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Issue 78 – June 2006

May and so far June have been crazy months! I’m way behind schedule. Thanks for your patience! Here’s the latest, and I’ll have another column out in about a week from now…

Hello Andy,

Reading the first question-and-answer in your Mid-May column I’m very disappointed with your attitude and name-calling. “Ask Smart Aleck” is more like it! You displayed a very un-Scout-like attitude and shame on YOU! I wonder if you even read the actual question that was asked about the Scout who wanted to earn Eagle by age 13. He was told by his Scoutmaster that he couldn’t work on his eagle PROJECT until he’s 14 years old; not Eagle merit badges. This time frame sounds about right to me, because my son (who has been cruising along for a year-and-a-half) is just about to turn First Class. Besides, some of these ranks REQUIRE the Scouts to stay at certain levels for 4 or 6 months. You should really step down and pass the letter-answering torch to someone not so brazen. (Mrs. O)

Thanks for reading, and writing. Yup, my response might sure be called brazen if by this you’re referring to Webster’s definition: bold and self-assured. There’ you’ll also find the definition of ignoramus: an ignorant person. In my book, any Scoutmaster who doesn’t know that he has absolutely no say on the subject of what age a Scout becomes “eligible” to work on a rank requirement is either ignorant of the BSA policy that prohibits what he stated to the Scout or, knowing the policy, ignores it. In either case, it’s plain wrong. As for your own opinion that “14…sounds about right,” you’re committing the same error as that Scoutmaster. Your own opinion has nothing whatever to do with what this or any other Scout considers right for himself—that’s his decision and no one else’s. Of course there are tenure requirements for ranks beyond Second Class; however, there is nothing that prohibits a Scout from earning the rank of Eagle before even his 13th birthday, if he’s so motivated. And shame on anyone who tries to quell that enthusiasm. As for stepping down—Not a chance!

Dear Commish,

Your response to the lady whose son planned his Eagle advancement to achieve it at age 13 was interesting. I’m guilty of being one of those “knuckleheads” who believes that 13 is too young to be an Eagle Scout. Now granted, in my ten years as Scoutmaster I’ve not had a single Scout who had such a well-planned goal. And, as you said, the only thing necessary to be an Eagle Scout is to complete the requirements. In my own Troop, the divining rod has always been the leadership requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle. I’ve always told my Scouts that merely wearing a Patrol Leader or Senior Patrol Leader patch doesn’t automatically make them leaders, and if they don’t do an acceptable job in a leadership position—assuming they have been trained and mentored—then they’ won’t get that requirement signed off until they show true leadership for the appropriate amount of time. Leadership, to my mind, is something that requires maturity. But if a Scout fulfills the requirements by age 13, no problem! On the other hand, I’ve had 29 Scouts make Eagle rank in my tenure and none of them minded being at least age 15. (David Pela, Grand Canyon Council, Phoenix, AZ)

I’ve sat on nearly 200 Eagle rank Boards of Review, for Scouts ranging in age from less than 13 to over 18. I can observe without hesitation that age isn’t a deciding factor. The deciding factors are motivation, dedication, planning, and action. Without these, neither age nor apparent maturity nor parental prodding nor Scoutmaster Conferences nor anything else will make a difference. Moreover, the overwhelming recommendation that 17-year-old and older Eagle Scout candidates make to younger Scouts is, “Do this before you even get into high school!” This means by age 13 or very close to it.

As for leadership, this is largely a learned skill. Yes, mental maturity is important, but the most “mature” Scout can’t succeed too well if his Scoutmaster isn’t there to guide, support, and teach him. This is, after all, the Scoutmaster’s primary job, and to any Scoutmaster who says “This Scout failed to lead,” I’d say HOW DID YOU FAIL THIS SCOUT?

The whole point is this: Until the BSA starts producing “Young Eagle” and “Old Eagle” applications, age really isn’t an issue at all! And, as Scoutmasters, our own opinions of what a Scout can achieve should ALWAYS exceed his own notions – That’s how he grows!

