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Issue 81 – Mid-July 2006

Over the past several years, this little column has produced some wonderful “connections.” Here’s one that’s continuing…

Hi Andy,

I just happened upon your columns, and read the articles about Peter Kronenthal. He’s my father, and I, too, am an Eagle Scout. I last visited Dad this past June, and he’s in good spirits, soon to be approaching the age of 99! He recently received a huge greeting card signed by several dozen of his former Scouts, from a reunion dinner they held in Buffalo, which gave him much elation. His mind is excellent, and if anyone wishes to write to him, he can be reached at: Mr. Peter Kronenthal, c/o Elcor, 48 Colonial Drive, Room 50, Horseheads, New York 14845. Due to severe arthritis, his writing skills are greatly impaired, but if anyone wishes a response, give him your email address, and I’ll respond for him. (Donald Kronenthal, West Palm Beach, FL,, Former ASM, Troop 121 of Buffalo, NY)

And now, “Are We Really That Smart” revisited…

Good thoughts, Andy!

Scouting is nearly always compromised when adults try to make things more efficient or less challenging. It helps when we think of B-P’s analogy of Scouting as a game. Introducing similar efficiencies into most games (sports) would be equally ill-advised, for instance –

Basketball is OK, but why all that dribbling stuff? Letting players carry the ball would be so much easier! And hey, do we really need the baskets to be that high? Let’s put ‘em at 6 feet, so no player feels left out.

Soccer would be a lot more fun to watch if teams just grabbed the other team’s goalie and held him down!

Baseball has too many antiquated rules. Only three strikes? Let’s make it TEN!

The first responsibility of adult leadership is to understand and implement those basic structures and practices that maintain the integrity of the Scouting program without being distracted by so-called efficiency and nit-picking. I boil it down to three central precepts:

Leadership only develops in an atmosphere of real responsibility. Misteaks are not just inevitable – they are IMPORTANT.

Advancement is, as B-P put it, “Cheery self-development from within and not the imposition of formal instruction from without.”

B-P also said (and proved): “The Patrol Method is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organisations, and where The Patrol Method is properly applied, it is absolutely bound to bring success. It cannot help itself!”

Boys have to live their own lives. The more we adults get out of their way, the more successful they’ll be at doing this! (Clarke Green)

Hi Andy,

Kudos on “Are We Really That Smart?”! I was a Scout in the 60s and 70s, a Unit Commissioner in the late 80s, and just entered my fifth year as a Den Leader. I’ve seen many changes to the program—some that worked and some that failed miserably. To me, the point is not that B-P put his stamp of approval on these methods, but that they have been proven to work for nearly a century now. I refer to B-P frequently, but I do what I do because decades of experience have proved that it works! Today, we face challenges that B-P didn’t. Boys of B-P’s time had too much time on their hands and too little to do, while boys of today have too many choices and too many activities. If we capture their imaginations as B-P did, and if we don’t get in the way, Scouting works the same way it has from the start! (Steve Crumbaugh, DL, Pack 270, Northwest Suburban Council, Mount Prospect, IL)

Thanks for your comments and thoughts, and here are a few more of my own…

Boys are boys. I was a boy, and a Scout, over 50 years ago, and a Scoutmaster in the early 60s, then a Scoutmaster again some 30 years later. The boys aren’t really very different after all. Yes, the world around them has changed, and there are many more and different sorts of distractions and competition for a boy’s time and interests. And the “age of innocence” (if there really was one) has sure gone the way of buggy whips, soda fountains, soda pop for a nickel a bottle and pick up the empties and get some money for them. But boys themselves haven’t changed. They still crave adventure. They’re still fascinated by the unknown out there in the woods. They still like to group up by sixes and eights and not much more than that. They’re still all teeth n’ elbows, messy hair and skinned knees (they get skinned, nowadays, from rollerblades and skateboards instead of from climbing trees or playing stickball in the street), and dirty faces, big grins and as much mischief as they can muster before getting caught. They still have messy rooms, little interest in homework, and a fascination for the electronic (used to be Grandpa’s wireless; now it’s videogames and ipods). They still try to ditch household chores, skip Sunday school, check out their older brother’s photo collection (they’re on the Internet now, instead of in magazines), and give their dinner vegetables to Fido.

In this same march of time, we adults have been increasingly programming them and coddling them, when the last things they need are programming and coddling. We drive them to soccer and swimming practice and matches or meets, violin lessons and choral recitals, confirmation and CCD and Hebrew and Chinese classes, and just about everywhere else, as if they’re captives in the back of our erstwhile parent-police wagons. We praise them when they merely do what they ought to, and give them emotional medals for simply being civil. We let ‘em make a ruckus in restaurants and stores, and buy everything their little booger hearts desire, for fear we’ll crush their spirit or, worse, they won’t love us anymore, if we’re anything but totally permissive. We send them to band camp, basketball camp, fat camp, computer camp, and on and on. Wherever they turn, there’s us adults frantically running, coaching, and supervising every minute of their so-called lives. And, in the sincere belief that we’re helping them “grow up,” we intercede before they mess up, so that they always succeed and never learn how to get themselves out of a jam.

