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Issue 94 – February 2007

Dear Andy,

Peter Kronenthal, my father, about whom you wrote last year, has passed away at the age of 99. He was associated with the Boy Scouts of America for over 85 years. Donations, in his honor and name, can be made directly to the Boy Scouts of America. Thank you, Andy. (Donald Kronenthal, West Palm Beach, FL)

Thank you, Donald, and please accept my sincere sympathy for your family’s loss. Michael F. Bowman, our Webmaster, also sends his warmest regards and deepest sympathy.

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Remember the two brothers who were having trouble mastering swimming? Here are two personal stories worth reading: Both great examples of why swimming can and should be a life skill!

Hi Andy,

In your Mid-January column, a UC described a couple of “challenged” Scouts whose father couldn’t swim, either. This sounds like me many years ago. I made Eagle without any aquatic badges (that could be done back in the ’70s) and it’s a good thing that the BSA changed that policy!


When I was 23 and a Scoutmaster, I found that I could no longer ignore my inability to swim. I took lessons at a local YMCA, but even after a half-dozen classes I was still sinking, until a grandma jumped in (You know the type…overweight, tight black tank suit, blue rubber bathing cap with pink rubber flowers). She was walking along the pool deck when she spotted me unsuccessfully trying to float (with a paid Y swimming instructor right next to me!). She jumped in and politely took over from the instructor (who was trying to keep me afloat). She told me to put my arms and legs in specific positions, getting me to bend my knees 90 degrees and Eureka! I’m floating! She got me floating in under two 2 minutes, after years of unsuccessful attempts! She told me she’d taught her own children, her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, too. She’d “thrown away the book” years ago, and focused on distracting that wooden block on top of our necks while finding just the right combination for buoyancy. Once those “mental blocks” obstacles above the neck are dealt with, then we can start to learn to swim (or do anything else!) with success! So to that family: Go find a non-instructor to help conquer your personal obstacles, try some non-traditional ways! (Dave Mountney, UC & Eagle Scout)

Hi Andy,

After reading about the scouts that can’t swim, it took me back to my Boy Scout years. I, too, couldn’t swim. My Scoutmaster took me to the YMCA and Steve, one of his Army buddies, met us there. He told Steve that this kid (me!) was too thin, small, and out of shape to be able to swim. Steve watched me beat the water in an attempt to swim, and he knew what we were up against: I was afraid of the water! He knew I’d first have to learn how to relax in the water and float, but I couldn’t! So he gave me an empty, capped half-gallon milk jug, told me to hold it to my chest, and then had me lay face-up in the water across his hands. Then he let me go. I could float just fine hugging the milk jug with all that extra air across my chest. Then he told me that I had a place for that extra air right inside me—my own lungs!—and all I needed to do was learn how to balance my body on top of the water. Steve showed me that by leaning my head back and arching my back I could “open up” my lungs and “balance” myself on top of the water! He held his hands under my back until I was balanced. I lay on the water for a few minutes when to my surprise Steve said, “You’re floating!” Of course I instantly sank! But I realized that I could indeed float. Soon I was doing the back stroke all around the pool and before I knew it I could swim face-down. I was 14 years old and knowing how to swim was the only thing that was keeping me from advancing to First Class. I did it!

Now here’s the best part… When my son became a Scout he still couldn’t swim. Summer camp was coming soon and he was upset that he’d be one of the Scouts that would have to “stay in the kiddy pool” at summer camp. So I set out to teach him how to swim. I had just three weeks to do this. We went to the pool three times a week for the next three weeks. The first thing I saw was myself: fighting the water, afraid. I knew just what to do. After using Steve’s teaching method, my son was soon floating, and then swimming. Now we had only one week to build up his swimming skill so he could pass the summer camp swimming test.

Summer camp came. The Scoutmaster had the SPL round up all the Scouts to go to the waterfront. My son walked straight out to the deep end of the swimming dock, jumped in, and started swimming right along with the other Scouts. He passed his first summer camp swim test with no problems.

I have found that thin scouts with very little or no fat are very easy to teach to swim. Look at any swimming team: not an ounce of fat anywhere! (Don McDow, UC & Former SM, Greater Alabama Council)

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Dear Sir,

In your answer to Sheryl Eichenlaub, you say: “Let’s begin by re-reading the BSA’s own Statement of Religious Principle, which can readily be found on every youth and adult application. There, it states with clarity that while a belief in God is fundamental to Scouting principles, the BSA is completely nondenominational and nonsectarian in all other regards and leaves all specific teachings to be done by others, including parents and religious leaders. So it doesn’t take a Clarence Darrow to figure out that any teachings that are specific to a particular faith or denomination of a faith have no place in a Scout meeting. Period.”

There is a set of circumstances where your penultimate sentence—“…it doesn’t take a Clarence Darrow…”—fails to be true.

When the Chartering Organization (“CO”) is itself a religious institution, the unit is considered an extension of that institution’s youth ministry, and the CO may include “teachings that are specific to a particular faith or denomination of a faith” as part of the Scout meeting. While the Boy Scouts of America is and remains completely nondenominational and nonsectarian, a unit chartered by the BSA may, when the Chartering Organization is a religious institution, include the specific teachings of that religion. (John Unger, CC, Pack 199; MC, Troop 114, NA, Crew 99, Sam Houston Area Council)

You can beg and differ till the cows come home, but the bottom line is this: Specific religious teachings have no place inside a Scout meeting.

