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Issue 220 – July 9, 2010

There’s no question but that these columns have sharp-eyed readers! Here’s a sampling…

Dear Andy,

In your June 12, 2010 column, you mentioned a Scout needing to change to the newest requirements for Camping merit badge instead of completing it using the requirements he’d started with. I think you’re just a bit off the mark on this one, Andy. The BSA’s current policy is that a Scout can complete a merit badge using the requirements he started with, regardless of how long ago he started. (JHF, MBC, Gulf Stream Council, FL)

Dear Andy,

Here’s the BSA quote, from the 2010 Boy Scout Requirements book: “If a Scout has already started working on a merit badge when a new edition of the pamphlet is introduced, he should continue to use the same merit badge pamphlet and fulfill the requirements therein to earn the badge. He need not start all over again with the new pamphlet and possibly revised requirements.” (Ben Ward, Heart of Virginia Council)

Dear Andy,

Wrongo… If a Scout has already started working on a merit badge when a new edition of the pamphlet is introduced, he may continue to use the same merit badge pamphlet and fulfill the requirements therein to earn the badge. He needn’t start all over again with a new pamphlet and possibly revised requirements (source: Boy Scout Requirements) (Matt Culbertson Keystone York-Adams Council, PA)

Yup, you’re all right on the money, and I’ll take twenty lashes with a wet lanyard for missing that… It used to not be that way, and shame on me for not picking up on the change!

Dear Andy,

I have two questions… First, if you’ve participated in two National Scout Jamborees, can you wear both patches on your uniform (one above and the other on the right pocket)? And second, where can I buy the current four region patches and where are they worn…If I’m on Jamboree staff this year, would that be a time to wear the region patch? (David Pottorff, WDL, Gulf Stream Council, FL)

If you’re going to wear two National Scout Jamboree or World Jamboree patches, the most current is worn centered above the right pocket and the other is worn centered on the right pocket itself (classically referred to as the “temporary patch position”—which would better be called “at the wearer’s discretion position,” in my not-so-humble opinion).

If while at a National Scout Jamboree you’re serving in a regional capacity or representing your region, you may wear a regional patch on your right sleeve; after the Jamboree ends, it’s supposed to be removed because that identification is no longer necessary.

Dear Andy,

Where can I find out what the responsibilities of a unit’s Executive Officer include? (Brian Libby, ASM, Crossroads of America Council, IN)

Units don’t have executive officers; chartered organizations (i.e., sponsors) do. This term refers to a pastor if the sponsor’s a church, rabbi if a temple or synagogue, president if a club, post commander if a veterans group, worshipful master if a Masonic lodge, and so on. The executive officer need not be a registered member of the BSA.

Thanks! I know about Chartered Organization Representative, and I think we have the designations reversed in our Troop and need to fix this. (Brian Libby)

The Chartered Organization Representative (registration code: CR) is indeed a registered member of the unit and is, in fact, the highest authority with regard to all other adult volunteers associated with the unit. This is the only unit-level position that may have a dual-registration, and the sole dual-registration permitted by the BSA is for a CR-CC (Committee Chair) combination.

Dear Andy,

How many merit badges can you complete at the Jamboree if you’re prepared, and also if you’re not prepared? How many days do they give you to work on merit badges? (A.D., Star Scout, Circle Ten Council, TX)

There’s a whole bunch you can go for… There’s no exact number, because each Scout’s different and will have a different set of patrol and troop responsibilities, and there’s lots and lots of other stuff to do, too! This is much bigger than a “merit badge fair”! My suggestion would be to find unusual ones… stuff you wouldn’t go for back at home, like Railroading, and Textiles, and Weather, and stuff like that. My advice (as a former Jamboree Scoutmaster and the dad of a Jamboree Scout who racked up a bunch o’ merit badges when he was 13): Pick ones that you can complete while you’re there and skip the ones where the best you’ll wind up with is a “partial.” And, be sure to pick a “buddy” (maybe your tent-mate?) and do ’em together—It’s a lot more fun that way!

