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Issue 127 – March 4, 2008

Today’s the best day of the year for a PARADE! So March Forth!

Last month, I was asked about Scout Sunday in the United Methodist Church and, referring to it sans denominational considerations, I said, “Yup, ‘first Sunday in February’ is it!” Some of my sharp-eyed readers added further enlightenment. Read on…

Dear Andy,

The United Methodist Church celebrates Scout Sunday on the second Sunday. According to “The Boy Scouts of America designates the Sunday that falls before February 8 (Scouting Anniversary Day) as Scout Sunday, which is the primary date to recognize the contributions of young people and adults to Scouting. However, each chartered organization can use either of two other options to celebrate this special day. An organization can adopt a specific Sunday to celebrate. In the instance of the United Methodist Church, Scout Sunday is celebrated on the second Sunday in February. It also is permissible for a local church to celebrate on the Sunday most acceptable to the pastor and congregation.” And, according to Wikipedia: “The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) celebrate Scout Sunday on the second Sunday of February as not to conflict with Transfiguration Sunday.” While I don’t always agree with everything you say, I find you column extremely informative and useful. (Jon Yearous, Troop Advancement Chair, Northern Star Council, MN)

Dear Andy,

The United Methodist calendar always has the Sunday following Scout Sunday as their Scout Sunday, this year being February 10th. It has been published in their calendar this way for several years. (Lee Preston, COR, Iroquois Trail Council, NY)

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your time committed to Scouting on the web. Your February 12 column answered correctly that BSA stipulates the first Sunday in February as Scout Sunday. The Presbyterian Church USA celebrates World Communion on the first Sunday of each month, and prefers to recognize Scouting on the next Sunday. I can’t speak for the Methodist church, but I am aware that the United Methodist churches in my area recognize Scouts on the second Sunday of February. I hope the troop in question contacted the COR and appeared at a worship service. The members of the church like to see the youth that use the church’s facilities, and there’s always the hope that a family will find a church home in the same place they Scout. (Diane Ragan, Sam Houston Area Council, TX)

Dear Andy,

Seems like every time “crossover season” rolls around there’s a lot of hand-wringing on what to do with boys who have earned their Arrow of Light but aren’t sure they’re going to go on to Boy Scouts (or outright say they aren’t)—Should they “go through the motions” or sit on the side? And what about those boys who haven’t earned their AoL and aren’t age 11 yet, but are not thrilled at the prospect of sitting and watching while the rest of their Webelos II den takes part in a crossover ceremony?

I’m our pack’s Webelos II Den Leader this year (and soon-to-be Cubmaster), and my question concerns this year’s quandary: If
a boy intends to join a troop when he turns 11 in a few months, but hasn’t yet earned his Arrow of Light, can he take part in a crossover ceremony?

Some view it as a “graduation” from Cub Scouts while others say this is a “fetching ceremony” by the troops, who come to get eligible Webelos II Scouts.

We want to keep people happy and interested, but where do or should we draw the line, especially since others (in particular, Webelos IIs who did earn their AoL!) will be watching?

To be fair, we WI and WII Den Leaders didn’t specifically point out to parents or the less motivated boys that they wouldn’t cross over without the AoL unless they were 11 years old, but we continually offered advancement assistance and make-up sessions. (This year’s laggards were way behind, though they’re now arguing that they would have “done more” had they known the cross-over depended on this).

Many thanks, in advance, for any suggestions or thoughts on this subject. (Jim Berklan, Northeast Illinois Council)

Let’s try to keep this as simple as possible…

First, a boy can become a Boy Scout when (1) he earns the Arrow of Light award, or (2) he is age 11, or (3) he completes fifth grade.

If the boy is a member of a Pack, and as a Webelos Scout (a) earns the Arrow of Light and (b) has selected a Boy Scout Troop he’d like to join, then he can participate in a crossover ceremony (which is NOT a “graduation ceremony” or it would be called that).

A “crossover” is defined as “a place where a crossing is made” and a “crossing” is defined as “an intersection” and an “intersection” is defined as “a place where (something) crosses.” When one crosses a bridge, one enters on one side, makes the crossing, and exits on the other side. The exit is TO something. This is not a “bridge to nowhere” or a bridge that doesn’t reach the other side so that crossers tumble off the unconnected end.

Don’t get buffaloed or shoved around on this. You can tell parents this: You can’t have it both ways: If your son has earned the Arrow of Light and chosen a Troop to join, then he crosses and meets his new Scoutmaster; if he doesn’t do both of these things, then he has no place to cross to and so he doesn’t get on the bloody bridge! End of story.

Harsh? Not at all. Because we absolutely must consider the self-esteem of the boys who did earn their AoL and did choose a Troop to join – How will they feel when their laggard and/or indecisive den-mates get to do “for free” what they’ve devoted the time and energy to earn the right to do!

Dear Andy,

Great job on your “Bridge to Nowhere” column! I hope it serves to enlighten folks on what Bridging (Cross-over) Ceremonies are really all about!

A concern I’ve been faced with is not so much the boys choosing what troop they will cross-over to, but rather the assumption that the Arrow of Light presentation ceremony and the cross-over occurs at the same time. When we do this, it makes the AoL seem like some sort of parting or graduation gift and not the highest rank in Cub Scouting that it really is.

Additionally, I think it’s equally important to have Cub Scouts who’ve earned the AoL among the younger Cubs at pack meetings and such, so that the younger Cubs can see the rank on their peers’ shirts—it gives them something to shoot for. I believe inspiration is a key factor among these young boys, that can potentially keep them coming back. I realize that some packs have traditional AoL presentation ceremonies that require a lot of effort to put together, but I really hope more Webelos Den Leaders, Cubmasters, and pack committees keep this factor in mind when planning their annual calendars. (Marc Garduno, CC, Far East Council, Seoul, Korea)

Far too many parents (and some leaders, too) think Cub Scouting is a closed-end program. They somehow don’t understand that the Webelos portion of the program is geared specifically to prepare boys to become Boy Scouts. It’s a great pity when a boy who has been groomed and prepped for 18 straight months doesn’t go on to “the real adventure” of Boy Scouting! The 18-month Webelos program, the encouragement by their Den Leader, and the concurrent education of the parents all contribute to retaining youth in the Scouting movement, and that’s what we’re all here to do!

