I am an adult Scout Leader from the Southeast Asian nation of Singapore. My Scout unit is planning an overseas learning and adventure trip to Hawaii in November 2008 and I wish to inquire if there is a Boy Scout unit in Hawaii (perhaps Oahu?) that our troop could meet. We are planning for 30-35 of our troop members to be there. They are aged between 13-17 years old. (Louis Lim, Leader, Raffles Scout Group, Scouts Singapore)
Thank you for finding me, and asking! Yes, there is a Boy Scout council in Hawaii, and you can find them at http://www.alohacouncilbsa.org/ This is the Aloha Council-BSA and their main office is on Oahu. If you were to contact them directly, I’m certain that they would be most accommodating!
In your December column, this question was asked: “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.” Your answer was: “No Scout 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.”
The Scoutmaster Handbook states for Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leaders the troop determines the requirements those positions (sic). Also Scoutmaster (sic) can sign off merit badges if he is counselor (sic) for them. What people are trying to say Scoutmasters can’t sign off any merit badges. (D.K., Gulf Ridge Council, FL)
Thanks for reading, and for writing! Now, let’s see if we can do some fine-tuning here… Yes, the Scoutmaster Handbook does say that there can be prerequisites to holding leadership positions such as Patrol Leader and Senior Patrol Leader (e.g., we wouldn’t necessarily want an untried Tenderfoot running for SPL!), but this is about criteria to seek the position; it’s not about applying metrics to performance-in-position (i.e., the “active” part of the rank requirement). This should not, however, be any sort of problem in a troop whose Scoutmaster is on the ball, because that same book states: “The Scoutmaster’s most important job is to train the troop’s (youth) leaders”!
On your second point, Scoutmasters cannot sign off on merit badges as Scoutmasters. If they are dual-registered as Merit Badge Counselors, then the “hat” they’re wearing when they sign off on a merit badge is…you guessed it!…Merit Badge Counselor.
The troop determines the requirements for Patrol Leaders. This can be prerequisites to the job or what the criteria for the position he wants to do. In Star and Life rank, the Scout Book states: Serve actively for four months in one or more positions. If he holds a position and does not perform his duties you don’t reward him for not doing his job. We have removed boys from positions at the request of our Senior Patrol Leader because they would come around. Sometimes this is what it takes for a Scout to change.
You missed the point on Scoutmasters signing off merit badges. You sound like Cinton (sic) on what “is” is. I am a counselor for five merit badges but I am still a Scoutmaster when you state Scoutmasters can not sign off badges alot of Scoutleaders (sic) can’t see that he may be dual registered, as most all Scoutmasters are. You need to state a Scoutmaster can sign off if he is a counselor for that badge. (D.K., Gulf Ridge Council, FL)
If a Scout, despite his Scoutmaster’s best efforts at providing training for him, is not carrying out his responsibilities as described to him and for which he’s received training and ongoing coaching, then that Scout can certainly be asked to step down, so that another Scout can get the job done. If this happens before tenure in that position is completed, then the Scout will need to seek another position in order to complete his tenure in a leadership position. If, however, his resignation or removal takes place after tenure is completed, then he is considered to have served for his designated tenure. This is not my opinion, and it is not subject to further discussion. This is stated BSA policy. For more information on this and related subjects, go to:
On the merit badge sign-offs, No, I didn’t miss the point, and, No, my response to you was hardly Clintonesque and I’m offended by that analogy. What you’re not getting is which is the cart and which is the horse. Scoutmasters absolutely do not sign off on merit badges by way of their position as Scoutmaster. Merit Badge Counselors are the only registered adult volunteers authorized to sign off on merit badges. If a Merit Badge Counselor is also registered as a Scoutmaster, or District Chair, or Council President, or Queen of Sheba, that’s totally irrelevant. Unless he or she is a registered Merit Badge Counselor, there’s no signing off on merit badges. End of story.
