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Issue 189 – September 10, 2009

Loyal and sharp-eyed readers continue to keep me honest! I miss-stated the Venturing (and Sea Scout, as a part of Venturing) stand on unit bylaws, and a whole bunch quickly wrote to help set me straight! I really appreciate this, and it’s one of the best things going in these columns—as I attempt to help others, you all will help me from time to time when I don’t quite get it right. Thanks! Here, in no particular order, are some readers’ comments…

Dear Andy,

About the question on Venturing crew bylaws, the national council actually encourages crews and ships to create bylaws, and even gives a basic outline. So, while packs and troops don’t have them, crews and ships do. This means that this crew of Venturers isn’t out of line in creating their own bylaws. And having a rule about being active shouldn’t be a problem, either. Keep in mind that it’s the youth, not adults, who are coming up with this rule for themselves. (Michael R. Brown)

Dear Andy,

In a recent column of yours, this exchange took place…Writer: “Recently, our Venturing crew officers wrote…bylaws;” You: “Bylaws for Scouting units are redundancies and a waste of time to create.”

Andy, the Venturing Leader Manual (No. 34655E) how to create crew bylaws on page 41, and page 43 of the same book even gives a
“Suggested Crew Code and Bylaws.” Then, page 333 of that book and page 82 of theVenturer Handbook (No. 33494) list “Crew Code and Bylaws” in the glossary of terms. (Glenn Overby II, Prairielands Council, IL/IN)

Dear Andy,

You were recently asked about bylaws in Venturing, and replied, “Bylaws for Scouting units are redundancies and a waste of time to create.” I will agree with you for packs, troops, and teams, but crews and ships are expected to create bylaws. The Venturing Leader Manual covers this and gives examples. I’m not enthused about the definition of active here, but this is what the crew has voted on (it can, of course, be changed at any time by a vote of the crew). (Ed Palmer, Associate Advisor, Stonewall Jackson Area Council, VA)

Dear Andy,

Bylaws are, in fact, used in the Venturing program (Internet reference from the Venturing Leader Manual provided). As for setting requirements for “active,” I’d think that the crew should be able to do that. After all, the BSA did define active for Boy Scouts—A Scout is considered “active” in his unit if he is: 1. Registered in his unit (registration fees are current), 2. Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons, and 3. Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis.

But I’m going to have to disagree with your statement that “The BSA steadfastly refuses to define “active.” While that’s true with Boy Scouts (other than the statement above), Sea Scouts very definitely do have requirements for being active: Ordinary rank: Attend at least 75 percent of your ship’s meetings and special activities for six months; Able rank: Attend at least 75 percent of your ship meetings and special activities for one year; Quartermaster rank: Attend at least 75 percent of your ship’s meetings and special activities for 18 months.

With attendance being part of the requirements for Sea Scout ranks, I’d have no problem with a crew adopting bylaws with a one-meeting-a-month requirement for activities. But the program should keep the youth wanting to come to the meetings! (Robert Randolph)

So yes, I definitely do stand corrected: Bylaws can be a part of a Venturing crew’s “documents.” That said, we need to further recognize that bylaws for an organization like a Venturing crew would normally apply to and be generally concerned with the operation of the crew, specifying the form, manner or procedure in which the crew is to be run. They would normally cover topics such as who is eligible to join; what officers the crew will have, how they will be elected, and what their duties are; meetings; focus of the crew; etc. Bylaws of a crew cannot supersede or be contrary to policies, rules, regulations, or bylaws of the BSA at large. Therefore, since the BSA encourages but does not set “standards” for participation, it strikes me as inappropriate for a crew to do so. But that’s me. And that’s because, in general, I’ve found that when our overarching objective is to reach and embrace as many youth as possible, so that Scouting’s goals can be achieved among the largest population reasonably possible, finding ways to exclude participants is counter-productive and anathema to Scouting’s goals.

Now the Sea Scouting program—which is a part of the overall Venturing program—does specify attendance as a requirement for rank advancement, and that’s OK, because advancement itself is elective on the part of the youth members. But do note that attendance is not a requirement for membership itself or for participation in the activities of the ship.

I appreciate and respect everyone’s thoughts, and I appreciate the time folks took to research and write to me. My own thoughts are tempered by my concern over the saber-rattling about attendance that, unfortunately, goes on in Scouting in places where it doesn’t belong, for reasons counter to Scouting’s ultimate goals. Bottom line: Program produces participants, and that’s what it’s all about.

