Author Avatar

Issue 151 – October 12, 2008

Dear Andy, On “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt being an Eagle Scout, I’ve looked at multiple web pages in search of a definitive answer. I’ve found multiple answers. Only one of them says that he earned the BSA Eagle Scout, and that’s Wikipedia. All the others say he earned the Danish equivalent. As I read the different biographies, the math that I can come up with shows there’s no way he could have earned his Eagle rank prior to his 18th birthday. Were the requirements that different in the 1920’s?

“He received his first copy of ‘Scouting for Boys’ at the age of nine in 1910. He earned Knights Scout at 17 (1918). He arrived in the U.S. in 1926”:

Other citations:, 0290.asp and None shows him having earned Eagle rank.

I’m not trying to justify someone wearing something they haven’t earned. I’m saying that recognizing the individual is very justified and that the information that I’ve found shows that a very respected international Scouter was recognized as a Distinguished Eagle Scout and I can’t find that he was an Eagle. The main source of information on the web page seems that he couldn’t have earned Eagle. If I’m mistaken as I may well be please show me the correct information. (Chris Byers)

I truly admire a guy with not only a point of view but a commitment that compels him to not let go. I do feel as if some very sharp teeth have been embedded in my leg right up to the gum-line, with no sensation of easing their grip!

Let’s do this one more time: A reliable source notes that Bill Hillcourt earned the rank of Knight-Scout in Denmark, and later earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the United States. It is presumably on this basis that he later was accorded the Distinguished Eagle Scout recognition (This award is to be noted as different from the Distinguished Almost but Very Much Like Eagle Scout From Another Country Award, which is only very rarely presented). As regards age, I’m sure your most diligent research has already revealed to you that the age 18 cutoff the BSA has used for many years did not apply in Bill Hillcourt’s era:

“In addition to being a Danish Knight-Scout, Hillcourt is also an Eagle Scout, having been allowed to work on Scouting advancements prior to a rule change in the 1950’s that only allowed Scouts under the age of 18 to become Eagle Scouts. Hillcourt was later recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.” Source: encyclopedia/William-%22Green-Bar-Bill%22Hillcourt#Coming_to_America

However, none of this is necessarily relevant, because, this isn’t supposed to be some CSI-type investigation into Bill Hillcourt’s life. The bottom line is actually this: There is no badge produced by the BSA that can be worn on a uniform to indicate “he earned a rank similar to Eagle” and the R-W-B square knot is for Eagle Scouts. Only. End of story.

Dear Andy,

My son is 17 and is currently working on his Eagle project. He’ll be 18 on July 22, 2009. He has somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 merit badges. What are the criteria for Eagle Palms. Thanx. (Steve Young, Northwest Suburban Council, IL)

Check your son’s handbook for more detail, but in general it works like this: 5 merit badges beyond those for Eagle (or the prior palm) plus 3 months = next palm. So, if your son has 35, that’s with 14 beyond Eagle’s 21, and, counting backwards, if your son earns one more merit badge (any one!), there’s “room” to earn a silver palm (the order is bronze, gold, silver) IF he has his board of review for Eagle nine months and three days (for a little “wiggle room”) before his 18th birthday. That would be right around October 18-19, 2008. If that can’t happen (his project may still be in process then), then he’ll earn his gold palm with a little more “breathing room,” and that’s pretty darned nifty!

Dear Andy,

Can a Scoutmaster issue a “provisional” Totin’ Chip so that a new Scout can take Woodcarving merit badge at summer camp? A new Scout in our troop, who hadn’t yet done any work toward his Totin’ Chip, was granted such a beast this past summer—He was given a ten-minute quick lesson on pocket knife safety and never had any lessons on axes or saws. The Scout earned the merit badge, by the way. This whole thing seems fishy to me. (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s start here: Totin’ Chips, just like Firem’n Chits, are optional. In no way are they “mandatory,” so whether it’s “provisional” or not doesn’t really matter! Besides, if this Scout was working with a camp Merit Badge Counselor, and his Scoutmaster’s in charge and making a pretty good, “let’s get this Scout moving” decisions, why should you care? Maybe somebody’s got some beef with the Scoutmaster on something else?

