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Issue 96 – March 2007

Dear Andy,

I’ve searched for, but not found a syllabus for “MCS 312”: “How NYLT Can Save Our Troops.” Can you help me out here? (Chuck Porter, ADC, Mississippi Valley Council)

Start by reading my special column, “NJLIC to YSDC”!

Hi, Andy!

A Scouter recently asked about different Eagle Mentor pins for youth and adults. National Supply DOES manufacture both a gold tone AND a Sterling silver mentor pin. There is no distinction as to whom the pin is intended for. The recipient must simply be a mentor. Some mentors may prefer the appearance of the sterling silver version (Item 14127, $14.49) versus the gold tone (Item 14123, $3.59). Mom and Dad pins are also available in pewter and Sterling silver. Our council presents the Eagle Award kit (Item 14124, $24.25) at no charge to all our new Eagles. This kit contains the gold tone Mentor pin, in addition to the pewter Mom and Dad pins, the oval patch, and the Eagle medal. More detail than anyone wanted to know! (Steve Hanson, Scout Shop Manager, Capitol Area Council, Austin, TX)

Thanks, Steve!

Dear Andy,

What’s the BSA policy on the wearing of uniforms by Scouts who are working a Fund-raising event where alcohol is being served? Our troop had a fund-raising dinner a few years ago at a restaurant, and our council told us at that time that the Scouts couldn’t wear dress uniforms while working the event, since alcohol was present. Instead, they had to wear their field uniforms, which was fine with us.

This past weekend, our Venturers were asked to wait tables at a large Crab Feed with an open bar. The Scouts were specifically asked by the head of Venturing locally to wear class A or dress uniforms. She had never heard of the policy regarding uniforms at functions with alcohol. Personnel at council have changed over since our first function. The new folks are looking into this for us, but there seems to be confusion. I’d appreciate hearing what you know about the national policy or guidelines. (Terry Odneal, DC, Chief Solano District, Mt. Diablo Silverado Council, CA)

The BSA has very specific policies regarding the wearing of uniforms—when, where, and how—and your Scout Executive can advise you on these. As for alcohol, the BSA book, GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING, says this: “The Boy Scouts of America prohibits…alcoholic beverages…at any activity involving participation of youth members.”

Dear Andy,

I started a Cub Scout pack four years ago; I now have a situation that has not before arisen. Our pack has always determined a boy’s rank by his grade level (e.g., first grade=Tiger Cub, etc.). A parent of a Webelos I Scout recently told me that his son will be crossing over into Boy Scouts at our pack’s annual advancement campout this April. I explained to him that although his son has completed all the requirements for Arrow of Light, the boy’s is still in fourth grade and so isn’t eligible for Boy Scouts. The dad then told me that his son is going to be 12 years old next month and he must be in a Boy Scout troop with his older brother. Have any suggestions? (Geno Iorio, CM, Pack 16, Old North State Council)

A boy is eligible to become a Boy Scout…

…On his 11th birthday, OR

…On completing 5th grade, OR

…On earning the Arrow of Light.

Any one of these ways, regardless of either of the other two, makes a boy eligible to become a Boy Scout. (This is per the BSA; not ol’ Andy here.) If this boy has completed all requirements for Arrow of Light, AND he’s already past his 11th birthday, he should become a Boy Scout IMMEDIATELY! He should run, don’t walk, to the troop of his choice RIGHT NOW!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been asked to introduce an Eagle candidate at his Board of Review. This will be my first Eagle board and I’m not sure how much or little to say during this introduction. I’m the Chair of his troop and have only known him for two years. His dad is his Scoutmaster, so he picked me to do this. I don’t want to overdo it, but I do want it to be a proper introduction. (Ray Butler, CC, Troop 35, Hudson, MA)

Just in case this may have slipped through the cracks, did you know it’s totally appropriate for this young man’s father, as Scoutmaster, to introduce him to the members of the BoR. Of course, the father can’t stay in the room during the BoR, but there’s no policy or even rule-of-thumb that prohibits him, as Scoutmaster, from doing what he would otherwise do for any other Eagle candidate.

That said, how about asking the young man what he’d like you to highlight? There’s no reason why the two of you can’t collaborate on this. Just ask him, “Since I’ll be introducing you, what would you like me to say?” Then, add your own, personal observations. Go with your heart on this and you can’t be wrong! Enjoy the experience – You’re a lucky man!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Webelos II Den Leader, and with their second year about to end we’ve begun talking about visiting and camping with different troops. Recently, a committee member told me that once we fulfill the Arrow of Light requirements, the boys will go in front of a Board of Review before they’re able to cross over. Is this true, and what/who is on a Board of Review? (I’ve heard of Boards of Review for Boys Scouts; but not for Cub Scouts.

Also, once we have achieved the requirements to move on to Boy Scouts, should we focus more on camping, survival skills or more on the other Webelos pins? (Laura Guthrie, WDL, Northeast Georgia Council, Stone Mountain, GA)

HORSEPUCKY! There is absolutely, positively, unassailably, NO BOARD OF REVIEW FOR ANY NON-BOY SCOUT RANK! End of story! (Where people like these get this sort of nonsense in their heads is beyond my comprehension!)

As for what to do next, stay with the Webelos activity badges. They’re age-appropriate, and good stuff to have when entering Boy Scouting. The boys will pick up the other stuff as Boy Scouts.

Dear Andy,

What are the achievements and the beads each Cub Scout has to earn? (Mary Jo Gomez)

These are described in detail in each Cub Scout book (Tiger, Wolf, etc.). For a good overview, just go to the USSSP website and click on “Cub Scout-advancement.”

