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Issue 202 – December 13, 2009

They’re almost here… New merit badges for Boy Scouts, and new belt loops and pins for Cub Scouts! Check ‘em all out right here:

And how about a new Cub Scout program! Yup, it’s on its way! Bob Scott, who’s on the BSA’s Innovation Team, tells us that “2010 will see the biggest change to Cub Scouting since the introduction of “Program Helps” some 50 years ago! – A new way of delivering the Cub Scout program that’s handbook-based, builds leader confidence (especially new leaders!), leverages the boys’ fun with advancement activities, and has demonstrated improved retention in the program!” Check this out, too, at:


Dear Andy,

Several leaders in our troop are considering making a new candle holder for our courts of honor. We’ve come up with several designs already, but nearly every online resource I found uses a log candle holder; several specifically call for birch. Is there a reason or deep-seated tradition for why we should use a simple log instead of maybe something with a bit more design flair? We’re considering incorporating symbols representing the 12 points of the Scout Law. (Kurt Neubek, ASM, Sam Houston Area Council, TX)

Logs, in general, say “outdoors” perhaps better than dimensional lumber or other material does, but a unique design using store-bought lumber or some other (perhaps more “space-age”) material can be very nice, and effective, too! As for logs with bark intact, birch bark is pretty and, being white, stands out more than dark-colored bark. But another option, of course, is to remove the bark from whatever log you’ve selected and then clean and varnish the underlying wood, to get a good effect. In that regard, varnished wood can nicely accept “branding” or wood-burning, for decorative or symbolic designs. If you’re getting the feeling that design options are broad and can be varied to suit the troop’s aesthetic desires, you’ve got it right! It’s a neat project—have fun with it!


Dear Andy,

Can you tell me how to sign up for the BSA Speakers Bureau? Thanks. (Patrick Lesley)

Here’s the person to contact for help with this…

Charlyn Lambert, Administrative Assistant-Marketing & Brand Management National Office of the Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane – S305 (P.O. Box 152079), Irving, TX 75015. Telephone: 972-580-2239; Fax: 972-580-7886.

Hi Andy,

There are two questions in the troop that my sons are in that I’d like some clarification on… First, is it a BSA rule that a Scout must have his Scoutmaster’s conference on a different day from his board of review? And, is it a BSA rule that a Scout working on his Eagle project can’t have part of his project conducted during a Troop meeting? (John LaTona, MC, Northwest Suburban Council, IL)

There’s absolutely no BSA policy that says a Scoutmaster conference and a board of review can’t take place on the same date. In fact, it’s not unusual at all for a Scout to have his conference, then the Scoutmaster turns to the troop’s advancement coordinator and says “Let’s rock n’ roll here! Johnny’s ready to advance!”

Your second question is a bit more mysterious… Although there’s no place for Eagle project work in the BSA’s Troop Meeting Plan template (this template’s been around for decades and used by countless troops across America and beyond!), this certainly wouldn’t prohibit an announcement being made, or Scouts gathering before the actual troop meeting to work on something that a fellow Scout has asked for help with. But, in order for me to be more specific, you’ll need to be more specific with me.

A little more clarification on that second question… Our troop has a Scout whose Eagle project is to collect used books and then donate them to local schools that can use them in their libraries. He’s already collected the books, and now what he needs to do is look through the books to make sure that they aren’t written in and that, overall, they’re in good condition to be donated, and he’d like for the troop to look through the books. So he wants to know if we could use a Troop meeting so the Scouts could do this examination and sorting process. Some of the committee members were very adamant about this being against the rules; others, myself included, thought that the idea was odd but since there hasn’t been much of a program lately for the Scouts, at least this would give them something to do for one meeting.

Thanks for the details. It’s not that this Scout’s idea is “against the rules,” it’s that it’s a bloody boring way to do a troop meeting! I’d call it “Death by Eagle Project”!

Instead, how about Googling “Troop Meeting Plan” and going out and buying yourselves at least one of the three-volume set of Troop Program Helps, so your Patrol Leaders Council can start breathing some fresh new life into your troop meetings!