We need to let ’em go. We need to let ’em be boys. One of the very best places to just be a boy is in the Boy Scouts. Here, you hang with friends, pick your own group’s leader, learn from your peers, hike and camp with your buddies, and if you do need an adult now and then, he or she is right there in the background, ready to step forward and help you figure out what to do when you mess up. The cool thing about these adults, however, is that they’re not your parent, or teacher, or preacher—they’re more like your “big brother.” They don’t lecture you or wag their fingers at you, they don’t preach to you or try to teach you by trying to pry open the top of your head and pour in knowledge and wisdom. They let you be. They show you just enough that your own curiosity takes over and you try to figure out the rest for yourself. They can take a joke, even when it’s on them, and they never, ever try to inflict corporal punishment on you, even when you’ve messed up really bad. No, they’re not pushovers, and they won’t be walked on, but you don’t have to be afraid to talk to them, or ask for help if you need it, or watch how they do something and then secretly emulate them. This is an entirely different relationship from any other adult they know. It’s called—you guessed it—Scouting.

Now, let’s get on with our Q&A…

Dear Andy,

Here’s a question I’ve never heard before: A Webelos Scout in my Pack has earned 19 activity pins and completed everything for his Arrow of Light except the Troop visit and Scoutmaster conference. He’ll turn 11 soon and should have his AoL completed along with his 20th activity pin by our September Pack meeting. He’d like to stick around for his last Pinewood Derby and Blue & Gold next year, but he’d also like to join a Troop and start working towards Eagle. My initial response to him was that he’s either a Cubby or a Boy Scout, but he can’t be both; however, I have found no documentation that actually says he can’t join a Troop while maintaining his membership in the Pack, and participate in both. If such a thing is treated as a new registration, and not a transfer, is this allowed? If not, is there anything I can reference to show that I’m not just making this up? (Steve Crumbaugh, DL, Pack 270, Northwest Suburban Council, Mount Prospect, IL)

A boy can be a Webelos Scout and member of a Pack, or he can be a Boy Scout and member of a Troop; not both. That’s why he transfers from a Pack to a Troop (and keeps his same membership number, by the way). So what’s this kid hangin’ around for? An 11-1/2 year old making a Pinewood Derby car (that first-graders can make) puts him a bit on the immature side right now, and waaaaay too old for this sorta stuff next year! How did it get to be summer and he still hasn’t done his three troop visits? It sounds like he’s at least three months behind the curve! He’s got to get into a troop RIGHT NOW or his first summer camp experience is going to go right down the ol’ porcelain fixture! Anything you can do to get this process back on track will help this boy a very great deal!

