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Issue 171 – April 20, 2009

Let’s start out with a Philmont update… There are new requirements for trek crews both in Wilderness First Aid and in CPR training. Philmont is now requiring that at least one person in each crew (preferably two people—can be an advisor or a youth participant) have current certification in ARC Wilderness First Aid basic or the equivalent, and AHA or ARC CPR training, or the equivalent. This is for pure safety and survival. Philmont confirms: Depending on where your crew is when an incident occurs, it can take several hours for ranch staff to reach you, and that clock starts ticking only after you’ve been able to get the message in to the nearest staffed outpost camp! Thus, immediate availability of a trained crew member on-site, to provide proper and prompt attention, will definitely benefit the one who’s injured or ill. Beginning this summer, all crews will be asked to show current certification cards upon check-in. Be Prepared!

Now, on to our regular Q&As…

Dear Andy,

Our long-established troop has no reference material available in a library. Other troops have extensive libraries (often better than the Scout shop). I’ve checked my personal copy of the Troop Committee Guidebook but didn’t find the answer to this question: If we were to try to establish a troop library, what should be the core purchases to build a library and then move to the nice-to-haves of a good library? My ideas include:

Necessary: Guide to Safe Scouting, Scoutmaster Handbook, Troop Committee Guidebook, Patrol Leader’s Handbook, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, Troop Program Features.

Nice to have: Merit badge pamphlets, other reference guides.

Another question: Do you consider the Fieldbook to be as critical as the handbook? IMHO, the Fieldbook is more fun to read than the handbook, but we use the handbook to record advancement.

Thanks in advance. (Donald Dillon, Central Florida Council)

I think your lists are good ones! I’d be interested in having several copies of the Patrol Leader Handbook available—at least one apiece for each current Patrol Leader—and a Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, too!

Make sure the threeTroop Program Features books are readily available to the Patrol Leaders Council, for program and event planning!

Yes, definitely add a Fieldbook! And, if you can go shopping on eBay or other site, be sure to pick up a copy or two of the 1959 Scout Fieldbook (the one with the brown cover). You won’t be sorry!

Merit badge pamphlets are, I agree, in the “nice to have” category. Every Scout should really have his own, if possible. But an alternate to this is to keep several copies of the pamphlets for the 15 merit badges that are on the “required” list for Eagle! At about $3 apiece, and two per merit badge, you’re still under a hundred bucks!

Now, how about doing this buying and then developing a check-out/check-in system with a Scout who’s interested in maintaining and adding to the library? Voila! You’ve got yourself a Librarian!


Dear Andy,

I have questions about Patrol Leaders, Senior Patrol Leaders and Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders… Does the BSA have any written rules that state that Patrol Leaders are elected by their patrol members? Does the BSA have any written rule that the Senior Patrol Leader is elected by the troop at large? Does the BSA have any written rule that Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders are appointed by the Senior Patrol Leader?

I’m asking because, in our son’s troop, the Scoutmaster has just appointed every one of these positions. (Name & Council Withheld)

ALL of this is written, plain as day, in the Scoutmaster Handbook. These are not written as “suggestions” or “guidelines” or even “recommendations;” they’re written as THIS IS THE WAY IT’S DONE. If it’s not done this way, it’s simply NOT BOY SCOUTING. The “Scoutmaster” is the servant of, not the “master,” of the Scouts. This is also made plain and unequivocal.

You’ve brought tears to my eyes… Our son came home after his troop meeting so upset last night. He felt badly that the Scouts who would make a good Senior Patrol Leader didn’t have a chance; he also felt badly for himself, because he wanted to run for Patrol Leader and this was taken away from him and others too, of course, when the Scoutmaster just named names and that was that. He’s devastated. He’s read about elections in his handbook. Now he just wants to quit Scouting.

Tell your son that I know exactly how he feels. I had a Scoutmaster just like that when I was a brand-new Scout. It’s really a bummer. But…and this is a very important “but”…the problem isn’t Scouting. It’s this particular Scoutmaster, who just doesn’t “get it.” He doesn’t understand that, when he signed on, it was supposed to be for the purpose of delivering the Boy Scout program as written; not as he decides to make it up!

