Andy’s Rule No. 19:
- The extent of politics in any organization is inversely proportional to its ability to show results.
First of all, my thanks to you for your column. I read it regularly and often share what you’ve said with others or refer them to your column. Always good sense and good advice!
Now, I’m writing for clarification. In your June 4th column, you mentioned that two uniform items are “troop options”—the headgear and the neckerchief. We’re a fully uniformed troop, and the Scouts have adopted distinctive “half-and-half” red-and-black neckerchiefs. They also adopted red berets (we found a source for red wool berets that are close facsimiles of the old Scout berets, so we attached a troop insignia to them) and our guys look sharp and take pride in how they look!
So here’s my question: You said in that column, “If the Scouts want to wear the red BSA berets that were popular in the 70’s, and you can find them or find facsimiles of them, then you’re good to go. But the Scouts need to know that the original red BSA beret or a virtually identical red beret is their only beret option. Also, once the decision’s made by the Scouts, it applies to everyone—adults included.” So, if Scouts can vote on headgear, why is the red beret the only beret option? Why can’t they choose another color, like the olive green that’s been featured in the “Centennial” uniforms? We’re not planning on changing, but we do have a local troop that chose yellow ball caps and neckerchiefs. Is this OK, but a different beret color isn’t? Secondly, you said that the decision by the Scouts applies to everyone, including adults. When our Scouts adopted the berets, they asked the Scoutmasters to wear campaign hats, and we’ve been doing so ever since! In fact, getting a campaign hat has become a “rite of passage” for those Scouts who turn 18 and want to become ASM’s. Have we violated BSA uniform policy? Thanks for your consistent support of uniforming in Scouting. (Dennis Freeman, SM, Trapper Trails Council, WY)
My initial homework tells us that no official BSA uniform part is ever “obsolete,” and so since red berets were a part of the uniform in the 70’s, they’re still perfectly “legal” today. From this, I extrapolated that other colors wouldn’t necessarily be OK, even if those colors happened to match the current uniform palette, because they’re not an official part of the Boy Scout uniform. So, cool as a forest green beret may be, I felt restricted to suggest that these probably wouldn’t be OK.
But further research changes the playing field… According to the BSA’s “Uniform Inspection Sheet,” Scouts and their leaders may wear “troop-approved headgear” and there are no further guidelines. So, despite my own propensity to being conservative and traditional, with a leaning toward choosing from what the BSA makes (or has made) available rather than going out and designing headgear with graphics and so on, because this gets us into the sticky wicket of graphic standards and such, which muddies the waters pretty quickly, my own propensity would be to use what’s available rather than reinventing the wheel. However, that’s my leaning; it’s not a BSA policy.
The BSA policy says that troops can indeed design their own headgear and neckerchiefs, which opens up a whole new arena, making your split-color neckerchiefs, and berets of any color, plus baseball-style as well as “trucker-style” troop caps, “boonies,” “Smokey Bear” hats, and so forth perfectly OK, per BSA standards! Furthermore, if the troop approved the idea of leaders wearing campaign (aka Smokey Bear) hats OK, then they’re OK with the BSA (and therefore me) too!
Our troop has been debating on the red berets. We have a few Scouts who wear the old BSA red berets, and I’ve heard and read some stuff that says that it’s OK to do that. But we also have some old hardliners who are very much opposed to the Scouts wearing them. We’ve provided the Scouts with a nice troop baseball hat, but these don’t get worn much. A proposal to outfit the troop with red berets is under consideration.
Are BSA red berets an approved part of the scout uniform? Is a red beret the only color a Scout can wear? (I’ve seen other colors on the internet.) Is it OK to purchase a beret and apply a Scout or troop logo to it, no matter the color? To make it official, must the scout only wear a BSA-approved red beret?
Thank you very much for your help, insights, opinion, and any other information you can provide, to confirm or disprove the beret debate. (Roger Burcroff, Great Lakes Council, MI)
The short answer’s that any color beret, so long as the Scouts have voted for it, is OK according to the BSA’s “Boy Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet.”
I just read your June 28th column and feel compelled to point out an error… You said that the forest green shirt was never authorized for Boy Scouts, only for Explorers and, more recently, Venturers. I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’re not correct…
Back in the ‘70s, the BSA had a little thing they called the Leadership Corps, which was a part of a Scout troop initially made up of senior Scoutswho were 14 to 15 years old andat least First Class rank. Later, it included Scouts age 16 and up, butinitially it was anticipated that Scouts 16 and up would be made Junior Assistant Scoutmasters. The Senior Patrol Leader was the head of the Leadership Corps (which I think confused some folks into thinking the LC was just a fancy name for “Senior Patrol”). Anyway, the uniform shirt of the Leadership Corps was forest green, with the rest of the Boy Scout uniform remaining the same. The way to tell the difference between the green Explorer and the green Scout Leadership Corps shirts was the program patch over the pocket: The Leadership Corps shirt said “Scouts USA” and the Explorer shirt said “Explorers BSA.” (I was a member of both my troop’s Leadership Corps and an Explorer post, and had one of each green shirt.) Something else you may find interesting is that the red beret looked particularly sharp with the Leadership Corps uniform—in fact the red beret was initially only authorized for the Leadership Corps uniform. (Russell Johnson)
Yup, you’re correct…in a way. The Scout Leadership Corps was an optional program within a troop (meaning: troops could have such a group, or not—it was in no way mandatory) and if a troop did have such a group, they had the option of wearing forest green shirts (again, not mandatory—the Leadership Corps Scouts could continue to wear their normal Boy Scout shirts if they so chose). So yes, forest green shirts were “official” for a short time, but always on an optional basis.