Dear Andy,

Thanks! Our Troop’s leaders have taken your thoughts on our Scout Spirit Tracking Spreadsheet to heart and we’ll discard this spreadsheet and continue with the subjective manner that allows Scoutmaster favoritism vis-à-vis Troop participation for quarterly awards. I don’t agree with this practice, but we’ll not violate any BSA policies. Again, thanks. (Steve Bertone)

I’m not sure the only possible result to dropping the idea of that spreadsheet will be “Scoutmaster favoritism.” I’m very glad to see that spreadsheet go away, but not because it “violates BSA policies”—Rather, because it violates the spirit of what we’re attempting to do when we become Scouting leaders. Think about it: The right kind of Scoutmaster—one who has his or her heart in the right place—would hardly wish to show arbitrary favoritism toward some Scouts and equally arbitrary DISfavoritism toward other Scouts. The right kind of Scoutmaster would want to do the very best job possible to show fairness toward all. Because the Scoutmaster is, after all, the key role model for the Scouts and with that job comes a simultaneously rewarding and equally terrible responsibility—to be the standard bearer of the Scout Oath and Law.

Baden-Powell put it this way (and I’ve never seen it put better): “The business of the Scoutmaster is to draw out each boy and find out what is in him, and then to catch hold of the good and develop it to the exclusion of the bad.”

Dear Andy,

Can I use the BSA logo for a group of about twelve leaders? I’m looking to embroider the logo on the left chest of some shirts and customize the writing around it. It’s a favor. (Joanne)

If it’s a favor that you’re not charging for, or are getting your out-of-pocket costs covered but that’s it, you’re probably in the clear. Heck, who’s gonna “report” you? The folks wearing the shirts? What a nice gesture on your part! But if you’re still unsure, best to check with your local council service center folks.

Hi Andy,

Can a Unit Commissioner serve their own unit? Is there a policy or training that says they can’t? (Bruce Heckman, District Chairman, Shelter Rock District, Theodore Roosevelt Council, Long Island, NY)

By “their own unit,” are you meaning a unit formerly but no longer served in, or do you mean still serving in? Your answer does have an impact on which way to think about Commissioner service. If we’re talking about the first situation, where a Scouter has relinquished his or her unit-level position to take on the mantle of Commissioner, then I’d say that he or she definitely has an opportunity to be that unit’s “best friend.” But if they’re still holding a position in their unit and simultaneously want to be its Commissioner, then it’s going to be difficult to impossible to provide true Commissioner service to that unit, because a Commissioner is a facilitator, mentor, and guide, and these roles are not possible when one is also a registered member of the unit.

There’s no specific “policy” on this and there doesn’t need to be because good sense will prevail: If it’s the first case (above) then Commissioner service can be rendered successfully; but if it turns out to be the second case, then Commissioner service is impossible.

Dear Andy,

Thanks for your reply, although I’m not sure I agree with your assertion that one can’t render unit service if they’re still registered in the unit. But I’ll bow to your experience and make it policy your way. (Bruce Heckman)

Although I abide by existing BSA policies, I’m not encouraging of establishing new ones. I’d hesitate establishing the “don’t serve the unit you’re already registered in” as a formal policy—I just don’t think that that’s necessary because good sense can prevail quite handily. Think about it some more. Let’s say there’s some sort of brouhaha between the adults in a unit (not uncommon, right?). The job of the Commissioner is to help these folks sort out their difficulties, without ever taking sides. This is difficult if not impossible to do when one is “inside” the problem, as one would be if registered as a volunteer with that same unit. Which “hat” does one wear, when? And, will people (including the wearer) know what hat’s being worn, and are they able to separate the two? So, my thought is to not create another policy but, rather, to encourage folks to think through the situation and then make an intelligent decision to serve elsewhere as a Commissioner.

Dear Andy,

Great! Excellent example–One that fully makes sense to me now! Thank you for taking the time to help me get started right. I know that this is a District Commissioner’s job and question, but I want to find out from someone who’s “outside” our bailiwick. You’re doing a fantastic job in advising. Too bad there’s no way to set up a search engine for your pages! (Bruce Heckman)

Hi Andy,

I have a question for you about youth leadership training. My son was recently elected to be the next patrol leader for his patrol and he’s quite excited about this. The Troop will be holding a YLT sometime later this summer to prepare him to take on this position starting in the fall. Having watched from the background (as a committee member) for about a year and a half now, one thing I’ve noticed is that, YLT aside, the Troop doesn’t seem to do much to help teach or mentor new youth leaders. And so I wonder what I can suggest to my son for those inevitable times when he needs some mentoring? Yes, as a parent, I could provide this myself I guess, but one of the methods of boy scouting is the adult association method and (in my mind) that means branching out beyond one’s parents. I know my son will work hard to do the job well, but I also know he’s one of the youngest boys in his patrol, there are a few “characters” in the group, and he is bound to face some challenges here. How best to help him prepare? (L.L., Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)

