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Issue 217 – May 30, 2010

Hi Andy,
In your May 10thcolumn, one of the correspondents mentioned that his son going for Eagle intended to use “Quartermaster ‘Mentor’—aScoutmaster-assigned leadership project” for his leadership requirement. A “Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project” can’t be used for Eagle; only for Star or Life ranks. For Eagle, a Scout must serve for a minimum of six months in one or more of a specifically noted number of positions: Patrol Leader/ Venture Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, Troop Guide, OA Troop Representative, Den Chief, Scribe, Historian, Librarian, Quartermaster, Chaplain Aide, JASM, and LNT Trainer. “Mentoring” another Scout who serves in a troop leadership capacity is a fine thing to do, but it’s not equivalent to serving in position oneself. (Paul S. Wolf, USSSP)

Sharp eyes, and you’re absolutely on the mark! Thanks –

Dear Andy,

I have four questions…

1) Can an Assistant Scoutmaster hold a committee position also?

2) What positions, if any,on a unit committee can the CharteredOrganization Representative hold?

3) Where can I find who serves in what positions in our troop (our CC won’t show the chartering roster form to anyone)?

4)What, if anything, can be done ifcommittee members don’t follow BSA policies (e.g., drinking alcohol while at BSA camps, not filing tour permits,etc.) (Name & Council Withheld)

By the numbers…

1) Nope. Read page 2 of the adult volunteer application, where it tells you that you can hold only a single unit position, except for the CR (Chartered Organization Representative).

2) The CR can be a solo position or may be dual-registered as CC also.

3) Ask your council registrar or, better yet, ask your District Executive to ask the registrar on your behalf. This stuff isn’t supposed to be some sort of “secret” document!

4) Several options here: Report this to the chartered organization, along with a copy of the Guide to Safe Scouting with the appropriate citations underlines or highlighted, talk this over with your troop’s Unit Commissioner or in the absence of a UC your District Commissioner, or go straight to your District Executive (understanding that only the chartered organization has the actual authority to enforce this stuff, short of canceling the unit’s charter).

Hmm… Sounds like you and your son need to start shopping for a new troop—one that sails a little closer to Scouting’s True North.

Hi Andy,
The Assistant Scoutmaster of the troop our son’s in has caused the departure of several Scouts and their families because he intimidates the Scouts. Hes consistently yelling at them over anything and everything, including his own son. He even yells at Scouts over what they did or didn’t do at events he wasn’t even at! Many parents have talked with the Scoutmaster about this ASM’s yelling and how he uses intimidation” tactics, like strutting, puffing out his chest, yelling, and getting nose-to-nose with the Scouts when he’s yelling. Many parents are afraid to say anything, because they’re afraid that their sons will be singles out by this guy at a camp-out when they’re not there. The Scoutmaster’s talked to him several times about the way he treats the Scouts, but the any changes are short-lived. What do we do when the current Scoutmaster “retires”—as he does plan to do soon? (The ASM and the Committee Chair are husband-and-wife, by the way.) (Name & Council Withheld)

Sounds like this Whacko Jacko channeling R. Lee Ermey (of “Full Metal Jacket, and “Mail Call” fame) when he should be emulating Ike.

There’s absolutely no reason why you all should have to tolerate this, but you’ll need to take immediate and assertive action… Since the Scoutmaster is ultimately approved (or not) by the executive officer of the unit’s sponsor (this supersedes even the Committee Chair and the Chartered Organization Representative), all of the parents who are having a problem with this nutso heir-apparent to the Scoutmaster need to immediately schedule an in-person meeting with the head of the chartered organization (no “email wars”!) to tell him or her of your concerns and request that a different person be selected to become the Scoutmaster. If there’s a volunteer for this position among you, this should make the process happen easily. If there’s any refusal to make this change, then you all will need to transfer your sons into a different troop. (One more point: I’m no attorney or law enforcement officer, but there’s a good chance that this guy’s behavior would be considered emotional abuse of minors… You all may want to check it out.)

