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Issue 172 – April 26, 2009

Keep your eyes peeled for the new Boy Scout Handbook-Centennial Edition, due out around the end of summer. This 2010 edition, according to author Robert Birkby, will focus on “the experience of Scouting,” rather than paralleling the Tenderfoot through First Class requirements, which was the theme of the 1998 book, or emphasize eco-friendliness—a new consideration at that time—of the 1990 edition. The new edition will look back at the past 100 years’ heritage and also forward into Scouting’s second century, using a combination of vintage images, modern photos, and contemporary graphics. The Centennial Handbook will have three main sections: Scoutcraft, Woodcraft, and Campcraft; it will also be the first Handbook with a chapter on effective leadership. The initial press run is said to be 750,000 (with millions to follow, without question). I’ll bet they just fly off the shelves!

Dear Andy,

Slightly strange situation here, and by hearsay only (so please take this with a grain o’ salt)… Last summer, a troop goes to a week-long summer camp. Adults include a couple of registered leaders, and a couple of Scout fathers. One of these brings along his younger son too, in addition to his Boy Scout son. The younger one’s a Webelos Scout. Over the course of the week, the younger brother hangs along with the Scouts, including doing merit badge classes with them. The leaders give the kid signed “blue cards,” and the camp staff Merit Badge Counselors sign off on this kid’s cards, too, along with the regular Scouts’ cards, even though it’s plain as the nose on your face that this kid isn’t a Boy Scout (yet). OK, all’s quiet till the kid earns his Arrow of Light and transfers into a Boy Scout troop. Very first meeting, he brings his signed blue cards and asks for his merit badges. The Scoutmaster’s nonplussed. Doesn’t know what to do. Contacts the District Advancement gurus and they tell him that only Boy Scout can earn merit badges. Does this mean the kid’s out of luck? After all, it’s not his fault! So why shouldn’t he get credit for work he’s done, when it wasn’t his fault that he should have been directed differently and his expectations should have been managed differently? (Name & Council Withheld)

This is one of those hairballs, created by either ignorant leaders or leaders who have consciously left it for someone else to deal with, and the biggest potential loser is this new Scout himself, because he’d have little way of knowing that what these people did was wrong, wrong, wrong. Every one of them has earned twenty lashes with a wet lanyard! But what about this new Scout?

I was faced with a similar situation a few years ago, when a female Sea Scout, in order to complete a Sea Scout advancement rank, needed to complete all of the requirements for two Boy Scout merit badges. Her ship’s leaders didn’t say it that way, however. Instead, they told her that she’d be actually earning those merit badges (which, of course, is patently incorrect). Well, I was able to get the messed up adults to reluctantly agree that they’d mis-communicated to this young lady, but what about her? The solution was that we make up a small “shadow box” with those merit badges in it and presented it to her at a formal meeting. She was very proud and thankful, but no real harm was done, because, since they were mounted and framed, she wouldn’t be likely to take them out and sew them somewhere on her uniform, yet she felt her accomplishments has been acknowledged. All controversy disappeared overnight!

In this current case, I’d be tempted to do something similar. Go buy the badges off the rack. Glue them firmly on a board, and seal that board in a frame; then present them to him—sans merit badge cards—at a troop meeting or even court of honor. Then, quietly, explain to him and his parents that if he wants to re-earn them as a Boy Scout, so that they count, he can do so anytime he’d like, and it should be a slam-dunk!

Final anecdote… My younger son earned Lifesaving twice. He did it as a Scout, in his first summer at camp. The following year, the group of Scouts signed up for this same merit badge was an odd number, and the camp insisted on a “buddy system” of two Scouts per buddy pair (i.e., no “triples”). One of my own son’s best friends in the troop was about to be dumped from the week-long series of sessions because he was the odd man, until my son said, quietly, “I’ll be your buddy.” “But you already did this, last year!” exclaimed his friend, to which my son replied, “Well, then, you’ll have the best buddy of the group!” They did do it together, and they both completed, but my son never did want that second Lifesaving badge sewn on his sash. Isn’t this what Scouting’s all about?

Dear Andy,

Continuing on the subject of axe yards, we used to rope it off all the time, but when I attended Wood Badge about nine years ago we were told that bright-colored plastic engineer’s tape was better than rope. The advantages included better visibility plus the tape would give and pop, if necessary, if an axe were to catch the tape, whereas rope might catch and hold an axe, even possibly pulling it from a Scout’s hands, sending it in the opposite direction, caroming toward people outside the perimeter. (Roy Moore, Southeast Louisiana Council)

Bright yellow “caution” tape (buy it at any hardware store) works well, too. If rope is used, just hang bright “tell-tales” from it, the same way you’d do if you had tents that used guy lines. But let’s make sure that the perimeter established is large enough so that there’s no way an axe would ever get near it! Also, make the “gate” or the opening face the wood-cutter and don’t place it behind his back. That way, he’ll see anyone entering and can apply safety precautions appropriately. If you really want to fine-tune it, set up a clothespin on a stake, and the chopper has to clip his Totin’ Chip to the clothespin before he picks up any woods tool! (Of course, he takes his Chip back with him when he leaves the area.)

