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Issue 102 – May 2007

Hey Andy,

Our troop is trying to verify some past Eagle Scouts to get a tally of how many we’ve had over the years. We have three who are said to be Eagle Scouts but we can’t find any records to prove it. Is there a national record somewhere that extends all the way back? (Some of these Scouts have passed on and no relatives are left.) Thanks! (Larry Trimble, SM, Troop 420, Junction, TX)

The BSA’s national office in Irving, TX, keeps records of every Eagle Scout all the way back to Arthur Eldred, the first one! Call them, tell them what you’re seeking, and I’m sure they can help you out!

Hi Andy,

My Boy Scout son will be going on an overnight campout this weekend where he’ll be earning his wilderness survival merit badge. My concern is in the interpretation of the requirement to spend the night in a self-built shelter. Our Scoutmaster has said that the Scouts will bring nothing more than two Zip Lok bags filled with what they consider their “essentials.” My concern is about their not having sleeping bags and other appropriate gear to guard against the cold and rainy weather here in western Washington. Our Scoutmaster is a wonderful guy and a great leader, but we’ve come to an impasse on this subject. Can you help clarify the intent and expectations to fulfill this part of the merit badge requirements? Thank you. (Chris Byron, Troop 561, Chief Seattle Council, WA)

As a parent and Scout leader both, I appreciate your concern, and your question’s an excellent one. Of course, the best person to speak with about your concern is your own son. The next person in line to speak with is your son’s Scoutmaster (there should be no “impasse”–you’re both on the same “team”!). After all, your son will be in his care, and certainly can’t be consciously placed in an endangered situation. For instance, I would expect that having a sleeping bag and ground cloth (water barrier) at the very least in reserve would be part of the Scoutmaster’s overall plan. I’d probably also ask the Scoutmaster if he’s an actual registered counselor for this merit badge (maybe you already know he is?), and this question certainly isn’t out of line. I’d also check to make sure that, at the very least, your son has already completed requirements 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, and 13 for this merit badge. Finally, Wilderness Survival requirements 8 and 9 in no way stipulate that the shelter built and occupied for one night must be sans sleeping bag or ground cloth, and any intelligent adult sensitive to threatening weather conditions will have taken this into consideration, and at the very least have these available in case “Plan B” should become needed.

That said, we do need to keep in mind that this merit badge is called wilderness survival and not wilderness camping. Simultaneously, it’s not “bare-bones survival, either! Moreover, the weather reports for the greater Seattle area during the time this will be occurring call for light showers BUT nighttime temperatures no lower than the mid-40s Fahrenheit. So, for a worst case scenario, if your son cleverly dresses in layers, preparing for the coldest temperatures he’ll encounter (with wool—not cotton–socks, gloves, and–most important–ski or other tight-fitting head cap, makes sure he fat- and carbo-loads before he goes, and prepares his survival kit accordingly, I really can’t imagine that he won’t succeed with flying colors!

Three further thoughts, on which there should be no impasse at all. For your son’s Scoutmaster to consider (and have ready answers to!)…

– Who will be your son’s buddy? (In Scouting, the Buddy System is a BSA policy, not an option.)

– On what schedule, during the night, will he or other adult leaders be checking the Scouts?

– Where will these Scouts be setting up their shelters, relative to the balance of their patrols and troop? (By this, I mean that this is not an “Order of the Arrow ordeal and camping alone or in isolation, or at some great distance is not a stated or even implied requirement.)

Dear Andy,

Do you know if there’s a website that shows the Cub Scout shirts and where the patches are supposed to go? My son keeps earning patches and I’m not sure what to do with them. I know some patches do not go on the uniform, but others do and it would be nice to know where each should be placed, so we can follow guidelines for patches. (Cub Mom)

There are two good sources available to you. The first is the inside back cover of your son’s Cub Scout Handbook. The second is the downloadable-printable form that you’ll find here:

I think what’s going to happen, by the way, is that you’re going to get your son one of those red Cub Scout patch vests that you’ll find at your local Scout Shop or at here:

NetCommish Comment: I would also recommend – you can click on any of the posters on that page to get a nice view of how the uniform should look with patches correctly placed. I’ll also give them a plug for having one of the nicer Council websites that makes it easy to find things.

