The statement below is from our Chief Scout Executive, Bob Mazucca:
Our family—and I mean our Scouting family—is dealing with very tragic news this morning. The devastating tornado and storms that tore through Western Iowa took the lives of four of our Scouts at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. Many others—about 40—were injured. I can’t begin to imagine the fear and terror our boys and leaders experienced during those quick and destructive moments. Our prayers and thoughts from our hearts go out to all of those affected by this terrible storm, including the families of the four boys who lost their lives, as well as those of the injured. Our team is providing any and all resources available to offer help and support to this stricken area of our Scouting family. I urge all of you to please take a moment to offer your prayers for not only those involved in tragedy in Iowa, but also for the safety of all of our Scouts, leaders and volunteers who are camping this summer all over the country. I am deeply saddened by these terrible losses. At the same time, I am very proud of the way our Scouts and leaders responded. Even in the face of incredible challenge, they epitomized the very best about being a Scout. We will continue to keep you posted as we continue to provide assistance and get updates in the coming days and weeks. God bless our Scouts. (Bob Mazucca, Chief Scout Executive, National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.)
And this, which also appears in the blog of the U.S. Scouting Service Project:
We tell our Scouts to “Be Prepared”—to be prepared for life and what it gives you. It is more than a motto—it in a capsule states the goals of the Boy Scouts of America. We, as well as many of you, are stunned at the fact that overnight four Boy Scouts—three participants in a junior leader training camp and a youth staff member—died in the aftermath of a tornado that struck the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa. Many other participants in that training experience suffered injuries. The camp is an activity and facility belonging to the Mid-America Council, BSA, which is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska and which serves youth in eastern Nebraska, northwestern Iowa and southeastern South Dakota.
We grieve and offer our sincere condolences for the loss of these four Scouts to their parents, to the other members of the training course and their adult advisors and mentors, and to the communities in which they resided. We know that the local council will do everything in their power to support the families and their fellow Scouts and Scouters in their time of extreme pain and loss.
The Boy Scouts of America, through their local councils like Mid-America, provide a special week of leadership development training each year. The course is called by different titles within different local councils to give it a local slant and flavor. Course participants are nominated by local Scout Troops to attend these eight-day courses; in many cases, the leaders attending these courses are the leaders of their Boy Scout troops, called a Senior Patrol Leader, or aspire to serve in that role in the future. The course is a nationally structured and scripted course which emphasizes small group leadership and management and, as a component, instruction on how to deal with emergent situations as they occur.
Since Boy Scouts and Venturers camp in the outdoors as a central part of who we are, a great deal of time is spent on basic techniques in dealing with extreme weather—whether it is tornadoes, great amounts of cold or heat—and strategies for what happens when transportation fails or when the overhead cover is destroyed or damaged. Part of the week’s training as conducted by the Mid-America Council’s junior leader camp called for tornado reaction drills and instruction, which was conducted the day before the tornado struck.
We are extremely proud of the Scouts and Scouters—some Scouts as young as 13 and others as old as 17—who reacted to this emergency in true Scouting style. You will no doubt hear, see, and read about accounts of true Scouting heroism in the face of extreme danger performed by those Scouts as well as their adult Scouter mentors and advisors. Many of you are surprised at the ingenuity, strength of character, and overall service that those Scouts—young as they may be—acted upon. We are not. This is what Scouters train Scouts to do. This is what Scouts do. More than the camping and outdoor aspects of our program, may we all be reminded that Boy Scouting first is a program that prepares young men like these and millions of others for their roles as responsible strong citizens of quality character. This is why we have a Scouting program in this nation, and the Scouts and Scouters you are witnessing through media accounts—and their own personal accounts—are realistic, true-to-life examples of the value of Scouting, even in this “internet and play-station recreational environment.” You will also hear, see, and read about the exceptionally quick level of support rendered to the camp and its leaders by a host of local, state and regional authorities. This is part of a coordinated plan—an emergency plan the council coordinated with each year before the start of the camp year. Once executed, the plan was accomplished in a grand way and we are sure it assisted in large part to the swift treatment and care of those Scouts and Scouters caught in the wrath of the tornado’s destruction. We thank those organizations and agencies for their support of the camp and council, and, indirectly, to the families of those Scouts at the Ranch.