Right off the bat, let me tell you how glad I am to learn that your son’s Troop elects their youth leaders! There are indeed some Troops “out there” whose adult leaders think they’re smarter than Baden-Powell and the tens of thousands of Scoutmasters and Troop Leaders who have gone before, and have stuck steadfastly (and correctly!) to The Patrol Method, a fundamental element of which is elected, not appointed, youth leaders. That off my chest, let’s take a look at your question…

A Troop-level YLT is an excellent opportunity for new and even experienced youth leaders to get to know their jobs and how to do them. Another excellent resource is the week-long NYLT (National Youth Leader Training aka “Deer Trails”) that your council will be offering this summer (July 16-21) at Camp Teetonkah. If your son is at least 13 and a First Class Scout, he’s eligible to take this course, and I’d highly recommend it — This skills and teamwork lessons learned here can last a lifetime! Meanwhile, your son should get himself a copy of the Patrol Leader’s Handbook (available for $8.95 at your local Scout Shop or at and start reading it—It’s got lots of good tips in it that will help him get started!

Now, here’s something you might want to tackle, as a committee member: Maybe a portion of each Patrol Leaders Council meeting could be devoted to roundtable discussions, among the youth, of leadership situations and how to deal with them. Let both the questions and the answers come from the Scouts themselves, while guided “with a feather” by an adult leader (usually the Scoutmaster, but maybe this is something you might do, just for this portion of the PLC meeting). Give it some thought.

Dear Andy,

I noticed that in Mid-March you addressed once again the question of whether Boards of Review for Tenderfoot to Life may include adults who aren’t registered Troop committee members. I’m writing to you because while I think I agree with the correctness of your position, the reality is that BSA national policy is only as good as the willingness of the adults involved to support and carry out that policy. From my experience in Scouting, it seems there’s not much support for this particular policy. I’ve been told that while this is “technically correct,” there’s very little consequence to a Troop violating this policy. In the worst case, a parent of a Scout who was flunked by a BOR (which pretty much doesn’t happen any more in our Troop) would have the option of appealing the decision of a Board that included unregistered adults, but otherwise there’s little other consequence, to either the Troop or the Scout. It’s my understanding that maintaining a Board of Review manned by registered committee members, while a safety issue, is also much more than that. I believe it’s supposed to be a mechanism for providing feedback to the Scoutmaster, separate from the opinions of anxious parents. I’m hoping you might respond to this note with some more information about Scouting’s reasoning behind requiring registered unit-level Scouters for Tenderfoot through Life BoRs. Hopefully you might be able to provide some hard data that would suggest how effectively Troops are implementing Scouting’s stated BOR policies. (Name & Council Withheld)

From Tenderfoot through Life rank, and for Eagle Palms, the Board of Review shall be comprised of members of the unit committee. No less than three and no more than six. This is a BSA policy, and as such not open to either discussion or opinion. They’re policy. End of story.

The thinking that it’s OK to violate a known BSA policy because there are no apparent consequences is about as far away from the spirit of the Scout Oath and Law as I’ve ever heard. That sort of thinking is ENRON, folks. Is this how we deliver the Scouting program? In my humble opinion, whenever BSA policies are “overlooked” or “stretched” or “winked at and then ignored,” that’s like saying it’s OK to be just a little bit drunk while driving, OK to be just a little bit pregnant, OK if you’re stealing just a few pennies instead of thousands, OK when you “borrow” an older-model car instead of a brand-new one, or OK to take just one lonesome grape from the pile in the store’s produce section. Yup, I sure do sound like a “goody two-shoes.” And do you know what? I can live with that a lot easier than I can live with knowing that I’ve deviated from a BSA policy just because it was convenient or less embarrassing or easier than sticking to the straight-and-narrow. Here’s why… I sort of like it when someone I respect says to me, “Andy, thanks for being the honest man I believed you to be.”

