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Issue 134 – June 1, 2008

Green Zone Council

This is an unabashed promotion for Captain John Green and his goal of sending $10,000 to the volunteers stationed right now in Baghdad who are bringing Scouting back to the youth of Iraq! John bought these patches from his own wallet. He’s selling them for $10, and sending all funds raised to the Green Zone Council. He’s not reimbursing himself. He has just a few left from the stock he bought, so let’s get behind him and finish this!

You can contact John at Please do it TODAY!

Dear Andy,

Is there a way to get the BSA’s by-laws and policies? Are there any rules or regulations about troops using leadership contracts that a Scout must sign, that can strip him of his leaders position or deny him his rank? (William Dorr)

Any individual or bunch of adults who believe they have the power to deny a Scout his duly earned rank, or the power to delay an ambitious Scout from advancing, or the power to take a rank away from a Scout once he’s earned it, or who fail to realize that they, the adults, have only one job and that is to help Scouts succeed, have no business being in the Scouting program. If you’re aware of anyone associated with your troop who has succumbed to any of these catastrophes of thinking, give ’em the gate.

It’s not Scouts who must “toe the line,” it’s the adults. Any adult who sees himself or herself as cop, watchdog, final arbiter of performance, judge of character or leadership qualities, or any other such nonsense, same thing: Boot ’em out.

There’s only one thing that keeps a Scout from achieving his personal best: Adults who don’t believe he’s “ready.”

Hi Andy,

I have a question that we need clarification on and perhaps you and/or your readers can help… Requirement 9a for Camping merit badge states that the 20 days and nights of camping must be “Scout related.” Would this include camping done while a Scout was a Cub, such as Webelos Resident Camp or camping with a Troop for their advancement? (Maggie Guglielmo, CC, Buckeye Council, OH)

Thanks for asking! The answer’s simple and uncomplicated: Boy Scouting, including fulfilling requirements for ranks and merit badges, begins when a boy becomes a Boy Scout.

Dear Andy,

Thanks for your advice about a year ago; it’s truly helped my unit. We had three Venturers earn the Gold, Silver, and Ranger awards in the past year and more on the way!

Today I was catching up on your column and was reading the bit about “100 Scouts” in your March 25th column. I had another experience today that may be worth sharing…

I teach at a large semi-urban high school in Pennsylvania. Today the school’s newspaper had a photo shoot to recognize the Eagle Scouts in the school’s Senior Class. This was really cool, because fully twenty young men were recognized for this, and they also included seven of the faculty who were also Eagles! It was a very cool experience because, as a teacher I don’t, always get to see these students as Scouts, and it definitely gives a new connection to some students and some of my co-workers. (Jason Capone, Council Venturing Chair & Eagle Class of 2000, Minsi Trails Council, PA)

That’s really cool! THANKS from an Eagle Class of ’57!

Dear Andy,

I’m currently serving as a Bear Den Leader. When I joined the pack last fall, I quickly found out that there was a lot of turmoil in the pack that had carried over from some leaders in the past and a couple still in the pack. One of these people is the other Bear Den Leader in the pack. I brought to the pack many years of scouting experience as an Eagle Scout and was welcomed. I witnessed a lot of things that the pack could work on, as well as things that I just flat out didn’t agree with—many of these could be easily addressed by just following Scouting’s regulations. The other Bear Den Leader has a strong personality and seems to “shoot from the hip” with answers based on her opinion rather than following BSA guidelines and regulations. When someone disagrees with her, her response is to swear and yell until she says what she wants, and then she walks away or hangs up the phone. I was approached by the Cubmaster and his wife (who is now our Committee Chair) for help, since they were new to the positions and had had trouble with this leader in the past, so I gave them the information needed to state their case based on BSA regulations, and quickly found myself at the bad end of the other Bear DL’s rope. I was told that the Pack wanted to get rid of her, but they didn’t know how to do it. Conferences have happened, and this DL claimed willingness to change her ways, so the other leaders are giving her room to do this.

