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Issue 201 – December 2, 2009

Dear Andy,

I’d like to encourage you to think more clearly about your comment, “…as they spend fretting about patches and where they go, Scouting would be a whole lot better! Ya think?” in your November 18th column. The BSA’s Insignia Guide shouldn’t be considered any less integral to the Scouting program than any other element or policy. It’s there for a reason, and should be followed.

Finding Scouts out of uniform compliance isn’t as bad as it is finding Scouters out of uniform compliance, particularly those who choose to ignore the Insignia Guide just because of inconvenience or laziness on their part.

I always commend a Scout whose uniform looks good. Not so with a Scouter who’s wearing blue jeans with a uniform shirt not tucked, and with two position badges on the sleeve, with the argument that they have two positions in the unit. Geez! (Baron Bieber, UC, South Florida Council)

That quote related to a protracted discussion about where the “field” of the American flag should be, when it’s a uniform badge, so in light of the fact that uniform shirts come with the flag already sewn on, my entire statement should have bee cited, and not just a fragment. Here’s the whole thing: “If folks spent as much time learning, for instance, why The Patrol Method is the only method used in Boy Scouts as they spend fretting about patches and where they go, Scouting would be a whole lot better!” The point’s obvious, especially if you’ve read a bunch of my columns.

That said, yes, uniforming and getting it right is definitely important. We don’t send our kids out onto soccer fields wearing the jersey, cleats, and jeans any more than they go to school wearing tank-tops and flip-flops, so when we’re doing Scouting, let’s look like Scouts! This is, after all, one of the eight methods of Scouting. There are, however, seven more, of at least equal importance.

Dear Andy,

My son was injured at a Scout meeting during their game time. He injured his hip and was out of football for almost three weeks. I also did the whole x-ray and doctor visit thing, not knowing what was the problem. I was very irked at the leaders who were supposed to be watching the game outside (I was in a committee meeting, inside the building); even more so when I learned that the Scouts “always” play British Bulldog with full tackling involved. I have a very high medical deductible, and I’m now faced with $500 in medical bills for this incident. Should I make a big deal about this? Does the BSA have insurance to cover something like this? I’m not interested in suing or getting the chartered organization all involved, but my son’s troop needs to wake up and see that they need to be responsible for what games the Scouts play. Obviously, I let my son play team football, so I’m open to tackling, but that’s with full protective gear: helmet, pads, and mouth-guard. In speaking with other Scouting leaders in my area, this game has been banned for being rough, producing broken bones, etc. What do you think I should do, if anything? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, you should make a big deal of this, because unlike unpredictable accidents, playing—as you described it—a full-tackle, football-type game is not authorized in the BSA’s Scouting program, at any level.

First, “Wikipedia” says this about British Bulldog: “British bulldogs (often the singular British bulldog, also bulldog, bulldogs or bullies) is a tag-based game, of which Red Rover and Cocky Laura are descendants… The game is characterized by its physicality, often being regarded as violence (and) leading it to be banned from many schools…”

Although it’s largely played as a “tagging” game, it can devolve into a “tackling”-type game, along the lines of American football. The BSA says this about all football-type activities (See the Guide To Safe Scouting or GTSS): “…football…activities are unauthorized activities.” The GTSS is, of course, silent on protective gear necessary for football-type activities, because the activities themselves are unauthorized in the Scouting program.

I’m not a professional authority on matters of safety and/or safe activities; however, your council has either or both a Health & Safety Committee and Risk Management Committee. These committees are worth contacting, through your local council’s Scout Executive.

Do alert the troop’s Committee Chair, in a personal conversation (NOT email!) that you will be pursuing reimbursement for this incident through council channels, and ask for his help in contacting the right people, quickly. (If he doesn’t get the idea that the troop needs to find a different game, then it may be time to bring this to the attention of the chartered organization, because it is potentially liable for injuries occurring on its grounds and/or under its auspices, because, as the actual “owner” of the troop, it may be ultimately liable for injuries.)