Dear Andy,

I’m the mother of a new and very motivated Boy Scout who is becoming discouraged with his Troop. Before he crossed over and joined this Troop, we spoke with their leaders (who knew that he’d earned his Arrow of Light and all 20 Webelos activity badges earlier than anyone in the Pack’s history and he also—on his own—earned a bunch of additional things, like Emergency Preparedness, Crime Prevention, and all the Academics belt loops and pins and most of the Sports ones, too) and they told us at that time that they wouldn’t hold a Scout back from advancing, but now they’re telling us, and him, that they don’t want a Scout to “move too quickly.” Every time he asks to do something toward advancement, they find a reason why he has to wait. For instance, he’s asked to start merit badges he’s interested in and he’s been told that he can’t start unless another Scout wants to do the same merit badge, too. They’ve have also said that his father (who is an Assistant Scoutmaster) can’t sign off on requirements for his own son. For Tenderfoot rank, he did his 30-day fitness requirement and asked to have it signed off, but his Troop’s leaders refused, saying that this had to be done with a group. So, he waited for “a group” and then did it all again. That was 45 days ago and they still won’t sign him off on this. His summer camp fee is already paid for (he earned the money himself by selling more popcorn than any boy in the entire council, two years in a row), so his father and I have told him to stick it out with this Troop until the fall, and then we may have to find a new Troop that encourages their Scouts to reach for their goals. My son wants to be an Eagle Scout and is a very hard worker; he hopes to achieve this by about his 13th birthday, or sooner. Now, he’s being told that they think that is too young, and they don’t want him to even start earning certain merit badges until he’s at least 14. I had thought it was Boy Scout policy for each Scout to advance at his own pace, so long as he meets all stated requirements. Am I wrong? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re 100% on the mark. It is definitely and unquestionably BSA policy (and not my opinion, and not open to discussion or conjecture) that Scouts are to advance at their own pace and this pace is not to be interfered with by any person, group of people, unit, district, or council. It is not necessary, for instance, to wait for another Scout to express interest in order to start a merit badge (this is on page 187 of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK) and permission to start cannot be unreasonably withheld for this or any other reason. No one is permitted to tell a Scout that “they don’t want him to move too quickly”—This is no one’s decision but the Scout’s. There is no restriction by way of relation on any Scouting leader signing off on requirements for his or her son, including Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters, and Merit Badge Counselors—The BSA states clearly that this can be done. The 30 days required for the Tenderfoot physical fitness requirement(s) are not dependent upon participation with a group; this is an individual effort and an individual requirement. There is no age restriction on any rank requirement or merit badge, other than one cannot earn these after reaching the age of 18. In other words, whoever is telling you all these things is 100% WRONG. These are errors plain and simple and are not negotiable or open to opinions. They are wrong because they violate stated BSA policies. Since it is unlikely that your son has been singled out, and more likely that these errors are being made with other Scouts as well, this is not only the wrong Troop for your son, it is the wrong Troop for every Scout in it. However, it is absolutely not your job to try to correct these problems. There is a hierarchy and process in Scouting that is responsible for this. So, your and your husband’s job is to help your son find a new Troop as rapidly as possible. Frankly, I’d do this immediately and have your son’s camp fee transferred to his new Troop, rather than spend even one more minute with these people. By the way, your husband should get out of that Troop, too. Take care of your son—that’s your most important job—before these knuckleheads crush his enthusiasm and drive.

Dear Andy,

My son (age 11) was a victim of and assault by contact, according to police, by the Senior Patrol Leader (age 15) of his Troop while at our Troop summer camp this past June. The Scoutmaster suspended the SPL from his position and from Troop activities for three months, and submitted an incident report to the council office. I asked for a copy of that report, but the council’s Scout Executive told me that it is BSA policy to not allow anyone, including the parents of the victim, to have a copy of a report of this type. My request for a copy was prompted by my learning from this Scout Executive that the incident report filed by the Scoutmaster did not include the assault on my son. Do I have any other recourse for obtaining a copy of that report? (Name Withheld)

First, please accept my sincerest sympathy for this happening to your son. There is absolutely no place in Scouting for physical assault (or any other kind, for that matter), and I’m 100% in favor of a police report having been filed. That being the case, it would probably be wisest to advise the lead officer in the police department that there is a BSA Incident Report, and ask him or her for a follow-up with the Scout Executive, along with your request for a copy of it.

NetCommish Comment: Every state has some level of protection for minors accused of misconduct or charged with a violation of law. The states recognize that there is a need to protect the privacy and identity of minors. In most states there is also liability for disclosing information like this when it is protected by law. The policy of not providing the report is not some effort to play hide-the-ball or trying to sweep something under the rug. Rather, it is a policy of not acting in violation of law and/or violating the privacy rights of a minor. You will probably also find that local law enforcement is limited in what it can release as well and for the same reasons.

Dear Andy,

With the Pack Summertime Award, for Dens to earn their award ribbon, do they have to count “inactive” Cubs in their 50% computation? I’m referring to Cubs who stopped participating in their Den and this Pack altogether during the year, but their registration hasn’t expired yet. (Christine Wasner, CC, Pack 205, Bossier City, LA)

Let’s see here… We already know that the Pack itself gets a ribbon for holding three events—one each in June, July, and August—and that individual Cubs receive their pins if they attend all three events. And, we know that, for Dens to get their own ribbons, they need to have 50% representation at all three events (doesn’t have to be the same boys—just has to equal 50% or more each time). So the question is: Who is still in the Dens? If a Den had eight Cubs at registration but, say, one has dropped out, then the Den has seven, and so any four attending will qualify the Den. The fact that the registration of the drop-out won’t come off the books until the next rechartering isn’t the issue here—the boy is, unfortunately, already gone! But I wouldn’t include the “less active” or the “inactive because of a sports schedule” but intend to return in the fall boys in this category, because these boys aren’t really drop-outs. In fact, I’d reach out to them and encourage them to get active over the summer!

