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Issue 89 – Mid-November 2006

Dear Andy,

A question asked of me by a single mom… For Family Life merit badge, can the word “parent” be substituted for “father” in this requirement:

7. Discuss the following with your counselor: (a) Your understanding of what makes an effective fatherand why, and your thoughts on the father’s role in the family. (b) Your understanding of the responsibilities of a parent.

Or is there some learning objective in insisting on the word “father” in the requirement? (George Fosselius, DC, Piedmont Council, CA)

Yes, there’s definitely a “learning objective” here. The BSA’s wording of requirements for both ranks and merit badges is absolutely precise and not subject to alteration. There’s a very important reason why the word “father” is used in that requirement, and why there are to be no substitutions: In Scouting, we’re guiding boys and young men to be happy, productive, contributing, responsible, ethically-based adults, and part of that relates to the role of parent. The male parental role is that of father; not mother. Moreover, “parent” is dealt with in the subsequent requirement, as you’ve shown. Consequently, this single mom should be delighted that fatherhood and the role of the father in a family is going to be discussed with her son by an objective third party.

Dear Andy,

I was just asked to be District Commissioner. Where would you start? (Paul Markoff)

By strapping on my track shoes! No, in all seriousness, that’s not it. Let’s start with your own experience… Ever been a Commissioner? Scoutmaster? Cubmaster or Den Leader? How well do you know the overall Scouting program? Have you been given any of the three Commissioner Fieldbooks? Start with those. Read up on the job responsibilities of District Commissioner, Assistant District Commission-ers, Unit Commissioners, and Roundtable Commissioners. Then, ask for an “inventory” for your District. You haven’t told me your council or district, so I have to make up some numbers here. Let’s say you have a district with 60 Packs and Troops. Then, in an “ideal world,” you should have 20 or more Commissioners. Do you have less than that? How many less? (Because one of your primary jobs will be to get the “count” up to that number, at least.) How good a “salesman” are you? (Because that might be your main role.) How good a people manager and team builder are you? (Because that will be your second most important job.) Have you met with the District Executive and District Chair together yet? The DE, DC, and District Commissioner are the “Key 3” in the district, and you’ll want to know the aims, goals, and plans of your about-to-be two closest colleagues.

Well, that ought to get you started. But that’s only the start. You’ll want to create a three-year plan, at least, and that’s where the real work begins!

Hi Andy,

My husband and I, along with two other parents (but they don’t have sons in the troop any longer) are going to meet with our troop’s committee to try to fix a problem. The problem’s been around for a while. My husband attempted to deal with the problem, but had virtually no effect, so he doesn’t have much hope, and two other parents who sided with him at the time have quit the troop, along with their sons. But my husband is strong, quick-witted and a voice of reason, and I’m sure he’ll make an effort to keep his emotions in check. We’re going to give this a shot, because the situation has escalated, and the other parents who will be supporting us don’t have sons who are getting the brunt of one leader’s aggressions the way our own son is, but they see what’s going on and they don’t like it. This is all about a leader in the troop (but he’s not the Scoutmaster) who enjoys his nickname, “The Nail-Gun,” and yells at and humiliates any Scout who even looks cross-eyed at him! This whole thing is just weird, weird, weird and for the life of me I don’t see how the other adult leaders in the Troop—seasoned and relatively gentle men—could allow this to continue as long as it has.

The reason I feel this is my only course of action is because we are in a very small town and the only other possible Troop for our son is 20 minutes away! Just given the logistics of it all, I really feel that if my son is to be a Boy Scout this is it, but then again maybe if we got a couple of his friends perhaps we could jointly go the other Troop, I feel the need to make the effort to get the negative force out. This is our town, my son’s friends, my husband belongs to the chartered organization. I’ll will go armed with the support of people as well as the number of Scouts we have lost just in the past couple of years because of this one individual. Maybe the Scoutmaster is getting it. I say this mostly because he immediately took my concerns and request just to meet with him and the Committee Chair and responded that he wanted to discuss it and have “The Nail-Gun” there, too. I probably won’t end up a hero, but at the very least a mom who’s going to bat for her kid. (Name Withheld)

