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Issue 110 – Responses to July 9th Column

Dear Andy,

Several months ago, I sent you an e-mail message regarding an issue my son, Michael, was having with our troop—they wanted to stop him from achieving the rank of Eagle because he didn’t actively participate in his troop, according to their “guidelines.” (Michael was heavily involved in many things other than Scouts, including church, show choirs at school, his own band, and working a part-time job.) I’m happy to report that Michael achieved the rank of Eagle Scout officially on June 25th! I want you to know that your advice and your dedication to these Scouts is tremendous, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Michelle Heilman, Heart of Virginia Council, VA)

More currently, responses about the Life Scout who, although having completed each and every requirement for Eagle rank while in “troop A,” wound up being told by the powers that be in “troop B” that he’s not Eagle quality, and that he can either go through a gantlet of troop-imposed additional requirements (with no guarantee that this would make any difference in their thinking), quit Scouts altogether, or go find another troop became legion virtually overnight!

Here’s what YOU had to say…


Dear Andy,

Having read your past columns, you’ve set a course for young men who find themselves in this position to follow, so I really don’t feel the need to address that. My concern is just how leaders as he described can be allowed to run amok like this. Perhaps we emphasize “doing” and “high standards” too much (to the delight of leaders such as these fine gentlemen, I’m sure) and forget to go back to the basics, namely the Aids to Scoutmastership, which, you’ve cited in your column, too. Just where is their Unit Commissioner? He needs to show up at a meeting with cookies, common sense, and a big butter knife to spread it around. We seem to have some leaders who are WAY out-of-touch with both the young men in the troop and BSA policies. It’s time to get them all in for some refresher training, or get them out of Scouting. (Steve Maul, Unit Commissioner, Cornhusker Council, NE)


Hey Andy,

Here’s what I’d suggest to that Scout who encountered that bizarre reception in his new troop when his family relocated:

First, get documentation of your completed Eagle requirements. By all rights, a signed Scout Handbook should be all that’s required (“a Scout is trustworthy”). As you’re in extraordinary circumstances, a letter from your former Scoutmaster may be helpful (but it’s certainly not required).

Then, find another troop. If the events described in your letter are correct, the men you’re trying to work with have no business leading a Scout troop. (Some men feel that they have to set up their troop as a supposed “bastion of excellence in a sea of mediocrity”—These guys usually are suffering from a diseased ego or they’re on a twisted power trip. You won’t change them, nor is it your responsibility to try and work with people who are so very far off the mark.

Don’t be afraid to go shopping for a troop that “gets it.” Talk to the Scoutmaster of the new troop and get a commitment to help you get your Eagle according to actual polices and procedures. Warn him that you will not be spoken of in endearing terms by your former troop, but that your accomplishments will speak for themselves.

Don’t be concerned about the current troop’s evaluation of you. This bunch is probably infamous in their district and council as troublesome and difficult.

If you want to do a real service to Scouting, send copies of your letter to Andy to your Council Advancement Chair, the head of that troop’s Chartered Organization and the troop’s Unit Commissioner—They’re the people in position to correct the situation (they may or may not do anything, but you will have more than done your duty!).

For what it’s worth… A Scout who comprehends not only the intent but also the letter of the advancement program and who is working hard towards college has already demonstrated to me that he’s Eagle material. For Pete’s sake, this whole thing requires a half-hour conference with a real Scoutmaster who can then get the Scout back on track towards his Eagle.

As for the men who called this Scout “a pathetic joke,” in my estimation, they’re pathetic jokes themselves.

(Andy: If this Scout is in reach of southeastern Pennsylvania, our troop will help him. Even if he isn’t, I’d offer to assist him if he is in an area where there are no other troops handy—I see no policy restrictions on doing this long-distance if it’s the only way to get this Scout the Eagle he’s earned. I’d be willing to mentor him through the process, if he needs it. Feel free to pass my contact information on to his parents—not directly to the Scout—I’d want to hear directly from them first [I wouldn’t want my own son communicating with someone I hadn’t first spoken with].) (Clarke Green, SM, Chester County Council, PA)


Hi Andy,

I think that Scout should run to the hills and find another troop. If that’s not an option, he’s more than welcome to join our crew. (Cary Purcell, Advisor, VC 805, Okaw Valley Council, IL)


Dear Andy,

It breaks my heart to see people who seem to feel their job is to maintain their own “high standards” for the Eagle program rather than to help boys meet the BSA’s standards. These guys are so blinded by their vision of the rules (which seems to be distorted) that they’ve lost sight of the concept of service to youth.