Thanks, Andy –

Now I have another question about Den dues & Pack bank accounts. Currently, we have a single checking account for our Pack. We are thinking about incorporating “Scout accounts” for those Cubs who sell above a minimum popcorn sale amount. So, I’m thinking it would be best to open up another checking account to accommodate this, and to keep a separate accounting. The next step down the line is Den dues, and my question is how best to handle collection of Den dues when we are not going to have a portion go to the Pack at all. This coming year, I’m going to suggest that we leave dues at the Den level and the amount to be determined by each Den Leader after they discuss their annual plan with their boys’ parents (It depends upon how active the Den wants to be and if they want to plan trips, etc. in the year). I would think Tiger Cub Den activities would normally be less costly than Webelos activities, so that’s the variance and the difficulty in setting a “blanket” Den dues amount. Maybe each Den should plan and budget accordingly, similar to the Pack, and produce their own reports as well. What is the best way to account for these Den dues when the Den Leader will be collecting and needing the money readily for Den meeting expenses, etc.? I guess it’s a convenience factor that they don’t filter the money through the Pack account and have to request a check from the Pack all the time. What do you suggest? (Christine Wasner)

Good questions, and I’m pretty sure there’s no “one size fits all” here. I agree that the expenses related to a Tiger Cub Den would probably be different from Wolf, Bear, and Webelos. And I also agree that putting such funds into a pack account and then having to frequently issue Den Leaders checks is probably overly cumbersome. Maybe the simplest way to handle this is to have your normal Pack dues for the year, that also covers a flat amount per Den for the projects they’ll be doing in the year for the monthly Pack meetings, and then, at the Den level, handle extraordinary expenses on an as-needed basis (instead of actual weekly dues). After all, Den expenses for crafts, etc. needed for Pack meetings are pretty modest, and one check per Den per year is probably all that’s needed, since the Pack is covering advancement patches, badges, pins, etc. Most things that a Den does have no cost associated with them anyway (visiting a town library, or the local fire house, for instance), since rank requirements, Arrow Point electives, and so on, are done by the parents, at home, and not in Den meetings. Now occasionally, a Den might have an extraordinary expense, such as a fee for Cub Family Camping, or something along those lines. When this happens, just collecting the amount needed from the parents, at the time it’s needed, is probably all that’s necessary. This is also a great way for your Den Leaders to get another parent involved—by asking one to be the Den’s treasurer! More hands make the work easier for all!

Hi Andy,

That sounds like an option, but we have two new Tiger Cub Den Leaders this year both of whom have the “Girl Scout leader mindset.” They were GS leaders for five years apiece and this is their first experience with Cub Scouts. They want to run their Dens like they did their Girl Scout Troops. Their Troop had about 8 to 10 girls, similar to the incoming Tiger Cub Dens—they didn’t have a larger group like our packs to contend with, they just had their council to report to. So, with 8 to 10 girls, they’d budget out their year, plan trips, and estimate craft expenses, snacks, etc., and set their GS Troop dues, and this is what they want to do with their Tiger Dens. I like the idea of having “Den Treasurers” and leaving the Den funds, collections, and accounting up to the Den Leaders (there should be a requirement for monthly reports to their Den’s parents), but, on the other hand, I thought I read somewhere that all unit funds must be processed through the unit’s account, and I’m thinking, how can we stay in line with BSA guidelines? (Christine Wasner)

Ran into this myself, a while back! Every time I tried to explain some-thing to our Pack’s newest leaders, all I got back was, “Well, in the Girls Scouts, we…(fill in the blank).” Unfortunately, there’s very little that the two organizations have in common besides “Scout” in the name. I think your very best bet, if you can pull it off, is to convince these good-intentioned women that they’ve absolutely got to go to training, because there’s almost nothing that they learned in Girl Scouts that they can apply here, and this stuff isn’t open to discussion or subject to personal opinions—The BSA has policies and guidelines and they need to know what they are so that they can deliver the program they’re supposed to deliver. Start politely, of course, but you may have to get a little forceful. If this happens, stick with it and don’t waffle, or ultimately they’re likely to do what they please while convincing you to bend the rules, and this isn’t what you want to go.

As for “unit funds,” yes, that’s right, but that’s not what I was talking about. At the Den level, expenses are nearly non-existent. When funds are truly needed, the Den Leaders can just ask the parents for it in cash— Don’t bother with checks made payable to the Pack and so forth for this sort of stuff, because this isn’t a “donation” anyway!

