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Issue 160 – January 16, 2009

Remember the Green Zone Council and the Victory Base Council in Iraq, and Captain John Green? I just received a letter from John that I’d like to share with you…


Scouting in Iraq
Dear Andy,

In the middle of the night two years ago, my sergeants and I boarded a Blackhawk helicopter and took off from a special area of LSA Anaconda. This became the single most memorable flight of my tour of service in Iraq. We were flying to Camp Liberty, outside Baghdad, to connect with my soldiers there and survey the damage to my forward distribution team’s medical supply warehouse. Apparently, some faulty wiring had caused a burn-to-the-ground fire at this little supply point, where five of my men were supporting US and Coalition forces with medical supplies and equipment. Luckily, we’d lost just a little bit of equipment and—most important—none of my men was injured! And, as luck would have it, most of their supplies had been retrieved the day before, so almost no inventory at all had been lost to the fire! Our fly-in task: Get this operation back up and running in the middle of January, when the knee-deep mud and constant freezing rain are often your biggest complications to rebuilding.

While on this mission, my Command Sergeant Major and I came across, of all things, Scouts! That’s when we discovered The Green Zone Council and got to see first-hand how the volunteer efforts our fellow servicemen and women, and their civilian counterparts, were making to reestablish and rebuild Scouting right here in an Iraqi fire zone!

A few days later, I noticed a bulletin about Green Zone CSPs (Council Shoulder Patches) pinned to a cluttered board, and it just jumped out at me, almost calling my name! Anyone who’s a CSP collector knows that feeling – Here was the most interesting “find” I’d seen in a long while, in the most unlikely of all places on this planet! I decided to track down the person behind this. It took nearly a week of asking and poking around, but I finally found a Navy Lieutenant Commander who had just three Green Zone CSPs left. He told me that every dime they earn by selling these, they convert directly into uniforms or books or needed supplies for the kids who are clamoring to be Scouts; then they give their own free time (such as it is in a war zone) to teaching and guiding them, much as Baden-Powell did at Brownsea Island (B-P didn’t have exploding shells interfering, however!).

Of course I bought the remaining three on the spot! When I arrived back at base camp, I proudly displayed them. That’s when I noticed that lots of military folks wanted to buy them too, to support the guys and gals out there doing the job! I made the necessary contacts and started with 100 Green Zone CSPs for sale to help out. I was almost instantly sold out! So I personally paid for and got 900 more, for an even 1,000 and a personal goal of selling them all, to raise $10,000 for this grass roots Scouting initiative right here in Iraq.

Thanks to you, Andy, and the shot in the arm you gave me in your columns, this effort took on a life of its own. Since those columns ran, Scouters around the country and the world have supported the Green Zone by buying hundreds of patches! (And then, just to put the icing on the cake, last summer by just plain luck, you and I actually met personally at the International Scouting Conference at Philmont’s PTC!)

As another offshoot that I’d never dreamed would happen, I can now Google my own name along with Iraqi Scouting and see it come up as the number one or two search result!

How exciting that it’s now so easy for anyone who supports Scouting, young or old, to be able to find these patches and make a big difference with the boys and girls so far and different from here!

My tour’s ended and I’ve been home here for about a year now. Still, countless people contact me almost daily, asking for Green Zone patches to continue supporting the effort there. I had the pleasure of meeting some of my fellow supporters at Philmont last the summer. I’ve also enjoyed developing friendships with people who share in the joy of supporting a worthwhile cause and collecting some cool patches to boot!

Believe it or not, I’m actually down to my last few dozen Green Zone CSPs, and about 100 of the new Victory Base CSPs. I do know for a fact (we’re still in touch!) that the Scouting volunteers in both Baghdad areas are making plans to change designs and colors soon, so that the ones I have right now represent “the last of the last.”

