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Issue 119 – December 22, 2007

Dear Andy,

Your November 12th column had a question about a Scout with various medical issues—The Scoutmaster’s name was Rick Jurgens, in the Patriots Path Council, NJ (adjacent to my own council). If it’s possible, could you forward him my contact information. I’m a Registered Nurse, Eagle Scout, and CC of a Pack and Troop, and I’d like to offer my assistance in working with him and his Troop. Thanks. (Name Withheld by Request)

How’s that for “Scout spirit”! (I immediately passed this message over to Rick.)





Dear Andy,

Our pack is really, really new and we’ve lost more than half of our original cubs. Our remaining boys are really good about showing up and doing the crafts that we plan, but we need more boys. Is there a site where I can get some examples of flyers that we can use to pass around the schools in an effort to get more boys? (Don Stewart, Wolf DL, Southwest Florida Council)

The absolute very best source for recruiting ideas and materials is your District Executive! DEs are actually trained in recruiting techniques, so reach out! DEs don’t bite! <just kidding>





Dear Andy,

In many past columns you’ve said that a Scoutmaster can’t and shouldn’t sign off on merit badges. I’ve looked for this in writing in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book, but I can’t locate this policy. I need to find it and show my troop. Can you tell me where to find it?

I’ve questioned this several times, and I’ve always been told by my other leaders that we can sign off on blue cards in situations like after summer camp when a Scout comes home with a partial we can finish this off at a troop meeting. I’ve told them that we as leaders are not allowed to do this—that the Scouts need to find a counselor and go to him or her and get the requirements completed; however, I’ve been told many times that since it’s summer camp we can sign this off. I’m not trying to cause a rift in the troop, but I want to do the right thing!

On a related topic, the BSA has Blue Cards for a reason: To use for merit badges. Yet, our council camp has been using and will be using a different merit badge application. Can they do this? It makes it hard on the Scouts and adults to keep records. We just end up giving the guys a “dummy” blue card and referencing back to the “white sheet” (AKA “summer camp merit badge application”). Is there any sort of policy on this?

Lastly, is there any supplemental training on subject of Scout advancement for us leaders? (If not, there should be!) I know that on the national website under Boy Scout section-Adult Leader, under training, you can click on “Supplemental Training” and there’s a self-study module for advancement. But is it required? (Ben Ward, SM, Heart of Virginia Council)

BSA Advancement Rules and Regulations, Article X, Section 1, Clause 13: “The responsibility for merit badges shall rest with the merit badge counselor…The merit badge counselor shall prepare and qualify youth members.” (Source: Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, BSA No. 33088C.) Note that it doesn’t say “…or Scoutmaster,” or “…or troop committee member,” or “…or Assistant Scoutmaster,” or anything else along those lines, and it also doesn’t say, “…in the winter months,” or “in the autumn months,” or any other such malarkey. It says Merit Badge Counselor. Period. End of story.

More: Go to page 187 of the Boy Scout Handbook. The process for earning merit badges is right there. Note that it doesn’t say, “…or have your Scoutmaster (or CC or ASM, etc.) be your counselor.”

“Blue Cards” are the usual form of the Merit Badge Application, but despite their almost universal use across the BSA’s more than 300 councils, they’re not “mandatory” or “official;” they’re simply the going practice for more than a half-century. If a council or council camp eschews their use, they’re running against an overwhelming tide, but they’re entitled to do this if they so choose.

For “supplemental training,” start by reading the Boy Scout Handbook, then the Scoutmaster Handbook, and then Boy Scout Requirements (front sections)—99.99% of what you need to know is right there!





Dear Andy,

Our council has had many successful Merit Badge Pow-Wows, but we tend to have the same merit badges offered every year and I’m looking for some new ones to suggest trying this year.