This appears to be a hard-working, dedicated young man who is doing an impressive job of keeping several balls in the air at once. He deserves adult support to complete the final steps required for Eagle, but it’s clear he’s not going to get it in his new troop. Judging from your June 29 column, you might recommend that he fight this up the chain of command through the District and Council. I would disagree. This Scout and his family have walked into a mess that is not of their making. They shouldn’t be expected to clean it up, nor as new arrivals in the area are they likely to have the standing to do it. He also doesn’t have a lot of time. He needs to find an alternate route and quickly.

If he can’t find an alternate troop close to his new home that’s willing to help, then my advice would be to do what some Lone Scouts and International Scouts do and ask the Scoutmaster of his old troop to help him complete his path to Eagle. To my knowledge, there’s nothing in the rules that says a Scout must earn his Eagle in the place where he resides. There is even something to be said for the troop where he’s spent the most time and that knows him best taking responsibility for his advancement to Eagle—They’ll know whether he measures up in the ways that really matter. (That’s not to say I’d necessarily advance a stranger “carte blanche”—I always make it a point to check with a Scout’s former troop if he joins us at Life and is going for Eagle.) It’s not the ideal approach, but if this young man is as strong a candidate in-person as he appears to be on paper, I bet he’ll find people in his old troop and council ready to go to bat for him. I know I would! (Colin Helmer, Scoutmaster, Troop 818, Far East Council, Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia)


Dear Andy,

There must be some appeal mechanism that could come into play here! I wonder if this Eagle candidate’s prior Scoutmaster could provide a letter to be delivered to the new district’s or council’s advancement committee, plus copies of that letter to the Scoutmasters of other troops that this young man might find to join. Also, maybe a Scoutmaster’s Conference by phone, with the prior Scoutmaster might do the trick. This Scout’s current troop sounds like the “pathetic” one in this scenario! (Dean Whinery, Direct Service BSA-Mexico)


Hi Andy,

First, kudos to the Scout for not just giving up. This proves that the Scout IS Eagle material, contrary to the troop’s decision.

There are two goals here that need to be met: First, getting this Scout to Eagle, and then getting the Scoutmaster and committee to do their jobs right in the future

Well, what I’m going to propose is a little unorthodox, but I think it’ll work AND remain within BSA policies and guidelines:

The Scout’s finished ALL requirements except the Scoutmaster’s Conference with his old troop. If this Scout is still registered with his old troop, call the old Scoutmaster, explain the situation to him, and do the conference over the phone! Then, fax a copy of whatever documents are needed, or mail them (even overnight if you have to) to get the old Scoutmaster’s signature. Next, take those completed forms to the local council office and turn them in yourself, bypassing the current troop committee and Scoutmaster. (You might want to talk to the DE of the current district and explain that you are turning in an Eagle application from a “foreign council,” otherwise your current council may not know which district it goes to! Now you’re in the hands of the DISTRICT advancement committee, and all requirements are satisfied! (If, on the other hand, this Scout isn’t on the charter of his former troop, then send them the annual fee and get added back to the old troop.

When the District Advancement Chair asks why you went to the trouble to do it this way (and he/she SHOULD ask) explain it. And if nobody asks, write a letter to the local Scout Executive after it’s all over and you have your Eagle, and let the council investigate, based on your experience.

If there’s a problem, go to the Council Advancement Chair and start talking to him or her and set up an appeal—It’s your right to appeal all the way to the National Advancement Committee, so don’t give up! (And “just in case,” keep copies of the entire document packet you submit to the council, and make sure the letters of reference are sealed. If you don’t hear from the district advancement committee within a very short time, follow up and contact that person. Documents can be lost at a council office. It isn’t anyone’s fault, but it happens. Back yourself up!) (James Eager, District Advancement Chair, Gulf Ridge Council, FL & Eagle Class of ’74—NESA Life Member)


Dear Andy,

Tell that Scout and his parents to run as fast as they can to their new council’s office and become a Lone Scout; then have the council set up this Scout’s—A Scout with the “RIGHT STUFF”—Eagle Board review.

