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Issue 262 – June 28, 2011

Andy’s Rule No. 15:

  • Everyone succeeds one hundred percent of the time…at what they’re really up to.

Andy’s Rule No. 16:

  • Scouts and teabags: You never know how strong they can really be till they get themselves in a bit of hot water.

Andy’s Rule No. 17:

  • The only sensible answer to the question, “May I be brutally honest?” is, “No.”

Andy’s Rule No. 18:

  • Beware any Scouter who’d rather be wrong than take the time to look it up.

Dear Andy,

I’ve just returned from taking my troop to summer camp for the 22nd consecutive year. Igot into quite an interesting discussion with some of the other leadersconcerning whether or not to remove our hats at flag raising and lowering ceremonies.

My son was in the Marine Corps for eight years and he said that military protocol doesn’t requiretaking your hat off during a flag ceremony if you’re in uniform, whether it’s the Utility (MCCUU), Dress, Service, or Evening Dress. I’m imagining that this is the same for all branches of our country’s armed forces, and probably law enforcement as well.

But what about Scouts and Scouters? Where can I find the BSA’s protocols for this? For instance, what if a Scout’s wearing his “Class A” uniform? What about a “Class B” or how about a Scout T-shirt? Does it make a difference whether or not his headgear is an official BSA hat or cap, or not? Actually, what counts as a “Scout hat”—does this mean it must be an official BSA hat from a Scout Shop or the BSA National Supply Division, or can it be a hat from the Philmont “Tooth of Time Traders” store, or a hat or cap from a Scout camp, or a specially-designed troop hat or cap?

Some leaders at camp and at home insist that, regardless of the origin of the headgear, it should be removed during a flag ceremony, but other leaders, particularly those with military backgrounds have a entirely different view on this.

What’s actually correct for Scouts and Scouters, and where’s this written down? (Greg Maus, SM, W.D. Boyce Council, IL)

Let’s see if we can’t cut through this hairball for you by referring to… The Boy Scout Handbook.

I’m going to reference four handbooks: Edition 1 (1911-14, called at that time, “The Original Handbook for Boys”), Edition 10 (1990-98), Edition 11 (1998-09), and Edition 12 (2009-).

The first edition simply said (page 14): “When the three fingers thus (referring to an illustration of a hand in the Scout sign position) held are raised to the forehead, it is the scout salute.”

The 10th Edition, page 475, with a photograph of an uncovered (i.e. hatless) Scout saluting, states: “When you are wearing your Scout uniform with or without a cap, greet the flag with a Scout salute.”

The 11th Edition, page 7, with an illustration of an uncovered Scout saluting, states: “The Scout salute shows respect. Use it to salute the flag of the United States of America… Give the Scout salute by forming the Scout sign with your right hand and then bringing that hand upward until your forefinger touches the brim of your hat or the arch of your right eyebrow. The palm of your hand should not show.”

The 12th Edition, page 20, with a photograph of an uncovered Scout saluting, states: “Form the Scout sign with your right hand, then finish the salute by bringing that hand up, palm down, until your forefinger touches the brim of your hat or the tip of your right eyebrow. The Scout salute is a form of greeting that also shows respect. Use it to salute the flag of the United States of America…”

OK, so that takes care of the salute, and as you can see it’s been the same from “day one.” But how does this coordinate with what you’re wearing?

For the uniform versus “civvies” aspect, we need first to recognize that The Boy Scout Handbook says there’s just one Scout uniform. That’s right: The BSA has never recognized “Class A” and/or “Class B” terminology. (A quick bit of research suggests that these terms crept into unofficial Scouting lingo by the men and women mustered out of the military following the end of WWII who later became Scouting volunteers.)