Hi Andy,

In your response about on volunteer terms, you said (in part): “The usual ‘term’ for volunteer leaders, particularly in Cub Scouting, is start-of-year (usually September) to end-of-year.”

If the pack’s charter year were from September to August, then I’d agree with you. I’ve always understood that the term for a volunteer leader was from beginning of charter year to end of charter year. With the renewal of the charter each year, the IH or COR’s signature is for the adult registration renewal, and the unit leader’s signature is for the youth registration renewal, and the UC or other representative from the council as the third signature, just as with the adult leader and youth applications.

I also understood that the unit leadership, committee and program, serve at the pleasure of the chartered organization. Of course, it is in the CO’s best interest to select quality leaders and using “Green Bar” Bill’s adage, “Train ’em, Trust ’em, Let ’em lead.” When a leader is no longer effective in their service to the unit, isn’t it for the COR or IH to remove them, based on the unit committee’s recommendation? (Lou Leopold, COR, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Camarillo District, Ventura County Council, CA)

Yup. But before you decide to dump an “ineffective volunteer,” you might want to have a conversation with him or her first, so that if there’s a problem it can get laid out on the table, or if this volunteer would rather have a different job, or none at all, there’s an opportunity to express this? Just a thought…

Dear Andy,

Our Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) has now missed his last three Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) meetings. Should the Senior Patrol Leader and I (as Scoutmaster) replace him? Our elections won’t be until the end of May. We’ve meanwhile assigned one of the Patrol Leaders month to take this spot, because the present ASPL isn’t making an effort to come. If he should be replaced, who do we break the news to? (Parents are the ones I’m worried about; not the boys). How do we address this problem? (SM)

If your troop’s being run the Scouting way, your ASPL was hand-picked by your SPL, and so it would be up to your SPL to have a talk with his friend and find out what’s going on and what kind of a problem the ASPL is having. This can be done in your presence or not, depending on the comfort level of the SPL. But, even if your ASPL got into that position some other way, it’s still the SPL’s responsibility to find out what kind of a problem his second-in-command is having. Provide guidance as necessary, but don’t do his job for him. Don’t involve the ASPL’s parent, either, because this is (at least initially) a SPL-ASPL conversation. Once the problem’s been voiced, then you and the SPL and the ASPL can put your heads together to develop a solution. The solution is NOT to replace the ASPL but to help him through whatever problem he may be having.

Hi Andy,

I recently took over as our Den Leader and have updated most of the information for our den. However, I’m having trouble locating an “Excel” document that helps track what each Cub Scout has done, and whether he’s received the appropriate bead or patch. Please help! Thanks! (Lisa Harvey)

Scout Shops used to sell a very nice POSTER that you could mount on foam-core board and display at Den meetings, so that the boys would know what they’ve completed. Then, of course, there’s also the places for their parents and you (both of you as “Akela”) to sign off in their books. Anyway, I’d go for those instead of a spread-sheet because, first off, your Den isn’t so large that this is a horribly cumbersome job, and second, because it strikes me as way too businesslike for a bunch of first-graders! But, hey, that’s just me!

Hi Andy,

We’ve started a newly formed Boy Scout troop and I’m the Training Coordinator for it. My question is this: When is a Boy Scout Leader considered “trained”? That is, when does he or she receive the “trained” patch that’s placed on the sleeve of the uniform shirt? (Patty White, Training Coordinator, Troop/Pack 73, Daniel Boone Council, Arden, NC)

Double-check with your district’s training chair, but the usual way is when he or she has completed both New Leader Essentials AND the training for his or her specific position (e.g., Scoutmaster, Troop Committee, etc.). Best wishes with your new troop! Be sure EVERYONE in it reads my column: “Are We Really That Smart?”

Hi Andy,

I’m a Bear (soon-to-be-Webelos) Den Leader. I’d like to take Wood Badge this fall and, as my Pack pays for all other training, I asked my Cubmaster if they paid for Wood Badge, too. At first, he told me that WB was really for Scout Leaders, not Cub Leaders. When I told him the brochure was inviting Cub Scout Leaders to also take the training, he asked me to put together a proposal showing how the Pack would benefit from me taking this training. Reasonable enough. To gather more information, I contacted the person organizing the course, who sent me a copy of the brochure. It has some useful information but not enough, and since I don’t have a more complete understanding of how my Pack will benefit, I don’t feel competent to present a proposal to them. I’m also wondering what a “ticket” might look like for a Webelos Leader, and in what other ways a Pack might benefit from having a Wood Badge-trained leader, if indeed they would? Thanks! (Joanna, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

Wood Badge is a training course. It’s an advanced level of training available to ALL BSA adult volunteers, regardless of position. It’s best appreciated by those who have already experienced New Leader Essentials training, plus “position-specific” training (e.g., Den Leader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, committee member, and so on). Wood Badge is for both Cub Scout and Boy Scout volunteer leaders. 21st Century Wood Badge combines both the Cub Scout and the Boy Scout programs and provides a broader, more “universal” perspective than the predecessor WB courses, which were two separate courses, one for Cub Scout and one for Boy Scout leaders.

Even though Wood Badge isn’t mandatory, absolutely everyone associated with the Pack would do themselves, and the youth you all are there to grow, a big service by considering attending your local WB course.