Hi Andy,

I have a question about a decision by a troop committee member, that a Scout should be denied rank based on his not having “lived the Scout Oath and Law.” This controversy began when a troop I under my wing visited an historical site that has a “wishing fountain.” While there two Scouts (obviously left with too much time on their hands) stared retrieving coins from the shallow bottom of the fountain so they could toss and skip them across the surface of the fountain’s water. One or two adults made the immediate assumption that these Scouts were actually stealing the coins and even though this turned out to be totally incorrect, because of how the situation “appeared,” the recommendation was made that these Scouts come before the committee, confess what they had done, and then the committee would determine their “punishment.” This actually happened, and the upshot was that the Scouts would each perform 10 hours of community service, with the understanding that this service would not be credited toward any rank requirement. On completion of their 10 hours, the Scouts were to again come before the committee to confirm that they had completed their punishment. Both have completed the work, and only need to reappear before the committee once more.

One of these two Scouts is ready to advance to his next rank by having his board of review (he’s has his Scoutmaster Conference, and is signed off there as being ready), and here’s were the most urgent problem lies, because one committee member in particular wants to stall this Scout’s advancement because the fountain incident demonstrates that “he didn’t live up to the Scout Oath and Law.” The question, therefore, becomes: Can a board of review be stalled for the reason expressed?

Any thoughts you might have on this situation will definitely be shared with both the Committee Chair and the Scoutmaster. (Lori Overton, Unit Commissioner, Denver Area Council, CO)

Let’s start right here: This is a hair-ball of overkill and lack of understanding teen-aged boys, to say nothing of an absolute lack of understanding as to how the Boy Scout program truly works (i.e., “punishment” simply isn’t part of the program, at all, ever).

In the first place, an incident like this should never have reached the committee. This was for the Scoutmaster to manage, on the spot. In addition to finding something else for these Scouts to do, he should also have silenced anyone who might want to blow this “tempest-in-a-teapot” out of proportion.

The next culpable are the members of the troop committee, whose job it is to never don black robes and never pass judgment, much less a sentence, on a misbehaving Scout. Especially when the misbehaving is harmless and has no victim!

The board of review should proceed with all due alacrity. Moreover, this incident is not to be part of the discussion (for reasons which will become evident in a moment).

The good news is that the Committee Chair, Scoutmaster, you, and I are essentially all on the same page. The only difficulty remaining is the one committee member who seems to have a possible vendetta operating here. My concern is the possible denial of rank because of what I’d consider simply typical teenage boy behavior—that’s the part I really need your input on. In my mind, unless they’ve truly done something grievous, they give no evidence of not living the Oath and Law. After all, we’re all a work-in-progress: Teenager or adult. There are seven registered committee members, but two are the parents of the Scout ready to advance and one is, of course, the hold-out. Your thoughts? (Lori Overton)

Again, this never should have become an “issue” in the first place. The adult leaders in charge at the time should have used their “second set of eyes” and cut the fountain nonsense off at the pass. Besides, behaving like jerks is something teen-aged boys do—even when in full uniform. (They were in full uniform, in public, yes? Because if they weren’t then shame on the adult leaders, not the boys!).

The second mistake made was for this to go beyond the Scoutmaster simply handling it with a “What the heck do you think you’re doing!” and a serious stare till these Scouts got the message. That’s where it should have ended.

The troop committee needs to know that Scouting is absolutely not about “punishments.” They need to be made to understand that that’s why the Scout Law is the only set of laws on the entire planet that tell you how to act and be, instead of what not to do! They need to understand the reason and reasoning behind this—it didn’t happen “by accident” for goodness sakes!

Fourth, since the troop committee made the “community service” an outside-the-troop endeavor, they cannot concurrently “punish” these same Scoutsinside the troop as well—this is called “double-jeopardy” and it won’t stand. The Scout gets his board of review, right when it’s supposed to be scheduled, no excuses and no “unfortunate delays.”

There are seven committee members. Two are parents of the Scout, leaving five. Less the vendetta-focused member leaves four. The Committee Chair and the Advancement Chair can pick the two remaining to be on the review, and they don’t have to apologize or even give a reason to anyone they don’t invite, and the uninvited can’t “brute force” through the door unless the Chair and Scoutmaster are willing to lay down and be her door mat.

For boards of review, always get firm commitments from at least four. That way, if one bails at the last minute, you’re still “legal”!

Finally, you, yourself, might consider sitting in on this one yourself… Not as a “voting” review member but as an “invited friend of the troop” who can speak up if things look like they’re going to get de-railed for the wrong reason. For instance: If some member of the review wants to talk about the “terrible incident,” wouldn’t it be beneficial to say, “Hey, wait a minute…this isn’t the purpose of this review, especially since the committee expressly removed this incident and its consequences from the Scouting ‘milieu’ here by putting it outside of Scouting. That means it’s not open for our discussion here, and decisions as to the readiness of this Scout to advance in rank absolutely cannot be based on that incident.”