Dear Andy,

My question is about Lifesaving merit badge requirement 1.(b), which states: “Swim continuously for 400 yards using each of the following strokes in a strong manner…” One of our Scouts passed everything except this requirement at Scout camp. His strokes were inefficient and asymmetrical. We worked on his strokes and got them better, but then he was too tired to retest the 400 yards. Since he passed everything else at camp, does this mean that his strokes weren’t passable? Or could he have improved over the week, but they didn’t have time to retest him? Or should he be expected to keep trying and improving his strokes until they’re strong enough to actually save a person’s life? I see that life “saving” is not the same as life “guarding,” so maybe his strokes don’t have to be strong enough to instill confidence in me that he could be employed as a life guard. Please advise. (Nancy Heller, MC & MBC, National Capital Area Council, MD)

Let’s establish this first: I’m also a MBC for Lifesaving merit badge, as well as a former BSA Lifeguard Counselor and summer camp Aquatics Director (including having attended BSA National Aquatic School).

Yes, requirement 1.(b) states, “…in a strong manner,” and this is vitally important, because we are equipping young men to actually save life and not just “stand guard.” If a Scout we’ve counseled can’t swim to a subject, connect, and return the subject to a dockside or other safe place, then both rescuer and subject remain in harm’s way. This could produce, at its worst, a “double-drowning” situation, and this is precisely what we are training these young men to avoid.

While any Scout, of any age or physical makeup can try for the Lifesaving merit badge, it is our responsibility as a MBC to assure that he has met the letter of all requirements. If a Scout is not sufficiently robust to meet requirement 1.(b) (or any of the other requirements, for that matter), our obligation is to help him ultimately succeed, by providing them with a plan and regimen for extending his strength, endurance, and skill in the water, so that he can carry out an in-water rescue. If we wink at a requirement, we short-change both the Scout and his potential subject. So yes, it is our obligation and responsibility to assure that a Scout does have what it takes to meet this requirement, until, as you put it so well, he is “strong enough to actually save a person’s life.”

That said, a brief story… When I set out to qualify for BSA Lifeguard Counselor, the very first requirement I was asked to complete successfully was to swim a half-mile strongly. My instructor put it this way: “Why waste a week if you’re unable to meet the most fundamental of all requirements.” He was right.

So, instead of trying to second-guess what may have happened at camp, under a different MBC, give this Scout the training plan he needs to succeed, and then stay with him to monitor and coach, as he works to achieve his goal. After all, if you, an expert, aren’t confident in his abilities, who can be? Although we stress that the very last action to be taken is to actually enter the water for a rescue, if that’s the only option, the Scout we counsel must be prepared by us to carry out that action successfully, both for himself and—with confidence and competence—for his subject as well.

Hi Andy,

We have a Scout in our troop who has scheduled his Eagle Scout Service Project for a Sunday morning. He says that he has a few volunteers who can be there at that time, but I don’t believe any of our troop’s leaders signed up to be there at that time, since this is a time when most of us are in church. The question was raised by our Committee Chair: Is two-deep leadership required? I don’t think it’s been required on previous projects, but then maybe it just happens that two leaders happen to have been there. What do we do? (David Hinger, SM, Greater Alabama Council)

This is an Eagle project and the Eagle candidate is in charge; this isn’t a “unit outing” or event. Therefore, no “tour permit” is filed and two-deep leadership doesn’t apply.

Dear Andy,

I’ve respected you opinions in the past, but this time I think you’re wrong about two-deep leadership for Eagle projects, for a number of reasons…

1. In a Scout-led Troop, the Scouts are always in charge, but just because the Eagle candidate is in charge of his Eagle project doesn’t mean that we don’t need two-deep adult leadership.

2. The Eagle service project is a unit event in that it’s been reviewed and approved by the Scoutmaster and Troop Committee, and the Eagle candidate has encouraged his fellow Scouts to help him on the project by announcing it at Troop meetings, and his Scoutmaster has agreed to allow the Scouts’ participation to be counted as service hours.

3. Consider what would happen if a Scout gets hurt while working on an Eagle project and no adult leaders are present. Can we claim that it wasn’t a Scouting event and therefore we’re not required to have adult leaders there? I’d hate to see that in the newspapers.