Think of it this way: If you sent your kid to school, would you like to know that his teacher had advanced training not only in curriculum but also in the “why” and “how” of the educational process? Or are you content in knowing that the teacher got a college degree in subject matter and now they can teach as best they know how (or figure out along the way)? If you’re content with the second idea, then forget Wood Badge, it’s not for you. But if you believe that the adults who come in contact with your kid should have as much training and education as is available, then Wood Badge is something you’ll definitely want to plan on.

Wood Badge used to have more of a “mystique” than it does nowadays, but that mystique wasn’t always helpful to the kids we serve. Wood Badge, years ago, was a pretty much “closed fraternity,” although I’ve never understood why. It was treated as almost a “secret,” and one had to be “invited” to attend, and then there were the private “beading ceremonies” and such. All of which was nonsense, of course, because it’s simply an advanced training course for Scouters like you.

The subjects covered are extensive, and will give you an excellent overview of how the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs work together to “grow” our boys into responsible, happy, team-oriented leaders and citizens. The Wood Badge course will give you insights you can bring back to your Pack, and help others “see the big picture”—the picture beyond making pot-holders for Mommy or learning where your town’s fire department is, or selling popcorn once a year.

Wood Badge is a big commitment of personal time. It doesn’t happen in a day, or even just one weekend! And it takes on a unique “life” when you “write your ticket” (which is a set of voluntary commitments you make for yourself, that you endeavor to accomplish after completing the “training” portion of the WB course).

If your Pack is willing to pick up all or even part of the cost of the course, that’s wonderful, but it in no way compensates for the many hours you’ll be personally committing to the training and “ticket” portions of Wood Badge! Actually, I’d encourage your Pack to send TWO of you—a “Buddy Pair”—to Wood Badge. No, you won’t be side by side in the same group, but you’ll be able to share and compare experiences along the way and then serve as a “training team” for the other adults in the Pack who weren’t able to attend. In fact, you two will be your Pack’s very best resources for what Scouting’s really all about and you’ll have in-depth knowledge of why the program does things they way it does (this helps keep the Pack from wandering off the path to True North—for more on this, read my column titled “Are We Really That Smart?”).

The importance of attending Wood Badge training can be emphasized too much. The value to a unit in having Wood Badge-trained leaders can’t be praised too highly!

Dear Andy,

In an earlier column, Michael Kerrigan, out of the Revolutionary Trails Council, asked you, “Some years ago I had a copy of ‘Deliver The Promise’ (BSA No. 18-251) and I’m wondering if this is still available and where I might get it.” I’ve done some checking and this doesn’t appear in the current list of Bin Resource items. Sometimes there may be a bit of back stock, so calling your local Scout Shop and asking them to call National Supply doesn’t hurt, but it looks like it’s out of print. (Steve Hanson, Scout Shop Manager, Capitol Area Council, Austin, TX)

Thanks again, Steve!

Dear Andy,

My son Matt has his Eagle Board of Review in a few days. So far, he’s earned 52 merit badges. The requirements for Palms say he needs to continue with the troop for three months and complete other requirements to apply for his first Palm. Can his first Palm be a silver Palm, since he has the 15 merit badges required? His second Palm could then be another silver Palm after three more months. Or does he need to first get a bronze, then a gold, and then a silver? There seems to be an assumption in the way the requirements are written that a Scout would get his Eagle with the first 21 merit badges he earned and then start earning his Palms. With the split between the required and non-required, Matt kept earning non-required, since they were fun, he was on camp staff, and he may have used some of the merit badge subjects as curriculum for his home schooling. When he finally got his project and the remaining required merit badges done, he’d earned a bunch of extra merit badges. (Rusty Rodke, Santa Fe, NM)

Eagle palms are earned in order: Bronze (5 + 3 months), Gold (5 more + 3 months more), Silver (5 more + 3 more months), then Bronze again (5 more + 3 more months), etc. Merit badges earned “pre-eagle” absolutely count toward palms; but each palm requires 3 months active participation. (BTW, there’s no such thing as “extra” merit badges… Each one teaches something new.)

Dear Andy,

This is for me: The American Indian Scout Association (AISA) has a website at but no contact information. It says to contact your local council for forms, but my council doesn’t have any information on it. The web address suggests that it’s part of Scout Reach. The annual seminar scheduled for July 7-11, 2007 in Ada, Oklahoma looks like a great time, but I’d like to join the organization first! Can you help? (Rusty Rodke, Great Southwest Council, NM)

You local council is supposed to know how to put you in touch with the AISA directly. Since they apparently don’t know how to go about doing this, you may want to call the AISA’s Western Region contact directly: Everett Sumner (602-752-7000). If this doesn’t work out, then try the BSA’s National ScoutReach Director, George Randall (972-580-2037).

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been asked to serve as a District Commissioner. I will also continue to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster. I’ve read in your columns that a Commissioner should not hold another position, and I agree; however, my ASM position is with an LDS troop, and that’s a church calling and not really a “volunteer” position. On a related subject, if I take the Commissioner position, do I continue to wear the troop numerals above the DC patch, or do I need to get another uniform specific to the DC position? (Troy Dunow, Great Southwest Council, Albuquerque, NM)

I appreciate your situation. I’ve worked alongside many LDS Scouters and have always observed immense dedication to faith, family, helping others, and Scouting. About your situation, let’s first be clear on this: That Commissioners are not to hold unit leadership positions is not some opinion of mine; it’s a BSA stipulation. I understand that your Commissioner role is one you, personally, selected for yourself and that your role as an ASM is a calling by your stake, ward, or church. However, whether you consider yourself a volunteer or “volunteered” is not the point. The point is that you are holding two simultaneous positions that the BSA considers incompatible, simultaneously. That said, here’s my own stand on this: So long as you’re not a Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, or Den Leader, but instead hold an “assistant” position, I’d probably not blow the whistle on you! As for Commissioner emblem and unit numerals on the same sleeve, nope! Spring for a second shirt.