Dear Andy,

I’m an outgoing CM, effective next month. I’ve always believed in some pomp and ceremony in the various transitions of Cub Scouting, and I’d like to have some form of ceremony when I promote the ACM at our Blue & Gold. But I can’t seem to find any sample ceremonies on this particular topic. While I could make something up, I’d prefer something that might be used as a guide. Any thoughts? (Mike Marineau, CM, Glacier’s Edge Council, WI)

I’ve not seen a ceremony for what you’re contemplating, but it’s been a while since I checked out the CUB SCOUT FUN BOOK and the CUB SCOUT LEADERS BOOK. Maybe there’s something in one of these. If not, I like your idea of creating a new ceremony for the “changing of the guard” that can become an instant tradition in your Pack!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been researching some local organizations where our Scout troop might be able to do some volunteer work, and the other day I called and spoke to someone at a nearby shelter for homeless and battered women. She was really happy to speak with me, and said there are lots of projects that we Scouts could do, so I’m going up to meet with her and check it out. (There could be Eagle projects for our Life Scouts to consider, too.)

My question is this: Personally, I don’t need service hours for rank advancement, but as SPL of our troop I want to set an example for other Scouts by doing some community service work. I bought this idea up at our PLC and our Scoutmaster told me that it needs to get approved by the troop committee. What’s the scoop on this and where do I find the information on who approves these service projects—Scoutmaster or committee or both or what?

Also, when a Scout finishes a service project, is it a BSA requirement that he write it up, or is he required to give a verbal report to someone. I’m not referring to anything for Eagle projects. Just in trying to “Do a Good Turn.” (SPL, Northern New Jersey Council)

In reverse order…

For all service except for the Eagle candidate and his leadership service project for that rank, no write-up of any kind is needed. Yes, the nature of the service that the First Class or Star Scout intends to render does need to be approved by the Scoutmaster (in advance, of course, as stated in the “Service Projects” section of the BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book). But a recording of hours is all that’s required, and any insistence on a write-up of some sort (other than “I helped Life Scout John Doe with his Eagle project last Saturday from 9 AM to 2 PM for a total of 5 hours) would be a violation of the BSA’s policy that requirements cannot be added to or subtracted from.

As for your desire to set the example for your fellow Scouts by volunteering at a shelter (or anywhere else, for that matter), so long as the service is for a charitable or not-for-profit organization or agency, this can be presented to the troop committee for endorsement (you’d be doing this as a courtesy), but they certainly would not be “within their rights” to in any way discourage or “veto” your idea! Personally, I think your idea is admirable and that you bring credit on Scouting and yourself by even contemplating service “above and beyond”!

Dear Andy,

In an earlier column, you suggested the movie, “Pay it Forward,” for the Citizenship in the Community movie-viewing requirement. We used that movie for Cit-Comm at our recent Merit Badge College, and it worked really well. Both the Scouts and the adults had a good discussion after we showed it. Thanks for your help. (Dave Sutter, ASM, Troop 241, Simon Kenton Council, Lithopolis, OH)

Try my December 2006 column for more movies. And, if you’re talking about citizenship, consider the James Stewart (who held the BSA’s Silver Buffalo award, by the way!) classic “Mister Smith Goes To Washington,” or any one of the three different versions of “All The King’s Men,” or Spencer Tracy’s “The Last Hurrah,” or even the Gary Cooper version of “Beau Geste”!

Dear Andy,

Is it against BSA uniform regulations for a boy to wear and outdated rank patch, for instance, a 1980’s era Star patch in lieu of the current Star patch? They are very different in color scheme. I did check my insignia guide and it didn’t seem to address it, but it only contains a portion of the uniform regulations. (Gordon Gregory, ASM, Troop 159, Blue Ridge Council, SC)

Yes, although it’s a bit unusual, it’s perfectly “legal.” I’m going to guess it’s his father’s, and that’s a wonderful legacy!

Dear Andy,

Have you seen or do you have a certificate to present to a Webelos Scout crossing over to Boy Scouts? (Paul Markoff)

I’ve not seen one, but I think the idea’s terrific! So put your creative hat on and design one! I’m sure your Webelos will love it. In fact, if you tie it to the Troop they’re joining, this is a great “reminder”!

Dear Andy,

Our troop has quite a problem. We have a young man, now 18, who has fulfilled all the requirements for his Eagle, but unfortunately before he finished these requirements he did something quite unbecoming of a Scout, and could be charged with a felony. His court date is not until after the six-month time limit to have his Eagle BoR beyond 18th birthday. Obviously, the troop committee will have to have his BoR before he has been charged, or exonerated, from any of these charges. Our Council Executive has had several conversations with the National Office about this problem and, together, they’ve come up with a solution that they think will work. The National Office wants the troop committee to hold this young man’s BoR before the courts decision, but withhold our decision from the Scout and send the paperwork to them, and they will in turn hold the paperwork until the outcome of his trial, or court’s decision, is final. They’ve said that if he’s convicted of a felony then they’ll tear up his application and the outcome is obvious; however, if he’s acquitted, or possibly charged with a lesser offense, then National, at their discretion, will approve or disapprove his application based on the troop committee’s recommendations.