Dear Andy,

My son is a Bear Cub Scout. I believe there should be belt loops for sewing and cooking. The men of today need to know these skills. (Tracie Sitka, Aloha Council, HI)

I agree with you and I’m happy to let you know that cooking is something the BSA has definitely incorporated into the overall Scouting program. Your son just hasn’t hit it yet. He will. Be patient. As for sewing, yes, I agree with you that this is an important skill worth knowing how to do. However, not all such skills have badges, pins, patches, or belt loops at the end…some thing are learned just for the joy of learning, and knowing how to do them! This is one of those, and I hope that you’ll teach this to your son even though the reward here is the satisfaction of knowing how, even though there’s no shiny thing to put on a uniform!


Dear Andy,

My son is a Life Scout and a high school sophomore. He was not recommended by his Scoutmaster for NYLT last summer, or the summer before. My son has said that he’d like to attend NYLT this coming summer, but his Scoutmaster doesn’t see the value of Scouts attending NYLT after the summer before their sophomore year, because, he says, they most likely will get too busy to “give back” to the troop by serving in a leadership position like Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, and so on. Does a Scoutmaster have absolute control over whether or not a Scout can attend NYLT, like this? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, what I’m getting here is that your son is not being singled out. This is a “blanket” opinion of the Scoutmaster. It’s baloney, of course, because it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Get in touch with your local council, track down the name and contact information for the council’s NYLT Course Director, contact him or her and describe exactly what you’ve described to me. I’ll bet dollars to donuts your son will be in the very next course!

(I’m Ccing a highly NYLT-knowledgeable fellow Scouter—John Glockner—in case he’d like to add to what I’ve just suggested.)

John says:

Thanks, Andy, for copying me on this e-mail exchange. Needless to say, the reported situation frustrates me whenever I hear of it.

Although the Scoutmaster’s signature is technically “required” on a Scout’s application to attend NYLT, the lack of his signature cannot be used to prevent a Scout from attending NYLT. The Scoutmaster’s position is very short-sighted and doesn’t take into account that boys mature at different stages during their teen years. A youth’s development shouldn’t depend solely on whether or not his NYLT experience will directly influence his Troop. His personal development is what should count.

Andy has suggested an excellent solution. I would add that a contact with your District and/or Council Training Chair would provide some additional support to get your son approved to participate in your Council’s NYLT in 2010.

In addition, if your son enjoys his NYLT experience, he might well consider attending the NAYLE program at Philmont. For more information about it, go The information about the 2010 courses will be available shortly. Good luck; don’t take no for an answer!

Dear Andy,

Our Committee Chair (who is new to the troop) has said that that he “may have some difficulty” signing my sons’ Eagle projects and rank applications because they’ve not been as involved in the troop as he would like.

That said, my sons have put in enough time and service to make Eagle twice over, and yet now they just want to give up because of this new Chair’s attitude. Now they’re hesitant about completing their Eagle projects, for fear that the Committee Chair will stand in their way. (Concerned Mom in Okefenokee Area Council)

It needs to be immediately pointed out to this new Committee Chair that the requirement (no.4) states, “Serve actively for a period of six months…” and it absolutely does not say “be as active as the committee chair would like.” Moreover, the BSA national council states that no “numbers” or “percentages” may be applied to the term, “active”: so long as the Scout is registered and is current with his dues, he is to be considered active. Finally, the BSA absolutely does not permit any individual, unit, district, or council to alter any advancement requirement.

If the Committee Chair doesn’t agree to abide by BSA polices, then you have the wrong man in the job and his immediate replacement is mandatory, for the health of the troop as a whole.

Team up with your sons’ dad and other parents whose sons may be in a similar situation, and don’t let this new guy run roughshod over an already successful troop. Get a Unit Commissioner involved… one who can help and guide you all in solving this problem.


