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Issue 178 – June 7, 2009

Dear Andy,

I’m Committee Chair for a Troop of about four dozen. Recently, a Scout and, separately, his parents, have expressed concerns to me about his advancement to First Class rank. I know the boy, and while he does have some physical challenges, he’s a good Scout; very intelligent and can quickly absorb materials and concepts shown or explained to him. We in the troop have discussed his physical challenges with his parents, including the option to take an alternate advancement route, but the parents have decided not to pursue this course or ask for waivers of any kind. The Scout has completed all of the “book” requirements and has had a couple of conferences with the Scoutmaster. The last two signoffs on any rank are the Scout Spirit and the Scoutmaster Conference, which are, of course subjective in nature. Things like attendance, attitude, skills, and so forth, all come into play and it’s always been my own understanding that it’s up to the Scoutmaster to decide when and if a Scout is “ready” for the next rank. So, I have two questions…

First, what can a Scoutmaster deem as “required,” from a Scout at time of the conference, to convince the Scoutmaster that the Scout is indeed ready for the next rank? I’ve had some discussions with the Scoutmaster about this, and his point of view is that he’s looking for practical examples of how the Scout put the skills to use in an outdoor environment. In this regard, how much is too much?

Second, and perhaps more difficult, the parents have reached out to me because they find their son to be confused, frustrated, and upset over how it’s taking to get requirements completed and why the Scoutmaster has requested that certain things be displayed or demonstrated before he’ll sign the Scout off on First Class.

I guess there’s a third question, now that I think about it: In a troop, does the Scoutmaster actually “report” to the Committee Chair? Or, to put it more appropriately, am I expected to step in because the parents are coming to me? The parents have pointed out a few things I can easily correct with some internal discussions, but where does my role of making sure we have qualified adult leaders begin and end? Many people have come to look to me over the years as the “de facto CEO” of the troop, mainly because I’ve been around for some ten years. I try to stay out of the “program” area as much as possible, and focus on the business side of the organization, but this situation may call for more than that. (Name & Council Withheld)

The Committee Chair (aka CC) is the big dog. If you’re also the Chartered Organization Representative (COR or CR), you’re an even bigger dog. The Scoutmaster, any ASMs, and all committee members serve at your discretion and good judgment. You can “hire” ’em… and you can fire ‘em by merely saying, “Thanks for your services; they’re no longer needed by the troop,” and that’s the end of the story—they can’t pull an end-run through either the district or council. Use your authority wisely, but use it. If, for instance, you have a Scoutmaster who’s making more out of Scoutmasters Conferences than is described in the Scoutmaster Handbook or—more importantly—the Boy Scout Handbook, you are obligated to advise him that he must change, and not gradually, or he will be replaced for the good of the troop. Read the Troop Committee Guidebook.

With regard to requirements, there are no “book requirement;” there are requirements, period. Requirements are BSA standards and are not to be deviated from.

With regard to Scoutmasters’ Conferences, they are absolutely not for the purpose of “deciding whether a Scout is ‘ready’ to advance;” they are to encourage him to do so and to review how well the troop and its program are serving the needs and ambitions of the Scout. To use this as a “point of final judgment” is to get it all wrong.

Scoutmaster Conferences need to be conducted in accordance with Scouts’ expectations, as described to them in the Boy Scout Handbook. I direct you to pages 11, 60, 109, 165, and 175. On these pages, you’ll find these words about Scoutmaster Conferences: “…opportunities for you to review how you are doing and to look ahead…you can ask questions and share what you like about being a Scout…an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and to get a bigger picture of how to approach the bigger challenges that lie ahead…your Scoutmaster will want to congratulate you…the Scoutmaster might remind you that he and the rest of your Scout troop are behind you…ready to give you a hand whenever you need it…he might also point out that some of the great opportunities of Scouting lie ahead…(conferences) can be worthwhile discussions about your increasing responsibilities and ways the troop can enhance the experience for you…” Notice not only the subject matter but the entire tone here. This is a conversation between friends. It’s not an “interview” and it’s certainly not a re-test of anything.

