If you’re reading this column and you’re in MONTANA, NORTH DAKOTA, or WYOMING please take a quick break and shoot me an email. I’ve received letters from folks in all but these states. So think of this as a “roundup” and just send me a quick message to let me know. THANKS!
I see a lot of emphasis on dealing with Scouts with disabilities, and this is a great thing—several of my Scouts have disabilities. But what about Scouting adults with disabilities? I myself have this: I’m bipolar. I’m on medications, and it doesn’t interfere with my ability as a leader; however, once in a while I’m afraid the condition shows through. Nothing serious, but noticeable. There are other leaders I’ve spoken with who are in this same situation, and many are actually afraid to tell anyone in their Troop about it – They feel that it would make both the parents and their fellow leaders not trust any decisions that they make. I for one have casually talked with other leaders, “around the campfire,” so to speak, about what they’d do if an adult with a mental health issue wanted to volunteer for their unit, and almost all of them said they’d not want a person like this near the Scouts, because “they’ll hurt or molest them.” Any ideas? (Name Withheld)
Thank you for your bravery and honesty in asking this question.
I personally know both a Scouter father and Scout son, both of whom have Asperger’s Syndrome. I once had an adult summer camp staffer on my watch who was severely epileptic. There is a Scout in one of the troops I serve as Commissioner who has multiple sclerosis; another with severe asthma. Another Scouter friend is subject to severe depression, and is on daily medication for this. Perhaps Scouting at its most magnificent is that it’s a movement that can and will accommodate all of these successfully. These people are, in many ways, Scouting’s unsung heroes, and Scouting is their own safe harbor.
People fear the unknown. This is the result of ignorance (not to be confused with the lack of intelligence). When they don’t know, don’t understand, or have only part of the story (usually the scary part, of course), they are fearful. (This is why the most riveting monster movies – like the original Alien – never show the audience full “monster.”) With fear comes avoidance, and even possibly rejection. This latter is the most painful at the human level.
Likewise, there is the fear of the afflicted. They don’t know how others will react or respond to their affliction, and are consequently fearful of mentioning it, or having it exposed. Sometimes, their way of handling this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: If I fear rejection, I somehow act in a way that triggers rejection.
Both sides of this coin, while quite human, are unfortunate. I certainly would be out of my league to attempt to suggest some sort of “universal solution” to this. It does seem to me, nonetheless, that each situation being unique, each must be managed according to its own uniqueness.
I’d like to give you a “silver bullet,” a “cure-all,” but I can’t. I do think I have some understanding of your situation, and I believe that your forthright and honest approach to the situation will produce positive effects. No, maybe not among all—No one can predict, much less control, the actions of another person. But, in the long run, your candor will bring the right kinds of people to your side. As for the others, they most likely have a problem even greater than your own.
Don’t walk small a round this. Hold your head high. Know that what you’re doing in Scouting and in life is WINNING AGAINST THE ODDS. You have my total and unconditional admiration.
Can a District Commissioner or an ADC wear the Venturing uniform as well as the regular Scout tan? I’m looking to update my uniforms and I’d like to buya Venturing uniform as well as the normal tan. Would this be allowed? We call on packs, troops and crews. Why wouldn’t we be able to wear any of the uniform types? Or should Commissioners stay in the regular tan uniform? (Stuart Schnettler, ADC, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)
If you were asking this question as a Unit Commissioner specifically serving one or more Venturing crews, my call would likely be “dress to fit your audience,” and wear green-and-gray. But the DC and ADC positions are largely administrative in nature and not unit-specific. So I think you’re better off staying in tan, which is Scouting’s foundation uniform color for adults.