Dear Andy,

This week some of our Troop leaders attended the required pre-camp meeting prior to our summer camp outing this July. During the course of this meeting we noted that one of our scouts would like to finish the Climbing merit badge that he had started in March. He has his partial and only needs to complete two more rappelling trips to finish the badge. However, the camp requires that scouts who use the climbing tower be at least 13 years of age. The scout in question is 12. We were told by other adults present at the meeting that BSA policy requires scouts to be 13 years of age. We were told that this was noted in the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Climb on Safely training. I have quickly reviewed the online information for both of these sources and I do not see a minimum age requirement noted anywhere. Is this really a BSA policy or, as I think, just the camp’s policy? If it is BSA policy where is it noted? (John Cromer, ASM, Keystone Area Council, PA)

Looks like you’re right on the money! There’s no age restriction for a Boy Scout in the merit badge requirements, and there’s no age restriction for a Boy Scout in the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING, published by the BSA (No.34416D), so although I haven’t checked out the CLIMB ON SAFELY book, it sure looks like roadblock your Scout hit is a “camp rule.” Oh, well… Camps are allowed to have their own rules, and so I’m guessing it would be pretty fruitless to try to shovel water upstream on this one. So, let’s look for another way for this Scout to finish his merit badge. First off, who was it that he started with, in March, and is there some compelling reason why that Merit Badge Counselor can’t help the Scout finish it? (This what MBCs are supposed to be doing, after all.) But, if that’s a dead end, then how about contacting Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, at 3501 Paxton Street in Harrisburg (their phone is 717-565-5200) and see if anyone there is a Climbing MBC — They do have a climbing wall! If no one there is a MBC, then how about the Scout goes there anyway, and somebody (like, a parent) brings a video camera and shoots him doing whatever he needs to do to finish the merit badge. Then, that video can be shown to a Climbing MBC and that should get the last sign-offs. Or, even better, maybe an MBC can accompany the Scout to Outdoor World, and wrap the whole thing up on the spot!

The hat-trick is simply this: If the front door ain’t open, don’t try to beat it down—try a side door instead!

Hi Andy,

I’m a Girl Scout leader with two Troops: 19 Daisy girls (5 & 6 year olds) and 15 Brownies (2nd graders). I know the gender is different, but I’m desperate for a way to get rid of our SUMs (Service Unit Managers) – The highest ranking Girl Scout leaders in our town. The problem is long standing. Today we had our end-of-the-year party, and in my opinion it was an embarrassment. Not enough food was ordered, so parents who were invited couldn’t eat (this is a party from 5:30 to 7 PM!). Then the cake that was brought couldn’t feed 20 people, so it was carved up into paper-thin slices. I had at least 20 girls plus their parents who weren’t fed at all! These two women in power just don’t get it—They have their heads in the clouds. All the other leaders “in the trenches” like me know it, but they’re sort of waiting for me to do something because I’m sort of the “go-to” gal (mostly because I put out all the fires the best I can). Anyway, can you give me any resource for how to get a deficient leader to step down? (Patty Olsen, New Jersey)

I’m impressed with your dedication to Girl Scouting—Without good folks like you, there’s be no program, and it’s an important one in the lives of girls! But, in any volunteer organization, for every five to ten of you who gets it right, there’s at least one or two who don’t have a clue! Ouch!

The rule-of-thumb for removing someone in a volunteer organization is this: Whoever had the authority to place a person in that position has the authority to remove that person. But that’s about it—And there’s probably no point in trying a “palace coup” of some sort, because that’s time and energy going in the wrong direction!

Since you (and others) already understand these SUMs’ weaknesses and foibles, and pretty much know how to “cover” for them (even though it unquestionably takes extra effort on your part), it’s probably easier to just continue covering, so that your girls don’t get hurt or disappointed.

That said, there is an alternative, and that’s to provide no “rescuing” at all. Simply let the disaster happen and let the blame (but don’t you ever do the blaming!) fall where it should. Maybe this way, others will begin to understand how incompetent or uncaring these people are, and they’ll do the necessary job instead of you!

As to which way to go, you’ll have to call that one, because you’re at “ground level” and I’m at 30,000 feet, so to speak.

