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Issue 114 – October 6, 2007

First, some thoughts…

Over the past six years of writing this column, including the more than one hundred columns containing many thousands of questions, one thing has become painfully apparent: A unit’s woes are almost always caused by usually well-meaning but unfortunately misguided adults who, without proper training (some without even fundamental insights into what the Scouting program is all about and how it’s supposed to be presented), and often without so much as even having read the Boy Scout Handbook, believe that their own self-acknowledged wisdom will do a better job for the youth in the unit than the processes that have been in place, successfully, for over 97 years.

It’s critically important to always keep at the forefront of our thinking that our responsibility, as volunteers, is—as one Scouter who wrote to me recently put it—to present the Scouting program; not “invent” it. This PRESENT—DON’T INVENT principle is absolutely sound. When we stick to it, we almost never go wrong!

Hello Andy,

We have two boys in Scouting. One is a 1st year Webelos and the other’s a Tiger Cub. We’re looking into having a Den Chief for our Tiger Cub den, but our committee chair is telling us we can’t have one. We, the den’s leaders, think this would be great not only for the den but also for the Den Chief, to experience a leadership role and help us guide these Tigers along the way. There’s a Scout who’s very excited about doing this, but our committee chair says no dice. Is there some sort of rule on this? (Dee Smart, Ventura County Council, Camarillo, CA)

Has your committee chair given you some sort of reason why he or she is against the idea of a Den Chief for a Tiger Cub den? Or has he or she shown you in writing where the BSA stipulates in a policy statement that this can’t be done? I’m asking, because the idea is nothing more than a bunch of horsepucky. Let ’em show you where it says that. Since this can’t be done just go ahead and get yourself a Den Chief and tell that misguided CC to either come up with the policy in writing or go pound salt.

Dear Andy,

Well, it’s me again, trying to plan for the future. In early January between eight and ten Webelos Scouts will be coming into our small troop. Right now, we have six to eight active Scouts, most are in 7th grade, and our SPL is a high school freshman.

How do we run our meetings? By then we’ll have one Star Scout and three or four First Class Scouts. Do we stick with the program? The older Scouts need to help out the newer Scouts and also earn merit badges for their ranks. Do we have merit badge sessions for the older Scouts inside our troop meetings? Some troops I’ve seen do this. I want to do things right and the Scouting program way. Can we change the program? I’m not sure this would be a good idea.

Also, right now we have four Scouts in one patrol and four in the other, including our SPL and ASPL. Do we integrate these two “older Scout” patrols into one and create a new Scout patrol when the Webelos come on board? Or do we integrate the new Scouts into the two existing patrols?

When it comes to skills instruction in our troop meetings, do the older Scouts work on their merit badges, or do they help out the younger Scouts?

Thanks for all you do for Scouting and of course for me. (Carlo, SM, Troop 455)

Thanks for continuing to be a reader, and for writing again. You can NEVER wear out your welcome here! Especially with good questions like you’re asking! Let’s see how we can tackle these…

First off, stick to the TROOP MEETING PLAN just as it’s been written for you by the BSA—It’s simply worked successfully for too many years to throw out the window.

Yes, younger Scouts get taught by older Scouts, and older Scouts get taught by knowledgeable adults (whom you can recruit and bring in from time to time, or tap into your troop dads for some expertise and hands-on instructing).

The SPL and the ASPL are not members of a patrol. This means that your one patrol is OK with four members, but the other one needs to go out and recruit two non-Scout friends or classmates or neighbors to join up. This can be used to fulfill the new First Class requirement! And give the successful Scouts the “Recruiter” badge, too! It’s for uniform wear below their right pocket.

When you get your new Webelos, ask them to divide themselves into two patrols of four to five members each—they decide, not you—and then they can give themselves names, and so on. Recruit their parents for the troop committee and at least one to be your Assistant Scoutmaster.

Meanwhile, go on a “Webelos hunt” starting right now and see if you can capture some more!

No, Scouts don’t work on merit badges in troop meetings. But this doesn’t mean you can’t invite selected Merit Badge Counselors to come to a troop meeting and put on a presentation or demonstration for their respective badges! 15 minutes—that’s it! Then, if any Scouts want to learn more, they can get a “blue card” from you and then contact the MBC who visited.

Earning merit badges is based on individual interest and initiative. Your job is to encourage Scouts to do this, but it’s not to “spoon-feed” them. This isn’t what we want to teach in Scouting. This is what they get at home and in school, and we don’t want to do this or we’re no different from the rest of their over-controlled lives!

Have you made the time to take Scoutmaster training yet? Are you reading the Scoutmaster Handbook? These are things you need to do, especially the reading part… This is where we learn!

For troop meeting program content, get yourself a copy of a great set of three books by the BSA: Troop Program Features. BUT, your Patrol Leaders Council (the PLs, led by the SPL) decide what the troop wants to do; not you, the troop committee, or the parents! Again, this is what makes Scouting Scouting!