4. “In-city” events that occur for less than a day don’t require tour permits, but they’re still considered unit events. Are you arguing that we only need two-deep adult leadership when a tour permit is required? That doesn’t sound right to me.

(John Shriver, CC, Greater Alabama Council)

The short version is: Nope, nope, nope, and nope. Here’s why…

1. Yes, in fact, a Life Scout is absolutely in charge of his own project, and no one else should even suggest taking this away from him. The “Eagle project,” after all, is much more about leadership than it is about service. Moreover, a Life Scout doesn’t have merely other Scouts as helpers… he can recruit friends, neighbors, cousins, classmates, brothers or sisters, teammates, and on and on, so that having “adult troop leaders” hangin’ around might actually interfere with rather than aid what this requirement is intended to accomplish.

2. The Eagle service project is absolutely not a “unit event,” regardless of signatures. This endeavor belongs to the Life Scout and no one else. If a Scout “announces” his project and need for help at a troop meeting, this is just one of many venues open to him for recruiting. This makes it even more afield from a “unit event.” As for a Scoutmaster “agreeing” to “allow” Scouts to “count” their time on a project toward “service hours,” any Scoutmaster who didn’t “agree” to this would need his head examined.

3. Regarding accidents, you’re perhaps forgetting that the BSA-provided insurance is the very last insurance to kick in. All other insurances come first. This would include one’s medical insurance if medical treatment proved necessary. The presence of adults from the troop would have no effect whatsoever on treatment or insurance. Besides, just what are you expecting to have happen? There are no chain saws or other powered equipment ever necessary to complete an Eagle project—hand tools should always be preferred, and this should be a part of the project plan. Moreover, no “headlines” would go away just because some troop adults were there and couldn’t prevent the “accident.”

4. If you carefully read the Guide to Safe Scouting FOR UNIT ACTIVITIES (that’s the full title, and I’ve capitalized the part of the title we often overlook, for emphasis), you’ll discover that it specifically states that there are events for which “two-deep leadership” aren’t required, including, also, patrol meetings.

Thanks for providing the logic behind your answer. I appreciate it. Our difference stems from whether or not we view an Eagle project as being something outside Scouting. I don’t believe it is, and you do. While it must be performed for an organization other than the BSA, and people outside of Scouting can assist, it’s still controlled by a Scout and approved by Scouters. I don’t see any reason to define it as being separate from Scouting. We define what it is and set up fairly strict guidelines as to what must be done. How can we then say that it’s not part of our organization? The other difference is that I believe that two-deep leadership is an excellent idea for everyone involved (not for insurance reasons). I suspect that you do too. It may be restrictive at times, but then so are safety helmets and seat belts. (John Shriver)

No one until now said that an Eagle project is “outside Scouting.” An Eagle project is “Scouting in action!” What it’s not, however, is a “unit activity” (i.e., a “troop activity”). Therefore, two-deep leadership is absolutely not mandatory, for the same reason that a patrol of Scouts can have a meeting or even go out and do something all together and it’s not mandatory that they have adults along—not because it’s “outside Scouting” but because it’s not a “unit activity.”

(As regards helmets and seat belts, these are laws.)

Dear Andy,

I have a question about Eagle candidate letters of recommendation. Reading the requirements listed on the official Eagle Scout Rank Application, I don’t see that letters of recommendation are explicitly required. The text of the requirement is: “…List the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf.” I sit on Eagle boards of review and have yet to see an application that didn’t include letters of recommendation. But, in reading the wording of the requirement, it seems like an actual letter is not required. So, how would you interpret the requirement? (Vince Brashear, ASM, Las Vegas Area Council, NV)

Having sat on a couple hundred Eagle boards of review, in three different councils, I can confirm that the usual recommendation is provided in letter form; however, this isn’t mandatory by any means. You’ll find this verified inAdvancement Committee Policies and Procedures.

Meanwhile, I sure hope you don’t mean that, as an ASM, you’re sitting on boards of review for Scouts in your own troop, because it’s also verified in virtually every BSA document on boards of review that this is a big no-no.

If, however, you’re also a member of a district or council advancement committee, and are representing same in Eagle boards for other than the troop you’re registered as an ASM with, then you have my personal thanks for the additional service you’re providing to Scouting and the youth we’re all here to serve.

