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Issue 193 – October 24, 2009

Dear Andy,


I’m looking for information on the BSA Lone Scout program. Does the Scout have to live in the same council that’s sponsoring him, or can he reside in another state? (Bill Pschigoda, Southwest Michigan Council)

Thanks for asking about Lone Scouting. Go here for a very nice article about Lone Scouting:

The thing to remember is that a “Lone” Scout isn’t “alone.” All Lone Scouts have adult counselors who act as guides/exemplars, and this relationship is absolutely key. Thus, the Lone Scout program isn’t designed to be a “long-distance” program, where the Lone Scout and his counselor don’t actually get eyeball-to-eyeball. Most counselors are one or the other parent. So, with these elements in mind, what was your question?

Can a Lone Scout continue to be involved with his former troop?

If, by “involved,” you mean registered in, what would be the point of being registered in a troop he no longer participates in?

My question is in regards to two Scouts originally from our troop whose family has moved to a different state, and they say they’re unable to find a troop where they now live. So I’m wondering if I can sponsor them as Lone Scouts.

Their own parents can and should sponsor them, right where they live. If you read the information on the link I gave you, you’ll see that this is how it’s done. It would be pointless for you, in a different state, to be the counselor for either of these Scouts, because you can’t readily guide them from afar. However, before they proceed down this path, have they actually tracked down the council they’re now residing in and asked specifically about nearby troops? They can do this beginning right on the BSA


Dear Andy,

As a Scoutmaster, I’m being constantly dogged by a member of our troop committee who attends every troop meeting and takes on the attitude of an “arm-chair quarterback,” interrupting me, and the Scouts, too, to interject his opinion on what we’re doing or how we’re doing it (he was once Scoutmaster of this troop, a bunch of years ago, I might add).

For a while, I would ask him to teach some particular Scout skill or some such thing occasionally at troop meetings, the idea being to try to give him something constructive to add to our meetings and to tap into his skills and knowledge. For the most part, this approach has been working, but lately and more and more often, it seems as if this isn’t enough. Now, he tried to interject some sort of control over us current adult volunteers, as well as the Scouts (”When I was Scoutmaster…”). He’s even organized events for the Scouts without telling anyone else, he interrupts me during troop meetings, and now he’s outright challenging me as well as the troop committee and the Scouts themselves.

I could use some clarification on a major disagreement between us that has to do with leadership responsibilities and roles. Here’s the situation…

In spirit of the Patrol Method and a Scout-led troop, I recently did not interfere, but rather encouraged, our Senior Patrol Leader to address the issue of troop meeting schedule. With the start of a new school year, and with most Scouts also involved in other activities, such as band, soccer, football, and so on, the Scouts decided that they want to have troop meetings every two weeks during the school months and then weekly during summer vacation. I fully supported this and we made the change, understanding that this new meeting schedule is in addition to the many other troop events we have, such as trail maintenance, fund-raisers, community service projects, all of which are already on our calendar for the year.

This same gentleman, however, is adamantly against this decision. He’s told the committee and me as well that I was totally wrong in letting the Scouts make this decision, and I’m also wrong in supporting it. He’s stated that the decision of when a troop meets is solely the decision of the troop committee—that committee decides how often the troop meets and, as a committee member, he says we have to meet every week, if that’s the committee’s decision.

Now I know this gentleman is way off base, but your response will give me some guidance in attempting to help him better understand the role of a troop committee and its members, the Scoutmaster, and the Patrol Leaders Council. Thank for your time and support, and I’ll be waiting for your response. (Name & Council Withheld)

Have you ever noticed the BSA-published weekly troop meeting plans, or the weekly troop program helps leading up to a monthly theme, or how the handbooks talk about weekly meetings? The BSA didn’t “make a rule” or “lay down an edict” about weekly troop meetings because the framers of the Boy Scouting program pretty much though that good folks like you would figure out along the way that weekly is what the program’s all about. Less than weekly guarantees diminished momentum, attendance fall-off, erratic programming, and, eventually, a “why bother at all” attitude, and then the troop’s gone… Weekly meeting are absolutely, positively critical to success.

