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Issue 113 – September 16, 2007

Hey Andy,

It’s been forever since your last column! What’s the story? Are you OK? Have you given up on us? (John E. Walker, Black Hills Council, Scotchwood, SD)

Thanks for asking! This has been an immensely and intensively crowded, busy summer. I’m still feeling sorta like a puppy at a kids’ picnic! One daughter received her ordination; one son got married; a niece’s wedding getting planned, plus I took on another volunteer “job” as a Rotarian, too! Oh, yeah… My business also tended to get in the way of my volunteer stuff, like this column! And let’s not forget that “Honey-Do” list! But here we are, right back in action again, with a whole bunch of new stuff for you. Enjoy the read!

Dear Andy,

My father, Eagle Scout Charles K. Millam, celebrated his 98th birthday on July 26th. Would this make him the oldest living Eagle? (Gary Milliam)

Hey, he just might be! What year did he earn his Eagle rank, and where? Also, have you written to NESA and sent them a photo? If not, please take a moment and do this. Meanwhile, does any reader know of any Eagle older than 98?

And speaking of Eagles, remember our “July 9th Scout”? Well here’s the latest…

Hi Andy,

Our son Scott is an Eagle Scout! His Board of Review went very well. We couldn’t have asked for nicer people to be involved! Thanks for all your help, and for the support of Scouters across America and beyond! (Nancy and Kurt Meyer)

Thanks for letting us ALL know! Congratulations and very best wishes, Scott, and to your parents as well for their support!

Hi Andy,

Where would be the correct location(s) for the Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit badges? I’ve heard different answers. (Huu Tran)

Those two patches aren’t for wearing on the uniform. They can go on a patch blanket, a jacket, or in a memorabilia box or album, but they don’t get sewn on the uniform. Oh, yeah…That’s a BSA policy BTW; it’s not MHO!

Hi, Andy–

Is there an official rule regarding how many Cub Scouts there have to be to form a pack? We have some new boys that came to our pack’s Cub Scout Round-Up because their own school currently has about 30 boys—apparently not enough to form their own pack. Is there a BSA bylaw that states at what level of membership a pack can be formed? (Terry, Austin, TX)

Five is the minimum number of registered youth and three the minimum registered adults needed to form a new Scouting unit.

Hello Andy,

Our troop’s chartered organization (sponsor) is a church, and our Committee Chair is on its board of trustees. Here is my question: Does the BSA give a Committee Chair the right to make it a requirement for the Scouts in our troop to attend the sponsoring church’s services on Sunday, if they’ve spent the night on the church’s property? Can you provide a reference of the BSA policy that supports your answer? Also, what are the policies relating to a Scout unit and its chartered organization? Is there a BSA publication that outlines these policies? (Name & Council Withheld)

The publication you need to read right away is titled, THE CHARTERED ORGANIZATION REPRESENTATIVE (BSA No. 33118D). Meanwhile, I see three considerations here…

First, it’s within the province of your sponsor, a church, to further its own mission by requesting that Scouts camping on its property attend its services, and this is consistent with the BSA’s stated position with regard to the relationship between chartered organizations such as this church and the Scouting units they own. (Yes, OWN—Make no mistake about that point.)

Second, as a common courtesy and a way of saying “thanks” to your chartered organization for providing a place for the troop to not only meet but to stay overnight, attending their service on Sunday morning regardless of the individual faiths of the Scouts in the troop is certainly appropriate, to my own way of thinking. In fact, I’m on the verge of wondering why this would even be an issue! This is, after all, what Scouts do!

Finally, if attending your own chartered organization’s service when the troop stays overnight (for free, I’m assuming) on the property is truly so odious, then go camp somewhere else. And when you do camp somewhere else, you will be sure to include a Scout’s Own service Sunday morning, yes?

Dear Andy,

I’ve just come across your column and find it extremely useful. I have a rather tame problem in comparison to others I’ve been reading about, but one that, to me, is important.