But now I’m finding myself in the hot seat and the very people who came to me for help seem to be throwing me under the bus. I’m being defamed by the parents of the other leader’s den, who, being naive, put full confidence in her wrong way of doing things and fully believe the lies she’s telling them. And, despite assurances that she’ll change, she’s still refusing to take training, never completed Youth Protection Training, shows total defiance of the Cubmaster, in public, refuses to wear a uniform, continues to have one-on-one interactions with the Cubs in her den, has actually flirted with others’ husbands, and still swears a blue streak. But, instead of dealing with this woman, the Committee Chair is now challenging me on everything I do, and has even announced to other parents that I’m not an Eagle Scout and have no business being a leader. I have documented items to prove all of the accusations false, but I keep getting the questions. I’m now tired and ask, where is my protection and why even after proving over and over my character and the false accusations do I still have to be so careful to make sure I have proof of all that’s done and said? The District Executive is now involved, and I believe is trying to assist the pack in the right direction, but in the meantime I’m being hung out to dry and the problems with the other leader are being ignored. This has been going on since before I joined the pack! I’ve said that I’m not afraid to put in writing anything, but I honestly don’t believe these people realize that by verbally and in writing defamation of me, which is causing problems for my family, is really against the law. I need help. I refuse to give up my boys and families who I’m fully committed to, but I’m the one who now is getting the brunt of this.

I grew up in the Boy Scouts! I have my Arrow of Light, am a multiple-Palmed Eagle Scout, and a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. But here I am, having to defend myself as a “Good Scout” around people with little Scouting experience. What can I do? HELP! (Name & Council Withheld)

First: The Committee Chair has the authority to fire that wayward Den Leader. No explanation is necessary, no “three strikes” rule, no “letters in the file,” no nothing except the agreement of the Chartered Organization Representative and/or executive officer of the CO. It’s a simple “Thank you for your services; they’re no longer needed.” That’s it, and it’s over. The only cautionary note is that it’s usually a good idea to have someone in the wings who has already agreed to step in and fill the slot, once it’s been vacated. The removed volunteer has no recourse and it’s not negotiable. It’s simply over.

If the CC doesn’t have the stomach for this, then the best thing you can do is to get out of that pack, because trying to “fix” it “from the inside” is an exercise in futility.

As for “defending” yourself and/or “setting the record straight,” forget it. I’d sooner try to teach pigs to fly than waste my time with folks who are blind to Scouting’s True North.

Here’s the bottom line: Depart with grace, find a Scouting unit that can see the big picture and doesn’t tolerate bullies (youth or adult!), and join up. As for the miscreants, blow-hards, and spineless wonders you’re leaving behind, don’t even waste time looking over your shoulder. Eyes on the horizon, my Scouting friend!

Remember: What and who you are speaks more loudly to me than anything you might say.

Dear Andy,

In your March 25th Column, Rhonda Hitt asked, “Are there any rules against taking Cub Scouts rappelling off a cliff?” and you referred her to the Guide to Safe Scouting which is the right answer. As an NCS Climbing and COPE Director, I’d also refer her to Climb On Safely training, which should be offered by her council at least once a year. The GTSS is available at the BSA website: (Zack Sinsheimer, Scouter Services Associate, Mid-America Council, NE)

Great suggestion! Thanks!

Dear Andy,

What’s the difference between a District Committee Member and a Member-at-Large? I’ve been looking around the Internet and I’ve found the following:

Member-at-Large: A volunteer at the district level who is available to serve and/or assist on special projects.

– District Committee: A group of registered adult Scouters responsible for carrying out the council program within their district.

– Members at Large: Individuals of character and standing in the community who, because of interest, organization experience, ability, or general knowledge, may be available for service as a chairman or member of one of the committees in the district or for service in some special capacity to the district. The incoming district chair appoints the chairs of the various committees related to the functions of membership, finance, program, and other special or ad hoc committee chairs.