Dear Andy,

Where is it written that a pack’s committee members and its Cubmaster and Den Leaders must meet separately, and that only committee members vote on financial expenditures? If it’s in the bylaws of each pack, where do we get the bylaws? (Liz Brandt, CC, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

The seminal document for what you’re looking for is the BSA Adult Volunteer Application – page 2. When one registers as a Cubmaster (code CM) or Assistant Cubmaster (CA) this instantly precludes having a position on the troop committee, because that code is MC (or CC in the case of the Committee Chair) and the BSA specifically forbids holding two positions in the same unit concurrently (sole exception: CC-CR combination). Same with Den Leaders—they’re not members of the pack committee, either.

Go online and take the training there: The Troop Committee Challenge. Complete this and learn, along the way, that SMs and SAs (or ASMs as we sometimes say) aren’t members of the committee! Packs are structured the same way.

The Cubmaster and Den Leaders meet monthly to plan the coming month’s theme and what will be done at that month’s pack meeting.

The Cubmaster (no assistants or DLs necessary) then attends a portion of each monthly committee meeting, to bring the committee members up to speed on what the Den Leaders are planning for the next pack meeting, following the monthly theme. The committee listens, and may offer suggestions, but doesn’t “vote” and has no “veto power” over the Den Leaders’ plans. The committee is there to support the Cubmaster and the Den Leaders in carrying out the monthly theme programs for the pack, plus special events (e.g., Pinewood Derby, Raingutter Regatta, Popcorn Sales, and so on). Following this, the Cubmaster’s free to go, or he can stick around if he likes (and is invited to do by the CC, which invitation should not be arbitrarily withheld). But here’s the big deal in all of this: The committee really has not one darned thing it actually needs to “vote” on! That’s right: There’s no vote-taking because there’s nothing to vote on!

If there’s nothing for the committee to vote on, then who makes the decision on the financial aspect? I’ve been told that the committee handles the finances and votes on expenditures among themselves. They’re given the input by the leaders, and then the committee decides if the pack can afford it or if it’s good use of the money. Was I told wrong? Who makes the decision to spend the money, and on what? What is the procedure by BSA standards? Where do I find this in writing? (Liz Brandt)

I didn’t say that the committee doesn’t need to make some decisions now and again. Like, do we want to sell light bulbs or popcorn, is it time to buy a new Pinewood Derby track, which one of us is going to take over as the advancement person once Sally “retires” when her son joins the Boy Scouts, and which of the new parents do we think would be the best candidate to be our “Cubmaster-Elect”? These things go on all the time! But we don’t “vote” on them, in the sense ofRobert’s Rules of Order, with motions made and seconded, discussion, and then open or closed voting, and simple majority or plurality and what’s the quorum and have we met it and all of that sort of stuff that will do nothing but suck the life out of meetings and people and cause them to go spend their time watching paint dry instead of coming to committee meetings and “voting.”

Part of the problem is pure semantics: The instant we think “committee” our left brains want to go all formal and by-the-numbers, as if we’re the executive board of a multi-million dollar corporation, and our right brains shut down almost entirely! But we’re not “a corporation.” This is a Cub Scout pack, and we’re a group of volunteers who like each other and want to support our pack and our kids and have some fun, too, right along with them. We talk things over, we bounce solutions off one another, we tell the occasional joke or “what my kid did last week” anecdote, we help each other help the pack run.

Maybe we just need to re-name ourselves. Instead of “committee,” how about “support team.” Actually, that’s much more descriptive of the actual responsibilities! “Support team.” I like that! That would make you Team Captain. Team Captain… I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’ll think of yourself a little differently as a Team Captain than as a Committee Chairperson! I’ll bet, in fact, that your “persona” will be a bit more relaxed, and a little bit more flexible and forgiving. If this happened just now, then maybe you’ll want to just go with it…

But, whichever way you decide to go, do read the Cub Scout Leader Book ($9.99 or your local Scout Shop) and take BSA training for pack committees.

Dear Andy,

In a previous column of yours, a writer asked about the “Bear Cubs only” issue of using pocket knives or earning their Whittlin’ Chips, adding that there’s nothing specific about this in the Guide To Safe Scouting. You addressed this issue by saying that it isn’t what Bears or other Cubs can or can’t do, but what maybe the Cubmaster should or shouldn’t do, but I would like to throw in my two cents for what it’s worth…

I’d always been told “Bear Cubs only” on Whittlin’ Chips and knives for Cub Scouts. Then I picked up and read my first Guide to Safe Scouting, and in the “Tools” section it clearly shows that Cub Scouts (Wolves and Bears) can use pocketknives in Scouting activities. Most Scouters may be under the “Bears only” belief because the Whittlin’ Chip is in the Bear Handbook, but I feel that it’s up to the Den Leader to decide whether or not his or her Wolves are mature enough to safely learn about and handle pocketknives. (Bob Taylor, DL & ACM, Bay Area Council, TX)

Leaving that “up to the Den Leader” to judge makes that small portion of the Cub Scout program arbitrary. We both know that the Scouting program, as a whole, isn’t arbitrary at all. There are specific standards and protocols to follow, whether program-related, advancement-related, uniforming-related, and so on. Therefore, it can be said with 100% certainty that it is not for the Den Leader to be judge and jury over matters such as this. The Den Leader’s sole responsibility is to deliver the program as written.

