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Issue 73 – Mid-March 2006

Dear Andy,

A while back, you wrote about “fruit salad,” and I’d say you pretty much nailed it! Both boys and adults appreciate having leadership that has a clue. Since having a clue generally equates to having experience, the presence of several knots says that the wearer’s likely to know what he’s doing. The rest of it is simply jealousy. Any professionals who are insecure enough that they need to abuse volunteers about knots should take a look at the professional training square knot—It’s a recognition specifically for professionals! Go earn it and then wear it proudly! www.usscouts.org/awards/protraining.html (Pete Pate, National Capital Area Council, VA)

Thanks for your comment! You’ve sure sold me!

Dear Andy,

I need ideas of a good way to present the Bobcat pin to new boys in our pack. Our tradition had been turning the boys upside down, but as we all know, that is not allowed to do, coming down from BSA. Please give me some ideas that are just as exciting as turning them upside down. (Missy McNeil, DL, Pack 998, Grand Canyon Council, CO)

You can go to http://usscouts.org/usscouts/ceremony/bobcat.html for some nice Bobcat ceremonies, or refer to your CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK or the CUB SCOUT CEREMONIES FOR DENS AND PACKS book (BSA Catalog No. LT33212B), that you can buy at your local Scout Shop or at http://www.scoutstuff.org.

Dear Andy,

I’m preparing to participate in the Trail to Eagle Camp this summer, and I’m planning to earn these merit badges: Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World; First Aid; and Communications. Could you please provide a listing of the prerequisites for the Eagle-required merit badges? I’ve looked at the merit badge requirements, but I’m not sure what I must have already completed before working on these at camp. If you could provide me with this information, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks. (Matthew Mueller, First Class Scout, Troop 854, Detroit Area Council, Canton, MI)

Every council can have a slightly different way of handling prerequisites for merit badges to be earned at Scout summer camps or Trail to Eagle camps. I think your best bet would be to ask your Scoutmaster or other adult in your troop to find out for you. I do have a suggestion for you, and it’s this: The citizenships and communications merit badges can be earned any time of the year, and don’t require a summer camp setting, so maybe you’ll want to take a look at some that can pretty much only be done at a summer camp, like environmental science, wilderness survival, swimming, and lifesaving. Think and plan!

Dear Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout (’72) and have a nephew who has just joined Tiger Cubs. He lives a few hours away from me and I’d like to be able to talk to him about Tiger Cub achievement and awards. Where would I go on the Web to see what the Tiger Cub activities and requirements are? (Ray Keller)


Tiger Cubs advance by doing things with their parent-partners. This one-year program is all about bonding. To check out the actual requirements, go to the USSSP website (www.usssp.com) and click on “advancement,” then scroll down to Tiger Cubs and click again.

Dear Andy,

I’m an adult Eagle and I have a few Courts of Honor coming up that I’ll be attending. I’ve tried to find information as to appropriate attire without much luck. In the process I’ve found your column and I hope you can help. I have my old scout uniform (which has the patches redone with the square knots for adult wear), but I’m no longer actively involved in Scouting. Can I, should I, wear the uniform? If the uniform isn’t appropriate, am I allowed to wear the Eagle medal on a suit lapel? I do take great pride in my Eagle, and I want to know how best to wear it. (Thomas Collins, Mohegan Council, MA)

Your good sense is right on the money. Unless you’re a registered adult volunteer in the BSA, wearing your uniform wouldn’t be appropriate. However, that absolutely doesn’t preclude your proudly wearing your Eagle medal to a Court of Honor that you’ve been invited to! The way to wear it with a suit or sport jacket or blazer is to pin it near the top of the jacket’s left breast pocket, on the center-line of that pocket. (In other words, not on the lapel.) And, by the way, if anyone should say to you, “Oh, were you an Eagle?” Your smiling answer is, “And I still am.”

Dear Andy,

For the BSA Emergency Preparedness Award and the first option of Bear Requirement 3, locally, the Red Cross doesn’t offer anything for kids except a babysitting course. I’ve called our local Scout office, but they don’t have any suggestions. As advancement chair for our pack, I’m wondering if you have any suggestions about what might be substituted to fulfill this portion of the award, such as a self-directed first aid course for Bears that fits the requirements of a Basic Aid Training course (we have several parents in the pack who extensive medical experience—could they provide this training for our pack, and, if so, what should be covered? (Sharon Beetem, Advancement Chair, Pack 394, Greater Alabama Council, Alabaster, AL)

At the Bear Cub Scout level, the requirements for the BSA Emergency Preparedness Award are:

1. Complete Bear Cub Scout Achievement 11*—Be Ready.

2. Make a small display or give a presentation for your family or den on what you have learned about preparing for emergencies.