Dear Andy,

I’ve just received the Methodist Cross & Flame Award from my church. Is this award considered a religious award for the purposes of wearing the Scouter’s religious square knot? (John Walker, SM, Troop 419, Advisor, Venturing Crew 419, Tall Timbers District, East Texas Area Council, Crockett, TX)

Congratulations! This award falls under the same general heading as the God & Service Award, presented to a Scouter for contributions to the movement and youth through one’s faith by the United Methodist Church. For further information on whether this is “square knot-eligible,” contact P.R.A.Y., 8520 Mackenzie Road, Suite 3, St. Louis, MO 63123-3413; 800-933-7729; e-mail:; and URLs:,, or

Dear Andy,

I checked with P.R.A.Y. and they said it qualifies. Thanks! (John Walker)

Dear Andy,

This is about splitting a Den. Our Pack’s Wolf Den has 11 Cubs in it. The Den Leader and Assistant Den Leader would like to split the Den into two smaller Dens, because they feel it’s too large and they’d like to work more closely with a smaller group. That would mean that two new leaders would have to be found for the second Den. Do these DL and ADL have the authority to do this? Can the Cubmaster and Committee Chair replace them with people who won’t split up the Den? Is there a specific protocol or policy here? (Gibran Jabboori, Pack Committee Member, Detroit Area Council, Clawson MI)

Your question is a darned good one, and it comes up more than you might think! But don’t “fire” those two—Find more like them! They’ve got it pretty close to right! (I’ve said “pretty close” for a reason, which you’ll find when I raise a caveat a little further along.)

Smaller Dens (with five or six Cubs, as this Den of eleven will turn out to be) succeed better for a whole bunch of reasons. The Den Leader is better able to keep an eye on each Cub’s progress. Den meetings are easier to manage and keep on time. Cubs will “bond” with one another better. There’s room for growth (which will happen as these Cubs’ friends learn about the fun they’re having, and ask to join). There a far greater opportunity to keep them together right through their Webelos II year and graduate them into a Boy Scout Troop intact.

Dens that exceed eight (which is the BSA maximum standard, by the way) tend to fail. Den Leaders are happy when Cubs start not showing up for Den meetings, and these boys drop away as a result of this inattention. Den meetings can be total mayhem with nine or more energetic boys. The opportunity to keep track of each individual boy is made more difficult and will likely fall by the wayside. When one or more doesn’t make it from Wolf to Bear, or Bear to Webelos, the Den Leader is thankful because her load has just been lightened. There’s no room for growth. The likelihood of all of them making it through their Webelos II year is severely diminished.

Optimum recommendation: The DL takes her son and three or four boys to form one Den, and the ADL takes her son and the remainder to form the other Den, and becomes their DL, and then they both recruit ADLs for themselves and their new Dens.

Least optimal: Both the DL and ADL take their sons plus maybe two or three others, leaving the remainder high and dry. This isn’t fair to those boys remaining. That’s why I’ve given you the recommendation immediately above: It keeps all of the boys, just in two separate Dens, and never makes anyone feel like the “last pick” in “choosing sides.”

Dear Andy,

I think the caveat you brought up has merit; however, what if that’s not possible? The ADL of this Den is a full-time working mom who wants desperately to be as involved as much as possible, but doesn’t have the time to take on her own Den. Plus, she and the DL are good friends and have a good working relationship, and they don’t want their “team” to be broken up. Considering these factors, what would be your next recommendation?

I’ll first confess that I have some doubts about this “full-time working mom” who can’t take on a Den of five or perhaps six Cubs on her own. Literally thousands of Den Leaders across the country are full-time working moms and they’ve found ways to creatively make it work. I continue to believe that for these two women to pick three or four boys in addition to their own sons, leaving the remaining boys and their parents to fend for themselves, is a severe disservice to the spirit of Scouting and will cause discord and resentment faster than you can say Jack Robinson!

If these two women truly want to stick together, then it would be their obligation, BEFORE any split, to find, recruit and provide orientation to two other Den parents, who can then provide leadership to a second Den, thereby assuring that the mitosis will be successful. Anything short of this suggests less than Scout-like motives.

NetCommish Comment: The tune “I’m a full-time working person and don’t have time” sounds terrible no matter how you play it. This is just a dodge. For two years I served happily as a Den Leader as a full-time working dad with a schedule that included 50-60 hours a week of work.

When I first looked at Cub Scouts as a parent and read the handbook, I realized that almost everything there was the same sort of thing that a good parent strives to give their own children. The benefit was that you could pool resources and involve a group of boys to do much more than any one parent or set of parents on their own. Bottom line is that this is a really good deal for parents, but ever parent has to contribute and share for it to work.

Some are going to do this for lofty reasons and that is wonderful. Some will do this just to help their own child, which we can understand, but hopefully we can rise a little higher. Some will simply try to avoid responsibility and let others take the load. This is sad and we have to help the latter group that this is not a babysitting program, no sir, it is a family program.