Another issue is this: What happens when a Scout starts one at the Pow-Wow and doesn’t finish it and doesn’t follow through with the counselor. Since most merit badges have a project section, it’s tough to come up with three- or six-hour merit badge sessions. We could have forms sent out ahead of time, where the Scoutmaster would verify that the Scout had completed the project (e.g., participated in a popcorn sale, which might allow the Salesmanship MB Counselor to complete the remaining requirements during the three-hour class). Similar merit badges might be American Cultures, Crime Prevention, Computers, Communication, Fingerprinting, and Soil and Water Conservation. Do you know of other possible “one day” merit badges? We tend to have a three-hour morning session, a lunch break, and then another three-hour session. Each Scout can either pick one all-day class or two half-day classes. (Rusty Rodke Santa Fe, NM)

Having been involved in similar events, I do know there are any number of single-session merit badges available, including Metalworking, Wood Carving, Fingerprinting, Truck Transportation, and Computers, and I know there are others (I’ve written about them in earlier columns). A reading through the various requirements will, I’m sure, reveal others.

Although I’m not personally in love with Merit Badge Pow-Wows, Fairs, etc. (largely because one of the goals of the Merit Badge Program is to imbue and encourage individual initiative in our Scouts and events like this have a tendency to diminish that goal), I do understand that Scouts like them and they’re relatively harmless in a broad sense. I would, however, recommend against “partials” unless the MB Counselors giving their time on a particular day are equally willing to work further, and individually as necessary, with those Scouts who don’t complete all requirements on the spot. I’d also recommend against pre-Blue Card pursuit of prerequisites for certain Merit Badges, because these run the risk of being done willy-nilly rather than under the direct guidance of a MBC, as they’re intended to be. In a different but related arena, let’s also please remember that a “partial” is good right up until the Scout’s 18th birthday—There’s no such thing as “good for one year” or some such arbitrary stipulation that conflicts with BSA advancement policy. Finally, let’s also be sure everyone understand that no merit badge requirement can be “adjusted” to “accommodate” the event—This would constitute a serious violation of BSA advancement policy. These aspects considered, best wishes for successful events.





Howdy Andy!

I’ve just discovered your columns and have spent WAY too much time today trying to catch up—G great information! Thank you for doing this for us.

I’m Cubmaster of a relatively new pack. We were organized a year ago and virtually none of the adult volunteers had any prior experience with Scouting leadership. Some of us were Cub and/or Boy Scouts, but that was it. When I asked our District Executive, who had organized and run that first meeting, what I could do to help, he said, “You’re the Cubmaster. Have fun!” Luckily, there were a few other parents who stepped up, and they’ve been great Den Leaders.

When we first began, we had about 30 boys. We were very Tiger- and Wolf-heavy, with just a couple of Bears and one Webelos. At the time, we could only find one volunteer for each den (and, in fact, had to combine the Bears and Webelos). We ended up with a Tiger den of about 12 boys and the Wolves numbered about ten. It wasn’t too long before I discovered that the BSA states the ideal size for a den is about 6 to 8 boys (after a year’s experience with large dens, I can definitely corroborate this). I attempted to split the dens into two smaller dens each but wasn’t successful. It didn’t work mostly due to lack of additional volunteers, but I did have a couple of parents who may have done it if I’d really pushed. The real problem, though, was the parents. I got a lot of grief about how their son had to be in the same den with his friends and if he couldn’t be, they’d just quit. I didn’t want that to happen, so I stopped pursuing it.

Fast forward to today: We now have 50 boys. We have two well- sized new Tiger dens, but the previous Tigers are now Wolves and that den has 15 Cubs! The three additional boys in the den joined because they have friends who were already in the den. I’m now confident that I can find additional leaders for the den (and the now-Bear den, which has 12 boys) but I’m still getting the same noise from the parents whenever splitting the dens is discussed. Even the den leaders don’t seem to be on board–They say they’re fine with it the way it is. My own son is in the Wolf den, and when I go to the den meetings it can be chaos even with the Den Leader, an ADL, and me trying to ride herd.