3. With your parent or guardian’s help, complete one of the following activities that you have not already completed for this award as a Tiger Cub or Wolf Cub Scout:

Take American Red Cross Basic Aid Training (BAT) to learn emergency skills and care for choking, wounds, nose bleeds, falls, and animal bites.

Put together a family emergency kit for use in the home. Organize a safe kids program such as McGruff Child Identification program.

Put on a training program for your family or den on stranger awareness, Internet safety, or safety at home.

The first requirement’s easy enough to do at home, and so is the second. Then there’s the third, which includes the BAT you’re talking about. But the lead-in to that requirement refers to working with one’s own parents (or guardian). So, here’s my suggestion: In the absence of an available BAT, Bear Cub Scouts can do either the second option or the third option instead, just as the requirement states.

Dear Andy,

I see where you told someone that Boards of Review (BORs) must be made up of registered unit committee members, and you also say that Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters cannot be on a BOR. Can you point out where this is officially printed? I’m the advancement chair for a Troop, and I do things a little differently—see below. Please let me know if my methods are out of line, as I feel our BORs accomplish multiple tasks.

In the first place, I see main purpose of our BORs to examine the moral character and goals of the Scout, and to help him fine-tune these points (our Troop has only a 1%-2% “drop rate,” so we must be doing something right).

BORs in my Troop are made up of four members: (1) a chair, who has sat on at least five previous BORs (This person keeps charge of the
proceedings, coaches the other members on procedure, has the Scout perform the Oath, etc., and gives the candidate the results after the BOR has conferred), (2) “camping adult” (usually an ASM, but must be someone who has camped with the candidate on a Troop outing, who discusses the moral shortcomings of the candidate as he relates to his fellow Scouts, (3) a committee member or “generic parent” who has sat on at least three previous BORs (this person is commonly the one with
inspiring questions), and (4) a brand-new parent or a parent relatively new to the process (this person is basically a “trainee”).

This BOR makeup does the following for our Troop: (A) It creates a quality experience for the Scout, (B) we get some absolutely inspiring questions posed to the candidates, and (C) this gives us a way to keep all of our parents involved (We require that all parents participate in at least two BORs per rank—Of course, parents can’t sit on their own son’s BOR).

Approximately 93% of our Troop’s candidates pass their BOR on their first try; the rest are usually asked to “re-present” one or two items the following week. (Our Troop has about 50 Scouts, which means that we have upwards to ten BORs on some nights.) The Scouts are trained to take their BOR very seriously. (Name & Council withheld)

I absolutely admire your sense of diligence, general sense of procedure, creativity in involving parents, and desire to get it right, as well as your willingness to describe what you do and how you go about it, and your sense of pride in your work as a volunteer for Scouting and the youth your troop is serving.

That said, yes, you definitely do things a little differently. Will you get bent out of shape if I tell you that you have some stuff to fix? Because you’re not exactly aimed at True North here. First, go buy yourself a copy of ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES at your local Scout Shop or through www.scoutstuff.org. After you’ve read the Boy Scout section of it, you’ll discover that you need to make a few changes…

“Parents” aren’t BOR members, except as observers, unless they’re registered troop committee members.

Although it’s not mandatory, the troop’s advancement chair is usually the chair of the BOR.

No Scoutmaster or ASM can ever be a member of a BOR, for any reason.

A Scoutmaster or ASM may be a non-speaking, non-voting BOR observer, and—if needed—they may be called upon to clarify a question, but that’s it.

BORs aren’t about “discussing moral shortcomings.” They’re about reinforcing the positive.

The notion “passing” a BOR contains the subtle but recognizable notion that a Scout can fail a BOR, and this is totally contrary to the purpose of a BOR.

The Scout is told, in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK (which I suggest you read also) that a BOR is a conversation with adults in the troop who are interested in his progress and how he’s getting on in Scouting and the troop.

I couldn’t give a flying fig about “inspiring questions”—I’d more hope to hear answers from the Scout that are open, honest, unflinching, straightforward, and—as the Scout matures—reflective and insightful.

As for putting unregistered parents on a BOR because you have logistical problems to solve—go find another way to solve them, because you’re absolutely outside BSA national policy on this one.

Finally, a BOR is much more a way to assess how well the troop is delivering the Scouting program to the boys in the troop than it is any sort of final exam or “supreme court” of the troop, which sees its purpose as evaluating the Scout. All that stuff has been done before the Scout ever gets to the BOR! Your job is to assess the troop, through the Scout; not the other way around.