Dear Andy,

When is a Scout an Eagle Scout…once he has passed his board or when he has taken his oath? I’m asking because there’s a Scout in our troop who passed his board of review three months ago and had his first palm board last week, but didn’t pass that one because he wasn’t prepared for it (it seems he didn’t have the palm portion of his handbook filled out, which shouldn’t have gotten past the Scoutmaster Conference but when it’s the Scoutmaster’s son some of the ASMs are a little reluctant to not pass him). The Scout has asked for a re-board in a few weeks (he’s not having his Eagle Court until a month later) (Name Withheld, Troop Advancement Chair, Chief Seattle Council, WA)

A Scout attains his rank on the successful conclusion of his board of review for it. That’s the date that goes in his record and on his card or certificate. I, for example, successfully completed my board of review for Eagle on November 11, 1957, and was presented with the medal, etc., at a court of honor on January 16, 1958. I consider myself a ’57 Eagle; not a ’58, and so does the BSA national office, where all Eagle Scout records are kept.

It’s hardly unusual, however, for a full three months to pass between an Eagle board of review and a board of review for the bronze palm, and in this case once the Eagle medal has been presented at the court of honor, a presentation of the palm immediately follows in the same court of honor.

But your statement about how this Scout, “wasn’t ‘prepared’ for an Eagle palm board of review” really gets me exercised. Your follow-up explanation that some weak-livered Assistant Scoutmaster torpedoed this young man by telling him he was ready for his board of review (and then telling the board the same thing) knowing full well that, without signatures or initials in the right places, doom was inevitable. And then the board confirmed this spineless behavior by dumping on the Scout instead of calling in the Assistant Scoutmaster* right there, on the spot, and setting things right. In a word: Deplorable. Shame on those people. This isn’t about “the Scoutmaster’s son,” this is about getting it right, or not, and the wrong choices were made, and shame on them. As advancement chair, how in heck could you have allowed this to happen!

You and your people need to get your acts cleaned up a bit before you hurt more Scouts.

* No, a Scoutmaster or ASM can’t be a member of a board of review, but they absolutely can be called in by the board for any point of clarification needed.

Hi Andy,

I am a student of Malmö Art Academy and I am working on a project on human pyramids. I am trying to find out how this “game” has been and is used throughout the world. I found your columns and the web site containing information about how to build one of these structures, and I am wondering if you could help me with some information, or redirect me to someone who might have answers for these questions:

-Is the concept of human pyramids used widely within the Scouting movement?

-What, in your view, is the purpose and goals of this activity? Do you see it as an educational practice, and, if yes, what is to be learnt from it?

-How long has the practice of human pyramids been a part of your movement?

-Do you know where it originates or who came up with the idea?

-Does the human pyramid symbolise something to you personally, or to the Scout movement, and, if yes, what?

I would greatly appreciate any answers to these questions! Thank you in advance for answering. (Ingrid Koslung, Malmö, Sweden)

The “Ten Member Pyramid” or “Human Pyramid” (and it can be done with groups of six, also, but it’s not quite as challenging) is in the category of “stunts” or sometimes “initiative games.” It can be found described in detail on page 149 of the book, SILVER BULLETS – A Guide to Initiative Problems, Adventure Games, and Trust Activities, by Karl Rohnke (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 4050 Westmark Drive, Dubuque, Iowa 52002 USA). The copyright date is 1984. It is, I believe, also available through Project Adventure, Inc., Post Office Box 100, Hamilton, Massachusetts 01936 USA. Unfortunately, I do not recall its price, but I’m sure it can be found on

The overt object of this exercise is to “build a symmetrical (equilateral) triangle as quickly and efficiently as possible.” This is the precise language given as instruction to two or more groups of ten, or six, people, each. (They are divided into these groups in advance of the instruction.) The first group to accomplish the task correctly is the “winner.”

The true objectives of this exercise include (a) how well can people actually listen to instructions, (b) how well do they organize themselves as a “ream,” (c) does a “team leader” emerge, and (d) can they think creatively about a solution.

This is not a game “invented” by the Boy Scouts; it’s “borrowed” and used in team-building training of leaders (both youth and adult). Many organizations use this and many other games to teach lessons while having fun.

There is no “symbolism” involved here; no “metaphysical” or other meanings.

How long this exercise has been in existence is anyone’s guess. Probably a long time. And the name of whoever originated it is likely lost somewhere in time.

It’s not a “practice” in the sense of “ritual” or “ceremony,” at least not in the Scouting movement. It’s simply a game that teaches lessons, on reflection after completing the challenge. It’s something the groups can discuss, to better understand their own abilities in listening, teaming, leading, and being creative or, as we say, “thinking outside the ‘box’ or ‘envelope’.”

By the way, I drove over the Malmö Bridge within two weeks after it first opened! Isn’t this a delightful coincidence!