Thank you for your reply. And let me address your concern over the Eagle boards. I sit on Eagle boards of review for Scouts from other troops and crews. I agree that it’s not permitted for me to sit on boards for Scouts from my own troop, and we’re careful to make sure that doesn’t happen.

If you don’t mind, there’s one other question I have, and it’s about the BSA tour permit for less than 500 miles. I can’t seem to find a definitive statement of when the tour permit is required and when it isn’t. Specifically, I’m wondering if a tour permit is required when transporting Scouts for an Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project. I’ve read some information that says the tour permit is only required for unit activities and that an Eagle project isn’t a unit activity, so therefore not required. What’s your take on this? (Vince Brashear)

Yes, so long as your home troop has willing registered committee members sitting on boards of review from Tenderfoot through Life plus Eagle palms, then you’re in great shape! If you’re sitting on Eagle boards outside your home troop, you’re perfectly Kosher. If, however, you’re sitting on boards in other troops that are for any other rank, and you’re not a registered committee member there, then that’s another no-no.

As for tour permits, these are for unit activities. Eagle projects in or nearby one’s home town (where the Life Scout has rounded up helpers of all sorts) aren’t unit activities and therefore require no such permits, especially when the helpers are providing their own transportation (car, bike, walking, etc.).

I’m wondering if you could clarify your answer on the tour permit requirement. You say that an Eagle project isn’t a unit activity and therefore a tour permit isn’t required, “especially when the helpers are providing their own transportation.” What if the helpers are meeting at a central location and then carpooling to the project site? I’d assume that some helpers will ride with drivers who are not their parents. Is this a rule governed by national policy, council policy, district policy, unit policy? I’m confused. Some people I’ve talked to are of the opinion that any time Scouts are transported, a tour permit is required. Is this simply erring on the side of caution? I simply want to follow the rules and make sure that I’m doing the right thing. Admittedly, I would also like to avoid unnecessary paperwork, but if there seems to be some question as to whether or not it is required in this instance, I’ll err on the side of caution and get the tour permit. (Vince Brashear)

There are myriad “what if…” scenarios, most beyond my own limited imagination. Having been involved to various degrees in, by crude count, somewhere around a hundred different Eagle service projects, that experience tells me that the most usual way gatherings happen is that the Eagle candidate asks his helpers to show up at a specific location from a stated start-time to a specific end-time, and then leaves it up to his volunteer helpers to get themselves there and back. Some helpers drive themselves, others are driven by someone else (usually a parent), others walk, cycle, roller-board, or whatever. Some even take public transportation (Wow, what a concept!). If some want to car-pool, that’s up to them. Point is, this isn’t a “unit activity.” Patrol meetings and events can be gathered exactly the same way, and these aren’t considered a “unit activity” either. Read the Guide to Safe Scouting for more.


Dear Andy,

I’m a Webelos Den Leader, just moved up from Bear, and I want to confirm the three special parts of the Webelos uniform. Would it be the hat, neckerchief and slide, and the belt buckle? (Jim Haney, Chickasaw Council, MS)

Yup, that’s it! And, as their Den Leader, you would wear the neckerchief; hat optional. The boys can make and wear their own slides if they wish, by the way. Might be a cool den project!

Dear Andy,

I’m a new District Commissioner and I want to dress properly. I’ve noticed that several of the adult recognition awards (square knots) are the same: training, Scoutmaster, committee, etc. Do you wear multiple identical square knots, each with a different device, or one square knot with multiple devices? I know this is a trivial question I just don’t want to look goofy. Thanks! (Don Haynie, DC, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

Good question! The policy is: When the same-design square knot applies for multiple program phases (e.g., the Scouter’s Training Award and the Scouter’s Key), more than one knot of the same kind is not to be worn. Instead, miniature devices are pinned onto the single knot, corresponding to the phase of the program in which the award was earned (multiple devices are absolutely acceptable).

Dear Andy,

My son has been in Scouting since he began in Cub Scouts, and me alongside him. He joined a troop about four years ago, and things where good till about a year ago. The meetings became less and less organized and summer camp was less than a good time for him, a result of lack of adult leadership (the adults sat around a lot and barked out orders). Is it possible for him to continue in Scouting without being in a troop? I’ve heard of the Lone Scout program, but I’m not sure if it would apply to his situation. Can you help? (Dennis Vega, Grand Canyon Council, AZ) (PS, I was a Scout, myself, and my father was the Scoutmaster—To this day, when I call or see the guys from our troop, we all agree that Scouting was the best time of our youth!)