Dear Andy,

I know this topic has probably been covered in one of your previous columns, and I know I’ve read this somewhere, too, but I can’t quite put my hand on it. Our troop has a new Chartered Organization Representative (COR) who used to be one of our Assistant Scoutmasters. If I’m not mistaken, can’t the COR actually dual-register as an ASM? My committee chair seems to think otherwise, and I’ve not been able to nail down the answer in writing. Can you help? (Edward [Welilissit], SM, Troop 402, Northeast Georgia Council, GA)

Technically, it’s not “illegal;” but it is darned confusing! Usually, the dual role that includes the COR position is that of unit committee chair; not ASM or other uniformed position. This is because of the “who ‘reports’ to whom?” question. Since the COR is the interface between the unit’s committee and the CO itself, how can anyone know when an ASM, who technically reports to the Scoutmaster, also be the CO-unit committee interface (even though the COR position is typically not a heavy decision-making one)? But, is this a “lethal” situation? Probably not, unless that ASM/COR or COR/ASM (you see the problem?) starts to get too big for his britches! If you have a choice here, I’d suggest you choose against this, because of its potential for getting messy.

Dear Andy,

What are your thoughts on Cub Scout fire safety? Our Pack recently had a twilight cookout/campfire and we were confronted with the age-old question of what do we allow the boys to do with the fire? I don’t want to take it to the draconian extreme that a Cub can do absolutely nothing with the campfire (no s’mores then, and that would be a bad thing!) and the opposite extreme of letting the Cubs do anything they want with the fire, which inevitably results in someone getting hurt when a flaming stick is removed from the fire and waved around or something. I know there are programs for the Boy Scouts that promote knife (plus saw and axe) and fire safety (the Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit of course) and the Cubs have the Whittlin’ Chip. Is there any corresponding fire safety card for Cub Scouts? Certainly no card is going to prevent an accident with playing with fire, but perhaps it might help.

On another subject, our pack has two boys who just cannot make the den meetings due to other conflicts in their families’ schedules. One parent asked me if they could continue with the program and participate in whatever they could. While I think that being a part of the den is a key aspect of the Cub Scout program, I really have to think about this one, because if you really think about it, the majority (if not vast majority) of time a boy spends on Cub Scout activities will be at home, and if a parent and boy have the commitment to do a program (in this case, Wolf) at home, then why not? Any thoughts? (John Woughter, Transatlantic Council, Bonn, Germany)

Good questions, and they’re both judgment calls—the BSA provides no specific rules on these (and that’s probably a good thing — we don’t want to be entirely subject to rule-itis!) I think the answer to both will be found in… not common sense, but one rung above that: GOOD sense.

Good sense tells us how close Cubs should get to an open fire, and how much adult supervision there should be. S’mores? You bet! Toasting marshmallows? No doubt about it! Poking each other or Fido with hot sticks? I don’t think so! Like many things when dealing with kids — If it somehow doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not a great idea. Listen to your inner voice—always!

If you have open fires frequently enough to need Pack or Den rules, have the Cubs themselves construct the rules (under the guidance but not specific directions of their DLs). Aren’t we all much more prone to observe rules we’ve developed for ourselves, rather than those imposed upon us?

Cub Scouting, as you’ve sensitively and sensibly observed, is a boy-and-family strengthening program in its early years and it’s not until the Webelos level that separation begins to take some baby steps. I’m going to assume, here, that the reasons why these two Cubs can’t attend their den meetings are legitimate and significant, and not merely matters of parental inconvenience, and that the activities that conflict with the Den meeting schedule are formal activities of a school, club, or other bona fide organization, and not “malling” or something along those lines. I’m also going to assume that you’ve already attempted to shift the Den’s meeting schedule to better accommodate all boys in the Den (while simultaneously making sure that whatever new schedule that might be adopted is not a severe inconvenience for you). With these two considerations already in place, I’d agree with you that staying in Cub Scouting, even if not all Den meetings can be attended, is probably a good thing, especially since in a few months or perhaps by next year, a more compatible schedule for everyone might well emerge. So, assuming they can attend Pack meetings as well as Den outings, I’d augur for their staying in Cub Scouting, even if they can’t be 100% involved in all gatherings. That said, I’d also be sure to keep in touch with these boys’ parents, so that advancement continues apace.

Hi Andy,

My son was named Troop Historian and voted Patrol Leader at the same troop meeting. Which patch should he wear on his sleeve? Can he wear both? Thanks. (Ray Butler, CC, Troop 235, Hudson, MA)

Congratulations to your son! Now, for your questions… No, he shouldn’t wear both, and he has the option of choosing which one he’d rather place on his left sleeve (and, just in case he’s wondering, No, he doesn’t put the other one somewhere else on his uniform!). If he’s having a tough time making up his mind, he might want to think about the honor he received by having been elected to the Patrol Leader position by his fellow Scouts, and also that he’ll probably be more “visible” in this role than as Historian. But, whichever is chosen, it’s his call and his alone.

Dear Andy,

I’m a current Cubmaster as well as a committee member of the Troop that our Cub Scout pack feeds into. I’ve had this role for the past seven years. My questions concern popcorn sales and why we as leaders continue to sell this product. I have the following issues with this fundraising activity that I’d like your comments on:

1- Why can’t we have the fundraiser at a time of our choosing? Each year when we sell popcorn in the Fall we’re up against public school fundraisers, sports teams, etc. It’s long been our pack’s feeling that if we could sell in the spring we’d generate much higher sales.