NetCommish Comment: Andy is right that there is no one-size fits all solution. As a trainer I talked with hundreds Pack leaders and the way things were handled varied fairly widely. That said, most units opted to fund most things as a Pack including the cost of advancement. Den expenses were limited to the costs of events or materials needed for the meeting. For Den expenses, most collected weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly dues and those funds were held by the Den Leader to cover costs. Some Packs had a policy of augmenting Den dues with Pack funds when the costs of Den activities exceed dues. Pack expenses were funded by dues, fundraising, and fees for events. Though it is now outdated a tad, we do have a web page that may be of interest at

Dear Andy,

I have recently earned the rank of Eagle, but shortly thereafter, my Troop folded. Now I’m working at a Scout camp and they registered me with a Venturing Crew specific to that camp. I’m interested in changing my uniform to reflect the fact that I’m a Venturer, but I don’t want to wear the green uniform as that would set me too far apart from the rest of the staff. I know that the tan uniform can be worn with green shoulder loops, and that there’s no specific uniform for Venturing; however, I’m unsure about the correct insignia for my new uniform. Can I leave my Eagle rank patch on, or should I wear the Eagle square knot? What about OA flaps and temporary patches? Thanks! (Andrew Bromley, Lake Huron Area Council, MI)

I’m sorry that your troop folded… that’s a shame when that sort of thing happens. But the good news is that you earned your Eagle, so CONGRATULATIONS! Your questions are good ones, so let’s see if I can help…

I’m delighted that you’re still registered in Scouting, and I hope you’ll continue beyond this summer. So long as you’re under age 18, wearing your oval Eagle badge on your left pocket is perfectly “legal,” and I’d definitely encourage you to do this, no matter what color your shirt is—tan or green! If you’re 18 or over, then switching to the square knot is a good idea. Yes, you can also wear your OA flap (I’m assuming you’re still a dues-paying member of your lodge) and you can wear any BSA patch that you like on the right pocket (“temporary” which really means “optional” position), regardless of your age. You can also wear your council shoulder patch and a unit numeral (The Venturing Crew number) on your left sleeve! Unfortunately, you won’t wear your SPL badge, because that was a troop position and the troop’s no longer in operation. But do wear that Eagle with humble pride!

Dear Andy,

At our son’s Troop’s last campout, there were minor behavior issues related to some of the Scouts. At the next Troop meeting, all the Scouts from one patrol were called out, and their parents as well. The scouts were talked to, and then the parents and their sons were asked to return back to the meeting, except for two of the Scouts, who were held back—these two are the oldest in the Troop and they’re both Life rank. They were told by the Scoutmaster that since they are the “senior” Scouts of the Troop and because of what happened at the campout, he is going hold off signing their Eagle projects for three months and for these three months these two Scout have to show Scout Spirit. My questions are:

Can the Scoutmaster decide to hold back having a Scoutmaster’s Conference for Eagle rank for a Scout who has completed his project, and not allow him to have a Board of Review for three months, till the Scout shows Scout Spirit?

Should the Scoutmaster have contacted the parents of the two Scouts if there were issues, instead of blind-siding the parents at the meeting?

Should there have been a Troop Committee discussion of this, with one of the parents present?

Should each Scout have been called before the Troop Committee instead of being talked to with other parents present?

What are the right processes the Scoutmaster should have followed for this kind of situation?

I was late to get to the Troop meeting (my son had been dropped off by his Dad) and I happened to walk in when the two Scouts were being talked to by the Scoutmaster, while all the other parents were listening to this. Your quick response and guidance, on what a concerned parent should do, will be highly appreciated (Name Withheld)

It would be foolhardy of me to attempt to assess the implications and ramifications of “minor behavior issues,” “blind-siding parents,” and so forth. But I can with considerable assurance tell you that the purpose of the Scoutmaster’s Conference for any rank is to look both forward and back… Forward to what’s coming next in a young man’s Scouting “career” and back at what he’s accomplished, how he’s accomplished it, and—in particular—how he’s lived up to the Scout Oath and Scout Law in his daily life (this being what’s called “Scout Spirit”). If, in the Scoutmaster’s considered judgment, there is opportunity for improvement in the dimension of Scout Spirit, the Scoutmaster has an actual obligation to the Scout (and all who have gone before him) to observe that improvement is needed, and to lay out, with the Scout, a specific plan and timetable for this, so that the Scout indeed has the opportunity to succeed. Both plan and timetable are points to be agreed to by both the Scoutmaster and the Scout, so that there is no misunderstanding of what’s being expected.

It is the ultimate challenge, opportunity and burden of the Scoutmaster above all others to instill in the youth in his care the ideals of Scouting, which are in the Scout Oath and Law, the Scout Motto and Slogan. His interest is in the betterment of the youth in his care; not punishment. Accompanying this, Scouts need to realize that all actions have consequences, and the nature of the consequences is tied to the nature of the actions—This is not a “Scout lesson;” this is a life lesson.