Dear Andy,
Our troop is moving steadily from adult-run to a Scout-run, Patrol Method troop, with the predictable result that its tripled in size in short order and the Scouts’ enthusiasm is high. One of the last remaining devolutions of “power” has to do with how patrols will pay for their food on campouts. Historically, this has been done by the adults as part of the trip permission form—the trip coordinator (one of the dads) collects the money from each Scout, and then the troop treasurer reimburses the Scout who’s assigned to buying the food for his patrol. This isn’t how we did it when I was a Scout, nor is it what we teach at adult leader training (of course, some of the “experienced” adults involved with the troop strongly object to Scouts handling money). I’m interested in knowing how patrols should handle paying for their food for campouts and hikes, and are there problems when Scouts simply handle this on their own (meaning that adults had better be there to “help”) or does it actually work? (Rob Harrison, CC, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

The “secret” to this question is a fundamental principle of Scouting: NEVER DO FOR A SCOUT WHAT HE CAN DO FOR HIMSELF.

In my own experience as a Scout and several times as a Scoutmaster, when patrols plan their own menus for a hike or camp-out (as they obviously should when The Patrol Method’s in place), then two Scouts are assigned to do the food-buying (with a single parent along to perhaps do the driving), and they then present the total bill to the patrol, for equal-share reimbursement. It’s really no more complicated than that! Keep the responsibility where the responsibility belongs.

Dear Andy,

A Scoutrecently asked me what the symbols in the three areas of the Emergency Preparedness merit badge are. I started, “Oh, that’s easy! It’s a First Aid or safety symbol, a house, and a…” and that’s when realized I had no idea what the third group of symbols (in the lower right section)is. I’ve started researching this, and I now know when the badge was first authorized, what the requirements are, and so forth, but I haven’t been able to find any information on what that symbol is! Some people that I’ve asked have speculated that its debris;othersthink it’s Morse code, some say its Ham or short-wave radio waves, and some say it’s lighting Can you help me figure this out before it drives me crazy? (Ragina Wegner)

You and your friends are pretty close… Yup, that’s a first aid symbol, a house on its side (hurricane), and, in the third section,that’s Morse code for HELP (….. .-.. .–.) along with lightning and what looks to be a lightning arrestor.


Hi Andy,

You’ve said many times that BSA policy states that a Scout can take any merit badge at any age. I must disagree with at least two. The age at which a youth may shoot a rifle or shotgun varies state by state. Here in the Northeast, for example,the approved age for shotgunsseems to be 13. The exception in some states is only if a parent is with the youth. Would this exception be part of what the risk management committee would specify? (Roy Tangen)

Just keep in mind that I’m providing and describing BSA policy; not state or local laws. So, yes, the BSA states that any Scout can work on any merit badge he chooses, anytime he chooses to, and that remains intact and without exception. Regarding further policies and/or statutes outside BSA authority or policy, you may just want to check with your local councilas you’ve observed, the risk management or health and safety committees can probably help you out.

Dear Andy,

My husband and I have been putting in 40 or more hours a week in the past two months at our council’s camp (It’s been mostly neglected for the past ten years). We started volunteering on this project some nine months ago; in the past month alone, we’ve managed to get donations totaling over $5,000 to improve the camp, plus added approximately $1,000 of our own funds to fix broken stuff at the camp. Our problem is the camp ranger, who’s, so we’re told, been there for around ten years. Until last year, when he got a new boss, hes been allowed to do whatever he wanted, when he wanted to, so it wasn’t until last year that he was actually required to put in a 40-hour. My husband and I have pretty much been doing his job for him for the past few months because he refuses to do the things his boss has asked him to. Well, Ive finally had enoughLast week, my husband and I ran the yearly volunteer cleanup day, with a large turnout of 50 (compared to priors of maybe five). But the ranger didn’t do a thing to help, and didn’t even speak to the volunteers. Well, on Sunday we headed back up to camp with our kids, to finish the clean-up, but after about 30 minutes the ranger shows up, proceeds to rant at us in front of our kids (including some language that would make a sailor blush), and thenactually threaten to call the sheriff if we didn’t leave immediately. Well, we did leave, and promptly called his boss, who told us that he called and yelled at her as well. She also told us that she and most of the people on the properties committee, plus some executive board members, and even the new council executive all want to fire him, but they can’t, due to some BSA policy… She can’t tell me exactly what it is; all she says is, “Everyone in the council office wants him fired, but BSA policy is standing in the way.Do you have any idea what policy they’re talking about? Or, who do I call at the BSA national office to lodge a complaint? Thank you so much for listening and your advice. (Name & Council Withheld)

Camp rangers are often hard to come by. They frequently lead pretty lonesome lives most of the year, away from “civilization” with long-distance “bosses” and visitors that sometimes don’t respect the property and facilities and their hard work maintaining everything year-round. In my experience, there are just two kinds of camp rangers: Excellent…and the kind you’ve described. What you’ve encountered is commonly called “the camp ranger syndrome”… They think they “own” the camp and its property and get surly, belligerent, andas you’ve encountered—downright offensive when anyone “trespasses” on their “turf.” Ultimately, the only possible resolution to this is to fire this kind.

