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Issue 115 – October 12, 2007

Hi Andy,

I’m working with TroopMaster, trying to get the 2005 version to work in the MS Windows emulator, WINE, so it can be used on a Linux platform. If any of your readers can help, they can check out– We can use all the help we can get!

The TroopMaster owners have given permission for this. They even gave us a special license, login and password so that we can test features. I understand that most everyone is linked to Windows, but there are those of us who have switched because Linux has gotten so user-friendly, we simply felt it was the right time to make the switch. I’m using a distribution called Ubuntu. Have been for about 6 months now, and I must say that it’s been the most friendly of all Linux distributions. Thanks for being willing to publish this! (Tim Gelvin,

Hi Andy,

I’ve searched online and in books… Is there any “official BSA” rule against Cub Scouts learning how to build a fire? I’ve been told by our pack chair and Cubmaster that the BSA doesn’t allow Cubs to have anything to do with fire. I think it would be good for the boys to learn how to safely build, maintain, and put out a fire. Thanks! (Teresa, Middle Tennessee Council, TN)

Let’s first remember that the Cub Scouting program of activities and achievements is age- and grade level-based. I’m sure your intentions are well-meaning; but there’s absolutely no reason why either Tiger Cubs or Cub Scouts need to learn how to build a fire. Yes, learning how to check one’s home for fire hazards and learning what to do in case of a fire is valuable, and this is incorporated into specific achievements at both the Wolf and Bear levels. Then, when a boy becomes a Webelos Scout, he can learn what you’re suggesting when he does requirement 7 of the Outdoorsman activity badge.

Hi Andy,

We were tossing the football around at a campout recently. The Scoutmaster took the ball, saying that football isn’t allowed; that it’s against BSA policy. I perused one of the BSA sites looking for such references. I can see how tackle football isn’t allowed, and perhaps touch football also involves contact. But throwing a football around? Sounds over the top, but I wanted to get your take. (Tom Liebrand)

Yup, “over the top” is right on the money. Of course tossing a football around is OK in Scouts! So are impromptu or pick-up games of baseball, volleyball, stick-ball, street or ice hockey, soccer, basketball, and on and on!

NetCommish Comment: Not only are they permitted, BSA has a special Scouting Soccer program and a supporting website selling Boy Scouts of America Soccer Uniforms and equipment at

Hi Andy,

My Webelos den will be crossing over soon so I’m trying to help boys who want to work on the Arrow of Light. Unfortunately I’m receiving conflicting information about what’s required for a boy to “cross over” to Boy Scouts. Does a boy have to complete the Arrow of Light badge in order to cross over? (I fear some boys may not be able to complete all the requirements for the arrow of light but they still want to go on to Boy Scouts. Is this allowed?) I can’t find anything that lists minimum requirements to cross over. Please help. (Casey Sheppard, WIIDL)

There are three ways for a boy to be eligible to join Boy Scouts, and any one of these does the job:

1) Earn the Arrow of Light rank, OR

2) Complete fifth grade, OR

3) Be 11 years old.

Now you’ve been working with Webelos Scouts in your den for more than a year, and there are at least four more months available for completion of the Arrow of Light, in order to cross over in (or at the end of) February 2008. If you have a few stragglers, who don’t finish till, let’s say, March instead of February, then they can receive their Arrow of Light and then cross over at that time. But, frankly, I don’t understand what the problem is… I’ve seen boys not only complete the AoL but go on to earn every one of the Webelos activity badges — that’s twelve more, after the eight required for the Webelos and AoL ranks! Is there a problem here?

Dear Andy,

What’s reason behind the use of the word “two” at the end of a flag ceremony? (Dylan Hayes, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

The salute is a two-step procedure. The first step is to bring the hand to the salute position, and the second is to return the hand to the side. Thus, “Scout…salute” are the words used to signal the first step and “Two” signals the second step. Cool huh?

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Unit Commissioner for a troop and I’ve heard that I’m supposed to conduct a uniform inspection once a year. Isn’t that just like being the “Council Cop” or the “Patch Police” that you’ve warned against in your past columns? (Name Withheld)

Nope, it sure isn’t, especially when troops often tend to have “double-standards,” such as wear your full uniform to courts of honor but it’s OK to wear just the shirt to troop meetings and such. The uniform inspection is an opportunity to emphasize and reward the positive; not “ding” the negative. Here’s how to do it, in the most positive of ways:

– At the close of week 1’s troop meeting, the Scoutmaster announces that, next week, every Scout should come dressed as if he’s going to his own Eagle court of honor. This is followed up with a mailed (or emailed) announcement to the same effect that goes to every troop family (this way, no can claim lack of knowledge).

