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Issue 149 – September 30, 2008

Dear Andy, I agree with the advice you gave that new Den Leader in your September 10th column. I’d add this: GO TO ROUNDTABLE! Learn from those who have experienced the trail you’re traveling. Leaders, especially new leaders, will learn from the Roundtable staff, but perhaps even more importantly they’ll learn from the folks sitting around them! (Paul Roberts, District Commissioner, Mobile Area Council, AL)

Absolutely! And thanks for the reminder!

Dear Andy,

In a previous column, you suggested to a Scouter that the “equivalent” of Eagle as a youth (in another country’s Scout program) doesn’t qualify to wear the red-white-and-blue “square knot” as a BSA volunteer. I’ve noticed that Green Bar Bill was a Distinguished Eagle Scout; however, he wasn’t an American Eagle Scout: He earned the Danish equivalent. I don’t think that it would be inappropriate for an individual to wear the Eagle square knot if he’s completed similar requirements. (Chris Byers, District Commissioner, California Inland Empire Council)

William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt earned Eagle Scout rank in the United States, as a member of the BSA. The allegation that “he wasn’t an American Eagle Scout” is incorrect.

On every biography I’ve found, it says Bill Hillcourt earned the “Danish Eagle Scout.” (Chris Byers)

Yes, Bill Hillcourt did earn the Knight-Scout rank as a Danish Scout, this being the highest rank in Det Danske Spejderkorps. Shortly thereafter he came to the U.S., where, as a member of the BSA, he earned the rank of Eagle in 1918. There’s no such thing as “the Danish Eagle Scout” rank.

The point of all this back-and-forth, of course, is that you’d like to find a way to justify the wearing of the Eagle Scout square knot by someone who didn’t earn that BSA rank. Sorry, I can’t help you with that!

Dear Andy,

A Merit Badge Counselor in our troop was working with a group of Scouts last spring on the Personnel Management merit badge. My son missed three of the meetings due to a conflict with baseball. When he asked the Counselor if they could meet to make up the meetings he missed, the Counselor told him that they would do this once troop meetings started up in the fall. My son waited, and the meetings have started up again, but the Counselor is busy with another merit badge and doesn’t seem interested in working with my son on the final requirements for Personal Management. Is it rude for my son to look for another Counselor to finish up the merit badge, or should he wait for the original one to make time for him? (Name & Council Withheld)

Merit Badge Counselors are there for Scouts—not the other way around. If a MBC isn’t available, and your son wants to move forward, he has every right to find a MBC who’s available. It’s not rude at all, and anyone who says it is just doesn’t understand the relationship between Scouts and the adults who volunteer to help them. Your son should immediately go to his Scoutmaster and ask for the name and contact information for another Personal Management MBC.

Thanks Andy. In regards to the “Blue Card,” does each MBC sign off on the part they covered with the Scout, then? (N&CW)

Yes! After MBC#1 signs off on the requirements he worked on with the Scout, the Scout takes that same card to MBC#2 and they discuss how they’ll be completing the remainder of the requirements.

Dear Andy,

While I agree with your answer in your September 10th column about the Tenderfoot going for Second Class not being re-tested at a board or review, what’s the problem with asking a Scout to tie a knot or two? Not to base the result of the review on, but to show the Scout that he can use everything he has learned in Scouting and that he should remember it. If the Scout can’t tie the knot, then it’s a good opportunity for adult-to-Scout interaction as they go over the knot again. I remember tying knots at my boards, and, although I never failed a board, I did learn my knots and to this day still like tying them. We do the same when we ask the Scout to recite the Oath and Law, and if he forgets a part we always help him along and move on with the rest of the review. (Bryan V. Spellman, Troop Advancement Chair & District Advancement Chair, Crossroads of America Council, IN)

Ahhh… let’s just be a little bit pregnant — what’s the harm in that?

In all seriousness, the problem with tying a knot or two is that it’s a re-test. Let’s try that again: IT’S A RE-TEST. The rationale about “adult-Scout interaction” doesn’t get around the fact that IT’S A RE-TEST.

However, how about asking where one would use this sort of knot or that sort of knot, or how about asking how this Scout would teach another Scout how to tie the knot… These sorts of questions aren’t re-tests. Or, another way to do this (I’ve done it many times myself in Eagle boards of review) is to ask the Scout to tie any knot he likes, and then ask him to use that knot to describe what Scouting means to him (i.e., we’re using the knot in a metaphor or simile). This may accomplish both your goal and mine! As for the Scout Oath and Law, these are obviously ceremonial and certainly important, in the same way that we begin meetings and sports events and such with the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag.

