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Issue 106 – June 8, 2007

Oh, Boy do I have a bunch of sharp-eyed readers! Here are two who are helping me get up to speed…

Hey Andy,

The BSA has allowed Venturers (of either gender) to be Den Chiefs for the last couple of years. This means that that female Venturer most certainly can go through Den Chief training, wear the Den Chief badge, and serve as a Den Chief. Don’t believe me? Here’s the BSA website: (Mike Brown)

Hi Andy,

On that female Venturer who’s taken Den Chief training, her trainers were correct in presenting her with a Den Chief badge. Approximately three years ago, female Venturers were made eligible to be Den Chiefs, and the requirement that a Venturer serving in this capacity be a “former Boy Scout” was dropped (Den Chief qualifications: Is an older Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Venturer. Selected by the senior patrol leader and Scoutmaster, Varsity Scout Coach, or Venturing Advisor at the request of the Cubmaster. Approved by the Cubmaster and pack committee for recommendation to the den leader. Registered as a youth member of a troop, team, or crew). (Jamie Niss Dunn, Pack Trainer & CSRTC, Northern Star Council, Coon Rapids, MN)

THANKS! My reference materials were obviously out-of-date on that one! Looks like it’s time for another spending spree to help support my local Scout Shop! J

Dear Andy,

We have a Scout who, for his Eagle project, wants to build and install a handicap ramp for an elderly and infirm woman in our town. She lives at a local trailer park and doesn’t get out often, so the ramp would give her much greater mobility. Since this would be for one individual in a private park, would it qualify as an Eagle project? I’ve asked at our council service center, but they’re vague on their answers. My own perception is that it may not qualify if it’s going on privately owned property. (Floyd Forman, Troop 13, Monmouth Council, Farmingdale, NJ)

The final decision rests, of course, with your district (or council, depending on how your council handles Eagle projects) advancement chair, who will ultimately sign off on the plan, so running the idea by this person before the entire project plan is written would certainly be in order. My own take on the idea is that because it’s limited to helping a single person it doesn’t meet the criterion of “significant.”

However, while this may not stand up to the criteria for Eagle project, that doesn’t mean that, if the whole troop decided to help this woman, you all couldn’t get together and build her a ramp! Sounds like, as an alternative, this might be a very nice troop service project, and certainly one that would provide your local news media with a delightful “photo op”!

NetCommish Comment: This is very thoughtful and an excellent idea that might be the foundation for a significant project of helping several disabled residents with special needs. It probably wouldn’t take much more effort once you have a source for materials to build three or four ramps for local residents or to find similar projects to benefit community residents. One Eagle candidate that I remember for being creative built a tool shed for light gardening that was wheelchair accessible with tool storage at the right height for people in wheelchairs and a care center for seniors. The residents were absolutely delighted to be able to wheel out, grab a tool and do a little light garden work and the Scouts involved ended up enjoying it enough that many came back on their own to help with initial planting. This young man is on the right track with a heart of gold. It may or not pass the local review, but the germ of an idea here is worth cultivating and growing.

Dear Andy,

I’m the new ADC for Venturing in my District, with a small team that we’re getting up to speed. Why isn’t there a “Venturing” Commissioner position patch? There are Venturing Roundtable Commissioner patches and Venturing Roundtable staff patches, but no plain Venturing Commissioner patches and no ADC-Venturing patches, either. There are ADC-Scout/ADC-Cub patches. What’s up? I’m thinking about creating my own patch and running it by my Scout Executive for approval. What’s your opinion? (Ron Murphy)

There used to be “Boy Scout Commissioner” and “Cub Scout Commissioner” badges, quite a few years ago, but they haven’t been around in probably 20 years or more. Instead, the structure of Commissioner service has most recently been DC à ADCs à UCs, and the ADCs and UCs may or may not be program-specific. This is actually a return to a longstanding structure of a half-century ago, when what we call a Unit Commissioner today was a “Neighborhood Commissioner” (those were the actual words on the badge).

The Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner and Staff and the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner and Staff badges have been around for quite some time, and these make perfect sense to me. Making equal sense are the relatively new Venturing Roundtable Commissioner and Staff badges.