My new ACM (thank God for miracles!) has suggested that we just split the dens and if people don’t like it, tough. I guess that’s not quite my style, but I’m close to trying it. What do you think we should do in this situation? (Dirk Thayer, CM, San Diego–Imperial Council, CA)

Thanks for finding me, and enjoy the reading — But don’t try to absorb everything at once! With over 100 columns, there’s just too much to absorb rapidly. Take your time!

Congratulations on making a new pack work! You and your fellow volunteers are truly making a permanent difference in the lives of these boys and their families!

The BSA recommendation for dens of between six to eight boys is well-founded. It largely has to do with practicality and to assure that every boy in the den gets hands-on guidance from his Den Leader. When dens are “super-sized,” ultimately Den Leaders breathe sighs of relief when not every boy shows up, and so ultimately dens of larger size tend to dwindle in size over time, meaning that boys become lost to the Scouting program and its learning opportunities… Usually permanently. Luckily, it is not your own ultimate responsibility to provide leadership for the boys… This is the responsibility of the parents. Parents can be problematic at times. If their son is in a den, and there’s adult leadership already (even if the den numbers 15!), they think that that’s OK (mostly because they don’t understand the depth of the Scouting program and, sometimes, simply because they don’t wish to commit their own personal time).

Yes, dens of 12 and 15 need to be divided into dens of six or seven or eight each, and not more than this. This is the responsibility of every parent. There needs to be a “den parent meeting” in which the parents are told that the den will be divided into two groups, each to become its own den (give them brand-new den numbers, rather than preserving the “old” number and creating just one new one–This way, no one becomes an “outcast”). Let the boys themselves decide (Yes, they’re fully capable of this) by writing down their best den friend’s name and their second-best den friend’s name on a piece of paper (privately, of course), and then the parents with the assistance of the current Den Leader review the papers and decide what the best combinations will be to form two separate dens.

They need to understand, of course, that not every boy and family may be 100% happy with this division, but that it must be carried out, regardless. Then, the parents of each new den are told that, between them, they need to come up with two volunteers–one to be Den Leader and the other to be Assistant Den Leader–who will commit to registering, getting trained, getting a uniform, and leading weekly den meetings. (CAUTION: “Co”-leaders doesn’t work! Never has; never will!) If the parents refuse to reach agreement on this point, then they need to be told in absolutely crystal-clear terms that if they aren’t willing to provide the Cub Scouting program for their own sons, there’s no “Plan B”—Their sons will simply not be able to enjoy the Cub Scouting program (“BSA” does NOT stand for “Baby-Sitters of America” and no one is obliged in any way to come to the rescue of parents who are unwilling to stand up for their sons). Moreover, “The Pack” is not obliged in any way to provide leadership; nor is anyone else besides these parents themselves, so don’t get pressured by this argument.

As for the Den Leaders who are saying, “It’s fine the way it is,” they need to be brought up to speed on the cold fact that this rarely if ever works out! Case in point: I remember a second-grade class of 24 boys… One parent said she’d take her son and seven other boys; another parent (bowing to the pressure of a group of less-than-willing-to-commit parents) offered to take the remaining 16 boys, if she could have a Co-Den Leader (which she got). Four years later, all of the eight boys in the first den earned their Arrow of Light and shortly afterward all eight graduated into Boy Scouting (six went on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout). Meanwhile, the other den had dwindled to about seven (the other nine had simply dropped along the wayside over time), two of whom earned AoL but only one of whom went on to Boy Scouting. (Yes, of course I chose a distinctly polarized example—How better to make the point!)