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to develop a committee for an established pack that has never had an effective one. Can a Den Leader also be a committee member? (David Jordan, CC, Tuscarora Council, NC)

Nope! The BSA policy is that an adult volunteer one may hold only one position within a unit. This is stated on the application itself.

Dear Andy,

While I’ve seen information regarding the recommendation (regulation?) on Unit Commissioners not holding leadership positions with the units they support, I can’t find the regulation for other leadership positions, for instance, can an individual be a Cubmaster of one unit and the Scoutmaster of another? Or, can someone hold a committee member position in multiple units? Also, is there a comprehensive reference or rule book that clearly spells this out? (William Farro, UC, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

The BSA policy is that no Commissioner may simultaneously hold a unit leadership position. Period. This has nothing to do with their own unit or not. This is in the Commissioner Fieldbooks.

As for unit-level positions, the policy is that a volunteer may hold only one position in a unit (save COR). This is printed on the BSA Adult Volunteer Application itself.

There is no policy, on way or the other, regarding multiple units.

Howdy Andy,

I’d like your opinion on adult recognition, including the wearing of square knots. Some folks in our district sport more ribbons than General Patton, while others say they’re in the Scouting program only for the youth, and can tell where leaders’ interests lie by how much “bling” they have on their shirts. I know when I was starting as an adult Scouter, if I had a question, I’d look for someone who wore a couple of square knots because I felt they had some credibility. Your thoughts would be appreciated. (Name & Council Withheld)

First, have you read my column titled “Special-Knots”? It’s the one between Mid-January 2006 and February 2006. Give it a try. Second, as the holder of the Silver Beaver, two District Awards of Merit, the Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Distinguished Commissioner Award, International Scouter Award, Cubmaster & Webelos Den Leader awards, Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, and the Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, every Scouters Key and Scout Leader Training Award, two James E. West Fellowships, plus Eagle and Silver Award, plus a special commendation by the U.S. Army, I’m profoundly offended by the reference to these as “bling.”

Dear Andy,

Can you please let me know the protocol for working with your own son as his Merit Badge Counselor. (Sandy Scharpenberg)

A registered Merit Badge Counselor can absolutely counsel his or her own son on any merit badge the Counselor is registered for. The BSA recommends that this be done in a “group” of two or more (Buddy System); although the BSA further specifies that each Scout must do his own work and that there be neither group work nor group quizzing.

Dear Andy,

One more question: Do service hours spent helping another Scout with his Eagle project count as service hours? (Sandy)

Absolutely, positively! And don’t let anyone buffalo anyone else into thinking otherwise!

Dear Andy,

You mentioned in your February 12th column that a Scout may wear his Eagle Scout rank badge before his Court of Honor. Just how much before? I’m asking because I’m the Scoutmaster of a new troop and I’d like to set the habit of presenting Scout their rank badges soon after their boards of review—either right afterwards or at the very next Troop meeting, at the latest—but Eagle rank requires district-council-national office interaction that can delay the receipt of all the paperwork confirming the Scout’s Eagle rank.

I recently sat on an Eagle board of review (different troop from my own, so I was “legal”) while at a Camporee, and suggested that the results (pass, of course) be announced at the campfire that night, but other, more “senior” Scouters’ demurred, saying that it would be premature to announce the results “before National had confirmed the package.” I thought we missed an opportunity to give some great recognition at a cool campfire (and in front of about 200 Scouts!) that would have done both the Eagle Scout and Eagle Scout “gonna-be’s” some good. (J.W. Transatlantic Council)

As soon as the board of review for Eagle rank is completed, the Scout may be considered to be and Eagle Scout, pending only confirmation from the national office, which is largely a “paperwork” issue (99.999% of all Eagle rank applications are approved by the national office), so the wearing of the oval badge is OK. Then, at the Court of Honor, the medal is pinned on in a formal ceremony.

To get the Eagle badge ahead of national confirmation, requesting a “duplicate” from the Scout service center (for a Scout who, ostensibly, is already an Eagle) is usually a good “work-around,” if you get my drift.

On the announcement at the Camporee campfire, you were right on the money, for exactly the reasons you expressed.

Greetings Andy,

This spring we’re planning a family campout with our pack. One of the Den Leaders mentioned that this location was a great spot to take the Cubs canoeing. I replied that the Guide to Safe Scouting (Safety Afloat) says that non-swimmers must have a BSA Lifeguard in the canoe and that canoeing with Cubs could only be done at district or council activities on flat water. The reply I received was that this was not an “…excursion, expedition, or trip on the water,” that these boys had canoed during family campouts before, and that so long as a parent or guardian was in the canoe, too, it was OK. It all seemed reasonable to me…but am I misinterpreting this? Are we acting inappropriately by allowing this? With all the risks involved with water-based activities, I don’t want to get this wrong.

Also, as long as I’m at it, the Safety Afloat/GTSS frequently refer to a “BSA Lifeguard.” Can someone with a current Red Cross Lifeguard certification be a valid replacement? (Robert McLemore, Heart of Virginia Council)

You’ve asked pretty important questions and, although I’m going to address them here, I recommend that you also check with your own council’s risk management or camping committees.