The bottom line: Unless you’re walking into that meeting with the head of your sponsor AND the COR on your side 100% and right there with you, you’re wasting your time and energy on a doomed mission. There’s only one way to “fight the good fight”: Win it. When you’re fighting an uphill battle against this knucklehead and his spineless cohorts: You lose. If you’re not in a position to overwhelm him (like with the head of your sponsoring organization and the COR): You lose. If you think “reason will prevail,” it never does: You lose.

On the other hand, a 20 minute drive is a good thing: It’s a good, quiet time with your son, once a week, to chat about this n’ that and have some parent-and-son time. Don’t look at it as a liability; it’s got a silver lining, especially as he grows older (which happens way too fast these days!). Get a couple of his close friends to do the same thing and he has a patrol! Cool! Sure beats getting beat up by some jerk while folks who should know better rotate on their thumbs!

NetCommish Comment: Verbal abuse of youth members and bullying by an adult is not acceptable in Scouting. I have a hard time understanding how the other adults have allowed the situation you have described to go on. If they know that the adult has the nickname “The Nail-Gun” and understand it refers to yelling at and humiliation of Scouts, they must not understand that the role of an adult leader is more in the nature of coach, advisor, counselor, and friend. Your Chartering Organization is responsible for what leaders are deemed to be acceptable and has the authority to hire/fire leaders.

Before going to a committee meeting, I would talk with the head of this organization and its Scouting representative (COR). If they are not persuaded that the verbal abuser has to go, I’m not sure that the committee meeting will help. These folks have allowed the situation to go on for some time and do not seem to understand that it is wrong. The committee meeting probably is a waste of time, if you don’t have help and support. Unless the Chartering Organization is with you on this, your chances of success are not very good.

Depending on the severity of the abusive conduct, you may want to involve your Council’s professional staff starting with the Council’s Scout Executive. If the conduct falls under the coverage of abuse as defined by the state in which you reside, the Scout Executive has to look into the matter and probably has to refer it to an appropriate state agency to investigate. At the very least there ought to be a professional staff member asked to visit unit meetings or activities to observe and assess. If the conduct crosses into unacceptable abuse, the Scout Exec can revoke a leader’s membership whether or not the chartering organization has acted.

This is a difficult area to judge without seeing all of the sides of the story. What seems like yelling and humiliation to one, may seem to be friendly chiding to another. Without the visual and auditory cues and the situation’s context, it is very hard to know the whole story. This is why it is important to have people from outside the immediate conflict involved and looking at the situation. Whether it is your chartering organization or the Council’s staff, a neutral observer is critical in assessing the situation and deciding what ought to be done. If the neutral parties do not see the situation as requiring action and if you believe the situation cannot be allowed to continue, your best bet then is to make the 20 minute trip to the next Troop. Don’t stay, if you are not comfortable with how Scouts are treated.

Hello Andy,

I’ve enjoyed your column, and now I have a problem I hope you can help me with. As a Commissioner, and a Scouter, for over five years now, I’ve heard that we should only wear one hat. I’m currently a District Commissioner, an Assistant Scoutmaster in my son’s Troop, president of my daughter’s Learning For Life group, and a Merit Badge Counselor. The L-F-L group re-chartered recently and when the charter was processed I was shown as “paid” in the president position. Then, my subscription to Scouting magazine stopped. I called their circulation office, and they said I hadn’t renewed. So I checked with my home council, and they said that, that’s right, my subscription hadn’t been renewed because my primary registration is in L-F-L and they don’t get this magazine. I asked them to change it in the “ScoutNet” system, but they said they couldn’t do this. Being a District Commissioner, I of course need to be getting this magazine with the proper inserts. I’m very irritated that my council can do nothing to correct this error once it was discovered. It’s very discouraging. My council’s recommendation was to wait until I’m sworn in again as DC in January, and renew at that time. Can you offer any solutions to correcting this problem? (DC in the Central Region)

