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Issue 126 – February 12, 2008

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to find out which Sunday in February the United Methodist Church Scout troops do their service or honor the anniversary. There seems to be nothing on the council or national websites except that Scout Sunday is the first Sunday and Scout Sabbath is the following Saturday. (Lloyd Biller, ASM, Virginia)

Yup, “first Sunday in February” is it! So, this year, it’s February 3rd. Oops! That means your troop may have missed it! So… What to do… How about simply mustering your troop for the 10th, 17th, or 24th (No one’s gonna call “Neener-Neener” — I promise!).


Dear Andy,

On an Eagle project, can a Scout do a service project for Camp Fire USA? (Kenny Lathan, ScoutReach Scoutmaster)

My research tells me that Camp Fire USA is a not-for-profit organization for youth that is as old as Scouting in America, and shares many of the same goals and values as Scouting. It would therefore seem to me that this organization is an excellent candidate for service! The final criteria, of course, will be the nature and scope of the project the Eagle candidate conceives, but the recipient sure seems right on the money!



Dear Andy,

My son will cross over to Boy Scouting later this month, and I’ve just agreed to be the Assistant Scoutmaster for a nearby troop. The current Scoutmaster and Committee Chair are a husband-and-wife who have been in these positions for over 30 years and are tired, but do not want to give it up just yet. In the last year, I’m told, they’ve run off a couple of Scouts and their dads who wanted to help them out (sent their way by the district).

The troop has two active Scouts, though I use the term “active” loosely—they show up for meetings, but the troop itself doesn’t really have any other activities beyond weekly troop meetings.

In addition to my own son, there’s another Webelos II who may cross over and join, and then there may be a couple of boys from from another pack.

What kinds of things can be done to revive this troop? (Paul Lovell, Heart of Virginia Council)

Sorry to break the news, but a “troop” of two Scouts isn’t a troop… It isn’t even a patrol. How they re-chartered (the minimum is five Scouts and three adults) is beyond me. And this is the result of 30 years of “dedicated service”?

While I absolutely appreciate your motivation and excellent intentions, I’m obliged to say: Go find a troop that’s healthy and then invite those other Webelos and the troop’s two sorry remaining Scouts to join, too. Let Ma n’ Pa retire.


Dear Andy,

Our Venturing crew is having trouble with our assigned Unit Commissioner—He’s truly become an interruption and in some cases a disruption to my crew.

He’s retired military and a long-time Scouter who comes off as just plain belligerent. He attends all our crew meetings and continuously interjects, interrupts, and otherwise aggravates my Venturers. He constantly interrupts the crew officers during their meetings by adding his “two cents.” He consistently interrupts my closing comments at meetings. (I could go on and on.)

I recognize that he hasn’t singled us out—he does the same sorts of things at district meetings and training sessions. As adults, we’ve kind of learned to ignore him, but on a crew level, my Venturers are beginning to get very frustrated.

He and I have worked together in Scouting for a long time, at the district level. Without just absolutely hurting his feelings and telling him to “buzz off,” do you have any suggestions? (Name & Council Withheld)

Let me see if I have this right… There’s a guy who shows up where he’s not wanted, is an interruption and disruption, continuously interjects and interrupts, and aggravates the youth in your Crew, district people, training staff, and on and on… and you want to spare his feelings.

OK… why? He certainly doesn’t seem to be sparing anyone else’s?

Here’s the deal: Commissioners are not supposed to have any contact with the youth of any unit. Their responsibilities include interfacing with the adult volunteers in a unit, but not the youth. So, start with this: Someone needs to tell this jerk that he’s not welcome at any meeting where youth are present. Period. Not open to further discussion. If he doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter: He’s not welcome and will be removed if he, ignoring your preference, shows up anyway.

In case you haven’t figured this out: You’re dealing with a bully. Your job is to put a stop to his bullying. Do with him exactly what Scouts are taught to do when faced with a bully. There’s no difference.