Who can judge Scout spirit (i.e., “living theScout Oath and Law in your daily life”) best? The Scoutmaster? Nope! Based on how much time in the course of a week or month or year a Scoutmaster actually observes the Scout in action, he is totally unqualified to comment on this area: He sees perhaps two percent of a Scout’s full life. The very best evaluator is, in fact, the Scout himself. Consequently, instead of “judging” the Scout in this dimension, the Scoutmaster who actually “gets it” will ask, “…so how are you doing with that…?” If the right relationship has been established from the outset, the Scout will be candid. And, in this regard, we’re not looking for perfection; we’re looking for “doing your best.” That’s it! This is a very gentle thing.

The Scoutmaster wears a tan shirt and olive green pants; he doesn’t wear black robes. His objective is to prepare the Scout for the board of review; it’s not “to determine if the Scout’s ready.” The Scoutmaster’s responsibility is to make the Scout ready. If the Scout isn’t ready, the Scoutmaster has failed the Scout, not the other way around. If the Scoutmaster has any other point of view than this, take him out back and end his misery.

Dear Andy,

I’ve noticed your point of view about a committee member being involved with the Scouts in a troop. While I agree that committee members shouldn’t impose themselves on the Scouts, I do like to interact with them… I want to know their names and be available to share my own Scouting experiences with them, and to help them with advancement. For example, I’m working with some Scouts on Communications merit badge, and we agreed that the requirement to teach someone a skill could be met by teaching the troop’s newest Scouts a skill required for advancement to Tenderfoot. You see, even after four decades, I’ve retained a lot of Scoutcraft knowledge, and I like to make myself available as a consultant, if asked, and I can’t be asked unless I’m there at troop meetings and events. (John Rekus)

OK, so you “like to interact with and get to know the Scouts.” To be sorta direct here: This isn’t about what you or I or Uncle Biff happens to like—This is about the Boy Scout program and our responsibility to deliver it as closely to True North as we can trim our sails. Committee members, unless invited by the Scoutmaster, have absolutely no business inveigling themselves into the youth of the troop.

Now if you’re a registered Merit Badge Counselor for Communications, that’s different, of course. While there’s certainly no room in a troop meeting plan for merit badges (these are designed, specifically, to be done outside of regular troop meetings and such), the relationship between a MBC and Scouts engaged in earning the merit badge he or she counsels is quite different, and is perfectly OK.

(BTW, it is absolutely not mandatory for a Communications MBC to actually witness the teaching element of req. 6.)

Dear Andy,

I’m just wondering if registered adult leaders have a right to vote at pack committee meetings. If not, who does have the right to vote? (Diana Leyman)

The technical side of your question is this: Registered committee members and the committee chair comprise the pack committee; Cubmasters and Den Leaders are not members of the committee. The next part is interesting: There is virtually nothing a committee ever needs to take a formal vote on!

Dear Andy,

In our troop, two Assistant Scoutmasters have insisted that the troop cannot have any campouts, outings, or any other activities unless a Scout comes up with the idea and promotes the event. They have been able to push this extreme version of a “boy-run troop” because the registered Scoutmaster hasn’t been a no-show at most troop meetings and events for about a year, and there’s virtually no troop committee. If anyone expresses an alternate point of view to these two ASMs, they instantly go on the defensive, get angry, and start making up all sorts of reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing. We now have a troop that no longer camps, hikes, or does much of anything in the out of doors—in over a year. These two even cancelled a recent outing because, in their judgment, “It wasn’t a Scout’s idea.” What’s the best way to get deal with this? These guys are running unchecked. (Name & Council Withheld)

News flash: No cure for stupid has ever been found.

If you’re the father of a Scout in this unhappy and mis-led troop, the easiest and most rational thing you can do is see if there’s another troop reasonably nearby that your son (and maybe some of his fed-up friends, too) can transfer to. It only costs a dollar for the BSA to change his registration. (Important: This isn’t considered “being a quitter,” because he’s not quitting Scouts. Instead, he’s telling these jerks, with his feet, “This is awful and I’m not putting up with it a second longer.”)