As for the Scoutmaster, troop committee and chair, it’s time for the chartered organization and council office to step-up! Make a change to the correct leaders for the Scouts in that troop, so that they can have the real BSA program.

It just might be that that troop’s current Leaders are so far from “center” that even with re-training or additional training they’ll never “get” BSA program—It’s for the BOYS!

Anyone—Scoutmaster, troop committee, Cubmaster, or any leader—who comes up with “requirements” that aren’t part of the BSA program for the Scouts, might not be the right person. (J.F., UC, Gulf Stream Council, FL)


Dear Andy,

I read your last column, about that Scout, with a great deal of interest. I could spend a great deal of time talking about this new troop and what it’s doing, but I’d rather give some ideas about what to do next. I see three different paths for this young man to take:

First: A visit with the District Advancement Chair. This way, the District Advancement Committee can hold a Conference and then set up a B-O-R—This would certainly be justified, based on the facts as I see them presented. If they’re unwilling to do this, the Council Advancement Committee is the next step. This path assumes that the District and Council are free from whatever influence is causing the troop to drop the ball.

Second: A return to his old troop. He’s a long way away, but modern communications astound me on a regular basis. Forms can be faxed, and conferences held by telephone, or even with web cams. With a signed Eagle application in his hand, the District Advancement Committee in either location should be happy to work with him. I do realize the difficulty of having an Eagle Board of Review by long distance, and some reservations about that, but hopefully the new district would be willing to set up and hold the B-O-R once they have an application.

Third: Join another local troop and finish the process there. This would take a little time to locate the right troop and then to explain the situation, but this might be the most rewarding.

I haven’t talked about his current troop or finding a way to work within it… Normally I’d advise a Scout to try staying with his troop, or to change things from within, rather than cutting loose. But in this case the Scout’s already done that. The troop’s adult leaders have made it clear that they aren’t interested in helping him, or even in seeing things from his point of view. He’d use his time and energy more effectively in leaving these misguided (at best) people behind and moving on. The kind of change needed for that troop is prolonged, laborious, and almost impossible to achieve without the active help of the adults involved. (Dennis Fairbairn, South Plains Council, TX)


Dear Andy,

You know, I really keep hoping that there’s something missing from this young man’s story that will paint a better picture of his present troop leaders; however, this young man answered every question in this one letter that I’d normally come up with if a situation like this was presented to me. Therefore, I can only assume everything stated is accurate or darn well very close to accurate. Given that, I think you should publish the council, the troop number, and the names of those involved, so we can form up a posse to go after that ridiculous Scoutmaster and his gang of thugs. I’d even pay my own way, all the way from Korea , to go after those knuckleheads. It’s completely shameful to me that this sort of thing goes on anywhere in the BSA. Geez! When I read garbage like this, it makes me fear for my own two sons when we come back to the states at the end of this year. Can you contact this young man’s Scout Executive directly on his behalf and get this whole mess straightened out immediately? (Marc Garduno, District Committee Member, Far East Council, Korea)


Dear Andy,

I recently discovered your columns and I have to say that I’m very much impressed by the wealth of information you share.

The Scout whose letter you published in your last column certainly has my sympathies. One can only guess why the leaders in his current troop have decided not to make him an Eagle—perhaps they think that the program at his old troop is nowhere near as good as theirs, or that they suspect that the he’s lying about his credentials, or maybe it’s just pure spite or malice. In any case, my advice to that Scout would be to contact his old troop and see if he can complete his final steps to Eagle there. (Alex Valdez, an Owl from Circle 10 Council, Irving, TX)


Dear Andy,

Would the 17 year-old Eagle candidate mentioned in your July 9 column have the option of rejoining his former troop as a remote member? I did that while living overseas as a Scout. Finding another local troop with trained leaders would be my next choice. Would the Lone Scout program offer some relief? In any case, it appears to me that he needs to immediately dissolve his association with his present troop. Every story has two sides, but I find it difficult to conjure up an explanation for that troop’s leadership’s behavior while assuming this young man has in fact made it as far as he has in Scouting.