But the one that makes no sense at all to me is a brand-new badge – DIST. ASST. SCOUT COMMISSIONER – which although shown on the web site isn’t mentioned at all in the Commissioner section of the BSA national web site (

Here’s my own take on this: Since the Assistant District Commissioner position is supposed to be largely administrative in nature (i.e., if you’re carrying out your responsibilities conscientiously, you have a group of Unit Commissioners serving units, whom you’ve recruited and trained), I’m not sure it’s all that bright an idea to place a limit (i.e., Venturing only) on the position, any more than it’s necessary to limit Unit Commissioners to specific types of units. We build enough “silos” in our workplaces – we sure don’t need them in the Scouting movement!

Now I may be wrong, but I seem to be sensing a bit of angst on your part over the absence of unit type-specific emblemry, and I’m wondering why this might be, since we Commissioners are in the business of promoting and developing the units we serve, and not ourselves. My own bottom line is simple: Unit type-specific Commissioner badges are unnecessary frivolities at best and impediments to growth and cross-pollination at worst.

Dear Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout from the 1960s (Troop 180, North Florida Council, Jacksonville, FL). My mother’s home was broken into some years ago and one of the things stolen was my Eagle Badge. Is there a list of Eagle Scouts? If so, how can I locate it? Is it possible to replace the stolen badge (my God and Country and my Webelos awards were stolen as well). I’d like to be able to pass these awards on to my son. (Robin Broadfoot, Tübingen, Germany)

I’m sure that that loss hurt, and I’m sorry. Yes, the BSA’s national office has records of all Eagle Scouts. You already have the troop and council, so if you can provide the date (or, if not, they’re pretty good with just the year), they can find you. From there, they can send you a certification and maybe even an Eagle medal (for a price, I’d guess). As for your God and Country medal, contact and give them the details. The Arrow of Light should be purchasable at your local Scout Shop, or possibly online at Best of luck!

NetCommish Comment: A fellow board member, Mike Walton, regularly answers similar requests and his response may be helpful:

The Eagle Scout Service, I’ve been told, receive more than two hundred thousand requests each year for Eagle Scout verifications, requests for
duplicate or replacement badges or card, and for information concerning the specialness of the Eagle Scout Badge. Local Councils of the BSA on the average, receive about a thousand such requests a year.

If you are wanting to find someone, get information, or request a duplicate Eagle Scout badge or card, I encourage you to read my Frequently Asked Question on the Eagle Scout Badge. It is found on my website at

Mike’s website has some terrific information and answers many question – even questions an old timer like me wouldn’t have even thought to ask.

Dear Andy,

When can a Cub Scout receive his Bobcat badge? In a recent training course, they said that a Cub Scout receives his Bobcat badge as soon as he finishes the requirements, but our Cubmaster announced that the boys wouldn’t receive their Bobcat badge until the fall, when they start 2nd grade, even though they’ve completed all of the requirements. What’s right? Last year, the Cubmaster did a ceremony that included the boys and their families but it was a disaster, mostly because the Cubmaster showed an attitude of indifference. This year we’ve had a lot of problems this year with our Cubmaster, and this is why I had to turn to you to double-check the answer. (Sammi Kerr, Bucktail Council, PA)

Boys get their Bobcat badge just as fast as they complete the requirements. The very next Pack meeting works just fine. Earning Bobcat means they’re now “official” members of the Cub Pack! This is usually done with a ceremony that includes on or both parents, because, at the point, it’s important to recognize that a “family” has joined; not just a boy!

The most typical reason why a Cubmaster (or any leader for that matter) shows indifference to the program they’ve volunteered to deliver is that they haven’t attended any training. If they had, they’d understand the importance of what they’re doing, and the importance of getting it right! Since your pack will be settling down for the summer pretty soon, maybe you should use the summer months to identify and recruit a Cubmaster who’ll agree to participate in training for that position!