Using the current handbook, you’ll find a description of the BSA Scout uniform on page 33. (Notice that the young man on the left side of that page is wearing the official Scout uniform while the young man on the right is wearing clothing that doesn’t constitute a Scout uniform. Now go back to pages 18-19; looking closely at the photos there you’ll notice that Scouts and Scouters in uniform are employing the Scout salute—both with and without headgear—while those not in uniform (per the handbook) are using what’s commonly called the “civilian” method of respect to our flag by removing any headgear and placing their right hand over their heart.

So we figure we’ve got the answer… Until we read the current Senior Patrol Leader Handbook. The handbook makes a totally unique statement with regard to uniforms. In its Chapter 2-Building Troop Spirit, it says (see page 34), “A troop’s activity uniform may include a T-shirt emblazoned with the troop’s emblem or some other significant reminder of the troop’s identity” (italics mine). This is the one and only place I’ve ever found that calls a T-shirt part of an “activity “uniform.” Assuming that this isn’t an error or oversight, we actually have leave to employ the Scout salute (with or without headgear) when an “activity uniform” is worn! How about that!

So, with all this covered, I’m going to go out on a limb and add a personal observation, which you can take or ignore as you see fit…

If I were Scoutmaster of a troop in camp, and at, let’s say, morning flag-raising, my Scouts were all looking sharp in Scout shorts and socks, identical BSA or troop-designed caps or hats, and identical BSA or troop-designed or camp T-shirts, I’d use the Scout salute. I’d do this because two of our objects in Scouting are to instill a spirit of citizenship in these young men and also to encourage them, as Scouts, to feel special and bonded, and I believe that this is a subtle (and harmless!) way to reinforce these objectives.

Dear Andy,

I had the opportunity to have my three boys go through the God and Me program at our local church. They completed all the requirements and subsequently all should have received the religious emblem for this, but only my two Wolf Cubs received it. My Tiger Cub didn’t receive the emblem because, they said, the BSA doesn’t have a religious emblem (“square knot”) for Tigers. How logical is that? Why would the BSA endorse a program that includes Tigers but then denies them the emblem? I understand that the emblem is “church-sponsored” while the square knot is the “BSA” side of the recognition, but one without the other makes no sense to me. Does this mean that my son will have to go through the program all over again next year in order to receive what he’s already earned? What do we expect him to learn new, a second time? Isn’t this redundant? (Edgardo Rodriguez, Heart of America Council, KS-MO)

Thanks for finding me and for taking the time to write.

Somebody got it wrong, misled you, and denied your son what he’s entitled to. You can make a fuss, or you can go to your local Scout Shop, buy your son the square knot (show them the medal!), and get it sewn on his shirt (centered directly over the left pocket flap). A wise father will, I believe, take care of his son, first and always.

Dear Andy,

My son is working on the Aquatics part of the National Outdoor Activities Badge. He’s taken BSA Kayaking twice at summer camp. Can this time be used towards the 25 hours of on-the-water time required for this section? (It seems strange that kayaking isn’t specifically listed.) (Robin Putnam, MC, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

Interesting question, and I can see why you’re asking. Let’s look at the pivotal requirements:

1. Earn at least one of the following merit badges: Canoeing, Rowing, Small Boat Sailing, Whitewater. Complete at least 25 hours of on-the-water time, applying the skills that you learned in the merit badges.

2. Complete at least 50 hours of any combination of swimming, canoeing, rowing, small-boat sailing, or whitewater activity under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including time spent in requirements 2 through 4.

Notice that there’s a connection between the on-the-water time and four specific merit badges, none being Kayaking, because there’s no specific merit badge for that skill. However, there’s Whitewater, which does have a kayak option, so perhaps your son was practicing for this merit badge (hint, hint)? Since practicing a merit badge skill can be done by the Scout absent a Counselor because it’s specifically for practice and not for qualifying on or completing a requirement, and since there’s hardly a point to doing Kayaking BSA all over again, I’m convinced that the extra effort in the kayak must have been your son’s practicing for Whitewater merit badge, which then addresses NOA-Aquatics req. 1. (Are you getting me here?)