We at the U.S. Scouting Service Project join with our fellow Scouters all over this land in our deepest condolences for the loss of life during the Mid-America Council’s junior leader training camp program in Iowa. We pray and offer our best cheerful thoughts for the families and fellow Scouts who will deal with their loss of family and friends. We also extend our innermost pride and elation at the many Scouts and Scouters who stepped forward—even through their own personal pain—to offer first aid, recovery, and staging during this emergency. We stand ready to assist the Mid-America Council and their leadership in whatever way we can be of service. Because that’s what Scouts and Scouters do. (Michael F. Bowman, USSSP Vice President & Webmaster)
Finally, one 13-year-old Scout, interviewed by the news-media, may have said it best of all:
If this (tornado) had to happen, this was the best place for it to happen. We’re Scouts. We’re prepared. We know what to do, and how to do it.
My son crossed over this just past spring into a Boy Scout troop. To my disappointment, it turns out to be not as well organized as we were led to believe. They have a bad habit of scheduling events (campouts, field trips, etc.) only to cancel them at the last moment, yet these events are scheduled months in advance, and they’re ones my son (and other Scouts, too) had been looking forward to. There’s other stuff happening, too, like committee member in-fighting, a Scoutmaster who doesn’t show up for troop meetings and when he does he starts in on intimidating the younger Scouts–I won’t bore you with the rest. So, when would be a good time of year for my son to transfer to another troop? And, do you have any suggestions about questions I should be asking the prospective troop? (Todd Martin, Circle 10 Council, TX)
RIGHT NOW! Track down your Commissioner or District Executive for your area, get information on nearby troops, and go visit them right away. Find out what their summer camp plans are, and get your son registered (transfer fee is just a buck!) and signed up for camp right away.
A few questions to ask the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair…
– How often do you go camping/hiking? (Look for “once a month, at least”)
– Are your Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leader elected or appointed. (Elected)
– Does the troop have “standing patrols,” or do you make up patrols for different events? (Standing)
– How many courts of honor do you have in a year? (3 or 4, but no less than 2)
– How often do you have boards of review? (Often as our Scouts need ’em, or at least once a month)
– What’s the average age that your Scouts make Eagle? (Ideally, 14 to 16. If you hear late 17 to 18, steer clear!)
– Does the troop participate in district events, like camporees, and so on? (Yes)
– Who is running the troop meeting? (Senior Patrol Leader and other Scouts)
– How are they uniformed? (Rag-tag, waist up, random are all not good signs)
– Does the Scoutmaster run the meeting? (If yes, run like blazes!)
– Do the Scouts look happy and “with it”? Or like automatons goin’ through the motions? Or totally rowdy?
How old must a Boy Scout be to be able to pick up trash along a road? I’ve been told that they must be at least 14 years of age, but when I read the local papers and see Cub Scouts and various other troops picking up trash or adopting a highway, I get confused because I know they’re not 14. Any help would be great. (Craig Miller, Black Swamp Council, OH)
Properly supervised, with obvious safety precautions in place, there’s no age restriction on youth in the BSA program that would prohibit them from providing service by way of picking up trash anywhere. Read the BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting for everything you ever wanted or needed to know about safety and safety standards.
Now, who told you this baloney? Was he or she speaking from authority, or just shootin’ the breeze (or bull)? What was his or her stated source for this pronouncement and did you ask to see it in writing by the BSA? In other words, all confusion ends when you check it out. (Like you’re doing right here!)
I know that the council recommends that someone only be Cubmaster for a year or two, but what if the boys want him to stay and he wants to stay until his son moves on to Boy Scouts? I believe that the majority of the parents want him to stay too, because he’s so good with the Cubs. He always puts the boys first, and reminds all us Den Leaders and committee members that this is for the boys! But the Committee Chair announced that his own two years was up a couple of months ago, and that the Cubmaster would have to step down too, because it would be his third year and he shouldn’t be Cubmaster while his son is in the last year of Cub Scouts. The Cubmaster’s stated to me that if someone else truly wants the job, that’s fine with him, but if there’s no one else ready to take on the job, and the boys want him to stay on, it’s good by him.