Hello Andy,

I believe I’ve seen somewhere in writing that a Scout who doesn’t have his Eagle Board of Review before his 18th birthday is still required to have all of the requirements completed and submitted to his District or Council before that birthday—this would include all requirements except his Board of Review. Can you tell me where I can find this written? (Bill Mollica, Council Advancement Chair, Monmouth Council, NJ)

The book you want is: ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES. In it, you’ll find the exact words that stipulate several things…

First, you’re correct that all requirements for rank advancement—whether Tenderfoot or Eagle—must be completed before a Boy Scout’s 18th birthday. However, this authoritative book is silent on the issue of a submission “deadline,” because submitting the rank application itself is not a requirement. Saying this with other words, for clarity: There is no nationally stipulated deadline for submitting the application, and a council, district, unit or individual that attempts to impose such a deadline is violating a fundamental BSA advancement policy.

As regards a Board of Review, since this is NOT a “requirement” it is therefore not subject to the 18th birthday rule. So long as the Board of Review (usually for Eagle) is conducted within three months of a Scout’s 18th birthday, no letter of explanation need accompany his application when it is sent to the national office; however, after that three-month window, a formal letter must be included.

Bill writes again…

Thanks for your response. I understand what you’re saying, but I have one more question: If all requirements must be completed before the Scout’s 18th birthday, how would anyone know if, in fact, that actually happened if the Scout doesn’t submit it to the council or district no later than his 18th birthday? (Bill Mollica)

Two reasons, Bill:

1- Each requirement is signed and dated by the leader with whom the Scout worked (e.g., merit badges, Scoutmaster’s Conference, project completion date, leadership tenure dates, etc.), and…

2- Scout’s Honor.

Dear Andy,

You’ve spoken about a district advancement representative sitting on Eagle boards. In our district, the advancement chair doesn’t sit on Eagle boards, on the rationale that if something doesn’t go according to plan, the district advancement chair is the first line of appeal for the Scout, whereas if he or she does sit on the board, the Scout may lose a valuable avenue for his first appeal, as now his first appeal would have to be directly to the council. The district advancement chair has a very important job, for Tigers thru Boy Scouts, and must remain available to render a fair and impartial ruling in case of a conflict at any level. That’s tough to do if you sit on an Eagle board and consequently become a part of the “conflict.” (Bruce Stohlman, District Eagle Advancement Chairman Mid-America Council, Omaha, NE)

It’s a longstanding BSA policy that, if a board of review for the rank of Eagle is held at the troop level, a representative of the district and/or council must be present as a member—This is not open to opinion or discussion or debate. But, that representative need not be the district or council advancement chair. One reason for making sure there’s a representative present is that if, God forbid, something goes awry, the district has an eyewitness and doesn’t have to rely on hearsay.

Hi Andy,

First, let me say that I have been reading your column since I became a Unit Commissioner about 10 months ago (I got back into Scouting as an adult after twelve years away since earning Eagle) and your advice has really helped me out on multiple occasions dealing with my units. I’ve let other Commissioners know about the column, to use it in support of
their service to their units.

As a follow-up to the camo pants question a while ago, according to the Rules and Regulations section of the Insignia Guide, “…imitation of United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps uniforms is prohibited, in accordance with the provisions of the organization’s Congressional Charter.” Which means that this goes well beyond just a simple, seemingly arbitrary, BSA rule. It’s actually part of the charter agreement with the United States Congress. The key word is “imitation.” Wearing camouflage, even if not military issue, is an imitation of the military. A violation of the charter agreement is very serious, as it can be harmful to the BSA movement as a whole. It’s not just “don’t wear camo because we said so.” I think that this is important to point out. (Joe Kauffman, UC, West Central Florida Council)

Bingo! You’re 100% correct. So why, you might wonder, didn’t I mention this, since I’m usually pretty thorough? I did have a reason to leave this particular point out of that conversation, and it was a judgment call. Since the original writer had written back once already, talking all about hunting and stuff, I didn’t want to have yet another go-round on whether “camo” implied hunting or the military. That’s why my emphasis was (and usually is) on the Handbook’s page 12.