This was, as you’ll recall, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War era, during which membership in any youth program associated with a “uniform” (both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) was devastated, and the BSA was doing everything it could possibly think of to find ways to appeal to boys and young men (and their anti-war parents!) at that time, so all sorts of “experimentation” was going on. Eventually, things settled down, and items like the berets, the forest green shirts for Boy Scouts, various background colors for rank badges, “skill awards” (basically Boy Scout belt loops), “progress awards” (instead of “ranks”), 24 merit badges for Eagle, and so on were rife. When the nation (finally) settled down a bit, so did Scouting, and returned to normalcy.
As for the berets, your troop may have chosen these for the Leadership Corps only, but again this was a troop option; not “national standard.”
So, I’ll take twenty lashes with a wet lanyard for my hiccups, but I’m hoping it won’t be more than twenty, because I’ll alternatively wear a BSA cap, my red beret, my Smokey Bear hat, and my original Garrison cap, as well as with my forest green yoke-neck shirt, and knee socks with…are you ready…garters and tabs!
For the past two years, our troop has been supporting the American Cancer Society’s “Relay For Life” event, and we’ve raised a lot of money for them by setting up tables and having our Scouts at storefronts around town. But this year, one of the people who stopped and talked to our Scouts and leaders said he was a retired Scout Executive and that if we want to raise money for organizations that aren’t Scouting, we shouldn’t be doing this in our uniforms. He said that the only time we can wear our uniforms is if we’re raising money for our Scout council and that otherwise we should be wearing Relay for Life t-shirts. Is this right? We thought it’s OK to help other organizations this way. Is this a Scout policy or something? (Name & Council Withheld)
If you all want to raise money for the Relay for Life or anything else, that’s OK, but that gentleman was right: No uniforms if it’s not a council fund-raiser, because instead of representing the BSA, you’re actually representing a different organization. And while we’re on the subject, I’d certainly hope you put at least as much effort into fund-raising for your own council as you do for the ACA or others! Meanwhile, it would be a good idea to check with your council service center folks before suiting up for an organization other than the BSA.
There’s a dispute between our troop and our local council on how Scouts are elected to the Order of the Arrow. One side is saying that only non-Arrowmen within a troop can vote; the opposition says that all Scouts in the troop vote; still another faction says that earning First Class rank is an automatic nomination for the OA. Can you bust through this confusion? (Tony Piatek, Longs Peak Council, CO)
Here’s what the official Order of the Arrow website says:
The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are:
– Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
– After registration with a troop or team, have experienced 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The 15 days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.
– Youth must be under the age of 21, hold the BSA First Class rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster…be elected by the youth members of their troop…
When the statement, “elected by the youth members of their troop…” is made, this means every Scout in the troop, whether they’re Arrowmen or not. Your local OA Lodge election team can describe the process in as much detail as you all need—Just call on them to attend a troop or troop committee meeting.
For summer Scout camp, do councils require adults to have up-to-date immunizations, verified by a licensed physician? Our problem is a parent who wants to accompany her son to camp with the troop, and she’s apparently entered a DPT inoculation year on her own that bears no resemblance to reality. What do we do? (Name & Council Withheld)
This is for the council and/or the camp health officer to deal with; not you or me. If this poor boy has a parent who needs to virtually sleep in his tent to be sure he’s safe at camp (I’m exaggerating, I hope!), there’s not a darned thing you can do… We simply cannot save kids from their own parents!
That said, this person is indeed a registered member of the BSA and is Youth Protection Training current, yes? If so, then just back away and don’t get in front of the fan! But…if somebody really has the chutzpah, then tell her flat out, nose-to-nose that “family camping” isn’t done and if she can’t leave her son alone at camp, then keep him home, rather than permanently embarrass him in front of his fellow Scouts.
Mamas: If yer son wants to grow up to be a cowboy, get outa his way!
Regarding Boards of Review, page 29 of the 2008 Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book says: “This board of review is made up of at least three and not more than six members of the troop committee…A Scout’s unit leaders, assistant unit leaders, relatives, or guardians may not serve as members of his board of review.” Does this mean that a Unit (or other) Commissioner can’t sit on boards of review? (Terry Roggow, UC, Transatlantic Council, Berlin, Germany)
Yup, that’s exactly what it means… Unless the board of review is for the rank of Eagle—That’s the only exception.