Yes, he can be a Lone Scout and you can be his “partner.” However, that’s in the category of “last resort.” The better option would be to check out other troops reasonably nearby and find one that gets it right—That’s the one to join! Camaraderie is important, as you know, and being a Lone Scout doesn’t offer that at all.

Dear Andy,

What are the rules regarding custom council shoulder patches? (Robin Shaw, Bay Area Council, TX)

If you’re talking about a unit-specific or district-specific “custom” CSP, you would absolutely need clearance from your local council. Talk with your Scout Executive about this.


Dear Andy,

We’re having a running debate on what’s an “official” uniform, and can certain things be mandated to be worn on it, and can not properly wearing it be grounds for not being granted a Scoutmaster conference and/or board of review.

In our troop, the Scouts voted to have name tags as a part of their uniform. A considerable amount of time was spent researching the cost and where to have them made. The troop’s monthly dues paid for them to be made, and it became the responsibility of the Scouts to not lose them and to have them sewn on.

My own take on this is that this would fall under “Scout spirit.” Another dad considers Scout spirit only following the Scout Oath and Law. It would seem to me, then, that “obedient” would cover this topic.

Also, should a Scout be passed to the next rank if he’s not attending meetings/campouts/etc., or not wearing his uniform properly on a consistent basis? The older Scouts, as they advance, should be role models, in all aspects, for the younger Scouts. All of those seem to go to Scout spirit as well.

I don’t want to delay Scoutmasters’ conferences or boards of review unnecessarily over this matter; however, the Scouts have had these name tags for five months! We’re looking for an “incentive” to have them applied to their uniforms. (Mark Miller Sam Houston Council, TX)

Let’s break your question down into separate parts…

The Boy Scout uniform and badge placement are depicted and described on pages 12-13 and the inside front-and-back covers of the Boy Scout Handbook-Eleventh Edition, and pages 32-33 and the inside front-and-back covers of the Boy Scout Handbook-Twelfth Edition. Notice that the notion of “troop uniform” is not an option.

Technically, sew-on names are not part of a Boy Scout uniform, although, optionally, name badges may be worn (they’re available through the Supply Division; sew-on name strips aren’t). It seems to me that the Patrol Leaders Council could have used some better guidance from the Scoutmaster before deciding on something that’s technically outside BSA uniforming policies.

Recognize that it would be the highly unusual Scout who sews on his own badges. This is typically the province of the parent, and therefore any conversation about “missing” badges would better be done with the parent than the Scout.

An absolutely full, complete, and correct uniform isn’t a mandatory BSA requirement for Scoutmasters’ conferences or boards of review. The BSA states (refer to Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures) that “as complete a uniform as possible” is what’s expected.

Consequently, any troop that would deny an otherwise eligible Scout a conference or review on the basis of missing a less-than-official badge is severely missing the point. This strikes me as pedantic and smacking of martinet-like behavior.

As for participation, the “golden rule” here is quite simple: Show me a troop of absentees and I’ll show you a troop with a boring program. Attendance absolutely cannot be by edict.

Dear Andy,

When a Scout successfully completes Swimming merit badge, does this also meet the Second Class swimming requirement, per the Boy Scout Handbook? (Greg Bourke, Lincoln Heritage Council, KY)

By way of having successfully completed Swimming merit badge, a Scout has completed the swimming requirements for both Second Class and First Class rank, and these should be signed off in his handbook by his Scoutmaster (refer to Swimming requirement 3). No “re-testing” is necessary (or permitted).