Meanwhile, the Eagle aspirer can schedule a time and location to invite his friends, fellow Scouts, neighbors, and classmates to come and make short order of the task! (He does know that Eagle project helpers are by no means limited to just Scouts, yes?)

Thanks again and yes, this Scout does know that anyone can help. Plus, it wasn’t a big deal for him. He just thought it would be a good way to spend a troop meeting, given recent meeting content.

Problem was, some of our adult leaders started in that it was against BSA rules, while a couple of us disagreed. Personally, I don’t think it’s a great way to spend a troop meeting, but a meeting program has been non-existent for our older Scouts for about a year, so it might be better than nothing.

Thanks so much for your time. I’ll look into some meeting items but I’ll also inform our leaders that troop policies and BSA rules are two distinctly different issues, so if they feel that certain items should be troop policy, that’s fine.

Whenever anyone says something’s “against BSA rules,” simply ask that person to show you the rule, in writing.

Moreover, there’s no such thing as “troop policies.” There are BSA policies and procedures, rules and regulations, and that’s it. Troops are expected to follow the program of the BSA; no “inventing” is ever needed.

What you folks really need are some interesting troop meeting programs. If something as dull and tedious as “organizing books” is considered “good” programming, something’s seriously amiss! Pick up at least one of the three available volumes titled Troop Program Features and go have some fun-with-a-purpose!


Dear Andy,

Our Venturing crew has young men working on their Eagle, and will need leadership positions to fulfill the Eagle requirements. Crew officers only include one president and two vice presidents, and other crew members (who aren’t working on Eagle) are equally eager to handle these positions. So I’m wondering, can they share the responsibilities? Or, can these Life Scouts help another troop with a leadership position? (Xuan-Huong Do, MC-Advancement)

In the first place, we do not “owe” these aspirants to Eagle leadership positions simply because thy want them in order to earn a rank. They can wait their turn till the next crew elections, and then run for a position, win it, and fulfill its responsibilities. If they are not elected, this clearly tells them that their peers do not consider them “leadership material” yet, and so they will need to redouble their efforts to earn the respect (and votes) or their peers, the next time.

Leadership positions aren’t shared. There’s no such thing as “co-presidents” or “co-” anything anywhere in Scouting or Venturing.

Yes, a Venturer can join (or re-join) a troop and serve there actively in a leadership position, pending the approval of the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader and Scoutmaster. If their present troop has no positions available, they can transfer to another troop, register with them as a member, and provide leadership services per the same conditions as already noted.

Thank you so much for your response. One thing I forgot to mention, these Venturers/Scouts are approaching their 18th birthdays—just eight months from now. This is where the concern is, since they need a six-month tenure while they’re Life rank. (Xuan-Huong Do)

Yes, I had the feeling this might be the case… However, your unit still does not “owe” them a position. This is a matter of planning on their parts, and if they planned incorrectly, it is really not your responsibility to “rescue” them. That said, I would heartily recommend that they seek appointed leadership positions in a troop (which they must register with, of course). Again, the troop is not in any way obligated to provide a position just because a young man wants it for rank advancement. This is not intended to sound callous or inflexible, but it definitely is intended to keep the onus where it belongs.

Greetings Andy,

Our Troop is examining its merit badge program and process and has experienced some internal debate. Some of our committee members are of the opinion that, for instance, brand-new (first year) Scouts should not be allowed to earn merit badges, because this will interfere with their advancement to First Class. They also believe that what they consider to be the “harder” merit badges (they use Personal Management as an example) should be restricted to only older Scouts, because they’d be too difficult for younger Scouts. They also put Camping in the “older Scouts only” category. Then, they want to limit the number of merit badges a Scout can work on at one time. They also want to make sure that no merit badge counselor works with his own son (or nephew). Finally, they want to restrict to a minimum of age 12 summer camp-earned merit badges, like Rifle shooting. Can you please help clarify these issues? We do need to know what the official BSA position on them is. (Name & Council Withheld)

The official BSA position on what you’ve described is that every point is in direct conflict with BSA policy regarding merit badges. The committee needs to revise its thinking instantly, because they’re in direct opposition to stated BSA policies on Boy Scout advancement. The simplest version of the BSA policy is written in the annual “Requirements” books that the BSA publishes, in the introductory page on merit badges: “Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time.” You all need to adhere to BSA policy or you are not delivering the Scouting program.

