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Issue 158 – December 21, 2008

Dear Andy, I’m looking for plans for a pack advancement ladder, ideally one that comes apart and stores nicely. Can any of your readers help? (Carl Sommer, CM, Occoneechee Council, NC:

If you have what Carl’s looking for, you can send them directly to him (his email address is there) or to me and I’ll publish them or show the link.

Hello Andy,

I’m trying to get a letter of congratulations from the president for my son’s Eagle. My son would prefer President Bush to Mr. Obama. What’s the latest I can request a letter and receive it with President Bush’s name/signature? (Donna Harper, Eagle Scout Mom-to-be)

Assuming your son’s court of honor happens before the inauguration in January, then I’d think your letter of request would be sent to The White House and President George W. Bush, and would be responded to in kind.

Editor’s note: This letter was answered awhile back. For those of you with the same question, please be aware that the White House is no longer able to honor requests due to a minimum six-week requirement for requests and current time constraints; e.g., the inauguration of the next president is less than six weeks away. See, Individuals who would like to request a letter from President George W. Bush may want to send a request when the George W. Bush Presidential Library is up and running at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Hi Andy,

I have a question about substitution of requirements for First Class Rank. We have a rural unit in a small town that has a Second Class Scout who’s afraid of the water, and the Scoutmaster there wants to substitute the swimming requirement for First Class. He won’t give us the Scout’s name or any documentation on why he won’t get in the water. The council advancement committee has stipulated that no substitution of requirements will be approved, and I agree with them; however, the Scoutmaster counters that the troop committee and the troop’s chartered organization have already approved this Scout’s First Class rank requirement substitution and so there’s not a thing we can do about it. Since we don’t know the Scout’s name, it would appear they’ll get away with this. What’s the most diplomatic way of dealing with this situation? (T. Scott Waller, DC, Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO)

What’s the thinking behind your wanting to be “diplomatic” to a bunch of clowns who have knowingly violated BSA advancement policy and procedure and are now daring you all to stop them?

Maybe we should start here: Anna Amend, a nine-year-old girl who has only one arm, and her right leg has no knee joint and is two-thirds the length of her “normal” leg, is…guess what…a competitive swimmer.

Next: There’s an in-the-water swimming requirement for Second Class, so would somebody like to tell me how this water-fearing Scout got that rank?

Being “afraid” of water is insufficient in and of itself for altering this rank requirement. How about being afraid of fire? Now we don’t have to do that. Or a fear of ropes means we don’t have to do knots or lashings. Hey, how about a fear of questions, so now we don’t have to do a board of review! Wow! This can go straight to Eagle! Whoopee!

Certainly, for legitimate reasons, with a signed statement by any licensed medical practitioner, the BSA provides alternate rank requirements. Of course these alternatives must be approved in advance by the district or council advancement committee, if I remember correctly. The pity is, they already knew this before they contacted you. And now they’re “challenging” you to “do something about it,” just the way childish little bullies used to say, “Knock this chip off my shoulder.”

The only person they’re damaging is, of course, that boy, and shame on them for doing that. So, as for “getting away with it,” this will catch up to this Scout some day, when he’s least expecting it. As for the yoyos in the troop and sponsor, ignore ’em. They’re not worth your personal effort. But they do need an active Unit Commissioner—not to be the “council cop” but to gently steer them in the right direction in the future. There’s your “diplomacy.”

Dear Andy,

We’ve heard that there’s a new patch that Boy Scouts will wear that shows they *crossed-over* from Cub Scouts instead of joining Boy Scouts without having been Cubs. Is this correct? If so, what’s it called and when and where is it worn? I know there is a knot for an adult that says he earned the Arrow of Light, but apparently this is something different. (Joan Tengler-Boyd, Bay Area Council, TX)

You’re correct about the Arrow of Light “square knot,” which is worn by men who earned it as a youth. But there’s no item of any sort that I’ve ever heard of or read about that’s anywhere close to that other one! (If any reader’s ever heard of this, write in and I’ll publish it!)