My son’s troop has a number of members whose families are clearly in the lower income bracket. Our own family is one of these. Because of this, our troop makes an effort to see that every new Scout is given a handbook and is able to obtain an official Boy Scout shirt. And although our leader always appears in full uniform (granted I’ve never paid close attention to his socks!), the shirt is considered the required uniform for our troop. With this prelude, I have two questions:

First, if the policy of BSA is that Scouts must wear the full official uniform then does this mean that those families who cannot afford them should drop out of Scouting?

And, if adult leaders are required to be in full uniform does this mean that adults from those families shouldn’t be involved as leaders?

I was lucky enough to find shirts for myself and my son on eBay for about $5 apiece or we wouldn’t have been able to afford them. I would hate to have my son deprived of the opportunity to continue in Scouts or for me to serve in a leadership position because people, in this truly wealthy society, can’t consider the possibility that there are people so poor that the choice between a BSA uniform or two and food on the table is really no choice and that pride makes charity not an option.

Since I do have some pride, if you use this letter I would hope you would not include my name.

No name, as promised, and the answers to your two questions are: Absolutely not and absolutely not!

I was an “inner city” Scout. Of course, I didn’t know this, because that term hadn’t been coined yet. Our whole troop was a bunch of inner city guys. So what! I got myself a paper route, sold greeting cards after school, and took that money to buy my own uniform, head-to-toes. My mother taught me how to sew, and I sewed on all my own patches and badges, as I earned them. My backpack, such as it was, was a canvas-and-steel monster that came from an Army-Navy store. My GI-issue canteen and mess kit were both hand-me-downs from an older cousin. My “hiking boots” were lineman’s shoes. Heavy and clunky, but they were waterproof and protected my ankles. My “sleeping bag” was three former veterans hospital blankets safety-pinned together, and my ground cloth was a used shower curtain. My pride and joy was my Scout knife, which was a gift from my grandparents on my 11th birthday and which I still have. Was I “deprived”? Who’s to say? It sure never occurred to me that I was!

I’m probably not telling you something you don’t already know, but there’s a world of difference between “broke” and “poor”. Broke is a temporary financial condition; poor is a state of mind. The first can be surmounted with a little ingenuity and gumption; the other can hold us back our entire lives. I leave it to you to decide whether you’re broke or poor.

(You’ve already figured out how to get some uniform shirts… Now you and your son can put your heads together and figure out how you’re gonna get the pants and belt! When you do, please write again— I love success stories!)

Greetings Andy,

I recently got into a conversation with some other Merit Badge Counselors about who can sign off the “blue cards.” Almost everyone said it’s either the Merit Badge Counselor or the Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster? I’m not sure I agree with this. If the Scoutmaster can sign off the requirements, why do we need Counselors? Is there anything that says a Scoutmaster can’t sign off on merit badges or their requirements? (Ken Ashworth, MBC & Troop Advancement Chair, Longmont, CO)

Scoutmasters are absolutely NOT permitted to sign off merit badge applications just because they’re Scoutmasters. Not even for Camping, Cooking, Hiking, etc. Not for ANY merit badge unless they’re a registered MBC for that specific merit badge. This is BSA policy, not me just flappin’ my gums.

In fact, if an adult volunteer in any position other than MBC signs a merit badge application as completed, the Scout is being put in jeopardy, because a situation of invalidity has just been created and the merit badge may actually be taken away from the Scout (even if he completed the requirements without knowing he was working with a fraud).

Bottom line: If somebody throws malarkey like that or anything else at you, tell ’em to show you in writing a BSA policy supporting their claim.