Consequently, if a den activity involves the use of an edged tool like a pocketknife, the Den Leader applies personal judgment in the best way to teach safe “chips and shavings.” Besides, there is absolutely no one at the local Scout shop or online at who’s gonna raise a red flag and demand to see a Whittlin’ Chip before selling a Cub Scout pocketknife! So, let’s stay in reality, while we’re at it, too! J


Hello Andy,

You responded well to the fellow in your April 9th column about when to stand up and went to “vote with your feet,” but I think you maybe left something out… If a parent decides to go all Don Quixote and right the wrongs in a dysfunctional troop, their sons will more than likely get the brunt of the displeasure so freely distributed to those who upset (or in this case right) the apple cart. No thinking person can honestly expect that 11- to 13-year-old Scouts will understand the dysfunctions within such a troop, much less be able to do anything to correct them. When a troop is off the rails, they aren’t listening. They aren’t listening to training, to literature, to commissioners, to parents, or their Scouts unless the Scouts do the one and only thing that might get any attention at all and leave the troop. (Clarke Green, SM, Chester County Council, PA)

Bingo! You’re right on the money! Thanks for your thoughts! And thanks for your reading loyalty!

Dear Andy,

We’re a relatively small, but growing troop, with right now about 18 Scouts. Up to now, we’ve been doing our boards of review with three adults—usually me (I’m Committee Chair) and two parents. My question: Is it mandatory that there be a minimum of three registered committee members on boards of review? I’m asking because we really haven’t had enough committee members to be able to do this. Would doing it the way we’ve been doing up till now invalidate those past reviews? I’ve made it a point of always having the Scouts’ handbooks signed by a committee member. (Name Withheld, National Capital Area Council, VA)

Yes, it’s a BSA policy that for all ranks except Eagle, the board of review is to be composed of no less than three and no more than six registered members of the troop committee. While I, personally, wouldn’t go so far as to say your previous reviews are invalid, since now you know, I’d expect that from now on you’ll definitely want to get it right! Just sign up some new folks and tell ’em what responsibilities you have in mind for them. The way to “sell” this is simple and easy: “This gives you, the parent, an ‘inside’ view of what goes on in boards of review, so you can be a better-informed ‘Scout parent’!”

When you’re setting these up, make a point of getting firm commitments from at least four committee members; that way, if one bails at the last minute, you’re still “legal.”

Hi Andy,

Where can I get a template or copy of a Den Chief Award certificate to print out for a Scout in our troop who’s ready for his award? Is there a link for this? Any information you can provide will be most helpful. We already have the red-white-and-blue shoulder cord, and would like to give this Scout a certificate, too. (J. Burgel, Jersey Shore Council, NJ)

A quick on-line search suggests that there may not be standard “Scouts name here”-type certificate, so you’re at liberty to make one up on your own. When you do, if possible have the Cubs and Den Leader all sign it—it will have the most meaning for the Scout that way! And be sure to present it to him twice: Once at a troop Court of Honor and also at a pack meeting!

Hello Andy,

Who appoints a council’s Silver Beaver selection committee? I can’t find anything and there’s nothing mentioned on the nomination form. Most council web sites I’ve visited say that it’s appointed by either the council president or their executive board. (Roy Corbeil, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

This group can be appointed by any number of people or other committees. Sometimes, the Scout Executive makes recommendations to the council advancement committee (even though this recognition does not technically fall under the purview of “advancement”). Sometimes this committee acts on its own and the gets approval from the S.E. or Council President; other times it’s an ad hoc committee drawn from the council executive board. The ideal being sought is that (a) each member is himself or herself a Silver Beaver recipient and (b) that all districts are represented.


Dear Andy,

I’m wondering if there are circumstances that would cause someone to be stripped of his Eagle Scout badge. I work with adolescents and the question’s come up. (James Wellborn, Middle Tennessee Council)

No. There aren’t. Thanks for asking.


Dear Andy,

I think I know this one but I need clarification for when I talk to the Scoutmaster (I’m the Chartered Organization Representative) of our three year old troop… When Scouts forget their handbooks, or are out of uniform, or have an error on their uniform, or other things along these lines, this new Scoutmaster (who has had no Scouting background until now) requires them to do push-ups. Because of this new way of dealing with such matters, we’re losing Scouts rapidly. Either they’re showing up only when they need something in their handbooks signed off, or they’re not showing up at all.

I’d always been under the impression that Scouting was about rewarding the positive; not punishing the negative, and especially not about boot camp-style “gimme push-ups.” But maybe I’m wrong. Has Scouting changed? (Name Withheld, North Florida Council)

Baden-Powell, Scouting’s founder, put it this way: “The job of the Scoutmaster is to find the good in each boy and bring it out in him.” Punishment and especially push-ups are the antithesis of this foundational philosophy. If “punishment” were part of the Scoutmaster’s responsibilities, and a part of Scouting in general, there would certainly be at least a chapter in the Scoutmaster Handbook on how to carry this out, wouldn’t you think? Well, if you can find that chapter, I’ll eat my Smokey Bear hat!