Hi Andy,

Our Scoutmaster seems overwhelmed by his responsibilities. He believes that “one rank advancement a year” per Scout is just fine. The troop’s equipment is a mess. The Scouts spend a lot of time working on merit badges in troop meetings. Camping has been cut to a minimum: Two-day camping trips (which was our “norm” for a long while) have been cut to one-day hikes. If there’s cooking involved, it’s mostly done by the adults and when Scouts are assigned cooking detail, there are too few Scouts being given tasks that a patrol should have (for instance, one Scout being assigned responsibility for cooking and preparing literally 40 meatball sandwiches), and then the Scoutmaster complains that the food’s no good. We’ve really taken a nosedive. Out of 20 in the troop, just four are going to summer camp, compared to five years ago, when 25 out of some 40 went. Of 19 Webelos who crossed over just a few months ago, only one is still in the troop. Any tips on bringing a troop back to life? (Name & Council Withheld)

No BSA-published book on Boy Scouting I’ve ever seen talked about “a rank a year.” Advancement is at the Scout’s initiative and discretion, and at a bare minimum troops need to provide ongoing programs so that Scouts have the opportunity to go from receiving their Scout (which isn’t a rank) badge to earning First Class inside their first year.

If a Scout decides he’d like to be Life rank before his 12th birthday, or his 13th birthday, this is absolutely do-able and is absolutely OK by the BSA. If he wants to do this by his 16th or 17th birthday, he’s entitled to make that decision, too (although, between us chickens, I’d probably encourage him to step up his energy-level on this, just a little bit). To further start fixing this troop, the Senior Patrol Leader needs to appoint a Quartermaster, and the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair need to recruit a parent—troop committee member or not, it doesn’t matter—to provide guidance to the Scout on how to organize and inventory the troop’s gear and then establish some protocols and standards on checking out and checking in equipment. This is not the Scoutmaster’s job, for goodness sakes!

Patrol cooking on camp-outs, period. Adults cook for themselves and don’t use the Scouts as their “kitchen crew.” Patrols decide on their menus, buy the food, carry it in, cook it, and clean up—all by patrols. If you don’t do this, you’re simply not delivering the Scouting program.

The more I read your tale of woe, the more it becomes apparent that the fastest way to turn this troop around is: Replace the Scoutmaster with somebody who “gets it.” Until and unless this happens, this troop is doomed. Yup, it’s that basic. Problem is: You already knew this before you wrote to me! Darned shame!

Dear Andy,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your column on “Fruit Salad, Christmas Trees, & Generals.” It got me to thinking: Should any Scouter (or Scout) ever approach another who has uniform errors, and if so, how to do it without starting WWIII?

Common hiccups I’ve noticed include non-Jamboree patches above the right pocket, silver shoulder loops with a Scoutmaster position patch, district and council position patches under unit numerals, multiple position patches (I’ve actually seen four on one sleeve!), adults with rank badges on their left pocket, and the list goes on… In most cases, especially when it’s just a single glitch, I’ve discretely pointed out to a Scout that a patch is in the wrong place (usually it’s a parent’s sewing error)

In one particular case, I just avoided approaching the subject altogether because it was obvious to many that the Scouter was “making a statement” that Scouting was “all about the patches”—He actually had a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, and District Committee patches all together on his left sleeve, plus a den numeral and not one but two patrol emblems on his right sleeve, “temporary” patches on both pockets, and an assortment of pins on his collar and pocket flaps. So, what to do? (Chris Roy, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

With fellow Scouters, I’m of the belief that we need to never overlook an opportunity to zipper our lip, because unless the Scouter’s a “direct report” (e.g., Den Leader-to-Cubmaster, ASM-to-Scoutmaster, Unit Commissioner-to-District Commissioner) we’ll get ourselves branded “patch police” and any bovine will tell you branding never ever goes away! If we’re in a direct report situation, let the Uniform Inspection Sheet be the “bad guy;” not you.