For a pack to have an activity involving water (in or on) that’s to be sanctioned by your council (via the BSA’s Local Tour Permit Application–see page 61 of the current GTSS), you’ll need to comply with this standard (italicized comment in parentheses mine): “Where swimming or boating (that means canoeing, too!) is included in the program, Safe Swim Defense and/or Safety Afloat standards are to be followed…at least one adult must be trained as outlined: Safety Afloat…at least one adult must be trained in CPR…for Safety Afloat.” If this is part of an overnight “campout,” then this standard applies as well: “At least one person on a pack overnighter must have completed Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO).”

Now if your local council says it’s OK for a Cub Scout to be in a canoe with his parent, and that no swim test is required, then following that rule would be “legal.” However, it’s dangerous, because no one on shore will necessarily know anything about the canoeing or swimming abilities of anyone on the water.

If you want to follow BSA policies, then everyone in a watercraft must wear a PFD. No PFD = No boating/canoeing. Period. Moreover, this must be a “flatwater” situation, meaning not on a river or stream, and there must be no powerboats or sailboats on the water. Further, any Cub Scout who has not taken a formal BSA swim test and passed it can only be a passenger in a canoe and only if accompanied by an adult certified as a lifeguard or lifesaver by a recognized agency (e.g., ARC, BSA, YMCA).

A “Lifeguard” certificate (by any non-BSA agency) is not an automatic substitute for a trained BSA Lifeguard. The BSA Lifeguard training covers swimming, boating, canoeing, and Safe Swim Defense/Safety Afloat (these being unique to the BSA), and not merely “in-water rescues,” which is what other courses mainly teach. The BSA also teaches a very specific “order of rescue,” which has saved countless lives of not only victims but erstwhile rescuers as well (I’m a former BSA Lifeguard COUNSELOR and also a former Scout camp Aquatics Director, so I do have some knowledge of what I’m talking about here).

I do encourage you (and any interested parents or other pack leaders) to get the straight skinny from your risk management committee!

Dear Andy,

We’re planning our spring Camporee and I’m wondering: Are there BSA guidelines or requirements for the number of latrines per Scout? I’d appreciate any information you can give me. (Mike Smith, MC, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

I’m guessing you’re going to look into renting “Port-O-Potties” of some sort… These folks can probably give you just what you need to know about the ratio of potties-to-participants. If you’re still in doubt, contact your home council’s camping committee for more detail.

Dear Andy,

Who do I contact? There was no link or attachment to your message. (Mike Smith)

You’re right, there wasn’t… I sorta figured you knew you’re in the Atlanta Area Council and could find their phone number yourself. And, as for the potty people, your local Yellow Pages are your best resource.

The wise Scoutmaster never does for a Scout what the Scout can do for himself. Same with Commissioners… <wink>

Dear Andy,

My question is a fundamental disagreement I have with our troop’s Advancement Chair and Scoutmaster regarding boards of review (“BOR”). Though First Class is not a high rank, it still deserves the respect of the rank. Our troop seems to allow Scouts at the First Class and Star BOR to receive rank regardless of merit. I’m not into discouraging Scouts from advancing in rank, but neither do I want Scouts to be assembly-lined through. I don’t want these Scouts to have a brutal awaking down the road when the Eagle rank stares them in the face and they can’t understand why they aren’t even close to passing because the past is catching up to them. I know that the level of questioning and acceptance should become more difficult as they move up in rank, but I feel we are fundamentally wrong somewhere, somehow. Are there some formal guidelines in BSA manuals that I’m missing, or, is this nothing more than a “review” (right or wrong). I want to believe in trusting the advancing Scout as well as the Scout who signed off the requirements in the book, but that obviously isn’t always happening as it should. (Brian Boehm, ASM, Southeast Wisconsin Council)

Virtually every one of your questions will be answered when you get yourself a copy of the BSA book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (No. 33088C), which you can purchase for a few bucks at your local Scout Shop or online at, and then read pages 26-28. To give you just a brief (and not complete) heads-up: “Difficult” questions are absolutely not a part of any board of review, Scout’s Honor is always employed, no requirement is ever subject to re-testing, and “merit” is not what boards of review are about.

You really need to get a fresh and correct perspective on the purpose and procedure of boards of review, because, right now, you have much to learn.

Dear Andy,

I may have given some wrong information to one of the Scouts in our troop about requirement 9(c) for Camping merit badge—this concerns the environmental project. I think this is because I was looking at an old pamphlet and didn’t realize it had been changed. In the penultimate requirement (before 2007), the project had to be done during a campout. As it reads now, and did, also, in the last change, it seems like this doesn’t have to be done on a campout anymore. Since the change was from “During…” and that stipulation has been removed, I assume that the only requirement is that the Scout do an environmental project. Am I being too literal as the requirement begins “Show experience in camping by doing the following…” or was that deliberately separated from the campout requirement? (Keith Stempfley, COR, Northern Lights Council, WI)

In the first place, it’s perfectly OK to be “literal”—This is what the BSA advancement program wants! Just use the present requirement, just as written.

Hi Andy,

On the USSSP website I read about the Rudyard Kipling Award for Cub Scouts, and it sounded GREAT, so our den did all the requirements needed to earn it. But when I went to get the award at our council service center, they told me that it’s not available to our area. Is there a way to make it available to the Colorado area? What can I do to make this happen? If this is impossible, is there an award like this in our area? It’s sad, because it’s a wonderful way to get spirit and attendance in a den. (G.M., ADL, Western Colorado Council)

Well, it’s the Daniel Webster Council in New Hampshire that has this recognition (in other words, it’s not a “national” program, as the information in the description told you). So, how about getting in touch with that council and ask if you can buy the patches for the award, for use with your den? Who knows…you just might start a national trend!

Hi Andy,

I’ve been asked to explain the correct procedure for wearing one or multiple adult leader neck-ribbon awards. For example, is it appropriate for a Scouter to wear his or her Silver Beaver and, say, religious ribbon award at the same time, or should only one be worn? And, if wearing more than one is permitted, how many may be worn at one time. Whatever the answer to this may be, please advise me as to where I can find it in writing.

