example, Cimarron Council in Oklahoma has a uniform bank at it’s Council Office – and Chief Okemos Council has one at its Scout Shop – Your Council or District may also have a uniform bank.

Hi Andy,

I’ve worked at a Cub Scout day camp for the past five years, and I have a great group of dedicated Boy Scouts as staffers every year. When camp is done, I write a letter to their Troop’s Scoutmaster, detailing the volunteer hours each has contributed during the week. Is there a template or a formal letter I should be using? There are also some Scouts who go well beyond their assigned duties, and I like to address that differently. Can you help? (Doreen Ek, Connecticut Rivers Council)

It’s a wonderful thing that you do, with Cub Scout Day Camp! My own sons participated in this (buncha years ago!) and their own memories are still very strong about the special experiences they had! They both went on to be Boy Scouts, in large part the result of the “modeling” the Boy Scouts who volunteered there provided.

Is there a “perfect” letter that describes how a Scout went the extra mile, beyond all expectations, in the course of his volunteer work at your CSDC? You bet there is! It’s the one that comes straight from your heart! Follow your heart and you’ll never be wrong!

Dear Andy,

It’s my understanding that the BSA encourages Troops to have older/ experienced Scouts sign off on rank advancement requirements for younger/coming-up-the-ranks Scouts. But, in our Troop, this has become a rather hot topic between our Life and Eagle Scouts and our Scoutmaster. Although I respect our Scoutmaster’s discretionary privilege in this matter, I’m curious as to where I might find written documentation about the BSA’s position on this issue. You see, our Scoutmaster refuses to grant this responsibility, even to our Eagle Scouts, unless they subject themselves to being retested on each and every requirement. So far, the Scouts have balked at having to jump through hoops about this, and I fear their talents are being wasted and that their interest to continue in Scouting is waning rapidly, too. As the father of a 15 year old Eagle Scout myself, I have mixed emotions. How can our Scoutmaster on the one hand think well enough of a young man’s abilities that he’ll sign off on the Scoutmaster’s Conference for Eagle, but then on the other turn around and say he doesn’t feel the Scout’s responsible enough to sign off on a younger Scout even reciting the Scout Oath and Law without being retested himself??? Plus, I have a bit of a concern about why one of these Eagles in the Troop hasn’t risen to the challenge! (Jim Dumond, ASM, Northeast Georgia Council)

First things first. The publication, ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURESS (No. 33088C), states on page 22: “A Scout may be tested on rank requirements by his Patrol Leader, Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, a Troop committee member, or a member of his Troop. The Scoutmaster maintains a list of those qualified to give tests and pass candidates.” This statement certainly opens the door for the Scoutmaster to specify one or more Scouts in the Troop, whom the Scoutmaster deems qualified, to teach and pass Scouts on the skills required for advancement. In the case of your Scoutmaster, I get the feeling he’s channeling Napoleon. So, begin by getting yourself a copy of that publication, review it yourself and then review it again with your Troop’s Advancement Chair. After that, the two of you—along with some Eagle Scouts and the Troop’s Committee Chair—need to sit down with your Scoutmaster and tell him that his “title” does not make him “Master of the Scouts”—He’s a mentor, advisor, and friend; not a dictator or master sergeant, and definitely not judge-and-jury! It’s time to make a list of qualified Scouts and adults for signing off on rank requirements, then publish it. Your Scoutmaster needs to understand that it’s foolish and a waste of Scout manpower to deny them the use of their skills and leadership abilities—this is what Scouting’s all about! Further, once a Scout has completed a requirement, it is specifically a BSA policy that he is NOT to be re-tested, period, and this inappropriate conduct on the part of this misguided Scoutmaster has to stop!

Finally, I can tell you why no Eagle Scout in the Troop is willing to “rise to the challenge”… They’ve already figured this guy out, and want little to do with him. Time some adults caught on, too!

Dear Andy,

How would you feel about us using excerpts from your columns as part of a “groupthink” module at our District’s Roundtables? As incoming RT Commissioner, I’m thinking that it would be informative to take some of the questions you tackle, present them to the group, see what they come up with, then read your reply. I don’t plan to make any hand-outs, only direct them to your site (I’d give them the month reference with the question). Can you grant permission for using your materials in this way for a local RT use? (Rich Diesslin, Miami Valley Council, OH, and freelance cartoonist & illustrator)

Yup, you’ve got my permission! The only thing I’ve ever asked is for “credit where credit’s due.” The more people who read, the more good questions to keep me challenged! When you tell your Scouters where you got the questions, please be sure to ask them to start reading!

