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Issue 240 – January 12, 2011

Major Richard Winters, whose quiet leadership in WWII was chronicled in the acclaimed “Band of Brothers,” died on January 2nd. He was 92.

“Easy” E Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army entered the ETO on D-Day 1944. In September that year the Company, led by then-Captain Winters with but 20 men, attacked and defeated 200 German soldiers in what became textbook field tactics at the USMA at West Point. Winters and Easy Company later helped hold Belgium’s Bastogne area during the Battle of the Bulge, and remained at the front through the capture of the Eagle’s Nest.

Among Winter’s writings, he leaves us these “ten principles for success,” titled Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet:

  • Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
  • Lead from the front: It’s “Follow me!” then lead the way.
  • Stay in top physical shape—stamina is the root of mental toughness.
  • Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you’ll develop teamwork.
  • Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.
  • Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait till you get to the top of the ridge to make up your mind.
  • Remain humble. Don’t worry about who gets the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
  • Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  • True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect—not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
  • Hang Tough!—Never, ever, give up.

I believe that if, in what we do as Scouters and how we guide the Scouts in our charge to do, we acknowledge what these ten points tell us, we will be aiming ourselves pretty close to Scouting’s True North.

Dear Andy,

Our troop is currently blessed with five Life Scouts, and it looks like they could have all five Eagle service projects happening at about the same time in the next few months. The good thing is that the Scouts’ interests vary enough that their projects won’t overlap or get in each others’ way. The not-so-good side of this coin is that the troop’s is a very small town, which can have a big impact on any fund-raising they’ll likely need to do—there are only so many dollars available and only so many weekends to go out and find them that both the troop committee and the Scouts themselves are concerned that after just the second fundraiser’s over, they’ll have pretty much tapped out the town. (We have to allow that there are Girl Scout cookies and the high school band’s and church youth groups’ fundraisers, too, and then there’s the town’s Rotary Club and Friends of the Library, and the list goes on!

We know that Scouts can’t collaborate on or share their Eagle projects; does that pertain to fundraising, also? One thought we have is that all five Scouts might participate inthe annual Spring Festivalrun by our own chartered organization: If each Scout ran his own fundraising event at the festival—one does a car wash, another sells hot dogs, a third has a plant sale, another runs the car-parking, and so on—so that what each did was an independent action just that they all take place at the same event, would that be allowed? It would sure help the town from being overloaded, and it would also provide some additional organizational and leadership skills for these Scouts.

We’ve been trying to get an answer to this, but the only replies so far have been along the lines of “that’s a great idea, but I don’t really know if it’s OK or not.” Can you help us? (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s first keep in mind that an Eagle project doesn’t necessarily need to involve money. Depending on his interests, a Scout could choose to do a toy or book drive for underprivileged kids or families, or organize and run a bicycle safety program for grade school children, or map a church cemetery that’s become out-of-date, to mention just a few ideas, all of which are described to the Scout himself on page 3 of the “Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook” (which it is mandatory to use, by the way). Further, very often the recipient of the service will provide the necessary materials, such as when painting the town’s fire hydrants, the town will 99% of the time supply the paint, because it’s a very special kind that can’t always be bought at a retail hardware or paint store. Or, as another example, if a church or town library, for instance, would benefit from new bookshelves being built, they’ll most usually provide the lumber, while the Scout produces and directs the builders. In other words, fundraising is hardly a mandatory aspect of such projects, and so it shouldn’t be presumed that these Life Scouts will need to raise money to fulfill this requirement.

As an example of what I mean here, I remember how my own youngest son finished the new computer lab at a school for the handicapped, by teaching his helpers how to configure all the computers to work via a LAN (“local area network”). They subsequently networked all the computers, and then loaded on all the teaching software, passwords, and master password. This didn’t cost a dime, because the school had the computers, cables, and software, and needed my son (who is now a professor of computer science, by the way) and his helpers to make the whole system work.

Another Scout I knew assembled a bunch of his garage-band friends, they rehearsed, and then put on a musical performance for nursing home shut-ins. And a third Scout, who sang in a school choral group, put together a holiday caroling team, rehearsed them himself, and then did performances for the kids at the town’s two elementary schools.