I have two Webelos questions…
First, on the Geologist requirement no. 3, does it mean to collect rock and mineral samples from your home and yard, or do you use items like dishes, linoleum, cabinet doors, etc.?
We have a “Webelos Super Achiever Award.” Does it mean that every requirement for every badge is completed, or is it just that all badges are earned, based on each badge’s requirements? I’ve been told both ways. (C.R.J., Flint River Council, )
Thanks for finding me, and for writing! Do understand: Although I can give you experienced viewpoints, and I research my answers with all due diligence, I am absolutely not the “final authority”–That rests with the BSA itself. With that understanding, let’s tackle your questions…
That Geologist requirement (it says “at home”) probably sounds a bit ambiguous. But let’s first remember that the folks who develop and write these requirements are pretty savvy. So I’d say that that’s deliberate, and can be interpreted to have the same meaning as, “in and around the home,” meaning both inside and outside. Here, we’re looking for three mineral samples to test for hardness (per the scale). One might be a piece of chalk, found in Mom’s kitchen drawer; the second might be a natural clay pottery pot from the garage; and the third might be a stone from the garden.
But here’s the most important thing to remember: When it comes to Webelos activity badges, the Den Leader isn’t expected to be the expert in all of the various areas. In fact, the Den Leader’s most important responsibility here is to find folks who are experts, and invite them to come and teach a den of eager boys over several meetings!
The “Webelos Super Achiever Award.” I’ll readily confess that I’m not specifically familiar with it—It may be a local designation. In one of my former councils, when a Webelos Scout earned every activity badge, we called this a “sweep.” Sounds like these may be one and the same. If so, my educated guess is that it means earning all the badges; not completing every requirement for every badge. Do check with your local folks on this one!
Where can I get the New Unit Organization Process (No.34196)? (Hattie Warren)
The BSA publication, Membership Committee Guide (No.33080-$4.39), contains, among other things, a 12-step plan for organizing Scouting units. Check for this, and the other publication you’re seeking, at your council’s Scout Shop. If they don’t have these in stock, I’m sure they can be ordered for you!
Our chartered organization has just removed our unit Committee Chair due to circumstances unbecoming a leader that was well documented, in addition to which, under this person’s “service” so to speak, our unit’s membership declined by half every year. This has, however, caused some upset within the unit, among older youths’ parents in particular. But this change was greatly needed for the survival of the unit! How can we explain and get the parents to understand that this was the best move for the unit and not a personal attack? (Name & Council Withheld)
If you try to “explain” the past, you’re gonna get wrapped around your own axle! Don’t even try this! If a parent has a question, he or she can go speak privately with the head of your sponsor. Don’t make this sort of conversation an “open forum.”
So stick to the positive, and don’t review “ancient history.” The head or executive officer of your chartered organization, or the Chartered Organization Representative, can write a letter (NO EMAIL!) to the unit’s parents, describing the appointment of the new Committee Chair and then highlight plans and goals for the future success of the unit. You may even wish to send this letter to families whose sons have recently (past year) dropped out—This just might be the good news they need to get involved again!
Letters to dignitaries requesting commendations for a Boy Scout who has attaining the rank of Eagle are sent from whom? The Scout, parents, or someone else? (Gary Taormino, Eagle Dad)
Definitely not the Scout—This would smack of being a personal ego trip! Parents are OK. The Scoutmaster or the troop’s advancement person would be even better. Personally, I’d vote for the troop’s advancement chair, simply because Scoutmasters already have more than enough to do!
35 years ago, I received the BSA’s Honor Medal. Unfortunately, over the years I’ve lost both the medal and the square knot. Whom do I contact in the BSA in order to pursue replacements? (William Richardson)
I’m thinking that your very best bet would be to call the BSA national office at 1-972-580-2000. I’m sure that, from this main phone number, you can be directed to the right person.