Greetings Andy,

Is it possible for an individual to hold a dual role, such as Cubmaster and Pack Trainer? Our pack had a Pack Trainer in the past, but in name only. I’m making progress as a Cubmaster to answer Rick Cronk’s Challenge and get 100% of our pack’s leaders trained, and it appears to be paying off. Several are attending additional training and one even qualified for the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award! This might not be a big deal to some, but this is the first time someone from our pack leadership attained this recognition. I’m personally possessive of this position because I wish to see this goal to fruition and have pushed for many of these initiatives. Where is this issue addressed and if I’m able to assume dual roles, why won’t Scoutnet files recognize an individual serving those two roles? (Paul Martin, CM and hopefully PT too, Three Fires Council, IL)

Thanks for asking an important question! Let’s start by taking a look at the BSA’s ADULT APPLICATION (No.28-510F), where it’s stated right on page 2 (see “Qualification”) that “No one may register in more than one position in the same unit…” Yes, it then goes on to describe two exceptions; however, neither of these relates to either a Cubmaster or a Pack Trainer doubling up. Nonetheless, if you, the Cubmaster, are encouraging your fellow volunteers to go out there and get trained, and you’re doing some coaching of your own, then you’re doing what’s most important and to heck with double-registering as a Pack Trainer!

Hello Andy,

We have a Wolf den that’s interested in doing a service project. The den has given me a list of potential ideas, from collecting food and clothing to donating to a shelter to spending an afternoon with children at a local foster home to assisting at a local soup kitchen. I’ve been unable to find any information regarding volunteering for service projects in the Guide To Safe Scouting (GTSS). Is a den allowed to do a service project alone, or does this need to be a pack project? Also, what are the guidelines for Cub Scout service projects? What kind of projects can they participate in and what’s not allowed? (Stacey Udstuen, CC, Dan Beard Council, OH)

A Wolf den wants to perform some community service? Wonderful! This is like any “den outing” except they’re gonna go out and help folks! They’re gonna go in full uniform, so everybody knows they’re Cub Scouts, and they’re gonna take a photo for the local newspaper, too! So…what’s the problem…?

Dear Andy,

What qualifies for camping, for Camping merit badge? Can you include things like sleeping on a historic ship with your troop? (Scout Parent, Patriot’s Path Council, NJ)

The Scout’s Merit Badge Counselor will explain this to the Scout when he starts the merit badge. It’s very straightforward and follows the precise wording of the requirement (you’re referring to req. 9, I’m supposing).

Hi Andy,

My son is a first-year Webelos and I have two questions for you…

In the book is says that one of the requirements to earn his Webelos badge is that he must be in good standing and active for three months. Does that mean he has to be a Webelos for three months, or does that mean since he has started as a Tiger Cub? (He’s been in Scouts for four years now and we’re not sure what that exactly means.) I hope you can answer, because we asked our Cubmaster and he didn’t know either.

When the boys are earning their Aquanaut activity badge, do they need to do it as a Webelos den, or can they earn it on their own?

Thanks and I hope I hear from you soon with some answers. (Luanne, Northeast Illinois Council)

On your first question, take a good look at req. 2 for the Webelos badge—look at the exact words: “Be an active member of your Webelos den for three months.” This means right now, as a fourth-grader. It doesn’t mean since he started as a Tiger Cub.

For the answer to your second question, you’ll need to read the parents’ section (pages 3-22 and especially page 5), where it describes how the Webelos program is very different from Tiger, Wolf, and Bear, and “The entire den works on one activity badge each month…” and also the last bulleted paragraph of page 10 of the Webelos Scout Handbook.

As a side-note, I was the Aquanaut activity badge counselor for a den of eight Webelos I Scouts this past summer, and we all had a blast (me included!), and I encourage you to find an activity badge that you’d like to do and tell your son’s Den Leader that you’d like to sign on to do it! You don’t have to be a “registered leader” to do this—you just have to have the skills in the subject and the “boy-spirit” in you!