Are there any other troops nearby? Any you could visit, to see just what kind of Scouting’s going on there? When I was 11 years old, I actually transferred from on troop to another, and then to another before I found a troop that really gave its Scouts a Scouting good time! Yup, that’s three troops before I found the right one! But that’s where I stayed! Had a blast, too! And, would you believe… more than 50 years later, I’m still in touch with some of those guys! So, look around. We don’t “marry” troops, and we can change anytime we want! Got some friends that you hate to leave behind? Well, after you find a good troop, tell ’em! Maybe they’ll want to have a lot more fun, too!

Thank you so much! My husband and I have told our son that he can change, but he feels he won’t have any friends in a new troop.

I’m wondering, can the local council say or do anything about this Scoutmaster and what he’s doing, or is this not in their hands?

This Scoutmaster instills fear in everyone, including parents. The other adult leaders in the troop are like sheep; they just do what he says without questioning. He doesn’t have any sons in the Troop—it’s said he’s “doing this out of the goodness of his heart”—and while some may feel this to be true, my husband and I see it differently. We see him as a man who has a need to be the big boss and isn’t “the big boss” anywhere else in his life, so he uses the Scouts and their parents as a way to feel like he’s “in charge” of something and he can rule over it.

How about you or your husband (I’d personally recommend your husband) visiting a new troop all by yourself, quietly, and if it looks good, explain to the Scoutmaster there just what your situation is, and your son’s fear about not having friends there (which really means, “I’m afraid that I won’t be accepted,” which is a very real fear among boys your son’s age). If the Scoutmaster’s the right kind of guy, he’ll ask you to bring your son around (yes, he should go in uniform) so he can meet your son and introduce him around. Worth a try?

You see, I agree with you about your son’s present Scoutmaster. He’s acting more like a dictator, operating from instilling fear, and that’s exactly what you don’t want. We often call this kind of guy, “The World’s Oldest Patrol Leader.” Except that Patrol Leaders aren’t supposed to be dictators, either. When a man with no boy in the troop (ever?) continues to hang around, this is because he derives great satisfaction from the role. Some guys get it right: Their satisfaction comes from growing boys into men and giving them the guided freedom to learn from one another while he guides with a feather’s touch. Others, well, something else is operating that’s not quite as savory.

Unfortunately, neither the council nor district—volunteers nor professionals—can do much about this, because the troop isn’t owned by them. The troop is actually owned by the sponsoring group (called (Chartered Organization,” or “CO” for short). Now if you happen to know the head of the CO well enough to have a private conversation, maybe you can make some headway about replacing this guy. Or maybe they’re looking for a Committee Chair for the troop committee and one of you is willing to step into this slot. If you do take the Chair position, you’re now in a wonderful position, because the Scoutmaster actually reports to you! That’s right: The Committee Chair has hire-fire authority and this can’t be overridden by anyone except the head of the CO! Is this an opportunity? I don’t know. Maybe.

Meanwhile, maybe there are other unhappy boys, too, and maybe you know their parents well enough to test the water and see if maybe they’d be interested in checking out another troop, too. If so, then your son and his friends could all transfer at the same time! I’d really think seriously about exploring this route! But whatever you do, don’t let the grass grow under your feet—every meeting from no on will be painful for your son and the other Scouts in the troop, and this guy isn’t going to do an about-face anytime soon!


Dear Andy,

I’ve been told that, on the old uniforms, the “trained” patch is now supposed to go above the position patch. I know that, on the new uniform, that patch goes on the pocket flap above the position patch, but I thought that the old uniform stayed the way it was. Please let me know. Thank you. (Julia Walker, Trapper Trails Council, UT)

“Told” by whom? Was any written proof offered, or was this just somebody flappin’ their gums? I’m asking because the new adult leader inspection guides (check out clearly show two positions: Above and on the sleeve’s pocket flap for the new uniform shirts, and below for the “old” uniform shirts. When confronted by hearsay like this, be sure to ask, “So, can you show me that in writing, please.”

I was told by someone who flaps her gums a lot! She’s always trying to correct people on things she knows nothing about. Thanks for the verification. I willgladly pass it on to her! (Julia)

Knock yerself out! J


Dear Andy,

We’re having a conflict in our pack. A couple of leaders recently went to training, but at different places, with different trainers. Now they’ve come back to pack with different viewpoints, and they’re all saying the same thing: “Well, when I went to training they told us to do it like this!” I’ve tried to explain to them that volunteer trainers give the courses, and they can’t help but tell you how their own unit’s run, so things may not match up exactly. I need some help in explaining how to bring the information back to our unit without a “holier than thou” attitude. (Darlene Wiertzema, Orange County Council, CA)

Everyone brings their own set of experiences and insights to the anecdotal part of training—the part where we’re not talking policy, procedure, or program, but more along the lines of “Here’s how we got this to work…” However, there should be absolutely no deviation when it comes to BSA policies, procedures, or program delivery. Hopefully, the conflicting ideas your folks came back with are in the former category and not the latter. If the latter, then use a resource like the Cub Scout Leader Book to establish which point of view is the correct one. And, when you do, accept no “Yeah, but…” responses!