Dear Andy,

I became an Eagle Scout when I was 12 and looking back I think it should be discouraged. In order to obtain this rank at an early age, a young man must have a drive to succeed and have support from his adult leaders. I had a tremendous drive to achieve at that age and when my Eagle was finished I felt like I had achieved my goal. I did earn a couple of palms, but after such a built up emotionally to get my Eagle, palms just didn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. I was a well-rounded teen so I found challenges in other things such as science and sports. Scouting fell by the wayside. I hope my experience is solitary and that other young Eagle Scouts can continue in leadership roles and inspire others. I was still a “little kid” in my troop at the time and was given little respect as a leader. The fact I outranked my peers that were years older than me caused resentment, I believe. It is a great honor to be an Eagle Scout and I will be proud of it till I die, but I wish I would have taken my time and enjoyed just being a Boy Scout. How fast you get it done doesn’t have anything to do with the quality with which it is done. I have a three-year-old son and will encourage him to become a tiger cub and begin a life of Scouting if he so chooses. I look forward to being there with him and hopefully I can become a leader in his troop. I just wish I had more stories to tell of my time in scouting. If I would have taken more time, I believe I would have had many years of enjoyment and stories as I hope to in years to come. (Wyantt May)

Sitting on boards of review for 17 and 18 year old Eagle candidates, I often ask, What advice would you give to a new Scout who is interested in becoming an Eagle Scout? They all say exactly the same thing: Do it as soon as you can; don’t wait around!

I get the feeling that somewhere along the way, someone may have convinced you that “Eagle is the end of the Scouting trail.” Of course, you earned Palms and discovered, at least partly, that that’s not true at all. And you also became involved in other activities, like sports and so on, and this is completely normal! I’ve never yet met an Eagle Scout whose only interest was Scouts.

Every young man makes his own course. I read just the other day about James Calderwood, who is a Scout in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After becoming an Eagle Scout, James kept up his interest in the merit badges, and earned all 122 of them! Of course, this isn’t about Scouting, because each merit badge taught him something new, from Atomic Energy to Dentistry, to Plumbing, to Woodwork. These aren’t “Scout skills;” they’re LIFE skills and knowledge! My younger brother was an Eagle by age 14, and stayed involved till his 18th birthday, and then dropped away for a while, and then, in his mid-20’s came back to Scouting as an Explorer Advisor. So, everyone’s different, and that’s just fine! (Life would be pretty boring if we were all exactly the same!)

In just a few years (Tiger Cubs start at age 7, or 1st grade–whichever comes first), you and your son will start a whole new adventure. THIS is where your memories and stories will come from. THIS is your next, and most rewarding, great adventure in Scouting. Do make sure it happens for your son and you.

Dear Andy,

I’m wondering if you have a source for Den Leaders to learn more about effective use of their Den Chiefs? I have a Tiger Cub Den Leader who wants to have a Den Chief but would like to know what he can expect them to do during den meetings. Any direction you can point me in would be helpful. Thanks! (Cathy Friel-Dombeck, Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner, Heart of Milwaukee)

Have that TCDL trot on down to the local Scout Shop and pick up a copy of a book called The Den Chief Handbook. In there, it tells the Den Chief just what his responsibilities are, and how to do them. Then, just do a little “reverse thinking” and it’ll all become clear!

Hi Andy,

How fast can a boy leaving the Bear rank get through Webelos? Much like the 12 year-old Eagle Scout question, it seems possible for a very active and motivated boy (or group of them) to finish relatively quickly. Lets say he goes to his district Cub Scout Day Camp and picks up two or three activity badges in June, and then goes to his council camp for Webelos in July and earns another three. By earning just one more in the den in the summer, that boy has earned 5-7 badges by September! Therefore it doesn’t seem to me the limiting factor to be the badge requirements for such a boy, but rather the age/time requirements on Arrow of Light, be active for 6 months after turning 10 years old or since completing the 4th grade. Am I correct on this? And, if so, then based on that, why can’t boys cross over in August-September, assuming they’re old enough? Why is the big push on for February of their 5th Grade year? If the boy can cross over in September, he could go to a fall camporee and a spring camporee before summer camp, right? (Damon Edmondson, Bear Den Leader of 6 really eager boys, Pack 629, Atlanta Area Council, Roswell, GA) (WB 92-52 Owl)

The Webelos program was originally a year long. Then it acquired more stuff and became a two-year program, ending right about the end of 5th grade. Neither of these worked terribly well, and in 1989 the 18-month program was introduced and has been successful ever since.

Webelos Scouts work on activity badges along with their den members, in den meetings. Unlike Wolf and Bear, mom and dad are now out of the picture as far as signing off on requirements is concerned, and the Webelos Den Leader does this now. A smart and savvy WDL will “choreograph” his or her den meetings so that by the end of Webelos I the boys in the den will have earned their Webelos rank and round about December or so of their Webelos II period, they’ll have completed the requirements for their Arrow of Light rank. At that point, they can pick up maybe a few more activity badges (only eight of the 20 are required for AoL, leaving a dozen still available). Then, by February, they get their AoL and then the graduate into the Boy Scout troop of their choice.