Sorry, looks like I got caught up in a tempest in a tea pot. As you may often hear, we’re one of those troops where the Scoutmaster “interprets” the rules from time to time, and this seemed to be another instance. I was just looking to one wiser and more experienced than I. We’ve been told that doing the Totin’ Chip is the same as the knife safety requirements for Second Class. I now know I’m reading the rules wrong. Thanks.

Well, now we know that the Totin’ Chip is in the “special opportunities” category and not a mandatory “requirement” for anything, in any official sense. And we also know that actually earning a Totin’ Chip takes more effort and knowledge than Second Class requirement 2c and part of 2d. And I suspected some hidden agenda behind the question, but it sounds like you’re straightened out now.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Scoutmaster and we have a brand-new Scout who sleepwalks. How can I protect him during campouts? Any Suggestions? (Rick Miller, SM, Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)

I’m not qualified to provide medical insights, so you need to have a serious and in-depth conversation with this Scout’s parents, and perhaps the boy’s pediatrician as well.

Hey Andy,

I and a few other leaders have recently been in a discussion as to whether or not the parent ribbon should be worn on our uniforms or not. If so, should it be worn on the right or left side? Since we’re leaders, we’re always at pack functions in uniform and therefore would not be able to wear it on civilian clothes, as one mother was told she could only do. Any light you could shine on this subject would be much appreciated. (Michelle Garrett, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

If you can find a “parent ribbon” or anything like it by any name in the BSA Insignia Guide (available on-line as well as at your local Scout Shop), be my guest!

They actually do sell them in our local Scout Shop, but should we wear them on our uniform, or does it matter? (Michelle)

I didn’t say find ’em at your Scout Shop. I said: Find ’em in the Insignia Guide. That’s sorta a big hint for Nope—Civvies only!

Dear Andy,

I just finished reading your piece on “The Bridge to Nowhere.” Here’s my question: How would you do this ceremony for a boy who is going to be a Lone Scout instead of joining a troop? (Machelle, WDL, Capital Area Council, TX)

First, here’s what the BSA has to say about the Lone Scout program: “Since its beginning days in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has been concerned with extending the Scouting program to boys in isolated areas or those who find it impossible to join a nearby Scouting unit. The Lone Scout plan serves such boys who cannot take part in a nearby Cub Scout pack or Boy Scout troop on a regular basis because of such factors as distance, weather, time, or disability. These boys apply for membership as individual Lone Cub Scouts or Lone Boy Scouts. Although the Lone Scout member might miss the opportunity to participate in activities in the pack or troop, the program makes it possible for such boys to become members of the Boy Scouts of America and to know the fun, values, and achievement of Scouting.”

Now of course I’d sure wonder why one Webelos Scout was going to be a Lone Scout while all his buddies in his Webelos den are joining a Boy Scout troop… Maybe that one boy is moving to some part of Texas where he can’t find a troop? But anyway, since he’s going on to Boy Scouting, and has declared himself in this regard, of course he crosses the bridge, and he’s met on the other side by his Lone Scout Counselor!

Now here’s what the BSA says about Lone Scout Counselors: “Every boy registering as a Lone Scout must have an adult, 21 years or older, who meets adult membership requirements and agrees to serve as the boy’s Lone Scout friend and counselor. This counselor is usually the boy’s own parent but might also be his guardian, minister, teacher, 4-H Club leader, or an experienced Scouter who lives nearby.”

Great question and thanks for asking!

Hey Andy!

