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Issue 176 – May 31, 2009

Dear Andy,

We have a newly elected ASPL in our Troop (we elect the ASPL for a six-month term, and then they become the next SPL for a six-month term) who, right after his swearing-in ceremony, informed us that he’ll be missing summer camp, our major troop fundraiser, and our troop’s annual community service project. He’s missed other events in the past—it’s a pattern.

We conducted Troop Leadership Training for all of our Scouts just prior to our elections this year, and, in it, we stressed that a leader must lead, and in order to lead, the leader must be at troop events. (Maybe we shouldn’t have let him run for the position, but then how would that appear?)

We hesitate to put a number on the events that are acceptable to miss, or have any type of attendance policy. We do, however, plan to document each missed event and then conference with this Scout and plan to mentor him; but how can he lead if he’s not there? We refuse to do the job for him, and we don’t want to put all of the leadership responsibility on the SPL or PLs.

If we allow a non-attending, under-performing ASPL to complete his tenure, we’ve failed the Scouts he’s leading as well as the Scout himself: He will have set a bad example for the younger Scouts and allowing him to stay in the position would be an insult to the Scouts expecting leadership from him. I do believe that Scouting is a game with a purpose: It prepares you for life. If you take a new job and then promptly, on day one, inform your new boss that you’ll be missing several days of work, you may find that you don’t have a job anymore. If this Scout doesn’t change, our plan it to remove him from the ASPL position before his tenure’s complete. The challenge is in leaving him in his position long enough to work with him to improve, but not so long as to remove him just shy of his completing his tenure. True enough, a Scout should never get to a Scoutmaster Conference if he hasn’t completed his tenure in a leadership role; therefore, a Scoutmaster should never have to defer, as the question will never come up. (Name & Council Withheld)

Your troop’s first big hiccup was to elect an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.

ASPL is a position appointed by the Senior Patrol Leader, with the approval of the Scoutmaster.

Had you all followed the process described in the Scoutmaster Handbook, you’d be having no problem now, at all.

However, since the hiccup’s already happened, let’s look down the road a piece…

The primary responsibility of an ASPL is to train and guide the troop’s Scribe, Quartermaster, Historian, Librarian, and Instructors. How, then, would a Scout in this position not be carrying out his responsibilities merely because he misses certain task-specific events? Do the Scribe, Quartermaster, Historian, Librarian, and Instructors need specific training and guidance during a week of summer camp, at a fund-raiser, and at a service project? Somehow, I just don’t think so. Which should mean that the ASPL can absolutely carry out his stated responsibilities without attending these three specific events—his work is done at other times and places.

OK, so this particular Scout will be missing some events, and I do understand that they’re important. However, this is for him and the Senior Patrol Leader to work out. Yes, the ASPL is in charge when the SPL is absent, but this is supposed to be the exception. The ASPL is absolutely not an intermediary between the SPL and the Patrol Leaders. If your troop has been using ASPLs this way, it’s an error.

Finally, you make no mention of why this particular Scout won’t be attending these three events. Do you know? Even though it really doesn’t matter, wouldn’t you all like to know? Frankly, based on what you’ve described, you’re all looking at the skin of the onion without ever peeling back some layers to find out what’s inside—including some credit for telling you precisely what he’ll miss instead of ditching and telling no one, which begs this: You make no mention at all of what he will be there for.

ime to reevaluate just how closely to Scouting’s True North your troop’s ship is trimmed. The Scoutmaster Handbook is a good place to start.

Dear Andy,

I appreciate this discussion. I’m not, nor is anyone, hoping for failure, and definitely not holding a vendetta and just looking for an excuse. I’m a bit offended that you would suggest such a thing without knowing me or the specific situation.

My arms aren’t crossed. If they were, I never would have contacted you. If my heels were dug in, I wouldn’t be looking to someone with your strongly held opinions on Scouting (I’ve read your body of work).

I don’t think of the other leadership positions as “lesser,” meaning unimportant; it’s just that they don’t have the laser focus of the SPL and ASPL—they’re appointed, not elected by the Scouts. They’re very important.

The disappointment I mentioned is the over the fact that this current ASPL expects to become the SPL, so how do we announce that this will now need to be an elected position?

