Scouting units are supposed to do annual service projects for their sponsors. A Rotary Club sponsors our troop. They don’t have a building or any physical property (we have permission to meet weekly in a local school, even though the school isn’t our sponsor). So how do we do service projects for our chartered organization when there’s no grass to cut, leaves to rake, garden to plant, or doorway to put shrubs around, and there’s nothing to paint, repair, or improve? (Nat Greene, Connecticut Yankee Council)
Whoa up, the goal here isn’t to “do a service project” – a project’s just a method or means; it’s not the goal or objective! The objective here is to show your chartered organization that you’re appreciative of their sponsoring you; a service project is merely one way to express that appreciation. So let’s get creative… Do you regularly invite club members to your courts of honor? Do you offer, at least once a year, to come to one of their club meetings and put on a “State of the Troop” presentation? Do you offer your Scouts as an honor guard for one of your sponsoring club’s special events, or for one of their district’s (yes, Rotary Clubs are organized into their own “districts,” just like Scouting units) special events? How about Eagle boards of review? An Eagle board of review is a perfect opportunity for your troop to both thank your sponsor and simultaneously give them the opportunity to see what your troop can produce! If you’re not inviting at least one club officer to every Eagle review, you’re really missing a big bet here! The bottom line to all this is simple: Reach out to your sponsor with some (or all) of these idea, plus your own that this may stimulate, and start asking ‘em!
Who votes at PLC meetings? Can other Scouts in leadership positions—like Scribe, Librarian, Quartermaster, and so on—be included in the voting process? (Leonard Willhite, Los Padres Council, CA)
First let’s appreciate that the two expressions, “leadership position” and “position of responsibility” are not interchangeable. All Scouts wearing a “position” badge on their left sleeves (immediately below their troop numerals) hold “positions of responsibility,” most of which qualify for rank requirements, but not all are, specifically, “leaders.” The true leaders of the troop have that particular word—LEADER—included in the name of their position, Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leader being the two most important in this dimension of troop operation and program planning. “Troop Guide” is a counselor to the Patrol Leader of a new Scout patrol (troop has no new Scout patrols? Then there’s no need for any Troop Guides!). “Den Chief” assists a Cub Scout Den Leader; he is not a “leader” of the troop or even his patrol. “Instructor” is just that and is likewise a member of his own patrol at all times. Same with “Historian,” “Scribe,” “Quartermaster,” “OA Troop Representative,” and so on… these are positions of responsibility, without question, but they do not participate in troop program planning—that’s simply not part of their jobs.
All of these considerations are why the troop organization chart in your Scoutmaster Handbook doesn’t include the Historian, Quartermaster, Librarian, Chaplain Aide, Den Chiefs, Instructors, etc., in the PLC. The Scribe may be at meetings, to take notes, but he has no “voice” and he doesn’t vote. The composition of the PLC is the Senior Patrol Leader (he runs the show) and the Patrol Leaders (they represent their patrol members). The simple reason why the Historian and others aren’t PLC members is that since they’re members of their respective patrols, they’re already represented by their Patrol Leaders. Do APLs attend? Nope, unless their PL can’t attend, in which case they fill in. Same with ASPLs… They might attend, but that’s from an informational needs, because the ASPL’s responsibilities aren’t related to planning and carrying out the troop’s programs. Troop Guide? Yes, if he’s there to support the brand-new Patrol Leader of a new Scout patrol; but if there are no new Scout patrols at the moment, there’s no reason to have any Troop Guides!
So, bottom line: The PLC is for troop program planning and there are very specific youth leaders responsible for that.