Dear Andy,

My son is a Webelos Scout, and I recently registered to become the Committee Chair. We have a Cubmaster that has caused an enormous amount of turmoil, and has blatantly ignored the rules and alienated pretty much all the Den leaders, committee members and our Chartered Organization Representative. He doesn’t recognize his culpability in any of the trouble, despite the fact that all the disagreements have been with him, and none of them have been between any of the other leaders. Our pack is shrinking and it’s not fun any more. We want him removed and need to know what our options are. Can we just vote him out? We are unanimous in wanting him gone. I can’t seem to get a straight answer on how to do it by the book so that he can’t cause any further trouble or start saying that we didn’t follow policy. Can you point me to the right reference to do it “by the book”? Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

The “book” is, in fact, the BSA Adult Volunteer Application. It clearly states therein that the collaboration of the Chartered Organization Representative and Committee Chair decide who will, and who will not, be a registered volunteer in a unit. In short: You and the COR have the unilateral authority to place in and to remove adults from the various volunteer positions within your pack. It is NOT required, as it is in most businesses and corporations, to provide a “rule of three” or have issued three letters or in any way “explain” your decision. You simply make it an carry it out, and once it’s made and carried out there is no “higher authority” that can reverse the decision except the head of the chartered organization (so make sure you have his or her blessing before you proceed).

One major point: Follow the BSA guidelines for identifying and recruiting a unit volunteer (i.e., the new Cubmaster) and be sure to secure his agreement to assume this position immediately upon the removal of your current Cubmaster. In this way, your pack does not go into a “hiatus.”

Good luck with this. The “rule” to follow is simple: JUST DO IT.

Hi Andy,

I really enjoy reading your column. Occasionally, even I have run across questions that I don’t have a ready answer to, despite many years of involvement as a parent and volunteer, and now as a paraprofessional. Today I was asked if there’s anything in print regarding who determines which optional parts of the Boy Scout uniform to wear in a particular troop. Apparently, a particular troop is having some issues about the wearing of the new Switchback™ pants versus the traditional Scout dress pants. As far as National is concerned, either may be worn, but is there anything that indicates whether decisions on uniforming are the responsibility of the unit committee, the chartered organization, the Scoutmaster, or anybody or nobody? It would be nice to be able to help defuse the apparent tension ASAP! Whenever the adults squabble the Scouts suffer. While I’m fairly sure that I did see something in print, but I can’t recall where. I did check the basic resources (Scoutmaster Handbook, BSA Insignia Guide) but I didn’t come across anything that addresses this aspect. I’m wondering if this might be something that Unit Commissioners have had to deal with on occasion as well. Can you help? Thanks for all you do for the Scouts! (Zea Bauer, Quality Unit Executive, Los Padres Council, CA)

One of the best things about the BSA uniforms is that they’re pretty “universal”—if you’re a member of the BSA you wear the BSA uniform of the program you’re registered in, and you wear it completely—That is to say, there are no “troop uniforms” or “pack uniforms,” per se, but only Boy Scout uniforms, Tiger Cub/Cub Scout/Webelos Scout uniforms, Venturer uniforms, and Sea Scout uniforms. This keeps it simple. That said, there are alternatives within each of these program groups that a unit can elect, if they choose to. For instance, as a Unit Commissioner serving a bunch of units across three councils in the past nearly 20 years, I’ve seen—depending on geography and climate, among other things—an entire Cub Scout pack in long pants, another entire pack in short pants with blue-and-gold knee socks, a troop in long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and (at the opposite end of the spectrum) a troop entirely in short-sleeved shirts with shorts and green-and-red knee socks (in the case of this last troop that I’ve mentioned, the decision was made by the Scouts, themselves!).

Regarding the new nylon Switchback™ pants, the BSA has made it pretty darned clear that these are to be considered alternatives to the more traditional olive twill Boy Scout pants and/or shorts, meaning that one may wear either one and be considered “in uniform.” The Switchbacks are now available for those in the Cub Scouting program, too, as alternatives to the blue twill pants and/or shorts. So, I’d think it’s fine for a unit to recommend that all new members consider buying Switchbacks instead of their twill counterparts. Then, for those boys who are growing out of their first pants, the Switchbacks are an excellent replacement recommendation. However, I’d not suggest to units that they should “legislate” or in any way “demand” this, because the BSA itself doesn’t either legislate or demand this and to do so suggests that a unit’s “edict” is somehow higher than the parent organization, and of course this isn’t the case at all!