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster has recently instituted a “prescribed uniform” for certain times of the year, such as “only shorts and knee socks during daylight savings time” and then “only long pants and black dress shoes for the ‘standard time’ remainder of the year.” It’s my understanding that as long as a Scout is wearing a BSA uniform, nothing else is required beyond that. Plus, black dress shoes are not stipulated anywhere as compulsory parts of the Scout uniform. Is this appropriate? Can a Scoutmaster (or anyone else, for that matter) actually make these sorts of rules on uniforming? (Name and Council Withheld)

The BSA specifies the Scout uniform; not a Scoutmaster or a troop, district, council, or patrol. I believe your Scoutmaster is well-meaning, and his idea of long pants for the colder part of the year and shorts for the warmer certainly makes good sense. (In my own troop, back in Southern California, our uniform was short-sleeved shirts, neckerchiefs, shorts, and knee socks for all twelve months—Scouts and all uniformed adults, including women!)

In the pre-21st Century Wood Badge training course, it was taught that, since the patrol (not the troop) is the fundamental Boy Scout unit, so long as every patrol member is uniformed identically, everything’s OK. However, in the Boy Scout Handbook and the BSA Insignia Guide, latitude is given troops (not patrols) in the wearing of a neckerchief or not and, if worn, how. So, the fundamental idea of an entire troop being uniformed identically sure seems like it’s a good idea!

That said, I do happen to personally think your Scoutmaster is pushing the envelope just a bit too much when he stipulates footwear as well. In the first place, the “classic” or “traditional” footwear for Scouts is brown shoes; not black. In the second, making this a demand could cause the whole uniforming concept to backfire, and that would be unfortunate.

Bottom line #1: If everything else this Scoutmaster is doing is right on the money, then I’m not sure I’d choose this subject to be a battle-ground. Bottom line #2: This subject should at most be a quiet conversation on the sidelines and not a major, public battle.

Dear Andy,

Our Cub pack recently underwent a huge leadership turnover and had to recruit a bunch of new leaders. One of these became our Assistant Cubmaster. As Cubmaster, I’ve been without an ACM for the better part of the last year, and was very excited to have him come aboard. Recent events have led me, however, to rethink that excitement. It seems that he’s taking over the pack by assuming responsibilities that I feel are mine. He’s now implying that I’m “a dictator” when I request that I be informed of decisions being discussed or offered before they go out to the pack. In two recent incidents, he’s put out a pack-wide email blast without my knowledge or input. When I informed him that he needed to talk with me first, he became very belligerent, stating that “dictators have no place in Scouting.” Then, he independently called a “leaders’ planning meeting” and began discussing issues that should have been brought before the pack committee, including the notion of changing all future pack meetings to a different night! When I told him that ideas like these need to be presented to the pack committee for discussion and then a vote, he informed me that since the majority of the committee was at the meeting he’d called, they’d made the decision and so it didn’t need to be rehashed.

As a consequence of things like this, I’ve been researching who has voting rights within a unit’s committee. I was under the impression that, as a minimum, committee members need to be registered with the BSA as such. Several of the attendees at that meeting have filled out applications, but these haven’t been signed by our Chartered Organization Representative and turned into the council. Others are transfers in from other councils, and again the transfers haven’t been put through. In checking our pack’s bylaws, I find that they don’t specify who votes and who doesn’t. (I’d thought that all registered leaders had voting rights, but my husband says no.) And it also says that we need a quorum for voting, which for us right now would be six, but at this meeting called by the ACM, only five were there.

What do I do? I’m very concerned that his “bull in a china shop” attitude will be detrimental to the pack. Or am I just being a “dictator”? (Tina Thorn, CM, Pikes Peak Council, UT)

I have no idea whether you’re a dictator or not, but I doubt that you are. Why? Because your new ACM is a loose cannon, apparently, and one of the things loose cannons almost always do when confronted with their waywardness is to attack the person pointing this out to them and accusing that person of exactly what they’ve been doing! A therapist will tell you this is known as “projecting”—They project their own desires, feelings, and motivations onto you (and they often don’t know they’re doing it!). The other reason I believe you’re not a “dictator” is that dictators don’t usually write to me—They’re too busy keeping their fiefdoms from revolting.

You have several problems here. The first is a wayward ACM who refuses to understand that he’s your assistant and does nothing without your say-so, period. End of story. Not open for discussion. If he doesn’t like or want to operate this way, he needs to find himself another position with the pack, or just flat-out resign. You have every right to go to your COR and Committee Chair and tell them straight-away that unless this guy smartens up on the spot, he’s gotta go. You don’t have to “wait and see” or any of that malarkey. This needs fixing immediately.