Hello Andy,

About the Order of the Arrow, if a Scout is elected by his troop, but he doesn’t attend an Ordeal in the year he was elected, does he have to be re-elected the following year? We had four Scouts elected this past spring, but only two followed through and attended their Ordeal weekend. When the election comes around again in the spring of 2009, can the two who were elected by didn’t go to an Ordeal weekend just go, or do they need to be elected again? (Gary Tibbets)

Scouts elected by their fellow troop members to the Order of the Arrow have one year from that date to complete their Ordeal. Most all lodges offer at least two annual opportunities to do this (some offer more), so that Scouts who can’t attend one can make arrangements to attend the other. If, after a year, a Scout hasn’t completed his Ordeal, his eligibility to do so ends and he now becomes eligibly to be elected (i.e., he becomes a candidate again). If this happens, his fellow troop members are under no obligation—expressed or implied—to make certain that his name is one of the names on their ballots. In your troop’s situation, two Scouts are now OA brothers and two can stand for election again. Best wishes to all of them!

Dear Andy,

About Camping merit badge requirement 9a, the question of what is a “long-term” or one-week camp seems to pop up frequently, as it did in your December 7th column. Yes, as you said, a week consists of seven days. But most of the councils with which I’m familiar now have troops arrive for summer camp on Sunday afternoon (or even early Monday morning) and then they depart after breakfast the following Saturday. This results in a “long-term” camping experience of barely 5½ to 6 days.

There is a Scout in my troop who has accrued 40 nights of camping in just two years, including two 6-day summer camp sessions. The Camping MB counselor looked at his overall record and determined that the spirit of the requirements had been more than adequately met. Despite this, it seems to me that if a Scout isn’t provided the opportunity to have a 7-day long-term camp experience, some kind of accommodation needs to be made. (Name & Council Withheld)

Nope, no “accommodation” is needed or even necessary. The deal is 20 days and nights of camping, and if all 20 are in a tent that the Scout’s pitched or under the stars, that’s just fine—in fact, it’s perfect—but a Scout is permitted to use up to 7 days and nights of long-term camp in and among these 20—it’s just that he can’t use more than 7. Got it now? Good!

Dear Andy,

My son is trying to get his Camping merit badge completed. When he brought his documentation to get signed off, he had 7 nights of long term camping listed—he went to this camp for three summers, and the camp was 6 nights in duration, so he counted 6 nights from his first summer there and 1 night from the following summer, for a total of 7. Is this correct? (Steve Witte)

Smart son you’ve got there… He did it exactly right!

Hello Andy,

I’m our pack’s advancement coordinator. Three days before our most recent pack campout, a Den Leader called to tell me that she was going to have her boys earn Whittling Chips and that she’d present them that evening at the pack meeting (she’d already purchased the awards) and just do the advancement report afterwards. My response was that only advancements submitted for approval prior to the committee meeting are presented at pack meetings. At the pack campout, her ten Cubs earned their Whittling Chips and then proceeded to carry their knives around camp and show them to the other boys the rest of the day. When another leader asked how the boys already had Whittling Chips, she replied that she’d called the District Field Director and he told her that Whittling Chips are “instant recognition,” so they can be given out at any time. The bottom line is that she skipped the whole process from advancement, and the pack presentation, for these Whittling Chips. First, as advancement coordinator, I’d like to know if the Whittling Chip is truly considered an “instant recognition” item. Second, I’d like to know if you think it was appropriate for a Den Leader to completely circumvent the pack’s policies in this manner. What advice do you have for this situation?

I have another den that’s worked on the Whittling Chip at three meetings prior to the campout, and finished their carvings that same day. I’m much more confident of this den’s knowledge of knife safety, yet they were prepared to wait until the next pack meeting for their Whittling Chips. (Name & Council Withheld)

Earning a Whittling Chip card is one of the requirements (No. 19d) in the “Shavings and Chips” achievement area (No. 19), for Bear. It’s not, per se, either a rank or even an award. It’s a little “license.” It’s typically signed off on by parent-as-Akela and doesn’t directly involve the Den Leader except to possibly buy the card, sign it, and present it to the Cub Scout. If a Den Leader does choose to do this with his or her Cubs, it’s certainly not “illegal.” I suspect, also, that the phone call you received was in the category of “courtesy call,” which is certainly the polite thing to do.

Because it’s such a minor aspect of Cub Scouting (one-fourth of one requirement area out of over a hundred), I’d really suggest that you all just take a deep breath and relax a bit. You’re all doing a good thing by helping boys learn safety and responsibility, and there’s no need to get yourselves all exercised over this. Relax. No one’s being compromised or bypassed. Besides, pack committees don’t approve Cub Scout advancements, anyway!