That’s what I read and understood; we just needed confirmation that that interpretation is correct. Thanks for your help!

Notice, in particular, that no actual “interpretation” is needed here. Those words mean exactly what they say: ANY scout, ANYmerit badge, ANY time. And, just to get it covered, there’s also a BSA policy that says that no individual, unit, district, or council is permitted to alter or superseded a BSA advancement (or any other) policy.

Thanks, and one more question… I’ve poured through a bunch of BSA literature (including the Requirements book) and can’t find anything that limits the number of “blue Cards” that a Scout can have “open” or “active” at any one time. Your thoughts?

Want to guess why you can’t find any BSA language that limits blue cards? You got it: THERE IS NO LIMIT. If there were, the BSA would have stipulated. Any troop that imposes a limit, when the BSA has none, is attempting to supersede the BSA and this is obviously inappropriate.

Now, from a practical standpoint: Why would you all even care? Why would a question like this matter to you? And, finally, why are you all interested in arbitrarily hog-tying a boy’s interests? The whole idea of merit badges is to expand a boy’s horizons. Let ‘em go!


Hi Andy,

How do you do Eagle commendation letters? Thanks. (Eagle Scout in Northern Lights Council)

I’m not sure what you’re asking… Please ask your question a different way, and I’ll do my best for you.

The recognizing letters you send to local, state, etc. I earned my Eagle rank a few months ago and I’d like to get this letter for keepsakes and for my Court of Honor. I’m looking for a format for this letters. (ES)

The letter itself is a simple request letter, describing the Eagle Scout, his name and address, and the date he earned the rank (which is the board of review date, not the court of honor date). However, it would be most inappropriate for the Eagle Scout himself to send these request letters—it would smack of immodesty if not grandstanding, and you would actually be unlikely to receive any responses. If this is really important to you, ask a parent, friend, other relative, or a troop adult to write on your behalf.

That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that being an Eagle Scout is something we ARE, and no piece of paper will ever be more important to us than what we do for the rest of our lives to honor every single Eagle Scout who’s come before us. Best wishes –

Dear Andy,

There are time requirements, in months, for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks. What is the BSA definition of a month? I’m asking because we have a young man who just joined up, and he’s really focused on earning Eagle, but might not have much time between earning First Class to his 18th birthday. (John Teed, CR, Illowa Council, IA/IL)

Yes, there are specific time requirements for Star, Life and Eagle ranks. These are described in the Boy Scout Handbook. A month is just that… January 2 to February 2 is a month; February 2 to March 2 is a month. When the BSA specifies “a month” this is what is meant; when the BSA specifies “30 days” then that’s what’s meant. Thanks for asking and good luck to your new Scout!

Dear Andy,

When did the Eagle Scout service project become a requirement? Also, was there ever a time when there were alternate merit badges for Swimming and Lifesaving? (Sam Yusko)

The Eagle Scout service project was introduced in 1965. Alternatives for both Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges were introduced in 1972 and have been in place ever since.

Dear Andy,

I’m an assistant leader with my son’s Boy Scout troop, and an assistant leader with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I’ve looked through all the BSA literature that I have on this subject but I can’t find any provision for wearing both BSA and GSUSA recognition badges on the BSA uniform. I’m proud to be my daughter’s troop leader, and I’d like to wear that properly on my uniform. I know of others who were members of the Girl Scouts as youth, and have been awarded the Gold Award, who would like to wear that on their Boy Scout leaders uniform. (Mark Crane, UC, Iroquois Trail Council)

The BSA has a policy that badges of organizations other than the BSA are not permitted to be worn on a BSA uniform, with rare exceptions that include the Community Service square knot and the religious award square knots. There is no provision for GSUSA badges to be worn on a BSA uniform.