Hi Andy,

Our troop will be celebrating our Scoutmaster’s 40th continuous year of service to our troop. He began as a young man in 1969, with a promise to his minister to serve for two years. He has since grown the troop into the largest in the council, and in 40 years has produced over 600 Eagle Scouts.

I’m curious about other long-tenured Scoutmasters across the country… Do you have any idea who the longest-serving might be, and for how long? Is there a list maintained by anyone? Thanks. (Don Hull, ASM, Indian Nations Council, OK)

I don’t personally know of any sort of a “list” of long-serving Scoutmasters, but I did know a man who had served for approximately 60 continuous years before he joined the Great Scoutmaster of All Scouts. I’ll be happy to publish your question, however, and we’ll see if there are any responses!

Readers: Do you know of any Scoutmasters who have served the same troop for three, four, or more decades? If you do, please write to me and I’ll include your responses in an upcoming column!

Dear Andy,

I’m the treasurer for our pack. Recently, we discovered that the prior treasurer had withdrawn $300 from the pack account for herself, and not paid it back. We went to see her and asked her about it, and she admitted that she had “accidently” (her word) taken the money from the account. She said she couldn’t replace it until she got paid. That was three weeks ago and she’s only returned $125—She still owes $175. Are we on our own in this, or will the council help us? (We’ve contacted the council, but were pretty much told to try to handle it on our own.) (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA council doesn’t own the pack; the pack’s sponsor (aka chartered organization) does. Therefore, the council is pretty powerless. But the sponsor isn’t, and may choose to come to your aid in collecting the money owed if you approach them with the problem. Now you could make a civil or small claims suit out of this, but you’ll need to weigh the consequences in time, cost, and notoriety before you proceed… Is $175 worth the energy, guaranteed animosity, and rancor further pursuit will engender? You might want to try putting this person on a “payment plan” instead… Perhaps seven payments of $25 each, over a couple of months or so. If not, perhaps the wisest thing would be to let this go, except as a lesson for you all about making sure all future treasurers provide monthly accounting of all funds in and out.


Dear Andy,Several of our Scouts have earned the Paul Bunyan Woodsman award. Can this patch be worn on the uniform? If so, where is it placed? (Kevin Casey, ASM, Chicago Area Council, IL)

This patch—a double-bladed axe—may be sewn on a Scout’s backpack, or on a patch blanket or other memorabilia holder. It is definitely not sewn on his uniform—anywhere.


Hi Andy,

Recently, I was presenting at our College of Commissioner’s Science on “Effective Unit Service in Remote Rural Areas” (ECS 406) when a great question was asked and I wasn’t sure how to answer it. We were talking about the use of Den Aides instead of Den Chiefs, and I described this position as a non-registered, non-member volunteer. Which gave rise to this question: If a Den Aide isn’t BSA-registered, what if an accident or injury was to befall while on a field trip… Will the BSA insurance policy cover this position even though it’s non-registered (i.e., not an official BSA member)? Well of course, when I got home, I took time poring through some resources, but I’ve had no luck finding an answer. What’s your take on this? (Jon Larsen, DC, Longs Peak Council, CO)

When a Cub Scout has an older brother who’s a Boy Scout, it’s not unusual for that Boy Scout to become the Den Chief for his younger brother’s den. But what if it’s an older sister, and she’d like to help out? That’s where Den Aide often kicks in, to more or less “legitimize” her. Den Aides, although not registered with the BSA or the unit, are—just like anyone else accompanying the unit on a field trip—covered by BSA insurance as a guest of the unit.

That said, and with the understanding that I’m not an expert on this subject, the BSA insurance is usually the very last insurance to kick in—that is, all other insurances are utilized first, and the BSA’s is more or less a last resort in case of a catastrophe. This is what any number of BSA professionals have stated when I’ve inquired about this point, but to be absolutely sure, do check with your own council’s risk management committee.