This program and timetable works very well. It doesn’t overdo it, or “underdo” it, either! But, it’s not “mandatory.” If some whiz-bang Webelos blows through the ranks and activity badges, earn his AoL, and wants to be a ten-year-old Boy Scout, that’s plainly up to him! (I used to be an Owl…)

Hi Andy,

I recently attended a Commissioners’ training event and heard someone use an expression that went something like, “Present—Not Invent—Scouting.” Have you heard this or know how it’s properly worded? (Rochelle Ray, Mohegan Council)

“Present—not invent—Scouting” – I love it! I don’t know where it came from, I haven’t heard it before now, but I LOVE IT! What does it mean? Go read my column titled, “Are We Really That Smart.”

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster’s decided to put his own mandatory stipulation on rank advancement requirements. To advance, in addition to the BSA-stated requirements, a Scout must:

– Attend two 2 campouts a year

– Help at 1 fundraiser a year

– Do 1 camp cleanup a year

And, if he’s a Life Scout, he must attend 3 meetings a month.

The Scoutmaster will not advance your rank if you don’t do these.

I thought a Scout advanced by meeting the requirements in the Boy Scout Handbook. Can a Scout actually be held back if he doesn’t perform these additional requirements? I know they’re good ideas, but unfair if used to keep a Scout from advancing.

(Name Withheld, MC, Indian Run District, Hawk Mountain Council, PA)

I’d like to believe that your Scoutmaster is well-intentioned and is trying as best he’s able to deliver the Scouting program. He is, however, very seriously off the mark.

There is a longstanding written policy of the Boy Scouts of America that states this: “No council, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from any advancement requirement.” This is an exact quotation taken from the BSA book, ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES (Catalog No, 33088C).

Clearly, this Scoutmaster is in violation of this policy if he is doing as you’ve described. Any Scout who has completed all of the requirements for a rank, as stated in his BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, is absolutely entitled to his Scoutmaster’s Conference, Board of Review, and advancement in rank. This is not a matter of opinion or “interpretation.”

Furthermore, with regard to merit badges, any Scout who submits a merit badge application (“blue card,” as they’re sometimes called) with the signature of a registered Merit Badge Counselor indicating completion of all requirements is entitled to receive that merit badge without further re-testing or re-examination of any kind; moreover, no Board of Review is required for merit badges.

That Scoutmaster absolutely must stop what he’s doing, immediately.

Dear Andy,

What is the official color guard verbiage to be used when opening a meeting or ceremony and closing? (Kim Richter, Wolf DL, Pack 73, Marin County, CA)

I’m not sure there’s just one actual “official” verbiage when it comes to color guards! In my brief foray into research on this subject, I’ve observed that just about every branch of the military, every ROTC and JROTC program, the American Legion, and on and on seems to have its own way of doing and saying things. Although the variations may be small, they’re present, nonetheless! However, one of the better online descriptions I found comes from the Girl Scouts (go to Using almost all of what’s posted there, I’d personally make only one minor change: Instead of using the word, “retreat,” to put the color guard back amongst the Scouts (after the salute, pledge, and posting the colors), I’d use the phrase, “Color guard, return to ranks” (I just have a particular aversion to the notion of “retreating”!).

Hi Andy,

When my son, joined a Venturing Crew, didn’t re-register with his Boy Scout troop. Can he wear his Boy Scout merit badge sash with his Venturing uniform? He’s earned 51 merit badges and wanted to wear the sash to his cousin’s Eagle Court of Honor.

If I may ask one more question… He also has four religious awards, two of which he earned as a Cub Scout. I know that the maximum number of medals that can be worn at once is five. He always wears his Eagle medal on formal occasions (Courts of Honor and Scout Shabbat/ Sunday). Can he wear all four religious awards on his uniform, or just the Boy Scout Ner Tamid and Venturer Etz Chaim medals? (Bob Stotter, Crew 662, Shaker Heights, Greater Cleveland Council, OH—I used to be a Fox)

Congratulations to your son, and may he have lots of new adventures! You may have discovered a “hole” in the regulations! While it’s permissible, according to the BSA INSIGNIA GUIDE, to wear Boy Scout ranks and even an Arrow of Light emblem on a Venturing shirt, this guide is silent on merit badge sashes, except to note that they’re a part of the Boy Scout uniform (i.e., not a part of a Venturer’s uniform). So, it looks like we may be faced with a judgment call here. We could note that the color is inconsistent with the Venturing green, but so is the tan background of Boy Scout rank emblems, and it’s OK to wear a Boy Scout rank emblem on a Venturing shirt, so that won’t work as a guideline. So maybe we need to ask where and when he’d want to wear it, and would it be “over-dressing”? I think only he can answer these questions, since there doesn’t seem to be a protocol. But, whatever he decides, he shouldn’t decide to wear the sash folded over his belt!