As for this “BSA policy” you’ve mentioned, frankly, I have no idea what the folks at your council service center are talking about!

If the council powers-that-be aren’t willing to dump this guy, I’d sure consider putting my volunteer energies and time elsewhere. You sure don’t need nonsense like this in your lives!

Hello Andy,

We have a difficult situation in our troop… Our Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader don’t get along. They’ve managed, with the help of several very good Assistant Scoutmasters, to make their working relationship tolerable, but it’s a strain at best. The Senior Patrol Leader is about to complete his next rank has asked me—the Committee Chair—ifhe can have his Scoutmaster Conference with one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, with whom he’s more comfortable. I’ve read much on your columns about the purposes of the Scoutmaster Conference, and how important it is that the Scoutmaster not delegate this responsibility, but is it allowable in some situations (like this one)? I and several of our more senior ASMs feel that this would be best, but wewant to stay within BSA policies and guidelines. (Craig Stephens)

Some years ago, I was a Jamboree Scoutmaster. Jamboree troops, as you probably know, are “provisional” units, made up of Scouts from throughout the council, most of whom have never met one another before. They’re usually assigned to patrols, and assigned tent-mates pretty arbitrarily. As we were building the troop and going through the assignments, two Scouts who had been assigned to the same patrol and given the other as a tent mate approached me, independently… each told me that he absolutely couldn’t stand his tent mate and would I please reassign him. To each one, separately and without the knowledge of the other, I said I’d consider the request, but only after he reported back to me about his current tent mate. I wanted him to find out what the other Scout’s favorite school subject was and which he hated, what sports he played and what position he played, what professional sports he followed and who were his favorite teams, what was his religion and what church did he go to, did he have any brothers or sisters and how did he get along with each, what home troop he was in and what was his favorite camping trip, what his favorite food, video game, dessert, chewing gum, movie, TV show, and athletic shoe brand was, and he had a week to find all this out and report back to me.

Well, each did as assigned, and when each was done, I told him that I’d considered the request they’d made and he’d be reassigned. But of course you know what happened… Each one said that, well, maybe he’d keep his tent mate after all…

At the Jamboree, they were inseparable… Where you found one, there was the other. They had the neatest, cleanest tent in the troop, “covered” for one another if one happened to lag behind, and when we were short on snacks, for instance, volunteered to share one and give the second one away. When the Jamboree was over, they stayed in touch with one another and even attended each other’s Eagle court of honor, even though their troops were in different towns.
Got where I’m goin’ here? Good. ‘Nuff sed.

Dear Andy,

A Scout has recently completed over six hours of service, with his eighth grade civics class. Hepersonally collected over 450 lbs. of food for the hungry and then created a documentary on thenumber of homeless/hungry.But our troop’s advancement coordinator has stated that school service projects can’t count for rank service hours. He apparently considers this a “doubledipping” infraction. The Committee Chair and Scoutmaster are trying to research this. While we’re at it, do you have any thoughts that might help us? (Name Withheld, National Capital Area Council, MD)

First, let’s remember that a troop’s “advancement coordinator” is a record-keeping administrator; not a policy-setter. So, “Scoutmaster approved” is the way to go, per the language of the requirement. Your advancement coordinator has absolutely nothing to say about this, and in this specific situation Id encourage the Scoutmaster to sign off. There are no “infractions” operating here except a too tightly-wound advancement person, perhaps. These are boys… They’re not Captains in the Salvation Army.

Dear Andy,

My sons went from Tiger through Webelos and bridged over to Boy Scouts… The 13 yearold is Second Class, and the 15 yearold is First, going for Star rank. In his handbook, all—every one—of the requirements for Star has been signed off by his Scoutmaster, so he requested his Scoutmaster conference. He was told, “No… You have to show ‘more leadership’,” despite this having been signed off. Is this accurate? Can a Scoutmaster actually reverse himself on a requirement he’s already signed a Scout off on? (Angela Marino, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)

The BSA informs us that once a signature is in place, signifying the completion of a requirement, it’s in place permanently and should absolutely not be withdrawn. This is per BSA advancement guidelines (that is, it’s not my “opinion”—it’s a fundamental principle in BSA advancement).