From an economy point-of-view, the Switchbacks do make good sense for the future, because although they’re two dollars more than the twill ($39.99 versus $37.99) they’re about 30 bucks cheaper than a pair of long pants plus a pair of shorts ($37.99 + $31.99 = $69.98)! (I bought a pair, myself, and even my wife likes my “new look”!)

So here’s what I think is an equitable “bottom line”—For any Scout or Scouter who’s going to buy their first uniform pants, or replacement uniform pants or shorts (for summer camp, let’s say), spring for a couple extra bucks and get yourself Switchbacks; but if you already own a pair of twills, and they fit, then wait awhile till you need new.


Hi Andy,

What date should be used on the Merit Badge Certificate? And is this a common practice or is it official BSA policy? (Jeff Gold, Advancement Chair, Los Angeles Area Council, CA)

The date the merit badge is considered earned is the date that the merit badge counselor signed it as completed. Period.

Dear Andy,

I work with Webelos II Den Leaders, helping with the Webelos-to-Scout transition. One of the Webelos parents asked if the God and Family religious award earned as a Webelos Scout could be worn on the Boy Scout uniform after their son crosses over. The only thing that comes to mind for me is the Arrow of Light award is the only Cub Scout award that can be worn on the Boy Scout uniform. I told the parent I would try to find an answer. Can you help? (Bob Rowe, ASM, Piedmont Council, NC)

The silver-and-purple square knot received for having earned God and Family as a Webelos Scout (or God and Me as a Cub Scout) is perfectly legal to wear on the Boy Scout uniform. If this young man then goes on to earn the God and Country religious award designed for Boy Scouts, he would then place two small devices on the square knot, each indicative of the level earned. (This is “in the book,” by the way—It’s just hard to find!)

Dear Andy,

Why is flag football OK for a sports belt loop and pin and tackle isn’t? I’d like to know BSA’s criteria for that decision. (Name & Council Withheld)

You’ve asked an excellent question, and it’s not been asked before, so let’s think about it… True tackle football requires lots of gear and involves lots of hard hits and heavy thumps; flag football requires some neckerchiefs and is otherwise “hands off.”

Dear Andy,

Actually I have thought about it. As a parent with two boys in football—one flag and one tackle—I saw more injuries in flag because there aren’t pads. Problem is, in order to achieve the Sportsman badge, a Webelos Scout must play two team sports. For a few boys, one of the team sports they play is football. Unfortunately, by the time a boy reaches Webelos, only tackle is offered; flag football is only offered at the Tiger age, thus disqualifying it for that particular badge. I really want a clear definition as to why, and now I need to explain that to a few Webelos and work on “Plan B”. (N&CW)

Thanks for your time.

Understand that the BSA in no way prohibits a boy from playing any sort of sport he wants to. The BSA does, however, impose safety standards on sports played within the Scouting program.

Dear Andy,

I totally understand that. The Scouting program is wonderful and has brought my family and many others together. I’m just disappointed that the BSA doesn’t recognize tackle football as a sport to earn a belt loop or sportsman badge. (N&CW)

With 25 different sports available to Cub Scouts, of which at least 16 are Olympic sports, I’m hoping that your disappointment over the considered absence of one particular injury-prone sport doesn’t pervade your overall Scouting attitude!

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to figure out how my Bear Cub Scout can earn the religious emblem. I’m told that he has to do a workbook in
order to get it. Is this correct? (Tim Shrader)

Yup, that’s correct. The religious award programs of the various faiths and denominations use workbooks. Check out

Dear Andy,

My troop is working on model rockets. They’re building water rockets out of soda bottles and will launch them at a winter camping event. One of our leaders built a potato cannon and demonstrated it to our Scouts. Of course it was a hit! My question is: Can my Scouts shoot the potato cannon at a target if we have adult supervision, safety glasses, ear protection, and do it in a secure area? (Charles Kopcho, SM)

For this excellent question you need an official answer from a local authority. Your council is likely to have a risk management committee, and these good folks will be your best source for this.