It’s been incredibly inspiring to actually see the street kids and family kids of Iraq flocking to Scouting like it’s a magnet! And it’s not just these kids whose lives are being changed—Because of their awareness of how something as simple as a $10 patch can make a difference for their brother and sister Scouts around the world, Scouts here now have the desire to be part of this movement. They see that even one Scout can change a life and have a real impact. How satisfying it is for them to know that the $10 they’ve earned to buy a historically significant patch can be part of something bigger that helps so many!

Thanks for letting me use your column and its breadth to thank Alex V. for getting me started in this endeavor. While I was deployed in Iraq for 15 months, I can tell you that promoting these patches and the Scouting programs they represented helped me stay sane in a crazy world, and helped me actually give something to a people who otherwise wouldn’t have had the joy of Scouting in their world. To Lieutenants Mike G. and Amy S., Ralph and Steve at the GZC, and Lieutenant Commander Eric F. of the VBC, thank you for allowing me to help in this way. Most of all, thanks to everyone who’s bought these patches—I can’t begin to count the huge number of lives you’ve touched forever! (Yours in Scouting, Captain John Green)


Cpt. John Green is the kind of Scouter-citizen-family man-soldier-leader we hope our own sons and daughters become through our guidance, mentoring, and example. He’s what we hope the young men and women in our care through the Scouting program will become through our service. Help him finish this job, so he can move on to his next challenge. He has only a few dozen patches to go, and he and we all can say, “mission accomplished!” Write to him and make it happen. You can use this email address: Tell him, “Andy sent me!” He’ll know what you mean! Godspeed.

Dear Andy,

If a First Class Scout helps out on an Eagle project, does it count toward his six hours of community service for Star rank? (Simon Gross, ASM/Advancement Chair, Chicago Area Council, IL)

You betcha! In fact, there’s no question but that it counts: It’s already an Eagle candidate’s Scoutmaster- and unit committee-approved community service project!

Hi Andy,

Is there any documentation or even a rule of thumb regarding Scout headgear etiquette—indoor? (Blair Piotrowski, DL, Chicago Area Council, IL)

BSA members can wear their official BSA headgear indoors if they’re participating in a formal ceremony (e.g., color guard, flag ceremony, official inspection); for all other indoor activities headgear is removed, just as one would while wearing street clothes. That’s the BSA policy and you can find it written out in the BSA Insignia Guide.

Dear Andy,

Is there a national policy requiring local tour permits whenever an activity requires Scouts to leave their normal meeting place? I’ve seen some councils say that any activity at all that’s away from the normal meeting location requires it; but others don’t. So I’m wondering if there’s an official BSA national policy on this. I can’t seem to find it, except for forms to fill out on the national site. (John Idoux, Okaw Valley Council, IL)

Councils tend to have their own unique rules on tour permits. The differences aren’t huge, of course, but they’re just different from one another enough for me to be able to say with reasonable certainty that what one council does may not be what another does. Which leads me to this recommendation: Check with whatever person in your council service center receives and stamps tour permits—He or she will be able to give you better direct guidance that I can!

Dear Andy,

My son, a Second Class Scout, is having trouble with the swim test for First Class. He has Lyme disease and now has arthritis in his knees. Is there an alternative for this? Can he use a floatation belt? (Name & Council Withheld)

An analysis of Lyme disease published within the past several years found that some patients with Lyme disease have fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and neurocognitive symptoms persisting for years, despite antibiotic treatment. (Some patients with late-stage Lyme disease can have a level of physical disability equivalent to the effect of having congestive heart failure!) If symptoms like these are what your son is experiencing, and a licensed medical practitioner will state in writing that there is a permanent disability here, and include a description of your son’s limitations, then the BSA definitely has an alternate path for him to use, to continue advancing.

First, obtain that letter from your medical practitioner. Then, take it to your district advancement committee and between the committee and the troop develop mutually acceptable alternative requirements, as necessary.

Remember, however, that the swimming requirement for First Class has no time element; that is, it’s not a 100-yard race. Your son can swim the required distances using the strokes required at whatever pace works for him! He can also have a rescue swimmer right alongside him every inch of the way—of course, if they make contact then the requirement is voided, but your son will know that safety is a mere arm-reach away, and he can always try again, as often as he likes until he gets it! A good group of adult volunteers in his troop and district will help your son through this. In fact, this could prove to be one of Scouting’s finest hours!