Dear Andy,

My son’s patrol elected him Patrol Leader in early summer; shortly after the elections our family took an extended vacation, and of course our son was along. Meanwhile, his Scoutmaster called a “mandatory” leadership workshop. Our son, of course, was already with us, and didn’t know about this workshop till we all returned. That’s when he learned that, in his absence, the Scoutmaster had had the patrol elect another Scout in his place, and thereupon told my son that he’d be the Assistant Patrol Leader but that he’d get “leadership credit” for the APL position. But shortly thereafter, the Scoutmaster told both boys—my son and the “new” PL—that neither one would get credit because he was instituting a new “rule” to the effect that unless a patrol met some sort of “national patrol award” status nobody in the patrol would receive credit toward leadership tenure for rank advancement. When questioned, he affirmed that, as Scoutmaster, he could make the decision to award or withhold leadership credit as he chose.

Can he do this? Is a Scoutmaster actually authorized to award leadership to an APL? Or take it away from a PL if he chooses? Or make a patrol re-vote if a PL misses a meeting he didn’t even know about? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m very sorry that this sort of stuff has happened to your son. There are many errors here, beginning with the high-handedness of the Scoutmaster when your son was absent from the leadership meeting due to circumstances totally beyond his control (i.e., he was with his family—as he should be—on a family vacation), the rather arbitrary act of replacing him by making the patrol hold another election, his lack of understanding that the APL position is absolutely not a qualifying leadership position for rank advancement (or the lack of understanding that no one can override a BSA-stipulated requirement), and on and on…

My best recommendation to you, given the plethora of errors being made in your son’s present troop, is that you and your son go and check out nearby troops, look for a correctly run troop, and go join it. If your son has friends in his present troop that he’s reluctant to move on from, a move may be difficult. But, who knows?… It might turn out that his friends may want to join him, in a troop that delivers the Scouting program the way it’s intended to be delivered! Besides, this sure beats trying to shovel water upstream, or—worse—having your son drop out in frustration!

Why am I not saying, “stand up and fight”? Simple: The only way to correct a corrupted organization is from the top. Attempting this “from within” is invariably a useless effort in futility.





Hello Andy,

I’ve been with our pack for one year and am a committee member. My husband is the Committee Chair. I’ve been told that Webelos Scouts who have reached aged 11 cannot work toward their Arrow of Light. All I can find regarding age is this (Requirement 1): “Be active in your Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade (or for at least six months since becoming 10 years old), and earn the Webelos badge.” Can you tell me if a boy can be in fifth grade and age 11 and still work on his Arrow of Light? A reference citation would be appreciated. (LF, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

This is a brand-new question and I really appreciate your asking it! One of the three ways to be eligible to be a Boy Scout is to be 11 years old. The other two ways, each independent of the others, is to (a) complete 5th grade and (b) earn the Arrow of Light. OK, with that out of the way, there is nothing that prohibits a Webelos Scout who has had his 11th birthday from completing the requirements for Arrow of Light. You’re not going to find a “rule” or “policy” on this, however, because it’s an inside-out situation. What you need to do if you choose to confront the person who told you that 11 year old Webelos Scouts can’t complete the requirements for AoL is to insist that he or she show you the written policy that specifically prohibits this. But don’t wait… While they’re searching, make sure the boy in question is working on his requirements and not sitting idle waiting for a reply.

The alternative, of course, is for him to simply go and join a Boy Scout troop. Although it would be nice to have, I can assure you that his Scouting “career” will not be irrevocably damaged by not having completed the AoL He’ll have bigger fish to fry as a Boy Scout!





I read your ask Andy colum. (sic) Interesting how your misuse of the term odious perpetuates your own pious point of view. (DL)

Suggestion: If you don’t care for my point of view, stop reading my columns.





Dear Andy,

Where can I find information on how a Scoutmaster is elected? (Steve Boeckmann)

Scoutmasters aren’t elected; they’re appointed by the head of the troop’s chartered organization (or designate: The troop’s Chartered Organization Representative) and Committee Chair working in concert with one another.





Dear Andy,

What do you do when a Scout’s been elected PL or SPL and he’s doing a poor job? We are very on top of what’s going on and try and give ideas and guidance, often to be ignored. While the advancement requirements don’t set a standard of performance, it’s important that the PL, SPL, etc., jobs be done well, or at least attempted in effort. I think this is one aspect of this requirement that falls short. I despise the idea of getting credit for a poor job! (Bill Fleming, SM, Occoneechee Council, NC)

As Scoutmaster, your primary, top, foremost, and ultimate job in your Troop is to TRAIN YOUR YOUTH LEADERS.

