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Issue 232 – November 10, 2010

October 2010 was unique – Try as I might, I just couldn’t get a column up and running, for the entire month! The two you see now, that have October dates, were indeed written that month, but we couldn’t get them on-line till November. I apologize to the many readers who asked what had happened, and I’m grateful to those of you who asked after my health (which is fine, I’m happy to report). Among the numerous letters received as October became November and still nothing since September 29th, this one, from Dave Mountney, a Commissioner in the Patriots’ Path Council, New Jersey, arrived. I think you may agree that David Letterman needs to worry…

Hi Andy,

I hope you’re well. It’s been 36 days since your last column, and your readers are having withdrawal symptoms! I’ve tried to treat my tremors by thinking of reasons why there have been no October columns. Here they are…


10. He was made Popcorn Kernel and got buried alive when a Cub Scout poured in too much corn into the popcorn machine.

9. He got a better offer from 4-H.

8. His ISP added “ASKANDY” to their SPAM definitions and he’s now permanently blocked.

7. While at a campfire in September, he started leading “The “Quartermaster’s Store,” and he’s still trying to find something that rhymes with “‘iPad App.”

6. His Thesaurus disintegrated while looking for new words to describe misguided volunteers.

5. He met his old buddy Charlie on the MTA during an election year and didn’t have a nickel to get off.

4. He’s having a crisis between his “mild mannered” civilian identity and his “Ask Andy” persona.

3. He’s on a secret mission to raise FOS money in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. It’s Girl Scout cookie season, and he’s in rehab, working on his addiction to Do-Si-Dos

1. He went mad from answering too many emails about how to count the 20 days and nights for Camping merit badge!

Hi Andy,

A Scout received a “partial” at a merit badge day a half-year or so ago. Since then, he’s completed the rest of the requirements.

Can he get a one-time Merit Badge Counselor for this merit badge, such as a parent in the troop, to sign off him on the final requirements? The possible hiccup here is that the MBC being proposed apparently hasn’t filed an application or renewal in the past couple of years, so no one’s really sure whether he’s actually registered to do this or not. (Name & Council Withheld)

Easiest thing to do is for this Merit Badge Counselor to call the council service center, get the registrar on the line, and ask if he or she is still a registered MBC! That way, if the answer’s yes, it’s a no-brainer and if not, re-registration is pretty painless and there’s no annual registration fee for MBCs.

Hi Andy,

We have aScout in our troop who’s is afraid of the water. He loves Scouting but can’t swim.At summer camp, he’d only put his feet in the water; he wouldn’t go any further. Are there any options for him to advance beyond Tenderfoot if he can’t swim?

We’ve encouraged him to continue taking swimming lessons; his family even has a swimming pool in their yard, but nothing. This is particularly frustrating to me because I’m a formerswimming instructor, and I’d love to help him learn, but he’s not willing to give it a try. If he can’t complete theswimming requirements for Second and First Class he’ll remain a Tenderfoot Scout “forever,” which he does understand and is fine with it. (Michael Puleo, SM, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

If this Scout is “fine” with remaining a Tenderfoot, and is unwilling to deal with his fear despite your and his parents’ and his peers’ encouragement, then that’s it. It’s like the proverbial “How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?”—”Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change!”

Time to move on to Scouts who are more motivated. But, don’t think that this young man can’t have a jolly time in Scouts! He can, if we just let him alone and enjoy his company! Besides, with the pressure off him, he may overcome his reluctance in time and actually ask!

Dear Andy,

Why did the BSA choose to replace the “white-on-tan” square knot for the Scoutmaster Award of Merit (for Scoutmasters, Venturing Advisors, and Varsity Coaches) with a new square knot (“gold/gold border-on-blue”) for the new Unit Leader Award of Merit (which is now available to Cubmasters as well)? Do previous recipients of the “old” knot now have the option to earn the new one, for the same position? It just seems like an excuse to create a new square knot, rather than justify it as updated requirements with expansion for Cubmasters. (Austin Roy, UC, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

Yeah, it seemed a little strange to me, too… Why not just add in Cubmasters (as they did) and leave the knot itself alone? But, I’m sure someone with greater wisdom and vision than I made a good decision, and, heck, it’s just an embroidered piece o’ cloth, so let’s chill! On the question of can, say, a Scoutmaster who’s received the Scoutmaster Award of Merit at some time in the past now be nominated for the Unit Leader Award of Merit because he or she is now a Cubmaster Venturing crew Advisor? Well, technically, I don’t see why knot…er…not.