The next thing to consider is that projects, if they do require money, can often be done on a shoestring: We’re not talking about raising thousands of dollars! Paint is maybe $20 a gallon (we’re not talking about painting the Sistine Chapel here!), and what family doesn’t have a bunch of paint brushes kicking around the garage, and old newspapers as drop-cloths are free! Or, working with the local police department, the town supplied the materials to do a town-wide child fingerprinting day run by the Scout and his friends.

Did you know that, depending on the amount, it’s actually permissible for the Scout himself, his family, or—get this!—his troop to provide the necessary money. (That’s right: there’s nothing written by the BSA that says the money must come from a fund-raiser!)

Or, the Scout can approach the troop’s sponsor for modest funding, especially if the sponsor’s a Rotary Club or similar civic-minded organization. If a Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, or other similar club, or a Masonic Lodge, isn’t a sponsor, but you have one or more groups like these in town, they should definitely be approached for modest funding.

These ideas not withstanding, there’s also nothing wrong with a bunch of Life Scouts doing a car-wash, or selling hot dogs and soft drinks at a local sports event (like a Little League baseball game—with permission from the organizers to make sure no regular concessionaire is going to be competed with or superseded). Just they make sure they do this before they write up their projects, use the unit fund-raising permission form as always, and then divide the money equally among them, so that when they do their write-up they can say that they already have the necessary funds (in other words, the fundraiser isn’t even mentioned as part of the project plan, because it’s actually not!).

That Spring Festival is also an excellent idea. The Scouts, as a group, might want to talk to the sponsor about their being on “parking detail” for participants (which they can do in uniform, by the way!) in exchange for a donation they can all share in.

So there you have it. In most cases, money, per se, shouldn’t even be necessary if the project’s developed so that it’s not needed, and if money does turn out to be needed, it can be a modest amount that won’t break anybody’s piggy bank! Of course, my own preference is that no money be required at all! Remember that an Eagle project is about service; it’s not Scouting’s version of building the next Brooklyn Bridge!

Dear Andy,

Does the BSA allow Venture Scouts age 14 and older to take pistol shooting as a merit badge, and where can a merit badge manual for this be purchased? (Steve Le Roy, UC, Mecklenburg County Council, GA)

Rifle and shotgun shooting, yes, but there’s no merit badge for pistol shooting.

Dear Andy,

Here’s a question from a father who asked me: “If my son has dual citizenship or foreign citizenship, what issues are there with registration in the BSA, and with the Pledge of Allegiance?” I’ve done an Internet search of your columns and also on the Pledge of Allegiance, but in vain. Among the joining requirements is: “Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.” I’m not sure whether or not this is a policy issue or an opportunity to counsel with the dad (and maybe his son). Any thoughts? (George Fosselius, ADC-Venturing, Mt. Diablo Silverado Council, CA)

I think I’d handle this on a case-by-case basis, because you don’t know if this is a “real” question about the man’s own son, or just theoretical wondering—you need to know which before proceeding further. That said, if a boy indeed has dual citizenship, then reciting the Pledge is effectively a non-issue. If, on the other hand, he was born in another country, but lives in the U.S. now, what sort of Pledge “problem” are we talking about here? Is he a non-permanent resident of the U.S. who plans to return to his country of birth (as in his parents are ex-pat’s of that country, here temporarily)? If so, then a deeper conversation is in order. If he’s here with his family because they’re “adopting” America as their home, then it’s again a no-brainer. But I can tell you this much: I’ve not seen a statement in the BSA Rules and Regulations that provides an “alternative” to Scouts reciting our Pledge.

Dear Andy,

About the purported “hazing” problem for mothers’ pins, our troop uses pin ribbons for all the moms and when their sons advance in rank, we attach the mother’s pin to the advancement card tat we present to the Scout—Mom can transfer the pin to her ribbon whenever she chooses. This makes moot all that hugging, shaking hands, and giving credit to Mom for putting up with camping trips, washing uniforms, sewing patches, being an on-call taxi service, and other assorted “privileges and perks”of being a Scout’s Mom. I’ve tried, but I can’t think of any of our Scouts, or parents, who’d consider giving Mom a hug to be some sort of “hazing.” (James Flynn, MC, Mecklenburg County Council, NC)

My wife’s response to that original letter was: “If my son hadn’t ‘pinned’ me and given me a hug when he received his ranks at courts of honor, he would have seen some real hazing!!!” Gotta love her!