If a PL, APL, SPL, ASPL, QM, or whatever isn’t “getting it,” it’s your job to fix it, get it right, help the Scout see the light, train him, coach him, counsel him, mentor him, model for him, and aim him toward True North. You have the distinct advantage of being neither a parent nor teacher nor pastor, priest or rabbi, but, instead, the BIG BROTHER to your Scouts. If you were, in fact, the big brother of a boy who needed some course correction, what would you do to help him? Answer that and you’re on the right track to solving your Troop’s problems.

No one gets credit for a poorly performed job, and so it’s your singular responsibility to make sure that your Scouts’ performances in their elected (e.g., PL, SPL) and appointed (e.g., ASPL, QM, Scribe) positions are successful. Do YOUR job to the very best of your abilities and I personally guarantee that your Scouts will be successful in THEIRS!





Dear Andy,

Can activities within the Bear book that are used to accomplish achievements be substituted with activities developed by the den leadership? (Brian Arnold, McDonough, GA)

Good question, and here’s the answer: No.

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,” too. And that’s the story.





Dear Andy,

Can a Commissioner in one council be an Assistant Scoutmaster in another council at the same time? (Name & Council Withheld)

The answer, I think, is along the lines of maybe yes, maybe no, but definitely not a cool idea. It’s BSA policy that one can’t be both a unit leader and Commissioner concurrently, but since “unit leader” usually means Scoutmaster or Cubmaster, being an ASM probably will let one get away with it, although technically this shouldn’t happen. (It has nothing to do with how many councils you’re registered in, by the way).





Dear Andy,

About troops delaying the earning of Eagle till Scouts are older and more mature… If a Scout earns Eagle by age 13, what’s left? I have seen this in my own troop, where I’m an ASM, a few of the Scouts have earned Eagle by age 14 or 15 and we rarely if at all see them anymore. We’ve tried to convince them that their experience and leadership ability is important to the newer Scouts, and that seeing an Eagle still involved will keep more Eagles involved down the road. (Name & Council Withheld)

A bit of ancient history: I made Eagle at 15; my brother at 14; both of us stayed active in our Troop and in Scouting right up to 18, and then became ASMs (I went on to become Scoutmaster of the same Troop I’d earned my Tenderfoot badge in!). More recently, I’ve sat on Eagle boards for 17 years olds who drop out right after their Court of Honor, and 13 year olds who stay in and active for the next 4 or more years, and everything in between. In other words, something other than merely earning Eagle is operating here, and I’ll tell you from experience exactly what it is: It’s the myth that “Eagle is the ‘end of the trail’.”

Too many of us who should know better are out there telling Scouts (and their parents) that Eagle is “The Ultimate,” that “Making Eagle is a Life Goal,” that “This is the PINNACLE of Scouting.” Horsepucky. Eagle is a rank, pure and simple. Yes, it’s the highest (we’re not counting “Palms” here because Palms aren’t ranks), but advancement is just one of eight methods of Scouting.

Now I’ll go further… To artificially and arbitrarily hold a Scout back from his own advancement goals is a form of hostage-taking. In doing this, in purposefully delaying a Scout by throwing up roadblocks, so that he “stays in the troop longer” is a complete and total miscarriage of the Scouting program itself, to say nothing of the advancement plan.

Want Scouts to stay active in your troop? Simple: Give ’em a program that enriches their lives, turns ’em on, and is fun. When it works, it works magic. I’ve seen troops that “get it.” There’s one, in particular, that I have in mind: It’s older Scouts drive to their troop meetings! Got that? Drove! THAT is what you call a troop program that’s a MAGNET. That’s what Scouting’s supposed to be.

