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Issue 76 – May 2006

Dear Andy,

In your mid-March column, Sharon from the Greater Alabama Council asked about the BSA Emergency Preparedness Award, and said that her local American Red Cross didn’t offer the Basic Aid Training (BAT) Course. I suspect that that chapter also doesn’t offer the First Aid for Children Today (FACT) course, which Tiger Cubs can used to satisfy part of the requirements for the Emergency Preparedness Award. The good news is that any adult can teach these two courses: Just talk to your local chapter, and then complete a “Leader Agreement” (this also involves learning about what paperwork is needed at the completion of the course, and the administrative fee that the ARC will charge). Any adult who wants to do this can order the necessary materials online at (click on the First Aid/CPR/AED tab near the top of the page). You’d need to order the Instructor’s Manual and a set of participants’ books (these come in a pack of 25—just save the extras for the next round of kids!). The video, “Rescue Kids,” isn’t needed for the BAT course. Also, there’s a revision to the Instructor’s Manual that can be found at (after registering as a new user, click on the First Aid/CPR/AED tab near the top of the page, find Basic Aid Training (BAT) and click on it, and then check out ECC 2000 Errata. Most small ARC chapters don’t realize that these programs have changed, so that any pre-qualified adult can teach these courses. By the way, the Red Cross has a program available called “Together We Prepare.” It’s a disaster preparedness course, lasts about 90 minutes, and at level 1 class is intended for grades 1-5. This course can also be taught by any pre-qualified adult.

I hope this helps resolve some questions and helps Cub Scout leaders help bring these programs to our youth. By the way, Boy Scouts can help teach these courses to Cub Scouts or in their communities, and since the BAT course is 6 to 12 hours, it could make a great service project for Star or Life rank! Of course, adult supervision to insure the quality of the program would be a vital part, but I would love to see our Boy Scouts helping others to “Be Prepared”!

If anyone needs more information or help on this or other Red Cross Programs, they can contact me at — In the “subject” line, just say “Scouts” or “Red Cross,” so I don’t accidentally mistake it for spam. (Tom Burke, Webelos Den Leader/Venturing Associate Advisor, and Health and Safety Services Administrator for the Mexico, MO Red Cross Chapter)

Thanks for the excellent follow-up and suggestions! When Scouters like you help others through this modest little column, you make my day!

Dear Andy,

To reinforce your answer (last month) about the Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit “flaps,” the only semi-official statement on these by the BSA is found in small print in two places in the retail catalog, stating these are not uniform patches, but should be worn on a patch vest, or placed on a patch blanket. (I also agree that these patches are a dumb idea.) (Steve Hanson, UC & Troop Chaplain, Capitol Area Council, TX)

I checked… You’ve got sharp eyes! Thanks!

Dear Andy,

In an earlier column of yours, Michael Brown mentioned keeping a supply of rank pins for immediate recognition, and expressly noted the need to turn in the advancement forms, both to replenish their supply of insignia and to insure that their council receives notice of the Scouts advancing. This was the main point of the objections to stocking, “rat holing”, or any other name for the practice of keeping a supply of rank insignia or pins to give to the Scout. In many cases, although the Scout was presented with his rank pin, the notice of his progress never made it to council, which causes lots of trouble later, like when Freddy First Class’s Advancement Report, showing that he advanced to Star, hits the council office, but they have no idea when he made First Class so they can’t tell if he has the tenure in the rank of First Class, or has even earned First Class, to be eligible for the Star rank. This may be no big thing in Troop 123, Anytown, USA, as long as Freddy doesn’t change troops, because everyone remembers how, on the night Freddy sat for his First Class board of review, a wind storm struck, knocking trees across the power lines, and the last part of the board was done by the light of a Coleman lantern. But what often happens is that Freddy’s family moves without filling out a Youth Transfer Form, and his new Troop has no way of proving when he stood his Board of Review for the First Class rank. In my own case, I’ve worked for three months trying to track down and verify advancement records for Scouts in Troops on US military bases—some of these Scouts have been in as many as three and four troops, and their unit leaders have moved, too, so that verifying advancements gets tough.

In my opinion, every Scout and his parents should be handed a copy of the Adult/Youth Transfer Form whenever they move, with duplicates kept by the “old” Troop at least until their leaders are sure that the family’s settled into their new home and Scout Troop. This prevents the panic that occurs when it becomes obvious that the one box the movers lost is the one with all of Freddy’s Scouting gear, pictures, records, and advancement cards! (Dave Loomis)

Terrific thoughts and suggestions – Thanks for your loyal reading, and writing!