Dear Andy,

In researching requirements for the Hornaday Award, it shows that Venturers may earn it. I found where the requirement to have been a First Class Scout is waived for Venturers. Does that mean female crew members will work the requirements for the required merit badges? I found no alternative requirements just for crews, which make me think that female crew members or male crew members who didn’t earn First Class rank as Boy Scouts need to complete the same merit badges and their requirements as Boy Scouts, with the understanding that these two types of Venturers wouldn’t earn the actual—they’d simply complete the same number of merit badge requirements as outlined for Boy Scouts working on the award. Then as far as the projects are concerned, these would be as just stated by the award requirements, for all seekers of this award. (Dale Wilson, Council Program and Activity Chair, Chehaw Council, GA)

Yes, this is similar to what’s done in the Sea Scout program, where certain of the ranks require completing the requirements for certain merit badges, which is purposefully different language from “earn” the such-and-such merit badge. Completing the requirements can be done by Sea Scouts (and Venturers) regardless of gender. Thanks for asking —This is an important question!

Dear Andy,

My son has been working on his Eagle project paperwork for some six straight months and will (finally!) secure the last needed signature within the next 24 hours (He’s been chasing down signatures for several weeks now). However, at last week’s troop meeting, his Scoutmaster said that he might not sign off after the project’s complete, since my son hasn’t been as active this past year as he has in the past. (He is a 4.0 student, plays three varsity sports, members of the school’s debate team, and a member of his church’s youth group.)

My son’s now so demoralized he’s considering just canceling the project despite the troop’s committee chair and advancement coordinator have both already signed off on his getting started with the project.

He earned Life Scout rank at least four years ago, but he turns 18 in just a few more months. This is causing lots of anguish for all of us in the family, even with his older sister (who, as a Girl Scout, earned the Gold Award). Or is it time for his dad and me to get in touch with somebody at the council level? (Name & Council Withheld)

Since he’s been a Life Scout for several years, I’m sure that, between the time he completed his board of review for Life and now, he’s had six months or more of higher activity with the troop, during which time he also completed his tenure in a leadership position. That being the case (especially if those two requirements have been signed off), how active or not he is at the moment or even in the past year becomes irrelevant, because he’s already “done the time” and he doesn’t have to do it again! This is something else he definitely wants to bring up to the District Advancement Chair—which is the final signature he needs in order to get started, so don’t let him overlook this one and don’t let him trust anyone but himself to get that fourth signature!

. Now, a word of caution… The way he’s feeling at the moment, he’s probably more interested in letting the whole thing just slip by, rather than have to get up, straighten his spine, and go get this thing done. Yeah, it’s going to be a little bit painful and a little bit intimidating, especially since he’ll be doing it with Mom and Dad behind him and not out in front of him. But I’ll tell you this: If he doesn’t stand up for himself and make this happen for himself, he’s going to be an angry man for the rest of his natural life, and there won’t be a darned thing he’ll ever be able to do to make up for his not going for it, right now!

You live in a part of our country where folks are generally pretty mellow and not overly prone to the “angst,” so it’s going to be a bit out of both culture and character for your son to stand up like I’m saying he needs to do. He needs to get past this! I can’t send him a “stiff back pill” but I sure would, if I could! He’s gonna need to do this himself!