Dear Andy,

I’ve heard that the BSA national office now allows each council to decide for itself if a Scout must have his own leadership project to earn the ranks of Star and Life, or not. Where is this in writing, and are there any parameters or guidelines for this? (Lori Carson, CC, Tidewater Council, VA)

You’re “heard”… from whom? BSA national advancement requirements are inviolate. Period. Anyone who persists in trying to convince you of anything otherwise needs to be told: “Show me in writing; until then, no way, Jose.”


Hi Andy,

I’m a new troop Committee Chair and we have a new Scoutmaster, too, and we’ve been scouring your columns to find insights! Your information and responses are invaluable. I just saw a question asked about Eagle Scout applicants being required to ask for their own letters of recommendation. This has happened to our troop’s last three Eagle rank applicants. I wasn’t aware of this discrepancy until recently, when my own son started to fill out his application. That’s when he asked me why other Scouts had to ask for references when all the application asks for are the names and information for people who would be willing to be references. I said I didn’t know, so he contacted the other Scouts and they told him that that’s what the council told them to do. These Scouts were getting close to their 18th birthdays, so they decided not to take the chance of having their applications being turned down or delayed, so they did as told. In our case, my son is 16 and will complete his project and application in the next month or a little more. He wants to challenge what the council’s making Eagle candidates do, and believes time is on his side to stand on principle. My question: Where can we find the official policy on a BSA website or in a handbook? The only place we’ve been able to find it is at, but that’s not an official source for BSA policy. (Shawn Carlberg, Los Padres Council, CA)

Unfortunately, some council advancement committees begin to believe, for some unknown reason, that they can add stipulations to requirements and procedures when they actually don’t have the authority to do so. This frequently happens when it comes to Eagle rank requirements and how they are to be fulfilled.

Regarding Eagle Scout rank requirement 2, as your son correctly discerned, the Scout’s only responsibility is to provide, on the application, “…the names of individuals who…would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf.” That’s it, in total. This means that, after the Scout has inquired of, and received the assurances of, up to six people that they would be willing to provide a recommendation, all the Scout needs do is list their name, address, telephone number, and email address (if any) on the form. Having done that, he has completed requirement 2. From that point forward, the process described in Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (BSA No. 33088) takes over. This BSA booklet explains clearly and without equivocation that the solicitation of the actual recommendations is definitely not the responsibility of the Scout; it is the responsibility of the council, or district, or troop adult volunteer charged with doing this. It would therefore be considered an addition to the requirement if the council, district, or troop required the Scout to do this, and—as we are all supposed to know—additions to advancement requirements are strictly forbidden by the BSA national council. Consequently, whoever or whatever entity at the Los Padres Council has insinuated this additional burden on Eagle candidates is one hundred percent inappropriate and incorrect.


Dear Andy,

Who, in a troop, can administer the Scoutmaster Conference? I am a brand-new incoming Scoutmaster. We have a limited number of Assistant Scoutmasters. My own son needs a conference for his First Class rank, and I’m trying to figure out what to do. (Craig Brower, Denver Area Council, CO)

There is absolutely no BSA policy that prohibits a Scoutmaster-Dad from conferencing with his Scout-son! In fact, this is a bonding experience that the two of you will remember for a good long while! If anybody criticizes or outright objects, tell ’em to go pound sand down a rat hole (or something gentler, if you’re so inclined).


