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Issue 74 – April 2006

Dear Andy,

Recently, a reader asked you what a Cub Scout Pack could do if their Red Cross chapter didn’t offer a Basic Aid Training class that can be used to satisfy one of the requirements for the Bear-level Emergency Preparedness Award. According to the ARC, this six-hour course may be led by any responsible adult. Check it out at:

You don’t need to be a certified instructor to teach this course, so all a leader needs do is contact a Red Cross chapter, request information on how to order the teaching materials through the chapter, then follow them! (Paul Wengert, WDL, National Capitol Area Council, VA)

Thanks! I hope lots of readers can use this!

Dear Andy,

Our Troop is sponsored by an American Legion Post. They’ve offered us the Official American Legion Patch to wear. What’s the appropriate location for this patch? The American Legion website says that it’s to be worn on the uniform, but I didn’t find any information as to the appropriate location. (Mike, ASM, Gulf Ridge Council, FL)

That’s a very thoughtful and generous offer by your sponsor! And the appropriate location for the official American Legion patch is in a collection box or book, or on a “patch blanket.” The BSA is real direct on this point: Non-BSA patches/emblems aren’t worn on BSA uniforms.

Dear Andy,

Our Troop’s adult leaders have made some decisions that deviate from the national standards regarding rank advancement. Here are the most notable:

– Scouts may not repeat a leadership position to advance in rank. For example, a Scout holding a Den Chief position (a year-long position for those who want the Den Chief award) may, after six months, advance to Star if he was a First Class Scout at the beginning of the six month period, but that same Scout may NOT advance to Life after another six months as a Den Chief.

– In this Troop, certain leadership positions – for instance SPL, ASPL, Scribe, Historian – must be held for one year (mean a full twelve-month period), and so our Troop’s Scoutmaster and other adult leaders are holding Scouts back from advancing, their rationale being that the guidelines for rank advancement say: “Be active in your Troop and Patrol for at least X months (four or six, depending on the rank),” which they interpret as meaning “as long as we say so.” In other words, these leaders feel they can assign whatever term they see fit to the leadership positions. They do this in the name of “quality control,” claiming that they don’t want any young Eagle Scouts in the Troop.

I don’t think it’s fair to the Scouts. I’ve searched high and low on the BSA’s national website and I can’t find a place where repeating a leadership position is discussed, and I know that nothing short of being able to cite chapter and verse will change the minds of those in charge. How can I get this changed when the Troop’s other adult leaders clearly doesn’t want to? (Name & Council Withheld)

You said it all: Your troop is deviating from the BSA’s national standards regarding rank advancement. And you’re correct: This is a big NO-NO! In the first place, there’s no such thing as “advancement guidelines.” There are only advancement policies and advancement procedures, all stipulated very precisely by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA makes this precise statement (if you need to show it, go to page 3 of the BSA book, ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES): “No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.

Since “tenure” is a requirement for at least three ranks, then this policy applies to tenure, too.

Let’s take the example of a Webelos Scout who earns his Arrow of Light at, say, age 10-1/2. The earning of this rank makes him immediately eligible to join a troop and become a Boy Scout, whereupon he will equally immediately earn the rank of Scout, since the requirements for this rank virtually match requirements for the AoL. Then, 30 days for Tenderfoot and a couple of months for Second Class and then First Class (understanding, of course, that the Scout can complete requirements for both of these ranks concurrently–they do not have to be sequential) and so it’s possible for him to be First Class rank by his 11th birthday. The tenure from First Class to Star is four months, for Star to Life it’s six months, and Life to Eagle is another six months, so this means he can actually be an Eagle Scout before his 13th birthday. Now guess what… The BSA states clearly that this is perfectly OK! There’s no such thing as a “Young Eagle Application.” And, if the Scout has displayed the leadership, planning, focus, energy, maturity, and drive to do this, then who are we to even consider holding him back!? Who are we, in our false sense of infinite wisdom, to interfere with the progress of a young man toward his goal!? To anyone who attempts this I have but three words: SHAME ON YOU!

Let’s look at this another way… A First Class Scout is elected patrol leader and while he’s serving in this capacity he completes all of the other requirements for the rank of Star—He does this in, let’s say, three months. Well, he has one more month to go, because the requirement says “four months” for the leadership position/be active requirement. So, on the four-month anniversary of his election, he should have his Scoutmaster’s Conference and Board of Review for Star, because he’s now completed everything the BSA says he’s supposed to. Now, as a Star Scout, let’s say he continues as patrol leader for another six months. On that six-month anniversary, assuming he’s earned the merit badges, etc. in that time, he gets his SM Conference and BoR for Life rank! And so on.