The other thing you can do, if you have the fortitude and savvy for it, is to get yourself appointed Committee Chair, capture the Chartered Organization Representative position as well, and then throw those turkeys out on their feathered behinds. Yes, you’ll then need to re-build the troop, because an absentee Scoutmaster is often worse than none at all (as you’ve already discovered), but with the jerks gone, I wouldn’t be shocked to see other folks like yourself stepping up and volunteering to get this troop back on track!

Thank you! Rather on emphasizing moving to a new troop, I’ll make sure everybody involved with the troop reads your column. You’re good at getting to the point on these things—I read you all the time.

Hi Andy,

First, let me thank you for your great columns. I’ve referred several people to your site as part of my new job at our local Scout Shop. You’ve taught me a lot.

Do you happen to know how unit numbers are assigned? I’ve always thought they were given out on a geographical basis; for example, Town A has all 1000s, Town B has all 1100s, and so on, within a council. As a new Scout leader, this is how our district appeared to be set up, but once I started working in the Scout Shop, this theory got blown out of the water. There are units in different districts—some are 20 to 30 miles apart—that have numbers that would belong in my town if my theory was correct. Then I thought that maybe it was based on when the charters were originally given out by the BSA, but that didn’t work either. A couple of units near me have the same “1000” number as my own unit, yet we’re nearly 60 years old and they’re just three years old.

This wasn’t really high on my “To Find Out” list until a new Scout’s parent asked how the unit numbers are assigned, and this made me really curious. So if you could tell me where to look, I’d appreciate it. I know it’s not as important as other subjects (like how to deal with rogue leaders or hostile committee members), but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever wondered where their unit numbers came from. (Chris Miller, WDL, Detroit Area Council, MI)

At the dawn of Scouting in America, most councils were tiny—perhaps covering a county and sometimes just part of a county, and troops were identified by their towns, not their councils (packs didn’t appear on the horizon until 20 years later). Scouts originally wore “Community Strips” (e.g., Detroit, Kalamazoo, East Lansing, and so on) on their left sleeve-tops; there were no “council” patches. So, under this system, Detroit’s first troop would be Troop 1; it’s second, 2; and so on. East Lansing would have the same, numbered from 1 on out. But almost immediately, councils began to merge (this is hardly a new phenomenon), and then the community strips went the way of the Dodo Bird, so what to do with multiple Troops 1 and 5 and so on? Well, just as you surmised, “prefix” numbers were attached to them, so that Troop 1 in Detroit may have become Troop 101, and Troop 1 in East Lansing became Troop 201, and so on. But what happens if two councils that are side-by-side and have both done something like this then merge? Now we’re once again going to have multiple troops with the same number… unless one whole set of numbers is again changed. Then there’s the reverse… Sometimes, because a troop with a “pristine” number (like 1) eventually closes its doors, the “1” designation might actually become available! (Sorta like popular vanity license plates.) The bottom line: Although it sort of generally works, don’t expect perfection! And do expect to see some stuff that seems to have no apparent reason. Stuff happens! (Darned good guess about all this, by the way!)

Dear Andy,

I have Boy Scouts that earned their Whittling Chip when they were Cubs. Do they, as Boy Scouts, now still need to have a certificate with them in order to carry and use a pocket knife?

I misplaced my son’s certificate: He’s a Boy Scout now. If he does need a card, how do I go about getting him another one? I’m asking because at our last troop meeting we were doing lashings and I asked one of the Scouts whom I knew had a knife to help me, but an Assistant Scoutmaster yelled at him in front of everyone about having his card and that he had to have it in order to have a knife. (I totally disagree with the embarrassing behavior towards the Scout.) (Ruth Yeaman, SM, Blue Ridge Mountains Council, VA)

Boy Scouts can earn the Totin’ Chip (Handbook, p. 85). You don’t get this for him; he earns it—he’s a Boy Scout now, and he takes responsibility for himself. He needs to read up on safe use of woods tools, and then he speaks with his Scoutmaster (you).

On the subject of yelling at one another, for any reason other than to keep someone from going into harm’s way, this is un-Scout-like regardless of who’s yelling at whom.

Dear Andy,

Does the BSA offer any audio books of the Handbook, merit badge pamphlets, the Field Book, etc.?