Moreover, the Scoutmaster’s most important responsibility is to train and guide the youth leaders of the troop. If the Scoutmaster has failed in this responsibility the Scouts are not to be penalized for this failure of an adult.

Hi Andy,

In the troop my husband serves as Scoutmaster, we have a boy who made a bad choice and is getting expelled from school, for bringing an alcoholic beverage to school, to give to another student. How does this affect his chances of ever achieving Eagle Rank?(Name & Council Withheld)

Getting booted out of school for a short or even longer time for something like this isn’t the same as being arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, and so should have no lasting effect on a Scout’s rank advancement, especially if the lesson’s learned and the “debt” is made good. In fact, right now, this young man needs Scouting more than ever! So don’t abandon him when he needs you most! The school authorities, and his parents, will mete out all the “punishment” he’ll need, to learn that what he tried to do was pretty dumb. Don’t do this to him through the troop, too—Let the troop be his safe haven. Have a Scoutmaster conference with him, and let’s see if he’s learned anything from this experienceremembering that the most successful and meaningful such conferences happen when the Scoutmaster does no more than 10% of the talking and, instead, asks non-threatening questions that help draw the Scout out and build a level of trust between himself and his Scoutmaster. It’s also a wonderful tool for letting the Scout know that he can come to the Scoutmaster for anything, and no judgment will be passed on him—just good listening and some understanding.

Dear Andy,

This is about “credit for prior work done.Some Scout summer camps have badge “prerequisites.” For example, my son attends a camp that requires that a Scout complete his 20 days-and-nights of camping prior to signing up for Camping merit badge, and requires that a Scout complete his 12 weeks of workouts prior to signing up for Personal Fitness. Prerequisites like these don’t make sense to me, since theyre the culmination of completing the other requirements for the merit badges.Wouldn’t a Scout’s having worked on the so=called prerequisites constitute starting work on a merit badge? If so, what happens if the badge requirements change between doing the prerequisites and getting the blue card signed at summer camp? More specifically, my son became a Boy Scout in 2005 and was told that he had to have his 20 days-and-nights of camping completed prior to doing the Camping merit badge at summer camp, so he started keeping track of his camping, but in the meanwhile, the requirements for that merit badge changed in 2007: It now required that all camping take place at Scouting events. My sonhad had a number of significant camping experiences, however at a non-BSA camp, that would have qualified toward the 20 days-and-nights he needs until the requirements changed three years ago. So, even though he took, for instance, a two-day canoe trip, andcamping and hiked that included some significant mountaineering, now his troop leader says that those doesn’t count, because they weren’t Scouting events. But my sonhad been relying on the pre-2007 version of the Camping merit badge, since that’s when he started putting together his prerequisites. Your thoughts? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, to your son: Don‘t stress over this. Scouting’s all about camping and hiking, so you’ll will have ample opportunity to rack up 20 days and nights with your present troop, and there’s absolutely no “badge-earning race” going on here!

Second to your son: I don’t know who your Merit Badge Counselor was, for the past more than three years, but it seems pretty remote that the two of you didn’t talk about the requirement change at the time it went into effect—over three years ago. Or, did you not have a Merit Badge Counselor, in which case the only one to “blame” (if even blame is necessary) is the Scout who started on a merit badge without starting with a Merit Badge Counselor… This isn’t how it’s done. Check out page 187 of the handbook you were using at the time.
As for what’s being called “prerequisites,” I’m sure there’s a better word, because merit badges don’t actually have “prerequisites.” That said, it’s not unusual at all for a Scout summer camp to advise Scouts who plan to complete certain merit badges while at camp (Camping being an excellent example) to come with requirements that involve substantial time (like at least 15 to 20 days and nights of camping already knocked off) already signed off by their “home” Merit Badge Counselor, so that they can finish the merit badge while at camp, rather then ending their week with a fist-full of “partials.” On the face of it, I’d have to say they’re helping the Scouts; not burdening them.

Dear Andy,

We had a committee meeting recently and all the adults were upstairs in one room while one Assistant Scoutmaster was with the Scouts in a downstairs room. There also was a 19 year-old brother of one of the Scouts in the downstairs room.One of our committee members stayed downstairs with the Scouts because she thought they needed two-deep leadership. I suggested that the 19 year old brother should have been able to be the second adult, but it seems I was the only one that thought that. It’s important were all on the same page, especially this, and I just want to get a clarification. The Guide to Safe Scouting says this about two-deep leadership: “Two registered adult leaders or one registered leader and a parent of a participant, one of whom must be 21 years of age or older, are required on all trips and outings.” Related to this, did we really need an adult downstairs or could we just all be upstairs with the door open to hear?The GTSS says this about patrols (we have two in the troop): “There are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when no adult leadership is required.” (Country Jewell, CC, National Capital Area Council, VA)

Two-deep leadership pertains to trips and outings; not necessarily to troop meetings at your normal location.