IMHO, we should be preparing these Scouts for “the real world.” In my job, we learn by showing, then by supervising, and then by observing the trainee and giving immediate constructive feedback. Hmm… Kinda sounds like what I learned in Wood Badge! So how can an ASPL who’s not there at the events do the last two of these? The Scribe and Historian are both new to their roles and they need someone who’s going to do more than “phone it in.” Leadership is leading; not fixing the problem after the fact.

Yes, I respect the Scout for telling the Scoutmaster that he won’t be at those events, but should I give him credit for being there? Is he demonstrating the leadership that the Scouts deserve? He’s already fulfilled all of the leadership requirements for his rank, so it’s not a matter of slowing him down from any advancement. As a Scout, and as a Patrol Leader, he’s done a satisfactory job and met the expectations of the position; it’s just that this is a more important position for the troop, requiring more commitment than a minimal training session with the other leadership positions that he’s responsible for overseeing.

Heaven help this Scout as he becomes an adult, if he doesn’t learn the responsibility that comes with taking on a role of leadership. It’s a privilege, not a right, to be selected as a leader. The ASPL and SPL should not be a position in the troop where the example of not needing to participate is set. These two are the face of the troop and the tone-setters.

I understand it must seem that I’m rigid on this issue, but I’m not. You’re seeing bits and pieces, only, because it’s difficult to paint the big picture for you.

What I’m trying to convey isn’t our program, so it could be dissected and picked apart. What I’d hoped for is some kind of statement on what expectations—beyond the one’s fulfilling the minimal listed in the handbook—you’d think we should have for ASPL and/or SPL. From these discussions, doing just the minimum to get by, and phoning in the rest is sufficient.

Placing the blame on the leaders and our troop is not winning the hearts and minds on this side of the fence. I’d even suggest that it turns off a few of the readers of the column. It’s a Scout-led operation; not an adult-led one. Our only hope is to get them to lead—by using leadership skills and by being there. (N&CW)

First, let’s clear the air on some misinterpretations that have been made. First, there’s no such thing in the BSA as “minimal” requirements; there are requirements, period. Second, I can only evaluate what you describe; if you leave things out, don’t expect me to have any sympathy for the side-step that I “don’t understand the whole picture,” because it’s your job to provide the picture you want responded to. Third, I haven’t heard one word of creativity in reaching a solution from you; instead, it’s the same old song of woe and intransigence. What we should be looking for here is a win-win way out of the morass your troop operations have caused. I’m going to propose one, so let’s cut to the chase…

We have an elected ASPL who is expecting to be SPL in six months. Let that happen, just as he expects. But, change his job responsibilities right now—don’t wait. Train him to do the job he’s supposed to be doing, then let him do it. Meanwhile, in six months, when he moves up and you have your new elections (for Patrol Leaders), don’t elect an ASPL—instead, follow the procedure that the new SPL chooses (with the approval of the Scoutmaster), and, at that point, make it clear to the entire troop that the ASPL does not automatically step into the SPL slot six months down the road. That’s a clean way to make the transition without disappointing anyone.

Now, what about our present ASPL and his expected absences…? Here’s where you can provide counseling at its finest! Collaborate with this young man. Explain to him: Here are your responsibilities… let’s make a plan so that you can accomplish them despite missing those events… What are your thoughts on this…?

Now you’re really coaching! And this is a fabulous opportunity for this Scout to rise above himself and become the Scout you believe he can be. Keep firmly in mind that every young person—Scout or son—will have figured out what you expect of them, and then deliver it. They’ll work hard to live up to your expectations. If you transmit (this can be very subtle, but trust me: they’ll get the message) that you expect failure, that’s exactly what you’ll get. If you expect success, you never have to say it; your whole being will transmit the message clear as a bell!

As a Scoutmaster, I refused to acknowledge any Scout telling me, “I’m not a… (fill in the blank… swimmer, marksman, whatever); however, I did accept, “I haven’t learned to be a (swimmer, marksman, etc.) yet. For one Scout, who tried to label himself a “non-swimmer,” I insisted that he was indeed a swimmer—he just hadn’t learned how, yet. Two days later, I suggested that this might be a fine day to learn swimming, and he eagerly came with me to the waterfront at camp. Less than an hour later, he was swimming. This is what I mean by “expectations.” Since I already believed he could swim, he picked up that “transmission” and swam!

