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Issue 116 – November 7, 2007

Hey Andy,

Where can I get a “bill of materials” for a Monkey Bridge… That is, a list of poles (including length and diameter), ropes (same measurements) and any other items needed to complete the bridge? (Bob Schatke, ASM, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

Right here:— It’s written by none other than “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt! It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Dear Andy,

Who would I contact about proposing a revision to a BSA book? (Alex Segneri, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)

I’d suggest writing to the BSA National Office in Irving, Texas. Before doing so, you might want to give them a call, and ask for the name of the best person to whom your letter might be addressed, depending on the book that you believe needs revising.

Dear Andy,

Is it possible to email the Philmont High Adventure Camp store to possibly purchase a gift card for a Scout who will be going to Philmont? Is there a place on the web where one can go and browse the items for sale at Philmont? (Pete Goodman, Great Rivers Council, MO)

Just check out and I’ll bet you’ll find just what you’re looking for!

Hey Andy,

As I read your considerable archive of advice, I note that the most intractable situations brought to you for mentoring involve leaders with some serious blind spots—They seem to be caught in a cul-de-sac of their own importance and their own way of doing things, at the cost of their unit’s program. While everyone around them sees they’re missing the point, they don’t—They’ve developed a blind spot. The BSA has a terrific self-assessment tool at

Following the steps there can help adult volunteers get a read on their effectiveness. It even suggests training based on the assessment.

Based on your wide experience, how would you suggest a leader assess his or her own effectiveness and, more importantly, determine whether or not they’ve developed a blind spot that’s undermining the aims of Scouting? (Clarke Green)

Thanks for telling me about that self-assessment site. I tried it myself, and I’m happy to tell you that I sure wasn’t “perfect”! Even just the questions alone gave me hints as to stuff I didn’t know or was less than sure of! It’s fun to do, thought-provoking, and I’d sure recommend it to anyone who’s open-minded about their “Scouting expertise.”

Yes, your assessment that considerable problems that I’m written to about have to do with self-important volunteers who do things their own way, somehow thinking that they know better than the entire world-wide Scouting program of nearly ten decades’ experience. Interestingly, when this happens, it most often is in the arena of Boy Scout advancement and almost always has to do with putting stumbling blocks, hurdles, and other arbitrary barriers in front of enthusiastic boys. This is certainly a “blind spot,” and it’s not easily excised or repaired, because these self-appointed demigods have already (and often long ago) convinced themselves of their ultimate rightness (if not righteousness).

Unfortunately, I’m becoming a believer that blind spots, like cancers (in more ways than one!) are virtually incurable. However, I also believe that, just as with biologic diseases, preventative measures can be taken—must be taken—if we volunteers wish to deliver the Scouting program as it’s intended. Some of the ways to prevent blind spots, I believe, are to stay in touch with “the big picture” by going to Round Tables, so we can interact with others with both less and more experience than ourselves, by re-taking training courses, even if just for the sake of charging your batteries (who knows—we may pick up something we didn’t know, or thought we knew but didn’t have quite right), getting on a training team for new Scouting volunteers, and pick a subject we don’t know, training our own Assistant Scoutmasters and then stepping back while they pick up significant responsibilities! These are some of the things we all can do, I think, that help prevent those blind spots!

Dear Andy,

I have two questions regarding Troop-Master software. First, I took Scout Leadership Fundamentals—What does that equate to in Troop-Master? Second, one of our leaders took Outdoor Leadership Training—What does that equate to in Troop-Master? (Suzette Juel, MC, Mid-America Council, IA)

Ah-Ha! You’ve just unearthed a “knowledge vacuum” of mine! I’ll confess right here and now that I have so little experience using Troop-Master that I’d be “the blind leading the blind”! I think your best resource here would likely be your District Executive. He or she most likely uses this software to re-register your unit every year, and will most likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Dear Andy,

In my troop, we’re trying to create an advancement book for the Scouts and their parents to keep records, etc. I would like to find a single, one-page listing of advancement requirements to print for this book. Any advice on where to look? (David Keith, SM, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

For a set of rank-by-rank advancement requirement summary pages, that both Scouts and parents can use to keep track of what’s been done and signed off, and what still needs to be done, turn to pages 438 through 449 in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. Nope, I’m not joking or pulling your leg—This is absolutely the very easiest and best place for record-keeping and next task tracking! And, it’s already done for you!