To anyone harboring the misguided notion of holding a Scout hostage by stalling his advancement in order to keep him in the troop, I have but one response: SHAME ON YOU!





Dear Andy,

A while back, a Venturer in one of your columns stated: “I know that the tan uniform can be worn with green shoulder loops, and that there’s no specific uniform for Venturing.” I’m sorry, but that new Venturer is simply wrong, he DOES NOT wear green loops on a tan shirt. Check out any recent BSA Insignia Guide: “Shoulder loops, green ribbon, Venturer and Venturing adult… Not to be worn on Boy Scout khaki uniform.” (Dave Loomis)

Of course you’re right on the money: Green shoulder loops aren’t worn on a Scout shirt.

Dear Andy,

One of the Scouts in the troop I serve as Scoutmaster recently completed his Eagle application. His “educator” reference brought her letter to me (I’m the Scoutmaster) and stated that she couldn’t recommend the Scout. It seems that he had issues with her in class the previous year—that, according to her, he was disrespectful and “showed little interest in honesty and doing the right thing” and he needs to mature more. But then she went on to tell me that he’s mowed her lawn all summer for no fee and has been helpful to her in other ways as well (which I’d interpret as showing Scout sprit and a willingness to make amends for whatever mistakes he may have made. I’m thinking that this teacher should never have stated the content of her letter to me in the first place, and now I’m concerned about the impact it could have on this Scout’s board of review. I do know he’s been a troubled youth in the past, but he’s has made a nice recovery and is starting to mature. He’d trusted her to provide a positive referral and now she blind-sides him instead of telling him candidly and openly that she’s unwilling to do this. So what effect should one negative letter have on a Eagle board of review? Because of her telling me of her letter’s content, should it be presented to the board at all? Or should this Scout seek a different educator for a reference? This would have been much easier if, as an educator, she was able to follow directions, and had sent the letter to the Eagle board chairman, or as a person of forthrightness, she had spoken personally to this Scout. Instead, we have a potential mess on our hands. Any thoughts? (Mike Healey, Quivira Council, KS)

The first thing I have to say is that I’m a little confused about something… The names of the people listed on the Eagle rank application are people who, according to the usual procedure, have been contacted by the Scout himself and asked if they would be willing to provide a letter of reference for him, and when they reply in the affirmative their names are thereupon entered on the application. Do we actually have a person, here, who told the Scout that she’s write a letter of recommendation for him and then two-facedly wrote a letter unsupportive of his candidacy for Eagle? Or did something else happen, was some alternate procedure carried out? If the stated process wasn’t followed, then I heartily recommend that you and your advancement chair get on track with proper process, so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

That said, if, in point of cold fact, this teacher pulled a turn-around on the candidate, then that should definitely be pointed out to the members of the Board of Review, and you’re precisely the guy to do it!

Yes, that letter should absolutely not be withheld. It should accompany all other letters, the members of the BoR should read them all, and then of course they’re all destroyed immediately upon conclusion of the BoR.

Although, as Scoutmaster, you cannot be a member of any BoR for any rank, you always have the right to address the BoR members regarding any Scout about to advance. When the BoR is convened, but before the Scout is introduced, would be a perfect time for you to describe to the members exactly what you’ve stated here, with neither embellishment nor holding anything back. The BoR’s members should be fully capable of separating wheat from chaff and horses from horsepucky.





Hello Andy,

Can you give me some good ideas of how to award a Cub Scout who has earned his Wolf badge? (Melissa, DL, Coolidge, AZ)

There’s a very fine book you can buy at your local Scout Shop that has a whole bunch of ceremonies in it, made-to-order for Cub Scout leaders like you! You can also find a bunch right here:





Hi Andy,

We have a nice district patch that I’d like to put on our uniforms, but I don’t see any reference to such a patch on any of the uniform inspection sheets. Does it go on the right sleeve? (Betsy Flynn, Conquistador Council, NM)

It doesn’t go on the right sleeve, or anywhere else! Per BSA policy, there’s not supposed to be any district patches for uniform wear.