2- Why do the packs get so little of the percentage of each sale? Our council (Blue Ridge) currently offers between 33% and 35% for each dollar sold. My wife, who is a PTA president, and the PTA sells wrapping paper and gets 55% of each sale. My real question is why is the council getting an equal share of the sale as the packs and troops? Why is the council making their budgets off the backs of our scouts when the funds are really needed on the local level by the packs and troops? We need equipment, need to update our building, etc.

3- Why does the council require that we purchase popcorn in full cases? By doing so, it drastically cuts into our already low percentage of 33% to 35%. The council’s answer is that we should go make deals with other units to make full cases. What they don’t realize is that we’re volunteers, not full-time Scouters like they are, and to find the time to wheel and deal with other packs and troops is not acceptable. In real numbers, last year, after we sold the popcorn and because of the full case requirement we only made 18% on each dollar sold and then we gave the balance of what couldn’t be sold to a local Salvation Army.

4- Why is the pricing so high for the products. I know we can sell the fact that the persons buying are supporting Scouting. However, they are so high that this clearly discourages persons from buying the popcorn.

5- Why can’t the council schedule more than one day per year to pick up the popcorn? Last year I informed the council that our Pack wouldn’t be available the day of the pickup due to a college football game in the area, that all of the leaders have families and season tickets and would not be there to get it. After trying to work with the council for over three months, I personally missed a day with my family to pick up popcorn, due to a lack of flexibility. In any case, our pack and troop will NO LONGER be selling popcorn and be doing alternative fundraisers until such time the following will happen: (a) We only receive what we purchase and pay for what we purchase, and (b) the amount going to the local units increases to a minimum of 50%. I do value your thoughts on this subject. Thanks. (Dave McMann, CM, Blue Ridge Council)

Wow! That’s quite a laundry list of questions! They’re all good ones, too. But, underneath them I’m sensing a bit of…well, maybe not hostility, but sure a little frustration if not rancor. So, while I usually tackle a long series of questions on any Scouting subject and have no trouble being long-winded myself sometimes, I’m going to do something different here… I’m going to suggest that you arrange an in-person informal meeting (not on the phone and absolutely not by email!) with either your district or your council’s popcorn chair (another volunteer like yourself) or, if that’s not possible, your District Executive. Get together over a cup of coffee or something like that and ask your questions, being sure to listen to the answers without making “Yeah, but…”-type interruptions. The answers you’ll get will, I’m very sure, make sense, once you get to hear them. And I’m very sorry that you haven’t reached out for answers before now—thank goodness that’s absolutely fixable by just picking up the phone and then getting eyeball-to-eyeball!

I can assure you, from personal experience as a volunteer, that the popcorn fundraiser that virtually every one of our 300+ councils has each year helps Scouts, helps their units, and helps their councils, in no small ways! Several of the packs I serve as Commissioner earn so many thousands of dollars each year that they make cash donations to their PTAs, the Red Cross, the town’s volunteer fire department, and other local beneficiaries! And that’s over and above what they keep for themselves to buy every Cub a pinewood derby car, a regatta sailboat, all advancement patches, and a catered Blue & Gold dinner! So I do think you could be making a huge long-term mistake by opting out of this program.

Lastly, do keep in mind a couple of things… Your wife’s PTA doesn’t have to support, maintain or develop multi-acre camping facilities, and doesn’t have a central brick-and-mortar facility to maintain and keep up-to-date, nor does the PTA run special events for thousands of youth. Moreover, the PTA doesn’t have to support Scouting wage-earners at a service center set up for us volunteers, with people who make even less than we nationally pay our teachers, on a dollars-per hour basis.

Dear Andy,

I’m an ADC for District Roundtables and I’m having a problem with both our Cub and Scout Roundtables. We have program set for the year, with units and speakers making presentations, but both our District Executive and our District Commissioner will, at will and without prior notification (much less, just asking), change things by adding lots of unwanted announcements, adding to the program session that they want covered, but conflict in time and theme with the established program. Is there any advice, or documentation, that I can use to address this problem? (Name Withheld, ADC-Roundtables)

I don’t know that there’s anything formally published that will help you with the mayhem your DE and DC are creating for you. But there is a way you can approach the situation that may help. Put together an agenda for the evening—with TIME next to each line item. For example:

7:15 – 7:29 Gathering

7:30 – 7:34 Opening ceremony

7:35 – 7:44 Announcements

7:45 – 8:29 Presentation by…

8:30 – 8:49 Open forum (Q&A)

8:50 – 8:54 Closing/SM’s Minute

8:55 – —– “Afterglow”

When you do this, and you show it to your key players IN ADVANCE, they’ve now been informed as to exactly when they’re “up” and exactly how much time they have. This way, at 7:44, if they’re still yakking away, you can step up and say, “The agenda tells us we have to move on, now.” Notice what’s happened: It’s the agenda that’s the “bad guy”—Not you! You’re still the good guy! Then, just go ahead with the next segment of your evening, and if anyone feels “unfulfilled,” you can simply say, “See (John, Bill, whomever) after the meeting’s over…”

But, be fair. If you’ve allowed four minutes and they tell you they need ten, let ’em have ten (but not more than that), and then make sure they stick with it.