I have a Scout with Dyslexia in my troop. Hands-on skills, he can’t be beat, and he shows the younger Scouts anything they need. But reading… not so much. We normally send an adult to shadow him, for merit badge classes, but he’s getting to that awkward age where he doesn’t want to stand out or feel like he has a “babysitter.” I’m thinking that if the BSA offered audio-books, he could pod-cast them and read along with the book. (Robert Schleich, SM, Occoneechee Council, NC)

I’m personally not aware of any BSA audio books, but that by no means should suggest that they don’t exist! Do check with the BSA national office!

You may want to (privately) ask this Scout’s parents how he handles textbooks in school. I agree with the idea that adult “shadowers” for merit badges aren’t cool, at his age. Instead, you might conference with him and ask how he’s going to handle this. Maybe if he had a Scout “merit badge buddy” who could read out loud for the two of them? (BTW, merit badge “classes” aren’t so cool, either—The last thing we want to do is create “Scout School”! Let’s not forget that boys join and stay in Scouting because it’s not like school!)

Dear Andy,

I do know that a Wolf Cub Scout can’t be a Bear without completing all of the achievements for the rank, but with that said, what’s the official time-line on a Wolf becoming a Bear? I’ve been told that a Cub’s next rank isn’t official until the beginning of the next school year, but I’ve also been told you can have a Tiger Cub Scout rally in May because two weeks after school lets out for the summer the kindergarteners are considered first-graders. So when do Wolves become Bears, and when can they start on their Bear achievements? (Bobby Taylor, DL, Bay Area Council, TX)

A Wolf Cub Scout is a 2nd grader. He becomes a Bear, and can begin work on Bear achievements and electives on the day after the end of 2nd grade, whether or not he’s earned the Wolf badge. Likewise, new boys become Tiger Cubs the day after 1st grade ends, Bears become Webelos I the day after 3rd grade ends, and Webelos I’s become Webelos II’s to day after 4th grade ends. All activities toward the new rank begin in May or June (depending on the current school year’s end) and this is not delayed until when the next grade year begins. Whoever “told” you otherwise was smokin’ somethin’ with no label!

Dear Andy,

It’s recently come to light that an Assistant Scoutmaster in our troop has been serially unfaithful to his wife. His wife has confronted him but he refuses to admit that he’s done anything wrong. He’s active at our sponsoring organization and with both our pack and our troop, and also at the district level, but despite all this he has seriously violated the Scout Oath and Law. As a troop committee member, I’m concerned about this situation and how it might affect the troop, pack, and district if his wife decided to expose him as an adulterer. I have personally considered approaching him and discussing this, but that may not be the correct approach. I’m also wondering if he should, on his own, step down from his Scouting positions, or should he be removed from them? And, if the latter, who does this? (Name & Council Withheld)

The only person who should be speaking privately with this individual right now is, possibly, the head of the sponsoring organization—this is where the rubber meets the road. Part of the reason for this is that unless you, personally, witnessed the alleged adulterous act(s), you have no business promulgating hearsay—even if that hearsay is from the gentleman’s wife. What happens next will come out of that conversation. For anyone else to do anything or say anything to or about this gentleman could lead to an ugly lawsuit, which you definitely do not want. Put this where it belongs. Then live by the decision made. If, in the meanwhile, you’re wondering if the BSA (district or council) has any authority over matters like this, the answer’s no.

Dear Andy,

A friend and I were having a discussion about the changes in rank requirements for Boy Scouts. He feels they’ve changed a lot and that it’s much easier to earn Eagle today. I think that it’s changed, but not as drastically as he seems to think. Can you point me to where I might find a chart listing the changes through the years? (Bill Doody, ASM, Three Fires Council, IL)

For an excellent chronology of Eagle requirements and how they’ve changed from 1911 till now, go to — all 98 years and 18 iterations.