Dear Andy,

Can merit badges be worn on the right sleeve of the short-sleeved shirt? The Insignia Guide shows a long-sleeved shirt, but doesn’t specifically say a long-sleeved shirt. I had read that it could on another website that said it could, but four of my fellow Commissioners emphatically said No. (John Walston, UC, Central North Carolina Council)

They can be worn on the long-sleeved shirt, but not the short. From a practical point of view, fuggetaboutit entirely! After six on the sleeve, they all have to be removed so they can go on a sash (you don’t wear ’em in both places) and they leave ugly circles (or worse if that new glue stuff is employed) where they once were.

Want the “authoritative” answer? In the BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE, it shows them placed “above cuff” (refer to pg. 22) on the long-sleeved uniform shirt. The short-sleeved shirt, in the first place, has no cuff, and in the second, doesn’t have a “position 4.” End of story.

Dear Andy,

Can a Scout who earned Eagle wear the rank badge without having had his Court of Honor? (Frank Anzaldi, MC, Suffolk County Council, NY)

Absolutely! He became an Eagle Scout on the date he completed his board of review for the rank. Wearing the Eagle badge on his uniform right away is to be encouraged! (Setting the example, and all that…)

Dear Andy,

At a recent College of Commissioner Science, a discussion came up regarding Boards of Review and uniforming regulations… Is a merit badge sash required as part of the uniform for a board of review? (One fellow Commissioner said it was, his justification being that he would then know if the Scout had all the required merit badges for a particular rank.) I felt that that rationale was odd: Why would the Scout be in a board of review if he hadn’t earned the merit badges necessary for the rank? I’d think that the appropriate signatures in his handbook, plus his Blue Cards, would provide all the assurance necessary. In fact, I’m not aware of any BSA policy requiring a Scout to have a sash at all! The other Commissioner responded that a sash is required when a Scout has three merit badges, and I countered that, according to the Insignia Guide, a Scout may wear up to six merit badges on the right sleeve of a long-sleeved uniform shirt, if he chooses to. So, is a Scout required to have a merit badge sash? Is these some sort of actual written policy on this? (John Walston, UC, Central North Carolina Council)

The BSA statement regarding uniforming by the Scout at a board of review is simply this: The Scout should be as completely uniformed as possible. THERE ARE NO OTHER STATEMENTS.

Anyone demanding “full uniform” or “must wear merit badge sash,” and other such nonsense is way, way out of line. In fact, a merit badge sash is optional. If the Scout doesn’t want to wear one, no one can force him to. That clown of a Commissioner ought to have his head dunked in hot oil! Stick with your good sense—You don’t need chapter and verse to know when somebody’s whacko!

Hi Andy,

Our troop’s problem: An over-zealous Unit Commissioner. We truly value the time and effort Unit Commissioners put in, but our own UC is at every troop meeting, every committee meeting, and any and all other troop functions. At our last troop meeting, we had a Webelos II den visiting, and our Committee Chair was briefing the parents on what to expect in Boy Scouting, and this UC kept butting in and contradicting everything the CC said. At troop committee meetings he injects himself into the meeting and goes off on 20-minute diatribes. It’s reached the point that we’re actually having secret committee meetings, so he doesn’t show up and turn what we can do in about an hour into three-hour speechifying by himself! Bottom line: He’s negatively rather than positively affecting how the troop operates. Any words of wisdom? (Marty Bongers, ASM, National Capital Area Council)

Ahhh… The care and feeding of Commissioners!

Just as you and your fellow volunteers at the unit level have stepped up to serve the troop you’re associated with, and the Scouts in it, Commissioners have volunteered to serve you all. Sometime, just like you, they need some guidance. In the first place, they don’t have contact with either parents or the Scouts themselves unless you invite them to do so. “Buttinski’s” don’t win popularity contests! In the second place, spouting policy (even if it’s correct) in front of parents, to the possible embarrassment of the unit-level folks, is a big no-no! This should be a side conversation—either beforehand, if possible, or afterwards, to correct errors–but never, ever “in public.” Third, Commissioners come to committee meetings and visit troop meetings on invitation only. If you all haven’t “blessed” his presence in advance, he’s flat out not welcome. But, if he’s been invited and shows up and then starts spouting off, it’s the chair of the meeting’s job to shut him down. (This applies to anyone who wants to grandstand at a meeting!) If the chair doesn’t do this, well then shame on him!