OK, now let’s consider two other hypothetical scenarios to make another, but related, point: As Scoutmaster, what would have been your response if the Patrol Leaders Council had voted to meet every second night—Monday night, Wednesday night, Friday night, and so on—throughout the year? Or, what would have been your response if they’d decided to meet once every six weeks or so? Oh, really? You would have spoken up and said, “Hold yer horses here! That ain’t gonna work!” or something along that line, I hope. Well, same with the notion of every two weeks, based on the same principle.

So, you need to get the PLC together at the very next troop meeting, or sooner, and tell ’em straight from the shoulder: We all made a mistake, and we’re going to fix it right now.

This is absolutely not at all counter to the idea of a Scout-led troop; instead, it advises the PLC that there is a framework inside of which they operate. This is a very important life-lesson!

Now if there’s a problem with the night the troop meets, this is absolutely changeable! Based on working with several dozen successful troops, I’ve observed that earlier in the week (Monday or Tuesday) almost always works better than later. I’ve also seen two extremely successful troops–one with about two dozen Scouts and the other with over 70–that met on Sundays! That’s right: Sunday late afternoon in one case and Sunday evening in the other. Of course, on weekends that included an overnight campout, they’d skip the Sunday meeting; but other than this, they met weekly virtually year round! So, the PLC might want to consider polling the Scouts to find the best night to meet.

As for the now-committee member who preceded you as Scoutmaster… Sometime these sorts o’ guys join the “Old Goat Patrol” and others join the “Rocking Chair Patrol,” but every now and again you get one that wants to join the Old Fart-Who-Interferes Patrol. And, by allowing him “into” troop meetings, you abdicated a portion of your role as Scoutmaster and gave just enough to him that he’s seized more power and is using it.

Unfortunately, there’s now only one solution to this problem, and it needs to be resolved quickly, before it does permanent damage to the troop’s morale and ability to operate successfully. This is to be done by the COR and the CC (not the Scoutmaster) in concert. They must take this gentleman aside and describe three (and only three) options: 1. He will immediately stop interfering with the troop, interacting with the Scouts, and making remarks “from the sidelines”: 2. He will resign; 3. He will be fired on the spot if he doesn’t choose either 1. or 2. Understand: The COR and CC can make this stick, and there’s no recourse through any other channel (e.g., the district, the council, etc.). Yes, the COR and CC will need stiff spines. But, this is their job, and they need to do it.

These are my prescriptions for both of your problems. You need to get your troop back aimed at True North as fast as you can, before further deterioration sets in.


Dear Andy,

Each year at Webelos resident camp, our Webelos earn the Archery and BB Gun belt loops. This year they also worked on the Sportsman activity badge; however, for reasons I don’t understand, they can’t count the Archery or BB Gun belt loops toward completion of the Sportsman activity badge. Requirement 3 of the Sportsman activity badge says, “While you are a Webelos Scout, earn Cub Scout Sports belt loops for two individual sports (badminton, bicycling, bowling, fishing, golf, gymnastics, marbles, physical fitness, ice skating, roller skating, snow ski and board sports, swimming, table tennis, or tennis)”—the list of eligible sports belt loops specifically excludes the two shooting sports. Why? (Tom Carignan, Tukabatchee Area Council, AL)

Good question! I’m going to take a guess here… As you know, both archery and bb gun shooting can only be done at BSA venues under the direction of a qualified range officer; therefore, they’re not necessarily available year-round or necessarily to every boy enrolled in the Cub Scout program. This would mean that if the Webelos-Sportsman activity badge were in any way dependent upon either of these, it might limit a Webelos Scout’s ability to earn that particular activity badge. Consequently, if these two aren’t a part of earning that badge, but all other sports are, then that activity badge is available to all Webelos Scouts. But, that’s just a guess. Another guess might be that it’s simply an oversight. For a more authoritative viewpoint, you may want to call the BSA national office in Texas.


