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Issue 72 – March 2006

In my last column, Scouter Rick Pixler of the Great Salt Lake Council was looking for a listing of our Chief Scout Executives, National Presidents, and Honorary Presidents. I could give him a partial list, and asked for some help. Almost simultaneously, two fine Scouters came to our rescue—Michael Brown, fellow columnist and contributor to American Scouting Digest magazine, and Dave Loomis, of the Daniel Webster Council. So, all together, here’s what we have now:

National Presidents

Colin H. Livingston – 1910-24
James J. Storrow – 1925-26
Milton A. McRae – 1926
Walter W. Head – 1926-46
Mortimer L. Schiff – 1946
Amory Houghton – 1946-51
John M. Schiff – 1951-56
Kenneth K. Bechtel – 1956-59
Ellsworth H. Augustus – 1959-…

Chief Scout Executives
James E. West – 1911-43 (Became Chief Scout on retirement)
Elbert K. Fretwell – 1943-48 (became Chief Scout on retirement)
Arthur A. Schuck – 1948-59

Joseph A. Brunton, Jr. – 1960-66

Aldon G. Barber – 1967-76

Harvey L. Price – 1976-79

James Tarr – 1979-84

Ben Love – 1985-93

Jere B. Ratcliffe – 1993-2000

Roy Williams – 2000-

Honorary Presidents
Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 held title of Chief Scout Citizen (predecessor to HP)
William Howard Taft was first Honorary President under that title
(All successive US presidents have held this title)

If anyone else can add to this, send it in and we’ll keep going, here.

Dear Andy,

You recently mentioned that only one Jamboree patch can be worn. Actually, the INSIGNIA GUIDE authorizes two – a National one over the right pocket, and a World one on the right pocket. (Dave Loomis, ADC, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

Actually, Mike Brown also mentioned this to me, too! I’ll take 20 lashes with a wet lanyard! And thanks for keeping me straight! 

Dear Andy,

I remember reading somewhere that “term limits” were the preferred way to go, to avoid imprinting a program with one personality and to bring new ideas and plans and approaches to the table. In my troop, we’re having some difficulty getting folks to step up to the plate. Do you have any suggestions on how to entice parents into taking a more active role in troop support? We have a great Scoutmaster and ASMs, but we seem to lack the next level of support, at the committee level.

Is it ever OK to split a troop into age groups for camping trips? Recently I told our uniformed leaders that I didn’t think that this fit with BSA policy—My understanding is that all members of a troop are encouraged to participate in troop activities and we should never restrict this based upon age (or any other factor, for that matter). This didn’t exactly ring any chimes around here. The particular situation was that we’re trying to foster Junior Leader Training and the idea was to take the older Scouts off on a special camping trip for that specific purpose. Can you help with this one, too?

Yours is the column I look to first, and in the past you’ve been most helpful. (Jack, CC, Northern New Jersey Council, Wayne, NJ)

You’ve asked two important questions, and I’m glad you did, because both of my answers can’t be said enough! Here we go…

You’re dead on about tenure! If anyone stays in any one position too long, folks start thinking they “own” it, and a reign begins! I’ve found that, at the troop level, it’s best to transition after two years, three at the very most. (Even your Scoutmaster needs to consider this, by the way.) But, how to do it? Ahh, there’s the rub! “Broadcasting” the need usually doesn’t work, thanks to the “let George do it” way of thinking, so don’t expect anyone to step up to an “open casting” situation—ain’t gonna happen! Instead, identify just one or two top candidates for the job, then have a personal conversation with your first choice (include your Scoutmaster in this conversation, and clue him in on the plan). Tell your candidate the position you’d like them to take, that you think they’d do a great job, and that you’ll be right by their side to coach them through the first six months. Tell ’em it’s for two years—it’s not a “life sentence”! Then ask ’em, flat out, to take the job, beginning in 30 days. If you get a No, then you move to your second choice and repeat the process. One point: When you’re identifying candidates, never assume that “well, they’re already too busy…” because that’s up to them to decide; not you. Another point: Don’t automatically exclude ASMs from your committee position candidacy considerations.