Do you have a link or resource for insignia placement on the new centennial uniform? Our local service center has clued us in that placement of Commissioner insignia has changed (position patch centered on the sleeve pocket, trained patch with green border over that and centered on the flap of the pocket, Arrowhead over that, CSP where you’d expect it to be). That said, I want to see precisely how to place these insignia (e.g., I’m not sure if the Arrowhead touches the pocket or the CSP or is centered), and I also want to be able to forward a resource to other Scouters. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find anything in the uniform inspection sheet or insignia guide that speaks to the new uniform, although I’ve seen mention that it exists in the various searches I’ve attempted. Do you have any sources you can point us to? (David Lloyd Merrill, District Commissioner, Gulf Stream Council, FL)

I haven’t seen anything published yet. I’m waiting for it, too!

And another…

Dear Andy,

Where does one where the Arrowhead on the new uniform? (Bob)

You and thousands of other Commissioners are wondering the same thing! Let’s give the BSA a little bit of time to get something published on this.

Dear Andy

I need your advice on a matter facing the pack I assist as a committee member. By way of background, I was Cubmaster for several years while my boys were in the program, and then I recruited a Cubmaster and Committee Chair (both Eagle Scouts like myself), about a year-and-a-half ago, to carry on. Well, the two guys I recruited served briefly in their roles last year and then basically abandoned them to become Webelos Den Leaders. But they didn’t recruit replacements for the positions they abandoned. Then, they let program planning fall apart, which nearly killed back-to-school recruiting this year. I jumped back in and, with the support of other committee members, recruited a new Committee Chair and Cubmaster, and then got committee meetings and planning up and running again. I’ve been giving them guidance and training where I can, but now these same two guys want to fast-track their 4th grade Webelos I Scouts and have them cross over into the troop by March 2009—nearly a year ahead of schedule! Their rationale is that they’re “tired of being cubbies” and want to be Boy Scouts right away.

I’m not sure what the boys in their den or their parents think, and I’m guessing they don’t know what to think. I’ve asked my District Executive for the straight skinny on BSA policy, and he said that, to be a Boy Scout, a boy must be at least 10½ years old and completed Arrow of Light. In looking at our pack roster, out of 20 4th graders (which they’re running as a single den!—Another No-No!), only 10 would be eligible by March 2009, IF they did all the requirements, including the Webelos Badge and tenure.

My question is: Should this be allowed to happen? And, if not, how do we set them straight? Who delivers the message?

Our new key leaders are brand-new and “don’t want to step on any toes.” I know it can’t come from me, as I think one of them feels threatened somehow by my involvement. But the troop committee and I are concerned about boys that young coming into the troop (we see 5th graders that can’t cut it at summer camp and drop out). If a boy’s eligible, we won’t refuse him, of course. Thoughts? Or should I just get my nose out of it and let the chips fall where they may? (Name & Council Withheld)

That pack’s CC and CM, with you and the COR have two immediate tasks. 1: Grow spines. 2: Fire those two Dodos.

That’s right: Dump ’em as fast as you can and get replacements who have figured out that Scouting is for young people, not for themselves.

As for “stepping on toes,” we’re talking about the lives of children here, and fear of stepping on toes is a shameful excuse for not doing what’s right and must be done, and they know it.

Get that ridiculously large den of 20 divided up into no less than 3 dens (7-7-6, for instance), each with its own leaders, meeting apart from one another. The way to do the dividing is to have the boys themselves do it, using “who’s your first-best friend, second-best friend, etc.” Venn diagrams).

Then, get the new leaders trained, and keep those boys in the program!

Do NOT let these clowns run rough-shod over the rest of you, while everyone else is walkin’ small around the elephants in the kitchen!

Dear Andy,

For Boy Scouts who are in both their troop and a Venturing crew, if they complete the First Aid or Backpacking merit badge, can they apply those accomplishments toward the Outdoors Bronze Award, if they earned the merit badges prior to starting the Bronze Award? (Thanks, and thank you for a great column. I read it every month.) (Chris Hammye, Erie Shores Council, OH)

Everything I’ve ever read tells me that the scenario you’ve described is perfectly OK.