Our problem isn’t with the National Office or their recommendations. It’s on how to have a “fair” BoR for this candidate. Ours is a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and everyone else’s business if you know what I mean. We, the troop committee, have had several parents, both in and out of Scouting, come to us and voice their displeasure that we’re actually thinking about having this BoR. I listen and try not to remind them that here in America he’s innocent until proven guilty. This young man has always been an outstanding citizen in this community and an exemplary Scout, up until his incident. He has always been a Scout that the younger members in the troop emulated. So, Andy, how much of the Eagle BoR is subjective? Is this young man’s BoR cut and dry, or do you think there’s a way to help the other troop committee members understand that just because the Scout did something unbecoming, that doesn’t give us the right to put a “reject” stamp on him? (Troop Committee Chair, council name withheld)

Thanks for all of the detail you’ve provided, and for sticking with the facts of the matter. Yes, this is a convoluted and potentially emotionally charged situation (and one that’s, thankfully, very rare). Some years back, I encountered a situation virtually identical to what you’ve described. My role was that of the council representative at a troop-level Eagle board of review in which there was controversy (and even contentiousness) on the part of the candidate’s Scoutmaster and parents, as well as members of the troop’s committee. The same question hung in the air: In a situation like this, can a “fair” board be conducted. To this, I applied the “clean hands” principle and asked each potential member of the board this: “Understanding that the board’s decision must be unanimous, are you prepared to vote affirmatively right now, this moment, because if you’re not, you’d be coming onto the board already prejudiced and I’m going to ask you to remove yourself.” We did have two potential members who said they were too set against the young man to vote “cleanly,” and they did remove themselves. The balance (yes, we still had a quorum) agreed to vote without prejudice, and we were able to proceed. The result was one of solid integrity.

That said, I’m also obliged to tell you that it is entirely possible and “legal” to hold an Eagle Board of Review later than six months beyond a young man’s 18th birthday. In this situation, a letter explaining the reason for the delay is in order, of course, but that’s it.

Dear Andy,

I’ve just agreed to step into the pack committee chair position following the resignation of the prior CC. A question has come up regarding the requirements for the Arrow of Light. Our Cubmaster and out-going committee chair are convinced that, at the Webelos level, the boy must pass a “Cubmaster Board of Review” before advancing. The Webelos Den Leader has never heard of this requirement, it’s not in our pack’s bylaws, and all I can find are the requirements between the Webelos Scout and his Den Leader or new Scoutmaster. Do you know of any requirement for a Cubmaster board? (Vera Wintink, MC/soon to be CC, Colonial Council, Newport News, VA)

I have no idea where these dunderheads ever got the notion that there are “boards of review” for Cub/Webelos Scouts. Of course they’re wrong, and shame on them for trying to perpetuate something as nonsensical as this!

Dear Andy,

What’s BSA the policy for perfect attendance for a pack that meets twelve months a year? We’ve looked and haven’t really found an answer. Our committee voted that a Cub would receive a perfect attendance pin if he attended 75% or more of the scheduled den meetings for the year. This was OK with all until we had a couple of boys miss getting the pin because they’d only attended 70% of the meetings. (Brian Freeman, ACM, Pack 301, Dallas, GA)

The attendance pin appears to have no BSA-stipulated requirements. I’ve checked both Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbooks, as well as the Boy Scout Requirements book and the BSA Insignia Guide. This would place it more in the category of “recognition” than an “advancement” that has requirements to be fulfilled. Notice, also, that it’s called an “attendance pin” and not a “’perfect’ attendance pin.” All of this suggests that standards may be set at the unit level, just as you have done. To me, personally, your stipulation of 75% certainly seems fair: It allows for absences that will inevitably occur, and doesn’t require notes from parents, physicians, and all that sort of stuff. But, the human fact-of-life is that, no matter where you set the bar, there will be those who fall short of it and among these, complainers (rarely the boys; usually the parents who want their little Fargus to have as much stuff on his shirt as humanly possible, regardless of whether it deserves to be there or not). If you’ve set 75% as the standard, and everybody knew this in advance, then just stick to your guns! If you start waffling on this, you’ll turn this into nothing more than a meaningless chunk of brass.

Dear Andy,

If you’re about to have a Blue & Gold banquet and a Webelos Scout has completed the requirements for his Arrow of Light, once it is presented to him does he have to cross over and become a Boy Scout right then and there, or can he continue working on his other activity pins? We have a Webelos II Scout who’s met all the requirements for the AoL and wants to receive it at the B&G, but then he wants to continue to earn the balance of all 20 pins (he’s completed 16 so far). (Rhonda Hitt)

Pretty much, once he’s earned the AoL, he’s DONE. Doing a “sweep,” as it’s commonly called, happens BEFORE earning the AoL—Not after! While I certainly commend his interest, he’s going to learn a lot more brand-new stuff as a Boy Scout and so he should definitely pick a troop and cross to it with the rest of his Webelos II Den!