This is a “wheel” that’s already been invented. Now you might invent a different one, but it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll invent a better one!

If you’re looking for a way for Scouts to keep their advancement cards, merit badge “blue cards” and certificates, and so forth in good shape and all in one place, try the plastic “pocket pages” for baseball cards that can be bought at most sports memorabilia stores. These work great and they’re just the right size!

Hi Andy,

I’m turning 18 in a few weeks. I’ve just been told by the wife of my Scoutmaster that he’s leaving town for two weeks, and if I wait for his return that gives me only two weeks to do my Eagle project, which would be impossible. Can I get the signature from an Assistant Scoutmaster instead of my Scoutmaster (Scout’s Name Withheld, Orange County Council, CA)

You’ve probably already learned from reading and beginning to fill in the blanks of your Eagle Scout Leadership Project Workbook that you need four signatures in order to actually begin the work on your project (this is, of course, after you’ve already developed your project goals, plan, timetable, etc.). The four signatures are: Representative of the recipient of your project (this one’s first), unit committee member (usually your Troop’s advancement chair, but this isn’t mandatory—it can be any troop committee member), Scoutmaster, and representative of your district/council (usually an adult Scouting volunteer who’s chair or a member of your district’s or council’s advancement committee). If your Scoutmaster will be unavailable to sign at the time you and he have already agreed that you’ll be submitting your workbook to him for his signature, I’m sure he can designate an alternate (an Assistant Scoutmaster is a logical choice). But, you and your Scoutmaster need to have a personal and very specific conversation about this, so that there are no misunderstandings.

A further thought: If you’re truly going to have a “time crunch” here, all you need to do is develop a project that can be completed in less than two weeks. This isn’t impossible! I’ve seen fully qualified Eagle Service Projects that took exactly one day of actual in-the-field labor (sure, it took a lot of helpers, but it still got done in one day)!

Dear Andy,

I need to know the best and quickest way to do plaster casting of animal tracks. Do you have any ideas? (Connie Mangano)

Get some cardboard (a maybe 2″ strip that, when formed into a circle, will surround a single track), a box of some good old Plaster of Paris at your local hardware or hobby store, a stir stick or disposable plastic spoon, a paper cup, some water, and some tape to secure the two ends of the cardboard to one another, to form the circle.

Assemble the circle and put the cardboard ring around the track, being careful not to cave in the sides of the track or otherwise deform it.

With water, the paper cup, and the stir stick or spoon, mix up—by eyeballing it—enough plaster to fill the track and the cardboard collar up to about an inch from the 2″ high side. Follow mixing directions on the box. Don’t “beat” the water-plaster combination—You want as few air bubbles in it as possible. You’ll want a consistency that’s pourable—It’ll be about as thick as melted ice cream. It’s sort of like making a chef’s roux.

Pour the plaster concoction into the collar, s-l-o-w-l-y so as to have as few air bubbles in it as possible.


Then wait some more, till the instructions on the box tell you it’s probably “set.”

Pick up the entire collar-and-plaster, turn it over, and with a small bristle paint brush, brush off any dirt or debris (you can actually wash it off, after removing the collar, but be darned sure it’s dry, first)!

On the flat part that’s now the underside, write the date and location of your newest artifact.

Last step: Grin with pride at your handiwork!

Dear Andy,

Can an adult earn the RECRUITER patch if he or she recruits a new boy into Scouting, or this a youth-only patch? (Mark Kopel, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

Check the BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE (it’s a booklet you can buy for a coupla bucks), because one of my New Year’s resolutions was to resign from the “Patch Police.” (Just kidding!)