On medals, the BSA stipulates that up to five may be worn (formal occasions, of course), so if your son has earned the Maccabee and Aleph in addition to the Ner Tamid and Etz Chaim, he’s perfectly OK to wear all four in addition to his Eagle medal – Just be sure they’re all in a single row immediately above the left pocket (not on the flap). If he begins to earn Venturing awards (Silver, Gold, Quest, Ranger, etc.) he’ll soon need to begin making a decision as to which five to wear! What a great decision to have to make! (I used to be an Owl…)

Dear Andy,

About the Cub Scout Wolf achievement #11 Duty to God #d – Find out how you can help your church… I have a in my den boy who doesn’t belong to any church due to family situations. How can he meet this requirement? This is the only achievement he has left to receive his Wolf rank. Any suggestions would be helpful. He has worked hard to get this far. (Sammy Kerr, Wolf DL, Punxsutawney, Bucktail Council, PA)

Let’s take a look at ALL of the requirements in the Wolf DUTY TO GOD section…

  1. Complete the Character Connection for Faith. Know. What is “faith”? With your family, discuss some people who have shown their faith – who have shown an inner strength based on their trust in a higher power or cause. Discuss the good qualities of these people. Commit. Discuss these questions with your family: What problems did these faithful people overcome to follow or practice their beliefs? What challenges might you face in doing your duty to God? Who can help you with these challenges? Practice. Practice your faith while doing the requirements for “Duty to God.”
  2. Talk with your family about what they believe is their duty to God.
  3. Give two ideas on how you can practice or demonstrate your religious beliefs. Choose one and do it.
  4. Find out how you can help your church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or religious fellowship.

I’m assuming here that requirements a, b, and c have been completed, because belonging to any particular religious organization isn’t necessary for these. That being the case, and because the BSA is absolutely nonsectarian when it comes to religion/faith, the good news is that this Cub Scout can choose ANY church, synagogue, etc. to help! He can visit the one closest to where he lives, for instance, in order to find out how he might help. And do keep in mind as you guide his parents in this that their son needn’t actually carry out that help, so long as he has thought about and articulated what he might do. Of course, it would be a fine thing if he actually did it, but that’s not part of this requirement, and this is something you will want to explain to his parents, too. If they have collaborated with him and initialed the completion of the for three requirements, this should be an easy stepping-stone.

Of course, YOU are not signing this boy off on the requirements, right?

Dear Andy,

Where can I get the metal edge paper buddy tags, I need for our troop? (George Gooden, Troop 623, Jacksonville, FL)

I’ve been involved in aquatics since shortly after the ice age receded, and I’ve never seen metal-edged buddy tags. Buddy tags are made of a stiff sort of paper that can be written on (permanent felt-tip marker, for instance) and won’t decompose if wet. Paper circles that have metal edges are commonly referred to as key tags; they are most likely not usable as buddy tags.

If you’re looking for something to use for troop swims while camping, you might want to consider wood clothes pins, the spring-loaded kind. They cost under four bucks for 50 (that’s 6 to 8 cents apiece), you can mark them with the Scouts’ and leaders’ names, and color-code them according to swimming ability. Plus, they serve “double-duty” as…clothes pins! (When camping, I try to make a habit of bringing stuff that has multiple uses whenever I can.)

NetCommish Comment: Here are three suggestions for you that may help.

1. Plastic buddy tags from – these are blank and come in a variety of colors. You can get the white ones and mark the appropriate colors on them with a magic marker.

2. Metal rimmed paper round tags from Staples – like the example above they are plain white and you can add colors with magic marker.

3. has the best solution – the official BSA buddy tags. Order one of the following:

#01595 Cardboard Buddy Tags, Box of 500, $9.65 per box.
#01594 Fiber (Vulcanized) Buddy Tags, Swimmer, Box of 200, $8.20 per box.
#01502 Fiber (Vulcanized) Buddy Tags, Boater, Box of 200, $8.20 per box.

Note: The vulcanized tags are actually a plastic material that is more durable.

Dear Andy,

If parents want to camp with their son’s troop (not a family camp) do they need to fill out a registration form even if they’re not joining as an adult volunteer?

And one more question… We are all new leadership within the troop and still learning the rules. Do we, the committee, have the right to deny the application of a boy if we feel he will hinder the troop? (I was told it would have to be voted by the boys in the troop, but at this time the oldest boys in our troop are 11 and 12 years old and don’t really understand the jist of this.) (Donna)

Following the BSA trip and outing leadership policy, a parent either may be supplemental to two registered adult leaders or may be the second in the combination of one registered adult leader and one adult parent of a participating Scout, in which latter case it is not necessary to register with the BSA as an adult volunteer.