Thanks. To further ask this: Can someone who has earned the Scoutmaster Award of Merit knot now earn the Unit Leader Award of Merit (also as a Scoutmaster)? I’ve seen no documentation to state otherwise. (Austin Roy)

First point: One doesn’t “earn” this award; one is nominated for it. Second point: To do what you’re asking about would be pretty redundant, don’t you think? It is, after all, the next generation of an award he or she has already received.

Dear Andy,

Have you heard of or know the maximum number of required merit badges that on Merit Badge Counselor can work with any one Scout? (Rick Horaitis, ASM)

The BSA informs us that there is no limit, whether the merit badges are required, or not. The only possible “limitation” in this regard is, of course, the number of merit badges the Merit Badge Counselor is authorized to counsel, which is established by the local council. On a related topic, the BSA further informs us that a Merit Badge Counselor may counsel his or her own son or nephew.

Dear Andy,

Is it OK for an Eagle candidate to have a work session for his project where only he and the representative of the recipient organization are the workers, and the representative is the one who will sign off on the project at the end? (It’s possible there will be another work day when others will attend.)

If all work sessions are scheduled on days and times that make it impossible for any of the troop’s adult leaders to attend, do we just trust that the Eagle candidate actually showed the leadership and managed the work, rather than someone else?

Is it OK for a parent to take the project workbook and get the required recipient organization signatures for project approval, so long as the Scout has had some prior conversation with the recipient organization representative regarding the project? (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s probably not a good idea for the candidate, only, to be working side-by-side with the projects’ recipient, for two reasons. The first reason is that, per the BSA’s youth protection guidelines, no single minor is to be alone with a single adult; there must be a third person. This third person can be a fellow Scout, friend, other adult, whatever, but it must be somebody. The second reason is that this is unlikely to be counted toward the most important aspect of a project of this type: giving leadership. “Leading” one other person, even if it occurs, is not what an Eagle project is all about, and runs the risk of not qualifying, when it comes to the young man’s board of review. Instead of doing this, this young man should absolutely plan only on work days that include as many helpers as possible, so that he can fulfill the “give leadership to…” aspect of the requirement.

The Eagle candidate is not required to have any adult troop volunteers present at a project work-session. The BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting tells us that the “two-deep leadership” rule does not need to apply to an Eagle project work session. If a board of review is having some sort of trouble with Scout’s Honor, and feels the need to verify that this Scout did, indeed, give leadership to a group of helpers, as he attests, then a quick phone call to any of his helpers should put that question to rest. No, it is definitely not OK for a parent or anyone else to do for the Scout what he can do for himself. This is what Scouting is fundamentally all about, and the wise parent will take pains to not sabotage it. However, it is definitely OK for the young man’s Scoutmaster or the troop’s advancement coordinator or Eagle adviser (whichever the troop may happen to have) to provide counsel and guidance to the Scout, without running his errands for him.

Dear Andy,

Do you have any history on the origin of the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack, or how the Cub Scout handshake came to be? (Kelly Hastings)

When Cub Scouting became an official BSA program in 1930, these were some of the foundational elements. Many of them were borrowed from Baden-Powell’s program for younger boys, called Wolf Cubs, circa 1916, which in turn was based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel, The Jungle Book, and much of this wonderful book lives in the Cub Scout program of today! As to the Cub Scout sign and hand shake, these are described in any of the Cub Scout handbooks. The rest will be up to you to research, as in-depth as you choose to go!

Hi Andy,

Our troop just received our 2009 Centennial Quality Unit Award patches, and a question has arisen… Since these are a unit award, do they go to all current members of the troop, or technically is this award for the 2009 members only? (Rick Hautekeete, SM, Transatlantic Council, Basel, Switzerland)

Don’t hold back! It’s a great way to communicate to new Scouts (and their parents!) that this is one hot troop! For the few pennies those patches cost, the “mileage” you’ll get is well worth the price, and you’re definitely not “violating” some BSA edict!