The idea that a Scout has to hold a different position for his next rank’s tenure is pure nonsense and definitely fails to meet the standards of the requirements as set forth nationally by the BSA.

It’s fine for a Scout to hold a position for a full year, whether it be Historian or Senior Patrol Leader. But this has nothing to do with the tenure required for rank advancement. Advancement and leadership positions are interwoven in the BSA advancement program, but they do not operate in lock-step.

The principle of “quality control” is definitely important. The troop’s leaders should be certain that requirements are met as they’re written—no more, no less. But to use “quality control” as some sort of misguided way to justify deviating from stated BSA policy is a violation of policy and also an abuse of the youth in the troop… Especially when it’s used as a rationale for holding Scouts back from their natural drives for accomplishment, achievement, and success. In short, it’s totally counter to the fundamental purpose of the BSA advancement program, if not the philosophy underlying the entire Scouting movement.

As an Assistant Scoutmaster, and a woman, you will NOT be able to “educate” these misguided men to the errors of their ways—Don’t try. Mark Twain said it best: “Don’t try to teach a pig to fly… It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Instead, educate the Scouts themselves, and their parents, and help them to gather their strength and numbers en masse to demand that these self-important pinheads change their ways—immediately.

Dear Andy,

With recognitions for Cub Scout leaders, do you have to fulfill the training section over again for each one? Let’s say I want to put my Bear and 1st year Webelos leading tenure towards the Cub Scouter award. Do I need to do the Webelos leader training over again when I want to earn the Webelos Den Leader award? Or would the training count for both?

Another question: Do non-rank Cub Scout awards without rank specific requirements (same requirements for all levels) such as belt loops, pins and Leave No Trace, have to be completed within one rank-year? My son, for example, has completed some of the requirements for Leave No Trace and a couple of pins this year as a Wolf, and I need to know if he has to hurry up and finish them before his Bear year so he won’t have to start over, or can he just continue on them as a Bear? (Candace Mack, Den Leader, Pack 320, Blue Ridge Council, SC)

You betcha you’ll need to take a bit more training! Take a look at the actual progress records for the recognitions you’re seeking. The one for Cub Scouter allows for taking basic training for any Cub Scouting position, but the one for Webelos Den Leader says take training for that specific position. Now, maybe you sort of backed into the training continuum and somehow took Webelos Den Leader training a full year or more ahead of when you should have (this training doesn’t help a Bear-level Den Leader one bit!). So, just go back and take another training module, because “double-dipping” on training isn’t what this is really all about. It’s pretty painless to do this, and I guarantee you’ll learn something new that either you can use or you can help a brand new leader with! That said, Youth Protection Training does not have any expiration date, according to the BSA national council, so this does not have to be repeated (because, unlike the Cub Scout leader modules, it’s the same every time).

On your other question, just be sure to check the specific requirements of the advancements your son is working toward. Some indeed are “universal” but others have requirements that change depending on whether we’re talking about a Tiger, Cub, or Webelos, and then the program year in which they’re earned does matter! If there are no differences in requirements by program, then by all means your son can just continue till he’s got it done!

Dear Andy,

I’ve seen scouts with plastic name badges on their shirts. Can any Boy Scout wear these? Also, are merit badge sashes worn buttoned under or over the epaulettes? (Mary, Cimarron Council, OK)

There are two answers to your first question. The first one is that, yes, plastic name badges are “legal” for Boy Scouts to wear. They’re worn on the right pocket flap if there’s no Order of the Arrow flap-badge there, or alternatively worn over the right pocket immediately above the “BSA” strip and (if present) interpreter and/or Varsity strip(s). That said, name badges are typically worn by “contingent” Scouts or (occasionally) by an entire troop, but just about never worn as an individual item of adornment (i.e., just for the sake of tacking one more thing on the uniform shirt).

Regarding the merit badge sash, illustrations in BSA literature typically show it worn over the top of the uniform shirt’s right-side (only) epaulette and shoulder loop; however, from a practical point-of-view, I’ve seen these worn under the epaulette as a way to keep it from sliding off the shoulder (which happens regularly, unless the boy has shoulders like a Miami Dolphins linebacker!). But, no matter what, the sash is never worn draped over the belt!