Next…Did you realize that, really, it’s not “troops” that go camping? That’s right—It’s the patrols that do this! The patrol is the fundamental and critical “unit” in Boy Scouting; the troop is merely the “umbrella” for the patrols! So, when you’re thinking about camping or other activities, think The Patrol Method, always!

If you’re going to run a troop-level JLT (for which I absolutely commend you, by the way!), then the group that would take a special trip or go camping isn’t “older Scouts”—It’s the Patrol Leaders Council! That’s right—It’s the patrol leaders and the SPL, along with their Scoutmaster and maybe one or (at the most) two ASMs. If anyone tries to argue for including all the troop’s Scouts on this one, they don’t have a leg to stand on, because this is really a leadership training activity, and to participate, a Scout has to be elected Patrol leader or SPL first! (By the way, your Scouts do elect their own patrol leaders and SPL; they’re not appointed by adults, right?) At the troop/patrol level, all activities are always inclusive—This is what Scouting’s all about! If you do have a marked age separation, then you do what several troops I know do: You have a single outing, but two “degrees of difficulty.” For instance, patrols with younger Scouts might “car-camp” and tailgate their food and equipment, while your older-Scout patrols backpack it into the campsite and do a “wilderness survival” campout—Right next door to the troop’s other patrols! (This instills a sense of awe and aspiration—”Hey, look what THOSE SCOUTS get to do!”). Now go have some fun!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been searching for an answer to Youth Protection requirements. My question is: How often do you need to take YP training? Originally, we were required to take it every two years, but then about a year ago we were told that once you take the class once, you’re covered. Where can I find this in Black & White? (Deb, UC, Buckeye Council, Massillon, OH)

Although I can find no actual specification for when YPT becomes “outdated” or “expired,” various BSA sources (e.g., applications for adult Jamboree positions, council “campmaster” requirements, etc.) suggest renewals every three years. The cool thing is that, whether first-time or “renewal,” the online version of YPT (you can find it at is fast, straightforward, interactive, fairly entertaining, detailed, and (no driving required!) pretty painless!

Dear Andy,

Over this past weekend, our troop went camping. The ASM in charge focused on Cub Scout-level games and ignored the severe weather warning of below zero temperatures (He didn’t check that the Scouts had adequate sleeping bags or bed rolls). His main focus for this weekend was launching water bottle rockets and slingshot target shooting using paintballs. Well, none of the rockets worked because the water in the lines froze almost instantly. So, he turned to the slingshot paintballs instead. He stopped this game when the patrol he’s responsible for lost. There were a handful of paintballs left over, and some of the Scouts took a few. Later that night this ASM accused the Scouts of “stealing” his paint balls and he threatened to relieve them of their patrol positions, and told them that this incident will be brought up at their boards of review, and that “In the past we’d have just taken you out behind the woodpile and whipped you good!” I couldn’t believe what I heard, but just as he concluded with the Scouts, one of the other adults leaders was brought into the cabin in hypothermic shock, so I turned my attention to this more serious issue. But later, even though I was still mad, I didn’t want to get into an argument with that ASM because I was the only adult to have heard his conversation with the Scouts. Then, as the temperature continued to drop, he pack himself and his son into his car, ran the engine all night while they slept, and then left at daybreak, before the other adults were even out of their tents. I’m curious. What do I do? (Name withheld)

This needs to be brought into the open, because it’s a combination of apparently poor judgment, bullying, and verbal abuse. Begin by alerting the Scoutmaster that you and the Scouts need to have a conference, and give him an idea of what to expect. Ask him to have the Troop’s committee chair present, as well. Then, assemble two or three (absolutely not just one) of the older Scouts who were on this trip and, in this meeting, ask them to describe briefly but exactly what they saw and/or were subject to. (Let these Scouts know, in advance, that they are providing vital information and will not be challenged or put in a position of having to defend what they say—That’s why you’re there: You saw it and heard it, too.) The SM and CC will need to counsel this ASM privately, telling him in no uncertain terms that such behaviors or language can never, ever be repeated under any circumstances. If he attempts to defend his actions, or tries to make light of them, or has even the slightest resistance to this, he must be asked to resign immediately; if he refuses, then he’s fired on the spot. The grounds are simple: He violated several basic tenets of both Safe Scouting and Youth Protection for which the BSA has no tolerance.