If the committee is meeting in another room, it always makes good sense to have the Scoutmaster present with the troop, even though the troop is actually led by the Senior Patrol Leader.

Then, when it’s time for the Scoutmaster’s report to the committee, an ASM can briefly take over for the time itll take to deliver his report and answer questions.

The adultSM or ASM—present doesn’t have to do much at all… Just provide some oversight while the SPL and PLs are conducting the troop meeting, with games, patrol corners, instructions, etc.

On hikes and camping trips, you’d want to have two trained adults—ideally, the SM and ASMalong, but that’s pretty much it!

If a patrol meets on their own, or even with another patrol, this is OK, and no adult “supervisor” is necessary.

Are you saying its OK to have one adult or no adults with the Scouts at the patrol meetings? Also, is there any situationin which a 19 year old who is neither registerednor trained can count as the “second adult” in a two-deep “requirement”?

Actually, I’m not “saying” it; the Guide to Safe Scouting (GTSS) is, and already provides the information you’re seeking: On all trips and outings, the leadership may be either (1) two registered adult leaders or (2) one registered leader and one parent of a youth participant, of which one of the two must be age 21 or older. Therefore, the 19 year old non-registered person you describe would not qualify in either scenario (1) or scenario (2). You’ll find this described as I’ve just paraphrased on page 1 and also on page 3 of the GTSS. The GTSS is, however, silent with regard to the leadership required while at a unit’s home-base of operations.

Dear Andy,

How much time should a Scoutmaster need in advance in order to approve a Scout’s request for service project time. Can the Scout telephone,write,email, or talk in person moments before starting it, or is there a time notice?

I guess this boils down to how much time a Scoutmaster might need, to decide to approve or not. For something simple, like “I want to help Billy on his Eagle project this weekend,” this should be a no-brainer decided right then and there. If it’s “I’ve been asked to be an acolyte at my church, starting this Sunday,” it’s also pretty much a quick and easy decision that can be given right there, on the spot. If the request comes in the form of an email or letter, the Scoutmaster actually has some time to contemplate before responding, if he chooses, and can always advise the Scout to come see him at the next troop meeting to talk it over some more (personally, I’m not an advocate of back-and-forth emails or letters in situations like these).

But, if you’re asking if the BSA has stipulated some sort of standardized or “official” dwell-time between request and response, the answer’s no.The Scoutmaster’s responsibility here is to encourage Scouts’ enthusiasm for helping others, while simultaneously assuring that the help is aimed in the right direction. This can be done as spontaneously as the Scoutmaster is capable of.

Dear Andy,

On the merit badge blue card, when a Scout wants to start a merit badge does the “Signature of Unit Leader” have to be his Scoutmaster?Two scenarios come to mind… First, when a Scout’s at summer camp as a provisional camper and wants to work on a merit badge that he hadn’t previously decided on (or even, maybe, thought about before camp), can the provisional troop’s Scoutmaster sign the card for him? Second, we recently had a group of Scouts form an informal “troop”—made up of Scouts from various troops but not led by a registered BSA adult volunteer—to go on a backpacking trip of their own. While on the trip, they worked on merit badges using blue cards signed by this un-registered “Scoutmaster,” and when they returned this “Scoutmaster” signed the cards as completed and presented merit badges to the Scouts. Now the families are expecting in the troop to consider these valid and file formal advancement reports with our council service center, and I’m having concerns about this—I think some rules have been bent and I question the validity of these merit badges. Any thoughts about either or both situations? (Kane Kanetani, SM, Aloha Council, HI)

First situation: If a Scout, while at summer camp, decides to work on a specific merit badge, it’s not unusual for someone other than his home Scoutmaster to sign the face of the merit badge application (aka “blue card”)… After all, if the home Scoutmaster doesn’t happen to be at camp during a particular week, we don’t want this to hold back or limit a Scout. Typically, the adult troop volunteer at camp for whatever particular week either has a bunch of pre-signed blue cards or simply has blank cards that he signs on the spot. This is pretty much a simple procedure that’s been employed by lots and lots of troops, for years. Or, in the case of a provisional Scoutmaster (sometimes a camp staffer), of course he’s sign a blue card for a Scout to start a merit badge, again because we don’t find tricky ways to hold back Scouts’ enthusiasm (besides, this is hardly “illegal”!)