According to that guide I mentioned, it looks like this is a recognition for Cub and Webelos Scouts, and Boy Scouts. Whether it applies to adults, too, looks to be a “gray area.” I’d say use your own good judgment, but I’d also add that my own sense about this says that, as an adult, I’m not sure I’d want to be wearing a kids’ recognition. Your call…

Dear Andy,

Concerning troop committee meetings, do the Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader have to attend the entire meeting, or can they attend just part of it? And, are they expected to attend every meeting? (Laura Hendrix, South Plains Council, TX)

The SM and SPL absolutely don’t have to sit through the entire troop committee meeting! In the first place, neither of them is a member of the committee—They’re only there to keep the committee up-to-date on what’s happening with the troop’s program, activities, and events, so that the committee can support this program. If I were the troop committee chair, I’d put the SM and SPL right up front on the agenda, so they can fill the committee in, and then they’re free to go while the committee works out the details of what needs to be done, and who’s going to do it.

Dear Andy,

At a College of Commissioner Science, can a professional meet the requirement of having earned the Arrowhead to qualify in the CCS Masters degree? Do professionals qualify for the requirement of being a registered Commissioner? (Garry Winchester, Southeast Louisiana Council, LA)

Sure, a BSA professional staffer can complete the requirements for the Commissioner’s Arrowhead Honor, but only registered volunteers who hold the position (and wear the badge) of Commissioner get to actually receive the certificate and wear the Arrowhead itself. BSA professionals who are also registered volunteers might hold a variety of positions, including Cubmaster, Den Leader, Scoutmaster, or unit committee member, but it would be inappropriate for them to be registered as or function as Commissioners because this simply makes no sense. In fact, regardless of the volunteer position held by a BSA professional, it actually encroaches on the paid job they’re supposed to be doing.

Now as far as earning “Commissioner’s Degrees” in a Commissioner College, while you might want to give them an honorary certificate or “degree,” we need to remember that the “college” concept is used to draw volunteers to training and keep them coming back. In this light, a BSA professional who has a personal mission to “earn his degree” (of whatever level) is really being a little bit silly. This stuff is for the volunteers. Professionals have their own so-called “Darth Vader Square Knot” that they can earn!

Dear Andy,

What are your thoughts on the Star and Life leadership position requirement clause: “…or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the troop?” Our troop, like many, has more Scouts than leadership positions. There are several parents leaning on the Scoutmaster to assign their sons a position to allow them to advance. While we don’t want to be a barrier to advancement, we’re unclear on what type of assigned leadership projects might be appropriate and if the assignments should immediately be offered to any Scout requesting a leader position. (Marc Stewart, MC, Ouachita Area Council, AR)

Troops will always, I hope, have more Scouts than leadership positions. But, in a Troop of, let’s say 34 (because that’s close to B-P’s “ideal size” for a Troop) there would be one SPL, maybe two ASPLs, four PLs, one QM, one Historian, one Scribe, one Librarian, 1 Chaplain Aide, and one Order of the Arrow Troop Representative—That’s 13 right there, plus an unlimited number of Den Chiefs and Instructors and JASMs (although I’d hope that your JASMs are already Eagles!), and Troop Guides (one for every new Scout patrol). These could realistically account for upwards of 75% of all the Scouts in the Troop. So are you telling me that 75% of the Scouts in your own Troop are First Class, Star, or Life? If not, then you actually don’t have more leadership positions than eligible Scouts (“eligible” is the operative factor here, don’t you think?).

To my way of thinking, leadership positions are aspirational—They are something to be earned. The earning occurs not while “on the job”—That’s how we keep our positions! The earning comes before that, and to get the job—whether it’s elected or appointed—a Scout will want to demonstrate that he’s got the right stuff in him to handle the job and do it well. After all, Scouts don’t elect to the position of their own Patrol Leader a goof-off who shirks his responsibilities, doesn’t show up, walks around wearing a frown, and argues with everybody at every opportunity. And Scoutmasters don’t appoint to the position of, say, Scribe, Quartermaster, or Historian a goof-off who… well, you get the idea. In short, the Troop doesn’t “owe” any Scout a leadership position just because he wants it, or even needs it to advance in rank. Scouting is not about advancing in rank—This is merely one of eight (count ’em–EIGHT!) different methods Scouting uses to grow boys into happy, responsible, contributing citizens who know how to make good decisions when the chips are down. Having to wait for a leadership position to “open up” and then “campaign” for it not by rhetoric but by showing by your behavior that you’ve got the right stuff for the job is more than a “Scouting lesson” – It’s a LIFE LESSON!