But that’s not the end of this story! Read on:

Dear Andy,

I’m just curious… When someone writes to you and describes a problem situation they’re having, how do you determine your response? We all know that every story has two sides, so when you only hear one side, you’re missing the other. It’s come to my attention that a Scouter wrote to you about a winter campout involving paintballs. I don’t know what advice you gave this person, but you should know some things about him. He’s been involved with several units over his Scouting career and he’s had problems everywhere he’s been. He was asked to leave at least one of these units because of his questionable behavior and his inability to get along with others. He’s never satisfied with the troop’s program or their Scoutmasters and how they deal with his own misbehaving son. Rather than speak with the Scoutmaster, he constantly complains to the troop’s committee chair. Among MANY other things, he’s violated Youth Protection guidelines in various ways, including showering naked in the same facility and in the presence of Scouts. He’s also been involved with Scouts “skinny dipping” wearing only PFDs as “diapers.” Recently, he failed to acknowledge a problem with some Scouts (including his own son) making inappropriate physical contact with the Senior Patrol Leader: They were thrusting their pelvises on the SPL in a sexual way (pardon me, but “humping”). When another adult expressed concern, this man merely laughed and called it “a matter of interpretation.” As it turned out, however, the SPL was VERY uncomfortable about having contact made with him in such a way. It strikes me that it’s NOT a matter of “interpretation” when a youth feels violated in any way. Our troop tried to reprimand or remove him, but his wife, a paralegal, threatened legal action. Nearly every adult involved in our troop feels threatened by both of them, and no one will discipline their misbehaving son because they’re afraid of repercussions. He’s now threatening to request ANOTHER meeting with district representatives because he feels his son was treated unfairly by adult leaders at that campout—It was his own son, plus a few others, who took the paintballs after they’d been told not to. (It might be worth mentioning that the patrol leaders council selected the paintball target-shooting game, and LOVED it. They also chose the water bottle rockets, which they found out didn’t work too well in sub-freezing temperatures (We’d warned them, but they had to find out for themselves!). Meanwhile, the Scouts who took the paintballs (one boy dumped 13 of them out of his coat pocket, after he was ratted out by a fellow patrol member who was concerned about safety) were throwing them at each other and into the campfire, then they lied about it. The man I am speaking about feels there was nothing wrong with this—He doesn’t see that when a Scout came to adult leaders with concerns about the situation of others throwing paintballs around, that they needed to act. This man’s sense of right and wrong is drastically different from the other adults in the troop. As I said, I don’t know how you advised him, but I would caution that when you give advice you don’t always hear the full story. This man who twists the truth to serve his own purposes. He gets riled up to fight everyone very easily, and now it seems he wants to go into battle. There are quite a few parents who don’t want this man anywhere near their sons because of his tactics, and now HE is threatening adult leaders for dealing with his son in a logical, non-threatening way. This is a shame because there are caring, dedicated, highly qualified and trained leaders (some are Wood Badge-trained) who have dedicated years to the Scouting movement and who are now considering quitting because of this man and his wife. These two play by their own rules. They’ve caused more stress on our leaders than I can begin to express, and in the end it’s the Scouts who’ll pay the price. (Name withheld)