Dear Andy,

Our troop is planning a whitewater rafting trip. Is the instruction that the outfitter gives you at the river, prior to the trip, considered a “qualified whitewater specialist” and is this considered “adequate” training? If not or if you’re unsure, what would the special training by a BSA Aquatics Instructor be, and how do I get in touch with one? The language I’m looking at is: “All participants in activity afloat must be trained and experienced in watercraft handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures…For unit activity on white water, all participants must complete special training by a BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater specialist.” (John Dorgan, MC, Northern New Jersey Council)

I’m assuming you’re not bringing your own rafts or canoes or kayaks, paddles, PFDs, etc. Instead, I’m assuming that you’ve contracted with one of the many “Whitewater Adventure”-type operations and outfitters that ply the Lehigh and Delaware waters, offering group trips like the one you’re describing. They’ll supply the watercraft, PFDs, etc., along with instructors, instructions, and—in some cases—guides who come along with you. If I’ve got that right, then the company you’ve contracted with is responsible for everything that takes place on the water, and this (including their liability insurance and/or accident wavier forms) will supersede any BSA protocols. This is, in fact, a part of what you’re buying. That said, if you have folks who are SSD/SA trained, First Aid trained, CPR trained, etc., it’s certainly worthwhile to encourage them to come along! It would also be prudent to make certain that all Scouts and adults who come on this trip have met the swimming requirements for First Class rank (yes, this is despite, not in lieu of, PFDs).

If you have questions of a more specific nature, check with the person at your council service center who approves tour permits, and/or check with your council’s risk management committee.


Hi Andy,

Can an Assistant Scoutmaster sit in as a voting member of a troop committee? What about a Scoutmaster? Thanks. (Debra Giles)

The registered members of a unit’s committee have two codes, and only two: CC (for “Committee Chair”) and MC (for “Member of the Committee”). Neither the Scoutmaster nor assistants are or ever have been members of a unit committee. Moreover, any unit “organization chart” clearly shows this.

That said, the other point that needs to be emphasized is that there’s virtually nothing that a unit committee actually ever needs to vote on! Not adult volunteers, not troop meeting program content, not troop outing or camping schedule or location, not uniforming, not dues, not which youth will fill which positions, not which summer camp to go to this year, not what sort of service project the troop will do for its sponsor, not much of anything at all! Ever.

I’m curious…just what does your erstwhile committee feel it needs to take votes on?

Amazingly enough, some committee members feel the need to vote on whether or not only men can serve on boards of review for First Class rank and above. I personally don’t think this is right, but some are taking the whole “Scouting is a ministry” idea to the extreme. Yes, I believe that men should lead, but I don’t feel that extends to all aspects of life, including Scouting. I have plenty of women who are available to serve on any board or review, and find it difficult sometimes to get the men to serve. Of course, we decided to give this a try “their way” for three months and—low and behold!—I’ve had men stepping up where they weren’t before! It’s frustrating to me as the Advancement Chair not to be able to do my job without others interfering. I’m praying that this works itself out, or I may be finding a new troop to volunteer with. I don’t want to convey the wrong message to the Scouts that women are in any way inferior to men. Thanks so much for your input. I thought I knew the answer, but wanted confirmation of it. (Deb)

Quietly “stack” the committee with women, then out-vote the jerks! <wink>

BUT, do keep in mind that it’s not just “any parent with a pulse” who can sit on a board of review… Except for Eagle rank, all boards of review must be populated by registered members of the troop committee.


Dear Andy,

I’ve just read your comments about “active” and “Scout spirit” as they pertain to advancement. I couldn’t agree with you more about the “Do Your Best” part. But would you consider a Life Scout who doesn’t attend an Eagle Scout Court of Honor and goes to a high school party instead to be doing his best? Or what about a Scout who has a part-time job, who could get off on troop meeting nights, but works instead to be doing his best? Better yet, how about he works on troop meeting nights to earn money to trick out his car with new tires and wheels… Is he doing his best? Or what about the Scout who blows off a Klondike Derby to go snowboarding with some friends?

I’m not certain that there’s any situation that wouldn’t ultimately complete the “active” or “Scout spirit” requirements. If that’s the case, why have those requirements at all? I’d thought it’s supposed to be challenging and a little hard to become an Eagle Scout? If a boy is taking the easy way (like that party, or going snowboarding), is that an ethical choice?

I take some umbrage on your equating lack of exciting program with a corresponding lack of participation. In a boy-led troop, aren’t the Scouts supposed to provide the spark and enthusiasm—especially the older guys?