Andy has a point, but I think there is another side to the coin. All of the parents need to be encouraged to participate. If all of them are helping, it sure is a lot easier when a Den gets to be too big and needs to be divided into two.

Dear Andy,

For my son’s Eagle Court of Honor, we’re having an ASM read “Eagle Mountain.” I don’t know where I found it, but it appears that I didn’t copy the entire story. Do you have any idea where I can find it? (Cathy Brown, Troop 66)

Go here:

Dear Andy,

What’s the story on “co-“ leaders for a Cub Scout Pack? (Mark Gould)

My Mid-October 2004 column contains an excellent point-of-view on “co-leaders,” and I urge you to read it in its entirety. But, to give you a quick “heads up,” it goes like this: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS “CO-” ANYTHING IN SCOUTING. Nor is there reason to. One of you becomes the Cubmaster; the other, the Assistant Cubmaster. Over and done.

I think folks get this “co-” notion from airlines, because they have “copilots.” But there’s only one of these aboard the plane. The one in charge is the PILOT, and the assistant is called copilot. Or maybe you get this from various fundraising committees, where a husband-and-wife are “co-chairs.” That’s purely an honorific for one or both of them.


Dear Andy,

Thanks. I was told this was possible but didn’t buy it. I kinda thought the same—Not good to have two chiefs—But I said I’d ask. (Mark Gould)

Yup, your instincts were right on the money!. (Maybe this is why God gave us two arms and two legs, but just one head!)

Dear Andy,

Our Troop is going through a bit of a rough spot. Our COR recently pulled a secret committee meeting. In this committee meeting present was the chartered organization representative, unit commissioner, committee chair, treasurer, secretary, and two other members. The one member who wasn’t told about the meeting was the Scoutmaster’s husband. The COR came into the meeting and told the committee that he wanted the Scoutmaster (a woman) gone, on the basis that “she’s not adequate enough” and no one had any say in this matter except him. Now this Troop is just a year old and our Scoutmaster’s been there from day one. Before that, she had no idea of what all was involved in Boy Scouting, and got almost no help. Her ASM was supposed to be showing her the ropes, but personal problems of his kept this from happening. We only recently got a unit commissioner assigned to us, but he doesn’t always come around when you need him. The COR’s “concerns” for dumping our Scoutmaster were that she lost a couple of receipts (which she’s fixed since then), she wasn’t trained (she took training, but the committee kept forgetting to record this), she couldn’t build a fire (we were under a No Fires ban, and aren’t the Scouts the ones who are supposed to be building fires?), the Scouts weren’t behaving (the COR is also a parent, and on some activities as the second adult leader, he should have helped in this area, but didn’t), and “things weren’t being done right” (but The COR couldn’t name any). I’m not sure if the COR can do this or not, or if he has to take this before the committee for a vote. To me, I think that they should have offered her help if she needed guidance in her position, and not just say she isn’t working out without her even knowing there were any problems. What’s your opinion on this situation? (Concerned in PA)

Scoutmasters don’t have to know how to start fires “from scratch,” and they shouldn’t be buying stuff for the Troop because that’s the job of the Troop treasurer, which is a committee-level position, and if your Scoutmaster could use some coaching beyond the training she took, that’s for every other adult volunteer in the Troop to help with, along with the Unit Commissioner, so that this new Scoutmaster does the very best job possible. But, the key is this: Is this Scoutmaster guiding the Patrol Leaders Council to develop a Troop activity program for themselves, providing leadership mentoring for the SPL and PLs, and providing a positive role model for the Scouts? If the answer to these three areas is Yes, then anything else is incidental.

That said, if the tide has truly run against this woman, despite her best efforts, the head of the Chartered Organization (but not the Chartered Organization Representative unless he or she is, in fact, the head of the Chartered Organization) does have the right and the authority to name the Scoutmaster, and every other registered adult volunteer position, as well. In other words, this is not a “committee vote” or anything like that. Unit committees, unlike committees in non-Scouting arenas, don’t vote on stuff like this.

Is this a “power play”? Does your present COR covet the Scoutmaster position? Does someone else? I get the uneasy feeling that this is what’s happening, because the “transgressions” you cite as the COR’s arguments to oust her are definitely in the baloney category.