That said, if a Troop truly has something that needs doing, that doesn’t fall naturally into any of the leadership positions in the Troop, then the Scoutmaster can definitely pick the Scout whom he believes can do the job, and ask him to tackle it.

As for parents “leaning on” any Scoutmaster over something like this, so that their sons can get their next rank, sit ’em down and tell ’em flat out: “Your little Johnny will earn himself a leadership position in the Troop when he demonstrates to his fellow Scouts, and me, that he can handle it. Yes, I’ll train him when he’s earned the right to have the job, but until then, what Johnny needs to do is show every Scout, and me, that he lives that Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life. Say, do you know the 12 points of the Scout Law? No? Well, here they are… And here are some of the specific things Johnny can start doing, to tell everyone he’s ready…”

So, just because a Scout asks for a leadership position or a special leadership assignment doesn’t mean he’s going to get it, any more than my wishing for an Aston Martin just like 007’s this Christmas is any guarantee that I’m going to get it! Besides, this puts all the work on the Scoutmaster! And he’s got plenty to do already! That said, if I were the SM and a Scout came to me and said, “Say Andy, this Troop needs more money, so we can buy new Patrol tents. To do that, we need a new fundraiser. Well, I have an idea for one that I think would be good. Here’s how it would work… Now somebody will have to put it all together and make it happen, and since I came up with the idea, if you like it, I’m ready to run it!” guess what would happen? You’re right, we’d have a fundraiser, this Scout would be in charge of it, and you’re darned right I’d tell him (when the job’s done, and only then!) that he’s just completed his leadership requirement for his next rank!

Dear Andy,

Does BSA have any specific by laws about how often a troop must conduct boards of review? We’re in a situation were our son has completed all his requirements for all ranks through and including First Class, but the troop has had only two boards of review in the past eight months (one of those was for a Scout who was moving, so they held the board of review on his last day in town, and only this Scout was reviewed; the second was held about four months ago and our son was unable to attend due to a conflicting mandatory school function). Our son has repeatedly asked for a review, and he’s been told, “It’ll be the first of the month,” but then nothing comes to pass. The troop states that boards of review are to be held the first Monday of every month, yet this hasn’t been the case—either meetings are canceled or the adults just refuse to do reviews.

At this point, we’re planning to transfer troops; however, we’d like to not have to start over or to try and explain why every requirement for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class is signed off, yet our son’s still just a Scout. Please advise as to what we should do. (Jennifer Muench, Cape Fear Council, NC)

Yes, by all means, get your son out of that Troop and into a Troop that “gets it”—The one he’s in doesn’t. The disservice they’re doing to the boys and young men in their charge is nothing less than reprehensible.

The Scoutmaster Handbook (1998 Edition, page 122) clearly states: “A troop should schedule its boards of review to occur on a regular basis so that Scouts and leaders can plan for them well in advance,” and the Troop Committee Guidebook (1990 Edition, 1991 Printing, page 30) states that the duty of the troop advancement chair is to “arrange and conduct monthly troop boards of review.”

The dunderheads running your son’s present troop either don’t know these fundamentals or, knowing them, ignore them. Regardless of which it is, they’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

That said, be absolutely sure that your son’s new troop isn’t the same or worse than the one he’s in now. You have every right to interview the Scoutmaster and committee chair, to determine whether or not they’re delivering the Scouting program the way it’s supposed to be delivered. If it’s not, continue your search till you find one that does.

What most parents fail to realize is that they’re not the supplicants, subject to the whims, wanderings and wrongdoings of a misguided troop. The fact is, the troop and its leaders serve at the pleasure of the Scouts and their parents. It’s the latter who are truly in change, not the former, because the Scouts ultimately “vote with their feet”—If the troop isn’t delivering the Scouting program as written, your son and you have every right to WALK AWAY.

Now here’s the good news: When your son shows his new Scoutmaster his Boy Scout Handbook, with all those requirements signed off, he should be granted a board of review right away—no “explanation” other than the truth needed here. And your son will absolutely not have to “go back to square one” or repeat any of the requirements!