There can be various points-of-view regarding whether attaining Eagle rank is harder or easier these days. The various factors that interplay are (a) the requirements demanded for Tenderfoot, Second, and First Class, which have changed significantly over the years; (b) the advent of “troop Merit Madge Counselors, which make the process of beginning a merit badge much easier than before this practice existed or became widespread; (c) the allowance for “alternative” required merit badges (e.g., emergency preparedness can now be substituted for lifesaving, whereas before this it was lifesaving or nothing!), (d) the “softening” of some merit badges’ requirements; and (e) the addition of a leadership service project for Eagle candidates (first introduced in 1965).

I don’t know, personally, whether I’d consider today’s requirements easier or more difficult, largely because many things have changed along the way, that still maintain a balance, although the elements of the balance may have had alterations.

The bottom line, perhaps, is that while some things have gone one way and other things gone another, the requirements for Eagle continue to remain geometrically more intense and extensive than those for Life rank, thus preserving the whole geometric concept of Boy Scout advancement.

Thanks for asking a terrific question!

Dear Andy,

As a new Den Leader, what do I do when neither my pack nor even our council supports the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award program or progress record? Several of us new Tiger Cub Den Leaders diligently followed the steps for tenure, training, and performance, and completed all of the progress record requirements, but the pack won’t submit the paperwork and the council doesn’t do this sort of paperwork, I’m told. So, can we just go and get our own square knots?

I’ve also been questioned about awards I have given my Tiger Cubs (in our pack, we had Webelos IIs who just earned the same awards for the first time!). Our pack recently earned an overall award, but my den is the only den that wears the recognition available to everyone in the pack, despite being told I’m “wrong” to do this. The way I see it, it’s simple: If you’ve earned it, you’re entitled to wear it, period. I see no problem with wearing an award I’ve earned, whether or not it’s awarded to me.

Our local council, it would seem, frowns on giving awards to its volunteers. As I meet Scouters from other councils, and they and their Scouts are all highly decorated (I’m using “decorated” with the military meaning; not holiday), it’s kind of embarrassing to look at some of our own Scouts’ and leaders’ uniforms, knowing that they’ve done the work and paid their dues and their uniforms are still blank. This ranges from other Den Leaders not doing the little bit of paperwork involved for their Cubs all the way to the Cubmaster and local council not encouraging the earning of awards by Scouts or Den Leaders. Their rationale is that “it’s all about the boys,” and I feel that way to, but shouldn’t we be encouraging achievement not only by the boys but by their leaders, too?

What do I do? Do my Cub Scouts and I wear them or not, even though we have completed all requirements? Or do we just forget about it? I need to know. I don’t want to break any rules. Can you add any thoughts here?

Any person, unit, district, or council that “doesn’t believe” in recognizing the dedication and accomplishments of its volunteer leaders needs to have its head examined. This is just plain silliness. There is a purpose to the “square knot” program established decades ago to recognize the efforts of adult volunteers, and the wise council makes certain that their volunteers are duly recognized. A simple piece of cloth, with a bit of embroidery on it gains miles of continued effort in the right direction! To not acknowledge these efforts is tantamount to saying, “We don’t care!” Caring is critical. When people like you and your fellow leaders are willing to put in the effort to obtain the training, put in the tenure, and complete the performance requirements of earnable recognitions, such as are available toCub Scout leaders, including Den Leaders, Cubmasters, Committee Members, and so on, you deserve to recognitions for these. The Cub Scouter Award, Den Leader Award, Cubmaster Award, Pack Trainer Award, and so on have been designed for the express purpose of providing tangible evidence (i.e., the “square knots” on your uniforms) of the commitments you’ve made and the work you’ve done. Shame on anyone who disregards these or down-plays them, or refuses to present them.

So, yes, if you have access to these square knots, by all means secure them and present them to your leaders (and yourself!) so that you’re known among your peers as steadfast and on-program achievers.

Further, if a pack has collectively earned a recognition (for instance, the Centennial Quality Unit Award) and doesn’t want to spring for the few dollars it would take for every member of the pack to receive and display this patch, then a den like yours that contributed to the pack’s success is certainly within its rights to take action on its own, obtain that recognition, and place it properly on the uniforms of both the youth and adults.

Your thinking that “if you’ve earned it, it’s yours to wear” is right on the money and don’t let anyone dissuade you! If you’re wearing something you’ve legitimately earned, you’re absolutely within your rights to wear it, and nobody can force you to remove it.