As the CO’s Chartered Organization Representative, you have ultimate responsibility for how the youth this troop is serving are treated, and you have authority over who is, and is not, an adult volunteer serving the troop. If you approve of this punishment, then it stands. If you do not, as Scouting itself does not, then you are authorized to tell the Scoutmaster and anyone else who practices this that it is to stop immediately, and without further discussion. If the Scoutmaster, or anyone else, refuses to cease this practice immediately, they can be instantly removed from their positions, by you, and there is no recourse for them through the district or council, since you and your Chartered Organization literally own the unit and have final and absolute authority over who is, and who isn’t, a serving volunteer. All you need do is say, “Thank you for your services; they’re no longer needed,” and that’s it. They’re done, out, “fired,” if you will. Moreover, you’re actually under no obligation to provide a reason for your decision, since this isn’t an “employment” situation (this means no “building a case,” or “three strikes,” or “letters on file,” of “vote of the committee,” or any other nonsense like that). It’s simply over. And the boys and young men in the troop will no longer be victims of this sort of abuse.

Dear Andy,

Is it considered hazing when the Scouts do “Pig Trough”? It seems one of our Scouts was told by a National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) senior staffer that it is, and that it’s not permitted. However, none of us in our troop have heard this from council or national. When our troop does Pig Trough, it’s usually by group, and a Scout doesn’t have to do it to get his stuff if he doesn’t want to. (Name Withheld, Longhorn Council, TX)

What is “Pig Trough”? I can guess, but I don’t want to be wrong—so just tell me. Then, I’ll advise…

What our troop calls Pig Trough is a lost-and-found thing…when the senior staff holds up items that have been lost on a campout or at a meeting, and we have the Scout who lost the item and wants it back sing or dance or something in order to be given it back. Usually more than one person has lost an item, and so the senior staff does the singing or dancing or whatever along with the group that’s getting their stuff back. Most of the Scouts are alright with this, but a few who are shy won’t claim their stuff till after the meeting, to avoid the embarrassment. We’ve never forced any Scout to perform for his stuff; it’s just a way for the Scouts to have fun. Even the adults have had to perform when they’ve lost an item and want it back.

Yes, this is considered hazing. It’s not “gray-area hazing;” it’s flat-out hazing. Yes, you should stop doing this. Items with names in them should be returned to their owners, with the briefest of reminders, done in a positive manner (remember that everything about Scouting is a positive!). Stuff without names gets checked in the parking lot, before the Scouts depart from the weekend or day’s event.

By having “senior staff” inflict this ritual on “younger” or “non-senior” Scouts also sets up a superiority-inferiority schism, which undermines the very purpose of Scouting, in the area of acceptance and belonging, so if you have any other practices that do this, you’d be well-advised to stop these, too.

The whole idea of making fun of or enjoying another’s problem or shortcoming or misfortune (“schadenfreude,” in German—taking pleasure in the misery of others) is not a part of what we’re trying to teach through the Scouting movement.

Thanks for asking! This is an important issue, and you’re pretty brave to be this open and honest in asking about it!

Dear Andy,

One of the awards that I recall from when I was a Scout back in the 60’s that’s still around today is the Totin’ Chip. It was awarded when a Scout demonstrated knowledge of knife and axe safety. I’m seeing that, today, there’s also a Firem’n Chit, indicating that a Scout has mastered campfire safety. Back when, if a Scout was seen behaving improperly with a knife or axe, a corner was torn off his Totin’ Chip card, and if all four corners were torn off, then on his fifth “error” he lost his card and the privilege of using a knife or axe. Does this tradition still exist today? If so, does it also apply to the Firem’n Chit? (John Rekus, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

In the first place, neither of these is an award or advancement; they’re, in effect, licenses. Like drivers’ licenses and the more-or-less universal “point” system, one can be “dinged” for improper use. This is, of course, extremely rare if virtually nonexistent, because Scouting isn’t in the business of “dinging”! A description of both of these is in the back of the Boy Scout Requirements books—any edition.

Dear Andy,

My son is a Bear Cub Scout. He’s completed his Bear requirements and we’re looking for information on how he can earn the religious emblem. I’ve asked our Scout leaders, and they don’t know and don’t know where we can find out. Can you help? (Flechia Spalding, Great Rivers Council, MO)

Go and then click on “Recognitions/Emblems” (it’s on the upper left) and then “Search by Faith”-Baptist which will take you the details you’ll want to see for each level within the Baptist faith. Your son will work with both you and his pastor, and it’s a very rewarding learning-and-doing program!

Once you’re started, tell other parents in your pack, and the pack’s leaders, about this, and give them the P.R.A.Y. website URL! As you’ve seen, there’s something for just about everyone!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Life Scout and I am a big fan of your columns. I need to ask you about something that happened in my troop last week. We held troop elections and I wanted to run for another term as our Senior Patrol Leader (I served for a term a year ago), but my Scoutmaster wouldn’t let me run again. He did say that this didn’t have anything to do with my leadership skill; he just wanted to give two other Scouts a chance. I said that shouldn’t the Scouts decide, if they want either one of the other two Scouts, but he said that he’d spoken with a few adults, including three former Scoutmasters of my troop, and that they all agreed with him. Our troop’s bylaws were just changed to say that the Scoutmaster approves all candidates for all elections. Is that the BSA’s policy? Who do I go to complain about this if it is against national policy? (Scout’s Name Withheld, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

A “Scout-led troop” is one in which the overall annual program as well as the agenda for troop meetings and outings is set by the Patrol Leaders Council On the related but not identical subject of elected or appointed leadership positions, Scoutmasters have always had the right to approve of the candidacy of Scouts seeing these positions. That said, while I personally think your Scoutmaster might have made a different decision, just imaging how you might have felt had you been one of those other Scouts—ready to step up to the plate—and a guy who’s already a “proven leader” to the troop walks away with the election because you’re still sort of an “unknown.” So, what’s done is done, and no lives have been lost. Instead of “complaining” to anyone, I’d sooner see you rise above possible pettiness, walk up to the newly elected Senior Patrol Leader, and ask, flat out, “What can I do to help you succeed?”