Hi Andy,

I’d like to get something clarified—When do you need each of the class medical forms, like Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3? (Domenick Salvemini, Central New Jersey Council, NJ)

Each one of these forms—Classes 1, 2, and 3—is a “building-block” on the next one, and each of these forms contains a very precisely worded description of (a) who they’re for, (b) for what kinds of and duration of activities, and (c) how often renewal is required. Check ’em out!

Hi Andy,

I was looking online for information about BSA patches and came across your columns. WOW! What a great site. Thank You for what you do! I do have a question…

My husband and I are greatly involved in Scouts and love it so much! I have my own business and one of the things that I create are tote bags. I’ve made several plain bags to donate for different Scouting events, and they’re loved so much! I’ve been asked if I could make the bags but put the different logos on them by using BSA patches (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and so on). Because these would be for resale, my question is whether BSA guidelines allow this. (Elizabeth, Gerald R. Ford Council, MI)

My hat’s off to you and your husband for your volunteer work on behalf of Scouting and your community’s youth! The tote bags that you donate I’m sure are very popular, and much appreciated. The idea of sewing (I’m guessing you’d sew them on, rather than embroidering) Tiger, Wolf, etc. patches on bags that you donate is probably up to the discretion of your local Scout Shop. If they’re willing to sell you the patches for this purpose, then I’d say you’re free to do so. However, these are rank patches and some councils require advancement reports in order to purchase these. But, this shouldn’t stop you, as far as the basic concept is concerned, because there are lots of other patches—council shoulder patches, Cub-O-Ree patches, Pinewood Derby patches, and so on—and these aren’t restricted the way rank patched might be. So just use others, and you’re probably home-free! As for the re-sale aspect, I’m guessing that you donate the bags to a fund-raiser and then the event auctions or re-sells them (buyers pay or write checks to the event or the BSA; not to you or your business), and so you’re probably OK with what you’re doing. But, if you’re nervous about this in any way, just call your council service center and ask their chief financial officer.

NetCommish Note: If you plan to use the patches for an item that is donated to your local Council for fundraising, you should consult your local Council’s Scout Executive or Chief Financial Officer as indicated by Andy. If you plan to use the patches for a product that you sell (even if a portion of the proceeds is donated), you will need to obtain permission from the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office. All official BSA patches are required to include the BSA fleur de les which is a registered trademark. Use of that trademark is only by permission from BSA.

Dear Andy,

I’m the mother of a 14-year-old Second Class Scout who has been involved with Scouting for the past seven years. We happen to live in a “hot zone” for Lyme Disease. I am amazed and bewildered why an organization that trains boys about safety and first aid would send them into tick-infested areas wearing a uniform consisting of knee socks and shorts! Given certain other sensitivities, I doubt that any Scoutmaster or camp counselor would dare even suggest that the campers undress and check one another for ticks or rashes! With Lyme Disease being a potential chronic and debilitating disease that can go undiagnosed for months, why isn’t there an optional BSA summer uniform consisting of light-colored long pants with cuffed bottoms that’s made of a light-weight “breathable” fabric? To whom can I address this question, who can bring it up for serious consideration? (Pat Gorman, Chester County Council, PA)

You raise an excellent point. Various “anti-Lyme Disease” authorities recommend this attire in tick country: “Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep ticks off your skin. Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily. Tucking pant legs into socks or boots and tucking shirts into pants help keep ticks on the outside of clothing. If you’ll be outside for an extended period of time, tape the area where your pants and socks meet to prevent ticks from crawling under your clothes.” In addition, specific repellents and “tick-checks” (which do not involve any sort of nakedness, by the way) are recommended as well. Also advised is to avoid wooded areas that would brush against you, and tall grasses (thank goodness ticks don’t fly!) This important issue is something that you may wish to bring to the direct attention of your local Boy Scout council, either to the camping or program chair, or to the Scout Executive.