Dear Andy,

For a number of years, our troop has taken the position that Camping merit badge requirement 9.(b) is met by completing two (i.e., both) of the listed activities while on a single “camping experience.” One of our parents is now claiming that a Scout can meet requirement 9.(b) by doing each of the two listed activities over multiple camping experiences; that is, complete one activity on camping trip “a” and the second on camping trip “b”—and we in the troop disagree. We’d greatly appreciate if you could explain how this requirement is met: Does a Scout need to complete both activities on a single camping trip, or can he complete one on one trip and the other on another trip? (Ralph Sloan, SM, Flint River Council, GA)

Forgive me, but my first question to you all is this: What is a troop doing, meddling in merit badge requirements, when only a Merit Badge Counselor (and nobody else) has the authority to qualify Scouts for merit badges and their requirements—and that’s a BSA rule.

But, to answer your question, let’s start by reading the requirement: The Scout will do any two of six different activities “on any of these camping experiences”—referring, of course, to the 20 days-and-nights of req. 9.(a). Does it say “only one activity per camping experience”? Nope! Does it say “both activities must be done on the same camping experience”? Nope again! So, it sure looks like a Scout is at liberty to do both on one campout, or one each on two different campouts.

Dear Andy,

I’ve come across information regarding the rockets that you American Cub Scouts race… Are these kits only available in the U.S.? If so, is it possible to arrange for kits to be sent to us, or do the Cubs make their own rockets?

Several leaders and I are also interested in linking with a Scouting group from the States. Is there a site with the names of Groups interested in linking/twinning. (We already have a twin Group in Kenya who we’ve helped start their own Group and we raise money to help the Group run.) (Diana MacDonald, Beaver & Cub Leader, 1st Bracebridge Scouting, Ontario, Canada)

Thanks for finding me, and for writing! For the Cub Scout rockets, go and then enter “space derby” in the keyword search dialog box—and we have lift-off!

For linking up, pick a U.S. town or city, get the ZIP code for it, and then go to There, enter click on the “Find Local Council” link, then enter the ZIP code. This will give you the name of the local council that serves that town or city. Contact the council, tell them who you are and what you’d like to do, and they’ll put you in touch with one or more Cub Scout packs!

(When I was a Cub Scout leader, we linked up with a British Cub Scout pack (this was “pre-Internet”) and our boys had a wonderful time sending letters back and forth to one another, and I became personal friends with the leaders there! I hope this works out for you, because it’s a marvelous experience for all!)


Dear Andy,

Does the location a Webelos den uses for a campout have to be an approved site through our local council? We have a den that wants to sleep out in the back yard of one of the den parents. I thought that any site that’s used for a campout like this must be approved through the local council office. Related to this, can the leaders of the den just call it a “family campout” so as not to have to get the site approved? And, can the Webelos Scouts work on advancement while at an unapproved site? (Matt Henderson, CM, Great Trail Council, OH)

One piece is missing here… Why would a council service center not approve the back yard of a den parent? Anyway, den campouts—with no less than one parent or authorized adult per boy—is absolutely OK and that den should by all means go right ahead! As far as advancement activities are concerned, Webelos Scouts can work on activity badges, etc., anywhere—“approved location” simply isn’t a part of the equation.

Hi Andy,

My son would like to be the Chaplain’s Aide in our Boy Scout troop. He earned his religious emblem as a Cub Scout. To be a Chaplain’s Aide does he need to complete the religious emblem program for the Boy Scout age level? (I thought that once you earned the award in Cub Scouts, you could wear the knot on your uniform as a Boy Scout—is it not transferred from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts?) (Laura, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

Chaplain Aide is a Boy Scout troop leadership position, and for this there’s a round “position” badge that’s worn on the left sleeve below the troop numeral. Scouts who hold this position typically work with the guidance of the troop Chaplain, who is an adult–this is how the Scout learns the job and gains in leadership skills. It is a good idea, but not mandatory, that a Boy Scout earn the religious award of his faith in order to be a Chaplain Aide.