Dear Andy,

What’s been your experience with troops being tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and can a troop pursue grant funds for service projects? (Name & Council Withheld)

No Scouting unit is automatically a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. If a unit wishes to apply for this designation, there is ample on-line information by the IRS for doing so (see More typically, however, the unit simply uses the tax number of its chartered organization (these are almost all 501(c)(3) organizations, and can legally lend their number to the unit they sponsor). If the chartered organization is not a 501(c)(3), then the unit may request the 501(c)(3) tax ID number of their local BSA council. (This information was provided to me by the head of accounting of a local BSA council, and I’m repeating it here for you.)

Everything you’ve stated I know is accurate; however, when I spoke with our home council, they wanted all funds to go through them, which we felt uncomfortable with. But we can’t use our chartered organization’s tax ID number because it’s a church, and every fund-granting agency we’ve spoken with has said that they can’t give funds to a religious organization, even if the troop would be the final recipient. So, by having our own tax ID number, funds could come directly to the troop. So, can we apply for 501(c)(3) status?

Before you get all exercised about this, have you actually looked at the W-9 form that’s typically requested by donors? It asks for the name of the organization, so you write in Troop 123-BSA. Then it asks you to check off a box describing the type of organization, and you check “other” and write in BSA Troop, and you also check off the box for “exempt from backup withholding.” Next, you write in the troop’s mailing address (this can be your sponsor’s address, because that’s where you meet). Finally, in Part I, you write in the TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number), which is, of course, your sponsor’s, or your local council’s. Finally, the Committee Chair signs and dates it, and you give a copy of it to the grantor. That’s it. The funds don’t need to go through the council, or they can if that’s what the council wishes… simply have the funds sent to your own address and then take them to your own bank or send them to the council’s service center with a cover letter confirming the amount of the funds—whichever is finally decided.

To have the money run through the council, simply get an accounting code from the council’s accounting department and then ask all donors to put that accounting code on the “memo” line of their check.

This is the small end of the stick; the big end is writing the grant request!

Hey Andy,

We have an active troop that absolutely uses The Patrol Method. The PLC meets and plans the troop’s outdoor program agenda, such as where and when we go camping. They plan a camping trip for each month of the year. As I’ve read your column over the years, I’ve reflected on our own troop and been gratified to see that we do a pretty good job of staying focused on “True North.” However, questions do come up, like this one…

For several years now, the PLC has produced an annual agenda that has minimal involvement in council-sponsored activities (camporees, merit badge weekends, etc.). They typically plan on one council event a year (usually a service weekend, cleaning up the council summer camp). The PLC always has a copy of the council’s event calendar when they do their planning, but except for this one event, there’s nothing else. It must be said, however, that the PLC’s current outdoor activity schedule keeps our Scouts motivated and involved.

However, I recall that when I was a Scout, our troop participated in lots of camporees and council-sponsored events; in fact, these were the dominant events on our outdoor schedule! We enjoyed the opportunity those events provided to interact with other Scouts and troops, and we also enjoyed the competitions and organized games that went along with the camporees.

Should our PLC be encouraged to increase participation in council-sponsored events? What’s the responsibility, if any, of Scout units in supporting council activities—specifically, the outdoor events? If the PLC doesn’t want to do camporees, is that a problem? (Carl Wentzel, CC, Tidewater Council, VA)

Although Boy Scout troops can be perfectly self-sufficient and offer good Scouting without ever participating in district or council or national events or take advantage of wider opportunities, a troop’s program and the overall experience of the Scouts it serves can be greatly enhanced by getting involved. The best troops I’ve seen in some 20 years as a Commissioner, just like Eagle Scouts, get involved in everything! They take treks at Philmont, canoe expeditions at the Northern Tier Canoe Base, sailing adventures at Sea Base, send their patrols to compete at Camporees, send their Scouts to Jamborees, send their leaders to NYLT and NJLIC and now NAYLE, go to their council’s summer camp, and some even go overseas and link up with other Scouting organizations’ events (The biannual “Jamborette” at Blair Athol in Scotland is a wonderful example of this–Google it and check it out!) because these activities and venues strengthen and broaden the experiences and “world-view” of their Scouts. In short, there are tremendous advantages, and no disadvantages, to “getting out there”!