– District Committee: Consists of chartered organization repre-sentatives and elected district members at large, the district committee coordinates the functions of the district to carry out the policies and objectives of the council. The executive officer of the district committee is the district chairperson.

– Member-at-Large: Elected voting member of a council or district who is not a chartered organization representative.

But I want to know your opinion. (Ivonne D. Rivera)

An “at-large” member of the district committee is typically one who doesn’t have a specific assignment, such as Vice Chair-Program or Chair-Friends of Scouting Campaign. However, members-at-large might serve on a district sub-committee, such as Program or Friends of Scouting Campaign, under the direction of a Vice Chair or Chair.

Dear Andy,

Do you have any thoughts on what should qualify as a troop or patrol activity for First Class requirement 3? Our troop has considered several types of activities, some with more support than others, such as: troop service projects, Eagle Courts of Honor (separate from regular troop meetings), attending a bridging ceremony of our parallel pack to welcome new Scouts (we encourage our Scouts to attend these), Eagle projects, and troop fund-raisers. Definitely, camping trips and other day trips and weekend or overnight outings can count toward this requirement, and we know from the requirement that at least three of the activities must include overnight camping.

But who decides what qualifies as an activity for this require-ment? The Scoutmaster? The Troop Committee? And what happens if, at a board of review for First Class, the committee doesn’t approve of the activities that a Scout has listed for the rank, but the Scoutmaster’s initials are there in his handbook, signifying that, for the Scoutmaster, they’re OK?

This is a problem for us right now because we have a Scout who completed all his First Class requirements, but the reviewers adjourned the review while they “checked up on” the activities the Scout has listed (which the Scoutmaster had signed off on), to determine if they were “valid” or not.

Our troop provides at least ten traditional outings every year, one a month except for August and December. The question is: When a Scout can’t attend those, but does attend other events like those questionable ones listed above, what do we do? (Kurt Williams, CC)

That First Class requirement is clear and straightforward: Ten separate troop and/or patrol activities, three of which must be an overnight camp-out and none of which may be a regular troop or patrol meeting. Per this language, every one of the examples you provided meets the requirement, so long as they’re troop and/or patrol activities. For instance, if the Scouts in the troop are encouraged by the Scoutmaster or others to attend a pack’s bridging ceremony, then this is not “questionable” at all: It qualifies. Same with a troop service project, of course—how could it not?! And, since “service hours” aren’t required for First Class, assisting a brother Scout on his Eagle project would be acceptable by all but the most misanthropic curmudgeon. And so on.

However, in the case you mentioned, the members of that board of review were totally out-of-line and need to be either re-educated or told to go find another job. When a Scoutmaster has signed off on a requirement, it is absolutely not up to the board of review to challenge this in front of the Scout, much less to use this as a way to deny that Scout the rank his Scoutmaster has already told the reviewers the Scout is ready for.

There is no “conflict” here, because troop committees absolutely do not “overrule” Scoutmasters in situations like this, and shame on them! Call that Scout back in as fast as you can, apologize to him, and award him his duly earned rank.

Dear Andy,

I’m involved with both a pack and a troop in a small town here in Connecticut. Because we have well-rounded boys who are involved in a lot of stuff, we have a lot of overlap among youth organizations in town—Boys on the soccer team are also Cub Scouts and our Boy Scouts are in the band or on the baseball team, too. When it comes to parades, there’s invariably that decision of who to march with, and the laws of physics say that you can’t be in two places at once. One solution I’m considering is letting the boys march with one organization while wearing the uniform of another, if the group they’re marching with does not object. I can understand if the pack wants to maintain the unity of having everyone marching in uniform, but if a boy wants to walk with the soccer team and wear the Scout uniform because he wants to show that he’s part of both organizations, does that violate any BSA uniform guidelines? I’ve searched but wasn’t able to find anything. (John Tarby, COR/ASM, Connecticut Yankee Council)

Life is a series of decisions. Many of these are pleasant and easy; some aren’t. Parades represent one of those decision moments that only the boy or young man can make. When it come to deciding which to march with, his pack or troop, soccer team or band, this is the individual decision of each. Leave it that way. Learning how to make personal decisions, especially when they’re not no-brainers, is a big part of growing up. Resist the temptation to try to provide some sort of manufactured middle ground, because there’s really no middle ground: The choice is between option one and option two and to create an artificial half-way accommodation diminishes if not undermines both options.