Dear Andy,

I know that a parent can be his or her son’s merit badge counselor, but I also remember that I read somewhere in some BSA literature that to be your son’s merit badge counselor, 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 merit badge whether their son had earned it or not, just so he’d get the badge. But now I can’t find that rule in any literature that I’ve looked in and it’s become an issue. (Claudia G.)

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—that is, the MBC and the Scout—are related. Yes, there are lots of unsubstantiated myths out there about such things as 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.

And Claudia writes back…

Thanks, Andy! No one has ever brought up taking a badge away and I never thought that was an option or an issue. Our issue is a parent with two sons who recently signed up to be counselor on numerous badges so he could counsel only his sons and no one else (“just too busy to counsel anyone else,” he claims). Now another parent apparently wants to do the same thing. I have a feeling—and so do several others in our troop—that those boys are going to end up with a whole bunch of badges they didn’t earn, which isn’t the idea and sure isn’t fair to the rest of the Scouts in our troop or others in Scouting. But what do you do? (Claudia)

OK, I get it. Obviously, these parents are misinformed about what the Boy Scout advancement program is all about, what the two key aims of the merit badge program are, and what a merit badge counselor’s job is supposed to be about. They need counseling. This is the job of your district’s advancement committee and/or your district merit badge counselor dean (as they’re often called)—The person responsible for the quality of merit badge counseling. Contact your district advancement chair, describe the situation, and request immediate intervention.

Dear Andy,

One of your columns mentions a soon-to-be implemented Hunting Merit Badge. Do you have any information on the requirements? I know a bunch of Scouts down here in Florida who will be delighted to go after that one—the quail down here are already getting nervous! (Brian Sparks, ASM, Troop 4, Gulf Ridge Council, FL)

This has been written up a few times in SCOUTING magazine. As I understand it, it’s an “experimental” program that’s being pilot-tested, hopefully to emerge as a new merit badge some time in the near future. BTW, its requirements do NOT include actually shooting at live game, so you can tell those quail they won’t have to learn how to duck! (Oops, bad pun!)

Hello Andy,

Our troop is often involved in aquatic activities and we follow the Guide to Safe Scouting and Safety Afloat guidelines. However, I couldn’t find any documentation where “ski tubing” (tubes pulled by a motorboat) is prohibited. Is this type of aquatic activity allowed by the BSA? I was under the interpretation it wasn’t, but others are saying it’s OK, since it’s not mentioned and may fall under the Water Skiing guidelines. (Glenn Lathem, ASM, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

You’re correct: the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING is silent regarding ski tubes and tubing. Yes, this activity may fall under the water skiing guidelines, but we can’t be certain and it would be foolhardy to simply hazard a guess. Your council likely has a risk management committee and certainly has an attorney of record. So, rather than guessing, I recommend checking with these resources for current standards before engaging in this activity. (The GTSS doesn’t mention sticking your face in a live cannon-barrel either, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK!)

Dear Andy,

There’s a sentence in the Guide to Safe Scouting that I’d like you to discuss: “There are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when no adult leadership is required.”

We have a Troop Guide (he has his BSA Lifeguard certification, by the way) who scheduled a pool party for the new Scout patrol he’s responsible for at a local private swim club. I belong to this swim club, so I know personally that it’s always adequately staffed with lifeguards and adult club employees. I asked the Troop Guide who the adult leaders were going to be, and he replied that there would be none. I told him that he couldn’t have the outing if two-deep troop leadership wasn’t present. I was aware of the above GTSS sentence, but I’m not sure how to apply it. A group of young Scouts without troop leadership around makes me very nervous (one of them is my own youngest son…maybe that’s why!). I’m not certain that I did the right thing. How do you know which are the “few instances” when adult leadership isn’t required? (Paul Roberts, CC, Mobile Area Council, AL)

I’m going to give you my own analysis here, based on BSA policies and erring on the side of caution, yet also with some reasonableness and good sense. That said, I’d heartily recommend that you check this out further with a qualified representative of your council’s risk management committee.