If I were to write the script, assuming it all complied with BSA policies, he’d rejoin his old troop, his original Scoutmaster would conduct the Conference by phone (that would clear up everything up to the point of his Board of Review) and then, in this digital age, I can imagine all kinds of ways to do a B-O-R remotely, too. While an in-person review is of course preferred, the continuity with the troop in which he completed his work would be preserved. Once he’s an Eagle, he could find a local troop, crew, or ship that would value him, and in which he can continue his Scouting experience.

(If the former troop and the Scout were near my company offices in Cary, North Carolina, I’d be willing to request permission to use our video- conferencing facilities to conduct the B-O-R.) (Alan O’Neal, East Carolina Council, NC)


Dear Andy,

I’m a long-time reader; first-time writer. About that Eagle candidate Scout, unfortunately, I think the best response him is to run to another troop as fast as he can! The leadership of his current troop is hopeless, and can’t be fixed in time, if at all. Then, after his Eagle Court Of Honor, he should inform the District and Council leadership about his experience with that dysfunctional troop. (NJ Scouter)


Dear Andy,

First, I do believe that the adults—each and every one of them—associated with the Scout’s current troop should be told to read the Ask Andy columns, especially the ones of recent vintage. “What it means to be Active” is especially pertinent. I’d also point out to them the common theme that has run through many of them, which is: Scoutmasters and committees don’t have either the right or the power to change requirements—they can neither add to nor subtract from requirements set by the BSA. Although they may be well-intentioned, these adults have gone astray—the path to perdition paved with good intentions, perhaps? Volunteers usually don’t set out to become mean-spirited; they evolve into this when they start thinking that because they’re volunteers and are attempting to do good things they don’t have to account to the program or the participant. They’ve forgotten that the service of volunteering doesn’t confer special benefits to exempt oneself from long-established policy of the organization as a whole.

I believe that a request should come to them from the District Executive of that council and then perhaps from the Scout Executive himself, asking them to review the Ask Andy columns and to review the BSA’s advancement policies. To say that this is misapplied power and direction is a gross understatement.

For some time now I’ve referred people to Ask Andy so they can get their questions answered, get the proper view on what it is we’re doing, and to show them that there’s assistance readily available—a resource for people in doubt about what is or is not permissible, required, and expected. More, I’ve referred others in Scouting to the “Ask Andy” columns so that they can see that Scouting is not so much about “gatekeeping” as it is about DOOR-OPENING. Our job, as volunteers, is to open doors of opportunity and adventure to our country’s young men. When we fail to do so , they respond in kind, and they vote with their feet. And there are few among us who can honestly say that the number of boys pushing down the doors to become Scouts is at an all-time high! We need to call upon ourselves to assess our roles in the program… Have we become punitive in practice and thus driven away participation? Have we damaged the program by our creation of artificial hurdles and requirements, not founded in policy but in personal preference? Or are we among the reasons why parents will entrust their sons to us and their boys will want to join the troop we serve? (Yes, we serve the troop—It’s not the other way around.)

We need to ask ourselves honestly: Can we abide BSA policy and, if not, then please step aside for someone else who can and will. We are volunteers with a covenant to abide by established policies; we are not policy-makers. Whether it’s water safety, youth protection, the Buddy System, advancement, The Patrol Method—all of these are designed to protect youth participants. The BSA’s advancement policies protect boys and young men from the martinet who would detract from the Scouting experience by imposing additional (and in this case, ridiculous) “requirements” of his own.

Finally, I’d suggest that these leaders be placed on probation, while provisional leaders are installed to work with them so that they can see where they went wrong—this would be in line with the Commissioner system of oversight and guidance.