We’re a low-income family and our son just crossed over to Boy Scouts. He now needs a youth (medium) Scout shirt. We can’t afford a new one right now. Do you know where we can get one him that’s a little less expensive than at our Scout Shop? (Name Withheld)
For starters, go here: http://www.euxnetwork.net/
Under the heading of Youth Protection, the BSA says this about two-deep leadership: “Two registered adult leaders or one registered leader and a parent of a participant, one of whom must be 21 years of age or older, are required on all trips and outings.” We have two conflicting opinions on a fine point and need a ruling… Does a married couple qualify as “two deep” or does the BSA require two non-married adults to fulfill this requirement? (George Payne, ADC, Michigan)
Since the BSA is silent on the subject of married/not married (to one another) leadership, it would be foolhardy (and also pretty lame) for me to offer a “ruling.” If you really need this, check with your council’s risk management committee and ask the chair. That said, my personal opinion (and please keep in mind that that’s all it is!) is that “it depends.” If the married couple gets it– they know how to keep Scouts safe and how to comport themselves, then there should be no problem; if they don’t there’s gonna be trouble. However, the same can be said about any two leaders, married to one another or not!
“Fine points” like this don’t come up and get debated without some underlying problem. This usually means that the “rule” isn’t the problem—there’s a “people problem” somewhere. This is what needs resolution. Look deeper.
You’ve probably seen the “unofficial” Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit flap patches that have been around for a number of years, but now the BSA National Supply Division itself is selling these! These patches aren’t in the Insignia Guide, but they’re obviously designed to fit on a uniform pocket flap. Can someone give us some guidance on wearing these (or not)? Frankly, I’m not impressed with the concept, since you can only wear one, anyway, unless you’re going to put them on both pocket flaps, and, besides, since the requirements for the Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit are also requirements for Second Class rank, the Second Class emblem should show that you’ve earned these. Moreover, under a lot of the circumstances where we use these skills, we aren’t wearing the uniform! I think these detract from the OA flaps. (Ed Palmer, BSRTC, Stonewall Jackson Area Council, VA)
These are, IMHO, the stupidest patches ever produced! Want examples of “patches for patches’ sake”? These have to be it! Yes, I know that the catalog says, “For non-uniform wear,” but there are simply too many folks who think, “If it’s a patch, it must get sewn on the shirt somewhere!” The people who came up with this lame idea – which also defeats the purpose of the TC and FC cards, should be taken out and shot. End of story.
NetCommish Comment: These Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit flap patches have been around for a very long time – at least 30 years. And there have been arguments for just as long.
Long ago there was a theory that the flap on the right pocket could be used to display any patch denoting an honor camper program and not just the Order of the Arrow. There were once flap patches for “Embers” of the Firecrafter Organization (another honor camper association in the Midwest and still active in Crossroads of America Council – see pictures of flap patches at http://www.usscouts.org/profbvr/firecrafter/embers.html)
There was an effort in the mid-70s to restrict the pocket flap to just Order of the Arrow lodge patches, but some Councils decided that this location was also their location for special program patches. One of them was Sunnyland Council’s “Rawhide Camper” flap patch. Some Councils went so far as to authorize a Tiger Cub flap patch. Mike Walton has an interesting story about the use of the right pocket flap for patches at http://www.infinetivity.com/~blkeagle/chip.htm including some pictures of various patches that have been issued.
The bottom-line is that if the local Council has authorized these patches, they are legal to wear in this position. It doesn’t mean that this is a good decision, but self-appointed uniform police should take note and back off. Still I have to agree that these are ridiculous patches and totally unnecessary. Any Scout that has his Second Class Rank has completed the requirements and the Second Class badge is ample evidence of the same.
After having completed almost a year of service as an ASM with my son’s Troop, I’ve concluded that we adults did a poor job of training the current PLC members for their respective jobs. For the past few weeks another ASM and I have been discussing the need for our troop to institute/develop a more formalized training program for the next group of Scouts elected to the PLC. I’ve acquired a copy of the Boy Scout Troop Leadership Training Book and, although I’ve not studied it in great detail, my initial review makes me think it’s a little light. Do you have any suggestions for other training materials/curriculums that could be used to supplement this guide? (John Cromer, ASM, Keystone Area Council, PA)
I agree with you that the troop-level JLT is a little on the light side. But in the absence of anything else, it’s still worth doing because it forms a framework and sets the groundwork for your patrol leaders and SPL. It gets them, at the very least, all on the same page. Now, with summer coming on pretty soon, you do have a very real opportunity to kick it up a heap by taking advantage of your council’s NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training – formerly JLT) course. This is a program designed specifically for patrol leaders and SPLs that gives them a whole week’s worth of exactly the skills they need to do their jobs to the utmost! This course is a “total immersion” in The Patrol Method, teaches leadership skills, teamwork, Scout Spirit, and on and on!