At our Wood Badge course, we were taught that the Boy Scouts have an ongoing process for the establishment of “square knots.” This reflects our need for flexibility and growth. Can I establish a “square knot” for the purpose of recognition for Girl Scout leader service in the community, and also for current leaders who were Girl Scouts and earned the Gold Award? According to Boy Scout history, at the First World Jamboree, in England, girls who were Scouts attended, and they attended as members of units. If we all originate from a common past, it is only fitting that we have a place in the present for this kind of recognition. I think we can recognize these Scouters, and let their uniforms reflect “all” that they do for Scouting and in the community. (Mark Crane)

Your idea is interesting and sounds definitely worth taking to the next level, to me. Have a conversation with your Scout Executive and obtain from him the name of the person at the BSA national office to write to, and an idea on how much detail, backgrounding, etc. you’ll need to put into your proposal.

If, on the other hand, you’re wondering if you (or anyone) can simply go out and design a square knot, have it embroidered, and then start passing them out (even if to qualified people), the answer’s no. Your S.E. will explain this in more detail.


Dear Andy,

Our troop’s having a disagreement about Totin’ Chip and Firem’n Chit patches. I’ve always though that these were like merit badges, that the card and the patch go together. Others feel it should be just the card. Who’s right? Do most troops give them both, or is just the card normally given? (Carol Sharisky, CC, Central Florida Council)

Any Scout who wants a Totin’ Chip patch or Firem’n Chit patch can just run on down to his local Scout Shop and buy one! They’re in the “miscellaneous patches” bin and anyone can purchase ’em over-the-counter—no need to file an advancement report, because these aren’t advancements. These are in the “other” category, and neither of those patches is permitted to be worn anywhere on the uniform, anyway! That’s right: They’re specifically not to be worn anywhere in a BSA uniform, and that’s a BSA rule. So, what are they good for? Well, a Scout can sew it on his backpack I suppose, or on a patch blanket (these used to be real popular), or put it in a memorabilia box or album… But he absolutely doesn’t put it on his uniform.

Dear Andy,

My son’s heard about a “Polar Bear patch.” We’re not sure if it really exists, or what the requirements for it might be. Can you clue us in? Thanks! (Marina Harris)

A “Polar Bear” patch isn’t something “official”—it’s typically more for fun. At many Scout summer camps, especially those where the water’s on the chilly side, there’s often a once a week early morning swim, and the Scouts who do it are then “Polar Bears”—just like those crazy people (IMHO) who jump in and swim around in ice-laden waters in the wintertime, and sometimes make the six o’clock news!

Dear Andy,

Is there a web page that has a list of quick activities for Boy Scouts at troop meetings? At our meetings, we sometimes have breakout sessions for advancement (like First Aid or knots, etc.) and we have Scouts who are Second Class or First Class who’ve already had this signed off. We have a big troop of 70 Scouts, which means we have groups of restless Scouts. I did buy a BSA card game—it’s a camping skills game—that worked, but now they all know all the cards, so what next? (Steve Miller, Scoutmaster)

The BSA has three volumes all titled Troop Program Helps that I have a gut feeling are exactly what you’re looking for. These books are based on the original Woods Wisdom book, and lay out full troop meeting plans, month after month, all keyed to specific themes and activities for your Scouts! Get ’em at your local Scout Shop or There are any number of non-BSA books you can check out, too, like Silver Bullets, that has a bunch of initiative and team-building games and activities. Go for it!

Hi Andy,

I’ve just recently been made Cubmaster and Den Leader. I need to know how the red and yellow beads system works. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

Sorry, but your double positions are sorta impossible… If you read the second page of the BSA adult volunteer application you filled out, you’ll see that a person can’t hold two positions in the same unit (sole exception: CC and CR may be the same person). Pick the one you want; tell the pack committee to keep looking for the other.

The “bead system” is described in the Cub Scout Leader Book, and also in the kit you can buy at your local Scout Shop.

I’m LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and we haven’t enough people in our ward to fill all Scouting positions at once. They are looking for others to fill some of those positions, but at present, to meet all our boys’ needs, I have to fill both of those positions until others can be found.