Hello Andy,

I’m Scoutmaster of a troop with about 32 Scouts counting the 11 year-olds to the Venture Patrol Scouts. The 12-13 year-olds have 13 Scouts in two patrols. I’ve read quite of few of your thoughts on the “active in your troop” requirement, and I have a question about the leadership position for Star and Life ranks. It’s really more of a self-check, to make sure I’m OK, because I’m concerned that I may have been too hard on a couple of Scouts. These two had accepted the positions of Quartermaster and Assistant Patrol Leader; however over their four months of tenure for Star, they only came to one campout and only two of the troop’s weekly meetings. We reached out to them regularly and they always said they’d be there and that they’d try harder to do their jobs, but each time we needed them for campouts or meetings they made a choice to do some other activity or just hang out with non-Scout friends. So, I made the decision that they didn’t qualify for their leadership positions because, inevitably, another Scout had to take over the responsibilities that they were supposed to be doing because it needed to be done and they were simply not there. They have all of the other rank requirements done, but not this. Am I being too harsh? (Doug Draney, SM, Ore-Ida Council, ID)

Let’s first clear the deck on one of these: Assistant Patrol Leader isn’t a qualifying leadership position for Star or Life or Eagle. So any Scout who thinks APL is gonna get him a rank is SOL (as in sure outa luck).

Quartermaster for the troop does count, and the QM’s responsibilities are outlined in the Scoutmaster Handbook. If the appointed QM isn’t doing the job needed by the troop, to the point where he needs to be replaced, then of course this doesn’t get credited toward leadership tenure. How could it? He didn’t do the job!

That said, these two Scouts need to think about how they’re going to get to Star, and what leadership positions they can do for at least four months, starting now, to get themselves there! As Scoutmaster, you can help them sort this out.

Andy, In my worrying for these Scouts’ futures, as far as what more I can do to influence them, I’ve reflected back two months or so and that’s what prompted my first question.

These two Scouts have been showing up just as infrequently as before. They’ve since moved to the Varsity Scout group, and seem to have not changed at all, and they’re still not taking on any responsibilities. We, as Scouters, do get involved up in these boys’ lives, and we do care and we feel badly if we lose even one. I think that’s the case here, and that at some point these two boys will have to decide if progressing to Eagle is what they want or not. In the meantime, all we can do as leaders is to keep reaching out and giving them the opportunity, right?

My thought was to get the list of the positions that they could do that would qualify, and then ask them if they’d be willing to do one of them for four months, to get them to buy in and making this more of a contract for performance, with the thought that maybe it would help them to enjoy the experience enough for the few months, that it would turn them in the right direction, long-term. That would also mean that they’d know that, as a leader, I expected it of them and they know it, not just the other boys, although the camaraderie that hopefully would build on it is what the goal would be. (Doug Draney)

I absolutely admire your compassion for these Scouts. I’d only temper this, perhaps, by remembering that even the handbook says that a Scout advances in rank at his own pace. You may want to consider advising these two Scouts that the only thing standing between them and their next rank is a leadership position, and here’s what’s available, should they be interested… and then, the decision’s theirs, which is where it belongs. Maybe they’ll see the light right away; maybe they won’t till some friend of theirs is suddenly a Life Scout! But, in that time, you’ll be subtly but irrevocably teaching them that their destiny is in their own hands and, ultimately, no one else’s! This is a good lesson to learn. It’s a life-lesson, and that’s what we’re here for, Brother! And as far as your personal goals for these boys and your commitment to Scouting’s concerned, any boy who stays in the program, regardless of rank, is not a “loss”—He’s a WIN! Scouting’s not about “earning ranks”—advancement’s only one of the eight methods of Scouting.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been in the Scouts over a 15-year period off and on with all my boys, and I’ve been a Den Leader for three years. My concern is our pack is so disorganized and the committee is just winging it. I have been in the committee meetings and have tried to say my opinion but it seems to be only to their benefit not looking at everyone including the Scouts. For an example, We have a brand new Cubmaster, and she and I have talked about not having meetings on Friday nights and she agreed and said she’d let the other Den Leaders know to start having their meetings on their own and not as a group every week. So, over the summer I told my group we’re not going to have meetings on Fridays any longer, and by now those parents have made plans that would be affected if they went back to Friday meetings. I found out she was going along with two other Den Leaders who prefer Fridays, but now I’m stuck because they want to have meetings on Fridays as group (but separated by den) all in one room, and then also having the pack meetings on Fridays. She said I could have my meetings whenever I wanted, but the pack meetings were to continue on Friday. This will still not help with my situation. Many parents don’t want Fridays. A year ago I started out with 14 boys, and that dropped to four boys because of Friday meetings and they last too long (one to two hours long). I’m actually thinking about going to another pack, but that would leave this pack without a Bear Den Leader. Is there a happy medium? (Wanda Hogancamp, Central Florida Council)

If I’m getting what you’re saying here, a year ago you had a den of 14 Wolf Cub Scouts, lost three-quarters of them, and the apparent “culprit” for this loss was meetings on Fridays that lasted too long. Now you’re faced with a similar situation, except that only four boys remain. Here’s the deal:

– Den meetings at the Wolf and Bear levels should never last more than an hour. In my own experience, 45 minutes works best at this age.