Dear Andy,

About that Leave No Trace question in Mid-April, another place to look for projects is: (Paul Wengert, Tiger Cub DL, Pack 167, National Capitol Area Council, VA)

Thanks! Here’s another excellent resource, Scouters!

Dear Andy,

Some thoughts about some stuff in your Mid-April column…

On wearing the OA and merit badge sashes at the same time: Right answer; however, if a Scout is specifically representing the OA at a court of honor, then it would be appropriate for him to wear the OA sash and not a merit badge sash. Also, I think it needs to be emphasized that merit badge sashes be “saved” for appropriate events such as courts of honor (I see too many Scouts wearing them at inappropriate times, like Boy’s Life photo ops, Jamborees, etc).

On Mother’s Pins: Actually, National Supply has been making and selling “mother ribbons” for the pins for a few years. They have two kinds: one for Cub Scouts and one for Boy Scouts. I see several female Scouters wear these pinned to their uniforms. Personally, I think they should save them for courts of honor, and not wear them for everyday Scouting events.

Boy Scout Proud Parent Pin:

Cub Scout Proud Parent Pin:

Michael Brown (Web Columnist)

Right on! But now, take a look at the cover of the most recent Scout Stuff catalog: Ouch! OA sashes for no apparent reason, and a merit badge sash draped over a belt. It sure would be nice if, like they do for cop/military movies and Tv shows, have a “technical consultant” at the shoot, so that they get it right.

Yup, you can buy a brag rag if you like, or just make one. (We Scouters sure like to hang all sorts of stuff all over our uniforms, don’t we!)

Dear Andy,

Where can I find out how to place patches and required insignia on a Scout leader shirt? (CheSeg5)

It’s in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK (emblems/patches on leaders’ shirts go in the same places as those for Scouts). Or, for even more detail—everything you ever wanted to know about uniforms and badges—go buy yourself a copy of the BSA book, INSIGNIA GUIDE – It’s all inside!

Dear Andy,

I’m currently an Assistant Scoutmaster and I’m curious if I’m eligible to receive the Scoutmaster’s key once I meet the tenure requirements. (Ron Shake, ASM, Troop 462, Cascade Pacific Council, Vancouver, WA)

You’re certainly eligible for the Boy Scout Leader’s Training Award, but the Scoutmaster’s Key is for…you guessed it!…Scoutmasters!

Dear Andy,

I don’t know if this is about an “answer,” or an opinion. Here’s the situation: One of our Unit Commissioners has two Boy Scout sons. For a recent Troop event, his sons were left out, but all the other Scouts knew about it and got to participate. When this UC/Dad heard about what had happened, he was upset, and he spoke up to the person in charge of that event. But next, he was called down by the District Commissioner, who told him that, as a Unit Commissioner, he was out of line. So is he a PARENT or a COMMISSIONER? This is a sensitive situation and your thoughts would be appreciated. (Percy Shackles, UC, Great River Council, Sedalia, MO)

As far as I’m concerned, one’s PARENTING role ALWAYS comes first, and this father had an obligation to his sons and every right to have a talk with the person in charge of the event you refer to. Moreover, for a DC to offer criticism of such an action is the thing that’s out of line here, based on what you’ve told me.

That said, if this dad is the Unit Commissioner for the Troop his sons are in, it would be a good idea to assign another Commissioner to that unit, so that future controversies like this can be averted. But, if he’s not this Troop’s UC, then there shouldn’t even be a question about his standing up for his own sons, and shame on that District Commissioner!

Dear Andy,

I just ran across your column for the first time tonight! I’m a brand-new/pretty old Merit Badge Counselor, after having been out of Scouting circles for about 25 years. I’m an Eagle with gold palm, attended two world jamborees, Brotherhood OA and former Chapter Chief, former Scoutmaster, etc, etc. Having been away from Scouting for that long and only recently coming into contact again with Scouting has been very rewarding, but I’m a little dismayed about how young the Scouts are who are earning their Eagle rank nowadays. In my area, it’s very common to see 13 year-old Eagles. It just seems that a 13 or even 14 year-olds are just not “seasoned” yet with leadership abilities. Are 13 year-old Eagles pretty common, nationally? (Dan Machado, Greater Yosemite Council, Modesto, CA)

First off, welcome back! I know at least some of the feelings you must be having… It all seems the same, but it all seems a little different, too. A quarter-century’s a long time in anybody’s book, and you’ll want to just settle in till your sea legs return. This’ll happen pretty soon, but not overnight. Now, to your concern, and question…