Our troop, being small, has traditionally held boards of review just before each Court of Honor (we have three Courts a year). We may have reached the time were we need more frequent boards of review, so our Scouts don’t have to wait four months to move up in rank. What’s your opinion. (Bill Fleming)
Boards of Review should be held at least once a month. Or, in a smaller Troop, they should be convened as soon as any Scout has completed his Scoutmaster Conference and the Scoutmaster has told the troop’s advancement chair that one or more Scouts are ready for their board of review. The idea of keeping a Scout waiting for up to four months for a board of review just isn’t being fair to the Scout! In fact, it’s artificially road-blocking him! A board of review for every rank except Eagle is a simple, 15 minute or so process, conducted by at least three (and no more than six) registered members of the Troop Committee. This should hardly be difficult or burdensome. Moreover, did you know that boards of review are also held for Scouts who are not advancing, as a way to understand what may be happening in their lives to prevent this and to encourage them to do so? In this regard, once-a-month reviews helps to keep the Scouts motivated!
I see your point and agree. But up to this point our courts of honor have been scheduled to coincide with our boards of review at four-month intervals. Can we actually present the rank outside of a Court of Honor? (Bill Fleming
Advancement is at Scout’s discretion; not the troop’s (and especially not the troop’s “bureaucracy”). Every Scout has the opportunity to advance at will.
The troop’s obligation to the Scout is to provide a program that includes opportunities for advancement. For instance, when the troop plans and carries out an overnight hike and/or campout, the Scout has the opportunity to, let’s say, pitch a tent and sleep in it, or cook a meal for his patrol, or spend some time on a trail improvement or conservation project along the way, or make a useful camp gadget, all of which are requirements for various ranks, But whether or not he seizes on the opportunity is up to him and no one else.
If, instead, the Troop is emphasizing, “Do this (whatever) and you’ll complete requirement X,” then the Troop is doing exactly what it’s not supposed to be doing. Instead of encouraging individual initiative, it’s spoon-feeding its Scouts and subtly telling them, “Don’t do anything unless you can knock off a requirement or two.”
As for when you present the rank or merit badge, you do this as fast as you can. This is in the Scoutmaster Handbook. It’s also a part of every Boy Scout Leader Specific training course. As soon after a board of review as possible, the Scout receives his next rank. For instance, if he successfully completes his review this week, then the advancement report gets turned in within the next several days and at next week’s troop meeting, you present him with his rank in front of the troop.
Courts of Honor are where you acknowledge all of the advancements that have occurred since the last Court; they are absolutely not the place to present ranks or merit badges for the very first time.
Check out what I’m saying here. Do some reading. It’s all there.
My son will have his Eagle ceremony next week, and we are scrambling trying to figure out what would be appropriate gifts for the Scoutmasters and ASMs who have helped him along the way. Is there a protocol for this? (Ann Crowley, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)
There’s no protocol for gifts from Eagle Scouts to their Scoutmasters, ASMs, and so forth; however, there is an “Eagle Mentor” pin that can be presented to a Scouter who has helped your son the most, or maybe you could purchase more than one of these pins, if there are truly several individuals. Other than this, a sincere note to each of those who have been there for him along the Scouting trail, hand-written by the Scout, is often more than sufficient.
If you indeed wish to go beyond this, visit your local Scout Shop—They have a wide variety of Eagle items to choose from.
One of our troop’s Star Scouts (he just turned 14 and is working toward his Life rank and is currently the Troop Scribe) told me that he is bored with the troop meetings because all they do is knots, first aid and other things geared mostly to the younger scouts; and then at the end of the meeting he collects dues, which although necessary (and he understands this) isn’t exactly a lot of fun. I responded that, as a Star Scout, he should be assisting the younger Scouts with their knots, first aid, etc., as part of being one of the youth leaders. His concern with that is that we already have four Patrol Leaders, two Instructors and two Troop Guides, so there’s little room for him to assist the younger Scouts. I immediately discussed this situation with the other adult leaders in the troop because I’m concerned that other scouts in the troop that are at least First Class may also have similar problems with being bored at meetings. The adult leaders have been brainstorming on what we can do to spice things up for the entire troop and especially for the older Scouts. I have been researching for meeting ideas to make things more interesting for the older scouts, but have been unable to find anything on the subject. One thing we plan to implement is a more interactive PLC each month, so the youth leaders can come up with more diverse ideas for programs each month (right now it is mostly the SPL and PLs quickly deciding—and at times dictating—the same tired old programs just to get the PLC meeting over with). Any ideas you can provide would be appreciated. (Matt Riti, Central New Jersey Council)
As a Scoutmaster, I followed one very simple guideline when it came to program considerations: WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK THE SCOUT.