Dear Andy,

How do autistic (high functioning) Scouts get help from their troop, to earn merit badges? (Name & Council Withheld)

A Scout gets merit badge help from his Merit Badge Counselor(s). His troop has nothing to do with merit badges other than to provide the Scout with “blue cards,” encourage him, record his progress, and recognize his efforts. In the case of a Scout with a challenge, it would be a kindness—if his parents are consulted first and they agree—for the Scoutmaster to alert the Merit Badge Counselor in advance. But even if this doesn’t happen, the “boy-oriented” Counselor will quickly figure out what the situation is, and then deal with it compassionately. Working with Scouts who are challenged in one way or another is not all that unusual among active Merit Badge Counselors; many of us, when given this opportunity, are more than willing to rise to the challenge!

Hi Andy,

You mentioned in a recent column that “The date he became an Eagle Scout is the date of his board of review. So yes, he is absolutely entitled to wear that badge, and he should be given it so he can sew it on his uniform as quickly as possible.”

Oops. Almost, but not quite. While the board of review date is the rank’s official date, he’s not officially an Eagle until it’s confirmed by the BSA national office, and it does take a period of time for the application to go out and come back. So, the caveat should be that he can wear the rank badge once the national office has approved the application. (99.99% of the time this is a formality, but we don’t want to mess up the one that’s .01%.) (James Eager, ASM, Gulf Ridge Council, FL)

Yup, it’s definitely correct that the “official” word does come from the BSA national office. Thanks for reminding our readers. And, as I noted, give the Scout the badge as quickly as possible, which can certainly include receiving word back from the national office. Read on…

Dear Andy,

In your experience, do most troops give the Eagle rank badge to the Scout out when it comes in, and hold off the other stuff for a court of honor, or do they hold back everything? (Kathi Dills)

In my experience, must troops are clueless on this point, and what a pity! Among other things, it means that in all those wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime court of honor photos, the Eagle Scout is wearing a Life rank badge! Yuk!

Dear Andy,

Who determines how Scouts are put in patrols and who goes into what patrols, such as, is Timmy a Cobra or will he be put in the Buffalo Patrol? (John Ott, Heart of America Council, MO)

The best troops ask the Scouts to create their own patrols and then stick with what the Scouts decide. New Webelos joining together or from the same den naturally become their own patrol and may stay together, in fact, for the next seven years!

Dear Andy,

What’s your take on a few members of a district committee who call a group of Chartered Organization Representatives telling them to attend a meeting so they take a vote and remove the council’s Scout Executive? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’d call it weird… As far as I know, the only people who can remove a Scout Executive are the members of the council’s executive board.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Unit Commissioner, and one of the troops I serve has been very small—under ten Scouts—until recently. In the past year they’ve grown to 44 Scouts. They’d never had any Commissioner help till I came along about a year ago. There’ve been a lot of changes this past year and the troop’s “old guard” isn’t happy with the troop’s growth or its organizational changes. Can you give me information about the relationship between a troop’s Scoutmaster and the troop committee and Committee Chair? They have the impression that the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair are on an equal level. Can you help? (Ron Bell, UC, Lewis & Clark Council, IL)

How about we start by looking in the Boy Scout Handbook… Turn to page 35: That’s the structure of the troop (the “troop,” by the way, is the Scouts!). Next, let’s take a look at the Scoutmaster Handbook, starting at pages 16 and 17, which also show the troop structure, then flip back to pages 156 and 157, which describe the chartered organization and the troop committee including what their respective responsibilities are. Now, head on over to the Troop Committee Guidebook and take a gander at page 11: that’s the complete troop organization, showing that the troop committee is (technically) “above” the Scoutmaster, which is because—go back to page 9—the Scoutmaster is, in fact, selected by the troop committee (and the head of the troop committee is, obviously, the Committee Chair).

The Scoutmaster’s responsibilities are to the troop of Scouts in their patrols; the Committee Chair’s responsibilities are to manage the troop committee and to collaborate with the Scoutmaster; however, if push comes to shove, the Committee Chair may replace the Scoutmaster, but not the other way around. In this regard, it’s important to recognize that, regarding the troop program, this is decided by the Patrol Leaders Council with the guidance of the Scoutmaster and, while the troop’s committee may make suggestions, the troop committee doesn’t vote” on the PLC’s plan and has no “veto” power whatsoever.