Dear Andy,

Our pack started just over a year ago and our district assigned us a committee chairperson to head our committee. In asking why we were assigned a committee chair, instead of choosing our own, we were told that because we’re a brand-new unit this person had lots of experience to offer us. Well, it’s been a tough year with this chair. I know that committee members are elected, but is there a term to their positions? Is there an election period for all the committee positions? And, in the same regard, does the Cubmaster position have a term limit and does this position require an election as well? Any help or guidance you could offer would be great. (Brian Freeman, ACM, Pack 301, Dallas, GA)

Let’s deal with your appointed committee chair first. Assuming you have an actual Pack Committee, in addition to Den Leaders and Cubmaster (and I DON’T mean DLs pulling double-duty, I mean actual parents who have stepped up to help the CM and DLs operate the Pack), then the committee chair’s “term” ends when you’re all sick and tired of him/her. “WHAT!” you say, “Do you mean we can ‘fire’ our chair and replace with one of our own, and we don’t have to go through some protracted process to do this?” BINGO! You got it, Kiddo! That person was appointed (which is a pretty stupid idea to begin with, but we’ll go into that some other time) to “help you all get started” and now you’re a year old, so you’re not a start-up any more! Besides, that appointee’s one biggest job should have been to TRAIN THE REPLACEMENT COMMITTEE CHAIR FROM YOUR OWN RANKS, and if this didn’t happen, then that appointee has failed you, big time! Time to back the dump truck up to the Pack’s rear end and get rid of stuff you don’t need!

The usual “term” for volunteer leaders, particularly in Cub Scouting, is start-of-year (usually September) to end-of-year. If a volunteer leader intends to vacate his or her position at the end of your Pack’s Cub Scouting year, it is incumbent upon them to TRAIN THEIR REPLACEMENT for the coming year.

Dear Andy,

Can you tell me where the “College of Commissioner Science” patch is exactly placed on the pocket, as well as the “ring” patches to it? (Darrell Pav, Round Rock, TX)

All such patches are in the “temporary” category, which actually means “at the wearer’s discretion,” and are worn centered on the RIGHT pocket of your uniform shirt. The “segments,” as they’re called, are supposed to go around the round central patch, of course, and I hope somebody who knew what they were doing did the measurements to make sure they fit on the pocket without slopping over the edges of the pocket’s seams! And, of course, it’s not “mandatory” that you wear this patch (or any other, for that matter) on the right pocket. You might find that it’s better off in a memorabilia box or album, or on a patch blanket.

Dear Andy,

I know an adult leader can only wear one temporary insignia on the right shirt pocket. I’m wondering what adult leaders do with the other patches they earn. Can you give me any suggestions? (Dave Juelfs)

“Temporary,” as I just mentioned to Darrell, is really better defined as “at the wearer’s discretion.” It’s your choice as to what you want to wear, if anything (it’s not “mandatory” to wear insignia there), on your right uniform shirt pocket. So, pick the one you like the most, and that’s what to wear! Now sometimes, patches have “hanger loops” (like the famous Philmont trek “arrowhead”), and it’s OK to hang one of those, also. What to do with the rest? Well, the usual ways are either a memorabilia box or album, or a patch blanket. Whatever you do, DON’T start sewing them on arbitrary “open spots” on your shirt!

Dear Andy,

I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster and I’ve been helping the Webelos Den Leaders with the upcoming crossover of their boys into our troop. One of the boys in the Webelos den has completed all 20 of the activities as a first year Webelos and has earned his Arrow of Light. Most (if not all) of these activities were not signed off by one of the two den leaders, but rather by the Scout’s mother (not a registered adult leader with the pack or troop). This mother has recently announced to our troop’s Committee Chair that she intends to “cross over” with her son and that she will continue to sign off on his Boy Scout rank advancements. Our Troop has a policy that no rank advancements can be signed off by a parent; however, what we’d like to know is whether this is an official BSA policy or just “recommended”? Our fear is that if we can’t find it stated clearly in an official BSA document, then this mother will force the issue (and she will force the issue!). Do you know if there is any official documentation stating that a parent doesn’t sign off on a son’s rank advancement requirements? And if so, where do we find this documentation? If it’s not an official BSA position, then do you have advice on how we should best proceed? (Sharon Rangazas, ASM, Crossroads of America Council, IN)

Its really unfortunate and unforgiving that those Webelos Den Leaders let this parent get away with such nonsense! They were supposed to have told her that, after Bear rank, the DL is the signer and no longer the parent, and this is done in order to get the boy used to the way that Boy Scout advancement works, wherein the Scoutmaster (called Unit Leader in the HANDBOOK to allow for Boy Scout Team Coaches) or his designate AND NO ONE ELSE signs off. (Understand that an SPL or even PL can be a designate, but not a parent, especially not a non-registered parent!)

If this parent thinks she can continue her wayward ways, she’s in for a shock and disappointment. Look in the back pages of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, where the rank requirement pages have little boxes for the Unit Leader’s initials. Since she’s not the Unit Leader (read SCOUTMASTER) she doesn’t get to sign. Period. End of story. THIS IS BSA ADVANCEMENT POLICY.

Tell her, if she makes noises like she’s gonna ignore you and do it her own way anyway, that, in Boy Scouts, there’s a BOARD OF REVIEW that parents do not attend (Yes, they are prohibited by BSA POLICY), and at this review, the extent to which her son has properly completed his requirements will be examined, and if her initials and not the Scoutmasters are found anywhere, the BOARD will not vote to approve her son for advancement, as is the board’s absolute right, again by BSA POLICY.