Dear Andy,

In the Boy Scouts, I know you have to be a registered leader with youth protection training to camp with the boys. Do you also have to be registered and have youth protection training if you’re just helping drive to an event? (Tod Dicks)


Dear Andy,

I just read your comments about Eagle projects not requiring two-deep adult leadership. I’m surprised that you dont consider a Eagle project to be a “Scout” event. I know it’s the Scout’s project, but it involves and represents Scouting and his troop. I sit on the project review board for our district and we always tell them to use “Two-Deep” and to plan on “Three-Deep” (that’s in case one needs to leave—you’ll still have two). From what you’re saying—that Two-Deep doesn’t apply—then nether will any of the guides to safe to scouting. This will allow Scouts to use power tools without safety equipment being applied. This would also throw out the window Safe Swim Defense rules. From what you stated, I feel that this will put a lot of people at risk. I know it’s the Scout’s project, but they need guidelines to follow. I think this needs to be either explained more, or reviewed more. (David Bowery, Indian Nation Council, OK)

Notice how the total title to the GTSS (or G2SS if you prefer) is GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING FOR UNIT ACTIVITIES ? An Eagle project, just like a patrol hike, isn’t a “unit activity.” What you’re prescribing is what some folks might call overkill. I believe your motivations are sincere and in the best interests of Scouting and youth, but there comes a moment when we need to decide to not cocoon our children. The BSA recognizes this; we at ground level need to, also.

Hello Andy,

Although our Scout troop and our Venturing crew have separate charters, all of the male Venturers are dual-registered in the troop. For the past three years, we’ve had a Venturing Advisor who has done less and less with the boys under his command. Last year, we heard nothing but bad news from other people who attended district-organized Venturing outings. Generally, the complaints focused on his laissez-faire attitude, lack of preparation, lack of purpose, boy-girl intimacies, mooching of food from other units, etc. This year, there isn’t even one outing planned or one calendared trip. The advisor is very aggressive, and rebuffs everyone who approaches him. He’s taken various trainings, but he thinks he knows better. The boys meet at the same time we meet, in the same school at the opposite end of the gym the troop meets in. The Venturers don’t wear uniforms. They bring cell phones, GameBoys, and other video games (they even brought a TV to watch a ball game one night). They are loud, they are disruptive during troop Courts of Honor; they lack discipline and interfere with the Scouts’ activities. During our prayer time, the Venturers show no respect and have even insisted on continuing their skateboarding throughout the prayer. Several of us have tried repeatedly to get them involved in the troop’s activities as instructors, but they claim they’re being “taken advantage of” and they don’t want any jobs to do. The troop committee has no way to get rid of the advisor, as, technically, the advisor is chosen by the Venturing crew members. Do you have any suggestions? The situation is a cause of a great deal of anxiety for a great many people, and our council staff hasn’t offered any advice that’s helped. (John, Orange County Council, BSA)

The council staff can’t help you, but you all can help yourselves. You’ve described your sorta “Siamese twins” relationship with that Venturing crew, but you haven’t told me whether you share the same chartered organization or not, although I’m guessing you do. Also, you say that “the advisor is chosen by the venturing crew members.” Do your really mean Advisor, like the registered adult volunteer who serves in that capacity? Or are you perhaps referring to the youth who is the elected president of the crew? I’m guessing you mean the adult volunteer, so we’ll proceed on that basis.

One reeeeally baaaad idea I can see already is the notion of concurrent meetings… If these young men are registered in the troop, then they should be attending troop meetings, in uniform, and acting like Scouts. If they also want to be Venturers, then that’s another meeting, at another time. That way, you instantly eliminate the “fish-fowl” mess that you have right now. The other thing you can do, of course, is to talk with the head of your chartered organization, who I imagine won’t be too pleased to learn how they program being sponsored is not being delivered. That person, along with the crew’s committee, can replace the wayward advisor at will, and get someone who can and will do the job the right way. Time to take action here. Bellyaching accomplishes nothing.

Hello Andy,

I’ve just switched Cub packs, from South Whitley to Columbia City, IN. The pack that I’ve moved to had a very rough year last year, so I’ve heard. The old Cubmaster pretty much walked out, and we had someone to step up this year; however, we have no money in our account for awards or anything. Yes, the popcorn sales will be starting soon. But, my question is, as a leader, can I ask businesses for cash donations for just our pack? Please, Help! Thank you! (Anthony Wayne Area Council, IN)

How about simply reaching out to the pack’s parents, telling ’em the situation, and asking them to all kick in say 20 or 25 bucks? No need for groveling here… Just present reality and show by your smile that you’re expect success!