Hey Andy,

I have a question relating to how members of an Eagle rank board of review should dress. In one of your columns a while back, you mentioned suit and tie, which I understand for those who aren’t registered Scouters, but shouldn’t the registered Scouters be in their full “Class A” uniforms? All of a sudden, this is an issue in my district, and I don’t know what national policy is on the subject. (Don McMahon,District Advancement Chair & ASM, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

First, let’s make sure we’ve properly covered the Scout himself. The only actual “rule” for an Eagle Scout candidate (or a candidate for any other rank, for that matter) is that “The Scout should be neat in his appearance and his uniform should be as correct as possible.” This means that a board of review cannot “demand” that a Scout be in full, complete, and correct uniform, but a board can certainly express its expectations beforehand, so that the Scout fully understands what is anticipated (this is something worth covering at the tail-end of his Scoutmaster’s Conference, beginning with the foundational ranks).

As for the members of an Eagle board of review, those who are registered Scouters certainly have the option of wearing their uniforms (one would hope they have the good sense to wear them completely and correctly!), if they have them, but it’s not a mandatory thing. This option is a good one, and I’d heartily recommend it, but it’s ultimately an individual decision. Jackets and ties (weather and circumstances permitting, of course) are, to my own way of thinking, in order, because we’re not talking about chopped liver here—we’re talking about the highest rank in Scouting, one recognized by colleges and universities, the military (I’m told that Eagle Scouts are automatically jumped one pay-grade on the spot), and around the world in many other venues.

Keep in mind that unit leaders and Commissioners are 99 percent the “uniformed adults” in a council; few if any other positions require a uniform.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been wondering why the District Award of Merit “square knot” isn’t a square knot—it’s an overhand knot and the rest are square knots. (Dwayne Settle, CM, Dan Beard Council, OH)

My “unofficial guess” is this: All “square knot” badges represent either “National” or “National-presented-by-Council” recognitions, whereas the D-A-M is a recognition presented at the District level by a Council. In other words, it’s one step down from the “square knots,” making the overhand knot an appropriate representation of that level.

Dear Andy,

I’m hoping you can help me. My son is a Bear Cub Scout. He started Scouts last year and completed Wolf. He’s wondering, and so am I, if there’s any way he can earn his Tiger Cub badge. (Tawnya Hulstrom, Shawnee Trails Council, KY)

Believe it or not, you’d actually be doing your son a disservice to try to go back and have him earn a Tiger Cub badge! That’s because Cub Scouting is grade- and age-specific. Tiger Cub stuff is now “little-kids’ stuff” for your son! There’s no challenge, and no possibility for personal growth. All he’d wind up with is a little piece of cloth, and I guarantee you that it’s not worth it! Instead of going backwards, help him direct his focus and energies on earning his Bear badge and then Bear-level Arrow Points, and forget Tiger Cub stuff—He’s way beyond that, now.

Dear Andy,

A search of the net shows plenty of opinions but nothing I can find officially regarding a policy of how many scouts to a tent. Also, what about parents who want to camp with the troop and have their son bunk in with them instead of another Scout? I know the BSA policy is that the only adult a Scout can sleep in the same tent with is his parent, but they are using this as a justification that they can always bunk with their son? (Jay Roddy, Texas)

Two-man tents, which is what your troop should be using, because they can be broken down into two bundles of approximately equal weight, for Scout buddies to carry in their backpacks, hold two Scouts each.

The BSA book, Guide to Safe Scouting, contains all the policies and procedures you need, except that it doesn’t address the issue of stupid, clingy parents who intend to emotionally cripple their sons and make them pariahs among their peers. Unless the campout is specifically a “family camping”-type of event, having a Boy Scout sleep in the same tent as his parent while his fellow Scouts are tented together is about as dumb as they come.

Boy Scouting is all about experiencing ever-growing independence; not continuing dependence!


– Get two-man tents and insist that all of your Scouts use these.

– If parents “come along for the ride,” then they must camp out of sight of the Scouts. (In fact, all adults except maybe the Scoutmaster should be camping/tenting out of sight of the Scouts.)

– Make it a troop “tradition” that any parent who comes along on a camp-out automatically becomes a member of the “old goat patrol” and is assigned duties that must be performed (stove-tender, cook, clean-up, etc., etc.)—no exceptions.

