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Issue 246 – March 4, 2011

Hi Andy,

My Scout son made a very bad decision by bringing an “adult” magazine on a camp-out. Are there any BSA rules that could be used to have him removed from the troop? He’s a good kid but made a very poor choice. The other boy, who asked him to bring the magazine, is now denying it, of course, so my son’s sort of hung out to dry. (He didn’t get this from our home, but instead from someone at school.) (Name & Council Withheld)

Isn’t it nice to know your son’s absolutely normal!

No, there are absolutely no BSA “rules” or “policies” of any sort that should cause your son to be removed from Scouting. Hopefully, he has a wise Scoutmaster who understands boys and especially teen-aged boys, and takes this whole thing with a bit of a chuckle and assigns a benign “punishment”—like your son must for the next six months have his handbook with him at all times, no exceptions. Meanwhile, he’s learned an important lesson, which is what Scouting is there for.

Dear Andy,

Is there any official documentation stating that the BSA is not a para-military organization? (Name & Council Withheld)

The mission and purpose of the BSA are described on the front page and page 2 of the BSA Adult Application (a good source for lots of stuff, BTW!). The BSA describes what we are and doesn’t seem to waste a lot of time describing what we’re not.

Now that that’s settled, what’s the real question behind the question?

Thanks. Truth be told, we have a troop that’s by retired military types, and they’re running it like the military. They’re even mixing military insignias with Scout badges, calling it a “Recon Troop,” calling the Scouts “Cadets,” with lots of marching and drill, push-ups, and using military ranks instead of Scout leadership positions.

Thankfully, the top level of our council has mobilized, and has shut this unit down (easy to let the charter lapse, because they had virtually no boys in the troop!). In the meantime, I’m planning to reactivate the troop, but first with fundamentals and Scoutmaster basic training for the new leaders, so that when the new charter goes through, they’ll be prepared the right way this time. (N&CW)

My first Scoutmaster was an ex-Marine who never got over the fact that he never made Sgt. (he told us this). And boy, did he take it out on us Scouts! It wasn’t Scouting; it was living hell, week after week, with “drop n’ gimme ten” and duck-walks for blinking at the wrong time, and all sorts of close-order drill, and just about nothing that my “Handbook for Boys” told me I should be doing. It took three months, but I finally convinced my dad that unless we find a new troop, I’m done with Scouts. Thankfully, we did find a new troop (read my column titled “Bill”), and I’ve enjoyed Scouting ever since.

Those uber-military wing nuts who think Scouting is “Junior G.I.” need to be jettisoned as fast as they poke their close-shaven heads up. These kinds of maverick units will always collapse, because ultimately neither boys nor parents should put up with this nonsense.

Yup, training first; then re-start the troop! Nice going!

Dear Andy,

Last year, I heard a parent in our troop admit she’s an atheist. Now she and her and husband are about to start up a unit on their own. Does the BSA allow adults who are atheists to be leaders? (Name & Council Withheld)

Check page 2 of the BSA Adult Application, where it states that “the applicant must…subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle.” There’s your answer, along with the actual Declaration, on the same page.

Hi Andy,

You recently advised one of your readers on Scout “hotel camping.” Here are a couple of other items they may want to do at the hotel or motel: When you make your reservation, have them remove or empty the mini-bar (if any), put blocks on any outside telephone calls (especially long-distance) from the room phones, and don’t accept any room service orders from the rooms. (Dave Pederson, Occoneechee Council, NC)

Brilliant suggestions! Thanks!

Hello Andy,

I’m wondering if there’s an age limit to join the Scouts. I’m 25, and always wanted to be a Scout, but unfortunately I had to grow up faster than I would have liked to, and never got the chance to be a Scout or to go for Eagle Scout. Is there a way I can still pursue this? (Andres Pena)

Yes, there’s an upper age limit to being a Boy Scout: 18.

However, having to grow up faster that you might have preferred may not have been all bad… It produced, among other things, a man who believes in service to his god, his country, and others, and betterment of himself.

The opportunity to earn Eagle Scout rank has passed, but that’s merely a rank… It’s not the essence or foundation of Scouting. If you’d like to be involved in the Boy Scout movement as an adult volunteer, consider using a search engine to track down what council your current home town is in, and then calling ’em up and asking to speak with the Scout Executive (the BSA’s version of a COO)! Very best wishes –

Dear Andy,

If my boys were with me last year for Tigers, and we were involved with a fishing derby and completed the same type of activities that the Wolf book requires for the fishing elective, can that activity count for them attaining that elective, or does the activity have to be redone for the Wolf year? (Melissa Sears, Buckskin Council, WV)

Do what you think is right and best for the boys… It’s not going to change the world, one way or the other and what you want are happy boys having fun. They don’t have to get a badge for every little thing that they do (teaches the wrong lesson), but it’s nice to have surprises every now and then! Go with your heart and you’ll always be right.