I feel your pain. By now, you’ve probably discovered that there’s a split between the LFL operation and the BSA (even though they both occupy offices in the same building in Irving, Texas). There are, of course, any number of important legal and other reasons for this, and so that’s certainly the way it will remain for the foreseeable future. So, since this time around your primary (the one that counts, for Scouting magazine) registration was on the LFL and not on the BSA side as a DC or ASM, the magazine legitimately stopped. Had you registered as a DC (your most significant position) and made the others your secondaries, the magazine would have continued uninterrupted. But that’s water under the bridge.

So, what to do. Well you can continue flailing against the organizational hairball, if that really lights your fire, or you can immediately register as District Commissioner. Now this might mean that you’ll have to fill out a brand-new application and couch a few bucks, and a natural reaction would certainly be to balk at that. Instead, just take a deep breath and then just do it. It’ll take a little while for the magazine to catch up with you, so be a little patient. Then, next year, make sure your DC position is the primary one you’re registered as.

NetCommish Comment: You can also go to and buy a subscription for $9.95. Anyone can subscribe. Your time is worth a lot. Probably not worth hours of trying to fight the issue and cheaper just to buy a subscription. You can fight on principle, but most of the folks that you’ll talk to at your Council are not going to be able to help because the rules are farther up the chain. The inadvertent effect may be to damage relations that you need to do your job as District Commissioner. I’d just chuck it up to experience, smile and go buy a subscription separately.


In your Mid-September column you said, in answer to a question about a Scout being dual-registered in two different Troops: “No, a boy doesn’t register in two Troops at the same time…” and then you went on to say, “Merit badges are earned with registered Merit Badge Counselors, and have nothing whatever to do with specific troops…”

I had a similar situation come up and got a different answer from Terry Lawson at National (Andy’s note: Terry Lawson is the BSA National Director of Boy Scout Advancement). Yes, a boy can be registered in two Troops and can receive and record advancement in both. The easiest case to see where this should be true is in a divorced and/or joint custody situation, where the Scout is living in sufficiently different locations that two “local” (one local to dad, one local to mom) Troops are needed. The Scout must select one of the Troops to be the one to pay his registration to national through, and the other is listed as a multiple registration. This makes sure that there is only one “Scout record” in the big database in Irving, TX. A particular advancement item would be submitted through just one of the two Troops. Also, “tenure in rank” isn’t duplicated: Six months in a leadership position is six months on the calendar. The two Troops can even be in the same Council!

Also, Merit Badge Counselors can be tied to a specific Troop. There’s is a question box on the application that asks if the counselor wishes to work only with Scouts from a specific Troop. (That’s something I wish would change, though.)

Thanks for the good work. Your column and all of NetCommish are great resources for Commissioners and all Scouters. (Peter Sanders, District Commissioner, Wakpaota District, Gamehaven Council, MN)

In the first place, I’d always defer to Terry Lawson! And his examples are excellent. In fact, they virtually demand that a boy be registered in two troops, thanks to his parents’ problems. But, in the instance that I responded to, that wasn’t the situation. In fact, both troops were neighbors in the same town! Which made dual registration in that situation sort of silly. As for “one-Troop” merit badge counselors, if a Scout transfers to a new Troop in the middle of a merit badge and his counselor decides to play hard-ball by refusing to “finish” him purely because of that, then shame on that counselor and let’s get that Scout a new one with some good sense!

