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Issue 68 – Mid-January 2006

How’s this for a “success story”…


Hi Andy,

I’ve been reading your column avidly while looking for a unit Commissioner opportunity. Great column! I’m an Eagle Scout with grown children and am looking for a volunteer Scouter opportunity in NH. In order to find the right fit I decided to attend several district meetings (Roundtables, Commissioners meetings and District Committee meetings) to talk to different parents and Scouters in the area. (Payson Adams, Daniel Webster Council [soon], NH)

Hi Payson,

Thanks for finding me—and thanks for writing! I’m delighted to learn of your interest in being a Scouting volunteer—We need good people like you, especially somebody who “does his homework” before jumping in the water! Best wishes for a rewarding experience and good fellowship! (Andy)

Dear Andy,

If you can contact Payson Adams, who asked you about becoming a Commissioner in Daniel Webster Council, NH, we’d be glad to have him, if he’s in the south-east part of the state. (Dave Loomis, ADC, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

Hi Dave,

I’m Ccing Payson right here. This way, the two of you can get in direct contact with one another! (Andy)

Hi Andy,

I’m following up our original email. I’ve been registered by the Daniel Webster Council as a Commissioner and have been given a Pack, a Troop and a Crew to provide unit service to. I plan to continue to read your columns. Thanks! (Payson Adams, Unit Commissioner, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

Now, let’s take a look at some new questions…

Hi Andy,

In researching options for the movie for Citizenship in the Community merit badge, I came across your site. I’m going to be sure to pass the link along to some of my other Scouter friends! Anyway, you asked for other recommendations. When I first read the requirement a year ago “Pay It Forward” immediately leapt into my mind, and “A Civil Action” did later on. Here are some other movies I’d consider appropriate: “October Sky,” “Boycott,” “Remember the Titans,” “Dead Poet’s Society” (maybe too grim in some ways), and “Follow Me, Boys” (but maybe too old-fashioned for some boys). (Jim Robinson, SM, Troop 6, Cranston, RI, Narragansett Council)

Great suggestions! I hope you’ll become a regular reader.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been surfing the net for some time now and I can’t find any plans for a Raingutter regatta that I can download. I hope you can help me. (Vinny O’Neill, District Chair, New Horizon District, Bronx Council, NY)

I’m guessing you’re talking about the tracks; not the boats. If that’s the case, here’s the good news—the raingutters are just that: raingutters. Ten feet long, and capped on both ends. If they’re plastic, they may go “sway-back” on you, so you’ll need to set them on tables, or lots of saw-horses. If they’re rigid, and stay horizontal even when filled with a couple inches of water, then a saw-horse at each end will do just fine! Yes, it’s pretty much that simple!

Dear Andy,

I’m Skipper of a Sea Scout Ship, and I have an adult volunteer who is registered with a Boy Scout Troop in an adjoining council. Is this volunteer required to again pay the $10.00 fee at re-chartering time for the Ship to our council, or can he be considered a multiple registrant with the Ship and the Troop in the other council? (Allen Shields, Tecumseh Council, OH)

Usually, when one holds more than one position within the same council, “double registration” kicks in and there’s no further annual registration fee beyond the first one paid. The situation you’re describing is a little unique, because it crosses over two entirely separate (even if adjoining) councils. My recommendation would be to ask the second council how they’d like to handle this. If it turns out that the double registration policy can’t be applied, then an extra ten bucks will need to be paid. Oh, well… ten bucks usually doesn’t break the bank, when it’s once a year!

Hi Andy,

Recently, I attended a Cub Scout Leader Specific training course in my district, and was informed by the lead trainer of the course (who is also a District Executive) that Assistant Den Leaders are eligible to earn the Cub Scout Den Leader and the Webelos Den Leader “knots.” However, I’ve found no reference in any BSA literature or website that specifies anything other than “serve one year as a registered Den Leader” as the tenure requirement. As a new Cubmaster, I believe it’s important to recognize volunteer leaders for their time and effort. If an Assistant Wolf Den Leader completes all the other requirements for the Den Leader Knot (except that they were an ADL instead of a DL for the previous year), could they or could they not be awarded a Den Leader award? Thanks! (Austin Roy, CM, Pack 27 Lone Tree District, Yankee Clipper Council, Haverhill, MA)

Assistant Den Leaders and Assistant Webelos Den Leaders can earn the Cub Scouter Award, and should definitely go for it. The requirements are included in the CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK. However, assistants don’t earn the awards for DL or WDL because that’s not the job they held. The “except that they were an assistant” is one big “except” and doesn’t (and, to my mind, shouldn’t) qualify them for the Leader Award.