You’re getting me here, yes? This is really about growing boys into men, and you have a magnificent opportunity right now! I hope you can see it.

Hi Andy,

I understand that the current rules allow any Scout to work toward any merit badge at any time, up to the time that he’s 18. However, I have a dim recollection that when I was a Scout we couldn’t work on merit badges until we were Second Class rank. Is my memory correct? (John Rekus, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Yup. BSA policies and requirements change from time to time. Here’s another: When I earned Eagle, there were no Eagle projects (and there were no “troop merit badge counselors,” either!).

Hi Andy,

We’re an active Scouting family. My husband is an Assistant Scoutmaster and he and our son are both Eagles and OA members. Our daughter eagerly waited to be old enough to join a Venturing crew, and joined a Sea Scout Ship just a couple of months ago. The same day she joined, the ship was electing Sea Scouts for the various positions, and, at the urging of another Sea Scout, she ran, and was elected Boatswain, at age 14 (she may be the youngest Boatswain in Sea Scouts). Unfortunately, although her peers are happy to have her as Bo’sun, but this election created a furor among the adults associated with the ship. Never mind that she’s better organized and better prepared than any of the previous Bo’suns in the two years that we’ve been involved with the ship—this maelstrom is based solely on her age: The Skipper believes this position should be held by the oldest Sea Scout in the ship. His concept of “youth led” is scewed, and considers this election scandalous. There’s an underlying thread that “this was just a popularity contest” and not a “real” election, too. (I should probably mention that the Skipper has a daughter in the ship, too, and she wasn’t elected.)

We all did our best to ignore the Skippers; disparaging comments for the past two months, but like all harassing, it doesn’t go away—it gets worse.

Now, the girl who was elected to the Yeoman position (second to the Boatswain), tries everything she can to undermine our daughter, including scheduling events in my daughter’s absence that have no business being scheduled. And she used “Facebook” to make disparaging remarks.

Our daughter hasn’t ever had a fight or even an argument with anyone—she’s quite reserved, and she chooses her friends carefully. She has an aversion to conflict, but I’ve always taught her that there are times when you have no choice but to stand up to someone, and the worst thing you can do is allow a bully to get the best of you. She’s been trying to deal with this other girl on her own but when it became obvious that it wasn’t working, she decided it was time to take this to the Skipper. So she wrote a letter to the Yeoman, and to the Skipper, but instead of sending it directly to the Yeoman, she sent both to the Skipper, to make sure he knew and approved of her approach to handling this. But the long and short of it is that the Skipper basically did nothing, and told my daughter to just let it go.

I don’t want her to give up on Scouting because of this stuff, but we don’t know how to turn it around, short of my daughter giving up her position letting this bully win.

I’m writing to you in hope of finding an alternative to filing a formal complaint with the council office, because your comments about bullying (your column in January 2005) came closest to anything I’ve found. My husband believes that, if I file a formal complaint, the ship will likely fold (there are 11 youth members) and would also likely end my daughter’s friendship with the Skipper’s daughter (a dubious loss, but still…).

I’m finding little information other than obvious advice to Scouts about not picking on each other. Other than a small paragraph in the Scoutmaster Handbook on bullying, in which the Scoutmaster is advised to take a complaint seriously, there’s nothing that pertains to situations like this. The BSA information is limited to physical bullying and name-calling. There’s nothing at all about the way girls bully, which is different (sneakier and more conniving), and no advice on how to deal with an adult volunteer who turns complaints back on the victim. I can find no information at all on situations where one youth is undermining another’s position or how and by whom this should be handled.

I need answers to three problems: age discrimination, and adult volunteer who refuses to address a problem, and the undermining and sabotaging by one elected youth leader toward another. What is the BSA’s stance on all of this, and what advice do you have? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, you need to know that the BSA local council has no actual jurisdiction or authority over the ship, its youth and adult members, or how it’s run. Commissioners represent the council, but have no direct authority over Scouting units, either. This is the exclusive province of the ship’s chartered organization (aka sponsor), and the head of that organization has all final authority.