Dear Andy,

In going over the roster of our Cub Scout pack’s youth members recently (our re-charter paperwork was misplaced at the service center shortly after we submitted it); I realized that two of our Cubs are in dens one level below their age and grade! This may have happened because of their unusual circumstances: One just emigrated from Europe, and the other is home-schooled. I dread the thought of trying to move them up to another den, because they both seem to have build strong friendships in their current dens and are thriving—a joy to see! Like most Cub Scouters, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise (safety, health, financial, etc.) we tend to focus on what’s best for each individual boy, and, frankly, this doesn’t appear to put either of these boys at a disadvantage, because neither is appreciably older than the other boys in their respective dens. Although it’s certainly plain that we need to pay closer attention to the details of new youth applications from now on, do I need to make a change for these two boys? And if I do, how do I go about it? (John Devenport, CC, Capital Area Council, TX)

First, my hat’s off to you and your pack for having both a home-schooled Cub and a new-to-America Cub! Outstanding! You also deserve a tip-of-the-hat for having sharp eyes! I also admire your interest in doing what’s best for the boys themselves.

I’m sure your question is prompted by your awareness that Cub Scouting—from Tiger right through Webelos II—is age/grade-specific, and that a boy can become pretty quickly bored if he’s working at an age/grade level below his present capabilities and interests. Maybe it’s not so critical at Tiger or even Wolf level, but this factor does in time accentuate itself, sometimes with unhappy consequences (such as, the boy drops away because it’s too easy and he’s bored). It would be easy just to “leave things alone.” But that may not be the best course of action in the long run. On the other hand, summarily switching them may not be in their best interests either, because they’ve bonded and blended so well with the boys in their present dens. So, maybe the best bet is to open this up for conversation, in each separate case, with the boy and his parents. This way, all of you can make the best decision you can, with the information you have at the time. Most of all, LISTEN TO THE BOY. Maybe right now he does want to move up, but nobody’s asked. Maybe not. Maybe next year he’ll want to move up. So if he wants to stay put now, ask him again in six months, or a year, and keep on doing this, just to be certain that his voice is heard. Here’s the guideline I followed when I wore your shoes: WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK THE SCOUT.

Hi Andy,

For Webelos Scouts, if the blue Webelos diamond-shaped badge is on the tan uniform, is it worn alone, or is it worn with the other Cub Scouting ranks earned? I checked insignia placement in the Cub Scout-Webelos Handbook, but it shows that the blue diamond is worn alone, so I don’t understand the option of wearing the blue diamond on the tan shirt if none of the previous rank insignia are worn. It looks to me like, if a Scout begins as a Tiger and earns all ranks up to and including the Webelos rank, he would have to remove his Tiger badge in order to wear the Webelos blue badge. (Marsha Perkins, WDL, East Texas Area Council)

On the tan shirt, either the diamond-shaped or the oval Webelos badge may be worn, but whichever it is, it’s worn alone. The diamond-shaped badge may be worn with the other Cub Scout ranks only on the blue shirt.

If a Webelos Scout wears the blue shirt, you’re absolutely correct: There’s one-too-many diamond-shaped badges (Bobcat-Tiger-Wolf-Bear-Webelos) to make for a neat four-badge diamond!

As a footnote, the tan shirt is preparatory to becoming a Boy Scout, so I’d encourage using the oval Webelos badge, since Boy Scout rank badges are also oval.

Hi Andy,

I’m the events coordinator for my son’s Boy Scout troop. I also have a daughter who’s 15 and a Girl Scout, who would like to continue as a Girl Scout and also be a member of the new Venturing program, in a Venturing crew. Is this OK to do? (Shirley Ann Unterbrink, South Florida Council)

Absolutely! Go for it! She’ll LOVE it!

Hi Andy,

I’m fairly new to Scouting and I’m wondering about positions in a Cub Scout pack. Such as, can a Cubmaster also be a Den Leader? This seems to me like it would be a conflict of interest. (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s not about “conflict of interest.” It’s about wearing two hats that don’t fit on the same head. Be the Cubmaster, or be a Den Leader, keeping in mind that you can’t, as Cubmaster, run a pack meeting while leaving your den sitting alone and deserted without you (if your Assistant Den Leader is strong enough to do this, then he or she should be the Den Leader!), and you can’t, as Cubmaster, run a Den Leaders meeting when you’re one of the Den Leaders, too! Or, if you’re the Den Leader, how do you run up to the front of the room and do the Master of Ceremonies’ job when you’re supposed to be sitting with your den! The whole big idea behind Cub Scouting volunteers is that everybody does just one job, so they can focus and so that they don’t split themselves into pieces. In fact, that’s why the volunteer application for adults, right on page 2 as plain as your nose, says that a person can only register in one position in a Scouting unit!