Hey Andy,

It’s the ADC-Roundtables again. We tried the agenda method, and it was rejected. We asked who can make a meeting and when. All RT staff picked a date and time, then suggested it to District Commissioner. He agreed, but then said he couldn’t make the time we’d chosen, so we pushed it back a half-hour so he could. He then came back and refused to meet at all. Now, our district’s “Key 3” wants (no, they demand!) to meet with the Cub Scout RT Commissioner alone, and she refuses because one woman and three men is unfair odds, at best. (We’re now waiting for them to use this as their rationale for “firing” her…) (ADC-Roundtables)

It’s time for your RTCs—both CS and BS, but particularly the CS side—to get up off the floor and stand up straight. Ghandi said it: “No one can treat you like a doormat if you don’t lie down.” That’s number one. Next, they need to create and state the year’s meeting dates, month-for-month. Third, they need to create a standard meeting program (combine the agenda I gave you earlier with the standard Troop Meeting Plan, and it’ll be near-perfect). Fourth, announcements happen at a specific set time at each roundtable and this time is never changed, ever. Fifth, the DE and DC need to be told that their “allotted time” is either the first two minutes after the opening ceremony or the last two minutes before the formal closing, and that’s it.

These five points need to be put in place all at once and immediately. They must not be presented as “subject to discussion,” or “open to other opinions,” or as “suggestions.” They’re the way things will be, period. Don’t walk small on this. If you do, you’ll get trampled. And if this happens, you’ll never, ever get it right, because too many people will now know you have no spine.

“Well, what if we’re overruled?” someone might ask. Here’s the answer: These five points cannot be overruled. If someone decides to “pull rank” or other such nonsense, tell ’em this: “You have a choice, and here it is: Either all future roundtables are run this way or you can get yourself a new RT Commissioner and staff, and I’ll tell you why… It’s because this is my volunteer time, and it’s either used effectively here or I’ll find some other venue for contributing.” Then stick to your guns.

Finally, put and end to this “trying” stuff. Burn the words of Star Wars’ Yoda into your brains: “Do, or Do Not. There is no ‘try’.”

Dear Andy,

I just found your column and you may have already addressed this problem previously. If you have, please direct me to your answer. Here’s the situation: We have several scouts who are concurrently registered with our troop and also with the council’s Sea Scout ship. The situation involved concerns the advancement of the Scouts as they participate with the ship.

Our Scouts will attend a ship’s meeting and then show up at our troop meeting with one or more fully completed and signed merit badge cards—signed off by the Skipper of the Sea Scout ship. Most recently, one Scout returned wearing his new Star rank on his Boy Scout uniform and stated that he’d earned the rank, had his Board of Review, and his Court of Honor over at the ship. He wants to continue to advance toward his Eagle, earning what he can in both the troop and the ship, completing Eagle at whichever is quickest.

Communication and courtesy have broken down between the adult leaders of the two units. Our Scoutmaster feels shorted that the Scout did not request that the merit badge cards be signed by him first, before completing the badges and rank through the ship. He asked for the Scout to have a second set of cards completed with his own name on them first, so the troop records would be completed. An adult leader from the ship directed the Scoutmaster to ask the council to provide the necessary copies instead, stating that the ship can help the Scout advance without the prior approval of the Scoutmaster.

The Scoutmaster has visited with our District Executive, who mentioned primary and secondary membership, directing the Scoutmaster to seek the completed cards and possibly withhold advancement of this Scout through the troop until he has conducted the Scoutmaster’s Conference.

What guidance can you provide on this sticky situation? We have lost an Assistant Scoutmaster over this issue already, and the present Scoutmaster is ready to throw in the towel, too. Our troop’s Committee Chair has yet to lead a committee meeting on the subject, although the Scoutmaster has requested one. I want to be informed of the correct BSA policy, so the committee can lead the troop in the right direction for the Scouts. (Karen Rowe, MC, Quivira Council)

I get the feeling that these Scouts may be “playing both ends against the middle.” While what they’re doing is probably “legal,” this doesn’t mean it’s the right and proper thing to do.

When the BSA established the Venturing program (of which Sea Scouting is a part) in the late 90’s, an advancement policy was established that permitted any young man who had earned the rank of First Class as a Boy Scout to continue on the trail to Eagle, if he chose to, through his Venturing Crew or Sea Scout Ship. However, the implied assumption here was that the young man would be registered only as a Venturer or Sea Scout only, and not be “double-registered” as a Boy Scout as well (in which case, this policy would not be needed, since he could continue his Star-Life-Eagle advancement in his Troop, as a Boy Scout).

This begs the question: Are these young men working only on their Boy Scout ranks while members of a Sea Scout Ship, or are they also working on the Sea Scout ranks of Apprentice, Able, Ordinary, and Quartermaster? Here’s the conundrum: If they are indeed working on their Sea Scout ranks, then in good faith they should be working on their Boy Scout ranks in their Troop, and if they’re not working on Sea Scout ranks, then they’re taking perhaps unfair advantage of a “loophole” in BSA policy, and their SS Skipper seems to be encouraging this.

So, if you’re asking me for a recommendation, here it is: Cut ’em loose. That’s right—If they’re using the Ship to advance in Boy Scout ranks, they sure don’t need to be Troop members, so drop them from your Troop’s rolls. Here’s what not to do: Don’t “withhold advancement,” or attempt to achieve “rapprochement” with the Skipper, because he’s made it crystal clear that he’s equally willing to circumvent the Troop, and don’t try to get the DE to step into the middle of this mess, because the DE as no authority over what’s happening, anyway. Just cut ’em loose. They’ve made it clear, by their actions, that they hold the Troop in slight regard. Honor that. Terminate their membership as Boy Scouts; they can finish what they’ve started as members of the Ship.