What would the proper procedure be? Do we vote on it or let the boys vote? I plan on asking the CC if there’s someone waiting in the wings to take over the job, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case. As a committee member, I’d think he would have told the other members. He’s a good Cubmaster, much better than the old one, the boys really respond to him because he is so approachable. Do you think he should step down? (Name & Council Withheld)
ALL positions in Scouting, from Den Leader to Council Commissioner, Council President to Unit Committee Chair have a one-year tenure: From the beginning to the end of each chartering year. Throughout the US, three terms in a row (i.e., three years) is the norm for most all positions. The thinking goes like this: The first year’s spent figuring out what the job’s all about, the second year’s devoted to doing it, and the third year’s spent making it better than when we signed on.
Moreover, there’s absolutely no BSA “rule” that says a Cubmaster can’t be Cubmaster during his son’s final Cub Scouting year (i.e., when he’s a Webelos II Scout).
But, the Committee Chair is indeed responsible for who holds positions in the unit and who doesn’t, and can only be overruled by the Chartered Organization Representative or the actual head of the sponsor. So, if the present CC says the CM’s gone, then gone he is.
Want to do a clever “end run”? Get yourself appointed CC or COR, and then reinstate the Cubmaster you and the boys like so much.
Should a Chartered Organization charge a fee to its unit? Our Cub Scout pack has recently been asked to pay a fee for the upcoming year, to use our Chartered Organization’s cafeteria. I don’t remember paying any of my units’ Chartered Organizations in the past for providing a meeting place. What’s the story? (Eric Horton, DL, Aloha Council, HI)
A “Chartered Organization” is a sponsor. Sponsors don’t charge for the services and/or facilities they provide, because—as a sponsor—this is what they’ve agreed to do when the BSA awarded them the charter! It’s “in the contract,” in effect, which says (boldface mine)…
Chartered Organization Responsibilities
By receiving a charter from the Boy Scouts of America, the chartered organization agrees to
- Conduct Scouting in accordance with its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the BSA.
- Include Scouting as part of its overall program for youth and families.
- Appoint a chartered organization representative who is a member of the organization and will represent it to the Scouting district and council, serving as a voting member of each.
- Select a unit committee of parents and members of the organization who will screen and select unit leaders who meet the organization’s leadership standards as well as the BSA’s standards.
- Provide adequate and secure facilities for Scouting units to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved.
- Encourage the units to participate in outdoor experiences.
You’ll find more online at scouting.org/media/relationships/trainingthecor/03.aspx
If this so-called sponsor absolutely insists on extracting a fee for what they are supposed to be providing anyway as a sponsor, you all should absolutely go and secure a new sponsor!
When I was in Boy Scouts, a long time ago, I remember these awesome books, we use to get. They where chocked full of great information, from tying different knots to building go-carts, and so much more useful information. How would I go about getting these books now? Thanks for your time (J.C.)
I think you’re asking about Boys’ Life magazine. It’s still around! Check it out online at http://www.boyslife.org/
For the Leave No Trace Award, can Cub Scouts earn it more than once, and if they earned it as a Wolf and then do it again for Bear, do they get another patch or is there something else they can get, like a pin? Thanks. (Jennifer Polisknowski)
Based on information at the BSA National Council website, this can be earned by boys in any level of the Cub Scouting program. If they repeat it at additional levels, the award would be the same: The Cub Scout LNT patch. Consequently, like such activities as Donor Awareness, once it’s earned it’s probably time to move on, rather than risk repetition that can get boring for the boys.