Hi Andy!

Our troop has a delightful group of Scouts who next year will turn 18 before they graduate from high school. They’re great guys who are still an asset to the troop and enjoying Scouting. Our troop has always “aged boys out,” and either they disappear on their 18th birthday or we register them as ASMs and they’re expected to suddenly change roles. We’ve not managed to get that to really work, since the Scouts aren’t suddenly ready to swap the role.

So my question is this: Must a Scout either disappear or become an ASM on his 18th birthday? Is there a rule? Or can a Scout stay a Scout until he graduates from high school? (Janis Tipton-King, ASM, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

A young man’s 18th birthday marks the end of his Boy Scout years. This is not dependent on his school grade, and there are no exceptions other than a permanent severe handicap or disability that is well documented.

B-P: “Training boy leaders to run their troop is the Scoutmaster’s most important job.” Assuming a normal progression, in which a Scout reaches Eagle rank some time between his 14th and 16th birthdays (although both earlier and later are both certainly OK), has been elected by his patrol to be their Patrol Leader at least once, and by his troop to be Senior Patrol Leader, or has been assigned a leadership position by the Scoutmaster, and has ultimately progressed to the position of Junior Assistant Scoutmaster by the time he’s 16, the 17-year-old Scout should by this time be well-steeped in leadership skills and the servant-leader attitude that accompanies these. So that, by the time he’s 18, he should be well-prepared to step up to the position of Assistant Scoutmaster, becoming one of the troop’s most important adult leaders (he’s have specific responsibility for the new Scout patrol that graduates from being a Webelos den, in February or perhaps March at the latest). Why a Scout would not have this aspiration by the time he’s 18 is quite unfathomable to me, but I do suppose it can happen. In that case, there’s a second option: Venturing.

If you do have Scouts who wish to continue beyond their 18th birthday in a capacity other than Assistant Scoutmaster, then form a Venturing Crew for these young men to transfer into upon reaching age 18. A Venturing Crew is a BSA program specifically designed for young men (and young women, too!) between the ages of 14 and 21. It’s value-based, just as the Boy Scout program is, and centers around active adventures, service to others, and challenging experiences.

For more Venturing info, go to For information on how to organize and charter a Venturing Crew, contact your Unit Commissioner.

Thanks Andy!

We do want to start up a Venturing Crew, but there’s resistance from the troop committee, based on their fear that Scouts will become less active in the troop once they reach Venturing age. I understand the position. With the current group of Scouts, that seems highly unlikely, but things can change over time and meanwhile nobody wants to rock the troop boat. But meanwhile we say goodbye to a lot of great kids and we’re are not serving female youth at all But that’s something we need to wrestle with ourselves. (Janis Tipton-King)

The committee’s being as short-sighted as others who claim that the OA “steals Scouts” from their troop! You can’t have it both ways. If you’re OK with losing youth at age 18, so be it. If you’re not, then training older Scouts to become ASMs or starting a Venturing Crew are your options. BTW, do they really think the BSA developed a program for older youth designed to lessen activity?

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a reader of your column for several years, and have found it very helpful. I’d recommend it to any leader—new or experienced.

I’ve just finished up my time with a Cub Scout pack that I was involved with for the last three years as Cubmaster, and where both of my sons earned the Arrow of Light.

I heartily endorse one of the methods you described to recruit committee members! Several months ago, most of the leaders in the pack were leaving as their sons graduated. I sent out a general letter in our pack newsletter, not expecting any response, but just to lay the groundwork. I encouraged parents to volunteer for a position, or to serve if asked. Several months later, after our Tigers were almost done with their year, I used your strategy of writing out the committee positions, with descriptions of duties, on a 3”x5” card and laying them out on a table during a pack meeting. We met in a classroom of our chartered organization, so there was only one door! I positioned myself and the cards on a table in front of the only door out, and asked each parent as they left to consider a position. A few said no thanks, but most looked over the cards and chose one.