The ship’s petty officers (i.e., the youth leaders) are elected by their peers. The role of the Skipper is to provide leadership training to the petty officers, which is to begin immediately upon their election. The minimum tenure of a petty officer is six months; most hold their elected position for a full year. All of this is in the Sea Scout Manual. Importantly, this manual is silent on the need for age or rank requirements in order to be elected to a petty office. So is the Handbook for Skippers. It’s high time the current adults followed the program as described in the Sea Scout Manual.

Of course elections are popularity contests! That’s not a pejorative remark; it’s a fact. Look at any political election in this country in the past century (or maybe even all of them) for proof of this fundamental. Scouting is no different, because Scouting is about human beings, and we humans like to be led by people we like. This isn’t in the Sea Scout Manual or any other BSA book or literature because it doesn’t have to be. What does this Skipper want? Maybe for somebody that nobody likes to get elected? Like that’s really gonna happen.

I love your word, “scewed”—a brilliant combination of skewed and screwed (up)!

Facebook can be a dangerous place, especially in the hands of someone of the female persuasion. Where one guy might confront another and somebody winds up with a black eye, girls are more clever: They use Facebook as their boxing gloves. This won’t go away. I think we all—especially our daughters—need to just get used to the fact that the snipers out there now have a new place to snipe from.

If this whole thing is doing too much damage to your daughter’s and your family’s emotional well-being, it’s time to walk away from it. There are Venturing crews that go aboard ship (like, to Sea Base), as well as go on treks (like Philmont!), and maybe checking one of these out, or even starting one, is the way to go.

Meanwhile, your daughter’s going to run into characters like that Yeoman all the rest of her natural life… In school and college, in a sorority, in church, and in the workplace… there’s just no escaping them. It’s not a “Scouting” issue; it’s a life issue. It’s unfortunate, but it’s life. Taking the high road is the best recommendation I can offer. If we let people like this drag us down, trip us up, or mess with our heads, well shame on us! Somebody much wiser than me put it this way: “No one can treat you like a door mat if you never lie down,” and another said, “It’s not what happens to us that’s important; it’s how we respond to what happens to us that matters most.” Or, to quote Rocky Balboa, “I just get back up one more time than I’m knocked down.”

Dear Andy,

What’s the summer uniform for Venturers? Cub Scouts wear blue and gold knee socks with blue shorts, and Boy Scouts wear green and red knee socks with shorts. Our co-ed medical Venturers voted to wear blue knee socks with blue shorts. At first, the guys complained; then they went along with it. So now, no problems. But is there an actual summer uniform? (R. Lotnick)

Venturing crews can select their own uniforms, or not, but I certainly admire more those that do! Uniform shirts (white for EMTs, I’m guessing) with blue shorts and matching blue knee socks makes great sense. Not too hot in the summer, provides great flexibility, easy to wash up. Yup, way better than long pants! I’d consider a matching blue cap, with the Venturing Crew’s number embroidered on it, and, ideally a blue web belt (from ye olde Army-Navy store)! The cap’s worn peak-to-front, of course! If, however, you want to see the forest green shirt and gray shorts that the BSA Supply Division provides, open any BSA catalog or go to

Dear Andy,

In your previous column, you said, “All Scouts have from the time they start until their 18th birthday to complete a merit badge. They never have to repeat requirements that are already signed off on the ‘blue card’ and they can change counselors if need be. Also, merit badges are never ‘re-tested’ by anyone in the troop.”

BSA guidance says to the Counselor: “Your responsibility, in addition to coaching , is to satisfy yourself that the requirements have been met…” and “…when you are satisfied that the Scout has met the requirements, you must sign his Merit Badge Application.”

I believe that a Counselor preparing to work with a Scout who has a “partial” is, in fact, obligated to be satisfied that the requirements are met and, if necessary, have the Scout show or demonstrate the requirement(s). (Paul Okonowski, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)

Proof that the Scout has successfully completed one or more requirements for a merit badge is the prior Merit Badge Counselor’s initial next to the requirement number, entered in the grid on the back of the card. While the “new” MBC can certainly ask the Scout when and how that or those requirements were completed; “re-testing” just for the sake of re-testing is not appropriate.