Dear Andy,

Our advancement chair recently included in our troop’s “New Scout Handout” a guide to advancement in which she says that the cooking requirement for the Camping merit badge can be fulfilled at the same time as the First Class rank’s three-meal requirement, so long as one of those meals is over a lightweight stove. This has our older Scouts, who did these two requirements separately, pretty torqued. I didn’t think any requirement could be used twice. What’s up? (Martha Parks, Circle Ten Council, TX)

One way to approach this issue is to understand that the requirements for a merit badge are fulfilled once the Scout has actually begun the merit badge. The BSA defines this beginning has having had a first meeting with the merit badge counselor. Anything done without actually having started the merit badge may not necessarily be credited by the Merit Badge Counselor, who has final and absolute say-so regarding requirement completion.

Another way to approach this is to ask ourselves which we’re interested in… Are we interested in helping boys knock off requirements, or are we interested in helping boys become proficient in outdoor skills? The answer to that question will direct your actions. I’m sure you can guess how the BSA has viewed it for the past ten decades.

Dear Andy,

I was recently appointed District Roundtable Commissioner—I’m supposed to oversee both the Boy Scout Leader and Cub Scout Leader Roundtable Commissioners in our district. But I can’t find a job description or a position badge. I believe this position existed in the past; has the national office done away with it? (George Harris, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

Sorry to disappoint, but there’s just no such position as District Roundtable Commissioner, nor has there been in the past few decades. There are separate positions (and badges) for Boy Scout, Cub Scout, and even Venturing Roundtable Commissioner, but nothing along the lines of what you’re seeking. If your job is to “supervise” these other positions, perhaps the best designation you might consider is Assistant District Commissioner, with specific responsibility for the Roundtable folks. Talk with the person who appointed you, and work it out.

Dear Andy,

What happens when an Assistant Scoutmaster or other adult volunteer is considered to be not acting in the best interests of the troop and creating too much controversy? Can the troop committee and COR (Chartered Organization Representative) remove a person from that position? (Warren Yasuhara)

Get yourself a copy of the BSA booklet titled The Chartered Organization Representative (No. 33118D). It’s all in there. Briefly (but do read the booklet for the important details), whoever appointed the volunteer can remove him or her. Typically, the head of the sponsoring group (“chartered organization”), or the designate (Chartered Organization Representative, aka COR) holds sway over what adults will (and will not) serve the Scouting unit owned by (as in “chartered to”) the Chartered Organization. That said, I’d certainly be sure every attempt at providing wise counsel has been made before entertaining the final step of removal. For an ASM, counseling should first come from the Scoutmaster, and if this doesn’t have the desired effect, then by the Committee Chair. Included in the counseling process should be exploration of another position of service that may make everyone happier and less cantankerous or obstreperous.

Dear Andy,

Let’s talk, for just a moment, about summer camp. We want every troop to go to summer camp, preferably to one in their own council, but absolutely give every boy the chance to participate in a “long term” camping experience. Our council even offers camperships, to help those who need financial assistance. We do have a few troops who have linked up and decided to go to a public lake and camp, and offer their own “summer camp,” complete with rank advancement and merit badges. This may be their way of expressing displeasure with some recent council decisions, or maybe it’s just a matter of cost or travel distance, but regardless of which it is, or maybe something else entirely, as a District Commissioner, I’m searching for ideas on ways to repair the problem and increase attendance at our council camp. These linked up troops, you see, are actually promoting their operation as an “alternative” to our council camp, and undercutting the cost-per-Scout by as much as a third! Several of their Assistant Scoutmasters have already signed up as Merit Badge Counselors, so Scouts who go along for the ride can get their “blue cards” signed-off!

What do I do about these more-or-less “maverick” troops? As the DC, do I approach them and try to dissuade them, or do I just let it go? If I’m going to try to stop this venture, what arguments are best? Would there be retributions to these troops’ leaders, such
as losing district positions? What of the Scouts? It’s been considered that the district would refuse to acknowledge any advancement completed at these troops’ “camp,” but that would be unjustly punishing the Scouts, and that I will not do. What do you think about this? (Phil Malone, DC, Simon Kenton Council, KY-OH)

I’ve seen this myself, including both going “out of council” and setting up a week-long “troop camping experience.” I’ve figured out that since it’s pretty impossible to stop (and we wind up sounding like a Gestapo if we push too hard!). It’s better to take the more diplomatic approach of suggesting that one doesn’t exclude the other… Going out “on your own” is fine, and combining this with camping for a week at your own council’s camp provides a superb summertime experience for your Scouts. Besides, there’s a good chance that some Scouts aren’t available for one of the weeks, but they are for the other, so this helps get every Scout in the troop to camp for at least a week each summer! In other words, instead of “fighting” it, go with it and extend it! (Besides, isn’t this really something for the council’s professional staff to be working on, since they, not you, are responsible for summer camp attendance?)