Howdy, Andy,

I’m wondering if a Commissioner or District Committee Member has to have a different uniform for being a unit leader. I’m also a Den Leader, and Assistant Scoutmaster, and I really can’t afford to buy all those different shirts. Should I just be wearing the highest registered position shirt to all functions? Thanks! (Don Demulling)

So, you’re a DL, an ASM, a UC (I’m guessing), and possibly a district committee member, too? My first cautionary note is that wearing three to four “Scout hats” is potentially dangerous to health—the health of your family life, that is! I know Scouters tend to all have the same speech impediment: The inability to say, “No.” But it’s really OK to say, “This isn’t a good time,” and avoid wearing any more hats than you already have. I’m guessing, also, that you have two sons: One’s a Cub Scout and the older one’s a Boy Scout. If that’s the case, then I’d sure want to give my best energies to my DL and ASM positions, for obvious reasons. In fact, if I could drop the other two positions for a while, I’d sure try to do that—Family should ALWAYS come first! But enough about that. Let’s answer your question…

You don’t need four different shirts, because, first off, district committee people don’t need uniforms, and, second, the only differences between DL, ASM, and UC are the unit numeral and the position badge (plus different colored shoulder loops, which are only a couple of bucks a pair). Sew two pieces of “Velcro” onto one shirt, in the unit numeral and the position badge locations of the left sleeve. Sew or glue the obverse “Velcro” onto the numerals and the position badges. Then, get three sets of shoulder loops — blue, red, and silver (for Cubs, Scouts, and Commissioner) — that you can change as needed. Then, when you’re going to a Den or Pack meeting, you just stick on the Pack number and DL badge; if a Troop meeting, the other number and the ASM badge; and if you’re going out as a Commissioner, you leave off the numbers and just stick on the Commissioner’s badge. One shirt, three configurations. Cool, Huh?

A final note: There is no “highest” position in Scouting. Commissioners don’t “out-rank” Scoutmasters or Cubmasters, for instance. And even Cubmasters don’t out-rank Den Leaders. In Scouting, unlike the military or law enforcement, we have “positions” not “ranks,” and each badge — be it DL or Council Commissioner — describes the nature of the job. Period. For instance, I’m a former Council Commissioner and right now I’m a Unit Commissioner. Was I “demoted”? Nope! I simply have a different job, and the position badge I wear describes it.

Dear Andy,

I’m an advocate of following BSA policy and I push to have parents’ permission forms for outings requiring tour permits, but the Troop Committee believes a Scout has “automatic permission” simply by way of being registered. The only time the Troop requires parent/guardian permission is extended outings and high adventure activities. I believe that if an outing requires a tour permit, it requires that the Scout obtain parent/guardian permission to participate. My question relates to the tour permit. What is meant where it asks, “Have parents’ approvals been secured?” Does this mean a signed form that acknowledges the Scout’s participation? Is a signed-one-time “blanket” permission form acceptable? What about having a roster, and the parent or guardian just initials next to the Scout’s name, to show their acknowledgement? I’ve asked at my council service center and even gone to BSA national website, but haven’t found anything helpful. Thank you for any help you can provide. (Elden Ray National Capitol Area Council, VA)

The best source for an exact answer is going to be your Troop’s Commissioner or your District Executive. But, in the meanwhile, I can tell you that, when I was a Scoutmaster, my Troop NEVER filed a tour permit without having specific (not “blanket”) permission slips for every Scout participating. I kept these in a 3-ring binder that I took along with me on the outing, along with signed medical release forms (NOT copies—these days, few if any medical folks will provide services if the release document doesn’t contain an ORIGINAL signature) for each Scout. This wasn’t “youth protection”—this was ME PROTECTION!

You are absolutely correct, as far as I’m concerned, to insist on activity-specific consent forms, and any parent who “insists” that they’ve “already given ‘blanket’ permission” doesn’t get to send their son on the trip. Period. So, Yes, the question, “Have parents’ approvals been secured?” means exactly that!

Dear Andy,

In your Mid-October column, you stated the following: “There is good news, however, and it’s not that far away – A year from now at the most, the Cub Scouting program changes from that of the Tiger Cub program, and parents are NOT required at every meeting!” Where did you get your information??? (Jay Oakman, Mid-America Council)

From the Wolf Book and the Cub Scout Leader Book.

Keep on keepin’ on!


Got a question? Send it to me at – (Please include your Council name and home state)

(December 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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