– Den meeting day, time, and location are, first, at the convenience of the Den Leader and, second, at the convenience of the parents of the boys in the den.

So, you and your Bear parents need to pick the day and the time the den will meet, and then stick to it. And one of your jobs, as Den Leader, is to get those boys in and out in no more than an hour, tops!

As this starts working, get in touch with the ten families you lost, and get at least some of them back.

By the way, a den of 14 is absolutely crazy! That should have been two dens of 6 or 7 (and not more than 8) each, each with its own Den Leader. Other parents “too busy”? Tough. Means their son can’t be a Cub Scout, because you can’t do it all and you have the absolute right to say “eight’s enough—no more.”

As for pack meetings, this isn’t your call. Besides, most packs I’ve ever known meet on Friday nights, for about an hour (7 PM to 8 PM, or 7:30 to 8:30), and it works for the whole family.

Hi Andy –

I’ve searched the Insignia Guide as well as Commissioner information on the Centennial Quality Unit Award, but I can’t find any documentation on the proper placement of the new CQUA pin. Help! (Blair Piotrowski, DL, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)

The lapel pin you’re referring to goes anywhere you’d like to put it, on any non-uniform jacket, shirt, sweater, cap, hat, or whatever.

Thanks! I guess we’ll get the patches, too. (I like them better anyway!)

If you get the patches, they’ll get sewn on and be perfectly “legal.” If you get the pins, too, be prepared for mayhem.

Hey Andy,

Webelos transitions have been down, in fact, we lose many Webelos who don’t cross over to troops. One method we’ve tried to boost cross-overs is to permit Webelos Scouts to camp with their “pledged” troop, as long as they have a parent or guardian with them (some BSA literature simply says “Webelos” and makes no differentiation between first or second year). We do this at our fall Boy Scout Camporee. The Webelos have their own program—they’re clearly visiting the Camporee to observe; they don’t participate. This is now being challenged, on the basis that the GTSS and other bits of web-based information stipulate that Webelos Scouts must not only not participate in or attend a Boy Scout Camporee but they must camp only amongst themselves. Yet other BSA literature encourages Webelos-Scout/den-troop camping.

My concern is hanging on to Webelos, keeping them in the program, into Boy Scouting, and maybe even recruiting a mom or dad along the way! Besides, our district doesn’t have the manpower to run a fall camping-type event just for Webelos. My goal is to graduate at least 80% of all Webelos in the district into Boy Scouting. Any thoughts? (District Commissioner)

First off, a Webelos Scout is just that – we only designate “I” or “II” so that we know how close they are to becoming Boy Scouts (that is, this February or next February), so you’re in the clear on the “Webelos camping” issue.

To me, it sounds like you’ve found the perfect or surely near-perfect “blend” of Boy Scout and Webelos Scout activities and interaction at a Camporee! What are the nay-sayers quoting, from the GTSS? Is it the part that says “visit only”? It sure sounds to me like you’re being fastidious in this regard, when you have the Webelos observe but not actually compete—This is a fabulous way to stimulate and reinforce interest in “the next great adventure: Boy Scouting”! I think I’d tell anyone who tries to discourage what you’re doing to go pound sand down a rat-hole, if you get my drift…

Dear Andy,

Can a Scout advance more than one rank at one board of review, such as Tenderfoot and Second Class, or Second Class and First Class. (Joe)

Boards of review are single-rank-specific; however, they can be conducted consecutively (on the same date). After you announce to the Scout that he’s now a Second Class Scout, for instance, you can then immediately begin his review for First Class, and so on.


Can a Scout who is working on his Tenderfoot requirements also work on Second Class or even First Class requirements at the same time? I know he has to earn the ranks in order, but if he, let’s say, picks his patrol’s campsite (Second Class req. 2[b]) on a campout can the scoutmaster sign off on it even if the Scout isn’t Tenderfoot yet? (Mark Gould)

The requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class can be completed in any order, and a Scout can “jump back and forth.” The only stipulation regarding “sequence” is that the ranks themselves must be earned in the proper order, one after the other, per the order of the boards of review; however, the boards of review, while remaining consecutive, can occur on the same date.

May I ask another question, that’s related…?

Second Class req. 2(a) says, “Since joining, have participated in five separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), two of which include camping overnight.” First Class req. 3 says, “Since joining, have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which include camping overnight.”