Have you spoken with your Commissioner about any of the problems you’re having with him? He’s not a mind-reader, you know. He may not know there’s a problem, and may believe that he’s doing a terrific job keeping you all on the straight-and-narrow. If you don’t conference with him, it would be unrealistic to expect him to change, out of the blue.

So, have a conversation—not a gripe session. Do a “Roses n’ Thorns,” just like you would on a Philmont trek. Tell him what you need, and what you don’t, tell him what you like about what he’s doing, and then point out whatever behaviors need changing in order to strengthen the relationship. Do this the same way you’d conference with anyone… Scout, parent, son or daughter, co-worker, and so on. After all, you’re all in this together and you’re all trying to do the best jobs you possibly can. He should get the message. If he doesn’t, well, as a last resort you can contact your District Commissioner and ask that someone else be assigned to your troop. But, talk first. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ll see a big difference, if you handle things as diplomatically as you’re ultimately expecting from him!

Dear Andy,

I have the pleasure of receiving an Eagle Mentor pin from two Eagle Scouts. So as not to offend them, should I wear both pins, or will it be OK to wear one? I’ve not seen anyone wearing more than one Mentor pin. (SM, Heart of Virginia Council)

If I had been given these by Scouts in my troop, you can sure bet that I’d wear both! Wow! Not a thing to be embarrassed about! In fact, I’d call these a considerable honor, that two young men think so well of you!

Hi Andy,

After five years, our Cubmaster is crossing over to Boy Scouts with her son in about a month. She’s not been involved in the Pack for two years (she lost her husband to cancer and then last year her house burned to the ground). Since she’s been less than involved, we’d asked her to take another, less rigorous position, but she refused. As a result, we’ve had to carry her weight as Cubmaster all this time. So what on earth should we do for her at the Blue & Gold banquet? Should we honor her with a plaque even though she’s done nothing for two years? Half the pack doesn’t even know who she is! The families in her own son’s den don’t even want to make anything for her because they just never see her. She did come to the Pinewood Derby last month, and we know she’ll be at the B&G next month. Any thoughts on what, if anything, we should do for her at the banquet? (Lori Swift, MC)

To answer that question (it’s a good one!), ask yourself this question: What would a Scout do? The answer will come to you, I guarantee it!

Dear Andy,

I was born in 1933 and became a Boy Scout in 1945, attained the rank of Life Scout, had more than 21 merit badges, but could not pass the swim test that was required for the Eagle rank at that time. I understand that either Hiking and Cycling merit badge can now be substituted for swimming. I have hiked the Grand Canyon in recent years and participated in organized cycling events. Do you know if records still exists from over 60 years ago? Being an Eagle has always been my dream and still is today. (Name Withheld)

In 1945, to earn the rank of First Class, a Scout needed to be able to swim at least 50 yards, so this means that you had at least some swimming ability if you made it to Life Rank. At that time, to be an Eagle Scout, you needed to (a) be active as a Life Scout for at least 6 months, and (b) earn 21 merit badges (including these required: Athletics OR Physical Development, Bird Study, Camping, Civics, Cooking, First Aid, Lifesaving, Personal Health, Pathfinding, Pioneering, Public Health, and Safety). Swimming merit badge was not on the “required” list, but it was a prerequisite to earning Lifesaving, which was required. So, if you didn’t earn Swimming merit badge, you couldn’t earn Lifesaving, at that time. Also, there was no age restriction on earning the rank of Eagle Scout at that time. The age restriction wasn’t put in place for another seven years. This effectively gave you seven more years to learn to swim well enough to qualify for Lifesaving merit badge.

Beginning in 1952 and continuing to this day, the BSA stipulated that a Scout’s 18th birthday was the “sunset” of his Boy Scouting days and no ranks could be earned beyond that date.

So, if the BSA National Advancement Committee were to sanction your earning Eagle per the requirements in force in 1945, you’d have to earn both Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges.