Dear Andy,

Our troop committee is debating whether or not to implement a requirement that each Scout attend a specific percentage of meetings and campouts in order to fulfill his requirement to be “active.” The debate also spills over to attendance criteria for fulfilling leadership requirements. I’ve read some of your past articles related to your opinion on mandatory attendance of some percentage and agree with your assessments. However, where I still have questions is with determining whether a Scout has met the leadership requirements in order to advance to the next rank. If, let’s say, a Scout has been put in the position of Scribe, and is rarely at any of the meetings for the six months he’s in that position (whether it be due to sports teams, a job, or any other valid reason) how can he have satisfied the leadership requirement? Wouldn’t a requirement that the Scout attend a set percentage of troop meetings solve that issue? Your further thoughts on this would help greatly. (Matt, Central NJ Council)

No Scouting unit is permitted to apply or enforce a percentage or other metric to the “active” requirement. This is a BSA policy; it is not my opinion. It is not subject to discussion or debate. End of story.





Dear Andy,

In the Arrow of Light list of things to do, one of them is to visit a Boy Scout troop with your den. Does it have to be done with the den, or could he do it on his own, and visit troop of his own choosing? (Rhonda Hitt, MC, Greater Alabama Council)

Good question! And the answer’s Yup, AoL req. 4 means doing exactly what’s stated: “With your den, visit at least one Troop meeting and one Boy Scout-oriented outdoor event.” No way around that. However, there’s a third visit – for requirement 6 – that involves visiting a troop meeting (separate from the meeting visited with the den) with one’s parents and having a conversation with the troop’s Scoutmaster. This requirement certainly allows for the boy to choose the troop he’d like to visit—Heck, that’s the purpose of this requirement!





Dear Andy,

As a boy, I spent three years (all with perfect attendance) in Cub Scouts and earned the Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, and Lion badges, all with Arrow Points. In fact, I was the only one in my den to go on to Boy Scouts. I spent seven years in my Boy Scout troop (again, with perfect attendance), earned Eagle with a Palm, was elected to the Order of the Arrow, and later became an adult volunteer leader. After 30 years, my mom just sent me the old “mother’s pins” that she received when I was a boy. Included was a large, pin-on arrow-of-light of the style that would be used in the 1960s. I called her and asked where she got it, and she said that she thinks they gave it to her because I was in the OA. I knew that that wasn’t the case, and I began looking through my old Lion book. I found the requirements for Arrow of Light, but nothing had initials signifying that anything was signed off (I do remember that the Cubmaster didn’t keep good records—Things were a bit loose in that area). I also know that no Cub received advancement cards; just patches or pins. I most certainly completed many of the requirements, probably all of them. I even looked at the Tenderfoot section of my Boy Scout Handbook. It kept open the option that I may have earned AoL. My best guess is that since none of the other boys earned the Arrow of Light (they didn’t go on to Boy Scouts), the Cubmaster probably gave the pin to my mother so I could wear it on my Boy Scout uniform. I long ago moved across country and am active in a new council. When I received the package from my mom and after calling her, I brought this up to some of my new Scouting buddies—all Eagle Scouts, Silver Beaver, and so on—and they encouraged me to wear the square knot signifying the AoL. But I felt funny about that. It wasn’t until one of them went out and bought a knot for me that I actually sewed it on. They even had sort of a “belated ceremony” for me, all in good spirit. What’s your take, Andy? If I’m off-base, I’ll pull that thing off. No knot is worth my reputation. Thanks for providing this resource. (Name & Council Withheld)

Congratulations! Yes, I think you can be justifiably proud of having earned the Arrow of Light award—There’s no way your mother would have had that pin if you hadn’t! Wear that knot with humble pride, my Scouting friend! And keep on enjoying being a part of the greatest youth movement the world’s ever known!

Happy Scouting!


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


(December 22, 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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