– Then, at the beginning of week 2’s meeting, right after the opening ceremony, all patrols are given a few minutes to check their uniforms for completeness and accuracy, using the Uniform Inspection Form (go to for a copy of this form). Next, you’re introduced, and, working through the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders, you carry out the inspection.

Now here’s the most important part: You have in your pocket a bunch of small rewards (can be bite-sized candy bars, or an inexpensive Scout trinket like a “Good Turn coin,” or something else along these lines) and you give one to every Scout who is 100% on the money (or, failing this, to at least one Scout who is the most nearly accurately attired).

Of course, you’d need to be sure your own uniform is up to snuff, and you may need to counsel the Scoutmaster and any ASMs about theirs. But this is all part of helping the troop look more like Boy Scouts, which in turn helps them all act more like Boy Scouts!

Dear Andy,

Great first thought on your October 6th column. I’d like to reprint it in our e-newsletter to my staff and other volunteers in my district. Is this OK? (John E. Hadden, Jr., DC, Istrouma Area Council, Baton Rouge, LA)

So long as you identify your source (i.e., me) go ahead and reproduce or reprint anything from any of my columns that would be helpful to you and your fellow Scouters!

Dear Andy,

Are there any guidelines on grooming standards for Boy Scouts? I’ve been able to find numerous standards for Scouts and adults employed by the BSA and for different Scout camps; however I haven’t found any guidance for the Scouts or leaders. I’m wondering if a troop can impose reasonable standards. For instance, what is the guideline for haircuts? Are Mohawks, spikes, colored hair (orange, blue, red) OK in general with Scouting and how about long, stringy, unkempt hair? Also, what about piercings in the brow, lip, nose, etc. I’m wanting to get an agreed-upon standard for uniform and grooming in our troop bylaws because we’re having some minor problems.

Some ideas for the bylaws are: Class A must be worn properly, buttoned and tucked in; Class B shirts should be clean and intact no holes, stains, or missing sleeves; only a Scout cap (uniform or class B cap) when in class A or B uniform; no piercing visible; hair must be neat, clean and combed; no extreme haircuts; no tennis shoes but hiking shoes or boots for outdoor activities; no blue jeans for activities where you are likely to get wet; no sandals, “Crocks,” or open-toe shoes; no intimidating, vulgar, obscene, gang, or drug related T-shirts.

I am by no means an absolute purist and think the boys should be in a complete uniform: Shirt, pants, belt, class B red t-shirt, official socks, and hiking boots if you’re to attend a meeting or other event. I think that we must travel in our Class A shirts and dark pants (preferably green) to and from all activities away from meetings, and I’d like to exclude any boy without the traveling uniform. Our troop has our own fund to help out families who cannot afford a uniform, so lack of money isn’t a viable excuse.

We already allow Class B Shirts from May until August, and Class A for any church service, parade or other function in the public eye unless Class A is not appropriate like service projects (then Class B). These same policies should apply to the registered adult leaders; however, a relaxed but appropriate attire for all parents and others attending a Scouting event.

A boy should never be ashamed to be identified as a Boy Scout, and the uniform of the day should be worn with pride and we should be proud of our overall appearance.

Are we likely to run afoul of anything with the National Office? (Kevin Sweeney, SM)


No, you probably won’t run afoul of the national office. But you’re sure likely to run afoul of the Scouts and their parents. Their Mohawks, spikes, hair coloring, Johnny Tackle-Box piercing jewels and body art have already been accepted (however reluctantly) by their parents, schools, churches, temples, and teams. So who are you to start dictating to them in areas you have no business putting your nose in? You’re not the fashionista police; you’re the Scoutmaster. Not only in these areas but in the area of attire, the only things you can encourage are what’s on pages 12 and 13 of the Boy Scout Handbook. You really need to stick to that, unless you really enjoy the prospect of wrapping yourself around your own axle. Never keep this far from the front of your thinking: If these boys don’t like what’s going on in the troop, they’re outa there and that’s their right. WE are there for THEM; not the other way around. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover… Getting and keeping boys in the full Scout uniform is challenge enough, and enough for any troop and Scoutmaster.

Dear Andy,

I was first an Assistant Scoutmaster for two years and for the immediate past two years a Scoutmaster. I have a Scout who is racing through merit badges and trying to race through advancement. He’s a second-year Scout and he may be up for his Life rank board of review in just three more months.

This past summer, for Scout camp, he showed up with one extra t-shirt, no extra shorts, no water bottle, and only a small back-pack with a couple pairs of socks. He spent a lot of the time at camp keeping to himself and not getting involved with patrol activities. Now, at troop meetings, his only concern is to find the appropriate persons to get merit badge “blue cards” from, get approval on merit badges, or ask questions about Merit Badge Counselors.