With Cub Scouts, fine-tuning is Den Leader’s job, using the appropriate inspection sheet.

With Boy Scouts, run a “practice” uniform inspection with the sheets, and do this via the “buddy” method, so that each Scouts evaluates his buddy’s uniform, then they exchange sheets. Couple of weeks later, do it again and see where you are. Then, invite your Unit Commissioner to come by and do the annual uniform inspection that’s part of the UC’s job description.

The best way I’ve found to head off problems at the youth-in-unit level is to give the parents of each new Scout a copy of the appropriate inspection sheet and then open their son’s handbook to show the parents the inside front and back covers, so they understand that using these templates will keep things where they’re supposed to be.

Finally, again at the unit level, if your unit insists on handing out patches for every bloody thing (e.g., the “Totin’ Chip” patch, the “Pinewood Derby” patch, “Uniform Inspection,” “Klondike Derby,” “Went Potty,” “Brushed Most Teeth,” and so on ad nauseam ), explain that these are for the Scout’s collection; they don’t need to go on the uniform and if they do, then one can be worn on the right pocket and that’s it—it’s decision time.

Oops, one more point… Often, especially with parents, they’ll ask about a patch at the local Scout Shop, and somebody there will tell them, “Oh, that goes (wherever).” These people are usually clerks and/or hourly employees, and although they’re certainly well-meaning they aren’t the experts they may like to believe they are. So do tell your parents to take a moment and rely the inspection sheet and their son’s handbook!

Dear Andy,

I have a soon-to-be six year-old son. I started as a Cub Scout and went all the way through and earned my Eagle—one of my proudest accomplishments in life. (I’ve often told people over the years that I use more I learned in Scouts than I ever learned from a school book.) Needless to say, I’m excited that my son is now close to starting his own journey in Scouting; however, there are no Cub packs in my town linked to any of the Boy Scout troops or schools. After talking with a few people around town, I’ve decided to try getting Cub Scouts started again. I need help and advice as to how to go about this. Who do I need to talk to? Do I need backing from the BSA? I’ll be starting from scratch, and any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. (Mark Swords)

The best and in fact the only place for you to go for advice, support, and sanction is your local council service center. Looks like you’re in the Greater Alabama Council, so call ’em up and ask to speak with the District Executive who covers the town you live in, describe your situation and what you’re interested in doing, and schedule a face-to-face meeting.

Hi Andy,

I have a question regards service stars. As a boy and young man, I was in three different Scouting organizations. I was a Cub Scout for two years in the U.K., a Sea Scout for four years in South Africa, and now I’ve just completed my fourth year as a Cub Scout Den Leader in the BSA. With this background, is it OK for me to wear a ten-year service star showing a combination of service in the three organizations, or should I be wearing only the one that reflects BSA service? (James, Longhorn Council, TX)

Understanding that this is my opinion and not a decision handed down from “Mount BSA,” Scouting, to me, is Scouting world-wide, and so in your shoes I’d wear a service star with the light blue background (that’s for “combined” youth and adult years, in common practice) and “10” in the center of it (they’re $1.29 at or your local Scout shop), and then update it as you see fit. Thanks for what you’ve done, and all you’re continuing to do!

Dear Andy,

In your June 10th column, about policies on electronics, your opinion was no electronics on outings. Our troop has had that policy for a long time and it’s always been a struggle to enforce it. Recently, at Wood Badge, one of the other patrols introduced an idea that a troop in Minnesota developed: They decided that they’d teach the Scouts responsible use of electronics the same as we teach them the responsible use of knives and other tools. We’ll be introducing this to our troop soon. Here’s the link: (Rick Wills, SM, Pikes Peak Council, CO)

Yes, I’ve seen the “Tech Chip” concept. It begins with this statement: “Some Scout units ban electronic devices, such as cellphones, iPods, games, and radios, creating a situation in which adults become policemen, enforcing rules rather than training Scouts. These same ‘policemen’ usually exempt themselves from the ban, causing an unfair environment. Some even confiscate devices, putting themselves at a financial risk for that device.”