Dear Andy:

Would you consider camping at a Jamboree “long-term camp” for purposes of the Camping merit badge? I’d thought the term pertained to week-long Scout summer camps, where platform tents are provided.

How to interpret this particular merit badge requirement is a perennialbone of contention. It would be really helpful if the folks who draft merit badge requirementsprovided a little more clarification, perhaps in the merit badge booklet, as to what constitutes “long-term camp.” For example, if a troop goes into the wilderness, pitches tents, and uses this as a base camp for a week, is that “long-term camp”? It would really behelpfulto knowwhat the requirement is seeking to establish…multiple one-to-three night trips in which tents are pitched or sleeping under the stars, or something else? I know that it sounds hyper-technical, but time and time again, we have Scouts coming up for Eagle and lengthy discussions ensue with Merit Badge Counselors on this issue. (Interested Parent, Council Withheld)

The requirement you’re asking about asks for 20 days and nights of camping, ideally in a tent pitched by the Scout or “under the sky.” The purpose of the “long-term camp” provision in this requirement is to give the Scout a little “wiggle room;” however, if all 20 days and nights are as first described, then the Scout’s quite obviously home-free.

If your own son has a situation somehow more complicated than this, he’s free to write to me and I’ll do my best to help him get squared away—Just let him know that I’d like him to “Cc” a buddy (can be a parent, fellow Scout or friend, or an adult of his choosing) when he writes.

Thanks so much for the information. Thankfully, my son has the badge.

I’m on the troop’s advancement committee and a long-time volunteer in my son’s troop. Invariably the Camping merit badge turns into a battleground, especially since the badge is sometimes started at sleep-away camp under one Merit Badge Counselor, and then is finished up within the troop, sometimes over a period of years. It’soften like watching the Supreme Court debating constitutional interpretation, as peopleargue overwhat constitutes compliance, includingexactly how to define “long-term camp.” I could see, for example, Scouts at a sleep-away camp who are on a several-day hike, moving every few nights, and having to re-pitch their tents. To me, that would constitute separate nights, even though they’re technically at a long-term camp.

Iguess as long as there’s a defensible interpretation made by the Merit Badge Counselor,the obligation hasbeen met. AndI know it’s ultimately the Merit Badge Counselor’sdetermination.

Thanks. You always provide such good insights and additional information–I’ve learned a lot from your column over the years. (Name & Council Withheld)

As a troop volunteer involved with advancement, you definitely can have your hands full, at times. Luckily, the requirements for Camping merit badge, like the vast, vast majority of rank and merit badge requirements, need little to no “interpretation.” I’ve found that in 99.99% of all requirements, the folks on the national advancement committee have done an excellent job of being word-for-word accurate and straightforward, so that it’s indeed a rare situation where someone truly needs to ask, “What does this mean…?”

Yes, the Merit badge Counselor is the only person who can sign off on a merit badge or any of its requirements, and cannot be superseded by any other person, troop, district, or local council.

With regard to Camping’s requirement 9.(a), the place where people start playing “Supreme Court” is the provision for including up to a week (that’s 7 days and nights—whether consecutive or not—the last time I checked a calendar) of long-term camping experiences as an option for counting days and nights toward the total of 20 that must be accomplished. For example, if, while at this long-term camp, a Scout engages in an out-of-the-campsite hiking-and-camping program (which, of course, is the exception—not the usual—for a long-term camp facility), then of course this camping activity would involve either a tent he pitches or sleeping out under the sky and would, therefore, be counted in the non-long-term category. So, let’s say that the Scout goes to camp for 6 days/nights and, while there, goes on a two-night overnight expedition… All 6 days and nights would be counted toward his quota: 2 for the expedition and 4 in the long-term category. (Obviously, if the camp’s schedule is set up so that there are, for instance, 6 days-5 nights, then 5 would be the maximum days/nights available to be counted.)

On another point that’s included: A Scout “finishes up in the troop.” A Scout, in fact, always finishes up in the troop, assuming that the troop has a registered Merit Badge Counselor approved for Camping merit badge. But this is really aside from the issue at hand here, because the Scout is expected to keep his own camping records anyway (see page 444 of The Boy Scout Handbook [12th Edition]).

Again, the bottom line (and simplest scenario): When the Scout completes all 20 days and nights camping in a tent he’s pitched or under the sky, it’s a slam-dunk.

The whole purpose of this merit badge is to produce reasonably competent campers who have “gotten out there”! I’d split hairs over and over, but the bottom line is: Has the Scout gone camping and come back to tell the tale?