This is longstanding BSA policy stuff, and this parent has absolutely no hope of overturning it SO LONG AS YOU ALL DON’T WAFFLE and YOU STICK TO YOUR GUNS 100%!

For more information, get and read BSA ADVANCEMENT POLICIES and PROCEDURES. It’s available at your local Scout Shop.

Meanwhile, get in touch with that Packs leaders and help them understand the stinko situation they’ve created and help them make sure this never happens again!

Hi Andy,

Who gives final approval for the Den Chief Service Award, and where is it presented—at a Troop Court of Honor or at a Pack Meeting? (I love your site and learn so much…THANKS!) (Kathy Larsen, CC, Pack 63, Mt. Baker Council, WA)

The DL is the one who knows that the requirements have been met, and should collaborate with the Scoutmaster to make sure this recognition is awarded in a timely and public fashion. This is a case where BOTH venues—a Pack meeting (like a B&G) AND a Court of Honor—should be utilized!

Hi Andy,

For the last four years I’ve conducted the Arrow of Light ceremony for my pack and advanced a total of 24 scouts into Boy Scout troops (most have bridged right into our sister troop). The Scoutmaster and I try to get them to at least one session of summer camp immediately. This, however, is a very difficult “sell” to the moms. Our pack goes on at least two one-night family campouts each year and unfortunately I have to tell a few parents, “No, you can’t bring the RV!” I think this is because so few people I’ve met have any Scouting experience (I was attending my first campout with Scouts about four years ago and asked for a show of hands of who had been in Scouts, and almost no one raised their hands!). Unfortunately, some of the boys in my son’s den (Oops, I mean patrol) won’t be going to summer camp because, as their parents—usually the moms—tell it, “They’re only 11 and you’re taking them so far away!” or “A whole week’s a looooong time!” It’s not a money thing; it’s a perception thing. Can this be changed? (Nigel Andrews, Jersey Shore Council)

The best way to “sell” Mom on summer camp is to graduate your Webelos II Scouts into a troop by February, or March at the very, very latest. This way, they can start experiencing weekend overnights in the spring and early summer, and that way Mom’s already used to the idea of sonny being “out there in the spooky woods” before summer camp season arrives. Couple that with “New Scout Parents” nights, where the Scoutmaster and SPL describe to new parents what they can expect their sons to be doing in the coming several months (like coming back from a weekend overnight grubby and smelling pretty bad, but with the biggest grin on his face they’ve ever seen!). Then, as summer approaches, hold a “Troop Summer Camp” orientation night for ALL parents (paying special attention to getting the “new” parents there, even if they haven’t expressed the intention of sending their sons). Invite an OA representative to come and “pitch” summer camp. Get a video or slide presentation on your camp from your council service center, and show it. Have some articulate and animated Scouts from your own troop attend the meeting and describe the great times they had last year. As for “Oh, it’s soooo faaaar awaaaaay,” NONSENSE! Your council camp is in the Barnegat area, for golly sake, and I’d be hard-pressed to believe that your parents consider that on the other side of the planet! The bottom line is simply this: Any troop that doesn’t get 100% of its Scouts to summer camp, by hook or crook, is short-changing the boys in their care.

Hello Andy,

I’m a parent of a Webelos Scout who is soon to “cross over.” We’ve bought his Boy Scout gear and we’re trying to finish up with placing the necessary patches. My son earned the “God and Family” as a Cub award and received the purple-and-silver square knot. Which brings me to my question. Exactly where on the uniform does this go? I was told it can be worn on the Boy Scout uniform, but I want to make sure we do this correctly. Can you please help? (Mike Cline)

That square knot patch is absolutely “legal” on a Boy Scout uniform. Sew it CENTERED, immediately above the flap of the LEFT pocket of his Scout shirt.

Dear Andy,

Our district is doing a patch for the upcoming camporee—we give the
Scouts who attend a patch. It has several things on it, the fleur-de-lis, an ax, an OA sign, and the Olympic rings. Is there some type of law that say’s we’ll be in trouble for using the Olympic rings? Help, Andy! (Owen Searcy, Coosa, GA)

The Olympic Rings are copyrighted and you would need to obtain from the OOC specific clearance for their use. The patch embroiderer will tell you this (or they should!) when you bring your design to them. However, the word, “OLYMPICS,” can’t be copyrighted, and isn’t. So, your work-around might be to call the Camporee itself the “2007 District XXX Olympic Camporee,” or “Camporee Olympics,” or “Scout Olympics,” or something else along those lines. Or, you could arrange five overlapping FDLs (outline only) in five different colors… (Are you getting me here?)