Hi Andy,

We’re a brand-new Pack. What’s the best approach to getting a charter rep.? What are some helpful hints for starting a new Pack? Any and all help would be appreciated. (Katrina, New Cubmaster/presently Tiger Den Leader, Westchester-Putnam Council, Yonkers, NY)

Your Pack’s sponsor (Chartered Organization, or CO, is the other name for sponsor) can suggest a Chartered Organization Representative (“COR”). This can be a person who is involved with the CO. For instance if you’re sponsored by a church this might be their youth minister. Or it can be someone registered on your Pack committee or the Pack committee chair. The job is to maintain back-and-forth communications between the sponsor and the Pack, and to assist at re-chartering time.

Hints for a new Pack’s success…

– All registered adult volunteers take training (Cubmaster, Den Leaders, and committee members, too!). This is the singlemost important thing you can do for yourselves!

– Keep your Dens small — No more than 8 Cubs per Den.

– Stay active this summer, even if it’s just one Pack event! This will help you all come back together in September!

– Everybody wears a FULL UNIFORM. This tells one another and the world at large “WE’RE CUB SCOUTS AND WE’RE PROUD TO BE!” (Don’t allow Den Leaders try to get away with just the shirt!)

– Avoid wearing multiple “hats” or doing double-duty. Den Leaders do their jobs, committee members do theirs, the Cubmaster does his or hers—Don’t try to do two jobs! (You’ll “burn out” way too fast!)

– Go to your District Roundtables—every month!

– Pack meetings DON’T include “hired entertainment”—The Cub Scouts are the entertainment! Every Den should have an “on-the-stage” role in every Pack meeting!

– Read up on ceremonies! Then do them! This will help you avoid the common error of “advancements-in-a-Zip-Lok bag.”

– Ask for a Unit Commissioner (this is an experienced volunteer who can help you stay on track).

Do these, and I guarantee you’ll have a great Pack!

Dear Andy,

Last night, I was giving the second session of the Commissioner Basic Training to some new Commissioners. We got to the slide for District Committee Functions – Camping – and found “Log Cabin Getaway.” I had never heard of it before. We figured it was some sort of retreat or get-together for the camping committee, for planning, etc. Another guess was that it was where Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth went on the weekends to rest and eat pancakes. Enlighten me and my fellow training partner… What’s the Log Cabin Getaway? (Bob Cochran, DC, Apache District, Mecklenburg County Council, NC)

Tell you the truth, I have no idea what a Log Cabin Getaway is! When you find out, please write again, and I’ll publish it.

NetCommish Comment: I don’t know exactly what is meant either, but we do have a training slide show at that also references “Log Cabin Gateway” (not Getaway) that was prepared by a Commissioner trainer. The context of the reference is in a set of slides explaining to Commissioners types of things that fall under a District Committee, in this case things that support the Camping program. It is included with Order of the Arrow, Where to go camping publications, Summer camp promotions, and Philmont. Perhaps it is a reference to getting Scouts to start with a “Log Cabin” experience to get used to “Outing” activities without all the rigors of camping with a tent. Whether or not this is close, I can’t say. However, for green Patrols with Scouts that do not have a lot of experience camping, the first time out can be daunting. If instead your Council camp has cabins available, they can learn many things in a less challenging environment with more chance for success at the start and then warm up to the full-blown experience.

Dear Andy,

We have a Cub Pack and Scout Troop here in Shallowater, outside of Lubbock, Texas. Our dry weather conditions have been so bad that we haven’t had a campout with a campfire in a year! We also deal with a water shortage. The Cubs were allowed a campfire about three weeks ago, near a lake, using a fire ring. With three Pack-parent fire fighters standing ready. The one Scout campout we had about two weeks ago actually got rained out in a canyon! Anyway, how does a Scout qualify for the “open fire” requirement for Second Class rank if there’s a fire ban?