Separately, the silver-on-purple square knot (worn centered, directly over the left pocket) signifies having earned the religious award. If earned in the Cub Scouting program, this badge can be transferred to the Boy Scout uniform. Often a miniature brass-colored Cub Scout “device” is pinned in the center of the square knot, indicating the program level in which it was earned; however, the device isn’t in any way mandatory. If a Boy Scout goes on to earn the Boy Scout-level religious award, then the Boy Scout device is worn on the square knot, in addition to the Cub Scout device.

Dear Andy,

In your October 8th column, the question of whether cork (“pop”) guns are approved for Cub Scouts arose and you said that “Cub Scouts can shoot real bb-guns under the direction of a qualified range officer at a supervised range on BSA property.”

You’ve missed the big requirement: that of council management (as in day camp, resident camp, or other program). In fact, in years
past, this used to say “council or district.” Here’s the verbatim text from the GTSS: “Cub Scouting Standards: Youth members of Cub Scouting are permitted to participate in the shooting activities named in here only. Archery and BB gun shooting are restricted to day camps, Cub Scout/Webelos Scout resident camps, council-managed family camping programs, or to council activities where there are properly trained supervisors and all standards for BSA shooting sports are enforced. Archery and BB gun shooting are not to be done at the pack level. Cub Scouts are not permitted to use any other type of handgun or firearm.” (Carl Sommer, CM, Occoneechee Council, SC)

You’re right—I didn’t give the whole nine yards. Just enough, I hope, to make the point that pop guns are just a little silly (without beating anyone over the head!).


Dear Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster of a troop of 74 Scouts. Our Scouts have the normal issues in Scouting with conflicting schedules with other activities and can’t participate in all troop activities. Many of our Scouts—32 or 33 are First Class, Star, and Life–need leadership positions for rank advancement. Are there any limitations on the number of certain positions, like Scribe, Historian, Quartermaster, ASPL, and so on? I understand minimum attendance requirements, but I can also see the need for us to have multiple Scouts per position to cover all our bases. I think that pairing up Scouts for a position would also teach teamwork. I’d like to touch on this subject with our troop, but want to confirm any guidelines first. (Steve Smith, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

You have, I’m guessing, somewhere around 9 to 11 patrols, so of your 32 or so Scouts First Class through Life, 9 to 11 are likely Patrol Leaders, leaving about 22. Of these, you can have a SPL, ASPL (maybe two), a couple of Troop Guides (for new Scout patrols), Scribe, Quartermaster, Historian, several Den Chiefs, Troop OA Representative, a couple of Instructors, Librarian, a JASM or two, and a Chaplain Aide, so that takes care of at least 16-18 Scouts or so, leaving maybe just 4 to 6 or so remaining without immediate positions.

But, six months from your last troop elections, you’ll have new elections, and possibly new appointments as well, so that’s when the remaining 6 or so can pick up positions—if they’ve demonstrated that they’re ready to step up to leadership.

You see, there’s no “entitlement” in a Boy Scout troop… Just because a Scout may “need” a leadership position to advance, that doesn’t mean he automatically gets one right then and there. Sometimes, he waits his turn, so to speak. Sometimes, even though he wants to be Patrol Leader, let’s say, he doesn’t get elected! If this happens, the troop isn’t under some unwritten “obligation” to find a leadership slot for him—sometimes he needs to take the next six months being a really good guy, good helper, willing to dig in and get any job done, and so on, so that his patrol members start thinking he’d be a pretty good Patrol Leader the next time there’s an election. Same thing with appointed positions. Just because little Fargus “wants” to be Scribe, let’s say, he’s going to need to show up more often, to prove he can handle the job!