I’m looking for guidance. I have people putting me on the spot, and I want to guide others to the correct source. I’m the person who’s supposed to provide the correct answer; not a guess. Here is another example…

Last night, I attended our annual district dinner, and there was a Cubmaster there wearing an Arrow of Light badge on his right shirt pocket flap. Now, when it’s appropriate to do so, and not in front of a group, I’ll address this with him—I can show him in the insignia control guide how this is worn. This one is unusual, but easy.

But my first question to you is one that’s NOT addressed in the Insignia Control Guide—I can’t find it anywhere. (Andrea Mesko, UC, Los Padres Council, CA)

Thanks for asking a good question (It’s not been asked before)!

About the pendant-and-ribbon awards, in the first place, there aren’t exactly a lot of these! There’s Silver Beaver, of course, and the adult religious award, and a few community service awards (e.g., Scouting Rotarian, Masonic Scouter, etc.) so in and around most councils, that’s probably about all you’re going to see. And the reason why you haven’t found anything “in writing” on a limit or not, is that there isn’t anything in writing! That’s right: Nothing. Which means: If a Scouter has received one or more recognitions that are of the pendant-and-ribbon type, he or she can wear whatever they choose—All, or a selection, or one, or none! It’s their call. And, at an annual District Dinner, where adult volunteers are recognized for their contributions and service to Scouting, we’d be the curmudgeon if we tried to tell someone not to wear a p-and-r award, or to take one or more off! In fact, if asked, “How many can I wear,” I’d absolutely answer with, “You deserve to wear what you’ve earned or received!”

As for the Cubmaster, of course, the last thing a Commissioner wants to do is get labeled “Patch Police.” Your effectiveness in more important matters goes right down the tube once you get that label! So, although you did spot an Arrow of Light badge on an adult uniform, and correctly know that (a) it’s on the wrong pocket and (b) it actually shouldn’t be worn at all, I’m not certain I’d hand the guy a “rule book” (so to speak) and hope he gets the point. If I were in your shoes, I’d trot on down to my local Scout Shop and, for a buck or two (small change, relative to what we volunteers give throughout the course of a year), buy an Arrow of Light “square knot,” so I can give it to the guy the next time I see him, and tell him where to put it. This way, I’m being a friend instead of a “cop” or “rulemeister.”

Dear Andy,

My daughter is my grandson’s Assistant Den Leader and we’re trying to figure out where she wears her Tiger, Wolf and Bear pins on her ADL uniform. If you can help I’d appreciate it. (Gene Moose, DL, California Inland Empire Council)

Technically, these are parents’ pins and not for wear on a leader’s uniform. However, never one to try to intercede in a mother’s pride, I’d suggest that they be attached to a small ribbon (there will be more pins as her son progresses) and then she might wish to pin the ribbon to the uniform shirt in a practical place (not strictly “legal” but a “venial sin” at the most).

Hi Andy,

Would picking up litter along the coastline, with the Clean Coast of Georgia organization, be considered a conservation project acceptable to satisfy the Camping merit badge requirement 9c.? If not, can you please give me some examples of conservation projects that would? (Whitney, MC, Flint River Council, GA)

For Camping MB requirement 9(c) I’m going to guess that “perform” is the operative word. “Perform,” according to Webster’s, means “to begin and carry through to completion.” By comparison, req. 7(c) of Cit-Community says, “…volunteer…your time (to an) organization” and Second Class req. 4 says, “Participate in a…service project.” The BSA is pretty darned precise in the language of requirements, so I’d have to wonder if donating one’s time to the conservation/environmental efforts of another group fits very well with a requirement that says, “Perform a conservation project approved by the land owner or land managing agency.” That sounds to me like a little more creativity than spending some time doing what some other group has decided to do would be expected.

So… What to do? How about a conversation with the Scout, to see what ideas he might have? (This is, after all, his merit badge!)

Dear Andy,

I recently received the Commissioner’s Arrowhead Honor and I’m confused about where it should be worn. In a previous column you said, “The Arrowhead itself can only be worn when a Commissioner’s badge is worn immediately above it.” But a photo in the Commissioner Fieldbook shows the TRAINED patch between the Commissioner patch and the Arrowhead. Other than that, I can find no reference to where the Arrowhead is worn. Which is correct? (Don Sears)

When I wrote that, it was on a slightly different subject (had to do with wearing the Arrowhead with a badge other than Commissioner) and so I didn’t address the “Trained” strip. The BSA says that the order, from the top-down, is: Commissioner badge, Trained strip, Arrowhead.

Hi Andy,

My son is a Wolf Cub Scout. He has been racing four-wheelers since the age of 6 and has won two state championships in a row. This sport requires a lot out of him and the entire family, and the season runs from February to December. I’ve looked through the merit badges available for sports and haven’t found one that fits. Although this isn’t a traditional sport that children his age participate in, I feel he works very hard on this and should be recognized by the Scouts. I’ve heard of another country that has developed a merit badge for ATV racing. I think it was somewhere in England? How do I go about pursuing this possibility? (Teresa Taylor, Scout Mom, Heart of Virginia Council)

You have every right to be proud of your son! What he’s doing (and accomplishing!) is pretty darned special!

You’re correct that neither Cub Scouting nor Boy Scouting in America recognizes his sport for a “special award” or badge of some kind. The BSA recognizes 25 different at the Cub Scout level; of these, at least 16 are Olympic sports. Thus, it would be a stretch to say that the BSA is somehow short-changing boys. But ATV racing isn’t among these, and in case you’re wondering why, safety is the primary concern. A sport that has the potential for producing serious injury to participants is usually excluded from BSA-recognized programs. These include (just for example, and in no particular order) fencing, tackle football, judo, karate, and polo, among others. Now this doesn’t mean that the BSA in any way prohibits a boy from participating in any sport he wants to—It’s simply that, within the BSA program, some are OK for safety reasons and some aren’t.