Dear Andy,

After re-reading your reply and the comments from “Lisa” (see my November 2005 column), I’d like to point out that every person who is at a Scout meeting, regardless of where it’s held, is subject to the rules of Scouting. If it’s at the sponsor’s location, then the COR (Chartered Organization Representative) at the very least should be contacted and advised that they can be held accountable for the conduct of persons meeting at their location. The sponsor should ban that person from the site and call the police if he or she shows up again for trespassing, and be removed. If the person has been drinking, he or she could be looking at jail. If it’s at a Den’s Leaders home, that DL can do the same. In addition, if this is reported to the Scout Executive, and the SE doesn’t take any action about the reported harassment and/or misconduct (which should be reported to the childcare office in the area), then the DL should contact them directly (this is a hard step, because child services officers go on the view that a person is guilty and will have that person arrested before any facts come to light—I’ve seen this happen in our own area—and it can take months for someone to clear their name even after the facts show they’re not guilty.) But, to continue, if the sponsor is contacted and harassment happens again to that person or any other person at their site and they (the sponsor) haven’t taken steps to prevent it, they may find themselves in court! To say there’s nothing that can be done is wrong! Most harassment and abuse happens without witnesses. That’s why the report of such an event is taken a face value! After contacting all members, leaders and Scouts, then that person can return to the group if he or she is found to be faultless. (Don McDow, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

Thanks for continuing to be a loyal reader—and writer! I agree with everything you’ve pointed out; however, as you may have picked up, the main problem in that situation was a Den Leader who was doing nothing except perhaps enjoying the attention, perverted though it may have been! Some people, if they don’t get the attention they need from their spouse, will accept substitutes, even the unsavory kind! Re-read that DL’s letter and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Dear Andy,

The requirements for the Swimming Sports Pin (no. 4) state: “Using a kickboard, demonstrate three kinds of kicks.” What kinds of kicks? I’ve done several searches on the web under swimming kicks, swimming technique, etc., in vain. I’ve looked in the Webelos Handbook under Aquanaut Requirements, with no luck. Is there a merit badge book that covers this? Is there any resource you know of that can shed some light on this seemingly small but important requirement? (Esther Swartz, Tiger Cub Den Leader, Pacific Harbors Council, WA)

You’re in luck! The Boy Scout pamphlet for Swimming Merit Badge has exactly what you’re looking for, including the flutter kick, whip kick, scissor kick, etc.

Hi, Andy,

In your December 2005 column, you answered a question about re-selling Scout uniforms, saying it’s OK and to go find them at Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. As it turns out, all of the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores have received letters from the BSA National Office asking them to not accept Scout uniforms for resale. When I was taking lots of trips for the Air Force, I always scoured these resale outlets for Scout uniforms—I’d strip the patches off them and then make them available for needy Scouts who were willing to help me shovel my drive in the winter or mow my lawn in the summer. Today, this is no longer an option. With National’s stand to the resale stores, a vital avenue for boys to find uniforms on the cheap has been cut off, making it harder for less well off Scouts to be fully uniformed. (Less well off, heck! It cost me well over 90 bucks dollars to buy a short- and a long-sleeve uniform shirt and patches at my friendly nearby Scout Store! That can be a hurdle for any one!) (Dave Loomis, ADC, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

It’s pretty obvious that I had no idea about such a letter or request from the BSA National Office! Wow! Now I know why uniforms have pretty much disappeared from these stores in recent years! Personally, I think this is a darned shame! How cool would it have been if the BSA had offered to buy all such uniforms from Goodwill and the Salvation Army at some fixed price and then established some sort of “national clearing house” for them, to help needy Scout families! My guess is that, when folks who have taken their sons’ old uniforms to GW or SA and are “rejected” by these stores, these still-good uniforms wind up either in the trash or in some town’s recycling bin. What a loss! Even though, on a cost-per-year-worn basis, Scout uniforms aren’t all that prohibitively priced, relative to youth “fashions” today, it still seems a pity that a secondary market that benefits a socioeconomic class that Scouting needs to reach is being cut out.