Dear Andy,

I’ve enjoyed reading your column! Here’s some information for Randy Bernstein, who was (in your Mid-December 2005 column) inquiring about how to wear a second District Award of Merit knot. In the book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, in the last paragraph describing the D-A-M, it is stated: “It is not appropriate to nominate a Scouter who has already received this award.” It doesn’t get into any other details concerning other districts, etc., so because of this I have to interpret this requirement at face value—that if a Scouter already has the award, then that’s it. I’m sure that Randy’s district and council read into this requirement differently. One way to make sure is to contact the BSA office in Irving, TX, and ask for Terry Lawson—He’s the BSA’s National Director of Advancement. (Rick Darvas, Advancement Chair, Two Rivers District, Greater Cleveland Council, Cleveland, OH)

Thanks for reading, and for having sharp eyes! Your citation is right on the money, and your suggestion of Terry Lawson is an excellent option, if anyone has any questions about this (or any other) award.

Dear Andy,

As a Boy Scout, I was inducted into the tribe of MIC-O-SAY at the Bartle Scout Reservation in Oceola, MO, first as a Foxman, then returned the next year and advanced to Brave, but I didn’t return to Bartle the third summer, to advance to Warrior. I’m returning to Bartle this summer, this time with my own son. Is there a way for me to get my Warrior while I am there? (Don Soetaert, Last Frontier Council, Lenexa, KS)

A few years ago, I shared a Jamboree tent with a Scouter who was MIC-O-SAY out of Bartle, and there learned from him about this very special group, and about the special place Bartle was and remains! May the spirit of “The Chief” live on! I’m thrilled to learn that both you and your son will be at Bartle together this coming summer. But, as to your question, I think your best bet is to strike up a conversation with Tim Bugg, the Directing Chief, about becoming an Honorary (instead of Hardway) Warrior. You’ll find Tim at http://www.mic-o-say.org/.

Dear Andy,

Two comments on your March column…

Youth Protection Training: I’ve long been frustrated by the lack of clarity as to how often one must retake this. Scouters who serve on staff for events like National Jamboree are told to have YPT that’s current, but “current” is never defined. With other safety certifications, you get a card with a clear indication of when it expires. I have no idea why this hasn’t been done for YPT. Thankfully, with YPT (and Venturing leader specific YPT) now on-line, it’s now easier to get re-certified.

Waiting for a Court of Honor to recognize a Scout’s advancement: When I was trained as a scout leader, the emphasis was always on “immediate recognition.” This is how we did it in my old troop: the night the Scout earned the rank or merit badge, he was called forward at the end of the meeting and publicly recognized; then when we received the actual badges from the council office, he’d again be brought forward, this time to be presented with the badge itself. Then, at our next COH (we usually had three a year), he’d be recognized with the presentation of the pocket card for the rank, merit badge, or whatever else he had earned.

Recognition: When I was a Scout leader, in the days of skill awards and so on, our Troop keep on hand a stock of skill awards and rank badges through First Class, so that we were able to immediately give a Scout what he’d earned. We always turned in an advancement report, and that was how we got the cards and stuff to restock our supply. No, we never stocked merit badges (no one saw those on a Scout’s sash until a Court of Honor anyway, so there was no need to rush to present those). (Michael Brown)

On YPT, I agree that, in the absence of an expiration date, it should “technically” be good forever, but I also believe that it should have an expiration date and, in fact, not be good forever, because this is one of the most important areas we need to remain cognizant of and sensitive to! I’ve heard of councils not “permitting” the online version (which is sort of weird, inasmuch as it was produced by the BSA’s national council office), and this, to me, seems an overreach of authority.

On recognition, the troop I was in as a Scout used the rank pins instead of cloth badges (Yup, we hiked and camped with ’em and hardly ever lost ’em), so that, on the night your board of review was completed, you and your newest rank were presented to the troop and our Scoutmaster, right then and there, pinned on the new rank! Now I’m sure that some legal eagle would frown on this—filing advancement reports and all that sort of petty paper-pushing, which doesn’t change the outcome one iota, but, as a Scout, I can tell you it was a total turn-on! That was the night we felt ten feet tall!

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been asked to present this year’s District Awards of Merit at our district recognition dinner, and I’d like to find some history of this award. I’ve seen what’s online as far as requirements and such, but I’d like to add some color and history, if anything’s available. (Wayne Unwin, Blue Heron District, Tall Pine Council, MI)

If you’re open to a suggestion here, rather than talk about the history of this award, talk about the recipients. Get the nomination forms and summarize. Give your folks their “Fifteen Minutes of Fame”! They’ve certainly earned it!