As you proceed forward with this, do keep in mind that it’s invariably those who are underachievers who wish to keep achievers like yourselves in the basement where they live, and they’ll use any tactic available to them to intimidate you and keep you down. Don’t let ’em get away with this, because it’s backwards!

Dear Andy,

We have a Tiger Cub in our pack who has a difficult family situation: His father’s out of the picture and his mom is caring for an infant younger sibling. For the most part, the boy’s being raised by his grandparents, who bring him to the meetings. His Mom’s attended just one pack meeting; that’s the extent of their shared Cub Scouting experience.

Our council is offering a Cub family camping weekend. This boy’s grandparents don’t consider themselves physically able to take him camping. I’ve so far had two families offer to take him along, which I haven’t allowed, following Youth Protection standards, and our District Executive has agreed with and supported me on this decision. I know this problem-and-opportunity will arise again, and I’d really like to help the boy out, but not at the risk of violating my YP training. Is there any way to work around this and still follow BSA standards? (Mike Ditchens, CM, Buckskin Council, WV)

While I absolutely appreciate and endorse your sincere desire to help this boy, the answer’s a firm No. There’s no “work-around.” It’s just not there. That said, do understand that a boy can still have a very full and rewarding Cub Scout experience without doing the family camping thing! Keep those grandparents in the loop and be sure they know how to be good “Akelas” for their grandson!

Thanks for asking and thanks big-time for caring!

Dear Andy,

Our council has a new summer Camp Director this year, and he’s let us leaders know at the pre-camp meeting that, this year, merit badges will have age prerequisites. Several of us volunteer leaders immediately protested that this is absolutely against BSA policy, but his position is unmovable: This change will be enforced this year, and will apply to every single merit badge offered at the camp, end of story.

Of course my question is simple: Is this guy overstepping his bounds and need a good whack over the head for imposing this sort of restriction? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yup, whacked upside the head is a good beginning. If that doesn’t work, you all might want to up the ante by suggesting that you’re going to start taking a serious look at camps outside your home council (Yes, it’s perfectly “legal” to go to any Scout camp you want!).

This guy’s not violating the “adding to” policy; it’s even more fundamental than that: The Boy Scout Requirements book says that any Scout can work on any merit badge he wants, regardless of rank or age. So, this guy is way out of line, and this should be brought to your Scout Executive’s attention right away! If the Scout Executive continues to condone this nonsense, “Vote With Your Feet.”

NetCommish Comment: Now there are a couple of other situations that might come into play for specific merit badges, but that does not appear to be the case here where it looks like the problem is just a misguided policy. The two circumstances where you might see a legitimate age requirement on a specific merit badge are (1) when the Council’s Executive Board on the advice of its Risk Management Committee decides that to adhere to local standards certain activities need to be age limited and (2) when the demand for a specific merit badge exceeds staffing resources (in such a case my preference would be first-come-first-served or arrangements for extra sessions, but the local camp may be taxed to the max and do this when it has to for a specific merit badge, but not all).

Dear Andy,

We have a Scout in our troop who’s completed all the requirements for Eagle rank except for his board of review, and now I’m receiving comments suggesting that we shouldn’t pass him, including such suggestions from prior Scoutmasters (who, it should probably be mentioned, passed him through the prior ranks).

I’ll admit that this Scout perhaps isn’t the best example of a Scout I’ve ever seen, but he’s completed all the merit badges, successfully completed his project, served in leadership positions, and was signed off by his Scoutmaster following the Scoutmaster’s Conference for the rank. As the troop committee chair, I feel it’s too late to block him from an Eagle board of review and unless he does something completely wild and unexpected during the review, I see no reason why he should not become an Eagle Scout. I’ve spoken with other more experienced district representatives and think my position is correct. However, since my own experience is limited and I don’t want to commit an error that would either break the rules or damage a Scout, I’d appreciate any observations and/or advice you may have. (Name & Council Withheld)

Your question’s a good one, and actually not that uncommon! So don’t feel alone!