The next problem you all have is that only registered unit committee members “vote” (if voting is even necessary!). Cubmasters, ACMs, and Den Leaders are NOT committee members and don’t vote. Moreover, ACMs and DLs don’t attend committee meetings. They attend pack leader meetings, and you—the Cubmaster—chair these meetings. Then, you and you alone attend the committee meeting to report on the progress of the dens in the pack. This is in your basic training, and so this ought to be a no-brainer to get straight.

Third, all adult volunteer positions must be approved by the COR (or the actual head of the CO) and/or the Committee Chair. BUT, they can’t “give” you an assistant without consulting with you and without your agreeing to take on this person. If you don’t want him or her, then they need to find another position.

Scouting doesn’t have to be “militaristic” to have a chain of command. All organizations have chains of command of some sort, or nothing gets accomplished! Den have ’em. So do Boy Scout patrols. Troops have ’em, and so does your pack. You, as CM, report to the committee and its chair; the DLs and the ACM report to you. That’s it.

If your CC and COR don’t support you, then unless that’s because they simply have no spines there’s probably some “hidden agenda.” In either case, if that’s the case, your life’s going to get more miserable as each day passes. Not good. Our volunteer work is supposed to be FUN. When it stops being fun, we don’t shovel water upstream; we go find another stream. It’s not “quitting” and it’s not “a problem in Scouting.” It’s doing what works for you, because it’s human nature that’s gotten in the way. (Pogo Possum said it best: “We have met the enemy, and he’s us.”)

Hi Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the OA, and the Adviser for Wahpekute Lodge. I find a lot of information on famous Eagle Scouts, but almost nothing about famous Order of the Arrow members. Can you help? (Steve Knuth, Twin Valley Council, MN)

I know exactly who they are but I won’t tell you, because you didn’t give me the password and the OA is a secret society based on popularity contests that has just one purpose and that’s to steal Scouts from troops!

No! I’m kidding! ;-))

In all honesty, Steve, despite having been a member of four lodges in my Scouting “career,” I really don’t have the answer to this one. But I’m going to post it in an upcoming column and let’s see if we get any answers! It’s a darned good question!

So, readers, here’s your question: Is there anywhere a list of famous people who were elected to the Order of the Arrow? If you know of such a list, let’s share it!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a UC for just over a year now and I’m great proof that “the young guys” can make great Commissioners, too! Being only 24, it can get intimidating, but having a great DC and ADC helps. is one of the best resources given to us in Commissioner Basic. Being involved from Tigers through Boy Scouts (yes I’m an Eagle Scout, and been camp staffer for eight years), a Venturer, and an Explorer, I’ve been able to bring a point of view in that in many cases has helped. Anyhow, on to the point of my writing to you…

In your June 8th column, Robin Broadfoot, of Tübingen, Germany wrote: “I’m an Eagle Scout from the 1960s…My mother’s home was broken into…one of the things stolen was my Eagle badge… Is it possible to replace the stolen badge?”

As a council employee responsible for all Eagle “paperwork,” my recommendation for Robin is to start by contacting the council where he received his Eagle rank, since the BSA national office is very often backlogged on requests along these lines.

He’ll need to have this information: Eagle board of review date, troop number, town. He might also want to visit and fill out the duplicate credentials order form. The cost is $8 for a card and certificate, and with either of those he can purchase a new Eagle medal from a local Scout Shop. (Zack Sinsheimer, Eagle Secretary, Mid-America Council, NE)

That’s two great ideas! Thanks!

Dear Andy,

I just attended my first Eagle Scout Court of Honor – It was great! Is there any comprehensive list of all the Scouts who have earned their Eagle award? (Jay Klika, Springfield, MO)

The complete list of the more than a million Eagle Scouts since 1912 is maintained by the Boy Scouts of America, in the Irving, Texas national office. I don’t believe it’s ever been published in its entirety (size has a lot to do with this!). If you’d like to learn more about Eagle Scouts, try these two places:

// and

Dear Andy,

I’d appreciate clarification regarding the merit badge process. Using the Camping merit badge requirements as an example, does it matter when the 20 Scout overnight camping begins?

My son is completing his Star rank requirements. He has been in Scouting since Tiger Cubs. He hasn’t obtained a “blue card” for this merit badge from his Scoutmaster yet; however, he’s met the requirement for the 20 Scout-related overnight camping over the past two years. Do overnight campouts count only after the blue card is signed? (Janet DiGuiseppi, Rockford, IL)

The best bet here is for your son to ask his Scoutmaster for a “blue card” (application) and the name of a Camping merit badge counselor, and then go visit with that counselor and talk it over.

Dear Andy,

Is there an official rule that prohibits Cub Scouts from camping more than one night straight. In other words, can they camp out for two nights straight? (Rhonda Hitt, Greater Alabama Council)

The Guide to Safe Scouting will give you all the information and policies you need on this and related subjects. Briefly, so long as all related Cub Scout camping policies are adhered to, there’s nothing that prohibits two nights of camping. This, as you know, is family-type camping; not Boy Scout backpacking style.