Dear Andy,

The father of one of our Scouts is our former Scoutmaster. Just recently, the Scout began transferring to another Troop. Until recently, we didn’t have an advancement chair. I was asked to be responsible for getting TroopMaster up-to-date. When I received the request for advancement records transfer from this Scout’s new Troop, I decided to audit the merit badges earned to assure that all were earned through properly registered merit badge counselors. This revealed that, two of them – Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Science (both Eagle-required) – weren’t signed off by registered counselors. Apparently, these two were started during summer camp, but weren’t completed there. The counselor at that camp gave several of our Scouts “partials” and, according to them, told them that the remaining requirements could be signed off by their Scoutmaster or ASM, which is what this father did for his son. In bringing this up to him, the father claimed that he’d called the camp and verified that this was acceptable, even though he’s not a registered counselor for either one of these two merit badges. He said he’d also checked with our District Commissioner and was told the same thing. The camp staff is no longer available to query, but I did talk with the professional staffer who oversees camp (this camp is not in our council) and he apologized for the incorrect information and confirmed that only counselors registered for those specific merit badges can sign off on them. But the father won’t budge and the DC is sticking to his story.

My concern is that these merit badges weren’t earned properly and with the imminent transfer of the Scout to another Troop, it may be impossible to ensure proper remediation, by either having the father register as a MBC for those two badges or have the Scout visit a registered MBC and obtain “proper” sign-off. I feel that if we don’t insist on this in our own Troop, the “receiving” Troop may not take any action or follow-up, and two improperly “completed” merit badges of significance will remain on the Scout’s record.

Ever notice that once a can of worms is opened it always takes a bigger can to get ’em all back in? Well that’s sure what we have here.

Getting the father to register accordingly is (a) pretty unlikely given his already recalcitrant attitude and (b) not going to help, because he wasn’t a “legal” counselor when he signed off. So, the true core of your present dilemma is this: Do you or don’t you tell the leaders of this Scout’s new troop that he has two Eagle-required merit badges that were signed off as completed by people who weren’t registered Merit Badge Counselors? If you believe, as I do, that you have an obligation to both this troop specifically and Scouting as a whole to do this, then do it right away, and do it with the fewest words and simplest and uncluttered description that you can. One way, although a bit on the harsh side, is to simply delete these two merit badges from the records of this Scout’s advancement. That way, if the Scout and his father want them re-entered in the new Troop’s records (as they surely will), they’ll have to produce the signed “Blue Cards,” that contain the signature of someone who’s not a registered counselor.

It’s truly unfortunate that so much wrong information was disseminated by people who are supposed to know better, and that so many wrong actions occurred as a result. Or did they? Since we really don’t know people’s motivations, what’s purported to be “an honest mistake” may or may not be, and we’ll never know. We can certainly give the benefit of the doubt, but we can’t repair the past; we can only try to get what happens next as accurate as we’re able.

NetCommish Comment: There may be a way to do the right thing without making the Scout pay the price for the bad advice. After you’ve followed Andy’s suggestion above, you may want to help the Scout find a registered counselor for each merit badge. If you can facilitate a meeting with a new counselor and assure that the new counselor is advised of the previous work by the Scout, the counselor can review that with the Scout and assess whether all of the requirements have been previously met. The counselor can make a determination to accept previous work and this can avoid the Scout having to start over from scratch. Most counselors when confronted with such a situation will be able to assess the Scout’s knowledge and skills. If it looks like the badge was earned, they can go one direction. If it looks like the badge was not earned, they can decide what needs to be repeated.

Dear Andy,

As a brand-new Cubmaster, and new to Scouting, too, I’ve been searching the Internet for Scouting information, so I can do the best job I can. I found the USSSP website and your column early on. I’ve read many of your columns and learned a lot. This is just a note to say thanks for the Sample Religious Award Presentation Ceremony for Packs. We have an outstanding young man working on his God and Me and I know we can put this to good use. (Roy Kelly, CM, Pack 25, Pikes Peak Council, Woodland Park, CO)

Our NetCommish and Webmaster is the one to thank for that ceremony, and I know he enjoys helping a fellow Scouter like yourself. Welcome to the best “family” on the planet!