Forget this stuff about the committee thinking about it. If you’ve got boring meetings, and the Scouts tell you this, then ask the Scouts (use the PLC for this) to come up with plans and activities that AREN’T boring! Then go and do them.
I’ve been invited to be a Unit Commissioner and one of the most immediate challenges will to be to revive a troop whose adult leadership has dried up. This troop has just four or five Scouts, which, while few, should be OK with the right adult leadership. I’m getting ready to meet with the District Executive to discuss ideas on reviving the troop, and I’m looking for input on the minimum number of adults needed to run a program. As I understand the BSA regulations, the minimum would be:
– A Chartered Organization Representative,
– A Committee Chair, and
– A Scoutmaster.
Is that your understanding? My hope to revive the troop is to first revive the Cub Scout pack, which I understand folded a number of years ago (It had been the troop’s “feeder”) to create a more steady stream of boys into the troop, have a roundup for the troop (emphasizing the boy-led nature of the program—that is, the adults’ responsibilities will be less than for Cub Scouts), which I hope will lead to one of the adults volunteering for the Scoutmaster position (we do have a COR and I believe I’ve lined up a Committee Chair). Am I on the right track here? (Name Withheld, Transatlantic Council)
As I recall, it takes a minimum of three adults and five youth to charter or re-charter a unit. So what you’ve outlined looks just about right. I’m sure your DE will give you a heads up on this.
I think your idea of resurrecting the pack first is right on the money! After that, you can concentrate on the troop. Another option is to check out the available age ranges in the area… It might turn out that a Venturing Crew (ages 14-20 and CO-ED!) might be just what the doctor ordered!
Congratulations on taking on a Unit Commissioner role. I can tell you that, with the possible exception of my stint as a Webelos Den Leader, the UC position has been the most personally rewarding slot I’ve held in Scouting! Yup, it can be frustrating, too, but in the long run it’s a blast!
I have a question for the Boy Scouts I’m hoping you can answer.
I have always been told that the Texas flag is the only state flag that can fly level with the American flag, because it was a country, first, unlike the other states. I believe that any state can fly level as long as the American flag is first risen and last down. Which is the truth? I thought about writing to our politicians, but I knew the Boy Scouts of America would know the real answer.
Thanks for asking a Scout! The answer, as you’ve probably guessed, isn’t a “Boy Scout answer”—It’s found in the U.S. Flag Code adopted by Congress and a part of the Congressional Record.
Although Texas was a republic before becoming an American state (it was admitted to the Union as a state in 1845), the federal rule applying to all states, regardless of their “prior lives” is that they fly lower than, or to the left of, the American flag. And, Yes, you’re correct that the American Flag is always the first up and last down. When going up, it’s raised briskly; when lowered, it’s with measured pace.
Hi again, Andy,
These “know it alls” I work with seem to differ. So is Texas the only state that can fly at the same level as the American flag? I have searched on the Internet under rules, etc., but still cannot find any hard writings that state this.
So, I’m guessing you’re in Texas right now?
I’ll try to be clearer… NO STATE FLAG can fly higher than the American flag; but a state (any state) flag and the American flag can fly at the same height so long as the American Flag is on it’s own right side, as in…
American Flag State Flag State Flag State Flag etc.
o o o o
(Note that the American Flag appears to be on the extreme LEFT when you look at, but from ITS point-of-view it’s on the RIGHT.)
Two questions about flag etiquette…
When flags are in various positions along the length of a parade, should every flag be saluted, or just the first?