Greetings Andy,

I thoroughly enjoy reading your column and always appreciate good advice. I’m on the District Committee and have served and will serve as a COR for two different chartered organizations. I thought that I might throw my “two cents” in on your comments to Roger Cahoon, AAC, regarding Scoutmaster rotation. My district has experienced rapid population growth and is trying to start new units to support Scouts and potential Scouts in our mushrooming subdivisions. Finding kids to join units usually is not a major problem. The real challenge is to find interested, qualified adults willing to do the heavy lifting of leadership in the new units. We’ve tried a couple of approaches, including advertising for leaders (not terribly successful so far) and trying to convince frustrated ASMs to change Troops so that they can be SMs (that hasn’t been a wild success either, but we keep trying). We haven’t tried kidnapping yet but that will probably end up on the agenda soon enough. :-) Perhaps Roger, or others, might find the following thoughts useful:

– I wouldn’t advocate an artificial limit on tenure for successful adult leadership, but perhaps some gentle conversation with the incumbent SM might encourage him to give others a chance to be in charge. (Pity there’s no ASM Coach knot, like the old Den Leader Coach knot.)

– If the eager ASM-and-son are happy in their current Troop, why change?

– If Junior and Dad have fewer opportunities than they’d ultimately prefer, then perhaps a friendly look-around for other Troops might be in order—nothing wrong with a little cross-pollination between Troops to share good ideas and people!

– If Dad is champing at the bit, but the Scout is happy and successful in his current Troop, Dad could move to another Troop after the Scout finishes his youth “career.”

– Finally, as a COR looking for motivated adult leadership, I’d view the eager ASM as prime new Troop SM! Heaven knows that experienced leadership is ALWAYS welcome in any new unit.

(Peter P, National Capital Area Council, VA)

I like your ideas and suggestions a lot! Personally, I’ve always believed that, for the ultimate good of the Troop, one of a new Scoutmaster’s key responsibilities is to identify and start training his own replacement!

Dear Andy,

I’m also an avid cyclist and a Cycling Merit Badge Counselor. I’d like to know who I could write to, to discuss the possibility of changing some of the Cycling MB requirements to accommodate the growing number of Scouts who enjoy Mountain Biking. I know for a fact that the mileage one rides on a road is equal in effort to half of what a ride in the woods would be. Road 25 = Woods 12.5 (regardless of bike type). I know this from personal experience, and the cycling clubs I belong to recognize this, also. I’d like to propose a different ride requirement for Mountain Bikers. Who do I talk to? (Frank Lincoln, SM, Troop 47, Suffolk County Council, Patchogue, NY)

Mr. Terry Lawson is the BSA’s National Director of Advancement. Write to him at the Irving, Texas office. You never know…

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been asked to be the Scout Roundtable Commissioner for my District. Where do I begin? Any and/or all suggestions would be greatly appreciated. (John Erickson)

I’m going to assume you’ve got some Scouting experience, perhaps as a Cubmaster or Scoutmaster or both. And I’m going to assume that they picked you for your talents and not heartbeat. I’m also going to assume that you can track down your council’s training courses for Commissioners and, hopefully, Roundtable Commissioners, on your own. That said, here goes…

In the first place, miserably attended BSRTs are not all that uncommon. Let’s face it, these are largely for Scoutmasters, and these guys are already committed to four Troop meetings a month plus at least one weekend for camping, plus (I’m thinking positive here) a PLC or Green Bar meeting every month. On average, that accounts for about ten percent of their total available time in an average month, and we haven’t taken out normal sleeping time. If we did that, the time they’re already devoting to Scouting account for nearly 15 percent of their waking hours. That’s no small amount!

Next point: Like the Scouts in their Troops, these dedicated volunteers still “vote with their feet.” Give them a menu of boring, low-energy, non-involving regurgitations of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook and those who don’t fall asleep will be charging for the door at the first opportunity. Wouldn’t you! Unless you can deliver—at a level appropriate to your audience—“fun with a purpose,” color ‘em outa there!