To begin with, it’s true that “there are…patrol activities when no adult leadership is required” (page 7 of the GTSS book), but I don’t believe swimming, even in a lifeguarded pool, is one of them. I refer you to page 8 of the same book (the comments in parentheses are my own): “Before a BSA group (that would include a patrol) may engage in swimming activities of any kind (this would include public pools and private swim clubs, even when lifeguarded), a minimum of one adult leader (this overrides “youth leader,” such as a Troop Guide or Patrol Leader) must complete SSD training…and…use the eight defenses…” Further, page 10 of the same book states: “The Safe Swim Defense applies to swimming at the beach, private or public pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or anywhere Scouts swim.” This section of the GTSS goes on to state: “Pool–If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others are using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard personnel, there may (this says “may,” which is quite different from “is”) be no need for additional designation of Scout lifeguards and lookout (importantly, this does NOT say that adult supervision is not needed),” and “The Buddy System is critically important, however, even in a public pool.”

So, I do believe you got it 99% right on the money! The only point that might exceed policy and guidelines is “two-deep leadership,” because the policies state that a single adult supervisor is all that’s needed for a swimming activity and, since this is a highly public area where everything is 100% visible to all, the reason for two-deep leadership isn’t present.

So, to err on the side of safety and at the same time not take a great leadership idea for a fun patrol event away from that Troop Guide, how about simply having one of the parent-drivers stick around just to keep a fly-on-the-wall eye on the patrol? That parent can qualify for the SSD stipulation by completing it online at the BSA site:

Dear Andy,

I’ve written to you before with good results, so here I am again. There are nine boys in our troop that I know of who want to quit because of the Scoutmaster. This guy is a real trip. I’ve recently resigned from the troop committee because I can’t support his committee member friends’ policies any more. They rule the troop through intimidation. If they don’t like the parents who speak up, they take it out on their sons. The Scoutmaster’s a bully. He adds rank advancement requirements at will, such as requiring that a Scout to work one out of two troop BBQ fund-raisers a year or no advancement. He makes up rules but they only apply to certain boys. Favoritism is running rampant. He allows one of the leaders to sit in on meetings and events while chewing on Skoal tobacco and spitting in a can, in front of the Scouts. This same person along with another adult have been coming to meetings reeking of booze. The boys are outright calling them the drunks. They went out drinking at the last campout and came back drunk. The Scoutmaster and committee chair are personal friends. They socialize with each other, so naturally they will deny any of these charges. I could write a book but I won’t. I’d like your thoughts before I go to my council. If I go to council and it gets back to the Scoutmaster, my son will be in for it—I know they’ll never advance him to Eagle rank. Help and thanks. (Sue Pavlik)

Yes, I remember you, and I’m sorry that your son’s troop is having these sorts of problems.

As far as unfairness, etc. on the part of the Scoutmaster, this is a troop-level matter and can be brought to the attention of the troop’s sponsor—the head of the Chartered Organization. When this is done, any generalities or characterizing words will need to be replaced with specific descriptions of behavior, including the date and event, and the policy that was violated, for example: “On May 17th, at a regular troop meeting, the Scoutmaster stated to Scout Johnny Doe that he would not be permitted to advance to the rank of First Class Scout, even though all requirements for this rank had been completed properly, because Scout Doe was unable to attend the fund-raiser, and this is in direct violation of the BSA policy that advancement requirements cannot be added to by anyone.” And, “At a troop meeting on the evening of April 9th, Mr. Fargus Foulmouth chewed tobacco in front of the Scouts, which is not according to the BSA policy on use of tobacco.” Develop a list of as many of these sorts of instances as possible and then go to the head of the troop’s sponsoring organization, along with all other parents who believe that injustices are being done (yes, this is an in-person meeting; it is not done by either letter or email) and request that, in light of these continuing violations, the Scoutmaster be immediately replaced. It is best if you already know who is willing to step into the position of Scoutmaster, because the head of your sponsor will be reluctant to remove someone and leave a hole in the unit’s leadership.

This is, of course, assuming you’re up to it. If you’re not, and you don’t believe other parents are of a like mind, then your job as a parent is to find a new troop for your son and his friends as fast as you can.