I take every letter I receive at face value unless my “baloney detector” goes off (this does happen, from time to time). I am neither an arbiter nor mediator, and I’m certainly not “Da Judge.” That’s the job of someone who operates at ground level, like your troop’s Unit Commissioner, for instance. While all stories might have two sides, those sides can be (in simplest terms) right-right, right-wrong, or even wrong-wrong. With regard to people who write to me about problems such as the one you’ve described in your own letter to me, I rarely say, “You’re RIGHT!” I usually describe how this problem should be handled. Often, when folks follow what I’ve suggested, the “truth” emerges and the problem is resolved where it belongs—at the unit level. Let’s take your own situation… Based on what you’ve told me, you have at least one but likely more than one leader who is repeatedly violating Youth Protection and Safe Scouting protocols, and a bunch of other leaders and parents who have consciously chosen to do nothing to protect the Scouts. Their rationale is that the wife “is a paralegal” and “has threatened a lawsuit,” to which I say, SO WHAT. If the Troop’s other leaders, in the firm and verifiable knowledge of the violations you’ve described, permit this person to continue violating stated procedures and policies, then shame on every one of ‘em! It’s time to stop being bullied and grow some spines. It’s time to stop walkin’ small around the elephant in the campsite and go chin to chin if necessary. If you don’t, the lawsuit you’ll all be facing will be from the parent of a Scout who has been abused or injured, and you won’t have a leg to stand on. Is this where you want this to go? Because—trust me on this—this is where it’s going to go. It’s not “if”—It’s only WHEN.

And I received this response:

Thanks so much for your informative reply. Glad to hear your stance on advising on how problems should be handled. Yes, we agree about the Youth Protection and Safe Scouting violations. Unfortunately, when our troop reported these to our district executive and commissioner, the person in question and his paralegal wife responded with a request for a district-level meeting with our SM, CC, DE, etc. The meeting was held and ended with a request (demand?) for our Scoutmaster to retract the charges against this person—The SM complied because he apparently didn’t have enough written documentation with him at this meeting to corroborate the charges. So what do we do now? By reporting the incidents to our district, I’d thought we acted properly, according to Youth Protection Guidelines. You’re so right about standing up to this “power couple.” I think we need to ask these folks to leave the troop—and it won’t be the first time they’ve been asked to leave a troop. (NW)

And so I replied…

Retraction? You cannot be serious! You folks need to find a spine store—fast. I’m not joking around. To blazes with “written documentation” or “district representatives”! Schedule a meeting with the ONE PERSON who can make expulsion happen instantly, and cannot be challenged: The head of your Chartered Organization. At that meeting, bring in the Scouts (like that SPL) who skinny-dipped, showered in the wet presence of an adult, and bring in the PARENTS of these Scouts. I’ll guarantee you that you’ll be heard—loud and clear. Get this over with. But, you’d all better be walking into this with clean hands.

One final word on this: This sort of stuff needs to be dealt with ON THE SPOT. Don’t come back home whining and getting ready to play “He said-She said.” Deal with it. Then and there.

Netcommish comment: Experienced Commissioners know that any one person’s rendition of a conflict situation is colored by experience, perception, emotions, and sometimes other motivations. The letters above indicate two perceptions and different accounts of a number of situations. From reading emails it is difficult to know who is writing with good or bad intentions and so as Andy says, you can only take the messages at face value. It may be that there is some or a lot of truth in both, some misstatements in both, that one is absolutely correct, or that one is absolute baloney. We can’t tell and can only respond to what is presented with advice and not judgment.

The information, as presented, could lead one to suppose that there is more than one leader that is off course. My concern, in writing this addendum, is not for the squabble between adults, but for the Scouts who are potentially subjected to abuse, the subject of inappropriate behavior, and whose Scouting experience has to be pretty sub-standard due to the problems, if the descriptions are accurate. In short regardless of who is right or wrong, the Scouts may be at risk and could be cheated out of a good experience. Neither is an acceptable outcome.