Your pride in your son and his accomplishments is certainly justified. Do keep in mind, however, that, even in Scouts, we don’t “get badges” for everything we do!

Dear Andy,

When is the appropriate time to present merit badges and rank advancement badges or pins? We’re having a discussion in our troop as to when various recognitions should be given. Should it be all at a Court of Honor, or some at a regular troop meeting? Should rank patches be given at the meeting and then rank award pins at the Court of Honor? Please clear this up. (John Shurig)

All ranks should be presented to the Scout at the very soonest opportunity following his successful board of review. If at all possible, this would be at the very next troop meeting. Merit badge cards and badges should be likewise presented at the very earliest opportunity following the Scout’s handing in his signed “Blue Card.”

The purpose of the Court of Honor is NOT to award badges and ranks for the first time. The purpose of the Court of Honor is to publicly recognize ALL advancements since the last CoH.

(BTW, this isn’t “Andy’s opinion”—This is the standard of the BSA. Sounds like this is a good time for some folks to open up the Scoutmaster Handbook again, and start reading!)

Hi Andy,

My son is a fourth grader and Webelos I Scout. Please let us know what are the requirements to earn the Hindu-Dharma Religious Badge. (Cub Scout Mom, Three Fires Council, IL)

For the book you’re seeking, try contacting the North American Hindu Association, 847 East Angela Street, Pleasanton, CA 94566; Phone 925-846-3811; email:

Dear Andy,

Who has a vote when the pack committee needs to replace the Committee Chair? Our Committee Chair is willingly stepping down. We have people who come to the committee meetings and chair various things for our pack but aren’t registered committee members. Do they get to vote? For example I’m a registered Den Leader but I’m also the pack’s Popcorn Chair. Another example: Our Cubmaster is the pack’s Outdoors Chair but he’s not a committee member. (Stephanie Sohn, Crossroads of America Council, IN)

The structure of a Cub Scout pack is described in detail in the Cub Scout Leader Book that you’ve read and also in the training courses you’ve taken as a Den Leader. To briefly review a few key points related to your questions:

1- Only volunteers registered as committee members are committee members.

2- It is BSA policy that one does not register in two positions in a unit.

3- Den Leaders and the Cubmaster are not de facto members of the committee.

4- If an adult not registered as a committee member is “popcorn chair” or “Scouting for Food” chair, or Blue & Gold chair, or anything else, but unregistered, this does not automatically make them a member of the committee. Only registration does this.

Further, page 2 of the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, which you read when you signed on, makes these points obvious:

1- Committees do not have the authority to vote in or vote out a fellow committee member or Den Leader or Cubmaster or anyone else.

2- The Committee Chair is responsible for the adult volunteers in a unit and has the authority to appoint and remove.

3- Only the (a) Chartered Organization Representative and (b) the head or executive officer of the chartered organization (in that order) has a higher level of authority than the Committee Chair.

Overall, it is extremely rare that the unit committee actually needs to “vote,” because this is largely a support group; not a legislative body.

The Committee Chair of your pack, on stepping away from that position, should be announcing who the next CC will be.


Hi Andy,

We’re looking to honor our pack’s Committee Chair. She has been with us three years and is moving on to Boy Scouting. She has gone above and beyond her call of duty and we’d really like to honor her in some way. Are there any types of distinguished leader service awards that would fit our situation? (Nancy Efrusy, DL, Clinton Valley Council, MI)

Check this out (see below) and see if your CC qualifies. If so, then get the paperwork done through your district committee. If not, then your local Scout Shop can point you toward any number of certificates and more tangible recognitions for exceptional service.

Cub Scouter Award

The Cub Scouter Award can be earned by any registered Cub Leader. This is the only knot that can be earned by Assistant Cubmasters, Assistant Den Leaders, Chartered Organization Representatives and Members of the Committee. In addition, many Cubmasters and Den Leaders qualify for this award if they lead their den for four or five of their Tiger, Cub and Webelos years, or lead the pack for two years beyond the two years required for the Cubmaster Award. The requirements are similar to other training awards, and include:


Fast Start, any Cub Leader position, and Youth Protection Training;


Two years (service in one position to earn a training award cannot be used to earn any other award, so if a Den Leader applies for the Den Leader Training Award their first year, their bear year as Den Leader could be used as one year toward the Cub Scouter Award);


Five of the ten listed unit program measures listed on the award progress record, which include leading programs such as the Pinewood, service projects, training and quality unit award.

Dear Andy,

Our pack is going to remove our Cubmaster and don’t really know what his response or actions might be (he’s displayed a temper before). He and another member of the pack committee are the signatories for our pack’s checking account. Can this other member simply remove the Cubmaster from the account and put another person on as a second signer? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’ve asked an excellent and very sensible question. Part of the answer will depend on the type of account the pack has, and how the signatories are set up: Is it an “and” account (requiring two signatures) or an “or” account (requiring just one signature). Your banker can answer this question, and your banker is also the best source of information on how to accomplish the change you need. Best to make a phone call, or stop in to the branch; emails are far less efficient and effective in a situation like this.

Assuming you’ll accomplish your changeover (which, I’m sure, won’t be terribly complicated), consider having people who do not buy stuff for the pack (e.g., your committee chair and pack treasurer) be the signatories from now on. A Cubmaster may have need to make purchases, and being able to both purchase and sign checks is not exercising the best fiduciary responsibility. “Checks and balances”—one person buys, the CC approves, and a third person writes a check against receipts submitted (and pre-initialed by the CC)—is the way to go! This eliminates any possibility of anyone playing fast and loose with “OPM” and also eliminates any possibility of “accusation.”