I’m confused about the colors of the stripes that go on the arrow presented to pack Arrow of Light recipients. Our Den Leader has recommended one set of colors, but my research on the Internet indicates there are several variations. Is there an “official” set of colors I can refer to when creating my son’s arrow? And, related to that, what additional awards should be included on the arrow (for instance, World Conservation, Outdoor Activity, Leave No Trace, Religious, and so on)? Thanks! (Randy Packer)
Wow, what a diligent Dad! The good news is that what’s put on that “arrow” is totally optional to the maker of the arrows—so don’t drive yourself nuts over this! Instead, get creative. I remember when my own younger son graduated from his pack and received an arrow (my older son’s pack didn’t do arrows—which is OK, too!), the various rings of colors painted on the arrows for his den members stood for the ranks, arrow points, activity badges, belt loops and pins, and that was pretty much it. I think they tried to match up the colors, like yellow for Wolf, blue for Bear, and of course gold and silver for the arrow points, and so on. But whatever you do will be just fine, I promise you!
Does a Scout salute if he’s in the color guard? The Scouts in our troop salute, but when we go to a council event, the Scouts in those color guards don’t. Which is right? (Nick Rousseau, ASM, Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO)
After you do a bit of research yourself, to verify what I’m going to tell you, you can tell the Scouts in your troop that the members of the color guard do not salute—they stand at attention throughout—according to any source you might find online or at your public library.
My son’s pack is debating whether or not previously earned belt loops can be worn when the boys become Webelos Scouts. Yes? No? (Janie Sorrells, Atlanta Area Council, GA)
Yes, they definitely can, which is why the BSA says it’s OK for Webelos Scouts to continue wearing their blue Cub Scout belt even with tan shirts and khaki/green pants—because the belt loops fit on these belts!
My son’s troop has this procedure of pinning a Scout’s newest rank badge on his shirt upside-down till he does a “good turn;” then it’s sewn on correctly. Is this common? (Shari Walter)
I’m aware of the upside-down badge procedure and it used to be very common practice, especially when it’s done at the very next troop meeting following the Scout’s board of review, and not held back till a court of honor (which was never intended for presenting badges, in the first place!). It’s a nice tradition that reinforces what we’re all about.
How does our pack form new Tiger dens fairly? We have a large pack—more than 70 Cubs, with an average of three new Tiger dens a year. All the boys go to the same elementary school, and we all live close to each other. Most of the time, our new Tiger Den Leaders are identified before the dens are formed. One year, the boys were assigned to their Tiger dens by picking names out of a hat (literally!). Another year, dens were formed when a “den organizer” got the new Tiger Den Leaders together and they picked their dens from a list of new boys, with the new leaders of course getting their own sons, plus other boys. Last year, the then-Cubmaster and the Committee Chair let the two new Tiger Den Leaders pick their dens, and then they filled in a third den with boys who hadn’t been picked (sort of a “second-round draft,” if you will, and it turned out that this den had a great Den Leader!).
As a relatively new Cubmaster (Den Leader prior to this), I’d like everything to be fair. Do I go with the lottery method, with all the new Tigers in a hat and the den organizer picks the boys out of the hat, or use the “draft”method, or what? Related to this, who is supposed to be in charge of forming the new Tiger dens—is it me, or the Committee Chair, or the den organizer, or somebody else? (Steve Miller, CM, Golden Empire Council, CA)
First, let’s face reality: Perfect “fairness” is always a wonderful goal and almost as always just out of reach. In my experiences in Cub Scout recruiting-den formation-Den Leader “acquisition,” I’ve found that it’s best left to the parents and boys. That’s right: They usually know best what’s going to work, because we’re talking about their own sons. For instance, you have a group of brand-new boys and their parents, so you explain that dens of between about six to eight (absolutely no more than eight, no matter what) need to be formed and each den needs to have one person who’s willing to be the Den Leader for the coming year, and another who’s willing to be the Assistant Den Leader for the coming year (there’s no such thing as “co-leaders” in Scouts, so please don’t let them pursue that option), for each group of six to eight boys; then answer any questions (brief, to-the-point answers usually work best); and then walk away (yup, walk away) so that the family groups can decide. Return in about five minutes or so and ask ’em how they’re comin’ along… If they’ve done what you’ve asked, get the names of who’s in what dens, who the leaders are, and then, except for telling the new DLs and ADLs to fill out the BSA adult volunteer applications and how to get started with training, they’re free to set up their first meetings and then go on home! If they haven’t done the task yet, tell ’em you’ll come back in a few more minutes. You simply keep doing this till they accomplish the goal! Have faith! Give ’em lots of room to succeed, but check back with them so that they don’t dissolve into confusion. Now maybe one den comes together but the rest of the parents just can’t figure out what to do. So, first, you can get the names and let the group that formed up go on home, while you talk to the rest, and you just tell the rest that everyone’s going to go home in a few minutes, so you hope they can put their heads together… and when they see that you’re serious and have no intention of “rescuing” them, they’ll do what they need to do… or they won’t and they’ll go home unresolved, and that’s what happens sometimes, because we don’t force people to do what they really have no interest in! But, in my experience (which is pretty solid and spans different councils, districts, and packs) they’ll succeed so long as you show them that you believe in their ability to succeed!