Hi Andy,

I’m a Bear Den Leader. We’ll be starting our Whittling Chip work in January. I want to put out the requirements for the pocket knife—maximum blade length, locking blade, etc.—to the parents for the holiday season so that, hopefully, the boys will get a little something in their stockings that was hung by the chimney. What do you think? (David R. Walter, DL, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)

I think what your planning and what your doing are just fine! Local Scout Shops and have official Cub Scout knives that will easily meet the safety and utility standards you’re looking for. Don’t forget the age-old wood tongue depressors and soft bars of cheap soap—safe and sane ways to get started in a guaranteed “bloodless” way!

Hi Andy,

I’ve been asked to be the Camp Commissioner next year at our local summer camp. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do or what the duties of this position are. The Camp Director says I just talk with the adult leaders, make sure they’re happy, and help resolve any problems. Is that it? (Art Seel, Indian Waters Council, SC)

OhMyGosh No! Much much bigger job! First, you’ve got to get yourself a red jacket and coffee mug, so you can strut around camp and tell everybody that you’re in charge and that you out-rank all those mere “Scoutmasters” (but, you’ve gotta be drinkin’ their coffee while you do this, or it’s not near as effective). Then, you’ve gotta have lotsa rules, ’cause boys love rules and those Scoutmasters are there to be your little deputies and enforce ’em! Here are a few to get you started: No running, No throwing stones, No picking bark off trees, No walking off the paths, No towel-snapping, No hangin’ out in the campsite with your friends, No peering under rocks (disturbs the environment), No this, No that, No nuthin’ (You’re getting the idea here, right?) Next, you need to be grumpy. After all, what’s the fun of being Da Commish if you can’t look annoyed (or like you need a good “movement”) all the time!

To help “look the part,” start by not shaving during staff development week, and then make sure you never wear a complete uniform—after all, a picture-perfect uniform is the sign of a goody two-shoes, and you sure don’t want to convey that image! You Da Commish! Make ’em live in fear!

OK, enough of the silliness… The description you’ve been given is actually right on the money! Your primary responsibilities are in liaison, morale, and accord. You’re the communications link between the camp administration and the units that come to camp. You can’t “make” people happy but you can “take the temperature” of the camp’s “guests” and if there’s a problem help the parties arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution, if at all possible. You’re also the “go-to guy” if there are unmet needs or if there’s a communications breakdown somewhere. You’re the ombudsman, when necessary, and always fair to all concerned.

If you’re looking for a specific “agenda,” I can’t help you; but if you have the concept right, you’ll be just fine!

Dear Andy,

I’m currently serving a Cubmaster and I’ve had many people, mostly retired military, ask me about why Scouts wear the U.S. flag on our right shoulder with the union facing to the rear. I know that the military wear the flag on the left shoulder with the union facing forward (I think the reason is so that the flag doesn’t look as if it’s retreating). I’ve looked at the U.S. Flag Code and can’t find any information to answer their questions. Can you explain to me why we wear the American flag where we do, so that I can pass it on to my Den Leaders and parents? (Chuck Johnson, CM, Cherokee Area Council, TN)

Originally in Scouts, the community strip (later replaced by the council shoulder patch), troop numeral, and position badge were worn at the top of the left sleeve, but there was nothing worn at the top of the right sleeve. So, when the BSA decided that an American flag would be worn on all uniforms, the top of the right sleeve was the most logical, and simplest, place, because nothing needed to be moved somewhere else. The next decision I imagine had to be made was which way should the flag face, and that’s an easy one because the U.S. Flag Code says that the field is always to the top-left.

(As a bit of trivia, did you know that, on the Cub Scout uniform, when the flag became “official” on the uniform, it was originally worn over the right pocket? It didn’t move to the Cub’s left sleeve until several years later.)

Dear Andy,

For my son, who will soon be an Eagle Scout, I am requesting and American flag to be flown over the capital. But I am unsure on how to do the wording on the Congressional Certificate that accompanies the flag. It begins with the phrase, “This flag was flown for…” I’d appreciate your suggestion. (Ken Ho, San Gabriel Valley Council, CA)

How about: “This Flag was flown for Eagle Scout (insert your son’s name).”

Congratulations to your son, and to you, too! (I am also an “Eagle Scout Dad”) from the San Gabriel Valley Council.)