(The Jamboree’s virtually in your back yard, for goodness sakes!)

One of the Scoutmaster’s important responsibilities is to guide and advise the PLC (in other words, it’s not merely “whatever the Scouts want”—their thinking and program selections are directed, so that they get the most out of the program). Consequently, unless the Scoutmaster himself wants to troop to remain parochial and relatively isolated from the larger Scouting world, he will encourage the PLC to add as many larger opportunities to the troop’s annual schedule as possible!

On the question of “…if a PLC doesn’t want to do Camporees,” I’d have to ask,why not? Camporees are fun, challenging, and expand a Scout’s understanding of just how big Scouting really is! I can’t think of a single reason why a PLC wouldn’t want to do this, except, perhaps, fear of the unknown (which is perfectly understandable in a troop that’s avoided this for years). It’s time to break out!

Hi Andy,

Annually, our district has a one-day merit badge event at which Scouts can choose up to four badges to work on. They’re provided the prerequisites in advance, which are reviewed at the event, and then the balance of the requirements are covered in either a 90 minute or three session (depending on the complexity of the merit badge). It’s a great concept and the Scouts seem to really enjoy it; however, it really bugs me that nearly every prerequisite says, “Must Read The Merit Badge Pamphlet.” It’s my understanding that having and reading a merit badge pamphlet is not a BSA requirement. The pamphlets are informative and a definite advantage when working on the requirements, and I’d never say that it’s not a great idea for the Scouts to read. But for a Merit Badge Counselor to say “Must Read…” is, I think, a direct violation of adding more than what the requirements state. Am I missing something? (Name Withheld, New Michigan Council)

First, a personal observation… As a Merit Badge Counselor for well over 100 local Scouts, on a variety of merit badges, I do expect every Scout to use the appropriate merit badge pamphlet, because it contains the foundational information he’ll need to successfully complete the requirements. Would you consider this “adding to requirements”? If so, then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

As I see it, the men and women volunteers who have come out for the day to work with Scouts on selected merit badges in a highly limited time-frame are simply saying, “Be Prepared.” That is, they’re expecting the Scouts who have signed up to have prepared themselves in advance to succeed, rather than having them show up as “blank slates,” because there’s just not enough time to start entirely from zero… If a Scout wants to start from zero, he can go through the usual contact scenario with a MBC and do it that way, instead of going to a merit badge day. In other words, these dedicated volunteers are asking for collaboration, in the best interests of the Scouts themselves. Moreover, when Scouts with some knowledge of the subject matter show up, this dramatically reduces the chances that the merit badge sessions will turn into classroom-style lectures, which is definitely not what merit badges are all about, and it also reduces the possibility that Scouts will depart at the end of the day with “partials.” So, if you still consider this “adding to requirements,” that’s your prerogative, but I’d have to say your being bugged is misplaced, especially since, as you put it so well, “It’s a great concept and the Scouts seem to really enjoy it.”

Dear Andy,

My son started Cub Scouts in the U.S. and moved to New Zealand as a Webelos, where he continued his Scouting journey in Scouts New Zealand. Now, approaching earning the Chief Scout Award (the highest award a Scout—up to age 14—can earn), we’re moving back to the States. He’d like to continue in Scouting (perhaps with a BSA Venturing crew?), and the question is this: Is there a way to cross-credit his New Zealand Scouting experience and continue towards the BSA’s Eagle Scout rank in the U.S.? (We’re also looking into the complementary process of having him be a “Lone Venturer” in the Scouts New Zealand programme so that he can work toward the Queen Scout Award (the equivalent of Eagle) while in the U.S., but there are some rather large hurdles there.) Any information, advice, or points of contact would be appreciated. (Dave Threlkeld, Troop Leader, St. Heliers/Glendowie Scout Group, Auckland, NZ)

Thanks for finding me, and for writing!