We also need to be acutely aware that instances of anecdotal mistreatment of Scouts translate into fewer overall participants and damage to the good name of Scouting. (John H. Kopp, MBC, Former troop CC, Northern New Jersey Council)


Dear Andy,

As I read the letter from the Life Scout you posted in your July 9 column I was filled with sadness and anger. I had tears in my eyes as I could imagine the hopelessness this young man was feeling after doing his best to become an Eagle Scout. I am incensed that these self-righteous leaders who would treat a youth member in such an unfair manner. Who are they to stand in judgment of who is “Eagle quality” when the Scout’s already met all the requirements?!

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. I am personally aware of other young men who have been discouraged from advancing to Eagle because of jerks like this Scoutmaster and his committee. How can these men be so callous with the lives of our youth? How can they sleep at night knowing they’ve damaged the self-esteem and future of this young man (and maybe others)?

In my opinion, this young man has gone as far as he can to become an Eagle Scout in this troop. His best hope of success is to change to another troop that has more reasonable leaders—and to do this quickly, before it’s too late. I’d suggest he do this with the assistance of his parents and/or a Scouter who understands his situation.

There are thousands of well-meaning, properly trained, good-hearted adults who are leading our youth in Scouting. There are also too many leaders who have personal agendas and mean spirits. Scout leadership at all levels (including professionals) would be well served if they adhered to the principles and values we print in our brochures and post on our websites! (Michael Marks)


Dear Andy,

I’ve been reading your column for many years and enjoy it.In response to the letter about the Life Scout who has not received his Scoutmaster Conference yet…

The Scoutmaster of this new troop he belongs to needs to have his head examined! Making Scouts do more than they should for rank advancements!? I guess he never went to Scoutmaster/ leader training. I’ve never required my Scouts to do anything other than what the requirements state for rank advancements. I always tell them to “Do Your Best” to attend meetings, camping trips, service projects, and so on. I understand that things happen like family emergencies, school activities, jobs, and the list goes on. It also appears that the troop committee needs to have their heads examined as well. To tell a Scout, “get your priorities right, and quit your job”? What kind of nonsense is that? As far as I’m concerned, the young man has completed all the requirements for Eagle and should have his Scoutmaster Conference. He should now contact his District Executive and District Advancement Chair and explain fully to them what he’s gone through. If he doesn’t get any assistance from either one of them, then he needs to contact his council service center to see who handles advancement and discuss the situation with that person. Or maybe he can find another troop where he lives. Good luck to him – Don’t give up—keep fighting for it—you deserve it! (Mark Zirpoli, SM, Atlanta Area Council, GA)


Dear Andy,

There are 3 options here:

1. Line these so-called troop leaders up in front of a wall, strip off their insignia, then ready, aim…You’re FIRED!

2. Get a BSA lawyer to file suit against these “leaders” for falsely signing BSA registration and chartering forms.

3. Get down on your knees and pray that all the boys in this community get the opportunity to get real mentors so they can experience Scouting the way it was designed and has been working for the past 97 years.

From what this Scout has reported to you, the next step is the Council Scout Executive. This young man has been verbally and emotionally abused. The adults associated with this unit should be removed immediately from all BSA activities. This young man has plenty of written documentation to present to the SE for his call to action.

The next step for this Eagle candidate would be to have the SE designate another professional or a significant volunteer (e.g., Commissioner) help place him in the right Scouting environment to successfully complete out his days as a Scout. This could include the Lone Scout program, another troop the district volunteer knows enough about that will be willing to help this young man, or possibly working something out with the troop he started in. Though the distance thing is a problem, a couple of trips could take care of everything, housing could be worked out amongst his former troop and patrol members. They also know this Scout well enough that some conversations could be done over the phone or internet. The B-O-R should be live, if at all possible, but in this case teleconferencing might be the answer.

After reading what this young man has endured, his thought processes, his actions, his individual conversations, his ability to seek out Andy McCommish, lets me know that he’s more than deserving of the rewards of his accomplishments. I now charge Andy with following up and letting us know when his Eagle Court of Honor is! (Dave Mountney, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)


Dear Andy,

What a sad issue and with a real victim here: The Scout. As former troop advancement chairman, I can say that it’s evident that this Scout has shown himself to be Eagle material already: He’s earned his Life rank, so that shows he went through many opportunities to be judged on Scout spirit and obviously was found to have it by his former troop, plus, by his letter to you, it shows to me that he does have Scout spirit just by continuing in Scouting and embracing a new troop as he has while finishing high school and working long hours at a job to save for college. Isn’t that what Scouting and we adult volunteers are supposed to be doing: Raising our boys to grow into men?