Hello Andy,

I’m wondering how many Eagle Palms can be worn on the Eagle medal. I earned my Eagle at a very young age and was able to earn three Silver Palms. Can I wear all three on my Eagle medal, or should I just stick with one? (Yes, I actually earned 72 merit badges, but didn’t have the tenure time for another Bronze Palm. I’m 29 and still very active in Scouting. I’m currently a Unit Commissioner and really enjoy working on the district level. I still pin my medal on my uniform when I go to Eagle courts… Is this acceptable for an adult Scouter to do? I spend much of my time at work reading your past Q&As and really enjoy learning new things all the time. Keep up the great work! (Brian P, Suffolk County Council, NY)

Wow! I’m really impressed! And I’m delighted to learn that you’re involved in Scouting! The Unit Commissioner position is one of the most needed and most rewarding in all of Scouting! Of course you wear all three silvers—no question about it! (The reason you can’t find a “rule” on the “limit” of palms that can be worn is that there isn’t a limit!) In fact, if you can squeeze ‘em on the Eagle “square knot,” you’re definitely entitled to wear all three on your adult Scouter’s uniform, full-time! As for wearing your own Eagle medal to Eagle Courts of Honor, this is a very personal thing, and I don’t know of any “regulation” on this. So, I’d say that if you’re comfortable, and other folks are comfortable, then everything’s OK. It’s also OK to pin that medal on the pocket of a suit jacket or blazer, for wearing at appropriate times, especially if you’re one of the presenters (Unit Commissioners are often called on to deliver the “Eagle Charge,” or play some other roles in the ceremony itself—If your Troops don’t know this, it’s OK to tell them that you’d be happy to play a role!).

Dear Andy,

Is the district advancement chair expected or supposed to “archive” projects for Eagle candidates, including going out to various places to solicit them? Also, is the troop committee responsible for approval of an Eagle project from start to finish, while only expecting the district advancement chair to signify that they’re within guidelines, or is it within his purview to make changes to a project as he sees fit? I’m asking because people in my district are questioning this last point in particular, and I’m hoping you can add some light. (Kevin Tagg, SM and DAC, Matinecock District, Suffolk County Council, NY)

The role of a district’s advancement chair as related to Eagle projects is one of the most significant in all of advancement. Beginning with the Eagle project workbook, the district advancement chair (I’ll abbreviate this as “DAC” from now on) has the final approval of a project. This is absolutely NOT a “rubber stamp,” nor is it frivolous or “on a whim” in any way. The DAC is the final evaluator, using criteria such as these:

Will this project give the Eagle candidate the opportunity to demonstrate leadership of others?

Will the project itself be meaningful and of real value to the recipient?

Is the project of sufficient size/scope/challenge to be worthy of Eagle rank level?

As you’ll note from reading the BSA book, ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES, after the project has been reviewed by the candidate’s Scoutmaster, unit committee, and recipient of the project, it is submitted to the DAC for final approval; however, the DAC is not obligated to accept the project as described and planned. The DAC may, at his or her discretion, approve the project as described or return the project plan to the unit, with recommendations for refinement, improvement, expansion, or even contraction (some projects can be excessive in scope).

The DAC’s signature is the last one. After this final approval, the project itself may begin. It does not begin, for any reason, before receiving the DAC’s final approval.

One of the ways that a DAC can maintain fair, rigorous, and even-handed standards for Eagle projects is to maintain a data base of past projects, against which future projects can be weighed. This can go a long way toward minimizing uncertainty as to what will qualify and what might not among both Eagle candidates and their units’ adult leaders.

The DAC is not, however, responsible for soliciting or maintaining any sort of “bank” of potential Eagle projects. Responsibility for the original idea for any project rests with the candidate himself, and his unit’s adult leaders. That said, a candidate and/or his unit’s leaders who elect to confer with the DAC in advance of writing the actual project description are certainly helping themselves early-on and, having received counsel from the DAC at an early point in the overall process, are more likely down the road to receive approval with minimal refinements.

Once a project is completed, it is a representative of the recipient (that is, the community, church, synagogue, school, or other organization) that writes a letter to the candidate thanking him and indicating that the project is done.

The decision as to whether or not, and to what degree, the project was satisfactorily carried out (including the quality of the project report) is neither the unit’s leaders nor even, in fact, the DAC; it is the candidate’s Board of Review members who bear this responsibility.

Well, there you have it. An overview of the project approval process from beginning to end. If you have any more questions, be sure to write to me again. What I’ve described isn’t Ol’ Andy’s opinion. This is all BSA policy. The DAC is one of the most influential district-level positions in existence. Wear it well.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

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

(Mid-March 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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