The requirements for the Chief Scout Award and the Eagle Scout rank are likely too disparate for any significant alignment, so I’m not sure I’d pursue that path. I would, however, use the Boy Scout Handbook published by the Boy Scouts of America to help my son earn up to First Class rank as quickly as possible (you can register him with the BSA as a “Lone Scout,” and register yourself as his adult partner). Go to buy the 12th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, then go to get yourselves registered, and go to work! This way, when your son gets to the States and joins a Venturing crew, by being a First Class Scout, he’ll be qualified to continue through the ranks of Star and Life, to Eagle. Since he’s approaching 14, he definitely has the time to get there by his 18th birthday!


Dear Andy,

I’m wondering what to do about a situation that’s causing a lot of stress for my son. He was recently voted in as the new Senior Patrol Leader, and mostly he’s very happy with the position and is doing a great job learning his new role. Unfortunately we have an Assistant Scoutmaster in our troop who can be very difficult. He’s a stickler for following every rule, requirement, and law. He knows and discusses BSA policies and procedures in great detail with the Scouts, and this is almost always done in a very negative way. Instead of guiding the Scouts, he’s rude to them, points out everything they do wrong, and makes a huge fuss over anything he sees as an infraction, no matter how small. In the past two weeks, he’s made my son very uncomfortable in several ways. One of the problems we’ve had is that this ASM is never available by phone. My son can call his house every night of the week and get a busy signal, but then this man makes a lot of loud remarks about how the phone calls to him aren’t being made. I suggested to my son that he use email (since the busy signal’s due to dial-up Internet service that the ASM’s always on), but he promptly told my son that email’s not an inappropriate solution, and that his own son isn’t allowed on the computer at all, so it would be ineffective anyway, and then he outlined my son’s phone call responsibilities again, claiming that he’ll leave the phone open one evening a week for him. But the night he picked is Thursday, and Thursday evenings aren’t always open for my son, plus, the troop requires that my son’s phone calls be made before Thursday! They also require that any boy who has not received his phone call by Thursday is responsible to call his Patrol Leader, but this man doesn’t bring his own son to troop meetings if he doesn’t get his phone call. (This is just an example of the petty things that could so easily be resolved but are instead made into huge issues.)

Although this is a new problem for my son because he was not in a leadership position that made him part of such issues before, it’s an ongoing problem and several other parents in the troop have had similar things and some issues have been much more hurtful towards specific Scouts.

On the other hand, one parent supports these sorts of tactics, saying that we should enroll our kids in sports because “then we’ll get used to someone else yelling at our kids!”

We have a very traditional troop, and our Scoutmaster is wonderful and supportive, but he has to buffer the behaviors of this one man for the Scouts. As a committee member, I’m not involved in the actual troop meetings (we may observe, but not interrupt, and we’re often asked to stay in a back room where we won’t interrupt or interfere with the troop meeting).

How can I provide moral support to my son in this situation without getting my back up when he or other Scouts are being harassed by this ASM? Better yet, is there a way to put a stop to this altogether? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, that phone-calling procedure you’ve partially described is sheer nonsense and should be thrown out as fast as possible! Scouts will show up at troop meetings when their troop meetings are filled with fun, learning, challenges, competitions, and good Scouting. In brief: Program Produces Participation.

The problem you described is definitely soluble… By the Scoutmaster. Frankly, your “wonderful and supportive” Scoutmaster is neither “wonderful” nor “supportive” if he continues to allow the Scouts he’s there to serve to be harassed, brow-beaten, and criticized by a needy bully. What should happen is that the Scoutmaster should literally fire that ASM immediately.

As a committee member, your task—with others on the committee plus legitimately irate parents—is to convince the Committee Chair (who’s the Scoutmaster’s “boss,” BTW) to tell the Scoutmaster that he needs to remove that ASM (who reports directly to the Scoutmaster) from his position immediately, without hesitation or equivocation. To permit this to continue a minute longer is tantamount to enabling a child abuser—Yes, emotional abuse is unquestionably what’s going on here.