Do Scouts’ and leaders’ hats stay on or are they removed during an outdoor flag ceremony or a parade?
(Randy Carr, Roundtable Staff, Milwaukee County Council, WI)
Paragraph 177 of the official U.S. Flag Code states this: The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes. Yup, it’s that simple. Flag passes: Salute. …Flag passes: Salute. …Flag passes: Salute.
As to indoor vs. outdoor wear, here is the BSA’s official response to that issue, per the Insignia Guide (No. 33066E): Official headgear may be worn while the unit or individual is participating in an indoor formal ceremony or service duty, except in religious institutions where custom forbids. Typical indoor activities of this type are flag ceremonies, inspections, orderly duty, or ushering service. In any informal indoor activity where no official ceremony is involved, the headgear is removed as when in street clothes.
For a few years I had served as the Scoutmaster of my troop; recently, I stepped down and was asked to stay on as Assistant Scoutmaster in charge of advancement (i.e., “advancement coordinator”). My new committee chairman has more recently pointed out that, as an Assistant Scoutmaster, I’m not permitted to be the advancement coordinator. I know through the various training courses I’ve taken that I’m not permitted to sit on a board of review as an ASM; however, I can’t find anything in print that states that I can’t be an ASM and the advancement coordinator. Up until now, we’ve always had an ASM be the advancement coordinator, and never had this issue before. I can’t find this referenced anywhere. Please let me know what is the correct answer! (Susan Renshaw, Monmouth Council, NJ)
The plain truth is that, up until now, your troop’s been pretty much off-center. Not in any “lethal” way, but off-center nonetheless Hats off to your Committee Chair for efforts to straighten this out and get your troop aimed closer to True North!
Per lots of BSA literature, the role of Assistant Scoutmaster and that of the troop committee member responsible for advancement (usually called Advancement Chair) have virtually nothing to do with one another. For the responsibilities of an Assistant Scoutmaster, look in the Scoutmaster Handbook and the Troop Committee Guidebook. For the responsibilities of the Troop Advancement Chair (a committee position, read the Troop Committee Guidebook and the Scoutmaster Handbook.
If you want to be, and enjoy being, advancement coordinator, or advancement chair, then change your registration designation to MC (“committee member”) and that way you can not only sit in on boards of review, but chair them as well! This can be an enormously rewarding experience, and I encourage you wholeheartedly to consider it!
I have four questions…
What are the minimum requirements for becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster? I’m Committee Chairman for my Troop. I’ve got a couple of men who want to be ASMs but won’t complete Scoutmaster training and it’s been well over a year for both of promising to do so. My Scoutmaster tells me that other troops “let” adults be ASMs if they’ve completed everything except the Outdoor Skills weekend. It’s my position that the committee shouldn’t approve anyone as an Assistant Scoutmaster who won’t complete all Scoutmaster training because it sets a terrible precedent and offers no incentive for finishing training. Next thing we know, if we let two dads do it without being fully trained, there will be six moms who want to keep treating their Scouts like little boys and want to sign up to be ASMs just so they can! (BTW, I’m a mom, so let’s not get on a “sexist” kick!)
Also, from what I gathered from my own training, the committee approves Assistant Scoutmasters—Is that correct? (My Scoutmaster seems to think that all one has to do is say OK to those who volunteer, and tell them to go buy a shirt.)
From what I’ve picked up from the Internet, BSA National Policy has changed to state that, for all campouts with Webelos, there must be a fully trained Scoutmaster present. Does this also apply to Boy Scout troops and where can I find a copy of the BSA National Policy, if it does?