Dear Andy,

I need help! My son joined a Boy Scout troop a year and a half ago. He earned Tenderfoot rank and then started on Second Class, completing those requirements. But when he went for his board of review, the troop’s advancement chair stared asking questions on requirements, in effect re-testing him. He did know the answers, so his review was successful, but then, a couple of weeks later, the advancement chair cornered me (we were at a committee meeting—I’m a committee member) and announced that my son was “mentally disabled” (her words) and that the only way she’d “allow” him to advance further in rank was if I submitted a medical form describing his condition. I discussed this with my doctor and he has no explanation for why my son would be described this way. Academically, he’s above-average.

When I went back to the advancement chair and told her that all she did was retest him on requirements he’d already completed, she replied, “I didn’t think that you’d find that out,” and went on to say that she had to ask those questions to fill time , because she didn’t know what else to ask him.

I can’t face ever sending my son into a room with this woman again—advancement chair or not! I’ve read that she shouldn’t be the one to decide if my son advances or not, that that’s the role of the committee chair, but I don’t feel like bringing this up at a committee meeting.

I’ve been trying to get information about Lone Scouting from my council—I’ve contacted them six times by phone or email and they haven’t to answer me. What should I do? (Edited for brevity and anonymity-Name & Council Withheld)

Your son can become a Lone Scout, but I wouldn’t recommend this, because there’s simply too much value in associating with peers and learning from good adult role models by being a member of a patrol within a troop. So, my recommendation is that you find another nearby troop for your son—one in which he can flourish—right away.

Dear Andy,

My son is completing his First Class requirements. He has been able to do some service hours for a local food bank and has helped an older boy with his Eagle project. Can we include these service hours to go on his Star requirements even though he’s not at that level yet? (Laura Hendrix, South Plains Council, TX)

Read the wording of Star requirement 4. It begins, “While a First Class Scout…” The language and wording of requirements like these will usually be very precise (as this one is) so that there’s no confusion as to what it means. And, in this case, what it means is that your son needs to be First Class rank before he starts on his non-merit badge oriented Star requirements.

Also, just a word to the wise… He’ll want to be sure that he gets his Scoutmaster’s approval for service projects before he puts in the time (again, it’s right there in the requirement).

Dear Andy,

Can activities within the Cub Scout Bear Book that are used for Bear achievements be substituted with activities developed by the Den Leader? (Brian Arnold, Flint River Council, GA)

Nope. Now I’ll bet you’d like a little more than that, so I’ll tell you that it’s in writing, by the BSA, and it’s a very simple statement that no requirement can be changed in any way by anyone. This means no “substitutions.”

Dear Andy,

Who owns a unit’s bank account? When major issues arose between our troop’s chartered organization and the Cub Scout pack they also sponsor, they pulled our charter, too. Now they’ve decided that they want us back. But because we’ve had nothing but battles with them, our troop committee decided to seek an entirely new chartered organization, and we’re on the cusp of accepting an offer. Meanwhile, our former CO has told us that all of the gear (chuck boxes, lanterns, ice chests…a whole shed full of stuff!) that we’d worked hard to obtain is the CO’s property and theirs to keep.

Although I hate to think that we’ll have to start over with no gear, I’m resigned to that fact if they do, indeed, intend to keep it. But I do have a major problem when they said that they’re also allowed to keep our troop’s bank account. This account has over $800 in individual Scout accounts from popcorn sales and such, plus another $500 in general funds. The former CO never had anyone who was a signatory on the account, nor have they ever made any contributions to it—What right do they have to lay claim to that money? (CC, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

Ouch! You may want to consider getting your council’s professionals in the loop on this one, because it’s messy. The general rule of thumb is that, since the charter for the Scouting unit is held by the sponsor, the sponsor effectively owns the unit and this translates into owning all of the unit’s “stuff”—stuff can be tents and such, but it can be money, too. So, for the bank account, you might want to consider spending it on the Scouts who earned it, and just make it all go away. When there’s no money, avarice usually evaporates. As for the gear, this may be the “hostage” your former CO is using to lure you all back. So remember: It’s just “stuff.”