Dear Andy,

I have a concern about the age of Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. I looked in the training material that my husband has and can’t find where that it states how old an Assistant Scoutmaster must be. Do you know of any age guidelines by the BSA national council, or is it decided by individual local councils? I’m concerned about an 18 year old being responsible for boys as young as 11. (Joann Hubbard, MC, Catalina Council, AZ)

The BSA considers a person whose age is 18 to be eligible for the position of Assistant Scoutmaster. This information can be found on the BSA Adult Volunteer Application. The Guide to Safe Scouting, will give you all the information and policies you need about who can be responsible for Boy Scouts, under varying circumstances.

Dear Andy,

For Junior Assistant Scoutmasters, is there an age requirement? Our troop has an active 20 year old who’s an Eagle. Should he become a JASM, or an Assistant Scoutmaster? (Susan Booth, Colonial Virginia Council)

JASM is a Boy Scout leadership position. The BSA considers a person older than 18 to be an adult and eligible for certain adult volunteer positions, one of which is Assistant Scoutmaster.

Hello Andy,

Greetings from Surrey, England! My son received an attendance pin. We don’t know where to put it on his Cub Scout uniform. Can you help? (Tess Westmoreland, Transatlantic Council)

Pin it right above the left pocket flap, to the shirt’s right side of the flap – in a line with where service stars go.

Hello Andy,

I have question about completing an Eagle rank application. A former Scout of mine (he transferred to a different Troop in our community) is working on his Eagle project and getting ready for his Board of Review. His Scoutmaster has contacted me and asked me to write a recommendation letter for this Scout. While I’d be very happy to do so—he’s a great kid—I’m concerned that his Scoutmaster did the asking. As I see it, the Scout himself should have approached me for this. My feeling is supported by the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (which I bought because of you by the way!), which specifically states that the Eagle candidate should have contacted individuals before including their names as references.

So, how do you see this? On one hand, I expect that a 17 year old Eagle candidate can and should do this himself, but on the other hand I don’t want to be seen as refusing to provide a reference and therefore standing in the way of this Scout’s progress. What do I do? (Coleman Cain, Scoutmaster, Troop 46, Transatlantic Council “Freedom Outpost-BSA,” Berlin, Germany)

If all troops conformed precisely to BSA policies and procedures, the larger world of Scouting would be a lot simpler, and a lot easier to cope with. But they don’t. In this Scout’s new troop, they just might have a slightly different way of doing things. This may not be precisely according to Hoyle, but it’s not a “lethal” deviation. So, relax, and go ahead and write your recommendation.

Hi Andy,

Seems that troops in our area have set a requirement that Scouts be at least First Class before they’re allowed to work on Eagle-required merit badges. What’s the BSA’s policy on this? And, what if this stipulation is written into the troop’s policies? (Name Withheld)

On page 22 of the current (2007 edition) BSA book, Boy Scout Requirements, there is this clear and unassailable statement: “Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time. You don’t need to have had rank advancement to be eligible.” Further, the BSA strictly prohibits any individual, unit, district, or council from overriding national advancement policies and/or requirements. So, if a Tenderfoot Scout wants to earn, let’s say, Personal Management merit badge, his troop cannot roadblock him on the basis of rank or anything else. And if this troop is handing out the old baloney of “Well, in this troop…” that’s just what it is: Baloney.

And our Scouter writes again…

WOW, where have you been my Scouting career? I’ve been reading your columns and the more I read the more questions I have…

1) You’ve said, “Once a merit badge application (blue card) or other document generally accepted by the local council has been signed by a duly authorized Merit Badge Counselor (registered with any council or a member of any BSA summer camp staff) it’s a done deal. The merit badge is earned and considered completed on the date the Merit Badge Counselor has given final sign-off. There is never a board of review and certainly not any sort of inquisition or re-testing by anyone, because it’s earned. No one supersedes the Merit Badge Counselor. All of what I’ve just stated is BSA policy…found in Advancement Policies and Procedures.” In our troop, following summer camp, we conduct Scoutmasters Conferences for all merit badges earned, and the first question asked of the Scout(s) is: “Did you read the book?” (If the answer is no the merit badge is withheld until the answer changes to yes.) We then ask other questions like, “Did you like the merit badge?” “Would you recommend the badge to others?” “What would you change?” “Was the counselor any good?” and so on… My question: Is this OK to do?

2) Our Scoutmaster smokes in front of the Scouts, and now other adults are starting to do the same. We’ve spoken to him about this. We think he’s a good leader, but we don’t like the example he is setting. His response to our requests that he not do this is, “It’s a bad habit and the boys need to know not to start… Look how hard it is for me to stop!” What do we do? We don’t want to ask him to step down—I think it would kill the troop. Yet, I know for a fact that when he goes to Philmont (he’s been there at least six times) he doesn’t smoke the whole time there. (Name Withheld)

1) What I stated is per BSA policy, and cannot be overridden. The Scoutmaster’s inquisition that you describe is absolutely wrong in both concept and intent. Whether or not the Scout read the merit badge pamphlet or the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is completely irrelevant. NO ONE has the authority or the justification to withhold from a Scout what he has duly earned, and this tin god of a Scoutmaster needs to have a brain transplant.