I’m a brand-new Scoutmaster for a brand-new troop. The question’s arisen that the Scouts should only have to wear their uniforms once a month, even though we have weekly meetings. Does the Scoutmaster have the authority to say no to this, stipulating that our Scouts are expected to wear their uniforms at every troop meeting or event? And, to add to this, does the Scoutmaster have the authority to decide what uniform will be worn to and from functions and activities? (Dana West, SM, Colonial Virginia Council)
Whoever came up with the idea of wearing uniforms only once a month needs to take a look at any sports team—youth, high school, college, semi-pro, or professional. Not even at practices do they show up without “suiting up”! Of course Scouts are expected to wear their uniforms at all times they’re participating in a Scouting event—This is a part of being a Scout. If somebody doesn’t like this, their son can go join the local boys’ club instead. Make this the standard from day one, or you’ll forever be struggling with it, and that’s not how a Scoutmaster needs to be spending his energies. In this regard, avoid the trap of “uniform-from-the-waist-up” malarkey, because that’s just what it is.
Tell the Scouts and their parents this: The uniform for Boy Scouts is shown on pages 12 and 13 of your Boy Scout Handbook and this is what we’re expecting from every Scout and uniformed leader in this troop, with no exceptions.
Of course, you need to “walk the talk,” so I’m assuming you’re in full and correct uniform at all times, yourself. Also, there may be financial needs involved here, so be sure to let families know that there are “experienced uniform” exchanges available online, and that uniform parts can often be purchased at low cost at places like eBay.
When people say that a belief in any god is enough does that really mean any God? Recently someone told me it only includes a monotheistic male God. Is that true? Also, can a boy be kicked out of Scouting for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance? Confused in Cape Cod and the Islands Council, MA)
Thanks for asking important questions. Let’s try to resolve your confusion…
On the actual BSA Youth Application for membership, it states clearly that “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God… (but the BSA) is absolutely nonsectarian…” What you see there is the full extend to which “God” is defined. Also on that same application is the Scout Oath, which in part states: “On my honor, I will do my duty to…my country.” Implicit in this is the understanding that the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States will be articulated by the youth member.
To be direct—however with the understanding between you and me that I’m not speaking in any official capacity for the BSA but, rather, as a volunteer of long and in-depth experience—here’s the real deal: If a person of any age has no interest in either God or country, or duty to same, why in the world would this person have any interest in being a member of a world-wide youth movement that does?
Our troop has a new Scoutmaster. Professionally, he’s the head of human resources in his company, and this seems to have been influencing how he’s running the troop. Here’s what he’s proposing for youth leaders:
Subject: SPL Elections
The Senior Patrol Leader is one of the most critical positions in a troop. It is the highest youth leadership position and the primary contact with adult leaders, primarily the Scoutmaster. For those interested in running for SPL, you will need to meet the criteria listed below and will need to write a paragraph (3-4 sentences) answering the following question: “Under your leadership, how will we make our seven patrols and our PLC (Patrol Leader Council) function more effectively?” I will pre-qualify Scouts who express interest and need to have your interest and your written paragraph in advance. I will send out the paragraphs of those who meet the criteria prior to the elections. I will work with the newly elected SPL in appointing his ASPLs.
– At least Star rank with demonstrated leadership in a troop position
– Attendance at 75% of meetings in past year
– Service to the troop or community by leading a campout, summer camp or Eagle project in the past year
– Demonstrated Scout spirit and respected by fellow Scouts
– Demonstrated ability to work with adult leaders and ability to spend 10- 15 minutes most weekends working with Scoutmaster to ensure quality troop meeting programs and weekend events (this will probably require one or two short phone calls and possibly one email per) week.
As a new Scoutmaster, I need a committed SPL to work with and our Scouts need a strong Scout leader to help make our troop a truly “boy-led” troop.
Any thoughts? Thanks. (Kathy Foppes)
He may be well-intentioned, but his approach sounds way too much like creeping corporate-think. My first (rather visceral) reaction is this: I hope no Scout in the troop responds or writes a bloody thing! That will be the very best communicator that this guy doesn’t have a clue as to whom he’s supposed to be mentoring, or why. Moreover, the use of the term, “effective” (for his “written paragraph”) smacks of pedantry, because this is one of those wonderfully pear-shaped and hopelessly vague terms that at first blush seems to have a good ring to it but is ultimately useless unless combined with an actual standard or goal of some sort. It does, however, do this: It allows the “evaluator” to be totally subjective.