NetCommish Comment: When I was a Cubmaster and had a similar situation, I held a parent’s meeting early in the Scouting year. We explained that we would need about $xxx for awards and that we needed to assess a fair share of that as part of the Pack’s dues so that every Scout could have awards or that we needed a fundraiser to cover the costs. Sometimes people will be willing to cough up the extra money and sometimes it works better to have a fundraising activity like a car wash or pancake breakfast.

Hi Andy,

Do you consider marching in a parade(like July 4th or Veterans Day)to count toward a Boy Scout’s community servicetime? There are different viewpoints on this in our troop and I need an unbiased viewpoint on the issue. Thanks. (TJ White, MC, Boston Minuteman Council, MA)

OK, this is an absolutely personal opinion, from a Scouter who, as a Boy Scout marched in at least three parades a year (Memorial Day, Flag Day, and—we called it then—Armistice Day), and as a Scoutmaster, took my troop to a US Navy base so they could see first-hand what it looks like to march sharply, and then we went and did it! In my troop as a Boy Scout, we even had our own cadence count, and we all knew it and shouted it our when our Senior Patrol Leader called for it!

So, for me and many other current and former Scouts, marching in parades is fun, it’s invigorating, it’s validating, and it’s something every boy should get to do at least once in his life!

Chalk it up to “community service”? Why? Doesn’t your troop and Scouts do enough stuff throughout the year? Do you really need to use this time to make up for some real sweat equity in your community that your Scouts aren’t giving? Or, are you dangling “service hours” like a carrot, hoping this’ll get the boys to “bite”? Ouch!

Marching in parades is a normal part of being a Scout. It’s not exceptional. Service projects and service hours are supposed to be at least a little bit “above and beyond.” On this basis alone, I think another way to “sell” the idea of showing up in full uniform needs to be found, don’t you?

Dear Andy,

I understand that the Boy Scouts are authorized to retire (burn) American Flags. One of our “old” leaders has been performing an ad hoc ceremony. Is there an official ceremony or procedure for disposing of old flags? (Mike Sullivan, SM, Wichita, KS)

It’ll probably surprise you to learn that anyone is “authorized” to retire an American Flag. This is according to the Official US Flag Code (meaning: It’s not my “opinion”). Moreover, the only statement about retiring a flag that’s no longer in serviceable condition is that it be “in a dignified manner.” That means that burning, per se, isn’t mandatory (even though it’s a pretty sensible and efficient way to do it). Finally, except for it being “dignified,” there’s no official ceremony of any sort! Wow! Who knew!

Dear Andy,

Why don’t they reward adult leaders with a version of the Eagle Scout award? I’ve noticed that some of the most dedicated leaders do not have or were not able to achieve their Eagles as young men; however, they’ve dedicated themselves to helping their troops with this goal. (Jim E. Booher)

First, Eagle isn’t an “award;” it’s a rank. Second, there are any number of both earnable and awardable recognitions for adult Scouters. Go to for a run-down on these.

Dear Andy,

Your comments that there’s “no double-dipping” in Scouts create a dilemma for me. The BSA’s language is implicit instead of explicit and on the double-dipping issue it’s silent. I don’t have the advancement committee policies and have been hopeful that they were a little more explicit. But I suspect not. I suspect that the BSA leaves it to a MBC’s judgment. But everybody has different views on subjects like this.

Your answers to the specific questions required judgment and reflection. The problem is that my judgment is not the same as yours or in the case of a father who wants his son’s prior work counted. Some would say that First Aid is repeated in all sporting/outdoors merit badges to reinforce the skill (I know if I collapse on the trail I’d like the guys to really know CPR and First Aid). Others would say “been there done that let’s check it off and go on.” What is to say that the two “attend a meeting” requirements for Cit-Community and Communication weren’t there for the same reason.