Dear Andy,

I have a problem. My sons were originally in a Troop that had a major upheaval that started at the committee level and went right down into the Scouts in the Troop itself. Ultimately, my sons and I left that Troop and joined another, where I’m now Scoutmaster. Now, a family that was a major cause of the problems in our prior Troop has been asked by that Troop to leave, son and all. The boy is a discipline problem, and his parents are even worse, and I don’t want to take this family (from whom I thought we’d escaped!) into our current Troop (where my sons have never been happier in Scouts than they are right now). I’ll be talking to my ASMs and Committee Chair about this, and I guess what I’m looking for is the best way to tell this family that we don’t want them, in light of their history of disobedience and discord. (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m going to make a leap here… It’s really not that you don’t want this Scout or his parents; it’s that you don’t want disharmony and discipline issues! So, if I were in your shoes, I’d make a list of “unacceptable behaviors” (make it parallel to what this Scout-with-problems is known to do, but include a few “extras” too, so it doesn’t look like he’s being targeted—even though this is exactly what you’re going to do). Type up the list and then wrap some words around it, like this:

We, the _____ family, understand and accept that the behaviors listed below are not acceptable in Scouting, and that Troop XX has zero tolerance for them. We herewith agree that if any one of these behaviors is observed at any time, grounds for dismissal from Troop XX will have been met, and we will abide by the decision of the Troop and its leaders without question, challenge, or appeal. The behaviors are:



______________________ ______________________ _____________________
(Scout) (Mother) (Father)

The reason I’m suggesting this approach is that here is a young man who perhaps needs the influence of Scouting more than many others, and so might be given the opportunity to straighten himself out, yet at the same time we can’t “sacrifice” an entire Troop for a single Scout

Dear Andy,

My wife bought me a Boy Scout Handbook that was printed 1964. As I looked through it, I came across a section titled “Citizenship,” and in this section was “The American’s Creed.” I remember this Creed and how it inspired me to strive to live by the Scout Oath and Law. Why was it taken out of print? (I’ve not seen it in the latest printing of the Handbook.) (Richard Barden, UC, Glacier’s Edge Council, WI)

Terrific question, and I’ll confess I have no answer for you! I remember memorizing this, as a Boy Scout some 50 years ago—not as some sort of “requirement,” mind you, but just because, as a kid, I thought it was pretty cool! Here it is in its entirety, and some history, too, with thanks to the website (

The American’s Creed

I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

The American’s Creed was a result of a nationwide contest for writing a National Creed that took place early in the previous century. It was intended to be a brief summary of American political faith, founded upon things fundamental in American history and tradition. The contest was the idea of Henry Sterling Chapin, Commissioner of Education of New York State. Over three thousand entries were received, and the winning entry was that of one William Tyler Page. James H. Preston, the mayor of Baltimore, presented an award to Page in the House of Representatives Office Building on April 3, 1918. The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the commissioner of education of the state of New York accepted the Creed for the United States, and the proceedings relating to the award were printed in the Congressional Record of April 13, 1918. William Tyler Page, the author of The American’s Creed, was a descendant of John Page, who had come to America in 1650 and had settled in Williamsburg, Virginia. Another ancestor, Carter Braxton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Still another ancestor, John Tyler, was our country’s tenth President. William Tyler Page had come to Washington at the age of 13 to serve as a Capitol Page; he later became an employee of the Capitol building and served in that capacity for over 60 years. In 1919 he was elected Clerk of the House. Thirteen years later, when the Democrats again became a majority party, they created for Page the office of Minority Clerk of the House, which position he held for the remainder of his life.

Of the Creed, Page said: “It is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and its greatest leaders.” His wording of the Creed chose passages and phrases from the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, and Daniel Webster’s reply to Robert Y. Hayne in the US Senate, in 1830.

Could this powerful statement, with it’s rich tradition, be something that maybe you could show new Scouts…?

Dear Andy,

I’m a District Commissioner and I’ve been using a monthly newsletter to keep my commissioner staff up to date on things. I’d like permission to reprint a column of yours on a regular basis. I don’t have a specific column in mind at present, but there are numerous Q&As in your archive that are relevant to topics and situations we’ve encountered here. I’m constantly looking for more content that can be added to the issues, and I feel that your column would certainly add value to our newsletter. (Garrett Wilkinson, Los Fierros District, Long Beach Area Council, CA)

I’d be honored to be a part of your newsletter! All I ask in return is that you call it “Ask Andy” (Yes, you can even use my picture, if you like) and that you publish my email address along with any Q&As, so that folks with special questions can ask them! You might like to know that I publish virtually every question asked, and that I also reply to each, individually, as well. Thanks for asking!

Happy Scouting!


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

(April 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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