Ah, yes, young Eagle Scouts. God bless ’em! I’d rather see a bunch of young Eagles who are going to be setting examples for others in their Troops for another four or five years that have a bunch who get their Eagle tantamount to it being their 18th birthday present! Part of the reason why Eagles may be getting younger may have to do with that, in 1988 (during your hiatus) the lower age restriction on becoming a Boy Scout was adjusted to allow a boy to join either at age 11, or upon completion of Fifth Grade regardless of age, or upon earning the Webelos Arrow of Light award, regardless of age or grade; but then, in 2004, this requirement was further clarified to set the minimum age at 10, regardless of grade or rank. This means that nowadays, although Scouts may work just as many years to achieve Eagle rank (three or four being the norm), since they’re starting on the “trail to Eagle” at an earlier age, they’re reaching their goal at an earlier age. For instance, in my own era (which is some 50 years ago) 11 was the minimum age to be a Boy Scout, period, so I earned Eagle at age 15 and my younger brother did at age 14; whereas today our respective ages would likely have been 14 and 13 – which is pretty close to what you’re seeing!

Is this so terrible? Personally I don’t think so. Advancement is a step-by-step process in which each completed requirement sets up the Scout for the next requirement. This is, of course, an excellent educational model. So, if a youth has indeed completed all of the steps necessary to attain Eagle rank, then he’s certainly deserving of it. But what about “maturity” and “seasoning”? you might ask. To which my response would be simple: If the Scout indeed completes all of the requirements from Scout rank all the way to Eagle, this process itself will have helped him mature, and will have seasoned him, or else he wouldn’t have been able to complete the path – He indeed may be young chronologically, but certainly not in skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments. And more power to him!

Dear Andy,

I’ve recently learned through the USSSP website of the Cub Scout 75th Anniversary Award. My question is this: At this late date, what’s the “cut off” date, if any, for earning this? (James Hubbell, ADL, Pack 197, Milwaukee County Council, WI)

I’m sure sorry that your council and district didn’t get the word out to you all about this special award and the cool activities that go along with it. In addition to the USSSP website, you can also check here for the various awards and their requirements:

Now as to whether these are still available to be earned, I’m thinking that your council’s Scout Shop is going to hold the key… If they’re still selling them, then you may have a shot at earning them! Check with them, and maybe with your District Executive, too!

Dear Andy,

Does the veteran unit bar refer to how many years a unit’s been chartered, or how many years a unit’s been chartered by the same sponsor? I’ve seen references to both being correct. (Amanda Short, DL, Circle 10 Council, Plano, TX)

Since the “veteran bar” is associated with the unit (it’s worn directly above the unit numeral), it would seem logical that it pertains to the unit; not the chartering organization. I’ve never seen a reference to this being tied to the relationship with the chartering organization.

Dear Andy,

I’m taking my kids to Mt. Vernon, where I’m told they’ll be able to earn a badge, and maybe a pin, too. Do you know if there’s anything like this in Arlington, VA, or Washington, DC? Or is there a list that lists the opportunities like this that are available, or do you just have to get lucky? For instance, I just discovered that the Phillies have a day when Scouts can receive a patch for attending a game in full uniform. (Cub Scout Mom, Pack 609, Western Los Angeles County Council, CA)

You’re gonna be lucky. Lots of touristy places you’re gonna visit sell patches in the gift shop. Buy ’em, then sew ’em on your Cub Scout’s red “patch vest” (not the uniform shirt)—That’s were they’re perfectly “legal.” Have a blast!

Dear Andy,

What kind of process do you suggest for changing Scoutmasters in a Troop? (Steve Morton, South Plains Council, Lubbock, TX)

The process I’d suggest includes a large serving of thanks sprinkled with some well-choreographed pomp and circumstance!

If your Scoutmaster has identified, recruited, trained, and groomed his replacement, perhaps over several years, then making this the final part of a Troop Court of Honor is an appropriate venue for a changing-of-the-guard. If pre-planned well, the Troop committee has secured the Scoutmaster Award of Merit to present (if you haven’t done so already) to the outgoing Scoutmaster, to accompany perhaps a nice wood-and-brass “Thank You” plaque from the Troop that states years of service, or perhaps a meaningful photo signed by all of the Scouts, or both! You might begin by having the current SM introduce the Troop and parents to his successor and then the new SM and the committee make their presentations to the outgoing SM, followed by “swearing in” the new SM. This is a wonderful “Kodak moment,” and this along with a write-up should definitely be sent to the local newspaper!