Then, when the final signature is needed—which simply indicates that the project’s completed per the plan (with adjustments, which have a special place for being listed)—he gets it from the recipient of the service first and then, if his Scoutmaster still refuses to sign indicating completion, your son goes straight to the troop’s committee chair and states that he wants someone else to sign off, because he’s not willing to drop the gloves on an issue as petty as this. If the CC balks, your son goes straight to the District Advancement Chair.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been in deep research and discussion about on what Scouts actually are supposed to do to correctly complete Tenderfoot req’s 10a-10b. This troop has been making the Scouts use a spread-sheet, which they are to fill in with their exercises and results for 30 individual days, and if they miss a day, then they must either add a “make-up day” at the back end, or start over. My understanding is that they take their initial tests on “day 30 minus one” and then theyget 30 days to exercise before they retest, and any improvement means they’ve completed this set of requirements. The requirement, as written, doesn’t stipulate that they have to keep track of those 30 days, and what if they get sick one or more of those days and can’t practice, but still improve after 30 days? I really need some clarification from the best source I’ve found anywhere: You. (Shari Walter, MC, Chief Seattle Council, WA)

The troop’s adult volunteers are wrong about the way they’re treating Tenderfoot requirement 10b. The correct answer is right in the Boy Scout Handbook (12th Edition). Start on page 95, where the BSA clearly states, “Exercising for a month and then testing yourself again…” It is obvious that the “30 days” mentioned in the actual requirement mean over a period of a month, and do not mean 30 consecutive or even individual days of exercise. However, to make this even more clear, turn to page 96, and the statement: “To build strength, complete three sets of each of these exercises three to four times a week” (italics mine)—again clearly showing that 30 days of exercise each day is not what is either intended or required here.

Several (yes, it’s important to have several; not just one or two) parents, together, need to have an in-person conversation (no email!!!) with the Scoutmaster, the troop’s Committee Chair, and, if there is one, the troop’s Advancement Coordinator, handbooks in hand. Show them the pages I’ve given you, and have the statements I’ve directed you to outlined or highlighted, ask each of these people to read the statements, then request that the troop’s present policy of demanding the spreadsheet you mention stopped immediately, because it’s effectively adding to the requirement and, according to the BSA book, 2010 Boy Scout Requirements, page 13 (highlighted statement at the bottom of the page), “No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or to subtract from, any advancement requirements.” Now, just to leave no aspect of this issue unaddressed, or you unprepared for a counter point-of-view, the prior Boy Scout Handbook (11th Edition), first published in 1998 and no longer the operative authority on requirements, did state on page 58: “Practice each of these exercises every day for a month…” However, general knowledge of health and exercise has improved in the past 12 years and it’s understood today that better muscular development results when the body is given a day of recovery between exercises, and so the most current instruction to Scouts is per the handbook’s most up-to-date 12th Edition.

Although it’s extremely unlikely that boy-minded volunteers would continue an inappropriate practice after being provided with this much information directly from BSA-published materials, there are some occasions in which people just don’t see the light. In the remote possibility that this happens, the only two clear courses of action are (a) to remove the current volunteers and replace them with volunteers willing to follow the BSA program as written, or (b) find a nearby better troop for your sons and transfer them over to it without further ado.

Dear Andy,

Can someone serve as Cubmaster for two packs at the same time? And, can a Unit Commissioner serve on the committee of a pack he or she has been assigned to serve? (Rodney Brooks)

The BSA makes no restrictions on the number of Scouting units in which a volunteer serves.

The BSA does stipulate that a Commissioner (any type) may not simultaneously serve as a unit leader; however, this does not include unit committee positions.

Councils typically do not assign Unit Commissioners to the same unit as he or she is registered in as a unit-level volunteer. In other words, it’s fine to be a Unit Commissioner and it’s also fine to serve on a unit committee, but let’s not clean our vegetables and scrape our dirty dishes into the same sink at the same time. When this happens, how does anyone know which hat the Commissioner-cum-committee person is wearing when he or she is speaking?

Andy – Your December 29, 2010 column mentioned that “members of the pack committee are those unit volunteers who are registered as such (registration code: MC). All other unit volunteers (e.g., CM, DL, ADL, PT, etc.) are not committee members…” I recently took Pack Trainer training, where it was said that I’m supposed to be part of the committee. Now this may have changed since that training course, but as far as I can tell, the committee consists of the chair (CC), the committee members (MC), the Pack Trainer (PT), and the Scout-Parent Unit Coordinator (PC). You also mentioned that “no one is ‘double-registered’ either.” Actually, in addition to your oft-mentioned CC-COR combination, the Scout-Parent Unit Coordinator may also multiple register in several unit positions. These may be minor points, to be sure, but I feel compelled to defend the honor of Pack Trainers everywhere by trying to maintain our rightful place on the committee. (Our job is hard enough as it is!) I’ve learned a lot by reading your columns, so I’m glad to contribute this small bit of (possibly useful) information. (Allan Sutton, PT, Sam Houston Area Council, TX)

Yup, you’ve correctly covered all of the technical aspects or Cub pack registration in far more detail than I, and I thank you!