If you’re about to conduct a board of review for an Eagle Scout candidate, this means that all requirements for the rank have been met—as you’ve described—and that the rank application has been reviewed by the council service center and found to be in proper order including all dates correct and signatures in place. If this is accurate, then for anyone to suggest to you that he not be “passed” is both inappropriate and un-Scout-like.

So long as a Scout has completed all requirements for this or any rank, then individual “opinion” regarding whether he’s a “best example” or not is beside the point. Rank advancement is about completing requirements as written; these are national in scope and apply to every Scout at each level; these are not subject to anyone’s “opinion” as to how they were completed, so long as they are completed. Moreover, once completed and signed off, no requirement is ever repeated or re-tested—especially not in any board of review!

Suggesting that an Eagle board of review (or any board of review, for that matter) be used to “block” a Scout from this advancement is not altogether unusual. It often happens when someone earlier in the process—a Scoutmaster who didn’t fully train a youth leader, or perhaps let him “slide” in some other way, for instance—now wants somebody else to do what he or she failed to do. But the thing is this: Our job as Scouting volunteers is to find the good in every boy and bring it out in him. When we don’t do this as thoroughly as we might have, we have failed the boy; not the other way around.

Consequently, don’t let anyone bully or otherwise “convince” you to damage a Scout in the care of your troop. Anyone attempting this is clearly acting in an un-Scout-like manner and hardly deserves the time o’ day.

(BTW: There are three levels of appeal beyond the upcoming board of review, so for the people who sit on it who might possibly have a “hidden agenda,” they may need to ask themselves: Since the likelihood is almost guaranteed that any negative decision on our part will be overturned, how much do we want to damage this Scout’s final experience with our troop and how much do we wish to embarrass ourselves and our troop?)

Hi Andy,

How do we, as a troop, train our Patrol Leaders, so they can do their best at their jobs? We want to avoid a “classroom” atmosphere, and can’t afford (time or money) to send every one to NYLT (National Youth Leader Training). We’re hoping to make this training fun and interesting, with not too much paperwork or lectures. (David Molton, ASM, Old Colony Council, MA)

Great question! First, invest in a Patrol Leader’s Handbook for every Patrol Leader in your troop, plus one to guide from, and then do the same for your Senior Patrol Leader (Yes, there’s a Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, too!). Use these to “teach” from, but do it informally. Stay out of classrooms! The weather’s getting nice this time of year, so do it over several Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons at a local park or other outdoor venue! Do it in full uniform—this helps all to “model” for one another—including your adults (the Scoutmaster and one ASM are probably all that’s needed). Before you start, go to your Scout shop and invest in Troop Leadership Training Cards (No. 30521 – $3.99), that you can use for training, too!

As an “FYI,” NYLT is a support program—The real program is inside the troop, just as you want to do!

Hi Andy,

Are there any restrictions on being a Merit Badge Counselor for your own son? (Phyllis Lozano, UC, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

Nope. None. Not any at all. That’s per BSA policy.

Dear Andy,

Are there any rules as to the wearing of a Turk’s Head (aka Gilwell) woggle? How about by those who haven’t taken Wood Badge training? Is this particular woggle style connected to Wood Badge at all? I’m asking because I want to help my son, a Scout, make a Turk’s Head woggle, but I don’t want him to wear something that’s only permitted to be worn by Wood Badge-trained leaders. (Mike Smith, Monterey Bay Area Council, CA)

The “Turk’s Head” is probably about the oldest of all forms of neckerchief slides (called “woggles” by Brits and, by extraction, Wood Badge folk). If you take a close look at the classic “official” metal BSA slide, you’ll notice that it’s…guess what…a Turk’s Head! In fact, so are the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scout slides! So, our Wood Badge folks certainly have no “exclusive” on this and wearing a Turk’s head slide in no way is “illegal,” a “sacrilege,” or anything else! Yes, your son and his pals should make as many of these as they like, and they’ll work to stay in place on their neckerchiefs (aka “neckers” or “scarves” by non-American Scouts and Scouters) a heck of a lot better than those metal jobs!

BTW, Baden-Powell made one out of a shoelace, so that a Scout always had a spare one, in case one of his shoelaces broke! How’s that for “Be Prepared”?!?

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(June 1, 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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