Dear Andy,

Love your column. It’s been a great help to me.

Our Webelos IIs just picked their patrol emblem this week. The Webelos Is are picking one next week. Turns out the emblem that the Webelos IIs picked is the same emblem that our Wolf den picked. I told the Wolf Den Leader that they’re a den, not a patrol, that only Webelos could wear a patrol emblem on their uniform, and that patrol emblems don’t go on the blue Cub Scout uniform. I told the Den Leader that the Wolves can pick a patrol name that they’d like to be called; however, they’re still a den and not a patrol. She’s now upset, since she bought emblems for the Wolves and now has to take them back, and of course, she’s fighting doing this saying that they picked their name first.

Does the BSA have a rule about no patrol emblems on the blue uniform? Where can I find some information to assist me? Our Bear Den Leader just found out that that the Wolves picked a name, and now he wants to pick a patrol name for his den. (Name Withheld)

Couple of glitches here need fixin’… In the first place, a Webelos den is still a den, even if it gives itself a name and uses a patrol medallion. The “Flaming Arrow Den” is still a den—It doesn’t become a patrol until its members have become Boy Scouts. Secondly, Tiger, Wolf, and Bear dens are by den number, with the den number strip—Dens at these levels do not use names. No exceptions. The lady Den Leader needs some more training, perhaps, so she doesn’t waste her own time like she did this time around. Besides, it’s not like she’ll never, ever be going back to the Scout Shop, so quit the bellyachin’!

I hope you can get this stuff fixed before your Cub Scout “ship” starts listing too much away from the vertical!

Dear Andy,

Is it plausible to be registered in two different councils at the same time? I know that it’s allowed to be registered in more that one unit of the same type and/or different type. (Michael O’Keefe, SM, Northern Lights Council, ND)

Yes, it’s certainly possible to be registered in two different councils concurrently. As for multiple registrations in the same council, this is fairly popular among Scouters, and the only things the BSA has specific policies prohibiting are multiple positions (except for the CC-COR combination) in the same unit and registration as both a Commissioner and unit leader at the same time.

Dear Andy,

A question has come up regarding how many nights of “long-term camp” (i.e. summer camp) are permitted in req. 9a: “Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. The 20 days and 20 nights must be at a designated Scouting activity or event. You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.” It says you “may” use a week, but it does not say that you cannot use more. The spirit of the requirement seems to indicate that the intent is “may only use,” but that isn’t what it says. We’ve heard a number of opinions, mostly along the lines of “if it doesn’t prohibit it (which, as written, it doesn’t) then it’s OK to use more than one week. What do you think? (Lee Harrison, SM, Heart of Virginia Council)

Let’s start here: A week is seven (7) days-and-nights, according to Aloysius Lilius and Gregory XIII.

Next point: “May” is distinct from “can” because it is grounded in permission, whereas “can” is ability-oriented. (Remember your old school-teacher’s admonition: “Yes, you can, but to may not.”

Consequently, the meaning of this sentence is perfectly lucid: The Scout is permitted to use a week of long-term camp toward the total. The Scout is not permitted to use more than that, because the sentence does not say “or more.”

Got it? Good!

Dear Andy,

As an Assistant Scoutmaster, may I earn the Scouter’s Training Award, Scouter’s Key, and Scoutmaster Award of Merit, or are these reserved for Scoutmasters only? (Michael Coughlin, Revolutionary Trails Council, NY)

Have you read the progress cards for the recognitions you’re interested in earning (which ambition I commend, BTW!)? What do they say? (BTW, the Scoutmaster Award of Merit is by nomination only; it’s not “earn-able.”

Dear Andy,

First, thanks for being here. I recently found your columns and have been reading as many as I can.