Our society has gotten to be a real entitlement society which says make it easy, check ’em off, give them the Eagle because I deserve it not because I worked hard and earned it. So sad but so true. (Name Withheld)

OK, let’s resolve your dilemma on double-dipping…

– Please find, in BSA literature, a statement that “double-dipping” is permissible and in keeping with Scouting’s goals and methods. Until then, stop it.

– Please demonstrate how the Cittizenship-Community req. 3(a)(b) and the Communications req. 5 are precise matches. Until then, treat them as separate and distinct.

– Please find, in MBC training materials and literature, a statement that sets BSA expectations for a Counselor to be robotic and not apply judgment.

– Show a BSA statement to the effect that a non-trained adult’s (parent’s) opinion supersedes or is even equal to that of a BSA-trained adult who is a registered volunteer.

– Show me where I’ve ever said that a rank or merit badge should be given to a boy who “deserves” it by way of entitlement and not because he’s done the work. You have more than 100 columns available to you for this.

Once you’ve assembled these five pieces of corroboration, send them to me and I’ll print them in my column and personally recant on every point.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Scholarship Merit Badge Counselor and our troop has many home-schooled Scouts. Although req. 3 has wording on what to do if the Scout is home-schooled…

“Get a note from the principal* of your school (or another school official named by the principal) that states that during the past year your behavior, leadership, and service have been satisfactory. *If you are home-schooled or your school environment does not include a principal, you may obtain a note from a counterpart such as your parent.”

…Req. 4 has no such wording:

“Do ONE of the following: a. Show that you have taken part in an extracurricular school activity, and discuss with your counselor the benefits of participation and what you learned about the importance of teamwork. b. Discuss your participation in a school project during the past semester where you were a part of a team. Tell about the positive contributions you made to the team and the project.”

Since the Scouts are home-schooled, they don’t participate in extracurricular schools activities or in school projects as part of a team. However, some do participate in a community drama club, and others participate in our local parks and recreation sports program. I feel that either of these would fulfill the intention of this requirement, but I haven’t found anything that states this. Can you provide any help on this? (Jon, National Capitol Area Council)

I think you’re right on the money! Nice judgment call!

Dear Andy,

Our troop is in dire need of an additional trailer for hauling to campouts and other events. Is it against any BSA policy for a troop to paint a business’s insignia on its trailer, if that business donates (either partially or fully) the funds necessary to buy the trailer? (Joy Henderson, MC, Troop 9168, Longhorn Council, TX)

OK, let’s you n’ me think this through… Tom, Dick, and Harry, all business owners, donate equally to your troop’s new trailer. Tom wants “Tom’s Children’s Books” painted on the side. You say OK, no big deal. Dick owns a different sort of business, and wants “Dick’s Liquor & Tobacco” on the side of the trailer. Hmmm, now what? Well, maybe it’s not too bad, because, after all, Dick’s been a local business for a half-century and everybody knows him anyway. Of course now your third donor, Harry, wants his business’s name on your trailer, too. It’s “Harry’s Adult Books and XXX Videos.” Now what? You’ve already said yes to the others, so how can you refuse? You’re not a bunch of goody two-shoes, are you? OUCH! Hoisted on our own petard!

Now I’ve set up this situation to exaggerate, of course, but the point remains: When you put a commercial business’s name and/or advertising on Boy Scout stuff, you suggest endorsement by the Boy Scouts in general and your troop in particular, and maybe this isn’t such a great idea in the long run, because you can wind up in a compromising situation. This is called “The Law of Unintended Consequences” and it never gets better or goes away all by itself.

Better to either ask your sponsor to chip in or do a troop-wide fund-raiser, or a combination of both. That way, you can paint TROOP 9168 BSA or whatever else you like on the side of the trailer with impunity!


Happy trails –


Got a question? Send it to me

(Please include your council name or your town and state)

(September 16, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)



About AskAndy

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

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

Read Andy's full biography

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