Dear Andy,

Does a Unit Commissioner open the ceremony for an Eagle Court of Honor, or can anyone? (Sandy Scharpenberg)

Oh, yeah… I’ve seen the (IMHO) rather pompous announcement, “By the authority vested in me, I hereby declare this national court of honor open” and blah, blah, blah… Never been much impressed, or had much use for this sorta stuff. But, I suppose, if it impresses more than the speaker, then it probably does no harm, so go ahead and do it.

I’m personally not a big fan of “Eagle-only” courts of honor. Eagle is a rank. Of course it’s the highest in Boy Scouting, and yes it has meaning to a lot of college admissions officers and it’ll get you a higher pay grade when you join the military. But it doesn’t guarantee you Phi Beta Kappa or making general or admiral. So, let’s recognize all rank advancements and other achievements since the last court of honor, and not turn these things into coronations. But that’s just me.

Dear Andy,

I hear all the time how nobody has a way to voice their ideas to “national.” Well, here’s the answer: There’s a new BSA web page that recently went up – (Your Scouting Pal, Anonymous Mike)

I’ve checked it out – Very cool! THANKS!

Dear Andy,

I enjoy reading your columns—they give me a lot of insight into situations I might encounter as a leader. I know we’re still largely “O-J-T,” so every bit helps. I think I enjoy feeling we’re not alone with our issues. Thanks.

I’m responding to a question you answered a little while ago where I share a different opinion on your response. It was in regards to a Scout who was questioned buy his Scoutmaster about his attendance before he was given permission to start working on his Eagle project. Your recommendation was for this Scout to transfer to another troop where “active” wouldn’t be based on a metric.

I don’t see the reason for Scouts to be allowed to be “inactive” in a troop. I am the Committee Chair of a troop that changed over leadership and membership about five years ago and in that time has grown into what we feel is a quality unit delivering a fun and rewarding Scouting program. During this time, I’ve seen patrol meetings with two boys present, courts of honor with only about half of the Scouts and parents there, and I’ve asked myself, “Why does Scouting seem to be the exception to the rule as far as attendance?”

Let me get back to this Scout from the question to which you replied. He was a 4.0 GPA student. What would happen if he started going to school 50% of the time? He was an outstanding athlete. What would happen if he started coming to practice 50% of the time? Would there be an exception made at his school or on his team because he’s an excellent Scout? What rewarding activity can our sons join, where attendance isn’t questioned? I’ve also coached youth football, and the philosophy is “Don’t practice—Don’t play! No exceptions!”

I’ve done some research locally into other troops’ rules on attendance and found that I’m not alone on this. Based on my findings, our committee has set up a standard for attendance that determines if a boy is considered “active” or not. Our policy is less strict than other troops: We set an attendance percentage that must be met for a Scout to be eligible for rank advancement and, by doing this, we feel we’re teaching the boys a sense of commitment and responsibility to their troop, and our hope is that this commitment will stay with them into their college years and further into their adult lives. We also understand there’s a lot of competition as far as activities for young boys out there today, but I don’t feel that Scouting should lower the bar in order to maintain membership.

I’ve been questioned by some parents concerning this policy and I’ve responded to them with reasons similar to my response to you. We have not yet lost a member due to this policy; we have become a stronger and more efficiently boy-run troop. What are your thoughts on this, I’d also like to hear from other troops on attendance policies. (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s start here: My columns are not an “open forum” for other to express personal points of view or predilections; I’m including your commentary here for one very specific reason: You and your committee are totally, 100%, unequivocally wrong.

Despite all your supposedly good intentions, you’re in clear violation of BSA policy, as is every other troop that’s using any sort of attendance metric or rubric and applying it to rank advancement. If, God forbid, on the basis of your metric or rubric, you road-blocked a Scout who had completed all requirements for a rank, and he appealed this action to your district or council, he’d win hands-down, and you all would be subject to general embarrassment if not actual reprimand.