Dear Andy,

I was searching the web for some help on a sad situation involving my nephew when I ran into your columns. I read the very first one, titled “Bill,” and it prompted me to write to you.

Your comments on your Scoutmaster, Bill’s impact on you, as a Boy Scout, reminded me of why my sister signed up her only son for Scouts. You see, the boy’s father has never been in his life, and his mother wanted to find a place where her son could connect with other boys but also to have adult male role models. My nephew’s been actively involved with Scouts since first grade, and he’s now 16 and on his way to being an Eagle Scout—his personal goal. He’s made a lot of friends and has grown over the years in many ways, with Scouting being an important part of his life. There have been many adult leaders who have been positive influences for him over the years.

The sad part, however, is that I believe he’s now being treated unfairly by a new Scoutmaster, and may well leave his troop…with bad memories. This new Scoutmaster started about six months ago. I believe he’s singling out my nephew, and road-blocking him.

Recently the Scoutmaster gave my nephew just one month’s credit for a leadership position he’d held for six months, based on an “evaluation form” that the Scoutmaster had developed. My nephew didn’t agree with the “evaluation,” but was afraid to speak up, because, fundamentally, he’s afraid of this Scoutmaster.

During this same time-period, the Scoutmaster made my nephew meet with him no less than five times, separately from troop meeting nights, just to get the signature needed to begin his Eagle project. Plus, by the time my nephew had done all the writing the Scoutmaster required, the project plan had expanded from two to 15 pages in length, plus ten pages of attachments, and it all had to be in a binder (as one would have at the end of the project, but not at the beginning).

Well, despite this, my nephew did complete his service project, at a local retirement home, and then spent the next two weeks writing up project report. About a month ago, he called his Scoutmaster to schedule a project review meeting, and was told to just drop the report workbook off at the Scoutmaster’s house. The Scoutmaster said that he was very busy with paperwork and camping, and that he would contact my nephew when he’s done reviewing it. That was over two weeks ago, with no further word.

What should my nephew do about this?

Maybe it’s time for your nephew to look for another troop nearby that has a Scoutmaster more like Bill! Most do; the one he’s in doesn’t. That guy is all wet!

It’s perfectly acceptable to change troops. Boys don’t “marry” troops and there’s no stigma to saying, “These people don’t get it, and I’m outa here.” This isn’t about being “a quitter;” it’s about making a statement with your feet: You’re not delivering the program that the Boy Scout Handbook says I’m supposed to be getting, and I’m not standing for it anymore.

It’s also perfectly acceptable for a parent to speak up, privately. But Mom doesn’t go to the Scoutmaster—She goes to the Troop Committee Chair. She describes only facts, as you’ve done here—not “opinions.” Then let’s see what happens, but don’t let a lot of grass grow! But, before she does this, she tells her son, so that he’s aware.

Dear Andy,

I’ve just read your column, “Special-Are We Really That Smart,” and wish our troop leaders would as well. We have two issues at hand:

The Scoutmaster (who is also the District Advancement Chair) has told a Life Scout that he’s “not mature enough” to start his Eagle project, and he hasn’t “given back to the troop” (even though he was the top fundraiser in the district for two consecutive years), and hasn’t “shown leadership.” This Scout has been Life rank for three months. On his own, he investigated three possible projects. At first, he was given permission to write up his project plan, but then, when he submitted it for approval, the Scoutmaster shot it down.

With regard to another Scout, the Scoutmaster refuses to let him start a merit badge he’s interested in. Almost a year ago, when this Scout (he was Star rank at the time) asked to start Personal Management, the Scoutmaster told him to wait until his patrol matured and they could all work on it together. So the Scout waited, earning Life rank in the interim. Then, about three months ago, another patrol started working on Personal Management together, and this Scout asked to join in. The response to this request from the Scoutmaster was now “you’re not old enough.” The Scout waited another month, and asked again. Now, he’s told, “You may be mature enough, but the rest of your patrol isn’t, and I don’t approve of them starting this merit badge.” This is the last merit badge this Scout needs for Eagle.