Dear Andy,

One of the troops in my area traditionally has a competition for its Scouts to design a new activity tee-shirt in advance of each summer camp, to then be worn at camp and at other times when a full uniform isn’t required. The most recent design they had was a camouflage design with the troop number on it. Someone who saw the shirt commented that the use of a camouflage design in connection with any sort of Scouting activity is prohibited by BSA. To be clear, the Scouts were wearing only a camouflage shirt—the pants or shorts were neither BSA nor camo. As an Assistant District Commissioner, what should my “position” be? (James Bova, ADC, Patriots Path Council, NJ)

It takes two steps to get to the central issue. First step: There’s a BSA policy that says that no apparel in imitation of a military uniform may be worn. Second step: Camouflage is worn by the US Army and National Guard—It is, in fact, their full-time uniform. Therefore camouflage apparel worn by Scouts can be taken to be in imitation of military uniforming.

Would I go on a “shirt-burning mission” over this? Probably not. But I would probably try to find a way to tell the Troop’s adult leaders that what they allowed was a pretty dumb idea, not to be repeated when the competition comes around next year! The smarter idea is to dress Scouts with as much bright color as possible—they’re much, much easier to spot that way! (My own troop wore neon green neckerchiefs, with black borders—Boy did that make my job as Scoutmaster at summer camp a breeze!)

ADDENDUM: It’s painful for me to point this out but I’d rather do it first —on a recent visit to Philmont, I visited the “Tooth of Time Traders” Scout shop there and, lo and behold, guess what I found… Yup, Philmont caps and tee-shirts in camo. So butter my noggin an’ call me corn bread—There’s just no winnin’ fer losin’!

Dear Andy,

Were can I find out what the themes are for 2008 for Boy Scout Round Tables? (Jill Richardson, District Chairman, Redwood Empire Council, WA)

Check in your Scout Shop, or with your District Executive.

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for a book or magazine that has a list and pictures of all the badges, pins, patches, etc. available for Cub Scouts. I want the boys in our pack to get everything they earn. (Tony Verhaeg, CM, Twin Rivers Council, NY)

At the website, click on “advancement” and then “Cub Scout” to find everything you want! That said, do keep in mind that much of Cub Scouting advancement is done between the boy and his parents and that it’s not the pack’s responsibility to assure advancement or awards. It is, however, the pack’s responsibility to make sure the boys receive recognition for all of their accomplishments with their parents and in their dens!

Dear Andy,

I recently learned that that one of my new Tiger Cub parents was a Scout in Ireland and earned the Chief Scout’s Award—the equivalent of the BSA’s Eagle Scout. Obviously, my first reaction was to recruit him as Assistant Cubmaster for my pack, which he was eager to accept. He asked me if he could wear his Chief Scout Award pendant (picture provided) as part of his Cub Scout leader uniform. I think that he should, given his pride and its significance, but want to be certain there aren’t any restrictions to wearing awards from another Scouting organization. (Austin Roy, CM, Yankee Clipper Council, MA/NH)

The BSA is sensible enough to state that there are “notable exceptions” to the general rule of “no badges of other organizations are to be worn on a BSA uniform” and I’d without hesitation say that a Chief Scout’s Award is one of these! Ask your Irish colleague to wear his with pride!

Dear Andy,

I’ve heard that Merit Badge Counselors for specific badges will need to be certified in that area—as experts, if you will—before they may re-register for the upcoming year. For example, I’ve been told that Shooting Sport MBCs must be NRA certified. No one, including those who I’ve heard this from, can tell me where to find exactly what training a MBC needs for each badge, and the national office hasn’t responded to my email request for information. I’d appreciate any help you can give me. (Lori Carson, MBC, Tidewater Council, VA)

You haven’t heard from the National Council most likely because the they don’t approve Merit Badge Counselors. This is the responsibility of local councils. The best person to ask is your own council’s advancement chair or “Merit Badge Dean,” as they’re often called. This will be a volunteer; not someone working at your council service center.

Dear Andy,

I’m a parent of a Wolf Cub and have a question on the Progress Towards Rank badge recall. They’ve been found to contain lead in the yellow & blue paint and were sold from 2000 to 2007. There have been 1.6 million of these voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer. My question is: How many pack leaders know of this and are our badges potentially part of this recall? (Dawn Tacker, Chickasaw Council, TN

Regarding those recalled P-T-R plastic hangy things, the BSA sent out a broadcast notice via email, all local councils have done the same, and it’s been on the TV news shows around the country. So, there’s a pretty decent chance most leaders and parents have been exposed to the message. As to whether the badges you bought in 2000-2007 are or aren’t part of the recall, your very best bet is to check with the Scout Shop where you bought them.