The Chartering Organization is ultimately responsible for the selection of leaders for the Troop and assuring that the leaders carry out the program of the Scouting Movement according to the rules of Scouting, assuring Youth Protection, good moral leaders, and good examples of citizenship. The person registered as the Chartered Organization’s Head and a signatory on your charter can decide right now who is a leader and who is not. That same person can remove adult registrations at will and has the responsibility to act when it is needed to assure that proper leadership is supplied to the unit. This is the person who should be called upon to sort out matters. He/she will have more knowledge of the local circumstances and the interests of the Chartered Organization to protect as well. No Chartered Organization will want to allow a risk situation to continue, especially, if it could subject them to liability for failing to act.

This matter should also be presented to the Scout Executive of the Council and not the District Executive. The Scout Executive is responsible for enforcing Youth Protection and also has authority to revoke a registration.

And while we’re at it, let’s open up the Guide to Safe Scouting and Youth Protection Guide, then read ’em. Each violation needs to be addressed and corrected. The safety of youth members is more important than the problems of the squabbling adults (I have to say that because we have he says, she says version and can’t know the whole story). Get this to the Chartered Organization Head and the Scout Executive who can take action, if it is warranted.

Don’t be surprised if a house-cleaning takes place. I have worked with Chartered Organization Heads who, understandably, got tired of all the adult problems and started with a clean slate to avoid all the old grudges and recriminations. I’ve also seen a situation where a unit was simply disbanded as too much trouble, which in that case was better for the Scouts who joined units with good programs.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Baron Lytton, Richelieu (act III, sc. 1, l. 49)

Dear Andy,

I have questions about the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award. First, where it talks about tenure, it says that you must complete one year as a registered leader… Does that mean twelve full months, or the date the pack recruited the new boys, to the date that the boys move up into the Wolf Den? Second, it says that you must graduate a Tiger Cub den into Cub Scouts with at least 60% of the Tiger Cubs becoming Cub Scouts… Does this include all the Tiger Cubs that filled out registration forms at the recruitment rally, or just those who didn’t drop out of the pack? My problem is this: We had six Tiger Cubs register at our annual recruitment rally, but then, when the meetings began and I started calling the parents to inform them of the time and place and give them their Den information, they told me they weren’t interested any longer, and requested that I drop them from the den and pack. (Missy, Capitol Area Council, TX)

Unfortunately, you can’t be a Den Leader unless you have a den of boys! If no den was ever formed, then tenure and continuation into Cub Scouting become sort of immaterial! Gotta have a den, first! Just having a title or position, but not doing anything, doesn’t count for much, despite your sincerity and good intentions.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been looking for a list of all the councils in the United States along with their website information. I’m wondering if you can help. (Brian Paisley, CM, Pack 935, Buckeye Council, North Canton, OH)

Try this:

Dear Andy,

Is there any BSA policy preventing a husband and wife from both being the signatories on a unit’s checking account? I can’t seem to find any information on the Web and, to me, it seems like a bad practice, but the committee of a troop I just got involved with doesn’t see any problem. (Dale Mellor, Kickingbird District, Last Frontier Council, Altus, OK)

Yup, there sure is… It’s called good sense. No one needs a “policy” to know that this is not a cool idea. And it doesn’t need a “vote” to fix it. The unit’s committee, as a whole, simply tells these folks, “One of you, but not both of you, and this is for your own protection.” Period. Then make it stick.

Hello Andy,

In our pack, we have a leader who received the Emblem of Faith as a boy. What paperwork do we need to file, for him to get the Knot? The same applies for the Arrow of Light square knot. (Sammy Sparks, ADL and having a blast, West Tennessee Area Council, TN)

The badge representing a religious award for youth (No. 05007) is a silver square knot on a purple background, and is typically available for purchase at any council Scout Shop, without “paperwork.” The Arrow of Light (No. 05018) red and green square knot is typically also available without paperwork. In effect, they’re both in the category of “Scout’s Honor” — If a Scout or Scouter says he’s earned them, that’s sufficient. So, just go buy ’em, and then give them to the appropriate folks. Or, they can buy them for themselves. Keep havin’ a blast! It just keeps getting better and more fun!