Dear Andy,

In my short Scouting career, I’ve been an Assistant Den Leader, Den Leader, Assistant Cubmaster, Pack Trainer, and now Shooting Sports Director. Every one of these positions has had an accompanying badge signifying the position. Except Shooting Sports Director. Why is it that the BSA has a badge for every position within a pack, troop, and even district and council, but not for Directors? I worked hard to obtain my SSD status and I know others that have given of themselves and worked hard at National Camping School to do this, too, but the BSA doesn’t recognize this. Why? Has there ever been talk of correcting this slight? (Bobby Taylor, Bay Area Council, TX)

There are all sorts of position badges for the volunteer positions of Scouting, which are the ones we’re registered as. You’re a qualified Shooting Sports Director, which is admirable, and there’s no badge for that. I’m a qualified BSA Lifeguard Counselor and there’s no badge for that, either. Just like there’s no badge for Aquatics Director, Nature Lodge Director, Campcraft Director, Scoutcraft Director, Camp Director, Training Course Director, or… well, I think you’re getting the idea here, yes? So, if you’re presently registered as the Pack Trainer, then that’s the position badge you wear. Because you’re not registered as a Shooting Sports Director; you qualify and are certified as a Shooting Sports Director. That’s the difference, and thanks for asking!

Hi Andy,

I’ve read in the Guide to Safe Scouting (GTSS, p. 49) that Cub Scouts can’t ride on a trailer bed. But on page 41 there’s a modification to include parades, and in that description is says that Cub Scouts can ride if there’s a stationary device they can hold onto. How is holding onto a bale of hay considered “stationary” or “safe”? Because this is what the pack leaders want to do!

In addition, there once was a statement that seems to have “disappeared” that was about the use of power tools by Cub Scout that said that if a Scout is 12 years old or more then power tools could be used. Does that rule still stand, or not? (Name & Council Withheld)

On your first situation, we wouldn’t be talking about a hay ride, would we? Because if we are, then I think the first order of business is to lighten up a bit, because if we don’t, we’ll manage to squeeze every bit of fun out of Scouting, all in the name of “rules.” And, once the fun’s gone, it can never be legislated back it. It’s over. The candle’s gone out.

As for power tools, there have never been any “rules” about these, for two reasons: (1) there’s absolutely nothing in all of Scouting that demands the use of power tools, and (2) if a power tool is going to be used for something, the BSA assumes that people aren’t idiots. Maybe (2) is a mistake?

Hello Andy,

I’m a Den Leader. Our pack committee just voted to deny a patch to any Cub Scout who attends a pack outing out of uniform. I was the lone dissenter, but I can’t put my hands on any information that says it’s OK or not OK to make a rule like this. I seem to recall that Scouting strongly encourages but does not demand that boys must wear a Scout uniform. I have two boys in my den who are very upset because they came to an outing but didn’t get the participation patch for it because of this policy. What’s your opinion on this? (Chris Bonsall, DL, Santa Clara County Council, CA)

The uniform is a method of Scouting. It is one of the “tools” used in Scouting to achieve our overall goals of happy, responsible, participating citizenship; personal development; and ethical decision-making. The uniform, however, is not a requirement of membership or participation, and never has been. Certainly, it’s encouraged. But it has never, ever been made mandatory to membership or participation.

For any group of adults who have volunteered to serve youth through the Scouting movement to deny a boy the opportunity to experience participation and achievement because he’s not wearing a uniform is one of the more mean-spirited things that can be done to corrupt the Scouting program. Shame on these people.

You are absolutely right. They are absolutely wrong. That so-called rule needs to go away, immediately. Those boys deserve a public apology and a patch presentation by the people who tried to deny them.

Scouting is intended to be a “safe haven” where a boy cannot “fail” at anything. Only positives are reinforced and rewarded, and “punishments” are never meted out in Scouting. If these people don’t understand that, or aren’t willing to expand their thinking to include that, they must be removed from their positions because they are actually damaging the program—and boys along with it.

The way to have a fully uniformed pack is to reward those who show up in uniform; not to “ding” those who don’t. The latter exhibits a total lack of understanding of both boys’ motivations and the Scouting program’s methods and goals.

Hi Andy,

I’m a new District Commissioner and have some “policy” questions…

A Cub Scout Den Leader has recently become Scoutmaster of his older son’s troop. His Cubmaster (who, BTW, is also the Committee Chair of a troop) says that it’s against BSA policy to be both a Den Leader and a Scoutmaster. He also says that “feeder packs” are against Arrow of Light and BSA policies. Is there any “official” BSA policy prohibiting this dual membership? And, is there an official BSA policy on “feeder packs”? (Chris O’Donnell, DC, Connecticut Rivers Council)

You can tell that severely misinformed Scouter he needs a “refresher” training course or two, and the sooner the better because if has simple stuff like this wrong, I’m getting nightmares about what else he’s spouting that’s even more wacko!