Dear Andy,

Does the BSA require fingerprint checks for adult volunteers, and, if not, why not? I understand that the submission of the adult volunteer application authorizes a criminal background check, but anyone can make up information on their application. Fingerprints taken by local law enforcement would make it very difficult for those who prey on children to be a part of the BSA. If the BSA does not, they should reconsider that policy. This is a “headline just waiting to happen.” (Dennis J Vega, SGT OPD-NJ, Ret., ACM, Pack 98, AZ)

The BSA doesn’t require fingerprint checks…yet. Your point is well-taken. I’ll bet that probably not too far down the road we’ll see this added.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been an ASM for about a half-dozen years and I’ve just signed on with a start-up Venturing Crew as an Assistant Advisor. (I’m working on getting trained!) The crew as opted to wear the traditional Venturing uniform on dress occasions, but the question has arisen as to should the young men who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout, and are between the ages of 18-21, wear their Eagle badge or their Eagle square knot on the uniform, since they’re considered adults (and ASMs in the Boy Scout troop to which they still belong!) but the Venturing program considers them “youth”? (Jim Dumond, Northeast Georgia Council, GA)

Venturers age 18 and over are considered…Venturers. And they’re also legally adults; not “youth.” So if they’ve earned Eagle rank, they’d wear the square knot; not the oval Eagle rank badge. While it’s perfectly “legal” for a Venturer under age 18 to wear their highest Boy Scout rank badge they’ve earned on their left uniform pocket, it’s not uncommon for even those Venturers to opt for the square knot, because it’s consistent with the Venturing awards (Ranger, Gold, Silver, Quest, Trust, etc.), none of which is designed to go on the pocket itself (Yes, to “split hairs,” the “RANGER” pin is worn on the pocket flap).

Thanks for clearing that up; however, you raise another question… You said, “While it’s perfectly ‘legal’ for a Venturer under age 18to wear their highest Boy Scout rank badge they’ve earned on their left uniform pocket,it’s not uncommon for even those Venturers to opt for the square knot, because it’s consistent with the Venturing awards (Ranger, Gold, Silver, Quest, Trust, etc.).” Am I mistaken, or is the square knot representing Eagle Rank not reserved only for adults? And where in BSA policy would I find that information? (Jim Dumond)

Yes, the Eagle square knot is for adult wear. However, I’m also giving you a practical approach that some might wish to opt for. I personally consider a, let’s say, 16 year-old Venturer wearing an Eagle square knot (instead of the oval badge) so that he looks more like his slightly older peers an infraction of little consequence. While I wouldn’t suggest this to him, if he asked if he could do it, I’d probably turn a sympathetic eye rather than preaching at him like a “Patch Policeman”! But, hey, that’s me.

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster recently told a Scout in our troop that he’s not permitted to wear the red wool jacket (called the Jac-Shirt in the Boy Scout catalog), because this was a “Scoutmaster Jacket.” The Scout was clearly disappointed, especially because his grandfather had just given him the jacket as a birthday gift. I clearly remember my brothers wearing this jacket when they were Scouts in the 70’s and it having been available in boy sizes (i.e., not just men’s). A look on the Internet has shown me that the jacket has also been referred to as “Boy Scout Jacket,” “Philmont Jacket,” and “patch jacket.” I also saw that there seems to be quite the debate as to what may be displayed on the jacket. (Not a problem in this case since the Scout had no insignia, patches, etc. on it.) I also can’t seem to locate an official “BSA Uniform Guide” online to identify any of the citations regarding the jacket. What’s the true story here? (T.C., MC, Occoneechee Council)

The “true story” is that that Scoutmaster’s dishing out one big load of horsepucky! That’s absolutely NOT a “Scoutmaster’s Jacket,” and he’s got one heck of a nerve discouraging a Scout from wearing the absolutely MOST appropriate outerwear a Boy Scout can wear! The Jac-Shirt is a BSA standard. It’s been around for over 50 years. In the 2005 BSA Insignia Guide, the Jac-Shirt is referred to on pages 4, 20, 36, 53, and 54. It is ALWAYS referred to as being appropriate for both youth and adults. Tell that young man to wear his grandfather’s gift with pride. And tell that misguided Scoutmaster to go fly a kite!

Hello Andy,

Some years ago I had a copy of “Deliver The Promise” (BSA No. 18-251) and I’m wondering if this was still available and where I might get it. (Michael Kerrigan, SM, Troop 50, Revolutionary Trails Council)

Try calling the National supply division, at 1-800-323-0736.

Dear Andy,

Someone just told me that there are now two Eagle Mentor pins: one for adults and one for youth. I can’t find any info on this. Is it true? (Chuck Jewell, CC & Huddle Commissioner, Alamo Area Council, TX)

Here’s what has to say: “Eagle Mentor’s pin, made of zinc alloy with smooth polished antique finish. For any non-parent who was instrumental in the youth earning his Eagle rank. Measures 16 mm x 20 mm; thickness of 2 mm. $3.59.”

Eagle Mentor Pin


You might want to check further with your local Scout Shop, to see if there’s been a change.