Go to and then go to “activities” and then “merit badge midway”… That’s where the complete list of all merit badges being offered at the Jamboree.

Dear Andy,

Is there a pamphlet listing all activities and badges at the National Scout Jamboree this year? (Richard Stone, Lincoln Heritage Council, KY)

For complete Jamboree details, including a sign-in spot to receive monthly newsletters go to and also to !

Dear Andy,

How does one go about finding a Merit Badge Counselor? There are lots of subjects, and we’ve read through the comprehensive requirements of each. Almost every one says to consult with our Merit Badge Counselor. But, when my son asks, answer he gets from his troop is “look at the list.” What list? Where is it? Can you help us? (David Grimley, Central New Jersey Council)

Your council’s no different from any other. Each council is supposed to develop and maintain a list of qualified, registered Merit Badge Counselors, either across the council or by district. These lists are supposed to be given annually to every Scoutmaster, so that when a Scout wishes to work on any particular merit badge, the Scoutmaster can give the Scout an application (aka “Blue Card”) and the names and contact information for one or more local Merit Badge Counselors who handle the merit badge(s) the Scout’s interested in. If the Scoutmaster of your son’s troop doesn’t have this list, start by contacting the chair of your district’s advancement committee and ask for one. If it turns out that the list is maintained on a council-wide basis, then track down and ask the chair of the council advancement committee. Or, just call your local council service center and ask a staffer there.

Hello Andy,

I’m going to be a “Camp Commissioner” at my council’s camp this summer. I’m still eligible to be an active Venturer, and that’s the uniform I’ll be wearing. I have some questions about it… First, as a staffer for my council, do I wear silver shoulder loops? Also, are there any official BSA badges that would identify me as a Firefighter/EMT? In the same regard, may I wear a New York State Department of Health EMT-B patch? Does being a New York State Certified Emergency Medical Technician qualify me for any badges you’re aware of? What about being a NY State Certified Firefighter? Lastly, I plan to earn the Venturing Ranger Award, and I’m wondering what advantages would this might give me in the future? (D.J.W.)

Yes, get yourself a Venturing uniform (make it complete, with shirt, shorts or pants, belt, socks—the whole enchilada!—to look sharp). As for badges, you can wear any that are BSA-authorized, including Camp Staff (No.18144) on your left sleeve (below the council shoulder patch), silver shoulder loops (you’re employed by the council), and the square knots for Arrow of Light and/or Eagle Scout, if you’ve earned either or both of these, immediately above your left pocket. You can also wear the World Crest centered horizontally and vertically above your left pocket (including the new Centennial “donut”). If you’re an OA member, you can wear the lodge flap on your right pocket’s flap. As for the others that you’ve asked about, there’s really no place for them except to pick the one that means the most to you, or is the most prestigious, and place it, centered, on your right pocket (while it’s not entirely Kosher, I doubt that anyone will question it, especially if you look sharp and carry yourself sharply—remember your “Command Presence” Training!).

Going for the Ranger Award is definitely worth the challenge! By all means, check it out and, if you think you’re up to it, GO FOR IT! Get the Ranger Award and you’re practically ready to go for Smoke Jumper!

Hi Andy,

This is going to sound like a silly question, but I have to ask regarding the definition of “routine labor” in regards to Eagle Scout Leadership Service Projects. I’d imagine that something like washing dishes or shoveling snow would be considered routine and therefore ineligible, but what about maintenance? Specifically, what if a Scout wanted to do a project such as painting a women’s and children’s shelter, or rehabbing or repairing a playground for an organization that couldn’t afford to do so? I know of a Scout who’d like to build a new trail for a nature center, but the council advancement committee rejected his project plan because the trail he’d planned to build new would intersect an existing trail, and so the advancement chair considered it “routine maintenance” because even though a new trail would be constructed, it would include rehabbing that portion of the older trail, which it would cross. Any thoughts? (Rob Richmond)

According to the BSA, “routine labor” would typically include raking leaves, cleaning out rain gutters, picking up trash, clearing an area of snow—in short, something that must routinely be done again and again and has neither a short-term end nor long-term benefit.