NetCommish Comment: The road to becoming an Eagle Scout includes more than earning merit badges, doing projects, and serving as a youth leader. Advancement, after all, is a method of Scouting. The goals of Scouting are citizenship, character, and fitness. The method of advancement is used to try to foster growth that leads to these goals. Making sure that advancement is only a method and that the goals are not missed is part of the job of a Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster is coach, counselor, mentor, friend, and leader rolled into one. In those roles and through the Scoutmaster Conference, it is the job of the Scoutmaster to talk with the Scouts about how they have lived the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. Usually this is a two-way discussion with some guided discovery. Often behavior issues come up for discussion. Typically the Scout will be asked questions about the behavior and what ought to be done. In most cases the Scout will volunteer that he needs to try harder and do better. Many times it is the Scout himself that suggests that he needs time to demonstrate how he can live the Scout Law and Oath in his daily life. In others the Scout needs a nudge and a good Scoutmaster will try to help. Most of the time these Scouts do try harder and in the process learn new ways of behaving and are better for the experience. Some will look back years from now and thank that Scoutmaster for helping them along. I know that I do. My hat’s off to a Scoutmaster long ago that took the time to try to steer a boy who needed some improvements on to a better course.

Dear Andy,

As a Scout, I attended the 1994 NOAC at Purdue University. At that time, I was told that the NOAC participant patch could be worn in the same position as a National Jamboree patch, because they were of the same level of event. After much research, including the insignia guide, I can’t find a mention of this. Was I told incorrectly and the patch should be worn as a temporary patch, or have I overlooked something in my search? Thanks! (Robert)

Yup, you were told incorrectly. Centered on right pocket is the place.

Dear Andy,

Before 1954, adult men could earn Eagle. If any of these men are active Scouters today, can they wear the Eagle knot? (Robert, Great Smoky Mountain Council)

You bet they can! Earn Eagle rank=Wear the knot as an adult Scouter.

Dear Andy,

I’m 27 and an Eagle Scout and OA Brotherhood. I’ve recently had the Scouting fire start to burn inside me again. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I starting searching on the Internet. I started reading about the responsibilities of all the Troop positions, and I started leaning toward an ASM position. But as my research continued, I read the description of a Unit Commissioner, and found your column and comments, and learned about the need for UCs most every-where, and thought this might be where I’d like to be. I contacted the District Commissioner, and learned that there’s a need for UCs in the local district. Over the weekend, I went to the local Scout Shop and bought the various Commissioner field books, helps, and the advancement policy book, and the insignia guide, and I read them front to back and learned how much a good UC can help a unit. Now I know this is where I belong. I have the library of literature for 2005, 2006 is not out yet, on order from national so I can get started on my binder. I’m waiting for my next in-person meeting with the DC, and can hardly wait to get started, but am I maybe too young for something like this? (Robert, Great Smoky Mountain Council)

Age isn’t the key to excellent Commissioner service. The key is the desire to HELP where help is both wanted and needed. (You can’t help folks who don’t want it, and of course you needn’t help folks who are doing OK all by themselves!) Your job is to be “the unit’s best friend.” You’re there for them, you’re there to encourage them, you’re there when they have a question (you don’t have to know the answer—just know where to find it!), and you’re there for them when they get into little snits (which some will occasionally do). You’re their mediator, facilitator, resource for answers, their guide when you can be, and two-way communicator (you’re the key liaison between the district/council and the unit itself.)

Sometimes, us geezers think we know it all; you know you don’t, and you’re willing to go out and get answers. Sometimes us geezers like things “the old way” and that may be outdated, but you have the advantage of youth and openness to new ideas. Sometimes us geezers like to show up at Troop or Pack meetings with our red jackets, Smokey Bear hats, and coffee cups at the ready, as if they are there for us! You, on the other hand, know that it’s the other way around. And, sometimes, us geezers think the Scouting experience we had as a kid is the absolute model for all units to follow, whereas you know that despite the good experience you had as a Scout, your own Troop got a little off-center from time to time, so you’ll be able to spot “problem” units pretty quickly (not that you can then run in like a firefighter to fix things and they’ll be welcoming you with open arms… The only tools we Commissioners have are a smile, persistence, diplomacy, and a silver tongue!). So, go have some fun in Scouting again! Unit-level Commissioner service is unquestionably the most rewarding “job” I’ve had in Scouting!

Hi Andy,

I’m looking for some Cub Scout-level service project ideas. Does marching in an Independence Day parade count? I understand about conservation projects and helping people, but I’m not sure how far beyond those categories service projects can still count. (Rob Hardwick, WDL, Pack 1114, National Capitol Area Council, MD)

Your CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK (chapter 9) is an excellent springboard for service ideas, from spring cleanups to adopting a stream or roadway or park to shoveling snow and tree-planting, and much more. You’ll notice that most of these involve “getting some dirt under the fingernails.” They most often involve some physical work, and not just “showing up,” if you will. Now don’t get me wrong: I think parades are fabulous opportunities for our Scouting units to show themselves off and have fun doing it! But I personally see parades as more in the “public relations” arena than “service,” even though we could stretch things a bit and call marching in a parade “service to the community.” But with so many other ways to provide a truly tangible service, that can be re-visited and the work done can still be seen (except for snow-shoveling, of course), I’d be hard-pressed to see parades in quite the same way. Nevertheless, I’d definitely have my Pack march in as many parades as possible, because this builds esprit de corps, and helps these boys and their parents feel especially good about the program they’re involved in!