On the other hand, if you wanted to earn Eagle by today’s requirements (save the age restriction that’s been in force for the past 56 years), and asked for this sanction, you’d be confronted by a whole new set of merit badges that are now required, that didn’t exist in 1945, including: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communications, Emergency Preparedness, Environmental Science, Family Life, Hiking/Cycling, and Personal Management. Moreover, there are now leadership requirements (e.g., Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, etc.) and a significant service project that would need to be completed.
Although you’ve probably already done your own research into all of this, I’m laying it out in some detail for you, so that we can hopefully agree that the time’s past for accomplishing this particular goal. While perhaps regrettable, it’s hardly “the end of the world as we know it.” Thanks to your Scouting experiences, I would imagine you’ve lived an honorable, productive, responsible, and happy life, and can look back on your Scouting days in good cheer, and if you think you’ve somehow “failed,” this is hardly the case. For more on this, read my column of November 2002 (Issue No. 6).

Dear Andy,

I’ve just been appointed District Venturing Chair, and I’m having difficulty locating information regarding the structure and responsibilities of this position. Can you direct me to some resources? (K.T.)

Councils often approach Venturing differently from one another, so your best resources for getting underway will be your district chair, your district executive, and your council Venturing chair. Face-to-face conversations will work a lot better than email, by the way.

Hello Andy,

It’s my understanding, from the Guide to Safe Scouting, that Cub Scouts can’t use solid fuel rockets. Anyway, it got me replaced by the District Commissioner and Unit Commissioner of the pack (up till then, I’d been the UC of two troops and two packs). This DC has made it his mission to remove me from my Units. He had a meeting with sponsor of two of the units I had been serving, and told them that I no longer wanted to be their UC (even though that conversation never happened). Then, after my talking to the Cubmaster and Committee Chair of my other pack about the rockets, the Cubmaster told the District Commissioner about it. Two days later, the DC came to my house and in front of my kids told me that the pack didn’t want me as UC anymore, and added that the Scout Executive of our council had told him to do this. I felt that I needed to take myself out of his line of fire, and subsequently told my other troop that I wasn’t going to be their Unit Commissioner any longer. I guess what I’m wondering is how can a council not see this District Commissioner for what he really is—No matter how many people complain about him, they keep giving him more things to do. The latest is he’s now the representative for the OA in our area, and on the Eagle board. Maybe I’m just venting, but shouldn’t the Scout Executive at least have had a meeting and asked me what was going on, instead of just going on this man’s word? I’ve been told to talk to National but at this point I don’t believe they would or could do anything. Getting my units back is the least of my concerns. The fact is that this guy represents Scouting but clearly doesn’t know what that means. What kind of example is he? For the Scouters and more importantly the Scouts. (Name & Council Withheld)

Why isn’t the Scout Executive taking action? Simple. That’s not his job. Think of it this way: The SE is the business equivalent of chief operating officer of the company. Your situation is way down the corporate food chain, definitely no higher than “division/department-level” and this isn’t where COOs make decisions. That’s the job of the division/department heads, which, in your case, would be your district’s “Key 3″—one of whom is the DC you’re locking horns with! That’s a no-win situation for you. I hope you can find another Scouting thing to do that both keeps you happy and feeling fulfilled, and keeps you away from that DC.

Hello Andy,

I am looking for some help on determining what is a “Boy Scout-oriented outdoor activity” as it relates to the Arrow of Light. Our troop is offering Webelos II dens the opportunity to rake leaves with us for our chartered organization as the Boy Scout-oriented outdoor activity, but the Webelos Den Leaders think that this isn’t in the spirit of the requirement and it should be something more fun, in order to encourage the boys to continue in Scouting, instead of just lending more hands to accomplish a raking chore. What do you think? (Rochelle Ray, MC, Mohegan Council, MA)

I agree with those Webelos Den Leaders. The purpose of this requirement is to turn on Webelos Scouts to the idea of becoming Boy Scouts. Raking leaves is hardly an appropriate way to go about this. The troop that thought this one up needs a wake-up call!

Dear Andy,

Where does a Scout wear his Eagle palms on his uniform? (Jane Dienger, ASM, Chippewa Valley Council, WI)

He doesn’t. A Scout wears his palms on the ribbon of his Eagle medal, and wears that at special occasions such as Courts of Honor.