“Maintenance” and “routine” must be separated from “unique refurbishing.” If we’re talking about something that needs, for instance, repainting seasonally or perhaps even annually, then it would probably be considered “routine” and not qualify. If, however, what’s planned to be painted hasn’t been painted-as-rehabilitation for five or ten years, perhaps, and is unlikely to be painted again for another considerable period of years, then it would hardly be considered “routine.”

So, in the specific scenario you mention, building a brand-new trail where there was none before certainly doesn’t appear to be either “routine” or in the “maintenance” category and, depending on its overall scope (i.e., is it a few feet long or of considerable length?), would likely constitute a viable Eagle-level service project. If the hang-up is that this new trail crosses an existing trail, one might argue that the rehabilitation of the place where the two trails cross would be an obvious upgrade of an older trail and would make sense to do in the overall scheme of things. Or, if this is a true sticking-point, then the Scout might need to take the position that the old trail won’t be disturbed, so as to focus thinking on the larger goal of building an entirely new trail.

Although this second option would likely meet the apparent criteria of the advancement chair, as you’ve described it to me, it would be a pity, I’d think, to leave an older trail unattended while focusing only on the new work. But, stranger things have happened, and adjusting the plan to meet the idiosyncrasy of that final signatory seems the most expedient way to go.

Hi Andy,

Our Webelos parents are split on how we should handle the awarding of the Webelos badge when our boys earn it. Some are used to the way the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs have been historically run in our pack, where all the Cubs receive their respective badges at the February Blue & Gold Banquet. They’re thinking that we should just wait until all the Webelos earn the three activity badges required (Fitness, Citizen, and one optional) and then give them all three badges at the same time, regardless of how many other activity badges they may have earned up to that point. On the other side of the coin, some parents, like myself, feel that we should use the Webelos program to get the boys used to how Boy Scouts will be, in which the boys pick their individual pace and what badges they choose to achieve and receive their Webelos badge as they earn it, to begin to get them used to the individual pace and achievement pattern present in Boy Scout advancement. We also feel that doing it this way will help our sons begin to learn individual responsibility, goal-setting, and goal achievement. Your thoughts? (Daryl Powers, Circle Ten Council, TX)

Your pack parents, and maybe some of your pack volunteers, too, need to reacquaint themselves with the standard procedure for the presentation of ranks, arrow points, etc., earned by the Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts in your pack, as described in the Cub Scout Leader Book and in the Cub Scout Leader training syllabus. This will be the best way for them to discover that all such accomplishments are to be presented as soon as possible after having been earned, regardless of whether just one was earned or several or many boys earned them concurrently. Moreover, they’ll learn that such achievements and electives are absolutely not to be held back, for any reason—not so other boys can “catch up” or for some special event (like a B&G), but are to be presented to the boys at the very soonest available pack meeting. This is the BSA mandate for the Cub Scout advancement process, and it’s not to be meddled with.

For your pack, this will ultimately mean that this well-intentioned but misguided practice of holding back Cub awards till the B&G needs to be thrown out the window, and the immediate (or near-immediate) presentation of Webelos badges, activity badges, etc. are to likewise be presented as soon as they’re earned. This applies to all advancement areas, including belt loops and pins, the Cub Scout Outdoor Achievement Awards, Summertime Pack Awards, and whatever else the boys in your pack earn.

Along this learning curve, these parents and parent-leaders will come to understand that packs don’t have the authority to deviate from BSA advancement processes and policies, nor is this area subject to discussion, debate, or anyone’s particular opinion. This means that self-correction needs to happen as fast as possible.

(BTW, When it’s time for your Webelos to graduate, look for troops that have Boy Scouts who earn Eagle by age 13, 14, 15, or possibly 16, and if you find a troop in which most Eagles are earned by 17 year-olds or virtual 18 year-olds, steer clear, because they’re likely doing the same thing to their Scouts that you’re presently doing to your Cubs!)