I understand how this works in the LDS environment. Can you convince your president or bishop that he needs to announce some callings to fill the positions needed…? If you have boys in the pack, you have parents available to serve, so there’s no real reason why you, or anyone, should have to do “double duty”—this is the fastest route to burn-out and ultimate failure. It’s time to speak up, and if you’re shy about doing this, then “appoint” your husband to the task! Bishops and presidents are usually pretty understanding about this, because in all likelihood they’ve “been there” themselves!

Hello Andy,

I believe that a Scout should participate in raising funds in order to help pay for trips, camps, supplies, and so on. Alternatively, several Scout parents would prefer to write a check instead, so that they don’t have to participate in fundraising activities (they consider them “a pain”). What’s the BSA’s stance on fundraising? (Mylinda Cherneski)

That’s an excellent question, and the answer might surprise you: There is no “BSA stance” on fund-raising. This is a council, district, or unit decision. Or it’s a decision by the Scouting unit’s chartered organization (i.e., sponsor). I can tell you, based on many letters and personal in-the-field experience, that many troops do offer an “either-or” option to families. For instance, a Scout might be asked to sell 20 holiday wreaths at $10 each (profit $5 apiece) or, if his family finds this “a pain” then they can write a check for $100 (20x$5=$100) instead. Other troops—ones that have had long-standing annual fundraisers that have been operating for decades—will simply tell balking parents, “Perhaps your son would be happier in another troop, because this is how we do it here.” But the BSA in no way makes fund-raising mandatory for anybody, even though it’s obviously highly encouraged (teaches “trustworthy,” “helpful,” “courteous,” “brave,” and “thrifty,” among other values!).

Dear Andy,

A parent of one of our Scouts has asked if her younger son, 10 years old, can join the troop. I know that to join a boy must either be 11 years old, or finish the fifth grade, or have earned the Arrow of Light as a Webelos Scout. This boy is home-schooled, and his mother says that he’s finished the fifth grade curriculum they have been using in their studies. Meanwhile, our troop is down to just ten Scouts (seven are active), and we could sure use some new boys. Can we have this boy join now, or will it be better for him to wait to join when he’s 11? (A Green, SM)

Since the boy has met one of the requirements—he’s completed the fifth grade—he’s eligible to become a Boy Scout. Meanwhile, what’s with the three Scouts who aren’t showing up? The troop’s too small for their absences to go unnoticed, so who has reached out to each of them to find out what’s happening? Also, I do assume that, in a troop of ten, you have one SPL, one patrol of five, and another patrol of four. If you don’t have this structure in place, you need to establish it immediately, or risk evaporation. If you do have this structure, then it’s up to the PLC to include patrol games and competitions in troop meetings, such that a patrol is pretty handicapped if all of its members don’t show up, because this will help the Scouts self-discipline when patrol members who do show up encourage the ones who don’t! (This is why the patrol, not the troop, is the fundamental unit of Boy Scouting!)

Dear Andy,

Under what circumstances is asking a Scout to leave a meeting appropriate. Can a Scout be asked to leave if he refuses to participate in the group activities, or refuses to do what he’s asked to do by his youth and adult leaders? (Senior Patrol Leader in Texas Trails Council)

Terrific question! Thanks for finding me, and for asking. As Senior Patrol Leader, you actually don’t deal with individual Scouts… This is what your Patrol Leaders do: They’re in charge of the Scouts in their own patrols. Now, if there’s a Scout who just isn’t getting the message here about cooperation, “A Scout is Obedient, Cheerful, Helpful,” and so on, then the Scout needs to be taken aside and counseled by the Scoutmaster, in order to find out what the problem is, and then help the Scout solve it. You see, the behaviors you’ve described aren’t “the problem”—they’re symptoms of a problem that hasn’t been talked about yet, and this is for your Scoutmaster—not you or the Scout’s Patrol Leader—to do.

Bottom line: Why would we want to “send home” a fellow Scout who’s having a problem about something in his life? Isn’t this when he needs his Scout friends the most?