The BSA Adult Volunteer Application (page 2) tells us that one cannot hold two registered positions in the same unit. Since a pack and a troop are two different units (whether there’s one sponsor or more is irrelevant) and so holding a registered position in one and a registered position in the other is perfectly OK, and always has been.

On the idea of feeder units, any Scout Executive, District Director, Field Director, or District Executive will affirm that, for the past 78 years, “feeder” packs have been endorsed and encouraged, because they are the most solid and consistent producers of Boy Scouts. There has never been any BSA “policy” against this (and there never will be), and as for some “Arrow of Light policy,” this guy’s smokin’ somethin’ that’s go no label on it.

Dear Andy,

Going back to your November 20th column, kudos to the Scout who took his appeal all the way to the National Advancement Committee regarding his unit and local council’s attempts to deny him his Eagle rank! And shame on that Scoutmaster, troop committee, and local council for even attempting to deny something to a Scout that he’d rightfully earned—They all should feel embarrassed by their actions.

It’s unfortunate that this young man had to endure this injustice; however, I’m cheered that, in the end, the wrong was righted. I can’t help but think how often a sad scenario like this may be played out in troops across the country, and I can only hope that there’s somebody on the troop committee with the fortitude to keep to the right path so that a Scout never has to appeal! (Paul Lusk, CC, Santa Clara County Council, CA)

It sometimes frightens me terribly when I begin to contemplate how many Scouts like this one may not have had a resource to turn to, and simply “took it” when the inmates were running the asylum.

I’m delighted, however, to tell you that, in every case that’s been brought to my door, the Scout has won. Although I didn’t begin and do not maintain this column to support such appeals, when they show up here, I roll up my sleeves.

Hi Andy,

I’m a former Scoutmaster in the Negros Occidental, Boy Scouts of the Philippines, and I’m presently a member of the executive board of the Bacolod City Council, BSP. (Before 1936, Filipino Boy Scouts belonged to the Philippine Council, Boy Scouts of America. Today, they are a separate organization.)

I wish to reprint comparative images of the Eagle Scout medal of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and the Eagle Scout medal of the Boy Scouts of America in a book I am writing titled, “The Eagles of Troop 187.” The book is about the subsequent lives of Troop 187’s 14 Eagle Scouts, 35 years later. My question: Where and how to get permission to reprint the image of the Eagle Scout medal of the Boy Scouts of America? Thank you. (Edwin C. Recabe)

Thank you for finding us, and for writing, and very best wishes in your writing endeavor!

In light of how many different places the BSA Eagle Scout medal is already reproduced, in print and certainly on the Internet, I’d suspect you’d be OK reproducing it for educational or instructive proposes on a page in a book that’s about Scouting; however, I’m neither “official” nor an attorney.

NetCommish Comment: Edwin, that sounds like a wonderful project and one where you may want to contact the International Division of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for assistance. Contact information for BSA’s International Division can be found on the web at They should be able to assist you with any issues related to permissions.

Hi Andy,

Is there a rule that says dens have to participate in their pack’s Blue & Gold Banquets? (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA tries to avoid rules in the category of “Duh.”

All dens participate in pack meetings because all Cub Scouts are members of the pack and they’re grouped into dens by age and grade in order to carry out the Cub Scout program, so of course they attend pack meetings and a B&G is one of those pack meetings, the only difference being that the B&G has a specific theme: It’s a birthday party for Baden-Powell and the BSA.

Dear Andy,

Each part of the Eagle award has special significance. Is there a resource that explains it? (David Van, Los Angeles Area Council, CA)

Most of what you’ll hear in the Eagle Charge or read in same if you Google it has been created for ceremonial purposes. The Scroll at the top of the medal has exactly the same meaning as it does for the Second Class and First Class rank badges and the Scout emblem. The Eagle is…an Eagle. The red-white-and-blue ribbon is in keeping with our country’s national colors. Yes, they’ve been imbued with more than this, and that’s a nice thing. But strictly speaking, except for the scroll they are what they are.

Thanks. We’re trying to get my younger son (he’s 13) ready for his Eagle board of review. His older brother was asked about it during his, so I want to make sure my younger son’s prepared. (David Van)

Boards of review aren’t re-tests! This can be a casual question to spark conversation, but if the people on this board are using questions like this to “review” the Scout in the sense of testing him, they’re way off-base! Not to be a wiseacre about it, but your son might answer in terms of what the Eagle badge means to him: Such as, “It signifies that I’ve done the work and fulfilled every requirement.” Also, your younger son’s best “coach” for this will be his own brother! Congratulations to both your sons, and their parents, too!