All of this said, why anyone would be having a problem with a troop that’s grown more than four-fold in a year is totally beyond my comprehension! Isn’t this precisely what we strive for? Whatever happens here, as Unit Commissioner, please do your best to keep these folks from scrapping and ultimately imploding this troop!

Dear Andy,

What “square knots” are available for a council’s professional staff, such as District Executives and council employees? (Rob Lanava, District Advancement Chair, Mohegan Council, NY)

The “square knot” for becoming a James E. West Fellow is available to anyone, paid staff or volunteer, youth or adult, or even non-Scouter, of any age. All other square knots, except for one (the professional training award, aka “the Darth Vader knot”) are available to youth and adult volunteer BSA members.

Dear Andy,

With the significance of religion in the BSA, how come packs and troops don’t have a Chaplain position? (Art Aigner, CM, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)

It’s probably for several interlocking reasons, beginning with the need for a unit chaplain to be ordained and not every Scouting unit is sponsored by a religious organization. In addition, it’s actually up to the unit’s committee and Committee Chair to identify and recruit a Chaplain for the unit; it’s not a responsibility of the district or local council. Third, most clergy is pretty busy running their religious organization and may not believe they have the extra time required to be a Chaplain for the Scouting unit(s) their organization sponsors.

If your pack would like to have a Chaplain, here’s where to get some information on this important position:

Dear Andy,

As a State Wildlife Manager in Michigan, and a Scout has come to me to ask if I can be his adviser for earning the Hornaday Award. I’m not familiar with this award and would like to know what’s expected of an adviser for it. The project the Scout is interested in is the same type of project that another Scout is doing for his Eagle Scout Service Project—what’s the difference between these two? (David Brauer)

Thanks for finding me, and for writing. The Hornaday Award is specifically for conservation efforts and projects; Eagle Scout is a rank for which one requirement involves a community service project. If you Google “hornaday award requirements” and also “eagle scout service project” you’ll get any number of good citations you can use to gain information on both of these. Those citations that begin with “” are official Boy Scouts of America web pages. If I can help further, after you’ve checked these out, please don’t hesitate. Also, if you can tell me what town in Michigan you’re in, I’d be happy to put you in touch with the local Scout council that services your area.

Hello Andy,

I just got one of the older uniforms with the red shoulder loops and red-and-white unit numerals. It has a hangy-down patch on the right pocket (“temporary” position); the patch is from a Scout event in 2004. I didn’t attend this event. Am I allowed to wear it? Also, I have a BSA belt with a buckle with what looks like an Eagle on it, but the belt buckle doesn’t say “Eagle Scout.” I’m not an Eagle, but since the buckle doesn’t specify whether it is or isn’t only for Eagles, can I wear it? (Name & Council Withheld)

Sure you can wear the uniform parts you have, and you can even mix these with newer parts (like the new trousers and socks) and you’ll be considered in full uniform. It would be a good idea to remove the hangy-down patch, because wearing it suggests that you’ve been there, which wouldn’t be accurate. Other than that, go for it!

On that hangy-down patch, are you “suggesting” I remover it, or is it required that I do so? The reason I’m asking is that there seems to be some debate among the adult leaders of my troop. Some say I can wear it; some say I can’t. So just to be clear, according to BSA uniform policy, can I wear the belt with the belt buckle that has the Eagle logo on it as well as the hangy-down 2004 event patch? (N&CW)

Do what you wish with the belt and buckle, including “upgrading” to the new belt-and-buckle for a whole twelve bucks! But, frankly, it’s pretty tacky to wear a badge from an event you weren’t at. There are lots of Scout events and places to go that have badges, and then you can say, “Been there—Done that!”

Yes I understand that sir, but I’ll be conducting a uniform inspection next week. I’ve searched so many places and haven’t been able to get a straightforward answer. If my uniform is incorrect, I’ll change it in a heartbeat, but I need to know is if it’s against BSA policy to wear a patch on your uniform for an event that you didn’t attend. I understand that it might be frowned upon, and it might be looked at differently by different people, but according to BSA policy, am I OK to wear this patch?

It looks to me like you’re determined to wear a badge that you didn’t earn. There’s no further way I can help you, because this is no longer about “policy”—it’s about what’s right. And you’re determined not to get the message. Good luck, Scout.

Happy Scouting!



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

(November 10, 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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