Dear Andy,

There’s a statement in the BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting that I’d like you to discuss: “There are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when no adult leadership is required.”

We have a Troop Guide who scheduled a pool party for his new Scout patrol (all of these boys bridged from Cub Scouting three months ago) at a local private swim club. (I happen to belong to this swim club, so I know personally that it is always adequately staffed with lifeguards and adult employees of the club.) The Troop Guide completed BSA lifeguard at this year’s summer camp, but when I asked him who the adult supervisor was going to be, he replied that there would be none. I told him that he could not have this swim-outing if two-deep leadership wasn’t present. Yes, I was aware of the GTSS statement I gave you, but I’m not sure how to apply it. A group of 11 year-old Scouts without adult supervision around makes me very nervous. (One of them is my own youngest son – Maybe that’s why!) I’m not certain that I did the right thing. How can you know which are the “few instances” when adult leadership/supervision isn’t required? Thanks for your help! (Paul Roberts, Troop Committee Chair, Mobile Area Council, Mobile, AL)

I’m going to give you my own analysis here, based on BSA policies and erring on the side of caution, yet also with some reasonableness and (hopefully) good sense. That said, I’d heartily recommend that you check this out further with a qualified representative of your council’s risk management committee.

To begin with, it’s true that “there are…patrol activities when no adult leadership is required (page 7 of the GTSS book),” but I don’t believe swimming, even in a lifeguarded pool, is one of them. I refer you to page 8 of the same book (the comments in parentheses are my own):

“Before a BSA group (that would include a patrol) may engage in swimming activities of any kind (this would include public pools and private swim clubs, even when lifeguarded), a minimum of one adult leader (this overrides “youth leader,” such as a Troop Guide or Patrol Leader) must complete SSD training…and…use the eight defenses…”

Further, page 10 of the same book states:

“The Safe Swim Defense applies to swimming at the beach, private or public pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or any-where Scouts swim.”

This section of the GTSS goes on to state:

“Pool—If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others are using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard personnel, there may (this says “may,” which is quite different from “is”) be no need for additional designation of Scoyut lifeguards and lookout (importantly, this does NOT say that adult supervision is not needed),” and “The Buddy System is critically important, however, even in a public pool.”
So, I do believe you got it 99% right on the money! The only point that might exceed policy and guidelines is “two-deep leadership,” because the policies state that a single adult supervisor is all that’s needed for a swimming activity and, since this is a highly public area where everything is 100% visible to all, the reason for two-deep leadership isn’t present.

By the way, I think the Troop Guide’s idea of a swim party is terrific, and I’d encourage him to find a “patrol dad” to be the SSD-trained supervisor! (Hey, maybe YOU!!!)

Dear Andy,

Thanks so much for your reply. I agree with everything that you said. I didn’t volunteer to be the “patrol dad” because I wanted to see if the Troop Guide would show further leadership and use the resources available to him (If he doesn’t come up with a solution, we will of course guide him to one). There are at least four dads (including his own) in this particular patrol who are registered leaders and have been SSD trained. By way of full disclosure, I am the past council risk management committee chair (term ended in January when I began to serve as district commissioner) and have never been too comfortable with “no adult leadership is required.” Perhaps it comes from hearing about the “problem” cases too often! Anyway, I love your column, keep up the great work! (Paul Roberts, Troop Committee Chair, Mobile Area Council, Mobile, AL)

You’re telling me that your son and his friends have at least four dads who are actively aware of this patrol’s interest in independent activities? This is nothing short of marvelous! These dads can provide transportation for the patrol, when needed, and can also sometimes be “wallpaper” when the patrol goes out on its own activities—wallpaper that keeps the Scouts safe, but from a distance! Should patrols do this? You bet! Heck, here’s a quote from the Scoutmaster Handbook:

“A good patrol should carry out its own hikes, camping trips, and other activities of its own, and not just sit around waiting for the next troop event…A patrol has every right to enlarge its share of Scouting adventure by planning activities of its own.”

Sure, a couple of “patrol dads” might unofficially accompany the patrol on a hike (lag behind a bit–never go “out front”—this is their hike, not yours) or overnight (camp separately, cook separately, but within eyesight/earshot of the patrol campsite—they’ll know you’re there, if they need you). As you’re doing this, get some “non-registered” dads in the loop, too! This is how lifetime friendships among Scouting dads are forged!