Dear Andy,

I have three sons in Scouting: a Tiger Cub, a Webelos Scout, and a Tenderfoot Boy Scout. I registered as a volunteers at the beginning of the year with my oldest son’s Troop. Recently, my youngest son’s Tiger Cub den needed a Den Leader, so I got trained and I’m now their Den Leader. Must I fill out another BSA registration form for the Pack? (Michael Short, DL, Circle 10 Council, TX)

It’s my understanding that we do fill out new applications (even though the information is duplicated) for each new position we take as Scouting volunteers; however, a quick call to your council’s service center will give you exactly the information you need.

Dear Andy,

We’re trying to decide what is the proper procedure to suggest one follow. I received a call from a few concerned scout parents and other Troop leaders about their Scoutmaster, who resigned due to a “DWI” and, apparently, a prescription drug problem. A special committee meeting was held via phone notification, but only a chosen few members were invited to the meeting—only six out of 17 committee members were notified. The COR knew nothing of the resignation and wasn’t notified of the meeting. Proposed to take over the Scoutmaster position was a well-trained ASM with three years’ experience. He was supported by two committee members and numerous Troop parents, but was turned down for being “too strict for a boy-led Troop.” Instead, the man chosen to be the new Scoutmaster turns out to be a known alcoholic. But the COR did accept the recommendation of the committee. As a “retired” Scouter with 30 years of service to this Troop, I’m unsure as to whom disgruntled parents should voice their complaints. (Name Withheld)

I’m trying to boil this down to its essence and what I seem to be hearing is that some parents and possibly some committee members are unhappy with the recent selection of a new Scoutmaster, who was recommended by the troop committee to the Chartered Organization Representative and accepted by that COR. Do I have that correctly? If so, then the unhappy parties might consider speaking with the COR, so long as they understand that the COR’s decision is pretty final. As for the accusation of “known alcoholic,” I’d be very, very careful with that!


I’m frustrated. I’m Troop Advancement Chair. I asked one of the adults to fill me in on the attendance at our last campout, and who slept where, so I could update the scout’s camping nights… part of the group was in lean-tos, and frankly, though not “…under the open sky”, I was wondering about it for camping merit badge nights, since they were really exposed to the elements (it was very windy and went down to 34 degrees F). But then a troubling discovery came about. One of our mid-level Scouts (recently earned Star, elected Patrol Leader, just earned Camping MB) ditched the lean-to and slept with his father (a new and as yet untrained ASM) in his father’s tent.

This isn’t the first time for this father-and-son to do this. Nor is this the only parent-son combination for this to happen with. I told our Committee Chair that we need to make it clear that Scouts sleep with Scouts, adults with adults, period. But some of the responses I got to this included: “You should be more concerned about why your own son doesn’t want to sleep with you in your tent than in why my son wants to sleep in mine,” “You’ve overstepped,” “You’re too intense,” and “If you think this a problem, maybe we should make a rule.”

Andy, if I need to suggest that we need a rule, the whole Troop just doesn’t get it. Scouts need to sleep with Scouts… You have a problem, deal with it. Water is coming into your tent? Not pitched properly. Sliding down the hill? Pitch on a level surface next time. (BTW… that one was pretty funny… they pitched a tarp as a shelter, by morning all three had slid to the bottom of it, clumped together with their feet hanging out) Tent-mate is a pain in the neck? Deal with it! Learning to fix these problems is WHY they go camping! Scouts and adults need to cook and eat separately!

I recently read your column about how you can’t change an off course organization from within, and you’re right. But I can’t expect help from the Commissioner level, either. I’ve never heard from, nor seen, a Commissioner at any of our meetings. The answer to your next question is, “We’re staying with this Troop because my son’s friends are here”.

Thought for the day: I wonder how many good, well-intentioned adults are driven away from Scouting by units like this? You might think it’s easy to give up, but trust me, standing by and watching this train wreck is truly painful. (Another Name Withheld)

OK, let’s see if I can offer any insights here…

Scouts camp with Scouts and adults camp away from the Scouts. Two separated campsites. That way, it’s not about tents, it’s about tenting areas. Besides, Scouts need to be with their peers.