Dear Andy,

A while ago, you addressed an issue with a Chartered Organization Representative (COR) overstepping her bounds and directing unit program content. Your advice was, “Nowhere does it say that the COR influences, much less controls, the Troop’s program itself. Clip her wings, fast!” While I agree that directing the unit to attend a specific event is beyond the scope of what a COR should do, it’s not beyond the scope of what they can do. They can withdraw their approval of adult leaders (thus you’re no longer a Scouter) and disband a unit. As a result, they ultimately hold the keys. While this is very Draconian, it’s within their authority. My point is not that the unit leaders should bow to COR, but that they should proceed with caution. It sounds like they need to go over her head and contact the chartered organizations head or executive officer, but the unit leaders have no ability to actually “clip her wings” and may find that it’s their own wings that are endangered, because a bull-headed COR may be willing to fold the unit to prove her point. If the COR is ultimately too intrusive for your taste, go find yourself another unit. (Kevin M., Cherokee Area Council, TN)

Except for the polite Asian gesture, Americans bow to no one. Tin god CORs are near the top of the list of people we don’t bow to. Face-to-face conversations about what we need, and don’t need, work best; email works least well.

Dear Andy,

My son earned the religious knot as a Cub Scout and has moved on to Boy Scouts. I was told by the Cubmaster that you can only earn the knot once, no matter how many times you do the program, and that it can be worn on his Boy Scout uniform. The Scoutmaster says that it can’t be worn unless he does the program again as a Boy Scout. I couldn’t find any clear information on either point of view on the internet. Can you help clear this up? (Jayne Dowdy)

Your son’s Scoutmaster needs to brush up on his knowledge base and that Cubmaster on how he describes things (assuming you’re quoting him, of course). Both are a bit toward the left-field side. The square knot (SK) for the Cub Scout religious award can absolutely, positively, 100% be worn on his Boy Scout uniform. In fact, if he earned, say, the God and Me award as a Cub or Webelos, he now eligible to earn the God and Country award as a Boy Scout. If he does this, then he gets to pin a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout device on his SK (but he doesn’t sew on a second identical SK).

Dear Andy,

Our pack would like to do a service project for the local humane society, by building them a bench. We built one several years ago, but I don’t know where to get plans anymore. Can you help direct me? The bench was a very simple park bench made out of wood. Thanks! (Richard Meddings, DL, National Capital Area Council, MD)

How about simply making it a part of your service project to go out and measure the existing bench, so that you can build one that matches! Oh… that bench wasn’t built for the Humane Society? No prob! Go find the first bench and take your measurements.

Dear Andy,

There’s a new museum of history going up next to a recently discovered fossil site in our town. The museum is interested in doing workshops and will be a great resource for Scouts in the area. There are already a Geology and a Scientist Cub Scout activity badge, and I’m sure there are equivalent badges at the Boy Scout level. Is it possible (allowable?) for our local council to develop a more specific Paleontology badge, or, at the least, some kind of temporary badge to be given out to Scouts who complete achievements at the museum? Any ideas or advice would be welcome. (Keith Pilkey, WDL, Sequoyah Council, TN)

What a great idea! While it wouldn’t be an official BSA merit badge or activity badge, you certainly can develop a locally-based Paleontology Awareness (or some name better than that) patch, attach some appropriate requirements, and make it available to all youth who complete the requirements. It’s a patch that could be worn on the right pocket of any uniform shirt. You may even want to develop age-appropriate requirements, so that every youth from Tiger Cub through Venturer can earn it at their own level!

Dear Andy,

As volunteer new to Scouting (I’m a Den Leader for two different dens) I’m having a hard time finding meaningful jobs for our Denner and Assistant Denner. The boys in both dens voted and picked their Denner and AD, so now what do I do? Is there a list of responsibilities somewhere? (Marianne Noyes, WDL/DL, Northeast Georgia Council)

Thanks for becoming a Den Leader! You’re gonna have fun, and truly make a difference in the lives of boys! I’m more than a half-century away from when I was a Cub, and I still remember my Den Leader’s name, where she lived, and most of the boys in my Den! Cool, Huh?