Hi Andy,

Just a quick thank you for the all the time and effort you put into your columns.

Your reply to the Committee Chair dealing with Scouts throwing lit matches was excellent. Our troop had a similar problem a few years ago. There were those on the committee who wanted the “instigators” tossed out of troop, but we wouldn’t let that happen. Instead, with the help of my CC, we did much the same thing as you suggested. Turns out, these same Scouts have now become excellent youth leaders. (I wish I’d had your outline on the actions to take—I would have done an even better job of dealing with the situation!) Many times, we forget to reward these young men for owning up to their actions (even if we have to encourage them to do so) and their effort to learn from their mistakes—large and small. (Jeff Person, SM, Blue Mountain Council, WA)

Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to write! Good to know there are definitely “kindred spirits” among us –

Dear Andy,

I was looking through the usssp website and noticed you do the “Donor Awareness” badge. I think this is a great idea and should be pushed more, internationally. Here in the UK, we don’t have anything like that. (Stuart Donnelly, Legend Explorer Scout Unit Leader, Braintree District, Coggeshall, UK)

Simply because the BSA (as in British Scout Association) doesn’t offer a Donor Awareness program or badge on a formal basis doesn’t mean it can’t be done!

Right now, in the “other” BSA (the one on this side of the pond), although it still exists, the Donor Awareness program hasn’t received much energy in any number of years. When it was at its height, which was probably 15 or so years ago, Scouting units were free to develop their own scheme for earning the badge (i.e., there was no set of “national” requirements). Typically, the badge was awarded to a Cub Scout or Boy Scout when he is successful in getting an adult family member, friend, relative, or other acquaintance to agree to become an organ donor, and to fill out and carry an Organ Donor Card in their wallet. Other requirements, however, certainly did exist. When I was a Scout leader (more directly than I am now, as a commissioner), I required that our Scouts read up on both organ donations and blood bank donations, and then we all went to a local blood bank (this one was actually in a hospital) where the managing nurse there explained to the Scouts how the place worked and the actual steps in the donating process itself, with myself as the “lab rat” (I’ve been a regular blood bank donor for years). Then, they were to go home and explain this to their families (but I didn’t require that they get someone to “sign on the dotted line”). At the next Scout meeting, all who had done these things received his badge! This was one of the more fun activities we had, especially when the weather was not amenable to outdoorsy stuff!

So, if you’ve a mind to do this yourself, I don’t know that there’s anything to stop you. If you go to and search for item #5152, you’ll see that badges are available for 2.59 USD (or 1.59 BPS) plus shipping–not a bad conversion ratio, I’d say!

Thanks for finding me, and for writing. If you do decide to go ahead with this, I’d love to hear from you on how it all went! Cheers!

Hello Andy,

First, thank you for all of your words of wisdom. I’ve found them very helpful, from my days as a Tiger Den Leader right up to now, as a Scoutmaster.

I have some questions regarding leadership tenure for a dual-registered young man: Boy Scout and Venturer. He’s a Life Scout (BOR 12/14/10) making the last-minute run toward Eagle. He’ll age out on July 31st. He’s currently the Senior Patrol Leader of the troop, with this leadership term ending in March, and he’ll need an additional 3-½ months of leadership tenure to meet the requirement for Eagle. As I see it, this young man has about twice as many leadership opportunities to choose from (either elected or appointed) due to his dual registration, correct? Should he choose a Venturing leadership position to finish out his tenure, then will the Crew Advisor (also an ASM with the troop who has known the scout a couple of years longer than I have) be the “unit leader” for the Eagle service project, and do the “Scoutmaster conference”? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. (Tom Meyer, SM, San Diego Imperial Council, CA)

OK, so a successful Life review on 12/14/10 and an 18th birthday on July 31, 2011 gives him 7-1/2 months. His tenure as his troop’s Senior Patrol Leader will end in mid-March and when that time comes, he’ll need 3-1/2 more months in a position of responsibility completed prior to July 31 in order to meet the stipulations of requirement 4. There are several avenues available. The first is for the troop to extend his current position for another 3-1/2 months, especially if he’s been doing a good job as SPL per the criteria the troop has for this position. This way, the paperwork is a breeze. The second avenue is for him to get elected or appointed to some other position of leadership within the troop in mid-March, which he can do right up till his 18th birthday! OA Troop Representative and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (with a list of specific responsibilities), and Chaplain Aide (if he has this particular inclination and the troop actually has a Chaplain) come to mind. All of these options nimbly and properly keep the paperwork (and the Scout) within the troop, which will be the simplest, when it comes to processing. If, on the other hand, these can’t be brought to bear, then a position in the Venturing crew will need to be considered. If he’s even considering stepping onto this path instead of keeping his Eagle path within the troop, then I’d recommend that you and he conference (eyeball-to-eyeball; no email back-and-forth forever stuff) with the District Advancement Chair both for insights and for recommendations on how to handle paperwork, will he finish as an Eagle as a member of his troop or his crew, and so forth. The DAC will be in a position to guide you best, and better to know beforehand than be surprised later on! Do, however, keep in mind that this Scout has every right to decide to complete his Eagle requirements at this point in his life. There is only one Eagle Scout rank application; there is no “Old Eagle” application, no “just under the wire Eagle” application, and no “11th Hour Eagle” application, anymore than there’s a “young Eagle” application or “baby Eagle” application. Best wishes to this young man and thanks to you for being there for him!