Dear Andy,

Despite being an Eagle Scout himself, and Wood Badge trained, no less, our troop’s Scoutmaster and, in turn, the Chartered Organization Representative are very rogue in their application of BSA policies. As a result, the troop and its Scouts are penalized. For example, the Scoutmaster has instituted a “troop policy” whereby unless a Scout is First Class rank, he can’t go for First Aid merit badge. The power the Scoutmaster brings to this policy is his position not only as the Merit Badge Counselor but also his status as a registered MRT and Trainer for the State Police. Most adults associated with the troop don’t challenge these credentials, but the Scouts are wondering what’s going on, and I’m not crazy about this whole approach, which is a sort of “my way or highway.” This same Scoutmaster will dissuade Scouts from seeking MBCs other than himself, including setting up taboos while at summer camp. He claims that, with him, Scouts will get “higher quality” learning. In the area of youth leadership, rather than the troop holding elections, this Scoutmaster quite literally conscripts Scouts for whatever positions he wants filled.

This troop used to have elections, till this current gentleman because Scoutmaster, but shortly thereafter a lot of the older Scouts left, and, when we asked why, the answers were all the same: This Scoutmaster is overly demanding and demeaning as well. But now he uses these losses as part of his excuses for appointments (others include “they’re too young,” “they show no responsibility,” and (my personal favorite) “we don’t want any popularity contests in this troop!”

The troop used to have a PLC, but that’s gone away, too. The Scoutmaster picks all outings now, because, as he puts it, “I’m not giving up my weekend so they can play cards or tag! They’ll work on requirements or merit badges!” He’s asked the committee for another troop trailer, to fit all the patrol equipment that he’s mandated they bring, while the older Scouts want to ditch all that heavy equipment and do some real backpack camping! Then, to raise money for this trailer he wants, he’s insisting that the committee come up with fund-raisers. I forced a compromise with him to get a list to the PLC of ideas for them to pick from (I watched a lot of older Scouts leave due to endless required fundraisers) so that they’d at least have some ownership in what they do for fundraisers, but it was painful and ultimately pointless when the Scouts didn’t choose exactly what the Scoutmaster wanted.

I wouldn’t be so concerned, except that I hear it from the SPL that everyone (including the ASMs) breathes easier when this Scoutmaster isn’t around. I’ve also heard from the parents of former Scouts that his demands on Scout positions made them switch to the Venturing crew (while I’m glad they stayed in Scouting, I don’t like the idea that they left the Troop because of our inadequacies.) I’m afraid our Scoutmaster’s ego won’t let him see that. When I am firm with him, he tries to intimidate or resorts to something akin to malicious compliance. He has, in my opinion, taken a lot of the fun out of the Troop. If the fun goes, then the Scouts will as well. So I work to help the Scouts (and adults) keep the fun in the Troop.

I’m currently Committee Chair. Recognizing that achieving troop success while operating within the policies of the BSA will take some time, I am trying to keep a positive attitude with him and help him help the troop.

Long and short of it, “control” seems to be paramount to him. He also seems to have the ear of the Chartered Organization Representative, who as a result turns a blind eye. What I’m looking for is some advice and guidance. Yes, I’ve read and continue to read the BSA literature, which just leads me to more examples that he doesn’t comply with. I’d appreciate any other literature you recommend. While I’m no stranger to leadership, I must say I find dealing with a troublesome teenager easier than dealing with this gentleman! Can you recommend anything that might help return this troop to its happier days? (Name & Council Withheld)

Unfortunately, your troop’s situation isn’t unique, and other folks need to know that can and must stand up to tyrants like this, or pull their sons out of this sort of maverick troop.

The bottom line: This isn’t a troop; it’s a Gestapo, and it doesn’t have a Scoutmaster; it has a Commandant. I assume that “MRT” stands for Medical Response Team (member), but he’s sure coming across more like “MR. T.” if you get my drift.

Everything you’ve described to me is wrong… Not in my “illustrious opinion” are these things wrong; they’re wrong because they violate BSA national policies and national standards.