My other question isn’t drought or fire related. It’s this. We’re in a pretty rural area, with lots of hunters, farmers, and so on. Some of our Scouts are used to wearing hunting “camo” pants or shorts. Is it totally off limits for Scouts to be wearing camo pants or shorts, if they’re wearing their Scout shirts? Our area of the country is very different with respect to camo clothing. We don’t see it as militia or renegade attire. Many boys are used to carrying pocket knives, and rifles are considered necessary agricultural equipment. We’re conservative in values and support the Armed Forces, and camo clothing isn’t considered bad attire here. I know the Scout stance on not wearing apparel that’s considered anti-whatever but what about Scouts with tattoos and piercings? (Laura Hendrix, South Plains Council, TX)

On the “open fire” issue, I’m going to throw in two cents more here… It’s important that a Scout know how to start, manage, and extinguish an open fire. If you’ve ever watched any of the “Survivor” Tv shows, that’s proof enough that this skill is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape. The Scout needs to know how to prepare his tinder, kindling, and cooking wood in advance (“Have twice as much as you think you’ll need, and you have half enough” was the rule-of-thumb I was taught as a Scout, many years ago). He needs to find out that “flames burn, coals cook.” And, most important, he needs to know how to put it out—Dead Out! At the First Class level, open fire or stove is an option, so he’s pretty much got to learn this at the Second Class rank level, or it just ain’t gonna happen, and that would be a loss. So, here’s a sort of “Solomon’s Decision” on that Second Class requirement: In order for a Scout to learn how to start, manage, and extinguish an open fire, I’d probably call a gathering on a fire station’s blacktop back driveway a “campout” so that these fires can be done.

On your second question, I think I understand it very well. When I was a Scout, I carried a pocket knife with me even to school sometimes; not because I was in a rural area (I was an “inner city Scout,” if truth be told), but because in earlier eras knives didn’t have the connotations or restrictions that they do today. They were tools, pure and simple.

As for the camo pants, they’re problematic, but not for the reasons you seem to think. The BSA strictly prohibits altering the uniform or wearing alternate pants, etc. that in any way suggest “military.” The BSA isn’t, and never was, a military or military-based organization. Now that the US Army (both regular and reserve, plus the National Guard) has adopted camo’s as their field uniform, camo’s on Scouts would certainly be disallowed. “But this is hunting gear—not military,” one might argue, and the response to that is simple: When one hunts, one kills things; and nothing in Scouting involves the killing of any living creature, so this argument doesn’t work. (Even though there will shortly be a Hunting Merit Badge, earning it will not require killing a thing, believe it or not!). So, I’d have to say, simply, STICK WITH THE BOY SCOUT UNIFORM AS SHOWN AND DESCRIBED ON PAGE 12 OF THE BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. Do this, and no one will ever be wrong!

The “Scout stance” on uniforming is very simple and straightforward: There’s only one uniform, and you already know what it is; no amount of rationalizing or attempts to justify an alternative holds water. Period.

On tattoos, piercings, hair style or color, and so on, I’ve given my thoughts in another column, but let’s say them again: I don’t care, and neither does the BSA, if a Scout looks like “The Illustrated Man” (title of a famous novel by Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury), Johnny Tacklebox, “The Last of the Mohicans,” Gene Simmons, or Alice Cooper if he’s living the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life!

Dear Andy,

Very interesting. I thank you for your information and responses. I am one who asks questions, ponders answers, and tries to see the whole person or picture in any situation. Actually, the fishing merit badge does require the fish to be caught and at some point to be killed. It’s interesting how we as society perceive tattoos and piercings as being personal tastes or expressions of individuality to be left alone, yet if someone shows any sign of even being possibly military (i.e., hunting, riflery, frontiersman, believing in one’s Second Amendment Rights, being “like Dad”—who may be stationed in Iraq wearing camo) that’s banned. I see a conflict in what is acceptable appearance in Scouting and what’s not. I just finished the Wood Badge course and there was much talk about diversity. It’s interesting what we see as diversity. It really comes from who we are, where we live, what our experiences have been, and why we believe the way we do. (I wholeheartedly support the Boy Scout stance on 99% of its code of ethics and willingness to take the punishment for it.)

I will continue to make my way through your “Ask Andy” columns. I’ve enjoyed them. (Laura Hendrix)

I love your Fishing example! Except… either or both of the two fish caught for this merit badge may be released unharmed. In fact, there’s nothing in the requirements that prevents a Scout from buying an intact fish to clean and cook! This is true for both merit badges: Fishing and Fly-Fishing.

As for my comments about the uniform, they have nothing to do with “banishment” or anything of the sort. The BSA has one uniform, period. Any deviation from that, whether it’s camo’s, Dockers, baggies, sweat pants, Wranglers or Levi’s, or plaid Bermuda shorts, is just that: A deviation.

The BSA is silent on grooming other than cleanliness.

Congratulations on completing Wood Badge! (“I used to be an Owl, and a good old Owl, too…”)

Happy Scouting!


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

(June 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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