To address your second situation, we need to start here: Merit badges themselves are earned while working with a registered merit badge counselor or with a Scout camp staffer who has been authorized for the summer to sign off on merit badge completions. Merit badges can only be earned in one or the other of these two ways. I’m sorry that, somehow, your Scouts were misled into believing that they could earn a merit badge from someone who isn’t a registered merit badge counselor. If this gentleman then went to a local Scout shop and bought the merit badges to give out to the Scouts he was, of course, totally out of line in doing so.

(Personally, I’d make sure my Scouts never, ever went on another trip with himHe’s way too much of a rule-busting maverick for me!)

So, what do you do now? Not sure… What supposed merit badge(s) did the Scouts purportedly “earn”? If Eagle-required, then you may take a hard line and tell the Scouts that they need to go see an actual registered counselor and get an authorized signature before getting the actual merit badge card and an official troop advancement report. If it’s something more innocuous (Basketry or Woodcarving come to mind, and I hope I haven’t bent Basketry and Woodcarving Merit Badge Counselors out o’ shape!), I might be tempted, but I still don’t think I’d let it slideThis is an important lesson that Scouts need to learn, about following blindly after rule-breaking, self-important jerks.

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to settle a little argument about whichunit committee member is responsible for obtaining medical forms. Also, is there a link that details the responsibilities of each unit leader and committee member?Thanks. (Domenick Salvemini, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Check out the BSA book, Troop Committee Guidebook. Or the Cub Scout Leader Book. These will give you general responsibilities of unit committee members. As for medical forms, when, at a committee meeting, the Chair asks for someone to volunteer to distribute and then collect these from the parents of the boys, and/or from the adult volunteers, and somebody says, “OK, I’ll do it,” the job’s half-done already.

We need to remember that Scouting is a volunteer organization, that needs people to volunteer to take on the responsibilities of getting the jobs taken care off. Leave the “turf war mentality” at the doorstep.

Dear Andy,

This is about the BSA’s swimming requirements and Swimming merit badge alternativesOne of the Scouts in our troop has some physical challenges, primarily with involuntary muscle movements and control, which don’t really make a big difference in most Scouting activities. He’s currently 12 year old, strong, with great stamina, but coordinating large muscle groupscan beproblematic for him. Swimming (in the traditional sense) is difficult at best, as is coordinating enough muscle groups to tread water or to keep afloat using standard strokes. He seems to have virtually no body fat, as he constantly works to counterbalance his involuntary movements. He can swim underwater quite well, but struggles on the surface. I’m sure that, as written, theres no possibility that hell be able to meet the swimming requirements for Second or First Class, let alone the swimmers test or Swimming merit badge until he’s nearly 16 or 17, and that seems too long a time to arbitrarily restrain an otherwise exceptional Scout to Tenderfoot rank. I can understand delaying the merit badge for a while, even as it will preclude him from most Scout watersports, merit badges, and on-water activities, but what are his options concerning the Second Class swimming requirements, the swimmers test, and other First Class swimming requirements? I’d appreciate any input you might have, or any direction you could send me. (Dave Pertl, ASM, Buffalo Trace Council, IL)

I sure wish this Scout lived nearby… As a still-active swimming instructor, I’ll bet I could have him swimming in about an hour of coaching! Which leads me to this point: His family needs to find him a qualified swimming instructor who can diagnose his problem and help him fix it. With strength, stamina, and drive to succeed, he’ll be swimming the way he’d like to in short order!

If, however, this is a permanent disability of some sort, and can be certified in writing by a licensed medical practitioner, then he can pursue alternative swimming requirements for Second Class and First Class ranks that are both rigorous and pre-approved by the district or council advancement committee. Refer to the BSA book, 2010 Boy Scout Requirements, for how to proceed via this avenue.

As for Swimming merit badge, this isn’t mandatory to reach the rank of Eagle: Hiking and Cycling are approved alternatives.

BTW, the only one approved by the BSA to “delay” a merit badge is the Scout himself. No one else has the authority to decide for any Scout what he wants to earn, or when.

Happy Scouting!


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

(May 30, 2010 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2010)

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.

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