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Committee Chair in a pack with a Cubmaster who has caused an enormous amount of turmoil, and has blatantly ignored the rules and alienated pretty much all the Den Leaders, committee members and even our Chartered Organization Rep! Of course, he doesn’t see his responsibility in any of the trouble, despite the fact that all the disagreements have been with him, and none of them has been between any of the other leaders. Our pack is shrinking and it’s not fun anymore. We want him removed and need to know what our options are. Can we just vote him out? (We’re 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 by accusing us of not following proper procedure. Can you point me to the right reference, so we can do this “by the book”? (Name & Council Withheld)

“The book” is, in fact, the BSA Adult Volunteer Application. It states 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. (Go online if you need to and re-read the second page of the application, up near the top, so that you know exactly what it states.)

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 and 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).

Be sure to follow the BSA guidelines for identifying and recruiting a unit volunteer (i.e., the new Cubmaster) and be sure to secure his or her agreement to assume this position immediately upon the removal of your current Cubmaster. In this way, your pack doesn’t go into a “leadership hiatus.”

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

Dear Andy,

I’m in the midst of my Wood Badge course (Buffalo Patrol) and I’m trying to figure out my ticket items (my position “back home” is District Advancement Chair), and I have one more item to go.

My vision of Scouting is to perform the program the way it was meant to be, help youth attain the rank of Eagle, and help adults obtain the correct recognition that they deserve. Here are some ideas I’ve considered…

A “Gutenberg” Book: Take a Percy Keese Fitzhugh book not yet done and create a Gutenberg Project version of it.

A Scoutmaster Conference to help guide Scouts toward Eagle.

Revise the Eagle Scout project board checklist to adjust for new requirements.

Teach a session on advancement at Baden-Powell University.

Form a MB Counselor selection-recruitment-training committee for my home district, including writing training pamphlet for Merit Badge Counselors.

What do you think? (James Eager)

As District Advancement Chair, you have multiple ways to keep the Scouting program strong. However, I’d question part of your vision: Attaining the rank of Eagle is not goal of Scouting—That’s the individual goal of individual Scouts, as they choose. Our job is to encourage this, but it is not in and of itself a goal. Check “The Aims & Methods of Scouting,” if you think I’m blowin’ smoke here.

I really can’t help you much with ticket items. For two reasons. The first (and most important) is that this should come from you, in collaboration with your TG. The second is that, when I took Wood Badge in 1989, ticket items weren’t allowed to relate in any way to our current registered position in the BSA—They needed to be something beyond what we would normally be doing or creating in our Scouting volunteer roles.

Hey Andy,

Who signs off or approves the award in the Webelos Sports and Academics program—The Den Leader, parent, Webelos Leader?
Daniel Zehm, WDL, Golden Empire Council, CA)

As you read through the requirements for the various loops and pins, you’ll notice that some of them can be completed individually, some are to be done with one’s den or pack, some are done “to the satisfaction of your leader,” and some are done “to the satisfaction of your leader or adult partner.” In short, there appear to be multiple options, depending on the particular activity and requirement. Let these be your guide.

Dear Andy,

I am a troop committee member and have been asked to sit in on another troop’s board of review for a Scout earning Life Rank. My question: Can the Scoutmaster of one troop sit in on a board of review for any rank board of review for another troop? (We are having a hard time getting people together and trying to figure out where we can pull resources from.) (Kim Stanton)

The BSA’s policy is very clear: Members of the boards of review for all ranks except Eagle are to be no less than three and no more than six registered members of the unit’s committee.

Hi Andy,

I’m Committee Chair of a new troop, with a new Scoutmaster—a young Navy man with no sons. While he’s an Eagle, he has no experience and no training as an adult volunteer. Although he’s working real hard with the troop, his ideas seem off-center. For instance, he thinks we should be earning lots of money for the troop—in a hurry. The committee has voted to not do popcorn sales, because we’re all so new, but the Scoutmaster took it on himself to order popcorn and now wants us to sell it. He also doesn’t “like” the idea of “young” Scouts earning Eagle (He’ll make such statements, at troop meetings, as “Some of you will never be Eagles!”). And, on top of this, he wants troop meetings to include “merit badge classes” run by other troop adults (But when I asked him about registered MBCs, he wasn’t sure what to do). He’s also allowing non-registered boys (with no health records either, of course) to participate in troop meetings, with no intention to get them signed up. Now, he wants to take boys who have never been in the program on a camping trip out of our council area before they even know what’s right here in their home council. On top of all this, he now wants the Order of the Arrow to “come in and take over.” To cap it all off, this guy has stated that “the new BS Handbook is a waste of time.” What do we do? (Name Withheld, East Carolina Council ,NC)

As a Navy man, he’ll probably understand the expression, “loose cannon on deck.” Of course he’s got it all wrong. Here are just a few of the ways he’s all wet…

– It’s not up to him whether or when a Scout earns Eagle rank. That’s up to the Scout, and his job is to encourage ALL Scouts to pursue this goal. It’s not open for further discussion.

– Earning money to buy troop gear is fine, but Scoutmasters do not have the authority to just go out and buy stuff—popcorn or anything else—and then turn around and stick the Scouts with it. This has to be 100% agreement among both the Scouts and the troop committee. If you really want to teach a hard lesson, don’t reimburse him, and don’t give the stuff to the Scouts to sell.

-Merit badges are absolutely not a part of troop meetings. Follow the Troop Meeting Plan (available online—just Google it). End of story.

– Contact your council’s OA lodge (Croatan Lodge— for information on troops and OA elections.

– Camp in your own council for at least a year.

– Do not take boys who haven’t registered camping. They should join the troop, first.

– Handbooks: Both the Boy Scout Handbook and the Scoutmaster Handbook should be read cover-to-cover by any new Scoutmaster.

If this jerk isn’t willing to do a “180” immediately, fire him and replace him with somebody who “gets it.” Don’t waste a moment, or he’s going to poison what you’ve been creating and trying to re-build it will be twice as hard.

The replacement of adult volunteers is done by the Committee Chair in collaboration with the unit’s sponsor. You do NOT have to state any reason other than “this isn’t working out.”