A couple of other nice touches might be to reach out to all known previous SMs that the Troop has had over the years and invite them to attend as a sort of “honor guard,” and also to invite your Unit Commissioner, perhaps to preside over this portion of the CoH as the Master of Ceremonies. Or, how about inviting all those who earned Eagle during this Scoutmaster’s tenure?

Dear Andy,

Recently, our Scoutmaster commented to our Senior Patrol Leader that our Troop Committee is “getting too powerful.” This seems odd to me. Isn’t the Scoutmaster responsible to the Troop Committee? Our SM has a track record of making decisions without discussing them with the other leaders; in general, communication within our Troop is poor. What kind of message can this be sending to the Scouts, if their Scoutmaster doesn’t recognize standard Troop structure? He seems to be on a power trip, where all the focus is on him; not the Scouts or the Troop’s program. Please help!! (Steve, Lincoln Heritage Council)

I start to get real nervous when I start hearing things like “power” and “reporting to” among a group of volunteers. The Troop Committee-Scoutmaster relationship is much like a team, and all are on the same team. Yes, the Scoutmaster is responsible to the committee for the Troop program, which in turn is developed by the Scouts themselves via the Patrol Leaders Council (which the SM advises, but does not lead), and the committee is equally responsible to the SM and the Troop as a whole to provide the backup and support needed to carry out that Troop program. This is a situation of absolute interdependence—the strongest of Scoutmasters can’t deliver a quality Scouting program all by himself, nor can a committee alone (i.e., without a SM) do this, either.

Whoever is talking about “power” and “reporting to” needs to stop right away, take a step back, and screw their head around the right way. The other thing is that “complaints” move upward; not downward. For a SM to “complain” downward to an SPL is the wrong direction. It tells me very seriously that somebody doesn’t “get it.” This needs to be fixed immediately, or your Troop’s going to have some serious morale problems very soon.

A final thought… Analogies often are dangerous, because somebody always wants to twist them in directions they weren’t intended to go, but I’m going to try, anyway. Think of the Troop’s adult leaders as the flight crew of a very large military plane. There’s a pilot and copilot (the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster, in that order), who together get the plane off the ground and then steer it on its proper course. But they do this by each having a separate set of responsibilities; not by duplicating one another’s efforts or getting in each other’s way. Then there’s the crew, including a navigator, radio operator, and so on. These people (your Troop committee) help the two on the flight deck get the plane to its destination and back again. Again, a case of inter-dependence: The pilot can’t get there without the copilot and crew, nor can the copilot without the pilot and crew, nor the crew without both the pilot and copilot. But, when they all coordinate their efforts, they get airborne and to their destination just fine!

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster is comfortable having only two adults on campouts, but some members of out Troop Committee aren’t. What should we do? I know in the “Requirements for Trips and Outings” it says:

Two-deep leadership: Two registered adult leaders, or one registered adult and a parent of a participating Scout, one of whom must be at least 21 years of age or older, are required for all trips or outings.

Safety rule of four: No fewer than four individuals (always with the minimum of two adults) go on any backcountry expedition or campout. If an accident occurs, one person stays with the injured, and two go for help. Additional adult leadership requirements must reflect an awareness of such factors as size and skill level of the group, anticipated environmental conditions, and overall degree of challenge.

What we on the Troop Committee are concerned about is what happens if there’s an accident? This would set up a situation where one adult would take out the injured while just one would be responsible for all the rest. Plus, if by chance there’s another injury, what can that last, single adult do? He can’t take the rest of the boys with him; he can’t leave them.

Are we being overly safety-concerned, or are we living the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”? Is there a general rule on the ratio of adults to Scouts? (Troop Committee Member, Connecticut Yankee Council)

Your quotations of the BSA policies are accurate. These were designed to define the absolute minimum number of adult leaders required, in order to accommodate small Troops/groups of Scouts. However, good sense says when there are additional adults interested in providing leadership at a Troop outdoor event, unless their intention is to start “leading” the Scouts (like great big patrol leaders), a Scoutmaster would be one gosh-darned fool to resist this. In addition to providing additional and often needed oversight, and backup in the event of emergency, adult fellowship and camaraderie need to be factored in, as well. Camping is invariably a bonding experience. It’s a place where the Troop’s parents can truly get to know one another in an unvarnished environment. It’s where bonds of long-term friendships are forged. And, it’s where the Troop’s next Scoutmaster will emerge from. So, no, you’re not being overly concerned, and as you can see this goes well beyond the idea of being prepared. This is where the future of this Troop, in adult leadership, will be cultivated. Start adding parents to the trip at your very next opportunity – But first, get your Scoutmaster to see the big picture.