Based on my personal experience as a troop advancement chair, this Scout has already shown that he’s finished his requirements to be eligible for a Scoutmaster Conference and subsequently eligible for his Eagle B-O-R. This troop has no right to give additional requirements other than what is required by the BSA policy and handbooks. It sounds to me that he’s joined a troop that has a “club” inside it—one that’s willing to bend BSA policy to suit its own purposes. At first, I was thinking that there should be some underlying factor that happened, but the additional requirements the troop gave him do not justify that there was an issue to begin with other than they obviously do not want an Eagle Scout candidate in their troop who is not a part of their little club. This is simply unacceptable. First off, there is no policy as to how many meetings a Scout is supposed to attend for his Eagle rank (or any other rank) to be approved. If he attends as many as he’s able to attend, then that is all that Scouting asks of a young man. The second made-up requirement is activities and camping: Nowhere in the Eagle requirements does it specify a certain amount of camping nights or activities. For this Scout to be eligible for Eagle, he needs to have his Camping merit badge, which shows that he’s a camper, period. The third made-up requirement is to hold a leadership position. He’s obviously already done this in his prior troop, and this current troop has made no effort to assign him a position anyway. The last requirement this troop made is to help other Scouts, yet the Scoutmaster acknowledges he does this in another conversation.

This Scout is being wronged by this troop’s program here, and it is equally wrong to make him move to a new troop just for him to start over like he has already done in this troop, which is not easy for any Scout regardless of rank or age. I’d suggest that this Scout go to his district or council as his next step, and find out who he needs to speak with. He has exhausted his appeals to the troop, and frankly, this troop needs to be looked into, because they’re going against BSA policy and may be providing a very unhealthy program for boys and young men. If this one Scout is being mistreated like this, then I guarantee there are other Scouts who will be faced with the same. (Melissa Bond, South Plains Council, TX)


Dear Andy,

This poor Scout—That troop doesn’t get it, not one of them! They must have been asleep during training. (Thirteenth part of the Scout Law: Thou shalt not add to nor take away from any requirement”!)

My suggestion would be to reregister with his old troop and then have his Conference by phone (that Scoutmaster will likely remember him and have copies of his records there), then arrange to set up an Eagle board of review, and drive or fly back to the city for it (I’m sure one of his old friends would be happy to put him up for a night or two). A short family vacation trip back home for the Court of Honor to receive his award among friends would be a more pleasant experience, too!

Another way: Is there a Venturing crew around? This young man could join that, and have his Conference and B-O-R there. He doesn’t need to be a member of a troop to earn Eagle in a Venturing crew (he just has to have completed First Class in a troop program, and he’s clearly done that).

Third way: Although I do not know if it would work, he might want to approach this as a “Lone Scout.” (Given that all the work is already completed, all we’re really looking to see is that it was completed properly.)

If he’s anywhere in central Missouri, just send him to Venturing Crew 57, Mexico, MO. We’re small, but we’d sure work with him. (Tom Burke, Great Rivers Council)


Andy,

The only thing good about this Scout’s situation is that it makes the few jerks that most of us have to deal with seem like light-weights. How can this many jackasses be in authority positions in the same place!?! I have to wonder about the leaders of the Chartered Organization as well. First off, this Scout has not joined a Boy Scouts of America troop—the adults at this organization have started something that they’re trying to pass off as such, but IT’S NOT SCOUTING. Second, if only half of how this Scout described himself is true, he’s already an Eagle in character. But any Scoutmaster who makes up his own rules (this guy’s head must be tight going through doors) wouldn’t be able to see what a fine young man he’s been fortunate enough to have join the troop he’s PRIVILEGED to serve as Scoutmaster for. As for “higher standards,” the standards are already set, PERIOD, and if anyone’s not living up to “The (BSA) Standards” it’s obviously the adults.