“Splitting” positions isn’t a wonderful idea, because it diminishes the importance of leadership positions and tells Scouts that “half a job is good enough”—when we all know that “good enough” isn’t. Then, there’s the notion of “co-” as in “co-Scribes” or “co-something else” But, think about any commercial or military aircraft: How many copilots are aboard? Answer: Just one. Why? Simple: the “copilot” is the assistant pilot! There’s only one pilot aboard—the guy in charge! So let’s just forget both of these notions.

If you get pressure from parents (“Why isn’t my little Fargus here theGrand Poobah yet? He need this to make Star!”), you tell ’em their little gem will get his position when he’s ready and when the troop’s ready for him; in the meanwhile, here’s what he can do to show he’s ready…(short list follows).

Are you getting this? Are we clicking, here? Good!

Dear Andy,

I am trying to find in the official national BSA documentation where it explains that a Tiger Cub Scout must be with his adult partner on activities. I can’t find it in the GTSS or anywhere else. I’m looking for official documentation, not “explanations” on unofficial websites. (Joan Tengler-Boyd, District Commissioner, Bay Area Council, TX)

Try the Tiger Cub Handbook—Parents Section.

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster in a troop that’s been following a “different drummer” than Scouting’s written program and processes, and I’m working with the troop committee to get more in line with the way Scouting’s supposed to be done.

I’m trying to find, in writing, something “official” about who can sign off on a Scout’s advancement—especially Tenderfoot through First Class—but without success. It’s been my understanding that a parent may not sign off, but I can find nothing “official” that says that. I find allusions to this on troop websites and in your columns, but I’d like to be able to point to something more firm (for instance, I didn’t know that a Scoutmaster can’t sign off on uncompleted merit badge requirements, but I now see that very clearly). Do you know what I can point to, so that parents won’t think this is just “the new Scoutmaster making things up”? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’ve asked two questions that are very easy to answer…

Turn to pages 438 to 449 in the 11th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, and/or pages 432 to 443 in the new 12th Edition… See the boxes on the right side of the ranks and requirements… It says “Leader initial and date.” It doesn’t say “anybody…” or “parent…” it says LEADER. This is you, the Scoutmaster, or your designate(s), which can include one or more ASMs as you decide, or even Patrol Leader(s) or upper-rank (i.e., Star, Life, Eagle) Scouts. It might also include a committee member or an “expert” that you’ve asked to assist. But this is your decision and no one else’s.

(By way of insight, many parents somehow think Boy Scouts is “Big Cub Scouts” or “Webelos 3” and this is where they go astray, because parents are absolutely not “authorized” to arbitrarily sign off on requirements.)

To anyone who argues, just show it to ’em in black-and-white, right in their son’s own handbook!

On merit badges, the RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, ARTICLE X. PROGRAM, ADVANCEMENT SECTION 1., Responsibility for Merit Badges Clause 14. states: “The responsibility for merit badges shall rest with the merit badge counselor…the merit badge counselor shall prepare and qualify youth members.” Observe that there’s no provision made for anyone other than the merit badge counselor to qualify or complete the qualification of a youth member for a merit badge. Moreover, people need to realize that neither Scoutmasters nor anyone else are in any way “de facto merit badge counselors.”

What folks will need to get through their noggins is that this isn’t about you “making up new rules”—this is about following the BSA program as written.

Now let’s add some “philosophical” stuff here, so that maybe folks’ll better understand…

If Boy Scouts’ Mommies and Daddies could sign off on requirements for ranks and such, there would be no need for Scouting! For the past 100 years, Boy Scouting has been about supporting a teen’s needs for independence and individuation—natural components of the maturation process. Boy Scouting is built around peer-relationships and self-government by boys and young men themselves. This is not, nor has it ever been, a parent-and-son program. In fact, all adults, including the Scoutmaster, do the best service to youth when they’re “wallpaper.” This is the underlying reason why Mom and Dad don’t “work with their son” on requirements—Instead, this boy learns from his peers, in a hands-on environment.