Dear Andy,

In your December 29, 2010 column, you note that a PLC consists of the SPL and PLs only. My copy of the Scoutmaster Handbook is dated 2004, so it may have been updated since then, but on page 12 of my copy is this statement: “The key boy leaders of the troop make up the patrol leaders council. They are the senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, patrol leaders, and troop guides of any new-Scout patrols.” (Greg Gosselin, Pikes Peak Council, CO)

Yes, I did over-emphasize that particular troop’s need to cut back… Troop Guides are present if there’s a new Scout patrol whose Patrol Leader they’re counseling, otherwise there’s no need for Troop Guides at all! And an ASPL would be present from a keeping current point-of-view, but his responsibility is to train and guide the Scouts in positions of responsibility like Historian and so on. So, in allowance of those nuances, I definitely stand corrected. The key here is that the SPL runs the show and the PLs represent the troop members…all of them. Plus, it’s important to recognize that the expressions “leadership position” and “position of responsibility” aren’t interchangeable.

Dear Andy,

A correction to one of your last 2010 columns, regarding who goes to the troop’s PLC meetings. You said that “The PLC is the Patrol Leaders, led by the Senior Patrol Leader” and that Troop Guides aren’t a part of it, but the Scoutmaster Handbook can be directly quoted on page 12 in saying that “…they are the Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders, and Troop Guides of any new-scout patrols.” (Just a minor adjustment to a great reply.) (Matt Urbanek, National Capital Area Council, MD)

Yes, that’s right, IF there are new Scout patrols… BUT the Troop Guide is there not with a “voice” or “vote” but to guide the Patrol Leader of that new Scout patrol—This is an often overlooked and very critical nuance! (It’s like NCIS: DiNozzo says to Gibbs, “Got your ‘6’, Boss!”)

Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster of five years has just announced his pending retirement from this position, and the troop committee is looking for a suitable and qualified replacement. We have six months to find a replacement and we want to do our best. I’ve found the Scoutmaster’s responsibilities on-line, as well as the requirement to be 21 or older, but I can’t find an reference to training requirements. Does the BSA have any training requirements for an adult to be Scoutmaster, beyond Youth Protection and Fast Start? (Phyllis Lozano, CC, San Francisco Bay Area Council, CA)

Beyond youth protection, the BSA has no mandatory training requirements for adult volunteers; however, it’s the smart Scoutmaster who does Fast Start and then Boy Scout Leader-Specific followed by Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills. These simply make life so much easier! (And they also help to prevent new volunteers from “re-inventing” Scouting!)

Dear Andy,

The new First Class requirement (#10) to “Tell someone who is eligible to join Boy Scouts…about your troop’s activities. Invite him to a troop outing…or meeting. Tell him how to join…” feels odd, because it isn’t about a skill, service, or experience—just do this thing that the troop needs. If it were part of a communication skills requirement, it would make more sense. As we both know, either the troop is attracting boys, or not, and this requirement doesn’t fix that. Boy, how requirements have changed! (Walter Underwood)

The requirements for various merit badges and ranks, too, have definitely changed. First Class is hardly alone! For this rank, I remember learning how to send and receive Morse code, for instance. And Eagle has changed in other ways, too, like now having “optional” required merit badges: I remember that both Swimming and Lifesaving were required, with no alternatives at all! But we also need to remember that a Scout doesn’t “have to” do any of these; the only consequence being that he won’t advance in rank much. But that’s his personal choice!

I also agree that a troop that follows the BSA program will be a magnet, but here’s the thing: When the troop’s truly a magnet, fulfilling that requirement’s a no-brainer! And what Scout wouldn’t want to invite a friend to one of his troop’s activities and encourage joining up! This is how patrols grow!

Happy Scouting!



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

(January 12, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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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