Dear Andy,

I’m the Merit Badge Coordinator for our Troop, and also a counselor. Recently, we scheduled a “CPR Night,” complete with “Annie’s” and full discussions of the five most common signs of a heart attack, the actions to take when someone shows signs of a heart attack, the conditions that must exist before performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a person and how to recognize such conditions, and actual CPR steps. Each Scout demonstrated correct CPR technique for at least three minutes. At the end of the evening, I issued a “certificate,” signed by the Scoutmaster (since some of our boys are moving), stating that the Scouts had thus completed the CPR requirements for: First Class rank and these merit badges: First Aid, Swimming, Lifesaving, Rowing, Waterskiing, and Whitewater. But then I was told by our advancement person that it’s not possible to satisfy all these requirements (even if they’re identical), having them apply to several merit badges or rank advancement at the same time. I was told that this would amount to “double dipping;” that the requirements must be fulfilled each time, separately. Is there an official policy on this? (Marianne Starr, Merit Badge Coordinator, Troop 137, Trans-Atlantic Council, Mannheim, Germany)

Your question’s a good one. And the answer has more to do with educational philosophy than with “policy.”

Let’s take a step back for a moment… The BSA advancement plan is about gaining new knowledge and learning new skills. Each time a Scout completes a requirement, under the tutelage of an experienced instructor, counselor, etc., he adds to or improves upon this knowledge/skill base. Advancement is, therefore, designed to be a series of progressive steps. The approach you’ve taken, I’m sure with the best of intentions, is more along the lines of “one size fits all.” I can understand your desire to do this… Why go through the repetition? Why have to do again what one already knows? Why no knock the whole thing off all at once? And so on. And it’s certainly OK to “over-teach”—This adds to a Scout’s knowledge/skill base. But this isn’t what the advancement plan’s purpose is. It’s about taking bigger and bigger steps, each time.

Now I don’t know which of the merit badges you’ve mentioned is the one you were actually counseling, but it looks like it may have been Lifesaving.
So, just as you had your Scouts actually get in the water and show their swimming capabilities, you would want them to demonstrate their knowledge of CPR by discussing and demonstrating various aspects pertaining to this skill. In the process of doing this, you’re going to impart wisdom that’s based on your own experience, and this is a good thing. Then, when one or more of these same Scouts sits down with a counselor for, let’s say, First Aid, that counselor will impart some further insights—different from your own because he or she will have had a different set of personal experiences from yours. This is how Scouts pick up nuances and shadings, and add to their own knowledge/skill bases—Not by racking up a “universal requirement” but by interacting with and learning from a variety of experienced people.

Now the “mechanics” of your situation are fairly simple: If a Scout has completed the CPR requirement for First Class rank, then his Scoutmaster can initial and date that Scout’s Handbook, and this is all the evidence needed if he should move to a new Troop. For those who complete the requirement for your own merit badge, you’ll simply record that on the merit badge application (“blue card”). Then, for a merit badge that you don’t counsel, that counselor will simply ask the Scout to complete the CPR requirement and, with his prior experience, that will be a quick and easy step.

To be even more specific, I’m a counselor for Swimming, and occasionally I’m met by a Scout who hands me a 99% signed blue card, showing that he’s done everything except perhaps one of the “dry land” requirements (like 1 or 10). Since mine will be the final signature, I will absolutely get this Scout in the water, where he can quickly demonstrate to me that he possesses the skills required by this merit badge. No, I certainly don’t make a Scout do everything, and I don’t demand that he “start from scratch,” as if he’d never done anything. But I use this as an opportunity to not only assess his in-water abilities but–most important–I teach him a few new things that he didn’t know before he met me, thereby adding to his skills and knowledge!

Dear Andy,

Where do I obtain a copy of the BSA-Boy Scout Requirements book (No.33215)? I read that it lists the alternate requirements for Scouts with physical or mental disabilities. My son has both. I’ve been looking on several websites but haven’t found it. (Samantha Barton)

This book is available for sale at your local council’s Scout Shop, or online at – Take your pick! Yes, there are definitely alternate requirements available to Scouts with permanent physical and/or mental disabilities, and this book describes the process for this! For a quick read on how these alternate requirements come into play, go here:

Best wishes to your son on his Scouting adventure!

Happy Scouting!


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

(May 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.

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