Here’s the underlying message he’s actually giving the Scouts: If you are the Senior Patrol Leader, you’re going to have to take orders from a dull, pedantic, toes-to-the-line adult who has little to no sense of joy or spontaneity but every sense of process, procedure, and dull grey.
Now the Scoutmaster Handbook certainly confirms that Senior Patrol Leader is indeed the most important youth leadership position in the troop, and goes on to say that prerequisites may be decided by each individual troop. However, it does not state that the ability to write an essay—even a brief one—is among the skills necessary to be a good Senior Patrol Leader.
B-P put it this way: “A Scoutmaster is in the role of Big Brother… he has to have the ‘boy-spirit’ in him.” I’m just not getting’ that here.
Finally, what’s this “help make our troop a truly boy led-troop” stuff? It either is, or not. There’s no half-way here, anymore than one can be “a little bit pregnant.”
About a year or more ago we fought a battle with our son’s troop leaders over testing at boards of review, and was even able to convince the council advancement chair to make a 180-degree turn on the purpose of boards of review. He even met with our Scoutmaster, to make changes in the way our own troop did these. But just recently, we received a revised copy of the “Troop Handbook” and there were several things in it that concern me greatly. I’d appreciate your comments on the parts below which I have marked. (Name & Council Withheld)
For each of the numbered sections immediately below, I’ve added the appropriate BSA policy in quotes. That’s POLICY; not my opinion. Then, in italics, I’ve offered a point-of-view. Here we go…
1. Attendance Guidelines
All Scouts holding a leadership position or office are expected to attend a minimum of 75% of all Scout meetings and campouts. Scout leaders who fail to meet the 75% attendance requirement, without prior approval from the Scoutmaster, may risk removal from their position. Falling below the 75% will also put a Scout’s advancement in jeopardy.
Applying percents or any other rubric to attendance, for any reason, is forbidden. So long as a Scout is duly registered in the troop, he’s considered active.
2. Merit Badges Earned Outside The Troop
If Scouts work outside the troop to obtain merit badges, the troop leaders will ensure a thorough understanding of the requirements and completion of the required skill elements before awarding the badge.
The Merit Badge Counselor shall prepare and qualify Scouts for merit badges and there shall be no board of review procedure for merit badges. A Scout may earn merit badges from any registered merit badge counselor; this is not restricted to a Scout’s home district or council.
3. Boards of Review
When a Scout is prepared to advance in rank, the Scoutmaster will notify the Advancement Chair who will then schedule a board of review for him. During a board of review…the Scout will be tested with questions and/or skill demonstrations relating to his previous Scouting experience and the next rank requirements.
A board of review isn’t an examination; the board does not re-test the candidate. The purpose of the board of review is to determine how well the Scout is benefiting from the program being delivered by the troop, and to measure the effectiveness of the Scoutmaster and other adult volunteers committed to delivering the Boy Scout program. For all ranks except Eagle, approximately 15 minutes is sufficient time for a board of review.
4. A Scout appearing for a board of review will be prepared as follows:
• Dressed in the ceremonial Class “A” uniform (with sash)
• Bring his Boy Scout Handbook
• Bring rope and poles for knot-tying and lashing demonstrations
• Bring merit badge books, written work, or project documentation as
• Bring a compass and map (for Second Class and above).
The Scout appearing at his board of review need not be in full and/or complete uniform; although this is desired, it cannot be demanded or enforced, and the Scout may not be penalized for any shortfall. The uniform should be as correct as possible, Scout-by-Scout.
Rope, poles, merit badge books, written merit badge work, compass, etc., are totally, utterly, unquestionably inappropriate. It is BSA policy that there is to be no examination or re-testing of any kind in a board of review.
It is recommended that the Scout have a parent/responsible adult present who can stay for the entire board of review. If a follow-up board of review is recommended, the Scout will be informed of any skill or knowledge deficiencies which need to be studied and/or practiced in preparation for a follow-up board of review.