Any Scout who wants to go camping with his dad is free to do so, on any campout independent of troop campouts. That’s wonderful father-and-son bonding and shouldn’t be discouraged. That said, father-and-son/family camping is what they did when they were little bitty Cubbies, and as big, buff Boy Scouts they oughta feel pretty silly about still sleeping with daddy!

Call your service center, tell ’em the town your Troop’s in, that you want to speak with your District Executive (a paid staffer), and then tell that DE that you guys need a Commissioner—right away. It’s not gonna happen till you make it happen! So go make it happen.

I don’t give a flyin’ fig about what “well intentioned adults” feel about this troop or that—It’s the Scouts and only the Scouts that I care about. THAT’S who we’re here to SERVE.

Hang in there. As you’ve probably figured out from reading my columns if not elsewhere, your troop’s problems are pretty tame compared to some other real disasters out there!

Dear Andy,

I’d rather not wear the World Crest badge, although I do, but not because I don’t wish to support the concept of the World Brotherhood of Scouting. I feel the World Crest was “dumbed down” or diluted, when they decided that since I belong to the BSA and the BSA takes part in world events, I’m entitled to wear it. It used to be reserved for those who had taken part in an international event, now I guess it means I’m here and I’m wearing a shirt. In my opinion, they downgraded it to a simple decoration. I guess I’m a dinosaur. I still remember when I was a Scout that putting an American Flag on the Scout uniform was controversial—the flag wasn’t supposed to be used that way. But once the astronauts did it, Scouts all over clamored for it. (Fred Philibert, Troop 106, Northern New Jersey Council)

I, too, earned my World Crest (as did my sons). Then “they” took away the requirements for it. So, I wear it anyway, in the same way that the American flag is on my sleeve and Boy Scouts of America is over the right pocket. No sense getting all exercised about it—I’ve got bigger fish to fry! Besides, when I’m overseas in uniform, it’s the one badge that matches all other Scout and Scouter uniforms!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Den Leader of a Webelos II Den. We’re working diligently on earning the Arrow of Light award. There’s a requirement for the den to at least visit one Boy Scout Troop meeting and one Boy Scout-oriented outdoor activity. There was a problem last year with the den leaders on what qualified as an outdoor activity that I’m contending with this year with my den. We’ve met with several troops—one in a church for their meeting and another at a county park, with a cookout and games. Did we meet this requirement, or do I need to look for something more outdoor-oriented? (Christa Hull, Palm Harbor, FL)

The words and wording of the BSA’s rank and other requirements absolutely purposeful. So, when a requirement says visit a troop “meeting,” it means just that; and when it says visit an “outdoor activity,” it means just that: An outdoor activity. Unless the county park facility where the cookout was held was an enclosed pavilion of some sort, it would have been conducted outdoors, yes? Well, if it was outdoors, and it was a Boy Scout activity, then I fail to see how anyone could be having any sort of difficulty: It has met the stipulation of the requirement to the letter! Oh…what’s this…? Somebody says, “It has to be a HIKE!” and somebody else says, “It has to be a CAMPOUT!” Is this what’s going on? Well, if that’s the case, all these well-intentioned but misinformed folks have to do is sit down, put on their reading glasses, and read the requirement.

Dear Andy,

Do you know if Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would be accepted as a Scout activity by the BSA? I’ve read that Judo and Aikido are both acceptable because they don’t involve striking. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would fall into the non-striking category and I’m hoping it might be acceptable. (Greg Gordon, Ore-Ida Council, Boise, ID)

Personally, I’m not familiar with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it’s not listed in the Guide to Safe Scouting. I recommend that you check this out with your council’s risk management committee.

Dear Andy,

We’ve had a slight problem come up with one of our units and I’m hoping that you can give us some insight on it. In our Pack, we’ve always let our boys work on their Whittlin’ Chip when they’re Bears. We also set a policy within the Pack that Bears could’t carry their knives but could use them at Pack activities. Along with this, our Webelos are allowed to carry them but must have them concealed in a pocket or in a sheath on their belt, not dangling from a clip or chain.