2) The Guide to Safe Scouting—a book of BSA policies—states: “All Scouting functions, meetings, and activities should be conducted in a smoke-free basis, with smoking areas located away from all participants.” Many BSA camps, including Philmont as well as local council camps, prohibit smoking anywhere on camp property; others set aside smoking areas that are not visible to youth and far enough away from paths and activity areas that the resultant smoke does not drift into the nostrils of the youth. This Scoutmaster and any others who have engaged in this need to be told in absolutely crystal-clear terms that their continuation of smoking in front of the youth members of the troop will result in their replacement forthwith.

In case your spine’s starting to tingle, keep this in mind: The fact that this Scoutmaster doesn’t smoke while at Philmont totally repudiates his lame rationale for doing so while with the Scouts of the troop he serves.

You all need to stop waffling and stop allowing yourselves to be buffaloed… When you simultaneously say “he’s a good leader” and “we don’t like the example he’s setting,” I get the feeling somebody’s tongue is hinged at both ends. 😉

Dear Andy,

We moved from California to Florida this summer. Last year, my son was a Tiger Cub and he’s currently a Wolf den member. The cut-off age for school grades in Florida is earlier than it was in California, so we’re thinking about holding our son back a year and having him attend first grade again. If we hold him back, he no longer meets the criteria to be a Wolf Cub Scout. I personally see no problem with having him continue as a Wolf, but see a potential problem when he gets older and moves on to Boy Scouts. Is there a BSA policy for these types of situations? (Buzz Graler, South Florida Council)

If your son is going to be repeating first grade, there’s hardly harm in his repeating his Tiger Cub experience, too, with you right at his side, especially since his den will be made up of his new classmates!

Hi Andy,

The other day I got a look at an old Scout uniform, apparently from 1927. We’re trying to identify the merit badges on the sleeve. Music, Swimming, and Home Repairs are the same as they are now; but there was one that looked like a hand and I thought it might sign language or something like that. A former Boy Scout who’s now in his 90’s was there, and he couldn’t identify it, either. It was a white design and I guess it could’ve been a head of cauliflower, but it looked a little more like a hand. American Labor has handshake, so I doubt it was that one. Any ideas or places to look? (Nigel Andrews, MC, Jersey Shore Council, NJ)

That “cauliflower” was a clenched right hand, or fist, for the Physical Development merit badge (precursor to Physical Fitness).

Dear Andy,

We’re having some disagreements within our troop committee about the Firem’n Chit. According to what I’ve read in the Boy Scout Requirements book, it’s an award, but not a rank. While it does state that it grants the holder certain rights to carry matches and light a campfire, there doesn’t seem to be any rank requirement that makes it officially “needed” for advancement. Almost none of our adult leaders—who were all Scouts as boys—could recall having earned it, nor were we ever taught that it’s actually needed. The Second Class requirements in the Boy Scout Handbook are the first mention of having to build a fire, and there’s no prerequisite for doing so. Some of our district leaders say that it’s a requirement, but others don’t. Do you have any idea on what the official word on this is? (Bob Sicklick, ASM, Norwood, MA)

Although you’ll find the Firem’n Chit (and Totin’ Chip, too) listed in the annual Boy Scout Requirements books, the category they’re under (along with Snorkeling BSA, Interpreter strips, 50-Miler Award, and so on) is “Special Opportunities” (begins on page 217 of the 2007 edition). However, neither the Chit nor the Chip is in any way a “prerequisite” for any Boy Scout rank or merit badge—They, like other opportunities in the section, are non-mandatory one-offs that may or may not be earned, depending on the interests of each individual Scout. Moreover, none of the opportunities in this section is a “rank” (e.g., Tenderfoot, First Class, Life, etc. are ranks). Consequently, it would be inappropriate to arbitrarily insist that the Chit or Chip or anything else in this section be somehow transformed into a “prerequisite.” That’s simply not their purpose.

Dear Andy,

I saw your January-February 2007 columns today, and the questions about Wood Badge game buzzers. During our last WB course we built home-made buzzers with donated materials and a lot of hard work from my next-door neighbor (a Scouter and electrical engineer). He designed a simple circuit in a Radio Shack project box and we had eight buzzers. If the gentleman who asked, or any of your other readers, want the circuit, I could get it for them. (Ernie Coco, Training Chair, Istrouma Area Council, Mandeville, LA)


Dear Andy,

I’m seeking information on how young a boy can be to join a Scouting organization. I have seen 1st Grade for Cub Scouts but want to know if there are any organizations that allow younger children. (Jay Taylor)

The Boy Scouts of America does not have a program available to boys younger than first-graders, but your local YMCA may! There is a YMCA program called Indian Guides, and it’s delightful! It’s a “Dad n’ Lad bonding experience” with a Native American theme and I heartily encourage you to check it out and, if it’s available in your area, join up!