I do take issue with one of your themes that the advancement should be done mostly at home with the parents. With both my wife and I working, and the demands of homework (even at the 3rd and 4th grade levels), and time spent in after-school daycare programs, I found that most parents didn’t take the time to do much advancement work at home. When I was a Den Leader, I made it a point to do some advancement work, some work on Arrow Point projects, and some stuff that was just plain fun. When springtime rolled, around I’d encourage parents to begin work on their new Cub Scout book, hoping that when we met again in the fall they’d have some advancement work done. I never had any parent (except me) do any advancement work over the summer months.

The reality today is that, if a good chunk of advancement isn’t done in the meeting, then the boys won’t advance. As a parent, I found that sometimes Cub Scouting, as fun and worthwhile as the program is, can be just another chore to a lot of parents, and to not do advancement work in the den meetings is a disservice to the boys. The way I put it to parents of my den was that we’d attempt to do some advancement work in the den meetings, but it was ultimately up the parents if their son advanced. (Scott J. Dahlqusit, Northern Star Council, MN)

I’m thrilled that the “card technique” worked for you! It’s been used successfully again and again, by unit leaders and Commissioners across the country and it almost never fails to produce results.

On Cub Scout advancement, especially Tiger, Wolf, and Bear, when a Den Leader starts doing advancement stuff in den meetings, instead of concentrating den activities around the pack’s monthly themes, he or she is undermining the Cub Scout program at its most fundamental level, and shame on any Den Leader who makes a practice of this. When a Cub is not advancing, because parents aren’t stepping up to their Akela responsibilities, it’s not time to “rescue” those parents (or their son); it’s time for a parent conference, to re-explain what advancement is all about and what their responsibilities are, including what’s going to happen when they don’t hold up their end of the equation. It’s right there in the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear handbooks, in the parents’ section, for goodness sakes!

The “disservice to the boys” comes from their own parents, and it’s absolutely not the responsibility of the Den Leader to take up the slack. When parents see other boys receiving their badges, arrow points, and so on at the monthly pack meetings, and their kid’s warming the bench, they’ll either take action so this doesn’t happen again, or they won’t, and it’s not your job or anyone else’s to do for them what they’re not willing to do for their own son! End of story.

Dear Andy,

Our troop would like to know where to get information on, or examples for building a camp entrance. (Denice Dewaelsche, Quivira Council, KS)

This depends on how elaborate the Scouts want to be and how creative they are. For examples of some wonderful stuff, just Google “troop gateway” and check out the citations.

Dear Andy,

In our troop, we have a 13 year old Scout going before his board of review for Star. In his Scoutmaster Conference with me, he told me that he had to become a Star Scout before another Scout in the troop, because his dad didn’t want the other boy to beat him to Eagle. I’ve touched on this lightly in the past, telling his father that Scouting isn’t a competition, but an experience, but I think it’s fallen on deaf ears. It appears that this boy’s his father pushes him in sports and other extra-curricular activities also, which are none of my concern, but obviously shows a pattern. I brought this up with my Committee Chair, and he felt that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in my own experience as an Eagle Scout and an adult leader (I’m in my mid-40s), I’ve found that pushing a boy ruins the fun and can create burnout at a later date. I’d hate to see this happen. Is this something I should approach, or should I leave it alone and let it run it’s course? (Rob Hayes, SM)

We can save boys from wayward and useless adult lives through Scouting. We can save them from bleeding to death with compresses. We can save them from drowning with rescue methods. We can save them from expiring with CPR. But we can’t save them from their own parents.

We also can’t “fix” parents—I’d soon try to teach a pig to fly!