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Senior Patrol Leader for my Troop and I have a question regarding the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (JASM) position. Our Scoutmaster’s son has been given the position of JASM by his father, without talking to anybody about this. I disagree with this Scout being in this position. I’d wanted him to be our Troop Instructor. At a recent Patrol Leaders Council, my ASPL and I were taken into a separate room by our Scoutmaster and three of his ASMs and told that this is how it would be and that we should just agree with this JASM decision because it’s going to happen anyway. I didn’t feel comfortable with the way this was done. In fact, I felt like my ASPL and I were being “bullied” into agreeing with our Scoutmaster’s decision. No one in our troop has ever challenged anything our Scoutmaster has told us to do, and this is really difficult for me since I’m also friends with his son at school, too. This Scout is already 16 years old, so he does meet that requirement, but there was no vote or prior discussion at Patrol Leaders Council about having him be JASM. We already have a JASM in the troop and while I do realize that we can have more than one in that position, I still need to fill the Troop Instructor position, and he was the ideal candidate. From what I’ve read, a JASM reports only to and takes direction from the Scoutmaster (his father) and no one else in the troop. What are the specifics regarding a JASM participating or having voting rights at Patrol Leaders Council? Is that by invitation from the SPL, or can the Scoutmaster override any decision made by the SPL? Are there any rules that state that the Scoutmaster must be in attendance at a Patrol Leaders Council meeting?

In our troop, we emphasize “Scout-Lead,” and while I have a lot of respect for my Scoutmaster and all he does for our troop, I don’t want to be made a pushover.

I want to do the best I can in this new position so that I can lead my troop in a positive direction during my term. Any suggestions would be great. (SPL, Northern New Jersey Council)

OK, let’s see if I can shed some light on this for you… Everything here has been sourced from the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (go get yourself one at your local Scout Shop, so you can “Be Prepared”):

The JASM is appointed by the SPL (not by the Scoutmaster); however, this is done with the advice and consent of the Scoutmaster. A Scout is selected by the SPL for the JASM position based on being at least 16 years old and being an outstanding leader. The SM can “veto” the SPL’s recommendation, but the SM does NOT have appointing power.

Upon selection by the SPL, the JASM reports directly to the SM. There can be more than on JASM in a Troop, just as there can be more than one Troop Guide or Instructor.

The Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) is made up of the SPL and ASPL (if any), the Patrol Leaders (but not APLs), and the Troop Guide ONLY if he is the TG for a New-Scout patrol. The Scoutmaster attends PLC meetings as a coach and informational source; he has no decision-making role; not even to “veto.” That’s it. Other youth leaders, such as QM, Scribe, Instructor, or JASM, do NOT attend the PLC. PLC meetings are also not attended by any Assistant Scoutmasters, except as a substitute in the event that the SM is unable to attend. Same with APLs: They only attend a PLC meeting if their PL can’t. The Troop Committee Chair and/or committee members don’t attend PLC meetings, either. This is standard Troop operation and any deviation from this is not in accordance with BSA procedures, policies, or program.

The ideal solution to at least part of the mess your Troop is in is for the JASM to relinquish his position and become a Troop Instructor, instead. But it would probably be up to you to find a way to convince him to do this. If he thinks he’s taking a “lesser” position, you’re outa luck! So the diplomatic thing to do might be to “encourage” him to “request” of his Scoutmaster dad that he be permitted to instruct, and to take guidance on this from you. This will depend on the kind of friendship the two of you have, and also what his dad’s “vision” for his son is.

What troubles me most of all, though, is that maybe your Scoutmaster actually thinks that he’s “Master of the Scouts”! He’s not, of course. The Scoutmaster doesn’t run the Troop, and he doesn’t “give orders” to the SPL (or anyone else), except in dire emergencies. On a day-to-day basis, he’s the SPL’s and the PLC’s coach and advisor, while the SPL and the PLC run the troop meetings and plan and carry out the Troop’s yearly program of events. Any time a Scoutmaster “takes charge” of a Troop, he’s denying the Scouts in it the full measure of the Scouting program (for the actual BSA quote on this, go to page 12 of the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, under “The Boy-Led Troop”).

I’m hoping that your Committee Chair will see the light of day here, and will provide some wise counsel to the Scoutmaster (Yes, the SM does “report” to the Committee and its Chair).

Hey Andy!

I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this column. I’ve been a Scoutmaster for about three years and find your insights invaluable. I’ve read your responses about Scoutmaster-assigned leadership projects and have a few questions as it pertains to one of my Scouts…

Out Troop has a First Class rank Scout who will be 17 in about five weeks. He has three merit badges and a leadership position left for Star. He’s been a member of the Troop since he crossed over from Cub Scouts. He progressed to First Class in about 16 months, but has been at that rank ever since. Once I became Scoutmaster, I talked with him about his goals, both personal and Scouting, and his response as far as Scouting goes was that he just wanted to have a good time and wasn’t interested in advancement. We have had that conversation several times over the past three years. He’s attended about half of the Troop meetings and five outings in the past three years as well.

Here’s my challenge: This Scout approached me a couple of weeks ago and said he wants to try to achieve Eagle. I worked through the timeline with him for required “active membership” and traditional leadership positions. Needless to say, there are not enough months on the calendar left to accomplish the goal using the full leadership terms. The Scout then asked me if maybe he could do a couple of Scoutmaster-assigned leadership projects to get around the required amount of time for a leadership position.

So here’s where my question comes in: What is the intent of the Scoutmaster-Assigned Leadership Project? This seems to be a grey area. My impression is that the intent is to serve as an alternative to the leadership position, but not intended to fast-track someone. I’m afraid that “fast-tracking” a Scout in this time-period sets a bad precedent for future candidates, and somehow diminishes the efforts put forth by our current Eagles. Hopefully you can see I’m trying to do the right thing here, but the Handbook is pretty vague. (Guy Kriske, SM, Troop 431, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

The “Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project” isn’t a “loophole,” and that Scout’s outta time! Check out the very first requirement for Star, Life, and Eagle, and there’s your defining tenure. No way around those, my friend! Still, I’d sure encourage him to go for Life rank. He has the time to do it; now, does he have the motivation?