Dear Andy,

I know that a parent can be his or her son’s Merit Badge Counselor (MBC). But I also know that I read somewhere in some Scout literature that to be your son’s MBC, it must be in a class of at least three Scouts. It sounded like a good idea to me at the time I read it, since I knew some parents who’d sign off on a Blue Card whether their child earned it or not, just so their Scout would get the badge. But now it’s come up as an issue, and I can’t find that rule in any literature in which I’ve looked. (Claudia, Sam Houston Area Council, TX)

The BSA book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, states that “An approved merit badge counselor may counsel any youth member, including his or her own son, ward, or relative.” This book goes on to state that “A Scout must have a buddy with him at each meeting with a merit badge counselor. A Scout’s buddy can be another Scout, a parent or guardian, a brother or sister, or a relative or friend.” There is no BSA policy that stipulates that a merit badge counselor must counsel more than one Scout at a time, whether or not they—the MBC and the Scout—are related. Yes, there are lots of unsubstantiated myths out there about how long a “partial” is good for, how many Scouts must simultaneously take a merit badge, whether “troop MBCs” are “legal” or not, and on and on. But these are just that: myths. So, the reason you can’t find the rule you’re looking for is that there isn’t one.

Since you’re apparently dealing with some sort of issue, maybe I’d better mention one more thing that definitely is a BSA policy: Once a merit badge is earned, it cannot be taken away so long as the merit badge counselor is registered as such.

Dear Andy,

Can a Scoutmaster refuse a promotion to a Scout? I’m asking because Scoutmaster has told one of our Scouts that he would not let him go up for a Board of Review because of the way he acted at summer camp. This Scout needs medication for hyperactivity but doesn’t take it. To make matters worse, the Scoutmaster doesn’t know how to talk to the Scouts in a civil way; instead, he yells and threatens, with no good results. (Jim Flanagan, Allohak Council)

Boy Scouts don’t get “promoted.” They earn ranks and merit badges by completing requirements for them (which in the case of ranks are “signed off” by an adult leader in the troop, or by another Scout, and in the case of merit badges are signed off by an independent Merit Badge Counselor), then having a conference with their Scoutmaster (the Scoutmaster’s Conference is always the very last of the requirements), and then they have a Board of Review (by members of the troop committee, not including the Scoutmaster), which is not among the requirements but is the very final mandatory step before receiving the rank.

So, yes, a Scoutmaster can advise a Scout that he’s not ready to advance quite yet, based on recent behavior of the Scout. But the Scoutmaster also has a very specific obligation to that Scout if this happens, and I’ll tell you about that a little further along.

Here’s the funny thing about what you’ve told me… Scoutmasters are supposed to be a Scout’s primary “role model.” This makes me wonder if the summer camp situation with the Scout you’re talking about had nothing to do with his medications and everything to do with his emulating that Scoutmaster he’s got! Anyway, it’s sort of a strange situation, because medications are supposed to be shown on every camper’s medical form when they go to camp and check in, and the health lodge is supposed to make sure they take whatever medications they’ve brought with them (and if they didn’t bring the stuff, then that complication is dealt with by the camp’s health officer).

That said, let’s see if we can help this Scout advance…

Here’s the deal: If, in his Scoutmaster’s Conference, a Scout is told he’s got to live up to the Scout Oath and Law a bit better before he can be eligible for a Board of Review, that Scout is entitled to being told exactly what he’s expected to do, and for how long. Something like this: “Johnny, you will need to teach four Scouts how to (fill in the blank) and also help your Patrol by (fill in the blank), in the next two weeks. If you do these things, I’ll be happy to have another Scoutmaster’s Conference with you, that will be successful.” If Johnny then does as he’s been advised, he’ll get his SM Conference and be eligible for a Board of Review in two weeks, as assured.

So, what this Scout needs to do is to go back to the Scoutmaster and ask for some tasks and a specific timetable, plus the assurance that if he does what he’s asked he’ll be OK for a Board of Review.

If the Scoutmaster’s as gruff as you say, maybe this Scout will need a little support from a fellow Scout, or his Patrol Leader, or his SPL, or maybe an Assistant Scoutmaster. But the Scout himself will have to step up and be the initiator of the action here, or I have a feeling nothing’s gonna happen till the Scoutmaster’s whim changes, and that could be quite a while!
Dear Andy,

I have a question regarding the religious component of the Eagle Scout requirements. We have a Scout who, in his younger years, attended church regularly with his family, but recently they’ve done so less and less. They don’t know the local priest, so a reference letter from him would not be realistic. There is no requirement for a Scout to attend church, but to live the Scout Oath daily, and to be reverent.

Scout Oath: Do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.

Reverent: A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

From whom could he obtain a reference letter to satisfy the religious aspect of Requirement No. 2? Thanks for your help. (Chris Adams, Troop 16, Ledyard, CT)

A “religious” letter of recommendation is not mandatory and the absence of same in no way impinges on a candidate’s ability to achieve the Eagle rank. That said, anyone who can comment on this Scout’s religious daily life is appropriate; ordination is not required. This could be a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, neighbor, or friend—Anyone who can and is willing to attest to this young man’s convictions and how he lives his life. This is, of course, for the Scout to identify. Give him some guidance and I’m sure he’ll give you a name! And what if he doesn’t? Then that line stays blank, but be sure to cover the subject in his Board of Review.