As for the presence of alcohol at an event at which youth are present, this is clearly and totally in violation of longstanding BSA policy. I’m going to assume that you’ve only just learned of this, because to have known of this for some period of time without taking action might be considered enabling. So, again, the procedure is to compile a specific set of descriptions of this violation, including specific dates, locations, the specific nature of the violation, and the names of actual witnesses (in other words, this cannot be hearsay). On completing this list (even if it is just a single incident), the person to seek out is your council’s Scout Executive. This is also an in-person meeting, and it would be wise for the witness or witnesses to be present. Call the SE, make an appointment, and then meet with him or her. Action will need to be taken, and accurate information on the violation(s) will be essential. On this one, you must act. To not, regardless of the reason, is tantamount to participation in the violation.

This is not so much about cronyism as it is about violations of longstanding BSA policies. Start at the sponsor level. Move up the chain as necessary. Do NOT attempt to do this alone.

Dear Andy,

Do Scout shop employees where yellow shoulder loops because they actually work for national, or the region, and not the council?


Until 1954, there was no age restriction on earning Eagle rank. If any of these “Senior Scouters” are still around today, can they wear the Eagle square knot. (Robert Randolph, Great Smoky Mountain Council,)

The shoulder loops of Scout Shop employees will depend on the kind of Scout Shop it is. Some are National Scout Shops (where the national office and the local council have an arrangement for this), in which case they’re wear gold because they’re quite literally employees of the national office. If, on the other hand, the Scout Shop is owned and run by the local council, then silver’s the color of the day.

Any present-day adult who’s earned the rank of Eagle, and would like to indicate this on his uniform, wears the red-white-and-blue square knot above the left shirt pocket. (To put it another way, adults don’t wear the oval badge anymore.)

A question was asked of me: If I’m under 30 years old, is this considered too young to be a Unit Commissioner? Here are my thoughts on that…

Age isn’t the key to excellent Commissioner service. The key is the desire to HELP where help is both wanted and needed. The UC’s job is to be “the unit’s best friend” – To be there for them, to encourage them, to be there when they have a question (you don’t have to know the answer — just know where to find it), and to be there for them when they get into little snits (which some will occasionally do). A UC is a mediator, facilitator, resource for answers, guide when we can be, and communicator (we’re the chief liaison between the district/council and the unit itself.)

Sometimes, us geezers think we know it all, and sometimes we geezers like things “the old way” and that may be outdated, but a younger UC has the advantages of youth and openness to new ideas. Sometimes we geezers like to show up at troop or pack meetings with our red jackets, Smokey Bear hats, and coffee cups at the ready, as if they are there for us! A younger UC, on the other hand, knows that it’s the other way ’round. And, sometimes, we geezers think the Scouting experience we had as a kid is the absolute model for all units to follow, whereas a younger UC knows that despite to good experience he had as a Scout, he was pretty lucky because that troop he was in was quite a bit off-center, and he’ll be able to spot “problem” units pretty quickly (not that he can then run in like a firefighter to fix things and they’ll be welcoming him with open arms… The only tools we Commissioners have are a smile, persistence, diplomacy, and a silver tongue!).

So, be a “young Commissioner.” It’s maybe the most rewarding “job” you’ll ever have in Scouting… except for when you were a Scout, yourself!

NetCommish Comment: Age certainly isn’t a restriction. The old NetCommish’s first Commissioner job started at age 21 and led to a chain of Commissioner roles that crossed six Councils over three decades.

Dear Andy,

I’m about ready to complete my First Class requirements and I have two questions about merit badges. I’m really interested in merit badges that a few people haven’t heard of, like Scholarship and Animal Science. How do I find a counselor to help me with these? I’ve checked numerous websites about locating a counselor, but no luck. (I live in a small town.) My Dad is a merit badge counselor for the Astronomy merit badge. Can he can sign me off on the requirements? (SPL, Cornhusker Council, NE)

Hey, nice goin’ on First Class! Make it happen! And for merit badges, check out page 187 in your BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. Just tell your Scoutmaster what merit badges you’re interested in, ask him for a merit badge application (often called a “blue card”) and the names of nearby counselors for the merit badges you’re interested in. After he gives you the names, phone numbers and addresses, give ’em a call and tell ’em you’d like to earn their merit badge. They’ll want to meet with you, so be prepared to bring a buddy. Oh, yeah, be sure to get yourself pamphlets for the merit badges you want to earn — you can buy these at your local Scout Shop or online at

For Animal Science and Scholarship, your and your Scoutmaster can go to your own council’s website and you’ll find just what you’re looking for:

(To answer your other question, unless your father is registered for the particular merit badge you want to earn, he can’t sign off on it. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t earn Astronomy from him, if you’re interested in that one!)