As for who should spearhead this, a team always works best: Cubmaster and den organizer, or Cubmaster and Committee Chair—just be sure one of you gets completed youth and adult applications before they leave!
One of the patrols in our troop the 2010 National Scout Jamboree this past summer (we’re pretty close to Fredericksburg), and the had a great time. While they were there, they bought some souvenir Jamboree items, and on their return home and when they started coming to troop meetings, these Scouts proudly wore their new green Jamboree shoulder loops. Our troop also had three Scouts who attended the Jamboree as participants, in one of our council’s Jamboree troops; they also wore the green Jamboree shoulder loops. Our Scoutmaster thereupon informed the Scouts in the patrol who day-visited that wearing those shoulder loops was an error—that only actual participants were allowed this privilege, based on Jamboree literature stating that “a special set of Jamboree shoulder loops has also been designed for those Scouts and Scouters, participants and staff members, to wear before, during and for six months after the Jamboree has concluded (after which) period, the special shoulder loops are to be replaced with the official shoulder loops denoting one’s role in the Movement.” But this guidance doesn’t specify “participants” or “visitors” or both. Can you help clarify, because I’d like to provide the right guidance to all the boys. (Joel Ostrom, ASM, National Capital Area Council, VA)
Somehow, I’m thinking that we have a much bigger Scouting “job” on our hands than playing loop posse. If you have a troop that’s 100% completely and perfectly uniformed, with not a single badge or patch out of place, right down to official BSA socks, and a slide on every neckerchief (no rubber bands or hastily knotted neckerchiefs), and 100% caps outdoors and uncovered indoors, at every troop meeting rain or shine, then OK, we can try to deal with this. But if not, I’m thinking the word-of-the-day is chill. In a month it’ll be moot.
Is the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award only for the Den Leader, or can the Assistant Den Leader earn this too? (Manuela Valle, Pack Advancement Coordinator, Western Los Angeles County Council, CA)
The answer to your question is stipulated on the progress record for the award: “Complete one year as a registered Tiger Cub den leader”.
I’m a new Venturer, and I’m close to completing the Bronze Award. I’m going to get my Venturing uniform soon, and I need to know where I should put this and any other awards, as I earn them. Do they go on my uniform, or should I get a brag vest or sash? (Jenny Triplett, Heart of America Council, KS)
Congratulations! No “brag vest” or “brag ribbon”—mostly because if you’ve done the work, it ain’t braggin’! Yes, award badges go on your uniform shirt. Your Venturing Handbook should tell you where, or you can go to www.scouting.org/scoutsource/
My son and I are wondering if there’s a merit badge for karate or mixed martial arts. He’s a Wolf Cub Scout and also a purple belt in Kempo Karate. He’s tried many other sports and has no interest in them. Karate and Cub Scouts pair greatly together, with many commonalities, such as boosting one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, developing a sense of belonging to a group of friends, respect for others, and loyalty, just to name a few. I recently read an articlesaying that Boy Scoutsare now able to get a merit badge for playing video games (seriously?); but there’s nothing formartial arts that I can find. Can you please help us answer the question as to whether such a badge for Karate exists? And, if not, why not? Thanks. (Susan Plefka)
The BSA has approved Judo, Tai Chi, and Aikido as youth activities. To date Karate and all other martial arts, as well as boxing, are not BSA-authorized activities for youth.