Dear Andy,

I have a friend who has his BSA Lifeguard, and he’d like to know if it needs to renewed. Kathleen Nagle, parent, Hawk Mountain Council, PA)

The date for renewal is stated on his BSA Lifeguard card.

Dear Andy,

Can a Scout wear his uniform while doing troop fund-raising, such as selling candy bars or candles? (Leon Popec)


Dear Andy,

In the past, I’ve found the online Eagle project workbook, but my current efforts to find this publication on have failed. Can you please tell me how I can find it ASAP? (Michael James)

Just Google “eagle project workbook” or go to the NESA website.

Dear Andy,

Maybe this is a council-specific question, but hopefully you will have a simple answer. After a five-year hiatus from Scouting in which I went from active Eagle Scout to high school biology teacher, I’ve decided to re-register with my old troop as an ASM. In addition, I’ve signed up as a Merit Badge Counselor for Bird Study and Environmental Science. I’m told that I won’t receive any written or verbal notification from my council as to my approval. Should there be some way to check, short of actually driving to the office and asking the secretary? Do councils usually maintain some sort of publicly-accessible list somewhere? (Dan, Northern New Jersey Council)

Welcome back! If you’ve formally registered as an Assistant Scoutmaster and also as a Merit Badge Counselor, and filled out the necessary applications for these volunteer positions, and paid whatever fee is involved, the council service center should be providing you with actual registration cards, each stating your registered position. Call the council service center and speak with the registrar, to get your cards mailed to you.

Dear Andy,

Is wearing a neckerchief a required article for the uniform? I’ve heard both ways. Is it a BSA policy or a Troop choice? Also, I’ve noticed that some troops have adult patrols, like “Old Geezer,” “Rocking chair,” and so on. Can the adults wear a patrol emblem on their uniform? I know how you feel about “patch police” but I’d like the official ruling on this one. I think that this would help patrol spirit among the Scouts. Your thoughts? (J.R., Crossroads of America Council, IN)

Check the Boy Scout Handbook—pages 12-13—for your neckerchief question. On the patrol medallion question, while not strictly “legal,” Rocking Chair and Old Goat patrol medallions are pretty harmless and encourage esprit de corps, so I’d probably be the last one through the door as far as discouraging this is concerned.

Dear Andy,

Your October 12th column was another great one, but Mister Commissioner I’m surprised at you! After reading every one of your questions and answers over the years, you missed an opportunity. Here’s an Assistant Council Commissioner with access to a mother of four adult Eagle Scout sons and you didn’t question him as to why they aren’t wearing the BSA uniform as unit leaders or much-needed Commissioners! Four lashes with a wet noodle for not being “mentally awake”! (Dave Mountney, UC & Tenderfoot Scout Dad, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Ouch! I’ll take twenty lashes with a wet lanyard! 😉

Dear Andy,

I’m an old Eagle Scout, from back in the early ‘60s. I recently pulled out my old sash and I can no longer identify all the merit badges I earned. I’ve checked current websites, such as this one, and have identified most of them, guessing at a couple that have changed somewhat and or been discontinued. As an example, my Cooking MB looks like an old-time cooking pot and my Marksmanship MB looks like a bull’s-eye target. But I still have three that I can’t identify. One appears to be old-time fire hose nozzles or trumpets. Another is a red heart. The third is a fireplace hearth with an easy chair. Do you have a link to a site that shows all the old merit badges and not just the current ones? Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. (I am not currently active in Scouting at this time.) (Robert Buchholz, San Gabriel, CA)

If you’re not involved in Scouting in the San Gabriel Valley Council (service center on Sierra Madre Boulevard in Pasadena), I hope you consider getting involved! Good guys are hard to find!

The pot is indeed Cooking and the bull’s eye is indeed Marksmanship; the others are—in this order—Firemanship, Personal Fitness, and Citizenship in the Home. (I earned these, and earned my Eagle in ’57, so you’re not as old as you might think!)

Happy Scouting!


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


(November 7, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)


About AskAndy

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

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

Read Andy's full biography

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