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been invited to sit on Eagle Board of Reviews in my district. As you can imagine, I am really excited, but nervous. I’ve never done this before, just “regular” BORs with my troop. Any advice? (Barry Farnsworth, UC, Old Colony Council, MA)

No need to be nervous! You’ll find everything you’re looking for about Eagle Boards of Review at

Dear Andy,

I am looking for a PDF of the materials to be included in a Second Class-required first aid kit. Is there a PDF file of the Boy Scout handbook available? I need to make copies of the materials list for an upcoming Camporee, otherwise I’ll need to type up a sheet. (Dave Nobile, ASM, Troop 90, Fairfield, CT)

All of the items fundamental to a personal first aid kit are listed on page 289 of the Boy Scout Handbook. If the Scouts simply bring their handbooks along, no typed sheet is needed!

Dear Andy,

I’m relatively new to the position of pack advancement chair, and I have a question about the various cards that come with some of the awards. In the spaces for “Den Leader” and “Cubmaster” on the cards, am I to fill those in, or are they to be signed by the individual leaders? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. (John Cunningham, MC-Advancement Chair, Pack 44, Juniata Valley Council, Pine Grove Mills, PA)

Yup, those are places for the signatures of the respective leaders. Thanks for asking! And thanks for being a new Ask Andy reader!

Dear Andy,

Our troop committee has some things that need discussing and to be voted on, presented to us by the Scoutmaster. Are these matters discussed in front of the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster, or are they discussed and voted on privately. I ask this so as to not upset the balance and to not have any hard feelings between the Scoutmaster and Executive Committee as to who voted which way. We have a great Executive Committee Chair who thinks level-headed and has the Scouts’ best interests in mind. Our Scoutmaster is a great guy, but is easily offended by others’ opinions. How is this handled? (Chris Machak, MC, Troop 520, Southeast Wisconsin Council, Kenosha, WI)

The role of the Scoutmaster relates to the troop’s program, as decided on by the Patrol Leaders Council, which he is an adviser to. Upon the PLC’s having reached their decisions regarding troop meeting, outing, and summer camp program, the Scoutmaster brings the plan to the troop committee, so that the committee can provide the support needed for the program plan to be carried out as the Scouts have planned. Thus, the Scoutmaster attends whatever portion of the troop committee meeting pertains to program planning and execution; he does not have to stay for the entire meeting. Assistant Scoutmasters need not attend at all. This is the standard structure of troops across the US. That being the case, I can’t imagine what it is that you all think you need to discuss and ballot secretly. (You’ll need to enlighten me, if you want more than an overview of how things are supposed to be working.)

Dear Andy,

HELP! My son has completed his Eagle project, for which he had all the approval signatures to begin, including his Scoutmaster’s. But now that the project is finished, the Scoutmaster won’t sign it or the Eagle rank application because although the original plan and the final write-up included a listing of hours for the project (including names, dates, and tasks) on a spreadsheet, the Scoutmaster wants all hours prior to the approval signatures removed, on the basis that those hours aren’t legitimate because they’re prior to approval dates. My son explained that these were planning hours, that is, how can he get something approved without taking time to plan it. Then the Scoutmaster took issue with the rounding of all times to the nearest hour, instead of showing hours and minutes. Now, our feeling is that even if my son concedes these points (which I don’t think he should) and changes to the Scoutmaster’s wishes, there will be something else after that, and then something else, and so on. I’m finding this to be in direct opposition to the very core of what we’re supposed to be building in these young men: self-esteem and confidence. What do we do? (Karen Prawucki, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

Good news here: THERE’S NO “MINIMUM HOUR” REQUIREMENT OR STIPULATION FOR EAGLE PROJECTS AND NO ONE CAN ENFORCE ONE. So, suggest to your son that he (a) keep his original record tucked up his sleeve and (b) do the hour recalculations as the Scoutmaster has requested. Then, if the Scoutmaster makes any noises about lack of sufficient hours, remind him that the most important part of the project is that (1) it was pre-approved by four signatures and that (2) it was completed according to the approved plan. (Your son should, of course, make sure he has the signature of the beneficiary of his project, first.) This should take the wind out of that misguided Scoutmaster’s sails, at least until he comes up with something else. Then, deal with that, and whatever follows, one step at a time. If this begins to become tedious and it’s been made patently obvious that the Scoutmaster is arbitrarily throwing up roadblocks, write to me again and we’ll decide what to do next.