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster’s wife is on our troop committee and doesn’t seem to be “following the rules.” For instance, she organizes merit badge “clinics” during troop meetings, which she runs, and she’s been especially attentive to the boys from her old den, when she was their Den Leader. Now, she’s asked to be our committee member responsible for advancement (the current advancement person’s son is aging out). Some others of us on the committee think this is a really bad idea. How do we convince others on the committee that this will not be good?

This woman hovers over every troop meeting, busying herself with details that really aren’t hers to do. For example, she made up a list of Scouts to be masters of ceremonies for upcoming courts of honor, campfires, and so on, for Communications merit badge, but only “certain” Scouts (like her own son, as if you hadn’t guessed) “made the cut.”

The problem is that no one else on the committee, or a parent, has expressed interest in taking on the advancement job, and our troop’s Committee Chair has a son who’s directly benefiting from this woman’s “activities” and so, we’re afraid, would be reluctant to say no to her. Advice? (Name & Council Withheld)

Sounds like you definitely have a “loose cannon” problem—Plus, she doesn’t “get” what the Boy Scout program’s all about (demonstrated by her nutso “clinic” idea). And, with the Scoutmaster as her husband and the CC in her hip-pocket, there’s little anyone’s gonna do to keep her from steam-rolling over this troop. Your only hope will be for a parent to step up immediately and volunteer to take on the advancement role. Then, for the future of the troop, somebody else needs to maneuver to become the Chartered Organization Representative—Once you’re in this position, you have absolute and final say-so as to who’s a troop volunteer and who’s not.

Dear Andy,

I have a nephew in the Cub Scouts. This is his second year and he’s really doing good. The last few months he has started to fall behind his pack because they started having meetings on Wednesday night and he attends church on that night. I was a Cub Scout myself, and seem to recall a bylaw against having meetings on church nights. Can you help me out with some information that might help out in this matter. Thank you very much. (Mike Kincaid, Chapel Hill, TN)

If I’m correctly de-coding what you’re telling me, your nephew is in a den of about eight boys who meet weekly and they’re all in the same school grade (Dens are part of a Pack that has lots of dens, covering grades one through five). If I have that right, then it would be the den that’s meeting weekly on Wednesday nights (Packs meet only once a month). Your nephew might need to find a different den to be a member of, if this is going to continue, because I can assure you with absolute certainty that there’s no such bylaw as you think you’re recalling in any BSA rules, policies, or regulations.

That said, I should also point out that that, at the level your nephew is at, it’s his parents who “sign off” on advancement requirements; not his Den Leader or anyone else! So, if he’s “falling behind,” maybe a conversation with his parents is in order here, so that they take the time to re-read the parents’ section of their son’s Cub Scout book and get more active about being his “Akela.”

Dear Andy,

Here’s a tough one even this old river rat can’t figure out how to handle… A rogue leader in our district has crossed the river, literally, to another state and council in order to secure a chartered organization. It’s only on paper, as he and his troop still meet in our district and council, in our state; but the unit is registered out of council—out of state. Meanwhile, the church where his troop meets supports him and his position. The local Scoutmaster is upset because this rogue is a better recruiter and has a better program, and the local guy is unable to compete. Our own council’s professional staff doesn’t have good contacts in this town and needs some help from us Commissioners. This conflict has a lot to do with a bad attitude towards our council’s Friends of Scouting fund-raising program; plus, he refuses to follow guidelines, take his troop to our own council’s summer camp or other venues (like Camporees), and he refuses to take any training. We don’t want to be pushy, as the real losers would be the boys. So what next? (Phil Malone, ADC, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

This “rogue leader” and his troop aren’t your problem, your district’s problem, or your council’s problem, because the unit he’s registered in isn’t chartered in your council, simple as that. That being the case, no one in your council has any “jurisdiction” over him or that troop. So leave him and his troop alone. Period.

Now, let’s deal with the more important subject here: The unhappy Scoutmaster whose troop is in your district and council. It seems to me that here’s where you and your fellow Commissioners need to put your energy. Coach him and the troop’s other volunteers on how to recruit better, how to run a better Scouting program, and so forth. This is the “weak” unit, and they need your positive energy and assistance!


Hi Andy,

I’m a Tiger Cub Den Leader and my Tigers have earned the Good Turn for America patch. I understand that this is considered a “temporary” patch and goes on the right pocket; however, the Tiger Cub totem hangs on the right pocket. Is it legitimate to have a patch under the hanging totem? It doesn’t seem correct to me and I can’t find any related information in the Insignia Guide. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! (Chris Haver, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

Yup, it’s OK to sew a patch on the right pocket, even though it will be underneath the totem stuff that hangs from the pocket. That’s “in the book,” by the way; it’s not an “Andy adage.”

Dear Andy,

I’m seeking your advice about a Den Leader in our pack (I’ll call her Sally). Sally’s been in the pack for her third year now, and still seems to have a hard time following rules and getting along with other adult volunteers in. When something doesn’t go her way, she’ll often throw a temper-tantrum to try and get her way.

The first problem we had from her was when a pack parent was emailing photos that she’d taken of various pack events. (Sally’s husband had been doing the same thing for about a year and the members of the pack seemed to enjoy getting the pictures.) But when this other parent did this, Sally claimed that we were sending out too many emails and so this other parent should stop sending photos (even though Sally’s husband continued to send his, just like he’d been doing).

The next problem revolved around the pack’s email system, too. Since Sally didn’t want to get “so many emails” through the pack email, we all agreed that the Cubmaster and/or Committee Chair had to approve all pack family-distributed messages before they were sent. All’s OK, except that Sally would send out emails and need immediate responses, and she then started pushing for leaders’ emails to not have to be approved.

Sometime shortly after these two problems, I had had enough of her trying to control the pack (or at least the pack’s email system), so I spoke up and told her that “this isn’t ‘Sally’s pack’” and that she needed to get over things when it didn’t go her way.