The Committee Chair and I have had several conferences with him, and his parents, already, on slowing down and enjoying the experience. The boys of my Troop all get along and they’re always interacting with each other in fun, games, and advancement. This Scout has taken on the positions of Patrol Leader and Den Chief to qualify for his leadership and has done a fine job. My problem is with his “Scout spirit.” He does fine with living the Scout Oath, but I have major concerns about his level of maturity in the troop, his lack of being a model to his peers (Not being prepared at summer camp, for instance) and his lack of helping bring out the best in other Scouts in the troop (being too concerned about his own advancement.)

My question to you is: When he requests a Star rank-required Scoutmaster Conference, must I sign off on it, thereby approving him for his board of review if I feel he’s lacking in some areas? I feel once he goes to his board of review, the committee will approve, as I have never seen them not approve a Scout for rank advancement. (Name Withheld, Bay Lakes Council, WI)

Actually, I’m a bit confused… In the first place, this Scout of yours who is “racing through advancement” is, according to the Boy Scout Handbook, perfectly correct in setting a pace for himself as an individual Scout (see page 14: “you can advance at your own pace”), but I get the impression you have a problem with his possibly being Life rank at age 13, simply on the basis of age. I also note that while on the one hand he’s obviously completing the necessary requirements, earning the merit badges, fulfilling the leadership responsibilities (You even mention that he’s done “a fine job” as Patrol Leader and Den Chief), and living up to the spirit of Scouting (You mention that “he does fine living the Scout Oath”), you want him to slow down. Why? According to you, he’ll “enjoy the experience” more if he slows down, but are you really so sure of that? He seems to be doing just fine, in many ways. I’m also confused by your comments that on the one hand that he did fine as a Patrol Leader and Den Chief and then on the other hand that he’s lacking in being a role model. It’s pretty unusual to be both of these at the same time, and I’m wondering how this is possible.

As far as what he brought to summer camp (for a week, I’m guessing), are you absolutely sure that (a) you, as Scoutmaster, were crystal-clear on what to bring and (b) he wasn’t subject to his own parents’ whims on what to bring? But, more importantly, how did he cope with having such little gear at camp? If he managed to make it through the week intact and not too smelly, maybe this was a good “learning experience” for him? After all, it sounds like everyone survived the week!

Coming back around now, remember from reading your Scoutmaster Handbook and from the Scoutmaster- specific training you took, that every boy is different and that your job, as Scoutmaster, is to help each boy bring out the best in himself — That’s not his job; that’s YOUR job!

So, finally, your question about the Scoutmasters Conference. I’d have to say that if he’s completed the requirements for the next rank, is having fun in Scouting and his patrol and troop, and is otherwise an OK Scout, then, yes, you are definitely obligated to encourage him to keep on and to schedule a board of review for him.

Look at it this way for just a moment: If he makes Eagle by, say, age 13, you’ve got an Eagle Scout in your troop for nearly another five years, if you play your cards right! In talking with his parents, perhaps you’ve learned from them that this is simply the way this particular young man approaches life… He GOES AFTER IT rather than merely drifting through it. Tell you the truth, give us ten boys like this and we can change the world!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Before leaving off, let’s for a moment take a sharper look at a Scout who shows up for a week of summer camp with the clothes on his back, and just an extra t-shirt and a couple of pairs of socks, but no sleeping bag, no toiletry kit, no swim trunks, no towel(s), no jacket, and no personal first aid kit, compass, knife, change of footgear, or even underwear. This says something’s seriously wrong. Whether the problem lies with the Scout or his parents or somewhere else, to avoid possible future endangerment, perhaps the troop needs to try some other techniques for communicating what should be brought on any outings, whether week-long or weekend or day hike.

At Philmont, for instance, before trek crews hit the trail, there’s a total gear shakedown right at base camp. Everyone unpacks everything, the Ranger assigned to the crew looks over every single piece of gear each person has, tells ’em what to leave behind (there are lockers expressly for this) and tells ’em what to go into the training post and buy ’cause they didn’t pack it and they’re gonna need it. Maybe your troop needs to start doing something along these lines, patrol-by-patrol, with the Patrol Leaders doing what the Rangers do (with your pre-“prepping” them, of course, so everyone’s on the same page).

Another way to do this is to have a checklist of all items to be brought, and a list of items not to be brought, with a place for the Scout’s and his parent’s signatures at the bottom. The Scout signs that he’s got everything on the checklist and this is countersigned by his parent, plus there’s a second place for his parent’s signature that he’s not packed a Walkman, iPod, cell phone, Gameboy, etc.