On accepting new members of a Scouting unit: The Scouting movement is designed by the BSA to help young people become contributing, responsible American citizens who have been instilled with the ability to make ethical decisions in their lives. One of our objects is to reach as many youth as possible, so that the next generation in this country is stronger than those before. In this light, can you describe to me, specifically, why it is felt that the boy in question would “hinder” his fellow Scouts? If you can do this, I can provide you with a more focused response. Otherwise, it would be a repudiation of what Scouting stands for to exclude a boy instead of working toward helping him find a “home” in the troop.

Donna writes again…

Dear Andy,

Our troop has had many changes due to previous Scoutmasters not following BSA rules. The boys in question were with those Scoutmasters for a few years, so when those wayward leaders were relieved of their responsibilities these boys stopped coming to troop meetings and then joined another troop in town. But then, when their buddies in our troop stayed and didn’t transfer with them, they started randomly showing up at our troop meetings again. When they do, they’re disruptive and seem to fight us on everything that’s not “the old way things were done.” For instance, while we’re working at getting our current Scouts to wear their full uniforms, these Scouts refuse to do this, even to the point of telling our current Scouts that they can “vote” to not wear them. We, as a committee, just feel this shouldn’t be allowed to go on any longer. I know this sounds crazy, but we are trying to make this a great troop. That’s why I need to know our rights as a committee, according to BSA policies.

If I’m getting you right, that these troublesome Scouts (you didn’t tell me how many of them there are) actually transferred out of your troop and joined another troop, then their game’s over. They don’t belong coming to your troop’s meetings and should be turned back at the door: “Go to your own troop; you don’t belong here.” End of story. This is a job for no fewer than two members of the troop committee to do — This is definitely not the Scoutmaster’s job, because he has a troop and troop meeting to oversee (yes, oversee—the Scoutmaster doesn’t run the meetings, not even “temporarily”—the Scouts run the troop meeting).

Now if it turns out that there are perhaps one or two or three former troop members who would like to re-join your troop (that is, transfer back in), that’s OK, so long as each one has a separate, personal sit-down with the Scoutmaster, where they’re told in no uncertain terms what’s expected of them and how they’ll conduct themselves (including wearing their full uniform at all times). The Scout or Scouts who want back in must agree to the conditions set, or their re-transfer will not be considered (give them a four-meeting “trial” period before you actually sign the transfer paperwork). It’s also not a bad idea for your troop committee chair to at the same time sit down with the parents of each Scout and describe to them just what’s expected this time around, not only in their son’s deportment but also in their own spirit of volunteerism and helping the troop. In other words, make it crystal clear that they will take on a “job” of some sort and give them choices (like, drive to and from at least six different outings in the course of a year, or be a registered and active committee member, you get the idea…).

If you do these things, you may be pleasantly surprised and wind up with an even better troop than you’d imagined!

Dear Andy,

How about a Scouter wearing a Chaplain badge? Can an adult be the Chaplain for a troop, or should he be an advisor? (David B.)

It’s perfectly legitimate—in fact, it’s encouraged—for an ordained or church-appointed clergy to be a Troop Chaplain and wear badge No. 00440 on his or her left uniform sleeve. This is the adult-level position with which the Scout-level Chaplain Aide (badge No. 00443) corresponds.

Hello Andy,

I’ve been asked to resign as Committee Chair of our pack, by both our District Commissioner and our pack’s Unit Commissioner; with only the explanation that our pack was “suffering” under my leadership. Then, the DC and UC told our Cubmaster that if she didn’t ask me for my resignation, they’d enlist someone from our pack to go to our Chartered Organization and have them ask me to resign. I subsequently told our Cubmaster that there was no way I would jeopardize our pack’s success, and I resigned. My concern here is twofold. First, I have a problem with the apparent ethical breaches and lack of leadership skills these two Commissioners displayed, because I had never been approached on any issues or counseled on any complaints at any time, by anyone, in my tenure as Committee Chair. In fact, I helped keep our membership intact during a previous unit leadership “storm,” helped to establish our pack’s bylaws, conducted our unit’s first Pack Planning Conference, and significantly increased our FOS contributions as well as our pack’s annual fundraiser revenues, for two years running. Second, it troubles me that our District Executive and District Commissioner as well as individuals on the council’s executive committee and executive board knowingly allowed such a threat to burden our Pack’s Cubmaster and jeopardize our Pack’s relationship with our Chartered Organization.