I’m a Webelos II leader and have been to all the training classes. I admit that I’m one of those maverick leaders that didn’t follow the official plan: We went on our first non-pack campout last fall with a Boy Scout troop, then we went with a different troop on another camping overnight, next we went to our council’s Webelos resident camp, and then we went to another state’s Webelos resident camp. This past weekend our district hosted a “Webelos Woods” event where all the Webelos dens and all of the Boy Scout troops camped together, and were able to meet each other preparing for crossover. This last spring all the boys earned their Webelos badge, and we’ve continued working on additional activities badges, belt loops and pins. Several boys are close to earning all twenty. The boys have completed all the Arrow of Light requirements except 6, which we’re holding off on till we visit more troops.

The requirement I’m having problems with is No.1: “Be active in your Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade (or for at least six months becoming 10 years old), and earn the Webelos badge.”

All 7 of my Webelos Scouts earned the Webelos badge in March 2008, and all but one are in fifth grade right now (One was held back by his parents and repeated the third grade and will not graduate from fourth grade till May 2009).

WS 1: DOB 6/27/97, eligible now.

WS 2: DOB 12/7/97, eligible now.

WS 3: DOB 2/26/98, eligible now.

WS 4: DOB 4/20/98, eligible 10/20/2008.

WS 5: DOB 4/24/98, eligible 10/24/2008.

WS 6: DOB 8/4/98, eligible 2/4/2009. *

WS 7: DOB 8/4/98, eligible 2/4/2009. *

* Not twins

Our pack has traditionally incorporated the AoL ceremony into the B&G in February, which makes for a very long meeting. We’d like to hold a separate AoL ceremony, but I don’t know when to hold it. Should we wait till all the boys are eligible, so they can get it together? But I’ve read that you should give awards as soon as possible. (David Kincannon, WDL, Last Frontier Council, OK)

You’re living proof that I’ll even help out a guy who deliberately went off-program. <wink>

For those Webelos Scouts who completed the fourth grade in May 2008, they become eligible for the AoL on the corresponding day in November, unless their tenth birthday came before May 28, in which case they can start counting the six months from that date.

Any Webelos Scout who has completed all requirements, including req. 6, and meets the tenure-and-age/grade requirements, can receive the AoL rank at any pack meeting.

Since the one boy who was held back a grade turned ten on August 4, 2008, he will have completed his tenure on February 4, 2009, as you’ve described — Right on time to become a Boy Scout!

So… What’s your question?

Dear Andy,

What do we need to do to be a merit badge program…We can offer different trades, arts, crafts, and an assortment of developmental programs. What would we need to do merit badge certifications. (El Kruppenbach, Teen Coordinator, Youth Programs, Hanscom AFB, MA)

Wow! What a great offer! Thanks! First off, if you want to check out Merit Badges, to see where there’s a fit for your skills, experience, and talents, you can go to and then click on “advancement” and then “merit badges.”

You’re located in the service area of the Boston Minuteman Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The address of the service center is 411 Unquity Road, Milton, MA 02186 and the phone number there is (617) 615-0004. Give ‘em a call and tell ’em you’re interested in signing on as Merit Badge Counselors. They’ll put you in touch with the registrar, and help make this happen! Thanks for finding me and asking! And thanks for wanting to help the youth of this country and your community!

Hi Andy,

I’m interested in knowing how to organize patrols. We have only ten Scouts in the troop: One Life rank, one First Class, three Second Class, three Tenderfoot, and two who are just starting. Can we make two patrols, or just one? How do we manage positions? Gracias! (Eric Ayala, ASM, Troop 86, Moca, Puerto Rico)

Mucho gusto, Eric! Thanks for finding me, and for writing! Good questions!

Never have just one patrol! I made that mistake once, as a Scout, and immediately “demoted” myself from Senior Patrol Leader to Patrol Leader! Ouch!

The first thing the Scouts do is elect their Senior Patrol Leader. He’s in charge, and not a member of a patrol. Then, the remaining nine Scouts are asked to form themselves into at least two groups of no less than three Scouts per group, and no more than five Scouts in any one group. Then walk away and let them do this themselves. In a few minutes, you’ll have either two or three patrols. They then create names for themselves, a patrol yell, and make a flag for themselves (maybe they do the flag at the next meeting), and then they play an inter-patrol game—this helps to cement the patrol bonds. Now you’ve got a troop!