Please give these some thought, so that you never again have a repeat of this Scout’s unfortunate lack of good gear preparation.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been looking for a Denner cord for my Webelos den and the folks at don’t seem to have them. Have any suggestions? (Chris Hill, CM, Lusby, MD)

Try going back to and in the item dialog box enter the code numbers 00368, 00385, and 00369. They’re right there!

Dear Andy,

I’m a parent of a soon-to-be Eagle Scout who has a problem. Over the summer, the person who conducts the Eagle boards of review in our area was himself away at camp. Meanwhile, my son had finished all of his requirements for Eagle by July. When he asked for his Eagle board of review, his Scoutmaster told him to wait until August 30th, when the Eagle B-O-R person would be back. However, upon this person’s return, he was inundated with requests for Eagle boards of review. Since my son is 16, the “powers that be” have pushed him to the back-burner and have made him wait until they do all the B-O-Rs for the last-minute 18 year old Scouts. It’s now October, and the Scoutmaster told me today that not only is council and this man doing all those cases but also now even taking one of our troop’s 18 year old Scouts over my son’s request. It’s understandable that these “time sensitive” cases need to go ahead, but they can conceivably keep coming. Should my son have to keep waiting? What message are we sending him? Who can we talk to about this, when both the Scoutmaster and the B-O-R person are keeping us stalled? On the other hand, I’m worried that any complaints will hurt my son’s chances for Eagle. What can we do? (Mom)

Yes, there’s definitely something wrong here. The excuse that “well, we’re a volunteer organization” can hold water for a week or so, but definitely not months. Your son should have had his board of review three months ago. It is absolutely unfair and unreasonable for this sort of emotionally debilitating delay to have occurred. Besides, this delay not of his making has just cost your son an Eagle Palm, should he decide to pursue these! Your son (not you) should waste no further time in contacting your council service center for the name and contact information of the council advancement chair, and then contacting that person by phone or in-person (NO EMAIL!) to request a council-level board of review instead of being told time and time again that he’ll have to wait till they get around to him.

Hi Andy,

At a district committee meeting the other night, I noticed one of the members wearing a “trained” strip on his sleeve. In my 19 years of Scouting I don’t recall ever seeing a district committee member with a trained strip on his or her shirt. I asked him about it because I was under the impression that, since there’s no specific training course for district committee members, the trained strip wasn’t appropriate (I’ve never worn one on my district committee uniform, even though I’ve taken Cub Scout leader, Boy Scout leader, troop committee, Commissioner basic, and Wood Badge). The fellow replied that he’d been told by someone else that he was allowed to wear it, because he’d been to Commissioner training, and went on to say that we’re “all Commissioners” because we’re wearing “Commissioner’s silver tabs” on our epaulettes! I was a bit astounded and didn’t reply that the silver tabs just mean council or district Scouter and have nothing to do with being a Commissioner! He also said he should be wearing his Arrowhead, too! Well, I saw in one of your back-columns that the Arrowhead shouldn’t be worn by anyone except a serving Commissioner. But what’s the correct answer about the trained strip? Does Commissioner training, or Cub Scout or Boy Scout leader or some other type of training authorize a district committee member to wear the trained strip? (Mike Dwyer, District Committee, Gulf Coast Council, FL)

First and most important, unless you like being labeled a member of “The Patch Police,” let this drop.

Of course there’s district committee training (at least in some councils, if not every last one), so a “trained” strip worn by a district committee member just might be legit. Of course silver shoulder loops are worn by anyone in a district- or council-level position, Commissioners and committee members, and chairs. And of course the Arrowhead Honor is worn by serving Commissioners (regardless of what their level was when they earned it, even if that level has changed). But we also know that although our fellow Scouters may change out one badge, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll change out others to correspond. Have you ever, for instance, noticed just how many Quality Unit strips can fit on a short-sleeved shirt? But this is small change stuff, my Scouting friend! We have bigger fish to fry!

NetCommish Comment: Your Council website has a training page that lists a District Committee Training Workshop. Philmont also has training for the District Key 3, Advancement, Council & District Activities, The District Committee, and more. There are many opportunities for a District Committee member to get relevant training.

This fellow’s stated reason for wearing the patch isn’t correct, but you have to ask what you have to gain by nit-picking. If the guy gets irritated and quits are you going to pick up his load and carry it too? If an animosity results, does that help the Scouts we are serving? This is where we need to keep to the big picture and the goals of our roles and not let the trees prevent us from seeing the forest.