Dear Andy,

My son, soon to be an Eagle Scout and Troop Instructor, and I have been searching the internet, calling district, council, and national office, and searching through every national publication we have, to get this question answered: Does a Senior Patrol Leader have the right to attend the troop committee meeting, to represent the Patrol Leaders Council? A few years ago, my husband and I were training new leaders and watched a copy of a DVD put out by national. On the DVD, the Senior Patrol Leader walked into the troop committee meeting with his Scoutmaster. Is there anywhere that this opportunity for a Senior Patrol Leader to visit the troop committee is written, in BSA literature? There are times when the Patrol Leaders Council wants to be represented at the troop committee meeting. Is this possible? (Cherie Schadler, Pine Burr Area Council, MS)

One of the important responsibilities of the Scoutmaster is to convey to the troop committee the decisions of the Patrol Leaders Council regarding troop meeting program content (following the Troop Meeting Plan, of course) and outdoor activity program and schedule. This is done at troop committee meetings as part of the Scoutmaster’s report to the committee. The committee then may offer suggestions regarding program, which the Scoutmaster conveys back to the PLC by collaborating with the SPL. The committee does not, however, have a Yea-or-Nay “vote” regarding what the PLC has decided; the committee offers suggestions and advice only. This way, program stays in the hands of the Scouts, where it belongs, and the Scoutmaster acts as the liaison between the committee and the PLC. All of this is definitely in writing, and this process has been a standard part of the Boy Scout program for decades!

I don’t know about the DVD you saw. It’s certainly OK for a SPL to visit with the troop committee occasionally, but we need to remember that the SPL is a teenager with an already crowded schedule, and we want him to focus on his interactions with Scouts in the troop! Let’s be sure to remember that the PLC is always represented at troop committee meetings…by the Scoutmaster (It’s, like, his job!).

Dear Andy,

If a Life Scout raises more funds than he needs for his Eagle project, can he donate the excess funds to another Life Scout who has a project planned at the same venue? (Pamela McAlpin)

Technically, he’s supposed to apportion and return unused funds to all donors; however, I suppose if we’re talking about small amounts (under $100 in total, say), then “paying it forward” sounds like a pretty Scout-like gesture to me, especially since the funds would be used in the same manner and with the same intent, for the same recipient. If the Scout wants to stay completely Kosher, he could send a letter to or call his donors and give them the option—it is, after all, their money.

Dear Andy,

I see that there’s no “Running” merit badge. Do you know if one is in the works? I think it would be a good one to have. (Mark Dolan)

Two merit badges—Physical Fitness and Athletics—incorporate “running.” If you’re thinking more specifically, then go to‘s “advancement” section, then “merit badges,” and, at the bottom, you’ll find general commentary on how merit badges are created.

Dear Andy,

Is there a difference between a “Good Turn,” community service, and a service project? (Sandra Perrone, Troop Advancement Chair, Westchester Putnam Council, NY)

Scouting considers all service to others a “Good Turn.”

Dear Andy,

I had five Scouts who went to summer camp and came back with documentation that they’d completed Personal Fitness merit Badge. It was a one-hour class for five days. How can that badge, which calls for a 12-week outline and a retest on flexibility (Req’s 7 and 8) be completed in five hours? Do we have to award an Eagle-required merit badge due to the irresponsibility of the Merit Badge Instructor? (Jon Severtson)

Thanks for asking a very important question. The answer’s yes, you do. The badge has been earned, according to the Merit Badge Counselor, and no matter how well or poorly he “counseled,” a Scout who has a signed-off “blue card” (or substitute document) cannot be denied, because there is no “higher authority” than the MBC when it comes to merit badges.

You do have a huge beef, however. It’s with the camp, camp director, and program director. Do bring this to their attention; however, the intent is to correct it in the future so as not to short-change Scouts; it’s not to rescind what’s already been done.

Dear Andy,

My troop has severe issues with our Advancement Chair. He doesn’t follow the methods and guidelines outlined in BSA publications, and he needs to be removed. Who is responsible for actually asking him to step down? We have met with the executive officer of our chartered organization (aka “sponsor”), and with our Chartered Organization Representative, and they are both on board with the dismissal. But we’re receiving conflicting information and just not sure as to the proper protocol. (Name & Council Withheld)

Any adult can be removed from a unit’s roster by the head of the chartered organization and/or the Chartered Organization Representative simply saying: “Thank you for your services; they will no longer be needed.” That’s it. There’s no “ask.” And there’s no stipulation that this has to be “explained” or have a “three strikes” rule, or anything else, because this is a volunteer organization and not an employment situation. The removed person has no recourse. There’s no “higher authority” than the chartered organization itself, so no “appeal” to the council or district counts for anything. What’s done is done, and all you need to do next is tell your council’s registrar to remove that name from your unit’s roster. Game over. End of story.