Our Troop camps about ten months of the year and always attends a week-long resident camp, traveling to Virginia, Canada, southern Ohio, Pennsylvania and beyond. Two years ago we did a Philmont Trek. So, all in all, I don’t think we aren’t delivering! (Chuck Ulle, SM, Great Western Reserve Council, OH)

“Do your best” and “active” are linked, just as “do your best” is linked with every aspect of Scouting in one way or another. So, believe it or not, I’d say “yes” to all your situations. You see, Scouting is a volunteer organization, and the primary volunteers ain’t you n’ me… They’re the young men we’re here to serve. If a teen-aged boy decides to go to a birthday party, sports event, bar mitzvah, school dance, Wii party, church group event, or whatever (the list goes on and on…), so what. This means nothing more than he’s involved in lots of stuff. This is one of the things we strive for in Scouting—Creating an atmosphere of broad interests and experimentation. We sure don’t want to be in the business of “building Scout nerds,” where Scouting is all they do!

Hey, try this fact: Fifty percent of the purposes of the merit badge program is to expand a young man’s horizons. So, how can we, on the one hand, say “Go out there and do lots o’ stuff” and then turn around and ding the Scout for doing just that without looking like our tongue’s hinged at both ends!

All teenagers are motivated by self-interest (isn’t it a lucky thing that we adults aren’t!) and so any boy with any brains and gumption at all will choose from among his options and pick what appeals the most to him, at that moment in time.

Besides, once they figure you all out, you’re dead in the water…

The really clever snowboarder’s gonna come to you and say, “Gee, Mister Scoutmaster, I know there’s a Klondike Derby this weekend, but I’m already scheduled to practice my skills so I can complete Snow Sports merit badge.” Or how about the party-goer, who tells you, “Hi, Mister Scoutmaster, guess what… I’m just about done with Music merit badge, and I’m playing piano at a school event, to complete the ‘performance’ requirement!” Or the part-time money-earner, who says, “Mister Scoutmaster, as you know, I bought a pretty used car, with my own money, and now I have to replace the wheels and tires, so it’s safe to drive, so I’m gonna be working some extra hours for a little bit.” What are you gonna say? Well, you already know…

As for Eagle-specific Courts of Honor, here’s a newsflash: These are just plain real boring for everyone except the Eagle and his family, and Scouts blow ‘em off all the time, and I have trouble blaming ‘em. Maybe you all need to consider full Courts of Honor, the way they were originally crafted, so that as many Scouts as possible make it to center stage instead of just the Eagle(s). If that sounds like heresy, then take a look back in BSA history and you’ll discover that Eagle-specific Courts of Honor are a relatively new phenomenon, and the more they tend to resemble coronations the less interest other Scouts will have in them.

Rank advancement is challenging… Each rank is an exponent of what came before; they’re not linear. The requirements are set forth by the BSA and we’re obligated to not deviate from them so much as an iota. It’s not our “job” to make things “tough” or any tougher than the requirements themselves.

“Active” (the BSA definition) means he’s registered and dues-paid in the troop. Period. You and I aren’t permitted to make “active” mean more than that. If we did, then every troop in the country would have a different definition and mayhem would result. So, let’s not go there, shall we.

Boys and young men don’t join Scouting because they must, and we cannot legislate participation. Our job is to bring out the best in every boy we encounter. Do that, and we’re doing our job. Start getting resentful and rigid when a Scout skips an event, and you’re feeding the wrong wolf. Scouting doesn’t take hostages.

Thanks for bring these points up. They’re important.


Hi Andy,

Can you point out in any of the BSA literature where it specifically states that “once earned, an award or advancement can never be rescinded”? (Rob Richmond)

Let’s do the opposite: Let’s have the person(s) promoting this notion to show you, in writing, where the BSA says it’s OK to do this. Let’s make them do the work, shall we? Until they can, it’s no go, Joe!


Hi Andy,

The Venturing Powder Horn device is supposed to be worn on the left pocket of the uniform, suspended from the button. However, the Centennial uniform doesn’t have a button on the left pocket, and the award can’t be suspended from anything. So the question is: Where should the Powder Horn be placed? Thanks. (Greg Franck, Northwest Suburban Council, IL)

The Venturing uniform shirt is forest green and has buttons on both of its pockets. This Venturing training recognition will fit fine on the left pocket button. If you’re going to wear it on the tan Centennial shirt, start by peeking under theright pocket flap… see that button there? Well, sew one, the same size, under the left pocket flap and you’re all set!