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Commissioner and the Scoutmaster of the troop I’ve been assigned to has confessed that his “dilemma” is his weekly troop meetings…They’re not as interesting as he wants them to be and he’s asked for suggestions.

Now I’ve been a Scouter for 20 years, but exclusively in the Cub Scout program, and I’m not as versed in the Boy Scout area. I do know all about “boy-run troops” and no, this troop isn’t one of those. I also, being newly assigned, want to tread lightly and proceed slowly, so as to build a relationship and rapport over time. Is there any “quick fix” I can suggest to the Scoutmaster that will help him solve this problem of boring troop meetings? (Name Withheld)

Start by pointing your Scoutmaster to Chapter 3 of the Scoutmaster Handbook, which describes what a Boy-Led Troop is, how it operates, and how any troop that doesn’t do this just isn’t delivering the Boy Scout program. Of course the Scouts in this troop are bored… Nothing that’s happening is their idea. Instead, it’s the brain-child of someone who’s probably two or three times their average age. That’s like, out of touch with reality. Show me a troop that doesn’t use The Patrol Method, including the PLC, and I’ll show you a troop that maybe looks like Scouts but is totally clueless.

Your best quick fix option, I think, is to get this Scoutmaster (and if you can, the committee, too) to some current training. Unless they know in no uncertain terms what they’re supposed to be doing, Scouting won’t be happening anytime soon.

Also, talk to your fellow Commissioners and find a model troop in the area, then invite this Scoutmaster to go with you (Buddy System here!) to pay a brief visit! That might help open his eyes to how things can be in his own troop!

Dear Andy,

What would be good conservation and Leave No Trace projects for Webelos I Scouts? (Rose Adams, WDL, Palmetto Council, SC)

Since every locale and its needs are different, the best place answers to your questions are at your district’s monthly Cub Scout Leader Round Tables. Go, with others from your pack, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts someone there will have some great suggestions for you!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been elected to the committee chair position in a troop that has had only a handful of Scouts in the past. We’ve tripled this past year and will most likely double again next year. There’s a strong divide between the troop committee and the Scoutmaster about what the committee’s responsibilities are in creating the type of Scouting experience we want the boys in the troop to have. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on, but still can’t get clarification on several issues:

1. What does “boy-led” mean?

2. If the Scoutmaster is unwilling to listen to the plans and goals of the committee, are there options?

3. Our fundraising seems to have two types. The first is one that the Scouts design and we support. The second is one that the committee designs and actually does to provide funds for books, equipment, advancement items, and so on. Am I on the right track here?

Our District Executive at the council service center has been non-responsive in my requests for input on these issues. Are there resources I can use to find out for myself? (Name Withheld)

1. Read Chapter 3 of the Scoutmaster Handbook.

2. The Scoutmaster is supposed to be listening to the desires of the Scouts, as they plan their activities in their Patrol Leaders Council meetings (which, by the way, is run by the Senior Patrol Leader; not the Scoutmaster). If the Scoutmaster will not or cannot do this, for whatever reason or reasons, then the committee is obligated to replace him with someone who does understand what the correct role of the Scoutmaster is.

3. This can be collaborative rather than “separate but equal” or some such. A substantial discussion of this topic is covered in Scoutmaster-specific and also in Troop Committee training. Get your people to training, and 99% will become crystal clear.

The place you want to go for information and insights isn’t the council service center–they 99.9% handle administrative stuff. Instead, go to your council’s website and click on training:

Now, find the training you need, in your own or a nearby district, and go as a group and get this done. I’ll guarantee that most of your problems will disappear as if by magic!


Recently, my son was at his first Tiger Cub meeting and was told by his Den Leader that until he learns to behave he would not be allowed to wear his cap or neckerchief. Is his leader right to punish minor misbehavior in this way? My son was very proud to wear his uniform and this has been a blow to him. (Tiger Cub Dad)

Here are some excerpts from, the BSA website:

”Youth Member Behavior Guidelines: One of the developmental tasks of childhood is to learn appropriate behavior. Children are not born with an innate sense of propriety and they need guidance and direction… Adult leaders of Scouting units are responsible for monitoring the behavior of youth members and interceding when necessary… Parents of youth members who misbehave should be informed and asked for assistance in dealing with it. The BSA does not permit the use of corporal punishment by unit leaders when disciplining youth members.”

The last line is important to note. Further, the BSA stipulates in no equivocal terms that hazing in any form is prohibited.

For more, and more detail, go to:

With this information as platform, two aspects should be considered: a) What was it about your son’s behavior that triggered the Den Leader’s action? and b) How did your son respond to the Den Leader’s action first action (i.e., the one before depriving your son of his cap and neckerchief)?