Hi Andy,

I just took over as the new Scoutmaster for our troop, and I have two questions… First, do we have to wait for a Court of Honor to advance a Scout to the next rank or to give him his earned merit badges? (In my last troop we advanced them after they completed their Board of Review and gave them their merit badges when they earned them, then at our Court of Honor, we presented the Scout in full uniform and formally recognized all of his accomplishment in that period—This is where we gave them their pins to pin onto their mothers.) My second questions is this: Our Troop is in a small fishing village in Alaska and I’m wondering what can I do as the Scoutmaster to help a Scout work on a merit badge that we don’t have a Counselor for—We have Counselors for about 20 merit badges. There’s no road access into our town, and we’re isolated from other troops. I hope there’s something I can do for these Scouts. (Kevin Kimber, SM, Troop 624, Western Alaska Council, Cordova, AK)

With a population under 2,500, and pretty isolated, Cordova represents an interesting Scouting challenge, and I’m impressed to see you hard at work to make it work! Let’s see if I can help a little…

No, you don’t have to wait till a court of honor; in fact, you shouldn’t—that’s counter to the advancement process! As soon after the board of review as possible, the Scout should be presented with his rank or merit badge(s) in front of his fellow Scouts. Check your SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK—The advancement process is: The Scout LEARNS, the Scout is TESTED, the Scout is REVIEWED, the Scout is RECOGNIZED. The recognition step happens as fast as possible. This way, the Scout can immediately continue on his advancement path!

What you want to do, as Scoutmaster, is not add to your already challenging job by taking on a bunch of merit badges! Instead, your troop needs to reach out to the community at large. There’s a high opportunity for success, because it a town of Cordova’s size, I’m going to guess that everyone pretty much knows everyone! So, ask your troop committee to find people in town who know something about the subject matter of the merit badges you’d like to add, to enrich your Scouts’ Scouting experience, and then recruit them to become registered counselors for the appropriate merit badge(s). Here are some folks to recruit, off the top of my head and not even thinking too far “out of the box”…

  • Your town’s mayor for the three Citizenships.
  • A lawyer for American Labor, Law, and Public Speaking.
  • Your police chief, sheriff, or US marshal for Crime Prevention, Fingerprinting, Public Health, Rifle Shooting, Shotgun Shooting, and/or Traffic Safety.
  • Your fire chief for Emergency Preparedness, Fire Safety, First Aid, and/or Safety.
  • A doctor for Disabilities Awareness, First Aid, Golf (just kidding!), Medicine, Personal Fitness, and/or Public Health (notice they’re beginning to overlap, now!).
  • A veterinarian for Animal Science, Dog Care, Mammal Study, Pets, Reptile & Amphibian Study, and Veterinary Medicine.
  • An Inuit or a teacher for American Cultures, American Heritage, and/or Indian Lore.
  • An engineer or contractor for Architecture, Drafting, Electricity, Engineering, Plumbing, and/or Surveying.
  • A bush pilot for Aviation and/or Wilderness Survival.
  • Your local newspaper’s publisher or editor for Entrepreneurship, Graphic Arts, Journalism, and/or Photography.

The idea is to get the whole town behind the troop! I’ll bet you can think of other good fits between the talents and interests of folks you all know and what merit badges you’d like to offer your Scouts! And I’ll bet that, when you simply ask, folks will jump to get involved! Just be sure everyone who steps up to the plate gets registered as a Merit Badge Counselor with the Western Alaska Council (you can download the adult application, and then mail it in, and merit badge pamphlets are available through either your council’s Scout Shop or online for $3.50 a pop at ).

Dear Andy,

About square knots, while the INSIGNIA GUIDE is silent about the number a Scouter can wear, here is some additional information:

    • Per the Sea Scout Manual, leaders are limited to six knots.
    • Per the new Wood Badge Staff Guide (which I personally don’t have, so can’t verify), WB Staffers are limited to nine knots for the duration of the WB course.
  • I’ve been told that those who attend National Camp School are told they should limit the number of knots to nine as well. (sorry, no source for that, haven’t never been to NCS).