Thank you very much for your response. This is how I understood the process, yet out District Commissioner interpreted the policy differently and told our Committee Chair to handle this. The guy refused to step down, asked for an appeal, and one of our Field Directors suggested that we draft a letter to the individual, signed by both the COR and the CC. What now? (N&CW)

If the COR and/or sponsor’s head tell someone their services are no longer needed, that’s the end of it. The person told does not have the option to “refuse”—it’s over. Moreover, there is no “appeal process” available. No one at either the district or even council level has the authority to reinstate this person, once the COR has removed him, and that’s because the actual, contractual owner of the Scouting unit is the sponsoring organization, not the council or district.

Now the Committee Chair of the unit can also do this, but it’s advisable to have the COR and sponsor’s executive officer (e.g., pastor in the case of a church, president in the case of a club, etc.) participate in and confirm the decision.

Finally, there are no “alternative paths” here. Tell him he’s history and move on. If he continues to show up and attempts to interfere with the running of the unit, the sponsor’s head can actually apply for a restraining order, if necessary.

Bottom line: YOU are in charge; this individual isn’t. And neither your DC nor FD “out-rank” anyone in the troop or sponsor.

Dear Andy,

How many merit badges may a Scout work on at one time? Some requirements are overlapping. For instance a Scout goes to a catholic school, does the Presidential fitness test, so this covers the Personal Fitness flexibility test and strength test. Then he prepares and gives an oral presentation, so this covers some requirements in Communications merit badge. Or, he’s working on Scholarship and also takes care of a pet after school. Each would require a Merit Badge Counselor interview-and-follow-up, but all would be separate and being worked on at the same time… Is there a limit? (John Carney, ASM, Golden Empire Council, CA)

Technically, there’s no limit. A Scout can work concurrently on as many merit badges as he chooses to. However, in each case, he’s working with a different Merit Badge Counselor, and being counseled (i.e., not just being given “final exams”) on an ongoing basis. So long as his parents are willing to drive him hither and yon, to meet with all of them, it’s OK. As to “overlapping” requirements, these are actually very few and far between—each requirement for every merit badge usually has some aspect of it that doesn’t fit with a seemingly similar requirement for another merit badge.

Dear Andy,

I’m a pack Committee Chair and a troop Committee Member. I love Scouting and love to share information and my enthusiasm with the boys, leaders and parents in our pack and troop. I’d like to set up a blog or “Facebook” page that others in our units can access for more information and also to show what our Scouts have been doing; however, I’m concerned about security and privacy issues. I’m thinking that since the BSA is adding the position of Troop Webmaster, there might be a policy that addresses this, but I’ve not been able to find anything. Where can I find guidelines to help me? (Kristen Colson, Utah National Parks Council)

The BSA does have very specific web-related guidelines, and the best person to first speak with about your interests, before you proceed, is your council’s Scout Executive, who will direct you to the best person to have a detailed conversation with.


Dear Andy,

I’ve heard that there will be no more red used on the Scout uniform, because red is a gang color. Is this true? (Paul Markoff, UC, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

Yes, red is often a “gang color” in urban inner cities. However, I’m not certain that that’s why the shoulder loops, unit numerals, and such have been changed to more subtle colors. I’ve been under the impression that the larger purpose is to simply tone-down the uniform and make it a bit less gaudy (you may remember that badges of office, and rank badges, all had differently-colored backgrounds, too, and these went away several decades ago!). Personally, having been a Scout when there were no shoulder loops at all and unit numerals were far less bright, I’m in agreement with the idea of not having colors bounce all over the place. Badges, general insignia, and merit badge sashes are colorful enough!


Dear Andy,

Our troop has several Scouts soon turning 18. Most will earn Eagle rank and want to remain active with the troop while in high school (their senior year is just starting). Usually, we’ve registered them as Assistant Scoutmasters. We’ve just formed a Venturing crew, but it’s on paper only. Our council and many troop leaders would prefer that these Scouts-turning-18 register as crew members, since the crew needs help and we already have over two dozen registered leaders for the troop. As crew members, these young men would like to attend a few troop outings, particularly since their younger brothers are still in the troop. Is it permissible for a 17 year-old Scout to share a tent with his best friend, who is an 18 year-old crew member? It seems odd that if the 18 year old was a registered ASM then a 50 year old man could share a tent with him, but his 17 year old friend can’t. Obviously no one wants these 18 year olds to be outcasts and have to be the only ones sleeping by themselves, since no adult leader would share sleeping quarters with a high school student, 18 or not. (Yes, I’ve read in your columns that joint troop-crew outings should not occur, but we’re trying to build enthusiasm for the crew and having some 18 year olds wearing a different colored uniform to some meetings and outings would help the crew establish itself.) We asked our local council and they could not find anything that addressed this issue. (Kenny Bauer, MC, Bucks County Council, PA)