Hello Andy,

I read your answer on the number of people on the troop committee and I disagree with you. The troop I’m with asks that a parent for each Scout consider joining the committee, especially if they want to come on camping or other overnight events, since by joining the committee a background check is done by the BSA national office, as to the suitability of their participation with boys. (The “scout parent” classification doesn’t give this level of protection to the boys.) (Georg Dahl, Tidewater Council, VA)

PS, As a District Development Chair, (new name for Advancement Chair) I’d love to have the “problem” of having 13 year old Eagles Scouts in my district!

Parents can attend troop hikes and campouts without being registered with the BSA. Boy Scouting isn’t “Cub Family Camping” but now in tan shirts. On any hike or campout, the best troops have as few adults along as possible (the GTSS provides for this); not as many as possible. Why? Because in Boy Scouts the emphasis is on BOY—Boys hike, camp, learn from, give leadership to, develop duty rosters, complete Tenderfoot through First Class requirements with OTHER BOYS; not with Mommy and Daddy. Lots o’ parents camping an hiking with their Scout sons is “Webelos 3″—it’s certainly not Boy Scouting!


At summer camp,the female Venturing crew members were told that they had to wear shorts and a t-shirt or tank top over their swim suits. The females all had packed one-piece, tank-type swim suits (similar to those worn by swim team members). (Meanwhile, we adult female leaders were not advised that we needed to wear anything more “covering” than whatever swim suit we had.)

When asked why with the girls, we were told it’s for “safety” reasons. When I then pressed for a better answer as to what was the “danger” and how wet shorts and t-shirts clinging over a tank-style swim suitprotected females in a well-supervised swim area from “danger,” I was then advised that it was a BSA “rule.” I went to the computer that afternoon and couldn’t find this “rule.” and then I was advised that it was a “camp rule.” I pulled out my copy of the camp rules, and no mention was made of the type of swimwear. I advised the camp director that the rules should state that one-piece, tank-style swim suits were recommended for females.

Once home, I couldn’t find any rule that references the banning of “Speedo”-type swim wear for males nor any requirement for female crew members to wear one-piece suits only nor any wearing of t-shirts.

We really like the camp, but the “rule” seems to suggest that hormonal-crazed adolescent males will be rendered rapacious at the sight of teenage females wearing a tank-type swim suit. But only at Scout camp, because these same males see females wearing far skimpier swim suits at the local swimming pool. (RJ, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

I’m rolling on the floor over this one, I must admit!

Of course! the BSA has no “rules” about what young people should or shouldn’t wear, other than stating that we’re a uniformed organization and wearing the uniform of the program you’re in is always the right thing to do.

I was an aquatics director for three of the seven years I was employed at BSA summer camps. In my era, no person of the female persuasion was a youth member of the BSA, so we uninformed lads had to swim or paddle a fair distance to discover for ourselves what the proper swimming attire was for Girl Scouts, at the Girl Scout camp across the lake. Gee Whiz! They all looked pretty normal, and acted as normally as we did, because they now had the opportunity to learn for themselves what boys of the he-man persuasion wore while swimming (or paddling)! Since they didn’t seem to be horrified or in fear of some imminent “danger” and since we young men were able to subdue our crazed nerve endings, all was well and ended well.

Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to not comment in any sort of negative judgmental manner on fashions or the ways girls and women choose to attire and accessorize themselves; thus I have survived one wife and three daughters, and helped three sons avoid the dangers inherent in women’s fashions, especially those related to ablutions or other aquatic merriment.

In short, you were obviously handed a bunch of baloney made up by someone who’s either a complete prude or totally lily-livered. Bottom line: If you like the camp well enough to tolerate this nonsense, go on back (and you might consider taking the “rule” to absurdity–just for the fun of it). If it’s truly intolerable or severely uncomfortable, then I’m afraid you’ll be looking for another camp to go to!

Thanks for making my day!

Happy Scouting!



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March 4, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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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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