Dear Andy,

Are there any policies or guidelines on the responsibilities of a unit’s treasurer and secretary? (Sandra Poloma)

You bet! To learn what they are, sign up for unit committee-level training! There are also books on the subject available at your local Scout Shop or at

Dear Andy,

Is it true that sheath knives aren’t allowed at Scout events? I’m thinking specifically about hikes and campouts. (Gary Ohm, California)

The Guide to Safe Scouting doesn’t expressly prohibit sheath (i.e., fixed blade) knives; heck, the BSA used to sell ’em! But local councils are authorized to apply more stringent safety stipulations than the national policies—including those for edged tools—and yours may or my not have done so. So, I’d suggest you check with your home council’s risk management committee, to learn what your local policies are. If they’re silent on sheath knives, then both Scouts and adults should be able to both carry and use them… With prior Totin’ Chip training for both adults and youth, of course.

Hi Andy,

You have an interesting column. I do wish you’d specify your authorities on your statements, as I sometimes think you state policies that are incorrect. For instance, in your September 16th column you stated: “…Please find, in BSA literature, a statement that says ‘double-dipping’ is permissible and in keeping with Scouting’s goals and methods. Until then, stop it.” This one is pretty easy. Just look at the Venturing recognitions (e.g., the requirements for the Bronze award) where it explicitly states where double-dipping is allowed and where it is not. Even an example of double-dipping that is decidedly allowed would be the overlap in use of a camping night between camping merit badge nights camped, First Class outing requirements, and OA eligibility nights camped, which is really triple-dipping. Double-dipping is decidedly in keeping with Scouting’s goals and methods and I challenge you to cite in the literature where it is specifically disallowed in *all* circumstances. Certainly, there are places where double-dipping is inappropriate, but there is nothing wrong with it in other places and certainly not a problem for Scouting’s goals and methods.

Also, you stated the Firem’n Chit and Totin’ Chip could not ever be worn on the uniform. Are you sure? I thought you could wear them on the temporary badge location on the right pocket. Can you cite the authority to the contrary? The uniform guide certainly appears to support putting them on the right pocket (not on the flap, mind).

A question: Is it permissible, in a Scoutmaster Conference for Life Scout, to test the Scout’s ability to tie a taut-line hitch that he hasn’t seen in five years, and refuse to sign off on the Scout on that basis alone? (Donald S. Roberts, District Advancement Chair, Los Amigos District, Orange County Council, CA)

You’re absolutely right: I didn’t take Venturing into account. I’ll take twenty lashes with a wet lanyard!

So… That means that the BSA does, in fact, stipulate where competing a requirement for one advancement can be used for another. But doesn’t that equally mean that when the BSA is silent on doubling up, then doubling up isn’t the route to go? Or do we take the Venturing stipulations and expand them to include advancements in Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting, too? Somehow, I don’t think so.

Now of course the example of First Class camping requirements and Order of the Arrow eligibility aren’t in the category of “double-dipping” at all, because one is, as you noted, a requirement while the other is a stipulation for eligibility. The actual requirements to become a member of the OA include having your Scoutmaster’s approval and getting elected by your fellow Scouts…but you knew that, I’m sure.

As for your “challenge,” I don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon. So, moving on…

As for the Chip and Chit patches, of course I can “cite the authority” that says they’re not for uniform wear. But, here’s my challenge: Go find it for yourself. You won’t have to look far, because if you’re a registered Scouter it’s already been mailed to you.

On your question, first let’s see if I understand it: Life Scout whom the Scoutmaster hasn’t seen for five years is in the midst of a Scoutmaster Conference (which implies that all requirement for his next rank have been duly completed) and instead of reflecting on the Scout’s experiences in the troop, his life outside the troop, his ambitions for the next part of his life, the kinds of values he is carrying inside himself as a result of his experiences in Scouting, and so on, the Scoutmaster asks the young man to tie a knot, and when the Scout fails to do so correctly, he’s told the he won’t be recommended for his board of review. Did the Scoutmaster then show this young man how to do so correctly, and then schedule a second SMC? Or does the Scoutmaster consider himself the “ultimate roadblock to Eagle”? Let’s see now… Tying the taut-line hitch is something one learns before one is even a Tenderfoot. To ask for this in a SMC even at the level of Tenderfoot constitutes a re-test and is therefore inappropriate. To ask for this on the cusp of Eagle is silly and inappropriate. Besides, suppose the Scout had indeed tied that knot correctly… Would he have “passed,” or would that Scoutmaster just keep on throwing requirements at him until he finally found something the Scout couldn’t do on the spot? In other words, just how mean-spirited is this little tin god of a Scoutmaster?

Bottom line: That Scoutmaster, if he or she truly did this silliness, is totally wrong to the point where tar and feathers should make their appearance. And here’s the good news: An Eagle board of review can take place without the Scoutmaster’s signature on the rank application. (I’m not going to quote the source here, either, because as DAC you already know it, just as you already knew the answer to your question.)