Now the real question is how does this Scout receive what he’s already earned? Considering he has only seven months, he’ll need to move quickly on several fronts simultaneously—and in all instances he should be prepared with the information he shared with you, including all records, and what he has done at his current troop (even if he couldn’t get sign off). Start by going to the Chartered Organization and tell them your story. If they’re not willing to step in, they should at least be made aware of the incompetence of the leaders in the organization—it may help some future Scout.

Find another troop. Be up-front. Explain the situation in detail and if the Scoutmaster even hesitates to recruit you, move on and try another troop and so on. You don’t have to settle for any troop that doesn’t follow BSA policies and procedures. At the same time, find and go to the District Advancement Chair and start working your way through the volunteers and professional adults who hold positions created for the purpose of serving youth. Stop only when you’ve reached your goal.

In all cases, get specific responses. Be willing to walk away from anyone who gives you the blow-off of, “I’ll get back with you.” Insist on a date and write it down and follow-up. Allow everyone you expect action from a reasonable amount of time to respond, and then follow up. If anyone is unresponsive, move on—don’t waste any more time than necessary on blow-hard bureaucracy. As soon as it’s clear that you’re stalled, go to the next link in the chain.

I’d also suggest that the first call you make goes to the Scoutmaster of your original troop. (Our troop recently had a long distance Life Scout earn Eagle rank, and he even came back to go to long-term camp with us. I was able to help this young man through a difficult process during a difficult time in his life, and it’s been wonderful.) Any Scoutmaster with a lick of sense and basic understanding of the Ideals of Scouting should be willing to jump in with both feet and start kickin’—after all, who knows best what you have earned as a Scout than the man or woman who has stood by your side through the process.

Remember above all else through this process that “A Scout is Courteous.” Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, even if they don’t reciprocate. Hang tough, and let setbacks slide by, only taking what you can learn from, and leaving the rest. I believe you can get this done. The important question is: Do you believe it? (Kevin Brouk, Scoutmaster, Okaw Valley Council, IL)


Dear Andy,

This troop is what’s wrong with Scouting today! As a District Advancement Chairman, if this got to me I’d call for a District board of review, and after the Scout has passed (I get the impression this would be a “no-brainier”) inform the troop of the results and tell them to start planning for this Eagle’s court of honor!

Please tell that Scout to appeal at District, or Council or National until he gets Eagle. The most significant award I’ve received in Scouting is when, at a Court of Honor, the new Eagle Scout presented me with the Eagle Mentor pin. (Georg Dahl, Tidewater Council, VA)


Dear Andy,

I love your column, but sometimes I get physically ill at some of the stuff I read. This occurs when I read about Scoutmasters and troops like the one in the column you posted on July 9th.

This Scoutmaster and troop committee should be shot for their handling of this whole situation. From the words they used to degrade and judge this Scout, instead of mentoring and teaching him, to the stone-wall tactics they’ve undertaken to keep him from something he’s EARNED—This is totally unacceptable behavior by these or any other so-called “leaders.”

They’ve forgotten that we adult volunteers work for the young men in our packs, troops and crews and not the other way around. We are in place only to teach and mentor these young men to, as I read somewhere, “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law,” and not to pass judgment on who is or isn’t “worthy” of a rank.

My advice to this young man is:

First, run as fast you can to another local troop or crew that will support you in your efforts to complete the journey you’ve started.

If that doesn’t work, appeal to the District Advancement Committee (but I suspect that that will get you nowhere, if they’re anything like the troop under their watch).

Last resort: Pay your $1 transfer fee and transfer back to your old troop. Then, (unless someone can tell me that somewhere in the BSA advancement policies it states that you can’t have a “long-distance” Scoutmaster’s Conference via Video conference or some other high tech video option) proceed that way.

It deeply offends me as an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster to hear these kinds of situations—They reflect badly on a movement and set of values that I hold very dear in my heart. (Brian C. Scoutmaster & Eagle Scout-Class of ’87, South Texas Council)


Dear Andy,

It’s a shame that the adults seem to misunderstand the mission of Scouting. Adult leadership positions seem to be a way that little people can feel powerful. I almost believe they should take an exam to be sure that they understand what they’re supposed to be doing.