What we can do, however, is to save these boys and young men from succumbing to the same mentality as this particular dad, through Scoutmaster’s Conferences. But do tread lightly here, my Scouting friend, because we’re talking about a father-and-son relationship that’s stronger than we’ll ever have with this Scout (and that’s as it should be). The key is to help this young man find a way to succeed for himself first, his father second, and to maintain a sense that “this is a ‘race’ that every Scout can win.”

Dear Andy,

My question is about mixing old and current uniform parts. We have a Scout in our troop who proudly wears his grandfather’s garrison cap with his present-day uniform. The troop has no set policy on headgear, or a specified hat that the Scouts should wear. The other scouts really like this hat and all would like to have one.

So here’s the problem: Our Committee Chair has told the Scout that he’s not allowed to wear the vintage hat with the modern uniform because the old-style can’t be mixed with the modern current uniform. But I’ve gone to many Scouting events and have seen numerous people wearing an old-style hat with the current uniform.

Is there a national policy on this? I’ve yet to find anything in writing from the Insignia Guide or anywhere else, and the uniform inspection sheet doesn’t say anything on this matter other than it’s a troop decision as to what headgear to wear. I’ve heard a lot of opinions on this, but no factual answer. Can you help me? (Name Withheld)

In the first place, what’s this malarkey about a Committee Chair having a conversation of this sort with a Scout? Doesn’t he or she know that it’s the Scoutmaster, not anyone on the committee unless requested by the Scoutmaster, who converses with the Scouts and that any variation on this is out-of-line?

But, on your question: The BSA’s policy—a long-standing one, by the way—is simple: If it was official “then” it’s official NOW! This includes “mix-and-match.” So this Scout’s overseas cap is totally “legal” and shame on a stick-in-the-mud Committee Chair!

Now, let’s look at the positive: If other Scouts think it’s cool, why not go online (eBay, maybe) and see if you can outfit the whole troop with these! (Frankly, they’re a lot more convenient than the current baseball caps because, when you’re not wearing it, you just fold it over your belt and it never gets crushed, damaged, or lost!)

Dear Andy,

I know that the Kayaking-BSA is intended for Boy Scouts and that it has several requirements that must be met to get it, but what about Cub Scouts? Is there a variation of this award that a Cub Scout can earn, where the requirements aren’t as strict? The reason I ask is because I have two Cub Scout sons—one is a Bear and the other a Tiger—and we went out for a family activity this past weekend and while we were there, we took them kayaking. We used tandem kayaks on a Level 1 river (maybe a little less than one), and I had one son with me and my husband had the other with him. The boys really paddled and helped to get us off of rocks when we got stuck. They performed like little pro’s and we’d like to recognize their efforts with a Scout award if at all possible. (Julie McDaniel, DL, Daniel Boone Council, NC)

You’re correct that kayaking is not a part of the Cub Scouting program, and it’s likely to remain that way, for reasons of youth safety, of course. Moreover, you all did this as a family outing; not as a Cub Scout event. So, if you want to “reward” your two stalwart sons, your best bet is to do this personally, within your family.

Dear Andy,

We have a situation in the troop where a lot of boys are causing trouble. Our new Scoutmaster is trying to get a handle on it. In the past year the trouble (violence, threats, putting others in harm’s way) has gotten so out of control that four Scouts have been asked to leave the troop. Currently, my son is one of the boys causing trouble—he’s rough-housing and letting it get out of control till someone gets hurt. At the first couple of incidents, he was warned. But, three weeks ago, when something else happened, his leadership position was taken away. (The new Scoutmaster is trying to get the troop to be more boy-led. Yay for that!) Then, a week later, he pushed another Scout to the ground. His punishment is that he’s not allowed to go on any troop outings for the next three months, and is “on probation” for six months (but he is allowed to participate in service-related activities and he can work on advancement during his probation period).