Scouting isn’t school, or sports, or church, or a team, or anything else but Scouting. Other organizations, groups, teams, programs, etc. might have their own rules for attendance and participation, and that in no way has an influence on what a troop, pack, crew, post, or ship does. The best part of Scouting is that it’s Scouting. Here are Scouting’s three attendance “rules”: 1) The youth in the troop are the true volunteers and the only reason they have for showing up is that they enjoy the program; 2) “Program Produces Participants”; 3) Scouts vote with their feet.

Don’t attempt to tell me that this troop has a “fun and rewarding program” and in the same breath tell me that only a fraction of your Scouts show up. That’s an oxymoron!

Our sons and daughters attend school because they’re told they must or they won’t graduate; they show up for team practice because they’re told that if they don’t they’re either off the team or they’ll be benched; they go to church and Sunday School because…well, you get the idea here, right? Scouts is virtually the only place that doesn’t lay down edicts like this. Thank goodness for that!

Advancement (or not) is each Scout’s personal decision; the troop as a whole has only the obligation of providing opportunities for those who are interested. The troop has no business choreographing any Scout’s advancement. Encouragement, yes; management, no.

The sense of commitment and responsibility that you’re supposed to be instilling in the young men you’ve agreed to serve is this: Your aim is to help produce happy, responsible, contributing citizens. “The troop” is there for them; not the other way around. You all have it 180 degrees backwards.

So, you have my very best wishes in your ambitions, and I thoroughly believe that with this critical adjustment in your thinking and practices, you’re going to be providing an even better environment for personal growth!

In two decades years as a Commissioner, in three different councils, I’ve seen troops that have such a great time in their meetings that older Scouts drive themselves to their meetings, picking up younger Scouts on the way. I’ve seen troop courts of honor that have been SRO for the parents and Scout families! I’ve seen hikes, camping trips, and other outings in which virtually every member of every standing patrol shows up! And I smile; sometimes grin.

And I’ve seen troops that legislate enthusiasm, sucking the life out of meetings. Others in which the parents decide every trip and then wonder why there’s no buy-in by their sons. And some that have just plain forgotten that the troop is not the essential unit of Boy Scouting! This saddens me but doesn’t dishearten me, because there are always opportunities to get it right! Now’s your turn.

Dear Andy,

About Blue & Gold themes, the national Cub Scout program has a theme every month. The B&G theme is the national theme for February. Here’s the list through August 2011:

Our pack held last year’s Blue & Gold Banquet with the theme Chinese New Year at a local Chinese buffet. It was so popular (and easy) that many of our pack leaders want to hold it there again this year, even though this February’s theme is American ABCs! (Daniel Amyx, Northern Star Council, MN)

Thanks and Happy Chinese New Year (January 26th)!

Dear Andy,

Help! We have a court of honor coming soon and I need to get our troop. Do the color guards salute the flag? If so, when? I’ve searched the web for flag ceremonies but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus. Some have the Scouts at attention and not saluting during the pledge, and others have them salute. Do they salute when the flag is put in the holder, then step back, and then salute again during the Pledge of Allegiance? Where can I find a good set of instructions on what the color guards and flag bearers actually do during the opening and closing ceremonies? Please help! (DLV, Greenwood, IN)

Google “flag ceremony” and lots of Girl Scout sites will come up, and that’s OK! The Girl Scouts pay a lot of attention to this stuff, and we Boy Scouts can learn a few things from them! Check out a few websites, find something you like, and make it your own!

Meanwhile: No, the color guard does not salute or say the Pledge or the Scout Oath or anything. They stand at attention. Watch any football game where there’s a color guard and you’ll see just what I mean!