As for your son, he does not have to allow himself to be danced around by a needy adult who’s using the Scouts to satisfy his own emotional imbalances. Your son has the absolute right to tell the Scoutmaster that, according to the Boy Scouts of America, Senior Patrol Leaders do not “report” to ASMs—they report only to Scoutmasters—and so he will no longer work with anyone except the Scoutmaster, period.

Make this happen, before one bully intimidates an entire troop and will ultimately cause it to self-destruct.

(“But what about the ASM? We don’t want to hurt his feelings!” someone may say. To which I’d respond: Malarkey! Why are you trying to “spare the feelings” of an adult who brow-beats your own sons!)

As for any parent who believes “kids should be yelled at” by adults, make sure that he never, ever has any “official” contact with the Scouts, because, in Scouting, no adult ever “yells” at youth members.


Dear Andy,

I’m a District Commissioner-elect. Before I went to our Scout shop to get patches, I noticed on Scout Stuff, the “District Scout Commissioner” patch and thought it may have replaced the District Commissioner patch. I inquired about this at the Scout shop and no one could give me an answer. I found this patch in an on-line collection from 1973. The Scout Shop also had several of these patches for sale, along with “Assistant District Scout Commissioner” patches. Is the District Scout Commissioner patch new, old, old but being revived, or what? (Brad Hyndman, Mid-America Council, IN)

Those are “antiques,” dating back to the early 70’s. The positions are obsolete today and the patches are in the category of “collectors’ items.”

The present designations are: Council Commissioner, Assistant Council Commissioner, District Commissioner, Assistant District Commissioner, Unit Commissioner, Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner, and Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner.

Dear Andy,

My son is a Bear Cub Scout. I’m trying to find a list of belt loops that he can earn. Do you know where I can find the list with the requirements? (Karen Strickland, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

If you like, go buy the Cub Scout Academics and Sports book—it has ’em all. BUT, make sure your son has earned his Bear badge (you are his Akela, remember), and then earned the ten Arrow Points he can earn in the “electives” section. After that, talk with his Den Leader about belt loops and such, because that program is supplemental.

Hi Andy,

Is there a BSA policy on who should be on a unit’s checking account? I recently attended a Scouting event where a Scoutmaster in the registration line took out the unit’s checkbook to pay the registration fee, at which point the person collecting the fee went on at length… Why are you on the checking account? This is up to your troop’s treasure to do! No unit leader should have their name on the unit’s checkbook! After hearing this, I’m confused and concerned, because when I take my troop out to events I sign the check (and always get a receipt), and no one’s ever said anything to me about anything like what I heard that day! (Name & Council Withheld)

As with most service organizations (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Freemasons, etc.), the usual practice is to have the treasurer and president (in the case of a troop, the parallel to the latter position is committee chair) as signatories on the checking account, with the understanding that the person other than the treasurer is a “back-up” in case the treasurer isn’t available or is incapacitated. It’s not usual for anyone else to have authorization to sign checks.

Checks for events can be written and signed by the treasurer in advance and then given to the Scoutmaster to submit as required. Or, the treasurer (or CC) can show up at the event and write the check on the spot.

The Scoutmaster is responsible for the program side of the troop operations; not the administrative side—that’s what the committee’s for.

That said, you’re certainly not doing anything illegal, and if this works for you then leave it alone and don’t worry about it. But, as a Scoutmaster myself, I made sure I delegated as much administrative stuff as I could to the committee (I was busy enough with the Scouts and the PLC!).