If Merit Badge Counselors didn’t have sole responsibility for qualifying Scouts, then why bother having Merit Badge Counselors—anybody can sign a Scout off, any way he or she likes! Which would also mean that anybody could block or refuse a Scout, too! Or, anybody could override what a Merit Badge Counselor has already done. In short, the whole merit badge program, having been undermined at its very core, would rapidly devolve into chaos.


Hi Andy,

As a new Scoutmaster, I’m trying to follow your advice and use BSA policies and the Scoutmaster Handbook to resolve an issue. It seems clear that a Scout needs the Scoutmaster’s approval prior to working on a merit badge and that the Scoutmaster should direct the Scout to the appropriate counselor. The issue I’m facing is a mother who insists on signing her new Scout son up for a “Merit Badge Day” to take First Aid merit badge. This young Scout isn’t even Tenderfoot yet, and hasn’t completed even so much as the Tenderfoot first aid requirements. Moreover, this would be his first experience with a merit badge, and I think that a Scout’s first experience should be a fun merit badge rather than a “classroom” one. So, all in all, I not only don’t think this Scout is qualified, but I also don’t think that this particular merit badge is a good way to start out. In other columns, you make it seem that, as long as the Scout is registered, I have to sign the blue card indicating that I approve, and that he’s qualified. How would you handle this situation? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re correct that Scoutmasters don’t “approve” or “not approve” Scouts interested in merit badges—this is purely and 100% the Scout’s decision. Just follow the procedure described on page 187 of the Boy Scout Handbook-Eleventh Edition. The usual “blue card” does ask for the Scoutmaster’s signature on the front, and this is for administrative purposes: It insures that the Scoutmaster has a knowledge of what merit badges the Scouts of the troop he serves are interested in, thus provides the opportunity for follow-up (as in “Hey, Billy, how’s it going with that Woodcarving merit badge you started last month?”).

Scoutmasters can’t be expected to be “mind readers” or “Solomon” or anything else when it comes to merit badges. Scouting literature tells the Scout, simply and succinctly: “Any Scout can work on any merit badge at anytime” (italics mine).

Merit Badge Counselors (aka “MBCs”) have sole and total say-so with regard to merit badges and the completion of their requirements. These are the men and women who counsel Scouts—They’re not “examiners” or “test-givers” or anything else along those lines; they teach, coach, guide, instruct, mentor, and assist, but they don’t give “final exams.” In the process of counseling, a MBC for First Aid might decide to help a Scout learn what he needs to know to fulfill req. 1, or (this might or might not be rare), he or she might say, “Come back after you’ve completed those rank requirements.” Whichever it is, this is the MBC’s decision; not yours or anyone else’s.

Now, to the subject of parents who think Boy Scouting is “Webelos 3″… The first thing we need to remember is that we can’t save boys from their own parents! Yes, the mother that you refer to is being a bit pushy with her son, and this is regrettable. But you’re the Scoutmaster. You’re not “Dr. Phil” anymore than you’re “Judge Judy.” You could turn the boy down, and risk Mom’s ire along with violating a BSA policy, and so now where are you? Or, you can do what a Scoutmaster is supposed to do (per the handbook) and let the situation run its natural course, except that, the week afterward, you might want to have a sit-down (aka “Scoutmaster’s conference”) with this Scout and ask him how things went when he visited with the First Aid MBC. Isn’t this really what you want to do, understanding that one of Scouting’s greatest benefits to boys and young men is that “it’s a place where you can mess up and the walls don’t come crashing down”!

On the subject of “classroom merit badges,” I personally despise them, as I despise anything in Scouting that’s made to look like a classroom—Scouting is a magnet for boys precisely because it’s not like school! But, some Scouts do thrive on this method, so who am I to say no-go? Best to leave this alone, too, and let the Scout start sorting things out for himself.