Roundtables are anachronistic. Back in the “good old days,” when there was no internet, no television, and telephones were used only for “important” or “emergency” purposes, Roundtables were wonderful opportunities to get some direct human contact, learn what’s going on around the town or district, meet and greet other like-minded community volunteers, share some cocoa and cookies, and share some tales of the last camping trip. No more. Why? Because, in our present time-compressed society, we often don’t take the time for this anymore. Because much of what Roundtables originally were designed to communicate can be communicated via other faster and more efficient means. Because people, after the invention of the television (Yup, it goes back that far!) complain that they “just can’t find the time” when what they really mean is that they won’t turn off the tube long enough to smell the roses. (No one “finds” time—we have to make time for the things that are important to us!)

So, where does all this leave you? Well, if you’re gonna be successful, and feel that the time you’re putting in is worth while, you need to somehow attract a larger and steady audience. How? By offering something they can’t get anywhere else. To do this, you’re going to use “Cubmaster skills” more than “Scoutmaster skills.” You’ll need to reach out to every unit in your district, and let them know that your Roundtables are going to be something special. Special presentations by special groups…the NRA for gun safety, the OA to show how a Troop benefits from having Arrowmen in it, local attractions (like a Navy ship or Army base, interactive museum, or even a store specializing in the latest backpacking gear, and so on…). And you’re going to set up a “duty rotation,” just like patrols on an overnight…Troop 1 does the opening ceremony this month, Troop 2 next month, and so on…Troop 3 does the closing this month, Troop 4 next month, and so on…Troop 5 comes and talks about their “special” place to camp this month, and Troop 6 next month…Troop 7’s in charge of refreshments this month and Troop 8 next month…you get the idea! In short, INVOLVEMENT is the key! And you’re the Master of Ceremonies, as well as the month-to-month “recruiter” of each presenter. Always include an “open forum,” so questions can get asked and answered. And be sure to tap into the Commissioner staff in your district—EVERY Commissioner should be at EVERY Roundtable: This is how they support you, and how they can help keep track of the health of the Troops they serve!

Many councils and districts think of Roundtables as adjuncts to training, and this is accurate. But YOU are NOT the trainer—Your presenters are the trainers (but don’t tell the audience that!). Your job is really that of talent Scout, recruiter, producer, director, and master of ceremonies, all wrapped into one. It’s a big job. It’s an IMPORTANT job! And, if you’re up to the challenge, it can be immensely rewarding.

A final thought: Set goals for yourself, and make them realistic and tangible. If attendance-by-Troop is, say, 15% right now, set a goal of 50% participation by June—not 100%, or you’ll burn yourself out way too fast, and frustrate yourself along the way! KISMIF – Keep It Simple; Make It Fun!

Dear Andy,

What do the bands or rays on the Arrow of Light mean? I may be doing a ceremony for graduating Webelos Scouts! (Kenneth Kimmel, SM)

The seven rays of the Arrow of Light represent the seven virtues of wisdom, courage, self-control, justice, faith, hope, and love.

Go to the “MacScouter” website (it’s inside the USSSP site) and you’ll find a whole bunch of different ceremonies that you can borrow exactly as written, or modify to fit your own situation. As for the bands on an actual arrow, you can have them stand for whatever you like! Ranks are a nice idea. You could include arrow points, too, and even CS Sports/Academics identifications (if they were into those programs, of course). In other words, be as creative as you’d like, and everything will turn out just fine!

Dear Andy,

I’m a pretty new Cubmaster. A few months ago, some of our Pack leaders wanted to “vote me out” because I was “aggravating” them. The watershed moment was when I wouldn’t let them have a combined Den meeting of new Tiger Cubs and our Pack’s Webelos Scouts (I found the notion of 30 or more people and the disparate age groups counter-productive to orienting our new Tiger teams. As a result, I was asked to step down or be voted out because I “had deeply offended the experienced leaders who had planned that meeting.” There’s a lot more that they oppose me on. I’ve challenged them on a host of topics, including training, two-deep leadership, fund-raising guidelines, and uniforming. I considered myself “safe” from a “legal” vote, since only the Pack committee had the authority to appoint or replace me, and that vote would result in a tie between my supporters and detractors. But these five leaders then told me that they were going to take a vote of all the registered leaders present at the next leaders meeting, and this would allow them to count the votes of other detractors, too. They “graciously” offered to let me trade positions with one of my ACMs because they didn’t want me to “fade away because of this.” I desperately want to maintain my position as CM, so that I can rein in this circus, so I begged and pleaded and promised to not be such a firebrand (I’ve played it very low-key over the past several months, and this group believes they’ve got me under their domination now).