Dear Andy,

Is there an age limit on when an Eagle Scout board of review can be held? (Kelsey Ruszkowski)

For Eagle (or any Boy Scout rank, for that matter) the cut-off on completing actual requirements is the Scout’s 18th birthday. Boards of review, however, are not “requirements,” which means that a board of review for Eagle can be conducted with impunity even after a Scout’s 18th birthday. Usually, there’s a three-month “window” within which no letter explaining why the review is after 18 is necessary. If it’s beyond three months from the 18th birthday, then the chair of the review needs to write a letter addressed to the BSA national office explaining the cause for the delay.

Dear Andy,

Our pack’s having a problem with our Cubmaster. He’s a great guy but when it comes to stepping up and getting the job done, he falls very short. As the Assistant Cubmaster, I’ve been doing all of the Cubmaster duties, but he’s taking all the credit. On several occasions when he volunteered to head up certain activities he has not, and if it hadn’t been for other council members, the events would have been a disaster.

We want to remove him from the position, and we don’t believe he’s the type of person who would just step aside (he’s a very proud man and I’m sure won’t make it easy on us). What are some of the steps that we need to take, to make this as pleasant a process as we can? (Name & Council Withheld)

My first thought is why are you (and I’m sure others, too) rescuing him? When you do this, you’re in effect telling him that he need change nothing. Yes, I’m sure your first answer will be “We don’t want to disappoint the boys,” but you won’t be doing any disappointing, he will—and he’ll be forced to deal with the fallout from his lack of attention to getting things done. If he’s as great a guy as you say he is, then he’ll learn from his self-made disaster. If he doesn’t, then that’s the time to replace him.

That said, if you want to replace him now, and gently, then it’s your Committee Chair and Chartered Organization Representative who do this. They meet with him and discuss how overworked he is, suggesting that he take a position that’s less demanding (e.g., a committee position, perhaps), because the pack can’t continue the way things are. Now maybe he’ll “ask for a second chance,” and that’s OK… He has a month (no more than that) to straighten things out. Then, if he does sharpen up, everything’s cool. And if he doesn’t, then the CC and CR can simply advise him that, in the absence of any positive changes, would he please take the other position, because a new Cubmaster is about to be appointed. (If he doesn’t want another position, then of course he’s simply de-registered, and that’s that—he can’t stubbornly cling to the Cubmaster position.)

All of this needs to be done eyeball-to-eyeball; there can be no emails!

Dear Andy,

What do we do with a Scout who can’t or won’t pass the First Class swimming test? He’s a good Scout, but how do I give him First Class rank? The swimming test is the only thing holding him back. His mother and I have tried every thing we know, but he just won’t take the test. (Scoutmaster, French Creek Council, PA)

Just so’s we’re on the same page here, “you” don’t “give” a Scout any rank or merit badge—He earns these all by his li’l ole self! That’s right, and the Boy Scout Handbook tells him that he can advance at his own pace… It’s all right there!

So, you and his mom and anyone else involved can stop worrying and stop trying to “encourage” him, and just leave him alone. If he chooses to finish all his requirements for First Class, that’s wonderful. And if he doesn’t want to right now, well, that’s up to him. Obviously, he can swim some, or he couldn’t have completed to swim test for Second Class. So just back off and let peer pressure work its usual magic… or not. This is, after all, entirely his choice and no one else’s.

Dear Andy,

Some 30 years ago I was a Scout, and now my son, age 7, is one, and we love it! He’s earned many badges and I can’t seem to find a website that shows where they should go. I need help for both the uniform and on the vest. (Mom doesn’t want to sew them on only to have to take them off and sew them somewhere else, and our son wants them on to show his accomplishments—and who can blame him!) Can you help? (Paul Wesolowski, Three Fires Council, IL)

It’s wonderful to know that the Scouting tradition is now “second generation” in your family! If your son’s seven, I’m guessing he’s a Tiger Cub. If so, you have a Tiger Cub Handbook, and that’s your “Bible” when it comes to where badges go. If there are some that still mystify you after you’ve checked out the book, tell me what they are and I’ll help you out some more. You can also Google “uniform inspection sheet” and then select “Cub Scout.”


Happy Scouting!



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

(November 29, 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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