Last, Why-Oh-Why can’t I find BSA National Policy information on-line? I can find it quoted in other troops’ websites, but I can’t find it on the BSA website! Isn’t there a manual out there that covers all BSA National Policy information such as training minimum requirements, etc? (Claudia Gomez)
It takes more than a pulse to become a BSA adult volunteer… The BSA’s stated requirements for becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster are found on the BSA’s Adult Registration Application. They are: Be age 18 or over, be a US citizen or if not agree to respect and obey the laws of the US, agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, and subscribe to the BSA’s declaration of Religious Principle, and submit to a criminal background check from public records. Further, the BSA expects all newly registered adult volunteers to take Youth Protection Training within 90 days of becoming a registered leader. The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the BSA deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. These aren’t the “minimum requirements”—they’re the requirements.
The unit committee chair (in other words, not the whole unit committee by vote or other means, although their input along with that of the Scoutmaster can be taken into consideration by the chair) approves all adult volunteers…with further approval by the head of the chartered organization or the chartered organization’s representative (COR).
A stipulation that all adult leaders serving a unit—whether ASMs or committee members—take position-specific training as a condition of registration with the unit is superb! You have the right and the authority to do this, because proper training (or the lack of it) impacts directly on the quality of the Scouting program that you will be providing for the youth you all serve as well as the physical and emotional safety of these youth.
What other units might or might not do is irrelevant. Arguments along these lines are identical to the little kid who tries the ploy, with his or her parent, that, “Johnny’s parents let HIM do…(whatever)!” In short, stick to your guns.
The requirements for trained adults, and the training required, is on your council’s Tour Permit form, which your troop should be filing every time you go somewhere.
The BSA bylaws and policies on everything fills volumes. Instead of posting this whole thing, which risks tempting us all to become “guardhouse lawyers,” the BSA policies pertinent to specific actions or events (such as registering as an adult volunteer, or going on a trip) are included in the documents pertaining to the specific action or event. In addition, extensive BSA policies will be found in specific BSA-published literature pertaining to specific subject areas, such as Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, Troop Committee Guidebook, and Guide to Safe Scouting. These books and booklets are often free and when priced are modest, and I’d recommend a trip to your local Scout Shop to pick up a few to keep in your Scouting Library.
I’m being asked, “Why doesn’t the BSA have a way for a Scout who is Eagle to display his hard work in earning palms other than wearing his medal all the time.” What’s your opinion on this is? (George S.)
I think the answer to your question lies inside the Scouting philosophy that it’s not about the badges “outside” the Scout—it’s about the sense of accomplishment, the humble pride, and the feeling of self-sufficiency that’s inside the Scout that really matters. Another example of this is the merit badge sash, which Scouts wear on special occasions, such as Courts of Honor, but not at regular troop meetings, patrol meetings, hikes, or campouts. Moreover, while palms are certainly symbols of achievements beyond Eagle, they aren’t ranks.
As we move further into another Scout year, a few random thoughts…
No Scouting unit, or its leaders, or even its Scouts, is perfect. Neither are we Commissioners. We do our best with what we’re given. Just like the units we serve, who are also doing their best with what they’ve been given.
Neither rules nor angst about the rules will accomplish anything. Scouting isn’t about “rules,” it’s about boys and young men and what they need in order to grow into the kinds of happy, responsible citizens this country wants and needs.
The closer a unit focuses on the True North of what Scouting’s supposed to be, the better its “end-product” will be.
Commissioners have no authority and no influence except as they develop persuasive (but not coercive) friendships with the folks in the units they serve.
We can take our volunteer roles and responsibilities in Scouting seriously; we must never take ourselves too seriously. Our uniforms and badges will not give us a higher place in heaven.
The realistic pursuit of perfection is a good thing; relentless insistence on perfection is not.
We Commissioners guide the units we serve with feathers, not baseball bats. We speak softly but do not “carry a big stick.” We carry no stick at all.
It’s mentally and emotionally healthy to develop an understanding of what we can change in a moment, what will take a year or perhaps even a decade, and what will not change in our lifetimes.
It’s not important to “know more” than the unit leaders we serve; it is important for them to know we care more than they imagined.
“Triage” is more an honest assessment of our own limitations than an estimation of another’s health.
Have a question? Idea? Suggestion? Thought? Something that works? Just write to me at AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com. (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)
(January 18, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)