Hello Andy,

My sons transferred from one troop to another about a year ago. They’d had started some merit badges with a counselor in their old troop—this troop held merit badge classes during troop meetings, but didn’t provide Scoutmaster-signed “blue cards” up front—The Scouts got them, with the MBC’s signature too, when and if they finished all classes. Well, my boys are now in a new troop, and that old MBC isn’t in the area any more.

One son began two merit badges with this counselor and has no signed blue card. He’d like to complete the merit badges without being required to repeat work he’s already done (in particular their 13-week and 90-day requirements. We have Merit Badge Counselors in our new troop who are willing to work with him, including giving him credit for the work he’s already done, but we can’t figure out how to get the card signed with dates that will make sense.

An option that’s been suggested is to have the Scoutmaster sign a blue card with today’s date and then the MBC would sign off on the completed requirements with a current date, even if they were completed prior to the Scoutmaster’s signature date. The only problem we see is that a 90-day requirement may have a date less than 90 days from the Scoutmaster’s signature date, so we’re not sure what to do.

We realize we should have insisted on getting blue cards for everything when my sons left their prior troop, and we did actually do that for some, but this one counselor wouldn’t respond to repeated requests. If it can be avoided, we don’t want to penalize the boys because the paperwork was mishandled by the adults.

(About a year ago, I actually asked you for advice with problems we were having in the old troop, and you advised us to change troops. We did, and it was the best decision we ever made for our sons. The difference good leadership can make in Scouting is truly amazing—Our new troop is supportive, consistent, and looking out for the best interests of the boys. We’re really blessed to be involved with them.) (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, I remember you and your sons, and I couldn’t be happier that you did change troop and that this has made such a positive difference for those boys! I’m truly impressed with your resilience — There’s lots of folks who would have just gone on griping! But you didn’t. You took action and helped make it happen for your sons! Wonderful!

Current problem’s a crack in the sidewalk; not the Grand Canyon. I do understand the “90-day” and “3-month” situations, and the two dates you’re all concerned about are the start-date from when the Scoutmaster first signed the “blue card,” and the end-date, when the Merit Badge Counselor signifies that all requirements are completed. Now, take a very close look at what it says right at the top of the blue card segment that the troop keeps (on the inside of the APPLICATION segment): It says, “The applicant has personally appeared before me and has demonstrated to my satisfaction that he has met all requirements for the (XXX Merit Badge).” It doesn’t say, “The applicant has done each and every requirement before my very eyes.” That’s important! The BSA, I believe, has actually anticipated your sons’ situation, and made a little allowance for it. The MBC simply signs, dates, and gives the card back to the Scout, so he can pass it back to his Scoutmaster (keeping his own segment, of course).

Dear Andy,

For our pack’s upcoming Arrow of Light ceremony, each parent has been asked to provide their own “arrow” for their son. In addition to buying the kit at the Scout Shop, do you have any ideas? I’m handy with crafts but not woodworking. I was a den leader for his first four years, so I’d like it to be special. I seem to remember hearing about using colored tape or embroidery floss. Please let me know. Thanks! (San Diego Imperial Council, CA)

One memorable Arrow of Light presentation I’ve seen incorporated real arrows, purchased from a sporting goods store. On them, using different-colored paint or tape, were rings in different colors signifying Wolf, Bear, Webelos, Arrow Points, Activity Badges, etc., so that each arrow was unique to the Webelos Scout receiving it. That was almost 20 years ago and I can attest that most of these men still have the arrows they received as boys!

Dear Andy,

I’ve read your January 4t, 2009 column, on the question of whether or not an Eagle Scout candidate can put a person he wants on the board of review. Your answer was that nothing specifically prohibits this, but that’s no longer accurate. The 2008 printing of Advancement Committee Polices and Procedures actually states that an Eagle candidate may not do this. (Ben Ward, Heart of Virginia Council)

Yup. Page 30: “The Scout may have no input into the selection of the board or review members.” The rest remains the same as always. Tip o’ the Commissioner’s Cap, with my thanks!