I have contributed an enormous amount of time, training, effort and soul to our council to let this go on. It seems that our council is failing. I know I am not the one to resolve its issues. It seems that I ask too many questions and get some really poor answers or responses. I have made monetary differences as well as provided critical support to failing camps and unit growth. I had even offered to be a Unit Commissioner, since our Scout Executive was getting less than adequate participation, and instead I was sent packing.

I feel like the first volunteer in history to be “fired” without any real cause. How am I supposed to learn to be a better leader without constructive information and better leadership? How am I supposed to proceed and help reach boys who can benefit from BSA values?

Our Cubmaster has asked me to step into another leadership role. Do I sign my own application (I am the current Committee Chair) or do we just have to wait until our committee and Chartered Organization locate a new one? I’m so confused. Please help.

Is there some process afforded to people like myself that are fed up with the blatant disregard our council has towards its volunteers? My situation isn’t the only area of severe tension in our council. Thank you for any direction or advice. (Name & Council Withheld)

In the first place, no one can “fire” a unit-level volunteer like yourself, or even ask one to resign, except the head of your Chartered Organization (“CO”), or his/her designate (standardly the COR—Chartered Organization Representative), because, as your unit’s sponsor, the CO actually “owns” the unit and is ultimately responsible for the adult leadership of it.

Moreover, a Unit Commissioner (“UC”) has no authority over any Scouting unit. This is the sole and exclusive province of the CO and COR. A UC is available to the adult volunteers of a unit for facilitating, counseling, mentoring, advice, on-the-job training, and getting answers to questions you may have that he or she can’t answer directly—in other words, the UC role is entirely a role of service and definitely not one of administration or authority.

Third, the position of District Commissioner is purely administrative; there is no “supreme authority”—overt or implied—over units or units’ adult volunteers.

Fourth, unless you have violated a specific BSA policy and/or endangered children in some way, no one on the council’s professional staff (e.g., District Executive, Scout Executive, etc.) can either ask you to resign, or “fire” you.

Consequently, if you firmly believed you were serving the best interests of the pack, and the pack’s committee, Cubmaster, Den Leaders, and CO/COR felt likewise, then there was no reason whatsoever for you to resign, and it’s beyond my understanding as to why you elected to do so.

Dear Andy,

I have a question about medical forms and summer camps. It appears that boys must be fully vaccinated in order to attend camp. Can anyone point me towards a personal exemption form to opt out? My 11 year old son is very excited about camp this summer, but now it appears he might not be able to go. You see, my older daughters have had some major reactions to vaccinations, and so my younger children have only been vaccinated for tetanus. I’ve contacted my own council and even the BSA national office, but neither was any help—they both stated that it has to be a religious exemption. (Margaret Cranor, Gunnison, CO)

This might not be as problematic as it appears at the moment… Understand, first, however, that I am neither a physician nor a BSA professional, so be sure to check this out with your own physician, first and foremost. Your family physician, or your son’s pediatrician, can evaluate the inoculation situation via, I’m guessing, the past medical records of your daughters, and the current medical condition of your son, and can provide the best advice regarding inoculations. If this medical practitioner agrees with you that certain inoculations might be problematic to the extent that they should not be given, then a letter from that professional, on letterhead, describing the situation and recommendation will, I’m sure, certainly be acceptable to your local council office. Obviously, inoculations can be waived; it’s only a matter of reason and authority.

Do take action for your son. He deserves this. But also do understand that the BSA will always err on the side of youth safety.

Hello Andy,

I’m a mom who found your column by accident. I’ve read a few of your Q&A’s, and I now have a couple of my own…

Is there a “handbook” for parents of Scouts, or should we infer from reading the boys’ book? I’m asking because my son’s troop claims to be “Scout-run,” but they aren’t going as far as it seems they should. For instance, leaders aren’t elected but appointed as their needs for completing advancement requirements arise. Also, camping is done on the basis of “anyone can come”—although the Scouts plan menus by patrols, and camp that way, any parent or little brother or sister can tag along, too. So, if the adult leaders aren’t following the BSA “rules,” why shouldn’t someone “blow the whistle”? (Alex Powell)

Yes, your best resource, as a parent, is your son’s own BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. It’s all in there! And, yes, BSA policies are in there, too, just written in a boy-friendly way.

For instance, elected youth leaders is a critical element of the Boy Scout program and is not to be messed around with. Not “for convenience,” not “to save time,” not “because some boys need leadership positions to advance.” (On that last one, the whole idea is that Scouts learn how to build the kinds of friendships, and display the sorts of behaviors, that will make others want to have them as a leader! Duh!)

Camping: So long as the Scouts camp, cook, and so on by patrols, without parents in, around, and amongst them, everything’s pretty much on-program. But I’m sure not thrilled with little tykes tagging along – That sure makes “Scouts camping in the wilderness” a bit less than adventure-filled!