For Jamboree patches: Once a person has earned the right to wear a Jamboree patch, he or she may wear it as long as they like. If someone attended the 1981 Jamboree, they can continue to wear it, especially if that’s the only one they ever went to. (Michael Brown)

Thanks, Mike! Yup, there are lots of “unwritten rules” about knots, but just walk around any Jamboree and you’ll notice that, with the possible exception of Sea Scouters who actually have a written “standard,” unwritten rules are pretty much ignored (as they should be… The written standard is “uncluttered;” not “sell yourself short”).

And you’re right on the money about Jamboree patches—Even if the 1937 Jamboree is your “most recent,” you’re still entitled to wear it!

Dear Andy,

I am the committee chair of a Cub Scout pack with a serious problem. The Scoutmaster of our “feed-into troop” wants to control everything—He does all troop’s program planning, he withholds information from his leaders, leaving them high and dry when he’s absent, the troop meetings he runs are a school-like set of merit badge classes, where the Scouts are actually tested, and if he isn’t running these classes then he’s lecturing the Scouts throughout the meeting. He has no Assistant Scoutmasters because he’s harassed them and forced all of them out of “his” troop. There’s almost no advancement in the Troop. He also constantly tries to control the troop committee (Previously, he’d stuffed the committee with “Yes men,” who just caved in whenever he had a demand. He’s demanded the dismissal of the committee chair (me!) because I didn’t “cooperate” with him (he’s even tried to force me into an ASM slot, so he could then “control” me—I refused). Even after I’d turned down the ASM position, persisted in insisting that I fill this position. Ultimately, about five months ago I resigned my CC position in the troop. At the same time, this SM had been a member of the Cub Pack Committee for a few years, where he maintained the same curmudgeon attitude but did no actual work. In fact, through much of last year, he’s been dead wood on the pack charter, not attending any pack meeting or function, or committee meeting. So, when we renewed our charter, we, the committee, decided to take his name off the charter. But then he did show up at a committee meeting and he demanded that we put his name back on the charter. I told him that I’d “do what I can,” but I removed his name from the charter anyway.

When I gave our pack’s re-charter papers to our Chartered Organization Representative, I told him about this removal, and the COR signed the corresponding documents, and that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. About a month later, he asked me about whether he was registered with the pack committee, and I told him no, because he hadn’t been active in any way for seven months. Well, as you might expect, he demanded to be reinstated, and I told him that I’d bring it to the attention of the committee for a vote, which I believe is the right thing to do. But in the meantime, he talked to our Chartered Organization Rep. and demanded of him to be reinstated. Now, the pack’s rumor mill has it that that the COR will reinstate him, which is counter to the vote of the committee! In addition to the committee members, many parents don’t want this guy involved with the pack, and some believe the COR’s action to be insensitive to our decision. I’ve said that I’ll leave the pack if the COR overrules the committee, and many families have said that they’ll not stay with the pack if I leave. What do I need to do to remedy this situation? (Glenn Scanlon, CC, Pack 304, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

I’m glad to see that you’re not subjugating yourself to this bully of a Scoutmaster, and I sure hope you’re not sending your Pack’s Webelos Scouts into this Troop, because doing that could doom their Scouting experiences entirely. You did great, except for one little hiccup, and that’s that jazz about how you’ll take it up with the committee ’cause that’s only fair. Baloney! Stand your ground and tell him flat out: NO WAY, BUSTER! But he probably would have tried to go around you anyway, so let’s deal with the COR, whom he seems to be pushing around now. (By the way, that’s exactly what bullies do—When they can’t push the goat around anymore, they switch and try to push around the sheep!) So, here is exactly what you must do, immediately: You AND the committee AND your Cubmaster and Den Leaders call a meeting with the COR. At that meeting, you tell the COR this:If you so much as give that tyrant the time of day about being in any way associated with this pack, we’re ALL outa here. Period. No negotiating. End of story.