Dear Andy,

In your January 4, 2009 column, you received a question from a fellow Commissioner about “documentation on the correct order of placement of ‘square knots’.” Your reply that the order is at the discretion of the wearer was correct, and if anyone would like additional information and history, may I recommend an excellent resource article by George Cowl:

The original listings of orders of precedence are found in Chronological Table of References for Ribbons and Square Knots. (John Walston, ADC, Central North Carolina Council)

Thanks! Interesting writing.

Dear Andy,

Can an adult leader earn the religious knot by working with their child on the Student Workbook, completing the Adult Mentor Workbook, and attending the preacher sessions with their son? (Sherry Thomas, Pack Activities Chair, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

Thanks for asking! Any adult Scouting volunteer can be nominated for his or her faith- or denomination-appropriate adult recognition. You’ll find substantial information on this at (This isn’t a BSA program, but it’s a program that’s well-recognized by the BSA).

Dear Andy,

In our council, some are taking issue with award requirements. For instance, for Distinguished Commissioner it states: “Serve as an active commissioner for five years…” Some are taking this to mean that a Commissioner has to serve a full five years in one specific position (e.g., UC, ADC, etc.) that can’t change and that anyone who serves part of those five years in one Commissioner position (e.g., ADC) and then completes the five-year tenure I another Commissioner slot (e.g., DC) doesn’t qualify. They’re also saying that the requirement, “Recharter…for a minimum of the past two consecutive years…” means any two consecutive years out of the last five. Finally, they’re claiming that a Commissioner has to re-earn the Arrowhead Honor every time he or she changes Commissioner positions (e.g., UC=earn it and then ADC=earn it again). What’s up? (Gary Gray, Deputy Council Commissioner, Orange County Council, CA)

On the first issue, the statement is, “…as a Commissioner…” It’s not, “…as a Commissioner is a specific position (e.g., District Commissioner, Assistant Council Commissioner, etc.)…” Consequently, it’s pretty easy to figure out that someone who’s served in just one and someone who’s served in more than one commissioner position are both equally qualified in this arena.

There’s also no stipulation that the five years must be consecutive.

On the second point, I believe there’s reason why it doesn’t say, “…two consecutive years out of the past five…” and that’s because those five years don’t have to be consecutive! But, the final two do, because that’s how that re-chartering requirement kicks in! I’d say that, in this case, “…past two…” has the same meaning as if it said, “…prior two…” or “…two immediately prior…”

On the third: One Arrowhead honor. (The Commissioner’s Key is earned once, too.)

Try to keep your folks from wrappin’ themselves around their own axles! This stuff is meant to be meaningful, but it isn’t meant to be so complicated as to take a Philadelphia lawyer to figure it out! This is the Boy Scouts; not, as Rummy is reputed to have said, “rocket surgery.”

Dear Andy,

About merit badges inside troop meetings, in our troop we very much try to run our program they way it’s designed to be run. We embrace The Patrol Method and our adults do our best to stay out of the way and let it be a Scout-run, boy-led program. We guide and coach as needed, but we don’t “lead.” We work hard to avoid a Webelos III program or a Scoutmaster-created/ Boy-delivered facsimile of a Boy Scout troop.

I routinely browse your columns and see that you oppose merit badge work being done during troop meetings. I understand why we wouldn’t want “Scout school” on a regular basis, but what if working on a merit badge is something the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) wants to do? Our PLC not only picks our camping trip ideas, but they plan every minute of every meeting using the Troop Meeting Plan. The Scouts chose a designated month to work on Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, as a way to encourage one other to take another step toward Eagle. We took a day-trip to the capitol to see the monuments and museums and, all in all, it was a very successful agenda—the Patrol Leaders and SPL carried out their plan perfectly, but doesn’t this circle back to the concept of merit badge work in troop meetings?

Should we discourage this in the future or do accede since it came about as a PLC decision? (Paul Napoli)

How about we just start here: Please refer me to the section of the Troop Meeting Plan that says “work on merit badges.” No? Not there? Well how about that! But, let’s temper this, because that trip sounded marvelous and this is more in the philosophical arena than the “legal” (ugh!) one…

Let’s begin by remembering that merit badges represent the individual initiatives, efforts, learnings, and skill developments of each Scout as a “Troop of One.” Merit badges weren’t designed to be accomplished en masse, or we’d just have Pied Pipers instead of MBCs.