“Blow the whistle”? Don’t bother, my friend! If your son’s happy and getting fun and adventure and friends out of the program, and the program’s pretty much as you’ll read it’s supposed to be in his handbook, then chill. On the other hand, if it’s way off base, get him out and go find a troop that gets it right! DO NOT try to “fix things from the inside” or “blow the whistle”—these approaches never work.

Dear Andy,

After a Scout has served his term as Senior Patrol Leader of his troop, can he be elected, immediately after, as an ASPL (Assistant Senior Patrol Leader)? (SPL, Mount Diablo Silverado Council, CA)

Nope! That’s because the ASPL is an appointed position; not elected. The SPL chooses his ASPL, with the approval of the Scoutmaster. How old are you? If you’re 16 or older, you can be appointed Junior Assistant Scoutmaster by the Scoutmaster. If you’re under 16, there are still lots of other appointed positions available to you, including Historian, Quartermaster, Scribe, and so on. Check your handbook, then talk to the newly elected SPL and your Scoutmaster about what you’d like to tackle next.

SPL writes again…

Hi Andy,

You’re right–I was thinking appointed, but didn’t spot that I said “elected” when I wrote to you. So, if our newly elected SPL asks me to be his ASPL, is it OK for me to serve in that position even after I’ve just completed a six-month term as SPL? I’m 17 years old. We’re a brand new Troop (six months old). We have three older, experienced Scouts (myself and two others) and then ten brand-new Scouts (all 11 years old and fresh out of Cub Scouts.) One of the three like me doesn’t want to be either SPL or ASPL, so the third, who will probably will end up being our next SPL was wanting me to be his assistant. But we (along with our Scoutmaster) weren’t sure what the rules were about that.

Also, thanks for passing on the information about the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. I didn’t know you could be JASM at 16 years old! (SPL)

Ask your Scoutmaster to dig out his Scoutmaster Handbook and then the two of you can sit down and take a look at the responsibilities of the various youth leadership positions. The ASPL’s job, in part, is to train and provide direction for the troop’s Historian, Scribe, QM, and so on. Is this the kind of job the troop needs right now? And, even more important, is this what you’re interested in doing next in your Scouting “career”? A Troop Guide, which you can also be, among other things helps the Patrol Leader of a “young” or “new” patrol learn how to do the job (without doing it for him). Does your troop need this and are you interested in these sorts of responsibilities? The JASM, among other things, provides guidance and support to other youth leaders in the troop as needed. Again, what the need and what’s your interest? Talk it over and I’m sure you’ll find the right job for yourself.

Frankly, if you’ve been SPL it’s time for you to move on; not “backwards.” Plus, if you’ve been a good SPL then if you’re ASPL the Scouts in the troop might have difficulty accepting a “new” SPL while you’re in a related position. In other words, I’m recommending that you consider JASM, especially since ASPL is not a “back-up” to the SPL!

As for the other Scout who’s not interested in a major troop leadership position, does he hold a position like Patrol Leader, or Librarian, or something else right now, that he’d like to continue doing? Is he an Eagle Scout and therefore thinks he doesn’t “need” to hold a position (he’d be wrong, by the way)? In other words, what’s the story, because he’d sure have a lot to offer as a leader?

Anyway, once your present term ends, you’re eligible for any position you’d like to ask for or run for!

Hi Andy,
I just took over our pack’s awards & advancements. This is my first year in Scouting. My son is a Tiger Cub.

We’ve recently encountered a question about “extra” awards (like the Emergency Preparedness Award, the BSA Family Award, and so on), where the pin is the same regardless of the year it’s earned even though the requirements change by age/rank. Being new to this position and new to Scouting, my question is: Is there a precedent regarding awarding the pin repeatedly or only the first time it is earned? I believe receiving the certificate yearly, since requirements are different for each rank is an acceptable action, but since the pin is the same I’m not sure how to handle it. Some parents want it each year, and some don’t. Can you tell me what a typical pack does about this? Also, the Summertime Pack Award pin has also surfaced in the same light. For this one, our pack has traditionally awarded the pin each year regardless of previous earnings. Any thoughts? Thanks. (Leannah Thurman, Sam Houston Area Council, TX)

You’re correct that although these particular awards can be earned more than once, only one pin is worn, and this is a BSA stipulation, and not my “opinion.” As for the National Summertime Pack Award pin, it’s worn on the right pocket flap and there’s no BSA stipulation on how many can be worn. HOWEVER, no one’s gonna be put before some firing squad over a couple of pins! I somehow think it’s OK to have a few (hush-hush) “illegal” pins out there, if they get me some happy boys and enthusiastic parents! How about you!?! Besides, such pins can always be worn on the official red Cub Scout patch vest!

Happy Scouting!


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(May 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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