While I agree with his punishment in general, I don’t agree with one thing: In the past three months, he’s worked on Cycling merit badge, and this coming weekend is the final 50-mile ride, but he’s not allowed to participate, because the Scoutmaster deems this an outing, and my son is banned from outings for three months. Is the Scoutmaster permitted to keep my son from completing his merit badge? The Counselor for Cycling has said that my son can complete the 50-mile ride on his own, and has even told us of a ride taking place in a couple of weeks that he could join up with and do. But my question is: Can the Scoutmaster deny him the right to complete his merit badge for any reason? In reading through your columns, I don’t think he can do this. (Name & Council Withheld)

No, neither a Scoutmaster nor anyone else can deliberately prevent a Scout from advancing, whether rank or merit badge. However, not permitting a Scout who has severely misbehaved from participating in a troop activity (in this case, it happens to be a cycling trip, but it could be anything else and the same principle would apply) is well within the purview of a Scoutmaster or other adult leader of a troop. Moreover, since the Merit Badge Counselor has already suggested a viable option to this particular troop trip, any argument about your son being some-how prevented from earning his merit badge would be on pretty weak ground. As one parent to another, I really wouldn’t recommend pursuing this particular avenue. But I’d definitely support my son if he opts for the alternate, as suggested.

Now, there’s a much deeper issue here: What’s causing all of these apparent behavioral problems? A troop meeting program (troop meetings last no more than 90 minutes) is pretty tight (there are seven essential elements) with very little to no time for mischief to happen. The Scouts are grouped by and operate within patrols of 6 to 8, and are led by Patrol Leaders who have very specific things to do during troop meetings. Moreover, included in every troop meeting is at least one (often two) game or competition that helps boys of Scout age blow off some of their natural energy. Finally, there are Assistant Scoutmasters who “shadow” brand-new patrols to make sure proper behavior is maintained. If the troop isn’t following these fundamental guidelines, then there may be more a program problem than a behavior problem. You see, it’s pretty simple: If we don’t give these boys something to do that’s interesting, challenging, fun, and constructive, they’ll find something to do all by themselves and it’s unlikely that these four characteristics will be present (especially the last one)!

Another concern of mine is this: What are the adults doing when someone like your son is “letting it get out of control until someone gets hurt”? Understandably, this can happen in a matter of minutes, or less. But… Is no one seeing this, or anticipating this, or cutting it off before anyone comes into harm’s way? What’s going on here?

I have the strong feeling that the Scoutmaster and several adults need to have a “study session” for themselves right away, and the book to study hard is the Scoutmaster Handbook.

Good luck with this and, as a parent, what is keeping you from disciplining your son, yourself? What’s keeping you from reading him the Riot Act at home, so that he’s not getting into this sort of mischief at troop meetings?

My wife taught middle school kids for over 30 years and she’d tell you this: Boys (especially boys) of Boy Scout age are looking for the boundaries. They want to know what the limits are, and they’ll “test” adults to find out. Our responsibility, as adults, is to let them know, in absolutely concrete terms, where the boundaries are, and then enforce them consistently and resolutely. Not by being “ogres” and definitely not with “patience” if patience means letting them push the boundaries further and further away from civil and courteous behavior, but by being more clever (anticipation means you can prevent instead of react) than they are and by being 100% firm and 100% consistent.

Dear Andy,

Is it OK for a Merit Badge Counselor to make up a written test for the merit badge he’s teaching? I know it says on the BSA site that a Counselor can “test” the Scout, and I also know it says that you can’t add to or take away from the requirements. But I’d think that if the BSA wanted a written test they’d include one in selected merit badge requirements, so that all Scouts are treated the same. I’ve read that Scouts may be “tested” but I believe the BSA means during the interaction and discussion between the Scout and the Counselor, and not some sort of “final exam.” The reason I’m asking is that we have a Merit Badge Counselor who made up a written test for Camping MB and because a Scout didn’t agree with the test, he left our troop and joined another one. Can you give us some guidance here? (Name & Council Withheld)

If the BSA were run like “Scout School,” tests would be just ducky. But that’s not what Scouting’s all about. The responsibility of a Merit Badge Counselor is to encourage, coach, teach, and mentor Scouts to success. The mere notion of giving “exams” tells me instantly that that MBC just has no clue as to what he’s supposed to be doing, or why. He can go work for ETS if he likes, but that sort of test-giving behavior simply has no place in Scouting. If you have anything to do with which MBCs Scouts are directed to, cross this jerk off the list and never send him another Scout!