Dear Andy,

What’s the significance of the “heart” shaped badge for the BSA rank of Life? (Jim Dorrance, Troop 28, Rice Lake, WI)

The Life Scout badge, as described by Wikipedia, “…has the Boy Scout emblem superimposed on a red heart, signifying that the ideals of Scouting have become a part of the Scout’s life and character.”

Dear Andy,

In a recent troop committee meeting, our Scoutmaster reported something that I have a hard time believing. His report came from his participation in Basic Training, with Scoutmaster-specific training. He says he was told that if the unit benefits from a fund-raising project, no service hours can be used for rank advancement. This is problematic because for the past five years our troop has expanded a combination fund-raising/service project from just our members to include the whole community, at the community’s request. Our project involves posting flags on our city’s main street on patriotic holidays. Annually, we solicit businesses and citizens to sponsor one or more, of the 100 flags that we post. We promote this as a service project for the community, and excess funds (less flag project maintenance costs, etc.) support unit functions. We also use this as an opportunity for our Scouts to earn the Salesmanship merit badge. So, does the advancement policy of the BSA prohibit use of these service hours to the community for rank advancement, and if so, where can this policy be found? (Jeff Hall, MC, Chief Seattle Council, WA)

Baloney! You won’t find such a policy written anywhere, because there is no such policy! Scouts get “credit” for service hours, whether the troop receives revenue or not. Whoever put this lame idea in your Scoutmaster’s head deserves 20 lashes with a wet lanyard!

Dear Andy,

I see that a movie-viewing-and-discussion requirement is included for the Citizenship in the Community merit badge. I’ve looked for a good idea or two and I’m not having any luck. Do you have any suggestions? (Andy Schmidt, Wausau, WI)

Check out “Pay It Forward,” with Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey, and Helen Hunt. Here’s the précis…

“Pay It Forward” is a book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde that became a Warner Bros. movie. Reuben St. Clair, the teacher and protagonist in the book “Pay It Forward,” starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit assignment: THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION. Trevor, the 12-year-old hero of “Pay It Forward,” thinks of quite an idea. He describes it to his mother and teacher this way: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.” He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. “Then it sort of spreads out, see. To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?”

And the website:

Dear Andy,

I have a question about my Webelos II son joining a Boy Scout troop. Our local scoutmaster would like our Webelos II Scouts to start meeting with the troop right now, before they have their crossover at our Blue & Gold banquet in a month. If we do this, can these boys actually join the troop before they’ve received the Arrow of Light? And, if so, can they still receive their Arrow of Light after they’ve joined the troop? (Bob Snider, ACM, Tuscola, IL)

Sure they can, if they’ve turned age 11, or completed fifth grade, they can join Boy Scouts on the spot! Those are two of the three ways, the third being: Earn the Arrow of Light Award. This might sorta blow a big hole right through your second question, but just in case you’re still wondering, the AoL is an award for Webelos Scouts and not BOY Scouts. Technically, of course, a boy can ‘receive” the AoL after he’s joined a Boy Scout troop, if “receive” means it’s mailed to him, or handed to him sometime so he can sew it on his Boy Scout uniform shirt. But if you’re talking about a pack ceremony, sorry, Charlie, that show’s over if they’ve already made the transition.

Dear Andy,

I’ve searched the Internet and BSA publication no. 33088C isn’t on-line, so I’ll have to pick it up from my council’s Scout Shop. Unfortunately, to convince our district’s trainers, I have to reproduce the page and highlight the section. There are conflicts:

1- A “university” training session states that a Scoutmaster can attend but not participate in a Board of Review, BUT…

2- The district trainers say the Scoutmaster can’t attend, THEN…

3- YOU say the Scoutmaster CAN attend, SO…

4- What does the actual policy say?

(Bob Moravsik, Patriots’ Path Council, Parsippany, NJ)

The book’s only a couple of bucks… Worth springing for! Meanwhile, here are your answers:

1: Correct.

2: Wrong.

3: Correct.

4: Worth buying and reading—Everything you’d ever want to know about advancement!

Dear Andy,

Where can I find a chart to track progression from Tenderfoot through Eagle for an individual Scout? (Dale Denny)

In the back pages of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK.

Dear Andy,

Here’s a question about sheath knifes in Scouting. What’s the BSA policy? I’m getting two different answers. Some Scouters say it’s OK but others say No Way. What do you have to say on the matter? (Tim English, ASM & BSRTC, Cradle of Liberty Council, PA)

I still have my old Scout sheath knife, and I sure wish I could wear and use it around camp again. But that’s simply not likely to be happening anytime soon. Sheath knives brought to camp and on campouts got bigger and bigger (Ahhhh, boys… Always “measuring”…) until they became, if not ludicrous, dangerous. That’s when the BSA stopped making ’em and began discouraging their use in camp/on campouts. There’s no official policy prohibiting them (at least none in the BSA’s GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING), but folding knives (“pocket knives”—even if many are still worn in holders on one’s belt) are definitely encouraged. The most the BSA says about sheath knives (fixed blade is what we’re really talking about here) is this: “Avoid large sheath knives.”

So, what’s “large”? My 50-year-old fixed-blade Scout sheath knife measures 8-1/2″ overall, with a 4-1/4″ blade. Too dangerous to be toted around today, right? Well, my year-old BSA pocket knife (with a folding, but lock-back blade, thereby making it just as rigid as my old fixed-blade knife) measures 8-1/2″ overall, with a 3-3/4″ blade. Does that half-inch blade length differential make one safer than the other? You tell ’em, Tenderfoot; you’re a Scout!

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)

(March 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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