Meanwhile, see if you can find out what’s lying beneath the surface here… Why the split-off? Who annoyed whom? And why would these troops’ leaders be trying to persuade others to join up, rather than just doing their own thing? Unless you sit down, eyeball-to-eyeball, and ask, no one’s ever going to put this on the table where it can be at least understood, even if not resolved!

I one of the troops I served as a UC didn’t go to Camporees because a decade earlier the then-Scoutmaster had a squabble with “council” and refused to go. No one could remember what happened or what the beef was about. All they knew was that on Camporee weekend, they went somewhere else. Took me five years of quietly suggesting that they might want to find out what their Scouts were missing out on. They finally went. That was twelve years ago, and they haven’t missed a Camporee since!

Dear Andy,

What’s in the Scoutmaster Handbook? Is it more like the Cub Scout Leader Book or more like the Webelos Leader Book? (Cliff West, Indian Nations Council, OK)

Most everything a Scoutmaster needs to know to get it right is in the Scoutmaster Handbook. It’s not like either of the other books, because the Boy Scout program is entirely different from both the Cub Scout and the Webelos programs, and the entire structure of and the way a troop operates are different, too. Neither of the other two books is in any way a substitute for the one you’re asking about, any more than knowledge of how to be a Cubmaster, Den Leader, or even Webelos Den Leader will necessarily help one become a Scoutmaster.

Dear Andy,

Is there a time limit between the time an Eagle project has been approved by the district advancement committee and when it must be completed? The only stipulation on this that I know of is that the project needs to be completed before a Scout’s 18th birthday. Am I missing something? (Al Cresanto, SM, West Tennessee Area Council)

No, there’s no specific timeline policy for starting an Eagle service project after all pre-work signatures are obtained and Yes, the only stipulation is that all work must be completed before the Scout’s 18th birthday. That said, it’s always a good idea to get started as quickly as possible, so that the circumstances compelling the project don’t shift or change in the interim, because this might cause the re-thinking and/or re-casting of the entire project! But as far as the BSA or any council or district is concerned, no big deal!

Hi Andy,

My question’s about community service. Although I can’t quote the source, it’s my belief that Scouts aren’t allowed to raise money for other organizations. This was first brought to my attention in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when I remember hearing that, as Scouts we couldn’t raise money for the cause, but we could have a clothing drive, book drive, and so on. My first question, then is, is that true? If it is true, then I’m wondering if it’s possible for Scouts (Cub Scouts and/or Boy Scouts) to volunteer at a non-Scouting fund-raiser, but in non-solicitation roles, like handing out cups of water along the route of a “race for the cure”, or helping to register people when they show up to participate in another sort of fund-raising event for a qualified not-for-profit charity or organization? Several opportunities such as these have come up, and I want the Scouts to obey BSA rules and still have an opportunity to serve their community and beyond. But I wouldn’t want them to do something that’s against the rules, even if it’s for a good cause (no reason they couldn’t support those causes outside of Scouting, I guess) Do you know where the line is drawn? (Lisa, Pack Trainer & ASM, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

While it may not be verboten for Scouts to raise money for other organizations (let’s remember that Scouts helped sell huge bundles of war bonds for the US Government in both world wars!), nowadays it might just be a little bit over the top. After all, most charitable organizations have their own fund-raising mechanisms. Plus, the BSA is itself a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. In this latter regard, it could seem sort of like, say, the American Cancer Society raising money for the March of Dimes or Salvation Army, or vice-versa.

That said, Scouts performing a service, in full uniform (for camaraderie, visibility, and possible photo ops for the press), at a local fund-raising event (walk/bike-a-thon, run for life, etc., etc.) that benefits the public and/or the local community is one terrific idea! Passing out cups of water for runners/jobbers/bikers, helping with crowd control or check-in/-out, and such are wonderful ways to provide service!

One little recommendation: Don’t pitch this to the Scouts and their families as “a way to get service hours;” promote it, instead, as a way to help their community and feel good about it because that what Scouts do! Then, the “service hour credit” that you quietly record on the side becomes a “bonus” and not the reward itself.

Dear Andy,

We are reviewing our “troop standards and policies” and there are some conflicting positions on what should be stated in our advancement policy. The BSA policy is that there is no deadline for earning merit badges except the Scout’s 18th birthday, and that once a Scout has started working on a merit badge—he has a signed “Blue Card” from his Scoutmaster and has had an initial meeting with a Merit Badge Counselor—he may continue working on that merit badge right up to completing it or turning 18. Is this just a note indicating that no deadline is required by BSA, but that the troop can enforce its own stricter requirements, or is the troop required to adhere to this as a policy? Also, does a troop have the authority to stipulate that a merit badge must be completed within a designated time, such as a year? (Kiko Contreras, Great Southwest Council, NM)

Boy am I glad you asked these questions! NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! No one—no person, unit, district, council—is permitted to impose the kinds of strictures you describe. This is BSA policy. This cannot be done, should not be done, and if it has been done needs to be made to go away immediately.

Now, with that stuff taken away because it’s totally prohibited, everyone in your troop associated with those notions needs to immediately read my column titled, “Special—Are We Really That Smart“!

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(April 26, 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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