It appears that their three means of tormenting this Scout are the interpretation of “active,” “maturity” and “leadership.” Perhaps a vague “Scout spirit” can be added to that.

I know a Scout who moved from Massachusetts to Georgia—He came back a few months ago to do his Eagle Scoutmaster’s Conference and B-O-R. Perhaps that’s what this Scout who wrote the letter should do.

Isn’t there a way that the local council can protect this Scout? Moving to a new troop is an obvious answer, but why does he have to transfer out of his current mistake—Can’t he get a reference from his old Scoutmaster?

Then, of course, there’s LONE SCOUTING! Why submit to the psychological torture of a deranged troop leader? (Alice Wilson, Nashua Valley Council, NH)


Hi Andy,

It’s difficult to believe that there are Scouters out there like this. I’m appalled at the total ignorance of some of these people. Just who do they think they are! I hope there’s another troop nearby that gets it. This young man certainly deserves a different troop and I’m wondering why he hasn’t just left after such treatment. It gives a black eye to all of Scouting when there are supposed leaders out there with such a mean spirit “leading” our boys.

It’s unfortunate that possibly the chartered organization isn’t of any help. The district chair and committee should be contacted along with the district commissioner. I know they don’t have any actual power over the Scoutmaster and his cronies, but possibly they can put a fire under the chartered organization to do what’s right.

I wonder if the former Scoutmaster can sign by proxy, and have that Scoutmaster’s Conference by phone, then sign an affidavit of some kind and get this young man his Eagle. This would bypass these bozos altogether. The district could do his Board of Review and this young man could get the Eagle he deserves.

It drives me crazy when there are those tin gods out there who don’t think the Boy Scouts of America has a clue as to what they’re doing, and, instead, set their own purported standards. (Ty Roshdy, ACC, Golden Empire Council, CA)


Hi Andy,

My initial reaction is to ask you to spill the beans on where these dunderheads are, so that we can pay them a personal visit with our “Scout Spirit Sticks” and give them the beating they deserve! How any adult can treat another person—and a Scout, no less!—like this I’ll never understand. This young man has been verbally and mentally abused and the men who did this to him need to pay the price for their wrongdoings.

OK, OK, I know that that’s not the correct approach to solving this issue. A different approach (that will keep me out of jail!) is to simply have this young man finish his Eagle Scout work with his old troop. He can give his former Scoutmaster a call and have his Scoutmaster Conference over the phone. Then, via good ‘ol snail mail, he can have signatures applied to his Scout Handbook. In order to complete the Board of Review, a phone conference would also work, but better still would be a video-conference. I’m sure a local college or perhaps public library can set something up. Again, the Scout Handbook and rank application is mailed out for signatures (or perhaps stays out there from the original mailing to the Scoutmaster) and then is mailed back. Then, after he’s secured his Eagle Scout rank, he can pursue legal actions against the “adults” in his new troop.

As an aside, this type of letter is most certainly a double-edged sword. I’m glad that you’re publishing this sort of information and providing such wonderful advice. But I’m saddened, sickened and angered beyond words that this sort of thing is actually taking place in Scouting. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep taking deep breaths. (T.J. Kackowski, CSRTC who “Used to be a Buffalo…”, Crossroads of America Council, IN)


That’s it, folks! Score 24 for the Good Guys – Zilch for the dunderheads.

Now I’ve long believed that advancement in Scouting is serendipitous… It happens almost unexpectedly while we’re having fun, challenging ourselves, and learning new and interesting stuff, all the while helping others and honoring our God and country. Today’s no exception, so, I’m asking these 24 writers to send me their postal addresses, because I want to send Ask Andy pins to all 24 of you. Thanks, gentlemen—You do Scouting and all youth a true service with your forthrightness and creative solution-finding. And yes, I’ll definitely let you and all our readers know what happens with this Scout!

Happy Scouting!

Andy (Eagle Class of ’57 who “used to be an Owl…”)

Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com.

(Please include your council name and home state)

(July, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)

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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.

Read Andy's full biography

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