Hi Andy,

About the District Award of Merit, the Insignia Guide says that if you received it once, that’s it. I’ve actually received this three times—each with a different district in three different councils. But now the nomination form states, “It is not appropriate to nominate a Scouter who has already received this award.” To my way of thinking, it would be better to say, “It is not appropriate to nominate a Scouter who has already received this awardin the same district.” Your thoughts? (Bob Monto, Minsi Trails Council, PA)

I’d absolutely agree that a district should always be on the lookout for “new” recipients and eschew awarding a D-A-M to someone who’s already been recognized by their district in this manner. However, IMHO there’s not a bloody thing wrong with a district recognizing one of their own whether or not he or she has ever been recognized for exemplary services by another district, whether or not in the same council!

We’re in the business of continuously (some say relentlessly) recruiting, training, supporting, and encouraging our volunteers. Without these people there would be no Scouting program, period. So, if someone can tell me the harm done by a small piece of cloth, some thread, a sheet of paper, and a wood-and-metal plaque, I’m all ears! We are, after all, talking about a BSA volunteer recognition; not the Medal of Honor! But if somebody really wants to go to the mat over this, be sure to slug ’em twice, so you can give ’em two Purple Hearts instead of just one! <wink>


Dear Andy,

Is an Eagle Court of Honor required for the Scout to receive his Eagle Scout rank? (Greg Settle)

Short answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT!

The Scout is an Eagle Scout on the date of his successful board of review, just like every other rank from Tenderfoot through Life. The Court of Honor following this, like all Courts of Honor, is merely the public recognition of advancement; it is not a step in the process itself. The original “recognition” (the fourth step in the Boy Scout advancement process) occurred when it was announced at the very soonest troop meeting following the board of review that the troop has a new Eagle Scout, and his name is… (followed by a hearty round of applause). Then, as soon as word comes back from the Irving, Texas office that the application is in proper order and this Scout is recognized by the national council as an Eagle Scout, he can begin wearing the oval Eagle Scout rank badge on his uniform—no court of honor necessary for this, either!


Dear Andy,

I first have to tell you how much I love your column! I read it all the time. My question is one I haven’t seen and it’s really concerning me. My youngest son is a Bear and I am his Den Leader. I’ll likely be the Den Leader when he moves up to Webelos he end of this school year, when he’ll be just turning ten years old. He’s “off” by a year in school—a decision his father and I made several years ago, correctly—so technically he should be in 4th grade and already a Webelos. My husband is the local Scoutmaster and wants our son to push through the Webelos program in one year and move up to Boy Scouts to join his older brother. I’m not in favor of this approach, because he’s a little on the small side for his age, but my husband says I’m babying him because he’s our youngest, and that he’ll be 12 if I let him go through the full two years. I thought I was just doing the right thing, because he would just be going into 5th grade when he would cross over. Am I being over motherly by keeping him in Webelos for the 18 months, or should I let him join the troop after one year? Your thoughts would be appreciated. We’re just to close to the subject. (Name & Council Withheld)

One of the very biggest and most important aspects of Scouting is the sense of belonging a boy and young man gets from being a part of a den, a pack, a patrol, a troop. This sense of belonging not only feeds his need for acceptance but also provides a “place of safety,” if you will, among his peers. It’s quite literally the same set of dynamics that bring teen-aged boys into street gangs—the difference being that Scouting’s “gangs” are for the good! But, emotionally, they’re very close to identical. And they’re also extremely necessary in the growth and emotional development of our young people, both boys and girls! The “gangs” of Scouting, moreover, aren’t invested in “being” good—they’re motivated to DO GOOD (that’s straight from Baden-Powell, by the way)!

So, your younger son is in with a den of Cubs that he’s been with for a couple of years already, and—if all goes as planned—not too long from now they’ll all together, as a den, graduate from their pack and, intact, become a Boy Scout patrol. They stay together, work together, camp together, learn new skills together, elect their own Patrol Leader from among themselves, and then another on in six months’ time, and so on… They may, in fact, stay together as a patrol of friends for the next seven years! This is what your younger son has to look forward to! (And, remember, also, that these are the same boys who will be his classmates for the next seven years, too!)

If your alternate plan is put in place, all of this will be taken away from him. He’ll be neither fish nor fowl—He’ll join the troop, but solo; he’ll be salted into an existing patrol of boys he doesn’t know nearly as well as he does his own present den; then when his den comes into the troop later on, he won’t really be a part of them any more, so they’ll go on without him. He’ll be, in effect, a salted-in “outsider” for the next seven years.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which plan I’m encouraging here, and you’d be right if you chose Plan A. Personally, I think the value of belonging far, far outweighs any slight leg up on “advancing” or any of the other things that Boy Scouting offers might have.

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(April 20, 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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