But, what about other activities that might not require any adult to be present? Do these still exist? I think they do! Here are a few…

  • Visit a zoo, museum, or historical site (use public transportation to-and-from)
  • Go to an outdoor or sporting goods store to buy some patrol equipment, like a tent, dining fly, tent stakes, cooking stove, etc. (public transportation, bicycles…)
  • Go to a climbing wall (a supervised/instructed one, of course)
  • Do a movie-and-pizza night at a patrol member’s home (options include “Glory Road,” “Remember The Titans,” “October Sky,” “Hoosiers,” “Apollo 13,” “The Right Stuff,” “Miracle,” “U-571,” or Fred MacMurray’s “Follow Me, Boys” (the Scouts’ll get a chuckle out of Kurt Russell as a kid actor!).
  • Attend a town council meeting (good practice for
  • Citizenship-Community and Communications MBs!) to see what goes on.
  • Arrange a tour of their local police department or rescue squad.
  • Do a service project for the town library or school (just to do it—not for “hours” but just to do it!).
  • Go shopping for food, for an upcoming troop campout.
  • Go skateboarding together.
  • Meet up and play street-hockey or Ultimate Frisbee or basketball with another patrol.

These are just off the top of my head, of course. With a real activities planning get-together (Yup, it’s called a patrol meeting!), I’ll bet your son and his patrol could come up with a whole bunch of ideas that don’t require some adult to be around! Let ’em go for it!

B-P said it: “The Patrol Method isn’t a way of conducting Scouting; it’s the only way.”

Hi Andy,

I thought when I went through Leadership Training back in 2002 that a married couple should not be Den Leaders together, solely – That a married companion can help his or her Den Leader partner, but that two-deep leadership means two adults of different household? Am I remembering this correctly? (Deanna Wright, El Dorado District, Boulder Dam Area Council, Henderson, NV)

The BSA “two-deep leadership” policy is gender- and marital status-free (except in the case of both male and female youth in a Venturing Crew, in which event one of the two in the two-deep pair must be male and the other must be female). There’s no specific BSA policy that I’ve ever heard of or read about (and this column requires a lot of reading!). Just be sure you don’t try the “co-leader” stuff, because among other problems, this confuses the boys. One should be the Den Leader and the other either a non-registered helper or, if registered, the Assistant Den Leader.

Dear Andy,

Part of my job in my Troop is to record the Scouts’ service hours, and I’m confused about just what may be included for this. I’m given to understand that service to the BSA isn’t included. This might include such activities as assisting at a Cub Scout day camp, or playing in an all-Scout band at Camporees or other Scout ceremonies. I’d certainly appreciate any thoughts you may have on this matter. (Rick Ball, ASM, Troop 380, Nittany District, Juniata Valley Council, Boalsburg, PA).

The BSA book, ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES & PROCEDURES, makes these statements: “Work involving council property or other BSA activities is not acceptable for an Eagle Scout service project. The service project also may not be performed for a business, or be of a commercial nature, or be a fund-raiser.” However, this book is silent with regard to the nature of service projects participated in by Second Class, Star, and Life Scouts. This suggests to me that projects that are related to BSA property or events (e.g., working on a project at your council’s summer camp property or helping at a Cub Scout day camp or other event, or serving as an honor guard for a district or council event or for a charitable organization like a Rotary or Kiwanis or Lions club, or staffing a Camporee, etc.) would be perfectly acceptable for these three non-Eagle ranks. Also, Eagle Scouts and Eagle Scout candidates can participate in these, too, so long as they’re not the Eagle service project itself.

Now, a further thought. I’ve always considered advancement to be something that, ideally, is serendipitous; that is, the Scout does it for the love of doing it, and then finds out afterwards that he’s completed a requirement. For instance, when a new Scout is given a tent to set up and instructions to pick out the campsite for his patrol, and he does these, he finds out at the end of the camping trip that he’s completed 2nd Class requirement 2b. Wow! That’s pretty cool! Or, a Scout is asked to pitch in and help some other Scouts in the Troop pick up litter along the trail that they’re hiking, or clean out fire pits at an over-used campground, and he does it with his buddies, and he then finds out that he’s just completed 2nd Class requirement 4, how cool is that! But, when we tell Scouts, for example, that they “have to” pick up trash for 60 minutes to meet 2nd Class requirement 4, I’ll guarantee that you’ll soon turn them into clock-watchers of the worst sort—Guys who eventually won’t lift a finger to do anything unless it has to do with completing a requirement for one rank or another. Ouch! That’s exactly the opposite of the ethic we’re trying to instill in our young people! So, keep it fun, keep it simple, and keep our “hidden agenda” of service to others unblinkingly a secret!

Happy Scouting!


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(Please include your Council name and home state)

(July 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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