Remember, always, that a troop is only the “umbrella” for its patrols – The PATROL is the essential group of Boy Scouting!

Dear Andy,

I’m a second-year Webelos Den Leader and I’ve recently accepted a Beaver Scout from England into the fold. What guidance do you have as to awarding him BSA awards in lieu of the things he’s done as a Beaver? Also, his mother was a Wood Badge-trained Beaver Scout Leader, and she wants to help out as a uniformed leader, but she’s been told that she has to take BSA training anyway. What’s the story? (Greg Schumacher, WDL-Phoenix Patrol, National Capitol Area Council, MD)

Of course, in conversation with both the boy and his mum, you’ve discovered that the Beaver program and the Cub Scout program, while similar, are not identical. In the BSA, we don’t award ranks “in lieu of” anything. However, although it’s not strictly kosher, why not allow the boy to wear whatever he earned in the U.K. on his BSA Cub Scout uniform. I know that there’s a BSA policy that says “only BSA badges,” and it’s also extremely, extremely rare for me to even hint at something knowingly outside BSA policy, but in this singular instance, when we’re dealing with a young boy, I’m sorely tempted to violate this rule.

As for his mum, just a little reading on her part will show her where the differences are, and I’m sure she can pick up on what to do differently with ease. Of course her training is important, but it’s not training in the BSA Cub Scout program, so she’ll want to get herself reoriented as quickly as possible! I sure hope she’ll bring some ideas from the U.K. and her Scout Group into your pack — and I hope you all have fun with this!

BTW, what’s the “Phoenix Patrol”? Please don’t tell me it’s the name of your Webelos den, because patrols don’t exist until Boy Scouting—On that one, I won’t step over the line!

Dear Andy,

How would you handle a parent’s request to move her third-grade son out of Bears and into Webelos, essentially skipping Bear but not skipping third grade in school? This boy has never repeated a school grade, but his birthday is two months from the cut-off date, so his parents held him out of school for a year. They say he’s “of fourth grade age and maturity, and has often completed the requirements along with his brother’s den (a Webelos den), since he goes with his brother to all that den’s meetings.” (DL, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

Of course, the nonsense about participating right along with his older brother’s Webelos den should have been stopped by that Webelos Den Leader—nipped in the bud, no further discussion. But, as far as the boy is concerned, the key is simply, how old is he? If, by February 2010, he’ll be at least 10-1/2, then I’d say go ahead. If he’ll be substantially younger than that, then it would make no sense to “skip” him now, because he needs to be a bit older to be able to go on to Boy Scouting, which is the aim of the Webelos program. If you have a parent who is simply trying to drive less, you’ll simply have to deal with it. It’s called No.

Dear Andy,

Our Scouts will be making charred cloth for flint-and-steel by placing layers of cotton material (old tee-shirt material) into “Altoids” tins and putting them in the hot coals of a campfire. Can you tell me how long it should take for the cloth to char? (Lloyd Persons, SM, Three Rivers Council, TX)

Tee-shirt material is jersey, which is the name of a weave of fabric—of course you want it to be 100% cotton, with no synthetics. I’ve always used unbleached muslin; not jersey. You may want to check with a fabric store or craft store. Unbleached muslin works great for F&S and is extremely cheap!

As for your Altoid tin scheme (which I think is pretty darned clever, BTW), I’d say you need to experiment at home first. Use a charcoal grill and several tins, with tongs and hot-gloves, till you’ve perfected the timing. Let me know, and I’ll publish your results. In fact, send me some photos of your Scouts (in uniform) doing this, and I’ll do my best to publish ‘em!
Happy Scouting!


Send your questions and comments to:


(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.

Read Andy's full biography

Comments are closed.