Dear Andy,

We have a Scout father who wants to bring his daughter (approximately 11 years old) along to summer camp with the troop. What things do we need to consider when having a girl in camp? (Name & Council Withheld)

The first thing to consider is that this is a really stoopid idea. Boy Scout camps are for Boy Scouts. They’re not for sisters, little baby brothers, doting mommies, or wussy daddies. If the only way you can get “adult coverage” from this father is by way of his bringing daughter along for the ride, replace him with another dad. Failing to do this diminishes the Scouting experience not only for this poor brother but for every Scout in the troop. End of story.

Dear Andy,

I agree, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the troop who sees this as an issue. (N&CW)

These people must be made to understand that having “Sis” along for the ride is totally, completely, 100% in opposition to the Boy Scout outdoor experience. If the family wants to go family camping that’s just fine. But that’s not Boy Scouting, any more than Boy Scouting is all about having some Scout’s sister in camp for a week. Anybody who can’t understand this point needs to be thanked for their time of service and shown the door. Any Triage unit would put them in the “hopeless” group and move on to those who are salvageable.


Dear Andy,

My troop will hold a Court of Honor for six new Eagle Scouts, and I have a few questions relating to flag ceremony procedures.

From watching other troops, I’ve noticed that many of them didn’t have a closing flag ceremony. Is a closing ceremony absolutely necessary for such an occasion? And if it is, what is the proper term to call to the color guard (opposite of “post the colors”)?

In the website, I noticed that the term, “retire the colors,” was used during the closing flag ceremony. I’ve always thought that retiring colors meant burning the flag at the end of its time of service. Can you please clarify this term?

I’ve also noticed, from watching the flag ceremonies during the governor’s inauguration, that the color guard didn’t even post the colors—They marched up to the stage, did the national anthem and so on, and then marched back with the colors. I’m wondering if this procedure is correct and if we should use it.

My troop and I would greatly appreciate your answers to improve our flag ceremony procedures. (Quan Do)

No, don’t do what that governor’s honor guard did. Although what they did is perfectly “legal,” you can do better.

“Color Guard, present the colors” is the command from the front, by the Senior Patrol Leader, signifying that the color guard (two or four Scouts–your choice) should now advance the American flag and the troop flag from the rear of the room to the front, place the flags in their proper stands, and then stand at attention on either side of the flag they’ve placed. Unencumbered, they can salute and repeat the pledge along with everyone else. Or, they can remain at attention facing the audience and not salute. Your decision. Then, the command is: “Color Guard, return to ranks,” at which command the Scouts form up in front of the Senior Patrol Leader, salute (he returns their salute) and then about-face and take their seats with the troop.

At the end of the court of honor (or any troop meeting, for that matter), the command is: “Color Guard, front-and-center.” When they come forward, they stop in front of the Senior Patrol Leader and salute him. He returns the salute and gives the command, “Retire the Colors,” upon which the color guard goes to the two flags, removes them from their stands, and then–just before they march the flags out–the Senior Patrol Leader says to those assembled: “All please rise.” Then, the colors go out. With the Scouts and parents still standing, the Senior Patrol Leader makes the Scout Sign and says, “And now, may the great Master of all Scouts be with us till we meet again. Goodnight.”

I’ve left out turning sharply and cutting corners on turns and such because you’ll rehearse these before the court of honor anyway!


Happy Scouting!!


You can write to me about any Scouting-related subject or concern at:

(June 1, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)

Letters to AskAndy may be published at the discretion of the columnist and the editor. If you prefer to have your name or affiliation withheld from publication, please advise in your letter.


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.

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