We currently have a Wolf-level Den Leader, who says that his son has “earned” his Whittlin’ Chip. When we told him he couldn’t get it until next year, he piped up with, “BSA Guidelines say that even Tigers can get their Whittlin’ Chip.” This boy is scout is only in second grade and is not ready to use a knife, besides which he’s one of our most rowdy and wound up kids we have, and the last one I’d want to have a knife!

I’ve looked in the material that I have as well as online and can’t find a specific as to what age can earn the chip. What’s the official policy on this? (Owen Searcy, Coweta District Commissioner, Flint River Council)

Good question… Not a simple answer. Earning the Whittlin’ Chip is one of the Bear requirements, so “letting” your Bear-level Cub Scouts do this really isn’t in play here. But the Whittlin’ Chip doesn’t appear to show up anywhere else… So far as I can tell, it’s not in the Cub Scout Leader Book, or even in the Guide to Safe Scouting. This suggests that while it’s a requirement available to Cub Scouts who are third graders, it’s not specifically restricted to this age/grade group. On top of this, we have the fundamental philosophy in Scouting that, once earned, nothing’s ever “taken away,” by anybody, for any reason whatsoever (this is a stated BSA policy). All of this suggests that, if the kid you’re talking about has his Whittlin’ Chip card, it’s pretty much a done deal!

Reasonable intelligence and judgment, of course, whispers to us that if the wisdom of the BSA was such that first grade seven year olds should be handling knives, then we’d find the Whittlin’ Chip in the Tiger Cub Book, so the fact that we don’t speaks volumes. But we still can’t take it away from the kid!

So let’s work on a different approach…

There’s just one area in which a council’s, a district’s, and even a unit’s policies can supersede national standards, and that’s in the area of safety. This being the case, your pack has the right to stipulate who can, and who can’t, bring a knife to a pack meeting, for safety reasons. You are, therefore, simultaneously in accord with BSA policy and within your rights as a pack to stipulate that until a boy reaches the level of Webelos, he’s not permitted to bring a knife or “edged tool” of any sort to a pack meeting (Safety always trumps Whittlin’ Chips!). This is also pretty logical, too, because there’s no purpose for a knife at a pack meeting, except to cut cake!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been asked by a Scout leader about Scouts wearing Eagle Palms, and so far I haven’t been able to find a clear answer. My understanding is that only an adult can wear the Eagle square knot with palms, and that a Scout wears his palms on the ribbon of his Eagle medal. The uniform guide says that palms are for youth and adults who have earned them, and are worn on the knot or medal. Does this mean that a youth can wear the Eagle knot only if he has earned a palm to wear on it? Or is the only way for a youth to show he has earned a palm is by wearing his medal? ( George, UC, Tidewater Council, VA)

The BSA INSIGNIA GUIDE states that the Eagle “square knot” is for adult wear; not Boy Scouts. If a Boy Scout earns one or more palms, he wears them on the ribbon of his Eagle medal. When he becomes an adult Scouter (age 18+) he removes the oval Eagle badge from his uniform shirt and places the Eagle square knot immediately above the pocket flap, on which he can now pin his palm or palms. No, a Boy Scout does not wear the square knot as a way to show off his palms.

As long as we’re on the subject of palms, let’s remember that they’re cumulative and that the prior one is removed and replaced by the next when five more MBs are earned. He wears a bronze for his first five MBs, then the gold (removing the bronze) when he earns five more for a total of ten, and so on.

Dear Andy,

Do Scouts (and uniformed leaders) remove their hats when saluting the flag like in a parade or an indoor flag procession? (Randy).

If the Scouts’ hats are on indoors, they do not remove them to place over their hearts. So long as they’re in uniform, they salute after the military fashion.

Happy Scouting!


Got a question? Have an idea? Found something that works? Send it to me
(Please include your Council name or your town & state)

(November 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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