I can tell you from experience that a “time out” works much better than a “punishment” because the time out ends whatever behavior’s going on, whereas punishment doesn’t necessarily accomplish this. We also need to recognize that what one person might characterize as minor misbehavior and what another might consider significantly disruptive can be the same actual behavior.

So, I have two suggestions for you. The first is to recognize that this whole thing may be in the category of hiccup; not major flu epidemic. The second is to have a quiet, private conversation with your son’s Den Leader (NO EMAIL!) in which you mutually agree that, as parent, you’ll provide a little stronger guidance to your son on what’s acceptable behavior in a den meeting and what isn’t, and he’ll give your son his cap and neckerchief back and use the “time out” (lasts about a minute or so, by the way) approach instead.

Dear Andy,

Are there any conditions in which a Cub Scout pack could use a 30 foot high climbing tower that’s on BSA property? (Al & Deb Goodwin, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)

Since the climbing tower is on your council’s property, the best answer to your question will come from your council’s risk management committee and/or camping committee.

Dear Andy,

My son is a member of a troop as well as a Venturing crew. He’s been told by the troop that he has to sell $100 worth of popcorn or his troop dues will increase by $30. But this year he’ll be selling popcorn for the crew, to build up his account there. I wouldn’t have a problem if the troop took the first $30 from each $100 sold, but they’re not: If a Scout sells $100, he only contributes $12.80. My son has worked every fund-raiser the troop has ever had. It seems like the Scouts who are double-registered in the crew are being punished. What are the rules regarding this? (Betty Jarrell, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

The key, of course, is what does your son think of the arrangement you’ve described. If he’s OK with it, let it alone. If he’s not, he’s sure old enough to speak up for himself. The “rules” for unit dues and unit popcorn sales are up to the unit(s).

Dear Andy,


I have two Scouts in my troop who just passed their Eagle rank boards of review and, in preparation for their Court of Honor, we purchased Eagle kits at the Scout Shop for them. The kits have the oval badge, the medal, and then three small pins. Do you know what the pins are for? We’re assuming one is a mother’s pin, but we don’t know what the others are. (John Meyer, SM, Troop 445, Friendswood, TX.

The folks at the Scout Shop should be able to confirm this: One is a mother’s pin, one is a father’s tie tack, and the third is an Eagle Mentor pin, which the Scout can give to the person of his choice who has helped him significantly along the trail to Eagle.

Dear Andy,

My first question is: In the past, the Institution Representative, and the Scouting Coordinator positions (now called Chartered Organization Representative, or COR) had badges of office with blue back-grounds, signifying that this was a district or council positions. Today’s COR badge has a tan background, suggesting that the position is a Boy Scout-level position. Any idea why?

Second, given that the BSA discourages wearing two patches or devices indicating the same thing, why would/should a Commissioner wear a trained strip, when the Arrowhead, the Distinguished Commissioner, and the Commissioner’s Key all indicate fully trained? Or is this just to set the example for the other adults? (Dave Loomis, Portsmouth, NH)

I’ll only give you the answers if you PROMISE you won’t join the “Patch Police”! Promise?? Scout’s Honor??? Well, OK, then…

IR, SC, and COR have all been different names for essentially the same set of responsibilities. As these names were changing, position (and other) badge motifs were changing, too but not necessarily concurrently. There are two different blues for the CO patch, for instance. Others changed, too. For instance, SM historically had a green background; now it’s tan. I’m going guess that whoever the new design team was, every time there was a major shift (remember when they all had Mylar borders?) in motif, maybe they paid attention to leadership strands, and maybe they didn’t. My personal all-time favorites where back in the days when there were no words at all on any position badge, and when you had to know what the colors meant to know what position was being worn. To me, these made a lot more sense than patches with no mystique at all, almost along the lines of “Patch-Reading For Dummies.” When there were no words, I believe we paid a lot more attention, because this meant that we had to learn to “read” each other’s uniforms. This is pretty much a lost art these days.

On your second question, I agree that a “‘TRAINED” strip looks pretty over-the-top on a shirt with a Distinguished Commissioner square knot and/or a Commissioner’s Arrowhead Honor. But, since most folks don’t know what they’re looking at anymore (see above), maybe it’s OK—Setting the example is a leadership trait, after all!