Here are a few…

Scouts can earn any merit badge at any time, regardless of rank, age, or mental or physical condition, and no Scoutmaster or other leader is permitted to hold a Scout back from seeking the merit badge the Scout has selected.

For merit badges, Scouts can go to whichever Merit Badge Counselor they choose; they are not required to go to one that they don’t wish to.

Patrol Leaders and the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader are all elected positions; the BSA makes no provision whatsoever for this to be done any other way and this is not subject to anyone’s opinion or “discovery” of a “better way.” (Read my column titled, “Are We Really That Smart.”)

Certain positions are appointed—by the Scouts. Assistant Patrol Leaders, for example, are chosen by their own Patrol Leaders. Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders are appointed by the Senior Patrol Leader. And so on, including Scribe, Quartermaster, etc. The Scoutmaster has an advisory role in these appointments but he absolutely has no authority to make these appointments himself.

Camping is where Scouts use and practice the skills they’ve learned in their troop meetings. Camp-outs are filled with fun, in the form of day-hikes, exploring, tracking, flora identification, inter-patrol games (“Capture The Flag” comes to mind) and contests, patrol cooking and campsite maintenance, and so forth—this is called “Scouting in Action.” Outdoor experiences are certainly not for playing electronic games or TMing on cell phones, but they’re not for “working on merit badges” either! We’re working to create future citizens here; not blindly obeying grunts.

Scouts “work on merit badges” with their Counselors; not with the Scoutmaster.

The Scoutmaster’s primary responsibility is to guide, train, and coach the youth leaders of the troop; it’s not to “rescue” them or do their work for them when they slip up, because slip-ups are learning opportunities. Moreover, Scouts don’t get “graded” on how well they did in leadership; they’re coached on-the-job so that they succeed.

As Committee Chair, you need to show the Chartered Organization Representative just how off-the-mark this gentleman is. It’s all in the BSA literature, from the Scoutmaster Handbook to the 2010 Boy Scout Requirements book—read the key sections and chapters of these, so that you know you’re on solid ground and that what I’ve just stated is confirmed as BSA standards and is absolutely not my “opinion.” (I’m not going to give you specific page numbers, because you need to do more extensive reading than that.) Having done your “homework,” and having had a heart-to-heart with the COR, your next step—as a team—is to speak with this gentleman and tell him that these changes must be made immediately, and that he is to sign up for and take position-specific training right now. If he’s as belligerent as you indicate, he’ll refuse. At that point, you have only two options: Allow these violations to continue unchecked, or fire him on the spot. I believe you need to be prepared to carry out the second option.

If you’re unable to gain the COR’s support, then you have two options: Allow your son and his friends to be run over by this unmanageable and wrong-headed steamroller, or go find a troop that runs the Scouting program the way it’s intended to be run and transfer him and as many of his friends as possible into it, as fast as you can.

(BTW, In my experience, “trailers” are in the “nice to have” category but are hardly essential. Most gear a patrol needs (a few tents, some cooking gear) will fit nicely in the back of an SUV or the trunk of a sedan. (Please tell me that at least this troop does camp by patrols!)

Dear Andy,

At a recent ceremony at our council’s camp, I noticed some Scouts and Scouters wearing “cords” on their uniforms that were similar to Den Chief cords, but much thicker, more formal-looking, and part of them actually attached to the button on the front of their shirts. I have been looking around on the Web, but can’t find any information on these. Do you know what these represent? (Roger Burcroff, Great Lakes Council, MI)

Give your home council a ring… These certainly aren’t anything ever described in the BSA’s Insignia Guide, so I’m guessing they’re some local adaptation or adoption of an “aiguillette,” for which you’ll find a detailed description in Wikipedia, among other places. Aiguillettes typically denote an honor; not a rank.