The short way of saying all this, of course, is simply: Be his Scoutmaster–in the essential sense Baden-Powell first had in mind!

Thanks for the advice—I definitely think its worth following and I especially like “remember that we can’t save boys from their own parents!” and “best to leave this alone, too, and let the Scout start sorting things out for himself.” I think these will frequently be very valuable to remember and will make my job as Scoutmaster easier.

As far as the Scoutmaster’s role with blue cards, it seems like there definitely is confusion in the official literature. The Scout Handbook says “any Scout at any time” while the Scoutmaster Handbook and–merit badge procedure say “any Scout at any time with Scoutmaster approval.” The blue card wording makes the confusion even worse. Are you aware of any effort to clarify the literature?

Maybe you want to make up a list of what a Scout would have to do or be to receive your “approval” and then make a list of what will “disqualify” a Scout, but I sure don’t want to mess with this! So, how about we stick to delivering what the Scout’s books tell him: He can go for any merit badge, any time he wants. Isn’t self-determination what we’re trying to teach, and doesn’t he face enough “roadblocks” and “gatekeepers” at home, at school, in sports, at church, and on and on? Let’s let Scouting be his safe and trusted haven.

I agree. My comment was only that the literature is contradictory. A few lines in the Scoutmaster Handbook could clarify the issue for everyone. I was hoping someone was working on this or that the BSA has a process to collect comments for future editions. Thanks for the discussion—it’s helped me.

We’re on the same page here! Yup, I sure wish that the “powers that be” might consider hammering this home, because too many folks are fond of taking liberties, often simply because “it doesn’t say I can’t”! What they overlook, of course, is that, just like the Scout Law, Scouting is about positives and what we can do; not a bunch of no-no’s!


Hello Andy,

Please help me verify what my duties are as advancement chair. I attend all of the weekly troop and monthly committee meetings, work with the Scribe and log in attendance and the requirements completed by each Scout, register the Scouts for merit badge classes, summer camp, generate blue cards, log in all completed merit badges and keep track of partial requirements completed. I keep everything up to date in Troopmaster and speak with selected Scouts each week when they’re close to rank completion, have partial merit badge requirements to complete, need a board of review, or need an advancement “pep talk.” In addition, I prepare all of the awards and run the quarterly courts of honor, together with the Scoutmaster of course.

But, at the last troop meeting, I spoke with a Scout who was ready for a Scoutmaster conference and board of review, and asked him if he was ready and told him that I would go over requirements with him for Life rank (knowing that he’d had a difficult board of review for Star), he told me that he wasn’t ready yet. So I told him to let me know when he was, and I mentioned this conversation to his mother at the end of the meeting, but she said that they weren’t going to let him advance yet because they wanted him to have more leadership experience. In response, I told her just to let me know when he was ready—no problem. I thought everything was OK until the Scoutmaster called me on the phone to tell me that this mom had gone to our Chartered Organization Representative and told him that she had told me that they didn’t want their son to advance until he had more leadership and that I should have talked to the parents, not the Scout, about advancing, because this made them the “bad guys” when they had to tell him that they wouldn’t let him advance. The COR told the Scoutmaster that I was out of line in speaking with the Scout.

The COR, Committee Chair, and this Scout’s parents (and, I think, two other parents) had a private meeting last night and told the Scoutmaster and practical called me a liar when I wasn’t there to defend myself. I didn’t know until after I spoke with their son. I told the Scoutmaster that if they ever previously told me, I don’t recall the conversation. Was I out of line talking to their son? Weren’t they out of line going to the COR? What’s up?