Hello Andy,

I recently received my home-town newspaper, and it had a story that included the names of Eagle Scouts from 1934-2005. I was not on the list as I should have been. I received my Eagle rank in February 1973, and went on to earn Silver and Bronze Palms. Yet two other 1973 Eagles were on that list! I called the paper; they suggested that I call the local council. I did this, only to be told that the only “Mark Smith” they had on record wasn’t me. My troop was 485 of Cle Elum, WA, and my Scoutmaster was Syke Bresko. Strangely enough, my namesake was qualified for Eagle also in February 1973. What happened to me on the night of the awards banquet may very well play into these dates. On the night of the banquet there were at least three Eagle Scout awards being presented. As Syke Bresko presented the awards, to the other Scouts, when he got to me he said, “I didn’t order enough…I’m all out!” Well, as a 15 year-old I was both hurt and embarrassed as I stood in front of all those people. Syke told me that he’d order another, and that he’d present it to me at a troop meeting, and several weeks later he made good his promise. But now, more than three decades later, I’m still not listed! I need to get this record set straight, so I’m sharing this with you in hopes of getting some advice or direction. (Mark A. Smith, Eagle Scout-Class of ’73, Troop 485, Fort Simcoe Council, WA)

I can’t even begin to imagine how upsetting this situation must be for you–Twice! Let’s see what we can do here…

Back in ’73, when you were presented your Eagle medal, you would also have received a wallet-sized advancement card, and a larger certificate signed by the Chief Scout Executive at that time (in 1973, this would have been Alden G. Barber). Do you have either of those? Either one of those would be proof, and you could send a photocopy to the council office and your former troop. The council that now includes Cle Elum, WA is the Grand Columbia Council-BSA, 12 North 10th Avenue, Yakima, WA 98902 (Yes, it has a website, and the phone number’s available there). I’d recommend re-contacting the Scout Executive of this council and asking him or her to really dig into the old records to help. Absent a satisfactory result here (or in addition to it), contact the National Director of Advancement at the BSA National Office—Boy Scouts of America, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079—and ask the same question. This office has access to all of the Eagle Scout records of the BSA, all the way back to Day One.

Hi Andy,

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written to you… At that time I was a new Unit Commissioner and questioning that my District Commissioner held several positions and was causing trouble. Now here it is a couple of years later and it’s even worse. While he did give up (or so it seemed) the pack positions he was holding, but he’s done lots to disrupt our Troop. As one of our Assistant Scoutmasters, he’s told another Troop that our own Scoutmaster won’t let them join with us on any camp-outs! This isn’t true! Our Scoutmaster has actually said exactly the opposite, and has put out a standing invitation for anything we do! When this DC-ASM found out about this, he changed the story, saying that the Scouts in our troop didn’t want any other Troops to camp with us! He even went to our Senior Patrol Leader, and told him that since our Scoutmaster wasn’t doing things right and that the SPL should to do things his way. Meanwhile, he’s told the council office people that he’s the sole contact for our Troop. When our committee chair asked for information on getting a Order of the Arrow election (it would be our first!), this same man had the information sent to himself instead, which he then promptly “buried.” When I tried to discuss these things with him, he told me, “I’m tired of your bull**** and I’m gonna fire you if you don’t cut it out!” But, meanwhile, we’ve finally got the OK from the troop’s Chartered Organization Representative to remove this man from the troop roster. So now, at a Commissioner meeting, he tells me I was never registered as a Unit Commissioner! What can be done about him? (Joanne Johnson, UC, Nevada Area Council, NV)

Yes, I definitely remember you, and I remember your wayward District Commissioner. At the time you first wrote about that troop’s problems with him, I recommended that their unit leaders and committee chair have an in-person conversation with their District Chair and District Executive and get this guy to stop interfering with a troop that (a) isn’t his responsibility in the first place and has a Unit Commissioner (you), and (b) doesn’t want him messing things up. Obviously, things didn’t turn out that way. One of the reasons—now identified—is that he’s been an ASM in the same troop, so he can change hats whenever he likes and you never know which one he’s wearing (except that he’s got both of ’em on backwards!). Of course, it’s unclear to me why no affirmative action was taken for two years. At any rate, the troop is now on the right track to solving its own problem by removing him from their roster.

As to your present problem, I’m sure you keep your annual registration cards, and those are all you need to refute the allegation that you’re not a registered UC. If you can’t find them, just call your council registrar for verification and a replacement membership card. Then tell that jerk to go pound sand*.