Since a Patrol Leaders Council meeting isn’t a troop or patrol meeting, and our PLC meetings are held on a night the troop has “off,” I believe this should fit the requirement. Also, selling discount cards, popcorn, and pumpkins should also qualify, as all these are troop activities that aren’t troop or patrol meetings. So, if a Scout participated in all five Saturdays, or two or three for that matter, for another Scout’s Eagle project, how many activities would that be counted as? It seems to me it should be the number the Scout attended, as otherwise a Scout who goes to only one would earn the same as a Scout going to all. But an argument can also be made that it’s one activity that just takes a long time. The campout activities are self-explainable. Any thoughts? (Mark)

You interpretation of what might constitute a troop/patrol activity other than a regular meeting seems pretty much on-track (except for one little wrinkle, and that’s that the Scout must be a Patrol Leader or the SPL or an ASPL or the Troop Guide specifically responsible for a new-Scout patrol in order to participate in PLCs). So let’s look at the purpose of these requirements… Aren’t they to assure that the Scout (who, we assume, is relatively new to Boy Scouting and the troop) gets himself involved, beyond merely showing up at troop meetings? Consequently, wouldn’t we count each actual event, rather than applying the thinking that “it’s a continuum” (as with helping out on an Eagle candidate’s project)? In other words, the aspect of advancement is based on the principle of SHOWING UP–also called “Scout participation.”

Dear Andy,

In our troop, some of the adult leaders believe that, when a Scout is selling popcorn for our annual troop-and-council fund-raiser, for instance, this shouldn’t count as either an “activity” or as “service time” because the Scout can earn “Scout-Bucks” and that makes what he’s doing self-serving. Others of us feel that since the requirements don’t say anything about Scout Bucks, or specify “non-self-serving,” that we can’t impose a qualification that’s not expressly stated in the language of a requirement—these are, after all, still troop activities and service, that, if participated in, should count. Are we splitting hairs? (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s a longstanding BSA policy that no requirement may be added to or subtracted from. So this would mean that the additional stipulation that you’ve described is strictly forbidden, prohibited, nixed, and verboten. That’s the BSA’s answer.

My own answer is: Who are these little tin gods? “Self-serving” isn’t even the issue. These people quite obviously don’t understand the concept of incentives.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a Cubmaster for two years now, and have been thrown a question about Tiger Cub age groups. In all of the literature, it says first grade (7 years old). We have some home-schoolers who are first grade level at 5 years old. This particular boy’s birthday is in November, which would put him back one year because of public school age cut-offs, but if his birthday was simply two months earlier he’d be first grade in public school. Is the “…and X years old” a maximum age, or a suggested age, or is there a definite ruling on this? Do you have any advice on this? (Craig Overland, District Executive, Evangeline Area Council, LA)

My Commissioner Cap’s off to you for your “double-duty” as a professional Scouter and a Scouting volunteer!

The BSA defines a Tiger Cub as being either 7 years old or in first grade. It doesn’t have to be both.

Be sure to explain to parents that Tiger, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos (I and II) are really independent, age- and grade-appropriate programs under the “umbrella” called Cub Scouts, and that there’s no particular advantage (and it can even be a drawback) to be a prodigy, especially when the complete Scouting youth program extends for a total of up to eleven years (unlike most sports, which typically have a “life expectancy” of two to four years).

Dear Andy,

I’m a Commissioner and I just bought the new millennium uniform. I noticed on the brochures that the badge of office is located on the new sleeve-pocket and the “trained” patch goes above it on the pocket’s flap. Where does the Commissioner’s Arrowhead award go? (Pat Curley, East Carolina Council, NC)

I think we’ll have to wait for the next edition of the Insignia Guide, because even the one at right now says that the “trained” strip goes below the badge of office! As for the Arrowhead, right now that continues to go immediately below the Commissioner badge, but we’ll see if that’s revised or not.

As for what to do in the interim, I can only give you a personal opinion, so here it is: Since the Arrowhead is more significant than a trained patch, once I’d earned the Arrowhead I stopped bothering with the trained strip! But that’s just me!

Thanks, Andy. I think it’s interesting that the new centennial uniform is out there with no guidance on how to place insignia. I had to go by the pictures in the brochure, and the badge of office is on the sleeve pocket. Can I put it there because there’s not enough space above the pocket for unit numbers and a badge of office? But for district or council or regional or national Scouters, this leaves a huge gap between the CSP and the pocket. It might be advisable for Scouters who don’t wear unit numerals to have the option of sewing the badge of office under the CSP, which is what’s traditionally been done. This would leave space on the sleeve pocket for the Arrowhead award. It would be practical and would look really cool! (Pat)

I’m sure that there are many great minds in Irving hard at work to solve all of our patch problems before too long… Let’s give ’em a chance to work their magic!