Now here’s something you need to know: The COR is absolutely NOT the final arbiter of who’s on the pack committee and who isn’t. The COR position is for liaison and communications only; the COR does NOT have this sort of decision-making power—and that’s BSA policy; not some whim of ol’ Andy here. If the COR disagrees, tell him to go look it up. It’s in Chapter 4 of the CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK. Go for it!

Dear Andy,

This is probably an age-old question, but I’d like to get an objective and clear answer: Who can sign off rank advancement requirements? I’m asking because our troop’s had a few problems in the past, such as anyone signing for anyone, parents signing for their sons, brothers signing for brothers, and so on. To correct some of this, our troop established these guidelines:

  • Family members cannot sign off for one another,
  • A Scout must be First Class or higher before he can sign off for other Scouts,
  • A Scout must be a higher rank than the one for which he’s signing off requirements, and
  • Anyone who signs off on a requirement must be convinced that the Scout has actually fulfilled the requirement; if there is any doubt about fulfillment, the Scoutmaster should be called in.

Is this in line with official BSA policies? We want our First Class and above Scouts to be actively involved with rank advancements for our younger Scouts.

One step further, can we as a troop do anything about requirements that have already been signed off, but which are signed off contrary to our policy, when it’s a Scout who is transferring into our troop? (Our troop is part of a very mobile ex-pat community, and our Scouts come and go every three years or so.)

Last, what do we do when we notice a new-to-our-troop Scout doesn’t really have the skills that were signed off before he joined our troop? (Dina Bunn, ASM, Troop 90, Transatlantic Council, Frankfurt, Germany)

Germany is a country of my ancestors, and Frankfurt is a lovely city I’ve enjoyed visiting on several occasions—especially when I sit outside for dinner in the Romerberg!

It sounds like you already have a very good handle on the “signing-off” stuff, and I admire your diligence in making sure Scouts participate in this process. (In some Troops, the Scoutmaster insists on doing all sign-offs himself, and this robs the Scouts themselves of an important aspect of leadership and helping others.) I’m sure this is why, on the Handbook’s sign-off pages (438-449), it simply says “Leader” and not Unit Leader or Scoutmaster. I also agree with you that non-registered parents shouldn’t be signing off on their son’s requirements—This isn’t Cub Scouts (sometimes you need to remind parents of that!). Just one suggestion here (that you’re probably already doing but just didn’t happen to mention): I’d make sure that, if an adult is going to sign off requirements, he or she is a registered leader in the troop. Of course, if the parent is a registered leader (Scoutmaster, ASM, or even Merit Badge Counselor), there’s absolutely nothing wrong or “against BSA policy” in signing off for one’s own son! And that’s a fact; not Ol’ Andy’s opinion!

Now let’s take a look at your special situations… In the case of a Scout who is transferring into the Troop, and it’s obvious that his parents have been signing off on requirements up to now, a Scout-and-parents conference is in order. The two people in your Troop to do this are the Scoutmaster and your Troop Advancement Chair (in the absence of that position, then the Troop Committee Chair). In this conference, you’ll refer the Scout and his parents to his own BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, pages 438-449, and ask them to note that the sign-off places say LEADER initial and date; not “parent” or “Akela.” Then, quickly point out that everything signed so far will stand as signed. And then equally quickly point out that, from now on, BSA policy will be followed (you may need to emphasize that this isn’t some “Troop rule”—It’s BSA policy). That should take care of this. (By the way, now is also the time to recruit one or both parents to take an active role in the Troop!) What about a Scout whose skills don’t seem to be quite up to snuff? Help him, without letting him know you’re helping him. Find ways for him to improve the skills he may be a little weak in. Have him teach new Scouts (of course, he needs to properly prepare before doing this, right?) Show him new ways—”Hey, wanna learn another way to tie a Bowline knot?” But, whatever you do, DON’T ever take anything away from him—That’s the fastest way to permanently damage a boy that I can think of! Have I covered what you need? If not, write again and I’ll “Do My Best”!

Happy Scouting!


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

(Mid-March 2006 – Copyright © 2006 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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