This is where we part company. You see, I don’t accept the notion that Scoutmasters, ASMs, Senior Patrol Leaders, Patrol Leaders and such need to become “cellphone cops” or “policemen” for any inappropriate items, including (but hardly limited to) Gameboys, iPods and other MP3 players, Playboy and other magazines, alcoholic beverages, iPhones and others, iPads, sheath knives, lighter fluid and other flammables, cigarettes and other tobacco products, and so on. I’m a believer in the Scout Oath and Law and the rule of good sense. There’s absolutely no way I would expect otherwise decent Scouts and Scouters to need to go through searches of any kind. To my mind, “Please leave this stuff at home” is sufficient. If that’s unrealistic and naive, I’m guilty as charged and I refuse to be otherwise, thank you very much.

Dear Andy,

This question’s concerns the Merit Badge Counselor policy. I understand the process by registering with one’s council to teach seven merit badges per register form: All three of our troop’s leaders plus our Committee Chair are signed up to counsel and teach merit badges. The question: If a Scout wants to do another merit badge that’s not on one of the Merit Badge Counselors’ form, and we can’t find one, does the Scout just wait till the troop finds someone among the adults to, fill out a new Merit Badge Counselor form and do it? The particular merit badge is Personal Fitness, and the Scout has done all the work and documented all the requirements. (Lowell Phillips, SM,

Coronado Area Council, KS)

The advancement committees of all BSA councils are charged with developing and maintaining rosters of Merit Badge Counselors for, if possible, every one of the 120+ merit badges available to Scouts, and without question all of the merit badges on the Eagle Scout “required” list, so that all Scouts in all troops have access to as many MBCs as possible. It seems highly unusual that your council doesn’t have several or more MBCs available for Personal Fitness, in light of its being Eagle-required and that in an average year well over 50,000 Scouts earn it (it’s the 15th-most earned merit badge!) nationally. When is the last time you checked with your council advancement committee and procured their most current MBC list?

Second point: I’m terribly sorry that this Scout was encouraged—either directly or indirectly—to proceed on his own, because this defeats better that 50% of the purpose of the BSA merit badge program, and turns the MBC into little more than a signature, without ever having established a relationship with the Scout or imparted his or her own particular wisdom and insights about the subject matter (which is why people sign on to be Counselors, in the first place!). (The easiest way to defeat 50% of the purpose of the BSA merit badge program is for adults active in a troop—Scoutmaster, ASM, committee member, etc.—to sign on as Merit Badge Counselors for Scouts in the same troop.

The best recommendation I can offer you is to get in touch with the Coronado Area Council service center, especially since it’s only about 38 miles away from you!

Dear Andy,

A few years back, it seems that there was a discussion about Tour Permits and Eagle projects. This topic came up again and rather than go off half-cocked I decided to review some BSA material. The “GTSS” used to be titled, “Guide to Safe Scouting for Unit Activities,” but the most recent edition is titled, “Guide to Safe Scouting, a Guide for Current Policies and Procedures.” Now if you go to the first line of the current Preface, it states, “The purpose of the Guide to Safe Scouting is to prepare members of the Boy Scouts of America to conduct Scouting activities in a safe and prudent manner.” Eagle projects aren’t unit activities but they are certainly Scouting activities. Has there been some subtle change that we’ve missed here?

In times past it’s been said by our council folks that if there’s no Tour Permit filed then there’s no insurance coverage. So if a tour permit isn’t filed for an Eagle project work day or session, and there’s an injury or accident (someone falls off of a shed roof, tree falls on a car, etc.) how do we address this? Can you provide any clarification? (Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)

According to the website, here are the conditions for which a tour plan (as it’s now called) will be filed:

• Trips of 500 miles or more

• Trips outside of council borders not to a council-owned property

• Trips to any national high-adventure base, national Scout jamboree, National OA Conference, or regionally sponsored event

• When conducting the following activities outside of council or district events: Aquatics activities (swimming, boating, floating, scuba, etc.) Climbing and rappelling Orientation flights (process flying plan) Shooting sports Any activities involving motorized vehicles as part of the program (snowmobiles, boating, etc.)