Dear Andy,

Due to our troop’s growth we’ve outgrown our meeting location. We’ve found another church, with larger space, who’s agreed to sponsor us. Our council has advised us that we’ll need a letter from our present sponsor that releases the troop and its assets. Once the council has a copy of this letter, we’ll be able to re-charter with our new sponsor. Apparently, there needs to be some specific language in the letter about releasing the troop number as well as the troop’s assets, but, unfortunately, our council service center doesn’t have a form letter for doing this. We, of course, want to do this right, the first time. Would you happen to know what a letter like this should say? (Name & Council Withheld)

This sort of formal move from one sponsor to another is pretty uncommon, so I’m not shocked that the council has no template or form letter for you to use. But your council should have at least one executive board member who’s an attorney, who acts as legal counsel. You might ask for this person’s name and contact information, and then ask him or her for some help with this.

Yes, this is definitely a good thing to do, because your current sponsor (aka chartered organization) does legally own the troop and all of its assets (financial and equipment), so a duly signed letter of release is the way to go.

And our NetCommish Adds:

When I was a Cubmaster back around 1996-97, I moved the pack from one chartered organization to another because, at that time, local PTAs were having issues with supporting Scouting. Our council didn’t have a template then (and doesn’t now, for that matter). I’m an attorney, so I just drafted a letter for the head of the chartered organization to sign that stated that they relinquished all rights, claims, or associations with the unit, its number, any property purchased for its use, and so on. I also provided as an attachment a complete inventory of all pack property, with a further statement that such property was being given as a gift without pre-condition, claims, and/or cost to the successor chartered organization. I don’t have a copy now or I’d be happy to send it to you, but you can likely find a local attorney involved in Scouting who can help you draft what you need. Best wishes!

Hi Andy,

Recently, a Cub Scout mom wrote you about adding belt loops for cooking and sewing. She might want to check further, because, for instance, a Tiger Cub elective is sewing on a button, and there’s a Bear achievement called “What’s Cooking?”

As a Commissioner, I’ve even suggested to Scoutmasters and other troop leaders that they establish a tradition of presenting a Scout with his first badge along with a sewing kit, so he can do this for himself. (Dave Mountney, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Yup, there are ways to cook and sew and do other stuff throughout the Cub Scout books…but belt loops? It’s almost in the realm of Hey, my kid brushes his teeth, so how come there’s no tooth-brushing belt loop!?! We all need to remind ourselves from time to time that not everything we do in Scouting (or in life) gets a badge, pin, or certificate… Sometimes we do stuff just to learn how to do it!

Dear Andy,

I feel very fortunate to have found your columns—Thank you for providing answers to everyone’s Scouting questions. I sure have learned a lot!

I’m writing about the comments on cooking and sewing… I believe that there are many opportunities to incorporate both into the Cub Scouting program, especially for Webelos. One way I incorporated sewing skills into my Webelos program was for Craftsman Activity Badge Requirement 4: “Make four useful items using materials other than wood that you and your Webelos den leader agree on, such as clay, plastic, leather, metal, paper, rubber, or rope. These should be challenging items and must involve several operations.” For one of the projects, the Scouts sewed bean bags by hand, and when they were done we played a game with them. There are multiple sources of step-by-step sewing instructions on the Internet that contain pictures you can print out and use as visual aids. We also did a leather craft (Scout knife belt holster) that involved stitching for this activity badge. (Pete McMahan, WDL, Central Florida Council)

Excellent and creative approaches to involving boys in sewing! Helps to take sewing out of the “girly” realm and put it squarely in the “anybody can and should be able to do this” department of useful skills!


Hi Andy,

In your November 29th column, you responded to this question about whether an in-church (part of a Sunday mass) fund-raiser for the church’s sponsored Boy Scout troop could be made mandatory.