Here’s one last thought: If for some reason you can’t connect with the Merit Badge Counselors you’re looking for, how about going out there and recruiting them? You could talk to your favorite teacher and ask him or her to register as a MBC for Scholarship (it means filling out two applications, but it costs nothing!), and then talk to your local veterinarian about Animal Science. You’d be doing yourself a favor, and you’d also be helping future Scouts! Way cool!

Dear Andy,

I’m Program Chair for my district and I’m looking for any information on the series of books titled Outdoor Skills Instruction. Are they available on the web? (Judy Tetzlaff)

Have you tried your local Scout Shop? Or

NetCommish Comment: I think the books you are asking about are the following Outdoor Skills Instruction books published by BSA. At one time these were available from local BSA Council Service Centers. These books were published in the early 1990s. These books are still referenced on several Council websites and the BSA website at, so they may still be around at your Council Service Center.

Aquatics, No. 33026

Backpacking, No. 33035

Camping, No. 33003

Cooking, No. 33567

Rapelling/Rock Climbing, No. 33027

Survival, No. 33029

Team Building, No. 33004

Dear Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout-Class of ‘74. In my travels I’ve lost my Eagle medal, badge, and certificate. Are replacements possible? My father was my Scoutmaster and his health is failing. I’d like to try to get the certificate so he can sign it while he’s still able. (Scott Pajtas, Tall Pine Council, Fenton, MI)

You can go to the National Eagle Scout Association website ( and there you’ll find a way to order duplicates ( but this may not be exactly what you need, because you’ll need to have the exact date of your Eagle board of review. If you don’t have that, then contact either your original council or its successor and request that date, or contact the BSA national office and tell them what you need, and they can look it up for you (usually right on the spot, if you phone them). I’m sure they can also give you information on how to get the certificates you need.

Hi Andy,

I’m actually not a Scout. My brother is Scoutmaster of a troop up in Minnesota, and I have a question for you about a troop activity that was canceled… They were making omelets in Ziploc bags (which are a lot of fun and the boys enjoy them!) when a nutrition specialist told my brother they couldn’t make these anymore because Ziploc bags produce a toxic chemical when used for cooking. Do you know if there is any truth to this? It’s an activity that he really enjoyed and he respects the nutritionist’s opinion, but it just doesn’t add up to me. I’ve done countless hours of research on the Internet and all I keep finding are MORE recipes for cooking in Ziploc bags! I’d appreciate any information you can provide me on this. (Bonni Beutner)

Here is commentary from the S.C. Johnson Company, makers of Ziploc®bags and other products (check out for yourself at

SC Johnson Response to Internet Rumor on Plastics in Microwave: In 2002, SC Johnson became aware of an e-mail that was being widely circulated, which warned consumers about the alleged dangers of using plastics in the microwave. This e-mail claimed that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body, thereby increasing the risk of producing cancerous cells. SC Johnson researched these claims, and it is clear that the information is not only misleading, but also unnecessarily alarms consumers. When used in the microwave, there is no trace level migration of dioxins from any Saran™ or Ziploc® product. This is known because these products are 100% dioxin-free. You also should be aware that dioxins can only be formed when chlorine is combined with extremely high temperatures, such as the temperatures generated in waste incinerators (which) produce temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, an extreme temperature that even the most powerful consumer microwave ovens are unable to produce. Saran™ and Ziploc® products can be used with confidence when label directions are followed. All Saran™ Wraps, Ziploc® Containers and microwaveable Ziploc® Bags meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with defrosting and reheating food in microwave ovens, as well as room, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures.”

I hope this information is useful to you, and your brother.

Happy Scouting!


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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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