Regarding “playing video games,” I think you’ll discover, with a bit more research, that it’s not the “playing” that’s being emphasized.
I’m a former Scoutmaster (over two dozen years) and a 50+ year Scouting veteran. Recently, I took on the job of District Training Chair, which I had also held about 20 years ago. In the training, a couple of things occurred that I can’t seem to find the answer for, or confirmation as to accuracy in one way or the other, and I’m wondering if you can shed any light…
In 1994, our troop filed application to Philmont Scout Ranch for a short trek the following year, but we were turned down because we had one Assistant Scoutmaster and two committee members as the adult leaders for the crew. At that time, the folks at Philmont told us that only Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters can take Scouts camping; therefore, we’d need to have one of our other two adults change his registration to ASM. So, for the past 16 years, I’ve advised troops to make sure they have ample Assistant Scoutmasters trained, so that they can always have leaders for troop functions. But now I find myself challenged on this point, with statements that this multiple ASM policy has never been a policy at all.
The second issue I’ve encountered happened when one of our district trainers was telling the participants that the only time a Scout can wear the BSA uniform when selling something was when he’s selling Boy Scout popcorn—that in all other fund-raisers, the uniform isn’t permitted. By contrast, the Scouts in our troop wear their uniforms when they’re bussing tables at our sponsoring church’s dinners and also at our troop’s annual pancake breakfast. Now I’m being told that wearing the uniform for these activities isn’t appropriate. I don’t believe that’s true, and I believe that I once read where you also concurred that a Scout can wear his uniform even if he’s selling hamburgers, and that if we’re not selling a product that it’s OK to wear the uniform.
I really appreciate your web site and the straight answers you give. Can you help out on either (or both) of these issues? (Garry Reece, Crossroads of America Council, IN)
On your Philmont question, this is something I have no familiarity with as it related to treks there or troop outdoor activities in general. The Guide to Safe Scouting (on-line as well as hard copy) is pretty much the “Bible” when it comes to safety considerations. This is probably your best and certainly your most current resource.
On the uniform question, it’s of course perfectly OK for Scouts to wear their uniforms while carrying out a council-level or council-wide fund-raiser and it’s equally OK for Scouts to be looking sharp in their uniforms while providing service to their own sponsor (as with your church’s dinners or any other event sponsored by your church that you’re there to help with). As for wearing uniforms while conducting a fund-raiser for your troop, read the Unit Money-Earning Application (#34427) by going to www.scouting.org/filestore/
Our Senior Patrol Leader and ASPL both have had pretty spotty attendance. Our troop’s new adult leadershiphas emphasized the need for them to attend every meeting possible and to arrange for another Scout to cover for them in leading the meeting agenda in the rare event that they can’t possibly be there. There are limits to how many meetings a Senior Patrol Leader or ASPL can miss without being counseled or simply replaced, but we don’t see references to this in the Scoutmaster Handbook other than Scouts setting goals for their participation as leaders in the current Troop Leadership Training manual. In a Scout-led troop, it seems to us that the Patrol Leaders Council should take the lead in dealing with an SPL’s or ASPL’s attendance, and the Scoutmaster should use PLC feedback to address “active participation” inleadership training andin his conferenceswith all youth leaders. Do you have any references or thoughts to add? (John Tritt, SM, Sagamore Council, IN)
There are few precise BSA references to this issue because the BSA is absolutely adamant that metrics and percentages not be applied to any aspect of “active.” The thinking is valid: Scouting isn’t a compulsory program or activity, like attending school or, if you’re on a team you’ll be at all practices if you want to do more than warm the bench or, if you play an instrument or you’re a vocalist then you make it to rehearsals because if you don’t know the music you don’t get to perform. Scouting’s a volunteer organization, and the very first volunteers are the Scouts, and we can’t ever forget that!
That said, let’s first take a look at troop structure. The ASPL isn’t the SPL’s “executive officer” in the sense that he’s on the bridge or flight deck right there with the skipper or captain! The ASPL fills in only in the absence of the SPL; otherwise, he has his own set of responsibilities that have nothing whatsoever to do with managing and guiding the Patrol Leaders!