Advancement is a personal thing. Some guys make Eagle before their 14th birthday, some give themselves 18th birthday presents, and others are somewhere in the middle. But most never make Eagle at all, and that’s still OK! Read my November 2002 column for more on this subject.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the “assigned leadership project”… I’m guessing it’s there just in case every youth leadership position in a troop is already filled, or perhaps it’s so that a special need of the troop that doesn’t naturally fit into a standard position might get accomplished. It’s not used too often, but it’s sure nice to know it’s available, based on the need of the Scout, or the need of the troop!

Dear Andy,

If a Scout attended the 2005 National Jamboree, how does that count towards fulfilling the requirements for Order of the Arrow election? For example, is it considered a Jamboree considered a long-term camp, but only six days and five nights counts towards the camping requirement? Or is it considered a long-term camp with ten days and nine nights counting? I’m asking because although my son has over 40 camping days and nights over the past three years, his opportunities for camping were restricted this year when he was diagnosed with a blood disorder that causes a severe allergic reaction to sunlight. So, yes, if the Jamboree counts, then he could need those days to meet the OA camping requirement. The OA lodge said they’d accommodate his disability if he’s elected; however, I have heard yes and no with regards to Jamboree camping. (Kelly, Alamo Area Council, TX)

I’m glad to hear that the OA lodge is going to take your son’s condition, and the effect it’s had in the past year, into account. Good for them! The camping requirement for OA membership is: “…have experienced 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The 15 days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.”

Based on this, camping with a Jamboree troop in the summer of 2005 would count, and the numerical tally would be based on the actual number of days and nights “under canvas.” (By the way, it’s the troop that decides on eligibility and once elected, a Scout can’t be “un-elected” by the lodge.)

Dear Andy,

I recently had the privilege of being the professional advisor for our council’s Wood Badge course. When we got to the “Wood Badge Game Show,” it was chaotic at best trying to determine which bell, whistle, clank, or whatever came first. Could maybe an electrical engineer who reads your column send me a circuit diagram linking eight simple latch circuits so that only one patrol at a time can ring? I’m looking for something like a Pinewood Derby finish line that’s push-button operated. Thanks! (Dave Rice, Senior District Executive, Illowa Council, IA)

Hi Andy,

For that game, we use fly swatters with the patrol emblems on them. Works great! (Charles Eichelberger, WE4-57-06 Staff)

Anyone else have any solutions to the “game show” problem?

Dear Andy,

I’m a Scout who has become a frequent visitor to your website because I enjoy reading all the Scouting questions and answers. After reading your advice over and over again, it helped me to slowly start to realize I was a member of a troop that was being run and led by adults and the Scouts weren’t being allowed or trained to do anything they should be doing. Reading your advice to others in Scouting helped me by giving me something to compare my own troop against, because before reading your columns I’d just taken things for granted and trusted that our leaders knew what they were doing and were doing things the right way.

I just wanted you to know the hardest part for me has been the emotional part of making the decision to leave my friends, my patrol, and my troop even though troop stopped being fun a long time ago and despite the fact that I no longer looked forward to attending meetings or outings because of a small group of adult leaders who manipulated and controlled everything and didn’t let us Scouts do what we were supposed to be doing.

Thanks for giving me the courage to make a very hard decision. If there are any other Scouts out there in troops as messed up as mine, I hope they’ll take your advice to heart and, as you say, “vote with their feet.” Scouts all think all other troops are the same as the one they’re in. After visiting some other troops around town, I learned that that isn’t true. My dad told me you can only learn so much about a troop at a weekly meeting and to really understand what a troop is like you need to go out into the woods with them. So last month I went camping with this one troop I really liked and actually had fun in Scouting for the first time in a long time. Their campout was totally different from anything I’d experienced before in Scouts. None of the adults ordered us around, and the Scouts actually made all of the decisions. We accomplished what we had chosen and I actually went all weekend without once hearing a leader yelling or screaming at a Scout. That alone totally convinced me: I’m leaving and joining the other troop! Thank You Andy! (S.Y. [Sorry, my dad says I can’t give out my name on the Internet])

Yup, your Dad’s right about your name, and I’m delighted to see that you respected his admonition. I’m even more delighted to learn that you’re once again having fun in Scouting, because that’s how it’s supposed to be! I’m sure it was a tough decision and a wrenching experience to make the move that you did, but you did the right thing! It’s also not “against the law” to invite a friend or two of yours from your former troop to join you on your new troop’s next camp-out, as your guest and your friend.

Scouting, as you’ve figured out (and as your former troop’s adult leaders were actually preventing you from learning), is about YOU; not “them.” And it’s about having fun while accomplishing some good stuff for yourself. Here’s what Baden-Powell himself said, about advancement, for instance: “Advancement is like a suntan—It’s something that happens naturally while you’re having fun in the outdoors.”

Keep having fun, and enjoying Scouting and your new Scouting friends!

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)

(February 2007 – Copyright © 2007 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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