Hello Andy,

I’ve been a Scoutmaster for six years and, for the past year, I’ve been reading your columns. Your answers have both corrected and guided me, and I’ve even cut and pasted many of your comments into emails for our troop committee, as a learning aide for us all. Now, I have a question of my own…

For the Camping merit badge 20 days/nights requirement, if a Scout has logged 7 of these over two years of summer camp, can he use the remainder of summer camp days/nights if he pitches a tent with a buddy and sleeps in it while at camp? So far, if a Scout at summer camp brought along a tent or tarp and set it up and slept in it, the Camping Merit Badge Counselor accepted this as OK. This particular MBC has long experience. He asks questions, checks camping logs, and is generally very good with the Scouts. I’m simply wondering if this is really OK or not. (Al Edelman, Minsi Trails Council, PA)

If I were the MBC for Camping, I’m sure I’d say OK, too! There’s nothing in the requirements that says this can’t be done or that it’s somehow not appropriate, and if a Scout has the initiative to do this, then, hey, we’re talking about a couple o’ nights for a merit badge here—we’re not talking about qualifying to assault Everest! In fact, if you think about it, “under the stars” works, too, so any Scout who does pitch a tent is topping it off very nicely.

If your responsibility is keeping the camping log for each Scout, I’d sure say you’re on safe ground listing any nights like these as self-pitched tent or under the stars camping.

The only additional thought I might have is this: If a Scout needs to use two years of summer camp nights to complete the required 20 for this merit badge, are we sure he’s doing enough camping with his troop, or do we need to encourage him to get out there a bit more?

Dear Andy,

I’m Scoutmaster of a new troop with only five Scouts, but lots of parents involved—more parents than Scouts, in fact. In particular, we have a Tenderfoot Scout who just crossed over about four months ago and is still shy of his 11th birthday, and his mother is already pushing him to earn Eagle by the time he’s 13. To make this happen she’s doing lots of things for him, instead of stepping back so he can do for himself, right down to such things as actually putting on his socks and shoes in front of the other Scouts and going into the bathroom with him. She also goes behind my back and changes the directions, so the Scouts don’t know what to do, and she accuses the other Scouts of things they haven’t done, and she changes the schedule to benefit her own son against the majority rule vote. The troop’s two older Scouts are getting frustrated because this parent disciplines them (all the while refusing to listen to me when I tell her not to do this) for no reason, due to jealousy or trying to slow them down so her son to catch up (they’ve been in the troop since its beginning a year ago). These two Scouts also have brothers in the program and I’m trying to balance the “fairness” syndrome against the possibility of losing the others in the troop. This young Scout does much better when neither of his parents is around—When they’re not hovering over him, he doesn’t stammer or stutter or falter when speaking, which he does whenever they’re present. Do you have any ideas that might help us deal with this? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, you need to determine if this is a “special needs boy” whose mother is attempting to protect. If this is the case, then you all need to work out a way to reduce the hovering yet still protect the boy. If this isn’t the case—and I’m betting dollars to donuts it’s not—then it sounds to me like a sever case of “Webelos 3,” or far worse! This parent needs to be removed from all troop activities, and I’m going to describe how to do this without singling her out or immediately going nose-to-nose with her; however, if this happens, then somebody’s going to need to grow a spine and tell her straightaway that it’s either hands off or out, period.

But the larger picture is this: If this troop is going to survive at all, it’s actually going to need a lot less parental involvement across the board than it has now… a Boy Scout troop is absolutely NOT a Cub Scout den but with tan shirts! Nor is it a “parent-and-son” organization. As any self-respecting Boy Scout will tell you, quoting from the movie, “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre,” WE DON’ NEED NO STINKIN’ PARENTS!

Adults on hikes and camp-outs need to be limited to two: The Scoutmaster and just one more adult of his choice (ideally, an Assistant Scoutmaster), and that’s it. All other parents can do the driving, including drop-offs and pick-ups, but as for what happens in-between, they go home and stay there. To do this, you need a parent orientation meeting, at which every parent is brought up to date on how this troop will operate from now on. (No “excuses” need be made for any prior ways of handling things—this is simply the way it’s going to be from now on.)