So, if the Senior Patrol Leader can’t attend a particular meeting or event, then his responsibilities are to make sure that the ASPL is going to cover for him and that the ASPL knows what needs to be accomplished and what the program is, and then to advise the Scoutmaster that this change will happen, why he can’t be there, and that the ASPL has been fully briefed. The ASPL’s job, then, becomes: show up, get the job done, and report back to the SPL that the plan was carried out. If the Scoutmaster hasn’t conferenced with these two Scouts, so that they understand how this works, then that’s obviously the very first order of business.
If this conference has been done, then it’s up to the SPL and ASPL to make certain—between them—that all meetings and events are covered by one or the other of them. They need to fully understand that there’s no other Scout in the troop who can do this job–this is what the SPL was elected to do, and this is why he selected his ASPL.
As a last resort if this doesn’t work, the Scoutmaster may need to tell both the SPL and the ASPL that unless they can, between them, cover all meetings and activities, as described, then a new troop election must be held as fast as possible, because the troop can’t operate without top leaders who can show up. That’s right: Hold a new election, explaining why it’s going to be done and that there’s no “stigma” attached to the present SPL and ASPL—it’s simply that their schedules don’t allow them to continue right now. Then explain how the SPL and ASPL work together, and hold an election. (Make sure that you record the precise tenures of the outgoing SPL and ASPL, because these can be used for their “position of responsibility” rank requirements, remembering that if they’re “short” they can always get elected or assigned to positions that their schedules can accommodate, so that they can complete the tenure they need in order to advance.)
I had a parentof a new Venturing crew member ask me why our crew doesn’t wear a military-type uniform (we use the official Venturing uniform) since we’re chartered by an American Legion post. I explained that, according to the Congressional Charter, members of the Boy Scouts of America can’t wear uniforms that resemble military uniforms. But she told me that she had a niece who was a Sea Scout, and that she wears a Navy-type uniform that they actually buy from Navy uniform supply outlets. Even though they may have Sea Scout-BSA insignia on their uniforms, even from a short distance they do look to be Navy. I really didn’t have a solid answer for her, because I’ve seen Sea Scouts and they do look to be Navy, and the Navy is part of our military. What would be the bestexplanation for this question? (Don Sheen, CR, Buckeye Council, OH)
What a great question!
For an official answer, the BSA of course is the primary source, and the statement from the BSA Rules and Regulations, Article X, Section 4, Clause 4, (b) states: “Imitation of United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps uniforms is prohibited, in accordance with the provisions of the organization’s Congressional Charter.” It’s curious to this onlooker that there is no mention of the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Coast Guard, and of course we know that Law Enforcement Explorers do wear uniforms that often closely resemble if not match those of local government law enforcement officers. Nonetheless, let’s see if we can’t shed some further light on this subject, even if technically unofficial (why do I get the feeling already that there’s a bunch of folks who’ll want to weigh in on this one!)…
First, let’s consider that “Navy suits” (usually the classic “Cracker Jack” type) have been around for many decades, worn by children since the turn of the prior century and even, until very recently, by even such groups as the Vienna Boy’s Choir! One might say, of course, that these are “in imitation of…” but it can equally be said with a high degree of certainty that this is absent the intent to either instill military discipline or to mislead or misrepresent.
Let’s further consider that “Army-Navy” stores or even naval uniform supply outlets aren’t the only places one may buy items that Sea Scouts can wear. In fact, when I became a Sea Scout adult volunteer, I bought my Dickies brand “uniform parts” at a work clothing retailer!