As a Merit Badge Counselor of some years’ experience, I’ve held merit badge sessions and workshops tied to troop meetings, but not in the meetings themselves. If several Scouts from the same troop are all interested in the same merit badge at the same time, it’s often easier and more practical for everyone (including me!) if we just meet for a half-hour or so before the actual troop meeting starts. This doesn’t necessarily happen in front of every troop meeting—sometimes weeks are skipped, depending on what requirements the Scouts have elected to do next, what it’ll take to accomplish them, and what else is going on in their lives. But the point is: We stay out of troop meetings because we just don’t belong—troop meetings have other purposes and uses.

As a Merit Badge Counselor, I’ve visited several troops and provided “program content” inside actual troop meetings, with games and challenges related to a specific merit badge (not a requirement, mind you, but a “taste” of what the subject matter’s all about). These in-meeting interludes are to expose Scouts to specific subject matter in an interesting, non-threatening way, to encourage them to get a blue card from their Scoutmaster and give me a call.

As a Scoutmaster, I guided the troop’s PLC away from using “merit badge work” as troop meeting program content by simply sticking to the Troop Meeting Plan and asking where this would fit, for every Scout in the troop. That was usually enough for them to see the light.

You see, just because the Patrol Leaders Council wants to do it doesn’t mean the Scoutmaster’s merely a doormat. It’s the Scoutmaster’s job to guide the PLC, so that they get it right. Otherwise, what’ll we do when the PLC says, “Let’s go bungee-jumping!”?

If the PLC wants to encourage their fellow Scouts to go for Cit-Nation (which is an absolutely admirable idea), the Scoutmaster guides them with the fine art of asking questions. Like, “Hmmm…terrific idea…what local national historic landmark, federal agency building, or national monument is nearby enough for us to take a day-trip to? OK, if you don’t know…how about doing a little research and let’s talk it over at our PLC next week?” In other words, use the trip or outing as the encourager; not “getting a ‘partial’ toward a badge”!

Dear Andy,

My son will shortly be 10 years old, and he didn’t quite complete his Wolf. My understanding is that he must earn Wolf before he can work on Bear, which is why he keeps working on Wolf requirements. But will it be too late to get his Bear once he turns 10? What should we be working on… getting his Wolf, or Bear? (Name Withheld, Ore-Ida Council, ID)

It’s really based on grade level. What grade of school is your son in, at the moment? And, was he a Cub Scout or a Tiger Cub last year?

He’s been in the pack since he was 8. Last year was a really bad year and I wasn’t able to help him earn Wolf. My understanding was that he couldn’t actually earn his Bear until he had his Wolf, so this past year since September I’ve been helping him work on that while he works on his Bear in his den meetings. The problem is that now I’m realizing he probably should have been only working on his Bear. He finally finished the requirements for Wolf, but will that even be valid? And now he’ll probably miss out on earning his Bear, too, because I didn’t understand how it all worked. Someone mentioned that he has one month after his birthday (which is coming up)… Is this true? I know we’re late on this, but I’m trying to make up for my own lack of understanding (can’t blame anyone but myself). I just hope for his sake I can buy him a little bit of time. Thanks again for your help.

How old will he be on his birthday? And, what school grade is he in, right now?

He’ll be 10, and he’s in the fourth grade.

Well thank goodness you found me and wrote! I’m sorry nobody in your pack’s helped orient you, so your son can be doing the things at the level the Cub Scout program has been designed for. Here we go…

In 4th grade, your son should be a Webelos Scout right now. Tiger is 1st grade, Wolf is 2nd grade, Bear is 3rd grade, and Webelos begins at fourth grade and goes half-way through fifth grade. He just turned 10, so his grade-age are near-perfect!