• At a council’s request.

So, if there’s a Scout activity (Eagle project, hike, bike-hike, whatever) that fits these criteria, then yes, file a tour plan. If not, for example if an Eagle project is going to be worked on and it’s inside the council borders, then a tour plan doesn’t seem to be necessary.

As for insurance, do remember that the BSA insurance is the very last insurance to kick in… Everything else will be used first. (So is this really a big deal?)

For confirmation, do check with your council’s health & safety or risk management committee.

Hello Andy,

I am an Eagle Scout, life-long Scouter, and now Scoutmaster of the troop I grew up with. I’ve run into two issues lately. Two Scouts insist on wearing “vintage” uniforms. One just likes the old uniforms and has pieced one together to make a complete 1970’s uniform. The other is wearing his grandfather’s uniform from the same time period (but I think its a Explorer shirt—it’s dark green). I love the old uniforms—I grew up in them—so I don’t mind them in the troop meetings, although I do remind these two Scouts, “That’s not really ‘uniform’ with your fellow Scouts, is it?”

So here’s the problem. Our troop performs several public flag ceremonies each year, and the vintage uniforms have shown up at these events. I hate to “sit out” these Scouts because I don’t want to discourage them, plus, I need them in the ceremony. Is there BSA policy on wearing these old uniforms?

The flag ceremony itself is my second question. Is there a set of standards for a BSA color or honor guard? When we attend these flag ceremonies as a color guards there are usually military veterans’ color guards there also, and they invariably have lots of “information” for us (most of which I already know and carry in writing, in my kit). The most recent “information” is that there must be an “armed” guard beside the American flag. I post a Scout there, of course, but these guys are insisting that he has to be “armed.” I told them that is probably against BSA policy and it’s not going to happen. I know they mean well and I’ve actually learned a few things, butI need some sort of BSA policy to show them. Do you have any ideas where I can find that information? Tom Hoover, SM, Mason-Dixon Council, MD)

To your first question, the BSA policy is that no official uniform or uniform part is ever “obsolete” and can’t be worn. If it’s got a BSA label in it, it’s OK to wear, according to the BSA. That said, the forest green shirts were originally for Explorers, later for Venturers, and never for Boy Scouts. So the Boy Scout who wears the forest green shirt needs to find some other shirt to wear, because that one’s not appropriate in this era or any past era, for a Boy Scout!

Further, on this uniform thing, I’m going to assume that these Scouts, like the rest in your troop, wear their uniforms from head to toe and not just limit themselves to the shirts and disregard the pants or shorts. That being the case, why exclude a Scout who’s otherwise in full uniform just because it’s “old.” To split hairs, would you exclude a Scout who wears red unit numerals and shoulder loops because they’ve now been replaced by the sort of olive-drab ones? If your answer’s no, then just chill a little bit and include the Scout, thankful he’s in complete uniform!

On the flag stuff, veterans can be a persnickety lot, but unfortunately they’re often a bit off the mark. Like with the notion that a color guard must be “armed” which is obvious nonsense. On line, you’ll find the U.S. Flag Code ( is a good start) and there’s no better resource, especially for the sort of minutia some former military will throw at you! Besides, you can always flip it right back around: “’Armed’? OK, YOU show ME in writing where it says that!”

Thanks, but like I said, I love the old uniforms, but they stick out in a color guard formation.

As for the color guard stuff, I guess I’m going to have to reply on good old fashioned diplomacy and agree to disagree. As a veteran myself, I understand their point, but they will have to accept that we are Boy Scouts and not anarmed paramilitary group.