Yes, if a young man wishes to remain active in a Scouting program beyond his 18th birthday, but more like a “youth” than as an Assistant Scoutmaster (hangin’ out with the “Old Goat Patrol,” so to speak), then a Venturing crew is definitely the way to go. But remember that these guys (and gals, too, since Venturing is open to them as well) will probably want to “be themselves” and not camp intimately with Boy Scouts, even though they’ll know one another and likely be friends. So camp the Venturers by themselves, as a unit, just slightly away from the patrols, and everything will be Kosher as can be!

We can’t have our cake, and eat it too. Causes indigestion!

BTW, any Boy Scout age 14 or older can register in the crew, too!

Dear Andy,

In your August 3rd column you advised a parent, essentially, that “hands-off” is the way to “grow” Scout-age boys into responsible young men and future citizens. This was in response to apparent inaction on the part of a troop’s leaders, for a Scout running out of time to earn palms following his Eagle rank. While I’m fine with the idea about adults not being time-keepers, although we don’t have enough information to really judge what’s going on and you hinted at that in your response, why no mention of who wants to earn the palms—the Scout or his parent? As I read this, all I could hear in the background was the beating of helicopter blades. (Derek Simmons)

There are several interwoven factors operating here. To begin, there’s a sliding scale that goes from completely approachable, in the spirit of the big brother, on the one side, all the way to unapproachable, in the sense of superior court judge or “ivory tower,” on the other. Unfortunately, when adult Scouters are deciding what sorts of role models they wish to be, they (for reasons unknown) err in the direction of the latter, eschewing the former, even though the former (in the spirit of “Bill” in my column of the same name) is where they truly need to be. This leaves Scouts at sea, and often with feelings of inferiority and diminutiveness, and consequently interferes with open and friendly communication between themselves and the men and women who are their erstwhile “leaders.” The second thing that operates is that often parents’ “timetables” don’t necessarily match those of their own sons, putting arbitrary pressure on their sons to “perform” in ways alien to their own makeup and sense of goal-reaching. The third is that often parents themselves are reluctant to approach the leaders of their sons’ troops, with simple questions like “what’s happening here” (often for the same reason as the first that I mentioned, which can have an effect on parents, too). These factors may contribute to why I so often hear from parents and not from Scouts–they feel rather hopeless and I become a virtual “last resort,” which is incredibly unfortunate in all ways.

The “lesson” for you and me…? Follow the example of “Bill.” We’re here for the youth we serve; they’re not here for us to massage our own egos or impose our own “standards.” (Think Bill Cosby and not Gunny R. Lee Ermey of “Mail Call”!)

Dear Andy,

In the current issue of “Scouting” magazine, there’s an article that references a wonderful leader. He’s simultaneously a Commissioner, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, and Den Leader. I’d understood that a Commissioner is only supposed be a Commissioner (Commissioner Fieldbook, page 24). Should this manual be changed? (Natalie Bozier, Chickasaw Council, TN)

Nope! What’s needed is an educational process about Commissioners (as well as double-registering in the same unit) in that council, and a technical advisor for the magazine.

On the idea of a technical advisor for BSA-related publications like Scouting magazine, I believe this is essential and sorely needed. I can’t believe I’m alone in noting from time to time (but more times than are healthy) errors of uniforming, facts, and even policies. These have the effect of misleading the volunteers who read this magazine, and have the further effect of setting them up to quote the error (“Well, I read it…so it must be true”) to others, with the consequence of misleading even further. Motion pictures focusing on medicine, law, military, and law enforcement almost always have technical advisors, and these are pure entertainment (i.e., if they get it wrong, so what); but for us in Scouting to see errors like this—especially when they’re featured or highlighted—sends a message sure to somewhere undermine what we’re working so hard to get right! One way to maybe get something done is WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR, or, even better, WRITE A LETTER TO BOB MAZZUCA!

Happy Scouting!



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

(September 10, 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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