First, rotate the Denner position: One boy this month, another boy next month (make sure every boy gets his chance). The Denner and AD are your BIG HELPERS! They get to lead the opening ceremony and flag salute at your Den meetings, and they’re “in charge” of the others at Pack meetings. They get the “glamorous” jobs and not the drudgery. This is their very first taste of (guided) leadership. For more, read the Cub Scout Leader Book.

Here’s a sort of unique exchange – A lesson in either miscommunication or “no good deed…” (you finish the quote)…

Hi Andy,

My son is working on his Eagle requirements. Are there any “sample” letters of recommendation to look at. We would like to get some ideas. (Name & Council Withheld)

Why does an Eagle candidate need a sample letter of recommendation?

Hi Andy,

Simple: Because we’ve never done one or seen one. It would just be nice to know what some of them look like. I’m sorry if this sounds like a stupid question to you.

The more I thought about your nasty response to my email question, that madder I got. I HOPE that you are not an Eagle Scout because you NOT know the 12 points—You know: The ones about being kind, helpfully and friendly. You are not an example of any of the Scouts that I know. (N&CW)

Kindly take a moment to re-read my question to you. It sought information. It made no accusations, offered no judgments on the nature or intent of your question, was emotionally neutral, and was neither unkind nor unhelpful (no way to help until I understood the need), nor unfriendly. I hope you’re better able to deal with your anger than to aim it at a person voluntarily committed to helping tens of thousands of people like yourself who need to know stuff that’s not necessarily “in the book,” and who personally replies to every letter he receives, including yours.

I’m now guessing, correctly I hope, that you’re asking your question as a parent who will soon be asked by your son’s troop advancement chair to write a letter of recommendation for him when it comes time for him to complete his Eagle Scout rank application. When that time comes, and you receive that request, there’s only one “rule” to follow and it’s this: Write from your heart and you’ll never be wrong.

Best wishes and congratulations to your son —

(Epilogue: None. Never heard from them again.)

Hey Andy,

I just got my new adult Scouter uniform and remembered that I have a green American Flag from the Army that’s the same size as the one on the Scout shirt’s shoulder. Can I replace the Boy Scout U.S. flag with that one? (Luke Whitcomb, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

Thanks for stepping up and volunteering, and for asking a good question. The BSA stipulates that only BSA badges may be worn on BSA uniforms, and specifically prohibits military badges.

Hello Andy,

I first found your column some years ago, when I was a Unit Commissioner and used it extensively as District Commissioner. Many thanks on behalf of the hundreds of Scouters and the thousands of Scouts in our district who have benefited from your insights and shared experiences over the years.

In “catching up” after the holidays and some business trips, your December 22nd response to a Cubmaster on “right sizing” his dens finally prompted me to write. Your advice, as usual, was spot-on.

I was away on business when my son signed up to be a Bear during an open house at school. The next week, my wife let me know that I was going to take him to school. At that point, I was just another typical parent, in this case one of eleven(!), who thought they’d simply drop their son off and leave. The Den Leader stopped us with a, “Now wait a minute!” and proceeded to tell us that not only did the BSA require two-deep leadership, but that if she didn’t get some help there’d be no den!

Four of us agreed we could help out “part-time” as Assistant Den Leaders. About a week or so later, she suggested that a den of 14 boys was just too big, and needed to be split. Though it seemed impossible to split things equitably, the boys actually did it themselves once we told them what needed to be done. I became the other Den Leader, and our originally oversized den became two separate dens of seven each, each with an Assistant Den Leader. The amazing thing was the friendly competition that developed among the boys as we continued to meet together on occasion and, of course, interacted at pack meetings. These guys pushed each other to outperform “the other den.” Their self-motivation made my job easier!

Fast forward a few years. Of the original 14 boys, 13 bridged into Boy Scouts and all reached First Class in their first year. As the years passed, 11 of them, including my son, earned Eagle!

Splitting that den right up front and then sticking to it gave us adults manageable groups and gave the boys the drive to excel that made it all possible!

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience. Keep up the good work! (George “Fritz” McMullin, Scoutmaster)

Wow! What a great story! Funny how when we “work” the Scouting program, the Scouting program works! And hats off to that savvy Den Leader, who got you all started!

Happy Scouting!!


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


(February 12, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)


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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