I’ve read both Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (pp. 3, 26, 27) and the Boy Scout Handbook (p. 187). According to these, this Scoutmaster is absolutely in violation of BSA policy and the spirit of Scouting. Unfortunately, it appears that a fair number of the troop committee members are also of the same persuasion.

What steps would you advise these Scouts to take? Should they, or an adult, escalate this to the council level? If a Scout is denied the opportunity to work on his last remaining Eagle-required merit badge—or any merit badge, for that matter—what recourse does he have? Who else has the authority to sign the blue card so he can start? (Name Withheld, Central Florida Council)

First, you’re absolutely correct: Neither the Scoutmaster nor any other human being, unit, district, or council has the right or authority to tell a Scout such a thing as you’ve described, or to hold him back or suggest that he hold himself back from advancing as he chooses. No one has the right to stop him or slow him down from earning the merit badges or completing the other requirements he needs to advance to his next rank, and this includes the Eagle service project, which authorization to proceed cannot be withheld without sufficient cause. The Scoutmaster you’ve described has overstepped his bounds. If this is something he does regularly, with other Scouts, he should be replaced immediately. If, on the other hand, he has singled out one or more particular Scouts, then he should be taken out back and shot.

Second, it’s BSA policy that all Scouts advance as they choose. It’s also BSA policy that any Scout can earn any merit badge, any time he, the Scout, chooses. Neither the Scoutmaster nor anyone else has the authority to prevent a Scout from pursuing the merit badge he chooses—again, BSA policy. This Scoutmaster is quite obviously assuming authority over areas he has no business in. Unless he is willing to instantly change his erroneous ways, replace him. If he threatens to hold the troop hostage or refuses to resign, take him out back and shoot him.

Unfortunately, both the council and the district are powerless to help these Scouts: The owner of the troop is not the BSA; it’s the sponsor. If the head of your sponsoring organization is willing to step in and take action, that’s wonderful. If not, unless the Committee Chair is willing to confront the Scoutmaster so that he immediately either changes his little tin god ways or resigns, I guarantee you nothing will change.

Another possibility is for a parent group of sufficient size to bone up on BSA policy and then confront the entire troop committee and Scoutmaster, telling them clearly: Unless you all immediately start delivering the Boy Scout program the way it’s written to be delivered, for our sons, we’re all taking our sons out of this troop tomorrow morning.

Absent this, what should the Scouts themselves do? They should “vote with their FEET!” They should immediately go find another troop and go join it. Find one where the people there “get it,” and tell ’em you’re tired of the shenanigans being pulled on you at the troop you’re currently in, and transfer over. This is not a “sin.” It happens all the time. You haven’t “married” your present troop and if the Scoutmaster and other adults are being jerks, kiss ’em good-bye and go find a troop that runs a Scouting program right!


Dear Andy,

Does my Cub Scout pack have the authority to approve or disapprove my Wood Badge ticket items? There are certain things I want to do, but our pack’s Chartered Organization Representative and Committee Chair want to approve them before I start. I don’t feel they should have the authority to give permission, if what I’m doing benefits the pack. My Wood Badge advisor has said she’ll approve my ticket items; do I still have to get approval from my pack? (Karen Fish)

Of course, you haven’t said a word about what those items might be. But it seems to me that the only sensible and non-incendiary way though this impasse is to get your Wood Badge advisor and your pack chair and COR together for a face-to-face.


Dear Andy,

Regarding Camping merit badge, requirement 9a. says, “…You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement.” Does this mean only one week, or can you use more than one week? (Nancy Borland, Clinton Valley Council, MI)

Maximum one week: seven (7) days and nights. They don’t have to be consecutive, but the limit is seven.

I may have worded my question wrong. If you go to a Boy Scout long-term camp, how many days of that camp can go toward the 20 days required for Camping merit badge: more than one week, or just one week? (Nancy Borland)

One week = maximum 7 days and nights.

Hi Andy,

I took the Powder Horn training course, and was given the device. I’ve been wearing it hanging from the button on the left shirt pocket on my tan uniform shirt, but the Centennial uniform shirt doesn’t have a button on the left pocket flap. What do I do? (Greg Franck, Northwest Suburban Council, IL)

Yup, there’s no button on that side, and the BSA hasn’t yet come up with a solution for you. If you wear the Powder Horn thingy all the time, why not just tack it on with some thread? Yeah, you’d have to take it off when you wash or dry-clean the shirt, but it’s decision-making time, my friend! (BTW, it fits just fine on the Venturing uniform shirt!)