The other program to check out, for those Scouts who have gone through the NYLT course, is the National YSDC – Youth Staff Development Course. Check out my column called “Special—NJLIC to YSDC.”
I have to take issue with your response, a while ago, to a question about the relationship between the COR, head of the CO, and the unit committee chair:
“The Scoutmaster reports to the committee…the committee chair is responsible for delegating responsibility to the committee. The chair isn’t the decision-maker but is there to arrive at consensus among the committee members. The Troop’ program of activities is developed by the Patrol Leaders Council under the guidance of the Scoutmaster (who) presents the program to the committee for suggestions. The troop’s committee also selects the Scoutmaster (but) the TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK is silent on the method of selecting/electing a chair. However, if the committee is unhappy with the way the chair is doing things, they have the right to as him or her to step down.”
The Chartered Organization head and/or the Chartered Organization Representative signed the committee chair’s application, and so the chair can only be removed by the person or persons who appointed him to that position. The committee has no power at all to remove the committee chair. They can make a recommendation to the Chartered Organization but cannot summarily remove and replace the committee chair. (David Smith)
That particular situation, and my response, wasn’t so much about “proper procedures” as it was about what a group of Scout-minded volunteers need to do with a wrongly appointed, wrong-headed committee chair who takes it upon herself to start dictating policy (exacerbated by the fact that these policies were indeed hurting the Scouting program in this troop!). If we’re going to play the “who signed what” game, we’re going to continue to have an unhappy troop and unhappy volunteer leaders. Now I’m not suggesting that stated procedures be violated, but you need to be aware that the BSA is perfectly silent on “proper procedure” for jettisoning a nuisance who is damaging the program and treating fellow volunteers like servants. This is no time for “guardhouse lawyers;” it’s time to polish the kickin’ boot.
About the Commissioner’s Arrowhead Honor – the “arrowhead” patch – I know the correct placement for this on my commissioner uniform but I’m also an Assistant Scoutmaster. I’m wondering: Do you wear the arrowhead only on the commissioner uniform or can you wear it on both uniforms? (Kim Henderson, UC & ASM, Piedmont Council, NC)
The Commissioner’s Arrowhead is worn ONLY under the Commissioner emblem on a Commissioner’s uniform shirt and nowhere else. So you’re correct that you don’t wear this particular emblem on your ASM shirt.
Our troop has a registered committee member who is also registered as District Commissioner and Unit Commissioner, and another who’s a member of the district training staff. Can they vote as committee members? Or not, because they’re double-registered? (Julie, MC, Gulf Ridge Council, FL)
“Vote” on what? Committee members don’t so much “vote” as they roll up their sleeves and support their troop’s Patrol Leaders Council and the PLC’s program plans for the troop.
Now, to get more specific, it looks like you have some pretty typical Scouting volunteers in your troop: They’re wearing several Scouting “hats” and not just one. Of course, one can’t be both a District Commissioner AND a Unit Commissioner—That’s just plain silliness. And it’s also a little silly to be a Unit Commissioner for a unit where you’re also a unit committee member—That simply doesn’t accomplish a whole heck of a lot! But it’s not unusual for a UC to be registered in a unit he or she doesn’t serve directly as a committee member. It’s also not unusual for a unit committee member or even a Scoutmaster to also be a member of a district or council training staff — After all, they’re the ones with immediate experience “where the rubber meets the road.”
Let’s not talk about “voting,” because there’s virtually nothing for a unit committee to ever have to vote on. Let’s just make sure that these dedicated volunteers don’t take on too many jobs that their performance begins to suffer.
Oh, here’s one little-known fact: Did you know it’s a BSA policy that Scoutmasters and Cubmasters can’t be Commissioners?