Then, schedule a simple hike…one of a few miles…out to an interesting location, sack lunch, and return. Advise the driving parents to bring their sons to the departure location by a specified time, drop their sons, and wait in their cars till everyone departs. Be sure to stress that all Scouts and trip leaders will be in full and complete uniform. If this happens smoothly, you’re on your way. If, however, you have one or more parents who wish to tag along, then it’s time to firmly state that this isn’t the ways it’s going to be: The only two adults have already been selected and they’re the SM and ASM and there will be no exceptions. At this point, the reasonable parent will get back in his or her car. But you’re waiting for the “unreasonable” parent, who says something along the line of, “I heard what you said and I’m coming, anyway.” To this, the united front taken by the SM and ASM is this: “It will be the two of us and only the two of us, and if parents can’t abide by this even though it’s already been made perfectly clear, then the hike’s canceled and all Scouts can return to their parents’ cars. Have a nice day.”

Do not cave in; do not get buffaloed; do not succumb to “just this once;” do not be lenient because a parent has his or her son’s epi-pen or other medications–The answer is the SM and ASM only, or there’s no hike. End of story. Take your own sons, get in your respective cars, and go home. Next hike: Same thing. Keep doing this till every parent gets the message.

What will happen is that the other parents will self-discipline, which is what you want. This way, you’re not “the cop” or “the bad guy”—You are simply enforcing what is now the new troop policy on hiking and camping. Let that parents and their sons do the heavy lifting here.

Same with troop meetings… You have five Scouts, so that’s one Senior Patrol Leader who runs the meetings and two patrols of two Scouts each. Except for the Scoutmaster and maybe an ASM, all other adults find another room to congregate in, no exceptions. In fact, make it understood among all parents that their role is to be wallpaper at most and they are absolutely not to engage in conversation or otherwise with any Scout while the troop meeting is going on. Again, no exceptions for any reason.

If this or any other “problem parent” continues to be a problem, it’s the responsibility of the Committee Chair to take that person aside and tell ’em clearly and unequivocally that they do not belong in any troop meetings unless specifically invited by the Scoutmaster, and the Scoutmaster has not made that invitation, so please go to the other room (or leave, and come back at the end of the troop meeting).

Yes, you need to make these things stick, or you are indeed doomed and will shortly have no troop at all. Be polite, but be absolutely firm.

Dear Andy,

I’m very disappointed in your response to the outrage over the new Cub Scout video game belt loop. The fact is that video games are a part of life now—They’ve been shown to improve hand-eye coordination and teach problem-solving skills. In fact the U.S. Army uses video games as a tool for training and rehabilitation. But even if these facts weren’t the case, the requirements for the belt loop show that what they’re teaching is responsibility; not sitting on your butt. I’ll bet that that Eagle Scout didn’t have any GPS when he was coming up through the ranks either, or a computer for that matter. So, just because it’s new or different doesn’t mean our sons (and us parents too) can’t learn valuable lessons from it. I, for one, am glad there’s a belt loop for this. (Jamie Richardson)

All of your points are good ones, and I respect them. However, I chose not to bring these to bear because that writer was as adamantly opposed to video games as you are in favor of them, and it’s not my mission to “convert” his thinking but, rather, to de-fuse the situation, which I believe I accomplished. I’ll save the “preaching” for someone a tad more open to new thinking!

Dear Andy,

Is a troop committee permitted to determine that Scouts who rarely attend meetings, activities, and/or service projects are not permitted to go to summer camp? These boys tend to be discipline problems at camp and have said that the only reason they’re Scouts is so they can go to camp. (Martha Jarris, Dan Beard Council, OH)

“I want to be a Boy Scout so I can go to camp.” Wow! Isn’t that exactly what we want to hear?! No boy in his right mind is going to tell you he wants to be a Boy Scout so you can improve his character and make a better future citizen of him!

I can’t, for the life of me, understand why we’d want to deny any Scout the opportunity to attend summer camp with his troop! This is the very experience we want our sons to have, and I can’t think of a single rationale for denying this that makes any sense. If the troop your son is in actually makes these sorts of anti-Scouting decisions, then it’s time to go shopping for a troop that gets it right, so your son can transfer over and start having the fun this program’s supposed to be delivering!