Dear Andy,

I have one of the new shirts, and on the back side of the right flap there is a button that my OA ribbon is hanging on. I guess the BSA did have a solution to this problem! (Georg Dahl, Tidewater Council)

See that little button under the flap of the right pocket—the one you’re using for your OA ribbon? OK, so how about sewing a similarly-sized button under the left pocket flap, too. That should put an end to this dilemma!

Hi Andy,

On how to hang the Powder Horn emblem on the Centennial uniform, there’s an extra button at the bottom of the shirt (presumably to be used if you lose a button), and I just took that one and sewed it under my left pocket flap—just like the button under the right pocket flap. (Ron Hubbard, Shawnee Trails Council, KY)

Perfect solution, and a great use for that “spare” button!


Dear Andy,

It’s time for our troop’s Order of the Arrow elections. We haven’t had one in at least the past two years since registered as a leader in this troop. As a Scout, I wasn’t in the OA. I read the eligibility requirements in the lodge handbook, particularly about the camping requirements. Here’s the question: Can a Scouts who’s Den Chief use his nights of camping with his Cub Scout den to qualify as “Boy Scout Camping”? For example, one of my older Scouts has 11 days of camping (six regular camping, five resident camp nights) over the past two years; however, I believe he has four or five more nights of camping with his den. I know the national OA FAQ says that it’s up to the unit leader to decide on what qualifies as Boy Scout camping, but I’d love some guidance. My inclination is that it doesn’t qualify, but I wouldn’t want to deny a potential Arrowman the chance to be elected if I’m misunderstanding the rule or principle. (Barry Rozas, SM, Evangeline Area Council, LA)

My own call would be to always give the Scout the benefit of the doubt. Even if it’s “family camping” for the Cub Scouts, a Boy Scout doesn’t bring Mom or Dad because: He’s a Boy Scout. And, for a Den Chief to provide the extra service of camping with the den he’s serving and then be denied eligibility for an OA election is, I think, counterproductive. However, this does pose the question of why he doesn’t qualify on the basis of camping with his troop. Does the troop not go camping often enough, or is there something else operating. At any rate, my call would be to not put too fine a “filter” on this, especially for a Scout who holds one of more demanding leadership positions in all of Boy Scouting! Finally in this regard, let’s remember that one of the significant goals of the OA is to promote camping, so by camping with the Cub Scouts he’s responsible for, this Scout is already living up to a key purpose of the OA!

About why this Scout’s missed some troop camping trips, that’s easy: It’s a combination of our troop doing one-night (only) campouts, some missed campouts due to other worthy commitments (like honor band and science fair competitions), and, until very recently, this troop went camping only about every other month (in the in-between months, there were other types of activities, like hikes or canoeing or shooting or museum tours, but they didn’t have an overnight camping component). So, if a troop camps only one or two weekends in a year and then every other month only camps for one night, that’s only seven-to-ten nights a year, thus even over a two-year period it would be hard for any Scout to qualify if he’s your typical, well-rounded, budding young renaissance student! Recently, the PLC (with a little “encouragement”) is changing—we’ve even scheduled our first three-night campout over a holiday weekend! (Barry Rozas)

OK, your troop’s definitely moving in the right direction, and good for you! So, from what you’ve described, I’d absolutely give that Den Chief credit! Keep the OUTING in Scouting!


Dear Andy,

Can you tell me where, in the Boy Scout Requirements book, it says that any Scout can work on any merit badge he wants, regardless of rank or age? (Name & Council Withheld)

Page 22: “Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time.”

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for some resources to identify why we have Wood Badge “critters,” and why we have the ones we have. (Gabrielle Martin, Wood Badge Course Director, Prairielands Council, IL)

These patrol names go all the way back to the very first Wood Badge course, directed and taught by Baden-Powell himself, at Gilwell Park, England. For a fascinating history, go (“I used to be an Owl…”)

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(May 31, 2009 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2009)

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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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