A while ago, my twin nephews earned Eagle rank. Their mom, my sister, comes from a Scouting family, and their dad was an active ASM with their troop. The boys told me that they had a list of things they had to bring to their Eagle board of review that their SM also requires them to bring to their Scoutmaster Conference (which he uses as sort of a dress rehearsal for the Eagle BOR), including a length of rope, compass, their Boy Scout Handbook, and a number of other items. Of course, the question I asked was: Why? As it turn out, it’s because the boards of review for Eagle candidates (done at the district level, BTW) asks the Scouts to perform some basic Scout skills. (I know you’re seeing “red flags” all over the place, because this is retesting and not reviewing.) I told the family that this is strictly against BSA policy and it’s in writing, but this is not my region, council, or district. I told my nephews to talk to their Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, COR or Unit Commissioner about this, but they didn’t want to make waves while under the scrutiny of their Eagle boards, because their district has a reputation for dumping on Eagle candidates, so they said they’d do something after their court of honor.
Well, over a year has come and gone, and they’ve not done anything to stand up to their district’s advancement people to help Eagle candidates who come after them. I’ve spoken with them about this and even shown them in BSA manuals where they were wronged, and I’ve urged them to live up to their Eagle badge and help others by correcting this abuse of power. Do you have any suggestions to get these two Eagle Scouts to take the right steps to end the tyranny they were put through, so that other Scouts can be treated with the respect and fairness they deserve? I’m looking for a better, wiser method of convincing these Eagles of what should be seen as their duty to help others. (DM, NJ)
I personally happen to think you’re asking something of your nephews that’s outside the realm of “doing a good turn.” It’s not their place to carry the message you’re demanding of them to their district and/or council. This is something that needs to be dealt with from the top. Moreover, you apparently don’t have any specific information on what actually transpired at their Eagle BOR. If you do have another conversation with these two young men about this, and are able to determine that indeed something was done that’s inappropriate (as against merely speculating), then you have the opportunity to track down the name of that council’s Scout Executive and write a very diplomatic letter about your concerns. After that, it’s up to them to decide what, if anything, to do; not you, and certainly not your nephews.
Is there a standard BSA “quartermaster checklist” for the equipment a troop should have? Our troop boxes have no rhyme or reason. I’ve asked at our council service center if there’s a sample inventory, and to my surprise they say they’ve never seen one. I do understand we should have a troop tool box, a chef kit, and a patrol box, and some other equipment. What are they, and what’s in them? If you could direct me to a sample inventory list, I’d appreciate it. (Jan DeBona, Connecticut Yankee Council, CT)
The reason no one (including ol’ Andy here) can give you a “perfect” list of troop equipment is that every troop is a little bit different and organizes things a little bit differently from others. For some good ideas, you can Google “troop equipment” and/or “basic troop equipment” and the citations that’ll be pulled up will give you some food for thought. But, my suggestion would be to first gather up all of the gear the troop presently has and inventory it. This way, you’ll at least know your starting point. Then, take a look at the size of the troop overall. Next, look at the number of intact patrols and the number of Scouts per patrol. Then, take into account what sorts of gear the troop expects its Scouts, as individuals, to have (for example, personal flashlights, ponchos, water bottles, etc.) and see what the troop expects to provide (like maybe compasses, axes, etc.). Finally, examine what gear your patrols are expected to have for campouts and hikes (for instance, two compasses, a first aid kit, staves, etc.). Put all of this together and compare it to what you’ve unearthed by Googling. Decide what’s needed and what’s already redundant, and build a “needs list.” Such as, who provides the tents—The Scouts, or the patrols, or does the troop “rent” tents to the patrols. Use that list to decide how the troop can earn extra money to buy the necessary gear, then go do it.
The quartermaster’s job carries with it lots of planning, sensible buying, inventory management, establishing check-out/check-in procedures, and much more. It’s a great job for the Scout who likes this sort of stuff, and a disaster for one who doesn’t! So, when the Quartermaster’s appointed, choose wisely.
When I was a Scoutmaster, our troop had a batch of two-man tents, sets of patrol cooking gear, and Coleman Peak 1 stoves that we dispensed to our patrols before each trip and collected (with thorough inspections!) on return (everything was numbered). “Troop gear” was for the patrols; we never camped as a troop—we always camped, hiked, and did everything by patrols. So, every patrol already had individual staves and their own patrol flag, various lengths of whipped-end rope, at least one compass, and a first aid kit (which they kept filled), and they were expected to bring their own gear (including the “10 Essentials”) along on every trip, receiving tents and cooking gear as needed. Our patrols planned their own menus and did their own food-buying, and divvied up the food weight among themselves, too! They could also split up the tents into tent vs. rain fly and pegs, so that that weight could be distributed, too.