Besides, the more “real” it appears to be, the more restricted it gets! Here’s a statement direct from a non-BSA Sea Scout uniform provider: “Traditional naval style uniforms for both men and women directly from the U.S. Navy. First refer to the back of the current Sea Scout Manual to familiarize yourself with the standing, written policy on obtaining uniforms from the U.S. Navy. This source in intended for Sea Scouts and Sea Scout officers affiliated with a currently chartered Sea Scout Ship. BSA, Sea Cadets and all other youth organizations using navy uniforms must send a letter on the ship’s letterhead providing the leader’s (Skipper’s) position, name, name of organization (as in Boy Scouts of America, Sea Scout Ship 000), social security number of the Skipper, and including the names and social security numbers of all members who are authorized for uniform purchase. The letter should specifically say that The following are authorized to purchase. The Skipper will also be required to send with the letter a copy of the Ship’s charter…” Let’s take this even further, with a quick look at some excerpts from the Sea Scout Manual: “When Sea Scouting began in 1912, Sea Scouts wore brown uniforms. The (current) national official Sea Scout uniform…conforms to the U.S. Navy enlisted uniform specifications and consists of a white traditional jumper with flap on the back, white trousers, Navy-style white enlisted cover, black rolled tie secured with a square knot, black plain-toe dress shoes, black socks, and white web belt with plain silver buckle…” But what isn’t mentioned is that this uniform has been obsoleted by the U.S. Navy! That’s right: If you check today’s uniforms worn by United States Navy officers and enlisted, you won’t find this uniform worn by anyone! Yes, “whites” are still worn, and “Navy blues” (called “the Johnny Cash uniform”) are still worn, but not in the same configuration as Sea Scouts, and the working uniform of the Navy is now “camo,” just like the other main branches of the U.S. armed forces.
So our “bottom line” appears to be: Stay away from camo’s!
Wearing a “Cracker Jack” uniform these days is just as likely to get you accused of looking like the Vienna Boy’s Choir as the Navy! Egad! (But of course I’m messin’ with you here.)
Yes, Sea Scout uniforms “look like” the Navy, to about the same degree that Boy Scout uniforms look like the army. And I’m of a generation that can remember how Air Scout/Air Explorer uniforms looked like the Air Force’s Uxbridge blue uniforms, which had the dubious honor of also being called “Postman blue.” But even the U.S. Air Force has “gone camo.” I’m sure we could go on for hours if not days over the nuances, subtleties, aberrations, similarities, and confusions created by all of this, and some of us would enjoy every moment of it! But I think that we’d eventually end up here: The uniforms we wear in this movement aren’t for the purpose of advocating or even mimicking a militaristic or even pugilistic mentality but are for the purpose of establishing a sense of belonging, leveling the fashion-statement playing field, providing for demonstration of individual accomplishment, and communicating to the general public that WE STAND FOR SOMETHING IMPORTANT.
Thanks for asking, and I hope you’ll forgive this long-winded answer!
Two-and-a-half years ago, my son crossed over to Boy Scouts… Not the “Dads-Run-The-Show Scouts” or the “Adults-Make-Up-New-Rules Scouts,” but a troop that’s really boy-run, and he loves it. No one tells him he “can’t.” When he earns a rank, he gets the rank badge when he walks out of the board of review. If he advances two ranks, in two back-to-back reviews, then he gets two badges! When I took him to his first meeting, his new Scoutmaster needed some folks to be trained. I said OK.Two months later, he hands me a Scoutmaster patch—I had noidea what to do, so I got trained in everything. Two weeks ago, I received myWood Badge. Yes, that took some time and effort, but hey, I get it now! It’s about THE BOYS. The troop’s adult leaders are building a relationship with the pack through Den Chiefs and parent-to-parent meetings. This year, our troop picked up ten Webelos Scouts from the pack plus three boys who’d never been in Scouts at all! In a few months, we’ve cultivated 14 more to join up, and when they do, one parent from that former den will take training.
Every month I read your column and it justkills me! <grin> Whenever I seem to get in the Scouts’ way, another dad gives me a little tug on the sleeve—it’s a reminder thatthis isn’t my game; it’s our sons’ game! Every meeting, I learn something new. My humble advice: Get trained; then get out of the way.
Thanks, Andy, for all your knowledge and advice. I just had to get this off my chest. (Warren Cofield, SM, Los Padres Council, CA)
You know you’re my “paycheck,” yes? It’s testimony like yours that makes all the difference—especially in the lives of boys!
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