* Just so there’s no mistake in interpretation here: “The origin of the expression ‘go pound sand’ is from a longer expression, not to know (have enough sense to) pound sand down a rat hole. Filling rat holes with sand is menial work, and telling someone to pound sand down a rat hole is like telling them to go fly a kite. The expression dates from circa 1912” (Source: Urban Dictionary)

Hi Andy,

I’m looking for a recording of John Wayne reading the Scout Law. I’ve asked the Desert Pacific Council in San Diego (where I originally heard it) for a copy, but they haven’t responded. Any chance you know where I can find it? (Lee Ann Layton, ASM, Pine Tree Council, ME)

I don’t know about a recording, but check this out…

Dear Andy,

Today, at an Eagle Court of Honor, a mother of four Eagle Scouts came up to me and asked what, if anything, her adult Eagle Scout sons may wear on their civilian clothes to indicate Eagle. At the time, I told her that only an Eagle Scout pin is proper, but after thinking it over, I’m not so sure that’s correct. What is proper? (Larry Dehnart, ACC, Black Swamp Area Council, OH)

First, congratulations to that mom and her four Eagle sons!

Yup, you’ve pretty much got it right! In the BSA Catalog or a local Scout Shop, there are miniature Eagle pins for sale that can be worn in the lapel buttonhole of a sport or suit jacket (there are other items for “civilian wear” available, too, but the pin is the most commonly worn).

However, if any of these gentlemen is attending a Boy Scout Court of Honor, it’s certainly appropriate, for that occasion, to wear the actual medal pinned on the left breast pocket of a sport or suit jacket.

Dear Andy,

We’ve just lost the mother of two of our Scouts–bothers. We’ll be attending her wake and funeral as a Troop, and this question comes up all the time for formal events: When the Scouts are dressed in their uniforms, where’s the correct place to wear the merit badge sash? Some say it really doesn’t matter—it can be either worn over the right shoulder as shown in various BSA publications, or it can be draped over their belts. What’s the story here? (Jan DeBona, MC, Connecticut Yankee Council, CT)

Yes, it does matter: The only place the merit badge sash is worn is over the right shoulder. As for being worn at a wake or funeral, that would be optional.

As long as we’re on the subject of wakes and funerals, it’s definitely not inappropriate for a Scout honor guard to wear black armbands or even black neckerchiefs, made for this type of occasion.

Dear Andy,

I can’t seem to find a spreadsheet for tracking Cub Scout Bear achievements. I’m looking for something that lists all 24 choices of achievements in their categories, with space to indicate dates when they were completed. Any suggestions for where I can find this? (Keasley Jones, MC, Silverado Council, CA)

There’s a poster-sized Cub Scout advancement tracking sheet that most Scout Shops sell for just a few bucks. It not only helps you keep track, but it also encourages your Cub Scouts and their parents to keep going! Get one for each den to use: Wolf, Bear, and Webelos. Then, take a look at PackMaster®software.

NetCommish Comment: You may also want to download the spreadsheets available at
Dear Andy,

Have you ever heard of the BSA National Supply Division or someone else replacing uniforms for Scouts and Scouters? (I may have just dreamed this one up after looking at uniform prices.) Anyway, I have to retire a pair of Scout shorts and I’m just wondering. (John Walker, SM, TX)

This may be just what you’re looking for:

Dear Andy,

As a Scout, I attended the 1994 NOAC at Purdue University and, at that time I was told that the NOAC participant patch could be worn in the same position as a National Jamboree patch because they were of the same level of event. After much research, including the BSA Insignia Guide, I can’t find mention of this. Was I told incorrectly, and the patch should be worn in the “temporary patch” position, or have I overlooked something in my search? (Robert Randolph)

Yup, somebody told you incorrectly. Centered on right pocket (the “temporary” position, which really means “at the wearer’s discretion”) is the place. (BTW, my youngest son went to that same NOAC, too!)

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster was recently asked to step down from the troop. His wife had been the advancement committee member, but in actuality, the Scoutmaster was doing it. Upon departing, he didn’t give the Scouts their blue card stubs corresponding to the merit badge cards that he’d given them (but the good news is that they’re all properly signed and registered with the local council). Is it necessary to have the section of the blue cards, with the dates? (Mac, Gulf Coast Council, FL)

Fundamentals here. The Application for Merit Badge (aka “Blue Card”) has three parts. One is the Counselor’s Record; showing the Scout’s name, Troop number, Merit Badge name, and date completed; torn off at the perforations and retained by the MB Counselor on completion of the requirements by each Scout. The second is the Applicant’s Record; showing the Scout’s name, the Merit Badge name, date of completion, MB Counselor’s signature, and Scoutmasters confirming signature; which (per the instructions at the bottom of this section) the Scout himself retains for his own permanent personal records. The third section; containing all of the information I’ve already mentioned, plus the date the MB certificate and badge were presented to the Scout; is retained in the Troop records. Thus, the only section you have to be in any way concerned about is the third, and only if the certificate and badge haven’t been presented yet. If they have, then it’s a done deal. If not, then the information needed to do so can be reconstructed from the second part: the Applicant’s Record.

Happy Scouting!


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


(October 6, 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.

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