Hi Andy,

The subject here is merit badge exceptions and requirement changes for Scouts with serious medical issues. As an Assistant Scoutmaster, I recently attended our troop’s PLC meeting. In the course of that conversation, we wound up talking about merit badges and the Scout who was our Senior Patrol Leader before our present SPL remarked that he couldn’t do Personal Fitness or Backpacking merit badges because of health reasons. He didn’t go into detail, but I do know that his health problems were sufficient that he couldn’t go with the crew to Philmont this past summer. They aren’t visible health problems: He looks normal and is in a regular high school. But I know there are plenty of serious problems that severely limit or handicap people in general that aren’t necessarily visible. Anyway, he was sort of less than enthusiastic about continuing to advance past Life rank because he can’t do some of the Eagle-required merit badges.

So what’s the BSA policy on substitution of merit badges, or changes in requirements as dictated by health limitations? Presumably, there’s some level of documentation required, and a way to instruct Merit Badge Counselors to work around health issues. If there’s a standard publication I’d love to know what it is, so I can pass it on. (Rob Harrison, ASM & District Training Staff, Atlanta Area Council, GA)
You’re asking important questions, and they definitely need to be addressed. I’m going to be brief here, and recommend that for further details you consult the Boy Scout Requirements book and then direct this particular Scout to (with you at his side, perhaps) have a serious conversation with your district’s or your council’s advancement chair.
You see, there’s an alternate path to all ranks including Eagle for permanently handicapped Scouts, and the process begins with a written statement from a licensed medical practitioner stating what the handicap is and its degree of permanence. Once this is established, and acknowledged by the district and/or council advancement committee, the door is open to proceed.

However, the notion of asking or instructing a Merit Badge Counselor to “bend” a requirement or two to accommodate some undiagnosed or unsubstantiated limitation is asking the MBC to violate BSA policy. BSA policy is that merit badge requirements must be met as written, without exception.

As for this particular Scout, there’s absolutely no reason why he should in any way feel disheartened, especially since he’s already reached Life rank! After all, we already know he can swim at least the length of a football field without stopping, and he can hike at least five miles. We also know that Backpacking is not an Eagle-required merit badge. And we know that Camping merit badge, which is a required for Eagle, asks no more hiking of him than he already did for Second Class. Finally, we know that Personal Fitness merit badge is keyed to “personal best” and not to some arbitrary standard, so that he would have to be exceptionally and permanently disabled in order to not be able to complete its requirements.

Dear Andy,

I’ll respectfully disagree with the notion that the Ranger and Venture awards are more appropriate for a 16 year-old than Eagle. Any Scout who started up this trail should be encouraged to finish Eagle, as long as the time-line allows. Taking into consideration the four-month tenure for Star and the six-month tenures for Life and Eagle, a 16 year-old, even if starting out from scratch at that age, can make it. Eagle is a great experience and no Scout should ever be discouraged from giving it a shot. As for the merit badges, are these only “meaningful” if a 12 year-old Scout earns them? Would Personal Management, for instance, be more meaningful to a 12 year-old who doesn’t have a part-time job or get an allowance, or to a later teenager who’s maybe working and budgeting money for dates and gasoline or saving for college?

I’ve had 21 Eagles in five years in my own tenure with this troop; some are home grown, some move here and finish their Eagle, and of course we’ve had Scouts move away and finish elsewhere (we’re an overseas troop on a military base, and we lose a third of our Scouts each year). We’ve also had boys move here from places where Scouting wasn’t available, and, after seeing what we do in this troop, join up. As a matter of fact, we have a couple of Scouts rejoin Scouting after being out of the program several years, and we’ve had a couple join as 15 year-olds and finish Eagle! The merit badges, well maybe the Scout’s already had US Government in high school, so Citizenship in the Nation is a little easier, but guess what: It still reinforces knowledge and values. And Yes, we do have a Venturing crew, too, and we’ve had Venturers earn Bronze, Gold and Ranger awards.