I’ve offered to step down as advancement chair several times because of these people, but the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair don’t want me to. I want what’s best for the Scouts and will follow all BSA guidelines. (Name & Council Withheld)

The responsibilities of a troop advancement coordinator do include keeping and filing records of advancement (including ranks and merit badges), scheduling boards of review in collaboration with the Scoutmaster (he will tell you when they’re needed, on a per-Scout basis), attending meetings of the troop and the committee, and buying the various badges in anticipation of upcoming courts of honor. However, such areas as keeping attendance records, keeping track of “partials,” generating “blue cards,” and giving Scouts advancement “pep talks,” are outside the province of the advancement coordinator—these responsibilities fall to others to do, not you. For instance, it’s the Scouts’ responsibility to keep track of their merit badge requirement completions, it’s the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to have “pep talks” (called Scoutmaster’s conferences), and the responsibility of the youth leaders to conduct courts of honor (guided by the Scoutmaster). Moreover, neither ranks nor merit badges are “held back” if all requirements have been completed. Moreover, it’s not the responsibility of the advancement coordinator to confer with a Scout regarding his Scoutmaster conference, or to schedule this—this is entirely the Scoutmaster’s responsibility. Nor is it the responsibility of the advancement coordinator to “go over requirements” with a Scout ready to advance in rank—this isn’t necessary because neither Scoutmaster’s conferences nor boards of review include any conversation about requirements other than the positive (or otherwise) experience the Scout had in completing them: There are no re-tests whatsoever.

Consequently, a conversation between the advancement coordinator and a Scout regarding his “readiness” for a Scoutmaster conference would have to be considered inappropriate, as would a similar conversation with a Scout with regard to a board of review.

However, parents who intercede in the advancement process, between their Scout son and his Scoutmaster, are acting inappropriately as well.

Advancement ultimately belongs to the Scout, and is supported by the Scoutmaster and coordinated and recorded by the advancement coordinator.

Probably, you all need to step back, take deep breaths, and review how the advancement process in a troop is actually supposed to work. You all would do well to use the Scoutmaster Handbook as your guide.

Finally for today, here’s a question to the USSSP Team, responded to by our Netcommish and Webmaster…

In reading on your website on proper flag etiquette, I have a question about the direction of the flag union on the Boy Scout uniform (right sleeve). I’ve never read any official document stating which way the flag needs to face. I’m a professional firefighter and we’ve generally adopted the military way of displaying the flag, which is on the right shoulder with the union facing forward, as you always lead with the stars. I’ve brought this up to the local BSA officials, looking for some answers, and the only one I’ve received is that the BSA is correct. Do you have any publications on flag etiquette that specifically address this issue? (Shaun Eberdt, Glacier’s Edge Council, WI)

Thank you for writing to the U.S. Scouting Service Project. You have agood question and one that’s frequently asked. Theuniformed services of the U.S. and many state and local government organizations take the view that when the flag is displayed on a shoulder the union field should lead, as the flag moves forward. This is not unlike a flag on the field of battle, where the leading edge is moving forward, and from that perspective makes a lot of sense. The BSA decided that the flag should appear to the viewer as it would be displayed in a meeting room on a wall, where the rule is that the flag takes its own right; that is, the union field is to the flag’s own right. This is consistent with the U.S. Flag Code. Depending on one’s view, both are correct interpretations and allowable. In the case of Scouting, an additional consideration was that in the absence of any other flag, the flag patch on the shoulder would serve for flag ceremonies; that is, one Scout at attention at right angles to the troop, with flag in proper position for salutes,pledge of allegiance, and so on. The bottom-line is that there is no one single legally correct or mandated way of displaying the flag on a shoulder patch—both ways are legitimate. Thousands of service members who also serve in Scouting regularly wear the flag one way, and the other way while in their service uniforms. So until the U.S. Flag Code is changed to mandate a single specific way of doing this, I’d simply say wear the flag in the way each organization has decided for its uniform.

To which I would add this small further point: In light of how the flag badge the BSA uses is embroidered, it can face in only one direction on the right sleeve. Further, until about two decades ago, the American flag was worn on the front of the Cub Scout uniform shirt, centered above the right pocket, and the patch itself, although it changed locations, has not been altered as regards its embroidery stitching and orientation.

Happy Scouting!



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

(October 24, 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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