Well, so the uniforms “stick out.” Is this really a big deal when all your Scouts are in full uniform? OK, here’s another approach… Hagerstown isn’t exactly “snow country”—at least not like North Dakota or Northern Illinois, or Vermont, so how about putting the color guard in shorts and knee socks, with neckerchiefs over rolled collars? Now, you’ve minimized the difference and they’re still all in uniform and looking like Scouts. As a military veteran yourself, you can definitely stand toe-to-toe with anyone who wants to turn our Scouts into junior para-military types, and tell ’em what B-P had to say about this stuff: “The Army trains men for war; Scouting trains boys for peace.” Hoo-Rah!

Dear Andy,

I’m Cubmaster of a growing pack of now 80 Cubs. While growth is great, it’s caused some problems and I need some advice. We have tried to keep our dens at six to eight boys, but as time goes by and new ones join, we’ve had to add additional boys to each den. The problem occurs when we have a nice-size group and then a new boy joins; then another joins, and then another next year. Now the den that was eight is 11—no longer the size den that the Den Leader signed up to lead, and it’s now starting to affect the quality of the program being offered. Is it fair to the original eight to have to split? Is it right to ask three or four of the last to join to leave the den when some have been a part of it for two years, and create a separate den? One concern is disruption of the dynamics of the group that’s been developed over several years, and losing boys due to change. During several brief discussions with parents about possibly splitting the den, there were a number of families that didn’t want to lose their Den Leader and others who didn’t want to have a couple of the more disruptive boys (a couple of late-joiners) in what would be a smaller second den. I’m troubled with how to make a split while not making a few families feel like they’re being kicked out of the den. Right now the issue involves a Bear den, soon to be Webelos, but I can see the continued growth in the Wolf and Tiger ranks potentially creating the same problems in their dens later on. The idea has been discussed to regroup all the boys from all three Bear dens as they start the Webelos program and form new dens, but again I’m worried that the close bonds and good work dynamic of the current den groups will be lost, or families will quit over the change. I know there’s no magic answer or solution, but any insight on how others have handled overgrown den size would be greatly appreciated. Also, any ideas on how to keep this from happening with our Wolf and Tiger dens? (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re absolutely right that no den should be more than eight boys. More than that is unfair to the Den Leader and can lead to early burn-out, especially if the pack has no mandates about the parents of additional boys taking up the slack (more on this point in a moment). So, for any den of ten or more, here’s the deal: The boys and their parents are told by the Den Leader (with the Cubmaster or Committee Chair there, for support—which will be needed!) that this den is too much for him/her to handle and that it’s going to be divided into two dens of five (or whatever the split number would be) boys each, and that’s what we’re going to do right now. So, for the next five minutes or so, the boys divide themselves up, and the current Den Leader stands by his/her son and the four other boys who will be in the new (and now manageable) den. Then, the Cubmaster or Committee Chair (whoever is there) tells the five or more parents in what will become the second den for this age/grade group: “OK, folks, now you need to decide who will be the Den Leader and who will be the Assistant Den Leader.” Then they’re left alone to decide this, and no “rescuing” when they can’t “decide”! (This may sound harsh, but tell me what other option will work better!)

OK, so you now have dens of no more than eight, and several in the five-to-seven range. Great! This means that, when a new boy wants to join, so long as the total number in the den doesn’t exceed eight, he can do so. However, when he does, it’s with the precise understanding that the parent will become either a trained Assistant Den Leader or a trained committee member (and give no ground on this).

Now for the future, since you seem to be picking up boys throughout the year across the various grades/ranks, you may want to limit new (the ones that form at the beginning of each school year, starting with Tigers) den sizes to a maximum of five or six, to allow for growth to a maximum of eight.