On another note, after sending my very own Eagle off to college, Eagle Scout is quite an identifier on a college application. Even my son made it into a school that may not have happened for him on grades alone. Unfortunately (but, hey, it’s still new) Venturing is still an unknown to most college admissions folks, so given a choice between Eagle and Ranger on my son’s application, I’ll choose Eagle. That’s not to say that Eagle is just a ticket-punch; quite the contrary. After all, college entrance is why a bunch of kids worry about grades, isn’t it? Eagle is a great award to have in your resume, but it’s up to the troop leadership to instill Eagle values and ethics in the Scout’s heart. And never (unless he’s chronologically eliminated) discourage a Scout from working toward Eagle! Never, ever. (Jeff Stone, SM, Transatlantic Council, Wiesbaden, Germany)

This being my column, I usually limit “opinions” to my own <wink>. But you’ve put it well, and I happen to agree 100%. So here’s your moment of fame! Thanks for taking the time to write!

Dear Andy,

I’m wondering where my Webelos Scouts, who have chosen the den name, “High-Flying Eagles,” can place a patch that has an Eagle on it, on their tan-shirt uniforms. (Roger Zedicher, WDL, Longhorn Council, TX)

What a great den name! That patch can be worn, I believe, right where the den numeral would normally go, on the right sleeve a little bit below the American flag that’s there. Check the handbook for precise measurements.

Dear Andy,

I’m the new to the Girl Guides and no one likes me yet. What should I do? (Jasmine Sparreboom)
Thanks for finding me, and for writing! Have you joined up with a friend, so that the two of you instantly have a “best friend”? If not, maybe it just takes a little time… Maybe you can find one girl and just get to know her a little better. Maybe she lives near you, or you share something else in common, like the same school, or liking (or not liking!) the same schoolmaster, or going out for the same sport, or liking the same football team, or tennis star? Friends usually happen one-at-a-time, and not all at once! :-)

Dear Andy,

I’d like my Webelos den to camp overnight at a district Camporee. Does a parent need to accompany the child overnight? The Webelos II leader and I (I’m a Webelos I Leader) have completed OWL training, and have camped at the troop level for more than three years. We have a total of eight Webelos and we’ll have one or two other adults. For during the day, we’ve asked our troop for three Scouts to act as advisers—they’ll help our Webelos set up camp and follow the patrol method. I’m asking because I thought that with OWL training and with adult supervision an overnight campout would be possible without limiting the boys’ participation because of a parent not being able to go. (Lisa Reynolds)

I believe that, if you check the Guide to Safe Scouting, you’ll see that it’s 1 Webelos Scout = 1 adult.

Hello Andy,

I have a new Webelos Den starting, and some of the parents are wondering if the boys can still wear their “brag vests” with the tan uniform. What do I tell them? (Bill Swift, WDL)

Sure they can! They’re still in the overall Cub Scout program, so their red vests are perfectly “legal”! Then, when they’re Boy Scouts, the vests can be preserved in a safe place by their parents.

Dear Andy,

I read with great interest your September 10th exchange with the leader who questioned how we treat Scout who profess themselves to be agnostic and/or atheistic and the additional comment made by the District Executive that “we don’t allow Jehovah’s Witnesses either.” Your response that “Scouting is for all boys” is simply not true. As one who constantly responds with by-the-book validation to those writing in for advice, you surprised me with your answer. I remind you that the BSA is a private organization and does have the right to limit membership and exclude those who don’t meet our requirements. These requirements include having a belief in God; this precludes atheists and most agnostics from being Scouts. Regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses, rank advancement requires Scouts to say the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the U.S. flag, and these are things that Jehovah’s Witnesses are specifically prohibited from doing. As you say so often in your responses, the BSA wording is binding; these things are “required.” While the BSA does not specifically name the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group that is “not allowed,” the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually preclude a boy’s involvement in the BSA. Nothing in the BSA literature keeps Jehovah’s Witnesses from joining, but a Jehovah’s Witness can never qualify for Scout rank requirements, and therefore not any rank beyond that. The guidelines are quite clear. I’m hoping you’ll publish a retraction and/or clarification. (Paul Napoli, ASM, National Capital Area Council, MD)

Nope, not a chance on a retraction. You see, Scouting is for all boys. Now it may be true that not all boys are for Scouting… a boy might not like hiking and camping, or may not want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or may not wish to promise to do his duty to God or to his country, or may not want to acknowledge that another boy—the Senior Patrol Leader, for instance—is an elected leader to whom respect should be given, or may not believe that one should be “made” to say the Scout Law, or a host of other disagreements with the Scouting program, and that’s OK, because it means he simply doesn’t join a movement that believes in and does these things. But if he ever changes his mind, then Scouting’s ready and waiting, with open arms and no recriminations.