In the overall Cub Scouting rank advancement, each level—Tiger, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos—is age-and-grade specific. This means that if a boy has already passed a grade, he doesn’t go back and do requirements and such that are designed for younger boys.

Doing stuff for one rank is in no way dependent on any prior rank. Wolf can be done with or without Tiger before it, Bear with or without Wolf and/or Tiger before it, and so on. This means that your son can and should immediately put aside all Cub Scout handbooks except Webelos, and concentrate on that one, exclusively.

How this go all messed up doesn’t matter so much as getting your son on the right track right now. He should be in a den of 4th graders, and he should be working on his Webelos requirements and activity badges with his Den Leader, just like all the other boys in his den.

Please be sure to read the parent’s sections of the Webelos Handbook—these are very important!

It’s OK that he doesn’t have the younger badges–don’t waste precious time going “backwards”—Help him move forward! Very best wishes and write again, anytime!

Hi Andy,

I know I’ve seen it somewhere but I just can’t find this answer: What date is used for promotions…the date of the Scoutmaster’s conference or the date of the board of review? (Gayle Kennedy, MC, Chicago Area Council, IL)

First, let’s fix a little something: Boy Scouts aren’t “promoted;” they earn ranks, beginning with Tenderfoot and continuing through Eagle. The date they earn the rank, as shown in the records and on the rank cards they’re given is the date of their successful board of review. And, as long as we’re on dates, the one that’s shown for having earned a merit badge is the date the Merit Badge Counselor signed it, indicating that all requirements are completed.

What’s next has been traveling around the Internet, and you may have already read it. No matter. Read it again. It is so accurate, insightful, and on-target that one reading’s not enough. It’s a letter from Mike Rowe, Eagle Scout and star of the cable TV show, “Dirty Jobs,” to “Kelby,” an apparently reluctant young man of Eagle capability but less than Eagle enthusiasm. It’s 100 percent in the category of Damn; I wish I’d written that! Here it is…

“Kelby, your dad asked me to drop you a line and say something inspirational that might persuade you to dig down deep and find the determination to make the rank of Eagle Scout. It’s a reasonable request, from a father who obviously wants to see his son succeed. But here’s the thing: The Eagle rank isn’t really meant for people who need to be dragged across the finish line. It’s meant for a select few, and I have no idea if you have the guts to see it through.

“Statistically, I suspect you don’t. Only one out of a hundred Scouts make Eagle, so if you fail, there’ll be lots of other people with whom you can share excuses. Quitting now might disappoint your dad, but I doubt that he or anyone else will be overly surprised. Anytime 99 out of 100 people do the same thing, it’s not exactly a shock.

“I’m not trying to be cute with a bunch of reverse psychology. When I was 15, there was nothing that anyone could have said to me that would have inspired me to do something I didn’t want to do, especially some stranger with a TV show. So I’m not going to assume you’re any different, or pretend that I have some influence or insight that you haven’t already heard from a dozen other people who actually know and care about you. I’ll just tell you straight up, that doing something extraordinary can be very lonely, and most people simply aren’t cut out for it. Being an Eagle Scout requires you to be different from most everyone around you, and being different is really, really hard. That’s why Eagle is called “an accomplishment.”

“Personally, and for whatever it’s worth, the best decisions I’ve made in my own life, are those decisions that put me on the outside of being cool. Singing in the opera, working in home shopping, starring in the school play when the entire football team laughed at me, and especially earning my Eagle, were all choices that required sacrifice, hard work, and delayed gratification. I have no idea if you possess those qualities, or even envy them. But I can tell you for certain, that not getting your Eagle, will be one of the easiest things you’ve ever done.

“I have no idea if you’d prefer an easy life of predictability and mediocrity, or if have the passion to follow the road less traveled. Only you get to decide that. Good Luck, Mike”

Damn, I wish I’d written that. But I didn’t. And he did. And that’s how we learn from each other and grow. Stick together.


Happy Scouting


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(January 4, 2009 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2009)

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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