Equip for the troop, but think at the patrol level—This is where Scouting happens!
My son is having a difference of opinion with his Scoutmaster as to what type of camping nights are eligible for the Camping Merit Badge. The requirement specifically states: “Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.” My son did a week-long summer camp with his troop, and he received credit for five nights. He also went to another summer camp for four nights with a friend from another troop. His Scoutmaster is saying that the four nights don’t count because you can only count a total of five nights of summer camp. We told the Scoutmaster that the focus seems to be on long-term camping, which is defined as being five or more nights in a Scout-approved camp, and if the requirement was that strict, why don’t they say you can only use five nights of resident camp? I’d appreciate any advice you have on this. (Dan Newton)
If I were your son’s Scoutmaster, I probably would have given him “credit” for a total of seven days (technically, “one week” is seven days-and-nights, right?). Why? Because since the outdoors and its adventures is an essential “tool” of Scouting, I’d want a boy to get and keep a keen interest in the life of the outdoorsman! But that’s just me.
Most Scoutmasters get it right most of the time, a few get it wrong most of the time, and the rest of us are sort of in the middle. Most Scoutmasters mean well and are trying to carry out their responsibilities as best they know how. Some succeed in this better than others. So choose your battles carefully. Yes, your son’s Scoutmaster probably made a mistake, but I’m not sure I’d go to the mat on this one. Heck, what’s a few more nights camping? Your son will do a lot more than just 20 or so in his Boy Scout “career.” As his father, you might want to counsel him on that little thing called “human error,” and help him forgive his Scoutmaster for being human. And then move on. There are bigger fish to fry and a lot more mountains to climb than worrying (or getting resentful) about a couple of camping nights here or there.
Can you supply me with an Activity Badge Counselor sheet? In a few articles on the net, I’ve seen reference to it, but I have yet to find it. This would really help me determine who can help with each Activity Badge, as our boys enter the Webelos program (Joseph Gagliardi, WDL, Fullerton, MD)
A “Resource Bank” of people who can help your Webelos Scouts earn their various activity badges is something usually developed by the Webelos Den Leader. The way to begin is to make an inventory of the skills of the parents of your boys, to find out what their businesses, professions, or jobs are, and also what their hobbies and “extracurricular skills” might be. For instance, a parent who’s a nurse or doctor or rescue squad volunteer is perfect for Readyman, a private artist or school art teacher can handle Art for you, a travel agent can handle Traveler, and so on. Sometimes the matches may not be perfect fits, but a little creativity goes a long way. You can also reach outside your Den to people you or the other Den parents might know around town, such as a swimming coach or instructor for Aquanaut, a local handyman for Craftsman, and so on. The whole idea here is not that you, personally, become an expert (even the “overnight” kind) in these subject areas but that you and your Den parents find and recruit different people who are, in fact, pretty good experts in the activity badge subjects. The reason for this is so that the boys in your charge begin to interact and learn from people they don’t know so well, because this helps prepare them for the Boy Scouting experiences they’ll soon be having.
I’m just writing to tell you that you’ve been great resource for me. I read all your columns and I find myself giving the same advice when questions are asked of me. And I find myself correcting my behavior and reactions when dealing with others in Scouting. I know I wouldn’t be the Commissioner I am now without your column. I just thought I’d send some praise your way. Keep up the great work, it makes everyone think I am so smart (grin). Your column helps me keep my eye on keeping Scouting such a great program for boys and adults. It’s needed now more than ever! The program we provide boys – “a game with a purpose” – sometimes is lost when we as leaders forget that the boys want to have fun while Scouting. Your column goes such a great way to correct those that seem to forget this. Have fun this summer, I’ll be at Philmont taking “Advanced Commissioner Training.” I’m eager to see if I learn anything more than I’ve gleaned from your column. (BTW, I used to be an Owl…) (Ty Roshdy, Assistant Council Commissioner, Golden Empire Council, CA)
Me, too! Save the Hooters!
Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com.
(Please include your council name and home state)
(More-May 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)