And, just so we get this out of the way, “Scout” is not a rank.

I agree completely that when a boy is ready to follow the BSA program guidelines, we stand ready and willing to take him, so in that respect, yes, Scouting is for all boys. But unless I read your response incorrectly, your advice to that leader was essentially to “do nothing: all boys belong here,” and that’s what I disagree with. The Scoutmaster was clearly asking the question, “Should an agnostic boy be removed?” The answer is no more complicated than yes. If you want to cite BSA requirements for members, or even the Supreme Court’s backing of our right to do this, that would be good supporting information. When a boy knowingly rejects (by religious principals or other) the tenants and requirements of the BSA program, the Scoutmaster (working through his committee and with notification to council) would be remiss in his duties if he failed to un-invite the boy from participation. Sorry if I appear to be beating a dead horse. Your advice wasn’t as clear as I would have been. (Paul)

Here’s the thing: Let’s let the boy decide. If he truly believes he can’t live up to the Scout Oath and Law, then he needs to come to that realization and speak up for himself. I’d not recommend to any Scoutmaster that he or she should remove the boy; but, rather, that the Scoutmaster help the boy come to grips with what he believes, or not, and then—in the spirit of Scouting—step back and allow the boy to decide for himself. From a practical and maturational point-of-view, boys change… They struggle with life and its exigencies, make decisions, change those decisions, change ’em again, and on and on… And while this pull-and-tug is going on, I’m simply not about to lose a youth simply because at some perhaps brief moment in time he changes his belief structure for a while. This is a mere hiccup in the alimentary canal of life! Besides, the very last thing I’d personally ever do is arbitrarily remove a youth from the very program he may need most, at a moment in his life when he may need it the most! I’m not interested in “making good Scouts”—I’m invested in building good, responsible, and happy citizens.

Dear Andy,

I took my Wood Badge under the old system (lets call it “Wood Badge for the 20th Century), the year before the new course came out. I inquired about a staff position on our course for next year, but my district training coordinator told me that I’m not qualified to staff Wood Badge, since I didn’t take the “21st Century” version—she says I need to take the current course before I can staff it. Meanwhile, when I took Wood Badge, they made the point that we’ never be able to take the course as regular participants again. So what happens? Do I give up my beads from the first course so I can take the current version? Will I still be a Bear Patrol member, or will I be put in a different patrol? It seems the attitude of the training coordinator is that previous Wood Badge doesn’t count. What’s the official BSA position about this? Some of the guys from our Wood Badge course are pretty upset about this. (Allan Green, Indian Nations Council, OK)

Wood Badge is weird, and you can quote me to anyone on that. It’s an “insider” group, to say the least, and it has its own peculiarities and “politics” more than any other “sub-organization” within Scouting that I’ve ever seen. Moreover, just about every council has its own political infrastructure, particularly with regard to Wood Badge. It’s like it’s the flippin’ Holy Grail, National Treasure, and “Enigma” rolled into one! Obviously, I’m talking as a “staff outsider” and I’m a “sample of one,” which is doubly dangerous. Best bet: Go track down your original Patrol Counselor or Senior Patrol Leader or Course Director-Scoutmaster and see if any of these will share some insights with you. Good luck!

NetCommish Comment: When you were told at Wood Badge that you couldn’t attend the course again as a regular participant, you got the party line. While this is generally the case, it is not always so. Over the years I’ve known a fair number of folks that attended a much older version, circa 1975, and then again in the 1990s to become familiar with the new course material – it wasn’t required back then, but dedicated Scouters wanted to keep current to serve better. “Back in the day” there were also separate courses for Boy Scout and Cub Scout leaders with regional courses for Cub Scout leaders. Again many Scouters attended both.

In my own case, I talked to the Course Director prior to attending and was advised to hang-back in the group processes so as not to spoil the experiences of others. That was it. I suspect that this time around there will be many people going back to retrain again. Similarly they will also hold back on sharing prior Wood Badge experiences so as not to deprive others of a first time experience.

You will not be giving up your beads. You may get a second set, but you’ll keep your first set. You are still Wood Badge trained..

Your patrol assignment will be up to the leadership of your course. Most of the folks that I know who have been twice were assigned to a different patrol on purpose. The idea was to not have the prior attendee drag out all of his/her beaver stuff to impress the new beaver patrol. Instead it is more important to forge a new patrol identity. Sometimes you’ll see a signature line in an email that goes something like “I used to be a fox . . . and a beaver too.”


Happy Scouting!


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(August 30, 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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