No parent, guardian, or other relative is permitted to attend a Scout’s board of review. Neither is a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster permitted to be a member of a board of review.
Additional note: It would be impossible for a board of review to assert a “deficiency of skill or knowledge,” since no re-testing of any kind is permitted in a board of review.
In order to receive full attendance credit for a campout, a Scout must sleep out overnight all the nights of the campout and attend the planned activities the next day.
This is silly. This is an “all-or-nothing” rule and, if anything, encourages Scouts to not go on camp-outs (“If I’m gonna, maybe, leave early, why bother going at all!”). The whole idea of Scouting is to be flexible. If a Scout’s parents decide they’re picking up their son early, we have no “authority” over them and we are simply “punishing” the Scout for his parents’ actions. This is antithetical to the spirit of Scouting and the intent of the Scouting program.
Scouts seeking advancement to Scout, Tenderfoot or Second Class Rank:
– Meet with an instructor to confirm your completion of all requirements.
– Complete a coaching session with 2 instructors or instructor and ASM.
– Upon successful completion of the coaching session, an ASM will refer
you to the Scoutmaster for a conference.
– Upon successful completion of the Scoutmaster conference, the SM will
notify the Advancement Chair who will schedule a board of review.
Scouts seeking advancement to First Class, Star and Life Ranks:
– Make an appointment with an ASM for a coaching session.
– Upon successful completion of the coaching session, the ASM will refer
you to the Scoutmaster for a conference.
– Upon successful completion of the conference, the SM will notify the
Advancement Chair who will schedule a board of review.
Scouts will sit for skills coaching sessions with at least two Instructors, or with an Instructor and an ASM prior to their Scoutmaster conference to confirm their mastery of skills required for rank advancement.
Let’s start here: “Scout” is not a rank, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Boy Scout advancement plan should know this.
More importantly, this is the Boy Scouts; it’s not a military school or academy, and certainly not a university. Meaning: The processes described above are absolutely over-the-top in redundancy and cross-checking, and so forth. We are not attempting, in Scouting, to produce “experts;” we’re attempting to produce happy, productive, responsible citizens-in-the-making.
Now if anyone challenges anything I’ve said, especially in the first of these two segments, propose this: YOU go and show me the BSA policy statement that permits you to do these things; until then, consider yourself WRONG.
Here’s the bottom line: If my son were in this troop I would immediately go out and find another troop—one that “gets it”–for him. This one is hellishly, slavishly bound up in its own self-righteousness! And it’s so wrong as to be on the edge of absurd, if it weren’t so tragically, stultifyingly misguided..
I’m a Merit Badge Counselor and troop committee member. My role as a committee member is to help Life scouts advance to Eagle. We have a Scout who just finished his Eagle project and made the deadline for his 18th birthday. When he goes for his board of review, does he wear his Life rank with what he earned while a Scout, or does he wear the adult uniform (he’s now an Assistant Scoutmaster)? (Frank Anzaldi, Suffolk County Council, NY)
Congratulations to your Scout for not only earning Eagle but for staying on and becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster! If I were in your shoes, I’d do my level best to schedule his Eagle board of review as soon as possible! If I were in his shoes, I’d take off the Life badge, leave my merit badge sash at home, and come as a brand-new Assistant Scoutmaster!
What’s the typical term limit for a District Commissioner? Also, what is it for a District Chair? I’m told it’s two years for a District Chairman and that there really isn’t one for District Commissioner. Please let me know. (Bob Fish, District Commissioner, Great Trail Council, OH)
The actual term for all folks at both the district and council levels is one year at a time. Everyone is re-elected or re-appointed at each council’s and each district’s annual meeting. When folks are offered a position on the district or council level, they’re typically informed as to how many years they’re expected to be in that particular slot (i.e., how many times they can expect to be re’d up). Sometimes it’s one year, sometimes two, and sometimes, three. It’s rarely if ever longer than that, for anyone, because, beyond three years, we tend to grow barnacles, and—just like ships—this slows us down and eventually sinks us.
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(June 13, 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.