When a den is at eight and a new boy (and his parents) want to join up, you may have to tell the parents that the den is actually full, and the best way to get their son into Cub Scouting is either to find another pack or—the preferred way—to round up at least three more boys and start a new den, with one of the parents signing on as Den Leader. You see, your Den Leaders are being overwhelmed by at least two factors. The first one is that parents new to Scouting, and especially Cub Scouting, don’t necessarily know that packs are run entirely by volunteers. Consequently, their question of “why can’t you take my son” is based on fee-based organizations like the Y and others, where it’s always “the more the better” because that’s how those organizations generate revenues! The second factor is the classic “BSA means Baby-Sitters-of-America,” and a large proportion of parents will go to great lengths to drop off their kids and pick up no responsibilities whatsoever! This is why it’s absolutely vital for you all to cure your “Scouters’ speech impediment”—the inability to say no. Sometime, the answer’s simply no, we are full up, unless you’d like to sign on as a Den Leader and get yourself trained in how to run a Cub Scout program for your son and his friends.

Dear Andy,

Our pack recently had our Blue & Gold Banquet, where the boys earned their Bear Badge. I understand that they can now start working on their Webelos badge, but do they actually become Webelos scouts at this point? (Carol Metz)

Between earning a rank before the end of the school year, and the end of the school year, any Cubs who have earned their Wolf badge work on Wolf Arrow Points, and any who earned their Bear badge work on Bear Arrow Points. Bears become Webelos Scouts at the end of the school year, so that they can start working on Webelos badge requirements over the summer if their Den Leader chooses (remember that Webelos requirements are no longer parent-and-son; they’re done with their Den Leader, in den meetings).

Dear Andy,

A new Venturing crew is being formed as an offshoot from our troop, and they’re setting their own policy of “only high school students allowed.” In fact, the crew’s Associate Advisor told me that if my presently 13 year-old (he turns 14 in September) son applied to be a member he wouldn’t be approved because he hasn’t completed 8th grade! I responded that, according to BSA policy, Venturing crews are allowed to have young people age 13 and completed 8th grade, or reached the age of 14 regardless of grade. His reply was that this doesn’t matter, and said, “Call district, call council, or you can sue me, but he’s not going to be allowed in this Venturing crew.” After few minutes of back-and-forth discussion, he used an unacceptable expletive, as in “Just go dowhat you…want to do, but I’m done talking about it!” This exchanged occurred in front of three other leaders, one of whom pulled me aside to make the exchange stop. Until that moment, I had tremendous respect for his knowledge, experience, and support of the troop and the Scouts. Now what do I do? (Name & Council Withheld)

Briefly, you may want to find another troop and/or crew for your son… There’s obviously bad blood here and it’s not likely to evaporate all by itself or very soon. Now the other thing is that the joining requirements for Venturing have recently changed and you should confirm the changes with your council service center or the person in charge of Venturing in your council.

Hi Andy,

Seems every time I see any references to Scouting safety and liability, there’s always a comment admonishing the reader to make sure they have the “latest issue.” Well, what’s the “latest issue”? The GTSS doesn’t come out on a schedule, and weblinks may or may not be current. Short of downloading a copy at every mention and looking it over line-by-line, how do we make sure? I’ve even been handed out-of-date copies by folks you’d think would be in a position to have known better.

Suggestion: Since GTSS issues have no set expiration date, why not clearly mark the first page in large font and have a BSA web link with the current number? As in, “For current version number, visit www.___” Websites mentioning the GTSS could also provide a link below links that supply copies. This would eliminate out-of-date downloads, as once the numbers don’t match, the website would get flooded with a pile of requests for the newest version! (Jerry Elya, ASM, Gerald R Ford Council, OH)

According to the BSA, the most current version of the GTSS is always the on-line version, found at On folks maybe not getting thing quite right, as far as currency is concerned, remember that the big items rarely change and the little stuff may be fine-tuned but rarely completely overhauled. And remember that we’re 99.999% volunteers here!

Happy Scouting!



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June 28, 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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