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster is about to step down after several years of service and we’d like to have a special ceremony to recognize his hard work and to formally hand over the post to the new Scoutmaster. Can you point me to a resource on the web that might have ceremony ideas? (Barb Sagraves, MC, Daniel Webster Council, NH)

Make one up! There’s no standard ceremony for this and besides, the more it comes from the heart, the better it’s going to be! And, your local Scout Shop has some really nice commemorative pieces that can be engraved with his name, troop, years of service, etc.

Hi Andy,

Got a sticky issue and need some help… We have a couple who came to our troop about three years ago. Prior to their arrival, we were a fine group of concerned parents who worked together for all of our youth. The wife became advancement chair, but has interfered with every position, including Scoutmaster. She’s caused so much dissention among our parents that some no longer talk to others! Then our Committee Chair quit, because of her inciting discord. We need her gone. How do we proceed?

As a further wrinkle, we’d rather not get the troop’s COR involved if we can help it, although we do realize that we may have to exercise this option, so are there any protocols we can give our COR (or anyone else) on how to do this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Check out page 2 of the adult application: The COR and CC are the keys to putting a stop to this nonsense. (Of course, why everyone else tolerated it is another question.) The COR and/or the sponsor’s head have the unilateral authority to remove a divisive volunteer, on the spot. Since the troop’s not a “corporation,” there’s no “three strikes” or “documentation” or anything else necessary, and since the troop is owned by the sponsor and not by the BSA or local council, any unit-level volunteer who’s removed has no “appeal” options—she can’t “go to council” and get reinstated! But, to make this happen, somebody’s got to grow a spine before the troop’s dead. Good luck!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Webelo leader who’s recently joined the VFW. Am I authorized to wear my Army of Occupation pin medal or other pins on my Scout uniform? What about on a hat? (Terry Roggow, WDL, Transatlantic Council, Berlin Germany)

Thanks for asking! Military insignia are for military uniforms; Boy Scout (and Cub Scout) insignia are for Scout uniforms. And WEBELOS is both singular and plural, and there are no abbreviations or variations.

Dear Andy,

I’ve looked in the Boy Scout Handbook (11th Edition) about service hours, and I understand what’s being said: that the Scout and the Scoutmaster will decide if the proposed project is acceptable for service hours. The problem I’m having is that members of our troop committee are trying to develop definitions of what service hours are, including service hours shouldn’t count if they’re to the troop’s benefit, or if they’re related to the annual church fair (the church is our sponsor). What I’m looking for is guidance as to where I can find a definition of what service hours can be for. (This question is not applicable to Eagle projects.) (Name & Council Withheld)

A requirement for participating in service projects appears in the ranks Second Class, Star, and Life. The reason for having such participation “approved” by one’s Scoutmaster is so that Scoutmaster knows what his Scouts are doing, much in the same way that a Scout will confer with his Scoutmaster before beginning work on a merit badge. So this is, in the first place, not so much about “approval” in the sense of “vetting” as it is in keeping the Scoutmaster abreast of what the Scouts he serves are doing.

Notice, also, that “approval” of where a Scout is going to give service to others is not the province of the troop committee. This is a process that belongs to the Scoutmaster.

For specific information on how broadly “service” is defined, refer to page 88 of the Boy Scout Handbook—this is the “definitive authority” because this is what the Scout is told by the BSA, and nothing supersedes the BSA! So, when the handbook says, “Service projects can take many forms…any of a thousand …possibilities,” anyone who tries to place any artificial and/or arbitrary limits on the broad concept of helping others and doing a good turn daily is actually perverting what Scouting’s all about: helping create happy, productive, responsible citizens.

Now while all that’s accurate, it’s pretty darned sterile. Here’s the real deal: Scouting’s a lot about helping others and do we really care how or where that happens? Scouting service isn’t about racking up service hours; it’s about inspiring young people to be sensitive to the needs of others and then do something about it. Maybe it’s at a soup kitchen, or helping an infirm neighbor, or even showing a new Scout how to tie a square knot (and doing it while no one’s looking). In other words, what we adult guides and role models want to do is to catch ‘em doing something good. Making up rules for what counts and what doesn’t count and what about this and what about that doesn’t inspire anyone to do anything except check the rule book, and checking the rule book’s not what boys are all about! They’re about rolling up their sleeves—with our guidance—and doing something that’ll help somebody else. That’s it. That’s the whole deal. It’s that simple. And that important.

Keep on keepin’ on —


Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)

(December 21, 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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