So, now, in a couple of weeks we’re scheduled to re-charter. When I went through the paperwork, I made a discovery: One of the problem committee members isn’t registered, and neither is either of the two problem ACMs! I’m thinking that we could let these glitches stay the way they are and fill the “empty” positions with people who will follow BSA policies. So, one question is this: Is leaving these leaders’ non-registrations alone and filling the technically “empty” positions a good and legal option? Can the argument be successfully made that someone who’s been doing the secretary’s duties, but without being registered as such, should have the application filled out and made official? (Tammi Scott)

Well isn’t this a fine kettle of fish! One thing I’ve noticed is that mention of your Pack Committee Chair (CC) and your Pack’s Unit Commissioner (UC) are conspicuously absent. The job of registering and reregistering a unit is the CC’s; not the Cubmaster’s. Where is that person in this mess? Further, when a unit’s having “adult trouble,” the first person to be brought in as a mediator/facilitator/supplemental training instructor is the UC! Where is he?

The Cubmaster’s primary interest area is program—Not paperwork, not registrations, not fundraising. I’m obliged to tell you that you may be overstepping your responsibility area, in some ways. So, unless it’s program-related, cool it! That’s the job of the CC!

No, neither you nor anyone else can “register” people—They have to fill out the appropriate application themselves, sign it themselves, and write a check for BSA registration fees themselves, then turn these materials over to the CC for his or her signature—The Cubmaster doesn’t “sign off” on adult applications.

The other thing that seems to be missing is any mention of training. I’m guessing that nobody’s trained, or there would be fewer controversies about such things as uniforming, registrations, “voting” on other leaders, the role of the Chartered Organization head and the COR, etc. This tells me that the one most important thing that needs to be encouraged (by the Pastor, the COR, and the CC) is ALL DEN LEADERS GET TRAINED. In addition, anyone on the committee owes it to the DLs and you to get trained, too! Once this happens, you’ll all be on the same page, at least—You’ll all have the same knowledge foundation.

If, on the other hand, you and these other folks have been trained, it’s obvious that little stuck. Cub Scout training is not a “series of suggestions”–take ’em or reinvent the wheel. Cub Scout training tells you how to DELIVER THE PROGRAM AS IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE DELIVERED, and any variation is inappropriate, regardless of how ostensibly legitimate the rationale for deviating.

At the personal level, if I were CM and I’m getting that much resistance, I’d quit that job and be the Den Leader for my son’s Den, so that at least he and his friends can get the Cub Scout program the way it’s supposed to be delivered. That’s what’s most important here!

Hi Andy,

I need help in finding a list of the old Physical Fitness requirements for Eagle Scout rank. I believe that in the 1950’s the requirement was significant. Please tell me where I can find this information. (George Staight, Assistant Camporee Chairman, El Camino Real District, Orange County Council, CA)

I’m guessing you’re asking about the Personal Fitness merit badge. Yes, the requirements have changed substantially over the past 50 years. To see what they were like back in the ’50s, get your hands on a HANDBOOK FOR BOYS from that era—the Fifth Edition, published June 1953, should do just fine. Where to get one? Try eBay. You can pick one up there for $10 or less. You’re looking for the small-sized book with the two Scouts and an Explorer sitting around a campfire from which an Indian chief has emerged in the smoke.

Dear Andy,

I ran across your July ’05 column while searching for some information on my grandfather’s Troop—He was a Scout in Buffalo, NY, in the 1920’s, and his Scoutmaster English Army Captain who married one of the Kellogg daughters. I’d love to see if the gentleman he mentioned is still around. My granddad is 95 and living near Atlanta. If you could pass my message on, I’d appreciate it. (Bill Meldrum, MC, Troop 342, Shaw AFB, SC – wmeldrum@deism.org)

The follow-up to the item you saw in my July ’05 column is in the October ’05 column. The grandson of that gentleman is Mark Schuller and you can contact him directly at msdds@aol.com.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

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

(Mid-January 2006 – Copyright © 2006 Andy McCommish)

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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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