Hi Andy,

About the Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit patches (you talked about these in your last column), I don’t recall seeing a BSA policy that they can’t be worn on the uniform (although I agree it would be better your way). If one insists, these patches could be worn on (not above, and definitely not on the flap) the right pocket, as with any other temporary patch. (Dean Whinery, UC, Direct Service-México)

The 2007 BSA National Supply Division annual catalog has a footnote on the page displaying these two patches, declaring both the Chip and Chit “not for uniform wear.”

Dear Andy,

I’ve recently been appointed Council Commissioner, but I’ve had little experience in Commissioner service, having most of my council experience in training. In this recent appointment, I’ve recruited two Assistant Council Commissioners who have been with me in training for several years. I’ve searched all the BSA sources I can find and can’t find requirements for the Arrowhead Honor for Council Commissioners. They exist for UCs, ADCs, DCs, and even RTCs, but apparently not for CCs or ACCs. Is there a way for my new ACCs and me to earn this award? (Michael Sexton, Virginia)

You’ve had “little experience in the Commissioner Service,” which means you’ve had some. The Arrowhead Honor is earned by Unit Commissioners, ADCs, RTCs, and DCs in six months or so, typically. Does this mean you’ve had less than six months experience as a Commissioner prior to now, or does it mean that in your prior Commissioner tenure you didn’t earn it? Did you also recruit your ACCs from outside the Commissioner corps of your council, or did they, in their prior tenures, not earn it, either? Bottom line is this: You may be temporarily out of luck. Not a huge deal, but I can understand your wanting to earn the Arrowhead Honor, if only to be on a par with the other Commissioners in your council. As I read the requirements, there doesn’t appear to be a path for CCs or ACCs if you stick precisely to the requirements as written. But I could be mistaken. Talk this over with your Scout Executive.

Hello Andy,

Love your column but I have a different read on the relevant reference material for one of your questions in a recent column. In the discussion of being required to attend church service after camping on the chartered organization’s property, you thought that it was acceptable to require attendance at the church service. I disagree. In the youth application, page 2, “information for parents,” it states: “Members who do not belong to a unit’s religious chartered organization shall not be required to participate in its religious activities.” The Chartered Organization Representative book you reference says the same thing, very explicitly. If the youth are, in fact, members of the church, that’s a whole different thing and your logic applies. (Peter Pate, National Capital Area Council)

You might want to you take a second look at what I said, because when you do, you’ll notice that I didn’t say “required.” What we’re talking about is less about “rules” and more about good sense and courtesy. Both of these qualities are part of what we, as Scouting role models, are here to imbue in the boys and young men we serve.

Dear Andy,

Are there any program guides or training resources to help first-time Troop Guides in their new role of managing a new Scout patrol? Our troop has been blessed with a strong influx of new Webelos for the first time in many years and thus we have a need for two well-trained Troop Guides, whom I’ve just selected and appointed. They are both accomplished Scouts: one is 17 and a Life Scout and the other is 15 and Star. However, they need some additional “How-To” guidelines to help them get organized and plan for future troop meetings and campouts. I have a Scoutmaster Handbook, and the handbooks for SPL and PL both, and I’ve also searched online, but I haven’t found any good “playbook” resources for the Troop Guide position. (Tom McCandless, SM, Troop 353, Eastchester, NY)

“Guide” is the operative term. Just as a Scoutmaster coaches, mentors and guides the Senior Patrol Leader (but doesn’t do his job for him), the Troop Guide has a similar relationship with the newly elected Patrol Leader of a new Scout patrol. A Troop Guide isn’t “Patrol Leader Pro Tem”—This would be a huge mistake. The TG is in the background, not the foreground, and always keeps the PL up front of his patrol and its members. The TG is a quiet “coach” who helps the new PL pick up on leadership skills and learn the key stuff in the Patrol Leader Handbook as quickly as possible. At the troop’s PLC, the TG sits with the PL he’s been assigned to and serves, but makes sure the PL gets his interests and his patrol’s needs and desires across to the other PLs and the SPL. The best TG doesn’t have a “voice” except through the PL he’s there to serve. The signs of a successful TG is an active, involved, spirited, and well-led patrol!


I am the single parent of an Asian-American boy who lives in Indonesia, and I’m looking for a way to help my son understand and learn about the USA. I found out about the Boy Scouts while surfing. I wonder if there is a possibility for my son to join the Boy Scouts. That might help him to better understand his “American side.” Can a seven year old boy in Indonesia be a Boy Scout? I’m looking forward for further information. Thank you for your attention. (Diah Parahita, Jakarta, Indonesia)

The Boy Scouts of America does serve your area of the world. It is called the Direct Service Council and it does serve Jakarta. For more information go to If this does not work for you, for any reason, please contact me again and I will try to help further. Thank you very much for finding me, and for writing to me!


Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Idea? Suggestion? Thought? Something that works? Just write to me at (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)



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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