The definitive answer to this is found in Article IX, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America: “In no case where a unit is connected with a church or other distinctively religious organization shall members of other denominations or faith be required, because of their membership in the unit, to take part in or to observe a religious ceremony distinctly unique to that organization or church.” (This is also reprinted on page 16 of the 2008 printing of Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures.) Simply put, “mandatory” and “mass” don’t mix. If the troop can separate participation in the fundraiser from attendance at mass, they might be able to work this through. Of course, that presumes that a Scouting function can be made “mandatory”—a presumption I don’t endorse. (Glenn Overby, Prairielands Council, IL)

Yup, you’re spot-on! However, over many years, I’ve known any number of church- and temple-sponsored troops and packs that—regardless of faith or denomination—attend the annual Scout Sunday/Sabbath service in February, and nobody cries foul! This is part of “A Scout is Reverent” in the dimension of respecting others beliefs.

As a 1993 Jamboree Scoutmaster based in California, when we were touring Washington, D.C. before the Jamboree, we all visited the National Cathedral (which is Episcopalian) for Sunday service. Afterward, we divided up into patrols and sat on the lawn in front of the edifice and held leader-guided conversations about what we’d just seen. The patrol I was assigned to contained three Presbyterian Scouts, one Episcopalian Scout, one Jewish Scout, one Buddhist Scout, one Hindu and one Sikh Scout… and guess what… This was one of most lively and intelligent conversations about religions (both similarities and differences) that I’ve ever observed!

On the other hand, I’ve had concerned parents write to me from time to time about Scouting units insisting that their denomination’s prayers, etc. be included in the Scout meetings themselves (I’m talking way, way beyond mere invocations here), and in those cases I’ve recommended that they bring to the attention of the leaders that this is a BSA no-no and, if the leaders refused to change, then go find a unit that doesn’t foist this sort of thing on their sons.

So, back to the original situation: If a Scout (or his parent) has a particular problem with the contents of a Roman Catholic mass, then they can happily wait outside the church till the mass is concluded, and then help their troop with the fund-raiser.

Thanks for raising the point. It’s a good one!


Dear Andy,

You recently noted that “All of the Cub Scout handbooks note that the very first thing earned—regardless of what level the boy joins Cub Scouting—is Bobcat.” I’m wondering if my understanding of the Tiger Cub Handbook is incorrect… It states that the Instant Recognition Emblem (or totem) is earned “[a]long the Bobcat trail,” that is, before earning the Bobcat badge (this phrase occurs on both pages 15, 16). Your thoughts? (Tom Ellett, Potawatomi Council, WI)

If you take a look at page 14 of that book, you’ll find these words: “No matter what age or grade a boy joins Cub Scouting, he must earn his Bobcat badge before he can be awarded a Tiger Cub badge, Wolf badge, Bear badge, or Webelos badge.”

The plastic tiger paw and beads you refer to (page 16) aren’t ranks… they’re a plastic plaquette and beads, and they’re used to inspire the desire to continue on to earning the Tiger Cub (rank) badge.

Dear Andy,

Can the Bobcat badge (or pin) be given out at a monthly pack meeting, or does it have to be at the Blue & Gold Banquet? (Dustin McEntire, DL, Dan Beard Council, KY)

At every pack meeting, every month, everything the Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts have earned since the last pack meeting should be presented to them in a ceremony. This continuous monthly recognition of achievements is emphasized in the Cub Scout Leader Book and in position-specific training, which I assume you’ll start reading very soon, and you’ll take the training as well, just like the other registered volunteers in your pack, yes? Best wishes for a fun and rewarding time!

Dear Andy,

Our troop is planning a Court of Honor that will include an Eagle rank presentation. I’ve been searching for a Boy Scout song that we can put in the program, to get the whole crowd to sing along. Do you have any suggestions? (David White, SM, Palmetto Council, SC)

Wow! What a great question! Go for “Trail The Eagle,” sung to the tune of “On, Wisconsin” (football song)—It’s totally Scouting, and 100% appropriate for a court of honor! Sing it with GUSTO!

Trail the Eagle,

Trail the Eagle,

Climbing all the time.

First the Star and then the Life

Will on your bosom shine



Blaze the trail and we will follow,

Hark the Eagles’ call!

On, Brothers, on

Until we’re Eagles all!
For more, go to
Best wishes for the BEST Court of Honor EVER!


Happy Scouting!



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(November 29, 2009 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2009)

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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