Dear Andy,

Our troop has followed the practice that once a Scout passes his board of review for a rank advancement, he’s acknowledged at the very next troop meeting and given his rank badge, and then, at the next Court of Honor, he’s again recognized, and given his rank card (our Courts of Honor are held every three months).

Recently we had a Scout pass his board of review for Life Scout rank, but he wasn’t at the next troop, so he didn’t get recognized or receive his Life Scout badge, and the next meeting after that was a Court of Honor. Two days before that ceremony, his parents informed us that he wouldn’t be able to attend. His name and new rank were printed in the program and we formally recognized him even though he wasn’t there, and at the troop meeting immediately following, we put his badge and card in his troop mail box. Three months passed, and just before the next Court of Honor this Scout’s father asked the troop committee if his son could be recognized at this time; however, the programs had already been printed (his son was not on the program, since he was listed in the prior program), and we’re not quite sure what to do. When a Scout misses troop meetings and Courts of Honor like this, are we obligated to keep carrying his advancement recognition forward till he shows up? (Phyllis Lozano, CC, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

This is obviously a judgment call—the BSA has no “policy” for something like this. On the basis of having had legitimate reasons for not being able to attend the earlier meetings and court of honor, yes, it’s always a nice idea to recognize the Scout. It does no harm and helps reinforce the accomplishment. This doesn’t have to be elaborate…just a quick acknowledgment and a handshake from the Scoutmaster, and move on. If, however, no reason for such absences is offered, then it’s time to sit down with the Scout and find out what’s going on. Most boys of Scout age are parent-dependent when it comes to getting to troop meetings and other events, so it may be necessary to counsel the parents on the need for their so to show up even when it’s not for earning a new rank.

Hey Andy,

For the Camping merit badge requirement of 20 days/nights, it says, “You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement.” As a Counselor, I’ve interpreted this to mean no more than 7 days at a given camp, and allowed multiple multi-night trips to be used such as our council’s NYLT course, and summer camp. But I had a Scoutmaster tell me that I can only allow one campout of more than one day/night, and that the rest had to be one-night overnighters. I’d like some help on this. I thought this stuff had gone away with the new revision. (Mike Holmes, ASM & MBC, Utah National Parks Council)

Let’s first understand that all 20 days and nights can be short-term camp-outs in a tent the Scout has pitched or under the stars; that long-term camping of any length isn’t in any way mandatory. With that understanding, then let’s proceed to the “allowance” the BSA gives to Scouts, by permitting up to 7 days and nights at a long-term camp (i.e., one that typically already has tents set up). Whether those 7 days and nights are consecutive or not, or at the same camp or different camps, is actually irrelevant. Is this clear now, or has this made things worse?

Worse, I think. Here’s the situation: I have a Scout ready for his Camping merit badge—his 20 days/nights include a 3 day/night trek camp, a 6 day/night training camp (long-term camp with tents set up), and a 6 day/nights troop-based summer camp-out using personal tents. My math says this totals 15 days/nights, or can only one of the week-long camps count as the “long-term” week? (Mike)

OK, let’s break this down…

– 3 d/n on trek: OK.

– 6 d/n on troop camp-out (not “long-term” council camp variety): OK.

– 6 d/n at set-up (i.e. “long-term”) council camp: OK.


– 5 d/n remain, all of which must be in a tent the Scout pitches or under the stars, and Scouting-related; however, whether these are single or multiple nights is absolutely irrelevant.

Counselor-to-Counselor, I think you’re on safe ground here (unless I’m missing something).

Dear Andy,

Big THANKS for your columns! It takes a lot of effort, I’m sure, but a lot of folks, including me, get a lot of ideas that help the units, and Scouts, that we serve. (Jim Kittrell, Blue Ridge Council, SC)

A note like yours is my only—and very best!—paycheck! Thanks!

Happy Scouting!



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

(July 9, 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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