Then, this past summer, when I was the pack’s Summertime Activity Coordinator, I presented to the entire pack committee and all Den Leaders (including Sally) the activities that the pack would be doing over the summer, and the committee approved the activities and dates. Summer was going along just fine for a while, until Sally called to say that she couldn’t get her kids up by 8 AM for the first of the activities. Then, for the second, she claimed that “It’s too hot to go to the lake” (which is sort of why people go to the lake?). But when the circus came to town Sally tried to get the committee to approve this as a summertime activity! (Ultimately, the pack committee didn’t buy in.)

During this last incident, she and I exchanged a few words via emails, and this led to the pack instituting a “Code of Conduct” (with steps and consequences). Sally and I both got warnings in the process (which I was willing to accept).

Well, just this past month, she was at it again with members of her own den, and she was finally asked to step down from being Den Leader (her husband is now the Den Leader).

Now according to the pack’s Code of Conduct, this would have been her second offense, which would have meant that she and her son would be suspended for 30 days, but this didn’t happen. What would you suggest the pack do about Sally? (Name & Council Withheld)

Well, the first thing I notice is that the pack’s leaders pretty much have “Sally” figured out, and are managing her pretty darned well. There’s nothing she’s doing or trying to do that’s a capital offense, so, what I think I’d do is chill out… Except for Son of Sally. He’s done nothing untoward, so let’s not punish him for his parent’s transgressions! Keep the boy, control the parents (as you’ve been doing), and keep the pack moving forward. And: No more “email wars”!

Dear Andy,

I sent the following to my council Scout Executive, and I’m sending it to you as an FYI. How you use this information is up to you…

My son, a Tenderfoot Scout, selected and was presented the six-piece Hiking Set by TrailWorthy as his prize for selling popcorn. One of the items in this set is a 500ml aluminum water bottle. The problem is that this “water bottle” is bright red It looks exactly like the fuel bottle shown on pages 223 and 253 of the Boy Scout Handbook. This bottle, included with the prize, is NOT a water bottle—It’s a fuel bottle. If a Scout takes this bottle to a camping trip as a water bottle and his patrol or troop takes other red bottles as a fuel bottles, a Scout could be severely poisoned by drinking from the wrong red bottle. The council needs to take action to make sure this doesn’t happen. (Name & Council Withheld)

The TrailWorthy by Coleman spun aluminum water bottle included in the six-piece hiking set, as advertised by Coleman and promoted by Trails End, is silver-colored; not red. Perhaps your son was given the wrong bottle inadvertently, although since it comes as a component of a kit, this possibility seems fairly remote. Further investigation seems definitely warranted.

Dear Andy,

I quite enjoy your columns. I find them very informative. But I think you’re slightly misinformed on the severity of peanut allergies. Peanut allergies are (or can be) life-threatening, even if the person doesn’t actually “eat” the peanut. Granted, not many are that severely allergic, but it’s not unheard of. If one is severely allergic, he or she can get a reaction just by touching the peanut, touching a friend who had peanuts, etc. Heck, some can even get a severe reaction if they’re in a room with peanuts.

That’s why your comment about slapping a jar of peanut butter on the table and making the Scout “responsible” for not eating it just isn’t adequate. The Scout can be extremely responsible and not eat it, but should one other Scout eat it and then not wash his hands, or even another Scout eat then go back for more chips, or handle a spoon that the allergic Scout then handles, then that Scout can unwittingly be exposed and actually have an anaphylactic episode due to no fault of his own. This can easily occur while camping, where food-handling is quite often by hand and not sanitary utensils. Ahh…but the Scout should bring his own food if he’s that allergic, right? Yes. But here’s another scenario: Another Scout eats a peanut butter sandwich, handles tools, passes a craft item around, peanut-allergic Scout handles it, goes and has a snack, hmmm…

I’m shocked by your rather cavalier rejection of the merits of not banning peanuts for a Scout who is severely allergic. The safety of all Scouts (heck, all people) should be a primary objective. Peanut allergies can be life-threatening (we’re not talking just hives)—We’re talking anaphylaxis and possible death! Is it worth that risk just so another Scout can have a peanut butter sandwich?

You talk about taking personal responsibility, but what about responsibility to others?

Whether you print this letter or not, I do at least hope you consider these aspects and revise your statements Everyone’s health is important! Respectfully, (Crystal Wallace, Cub Scout Mom, Heart of America Council, KS)

Respectfully expressed, and respectfully taken. Thanks!

My grandson’s severely allergic to peanuts: They can kill him. I have a son who can die from a single bee sting and a daughter who will go asthmatic from pet dander. I, myself, nearly died as a newborn before the doctors figured out that I was highly allergic to cow’s milk, and lanolin. All of which means that I do have some knowledge of allergic reactions. Despite these genetic idiosyncrasies, I stand by what I’ve stated: This is, in its essence, an issue of personal responsibility. It must be!

We can create all sorts of “what if…” scenarios, from the simplistic to the highly elaborate, and the fact remains: We must, at some point, be responsible for ourselves.

Millions upon millions of children eat school cafeteria food every day. As do millions upon millions of adults. In this arena alone, it is an impossibility to create “allergy-sterile” environments, even with limitless knowledge, policies, efforts, and financial underpinning. Thus, it must be up to the individual to do what no one else has the capability of doing.

This is a discussion of capability, and nothing more. People die in hospitals because it is impossible to keep even a hospital “pure.” In the face of this, how can we even begin to expect a volunteer organization like Scouting to attempt what hospitals, with all of their professions, resources, money, and Pine-Sol, can’t do!

Cavalier? Not really. Realistic and practical? Absolutely!

Thanks again for reading… and for writing! This IS IMPORTANT STUFF!

Happy Scouting!!


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


(March 3, 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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