I’m replacing my Scouts leader’s shirt with one of the new types and need to place my trained patch on the short sleeve. Does it go below the left sleeve pocket—in effect on the cuff of the shirt —but below my Den Leader patch, or does it go above the pocket flap? I’ve seen it worn both ways and the manuals, websites, and even myscouting.org haven’t helped. (Dave Gossage, Southern Sierra Council, CA)
The BSA Insignia Guide, which is indeed available online, says: “Trained Leader emblem, No. 00280, is available for all leaders who have completed Fast Start Training and the Basic Leader Training program appropriate to their positions. The emblem is worn on the left sleeve immediately below and touching the emblem of office for which it was earned…The Trained Leader emblem may be worn only in connection with the emblem of office for which training has been completed.”
Meanwhile, the “Scout Leader Uniform Inspection Sheet,” also online, shows two places to put it: (1) Where there’s no pocket on the left sleeve, the trained insignia is placed immediately below and touching the position insignia for which it was earned, and (2) Where there’s a pocket on the left sleeve, the trained insignia is placed centered at the top of the pocket flap.
So, depending on the shirt you have, there are your options, with this guarantee: If you get it wrong, half of your close personal Scouting friends will promptly point this out to you, and the other half will whisper amongst themselves about how you got it wrong. <wink>
I was recently asked why a Pack would decide tonot givebelt loops to Webelos Scouts.My first reaction was to point out that in the Webelos Handbook,participation is required to complete some activity badges.Myunderstanding is that while belt loops are an optional program and separate from ranks, they’re nevertheless national recognitions and a part ofadvancement, which means thata pack doesn’t get tochoose to participate or not. Please let me know if I’ve gone off-course. (David Olson, UC, Northern Star Council, MN)
The Cub Scout Sports & Academics belt loop and pin program is indeed an optional program for dens and packs to use at their discretion. That said, if a standard Cub Scout/Webelos Scout/Arrow-of-Light Scout rank achievement or requirement asks for the earning of a belt loop or pin, and the boy has done so, then, having earned it, he should obviously receive it.
I’m researching fundraising ideas to present at our next pack committee meeting. I’ve heard from another pack that the BSA has a “founders group” and that if we do three “sponsored” BSA fundraisers we’d become eligible for this “founder group,” which would entitle us to earn some of our patches for free! I’ve been researching this subject to no avail. How can I find out what and which fundraisers are “BSA sponsored” and how we can become a “founders group” so that we, too, can earn free patches? (Nico Harrington)
I have a feeling we may have an apples and oranges situation here. Yes, there definitely is a new founder recognition by the BSA and you can read all about it at: www.scouting.org/filestore/
This, however, doesn’t appear to have anything to do with units involved in fund-raising, per se, unless your local council has developed some recognition of their own along these lines. As to which fund-raisers are “BSA sponsored,” these are typically annual Trails End Popcorn sales, the annual FOS (“Friends of Scouting”) campaign, and perhaps other events specifically sponsored by your council, in which it’s hoped units like yours will participate. So do take a moment to check further with the folks at your council service center—Call them up and ask to speak with the Revenue Development or Finance folks for further clarification and information.
I’m manager of a homeowners association, which is a chartered organization and I’d like to be sure that we’re fulfilling our responsibilities as such. Where can I find a source or reference to guide us? (Steve Hurwitz, National Capital Area Council, MD-VA)
Once a year, all chartered organization heads sign a specific agreement with the local BSA council that serves their area. If you can’t find your copy go to http://boyscouting.com/forms/
A Scout recently asked me about a project that would involve making a brochure for emergency situations. I’m not sure if it will qualify as fulfilling the leadership part of an Eagle project—it seems like it would have little supervision aspects. This Scout is a very gifted writer and is looking for ways to incorporate his talent into a project. Do you have any suggestions on how I can guide him? (Patrick Lesley)
If this Scout’s as sharp as you say, then a straightforward review of the language of the requirement coupled with a review of the project examples given in the ESLSP workbook will lead to this question: “So, Scout, where do you see the leadership component fitting into your idea, because you do understand that if the Eagle candidate never picks up a paintbrush, hammers a nail, or writes one single word of that brochure you have in mind, this would be considered a successful experience.” Of course, another aspect to be considered is the target audience for this brochure and how it will get in their hands. In all of this, don’t feel alone… If you’re a Scoutmaster, confer with your troop advancement coordinator; or vice-versa; and don’t forget that the District Advancement Committee and Chair are there to provide help and guidance, too! Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater unless everyone’s absolutely certain that the just won’t work!
I recently received an email from a Scout, but the Scout didn’t Cc anyone else when he sent his message to me. I’m pretty sure that I can’t reply to him, since this would be a violation of the youth protection “no one-on-one contact” policy. While this seems to make logical sense, I can’t find any written policy that deals specifically with email contact. Do you know of any written policy dealing with this issue? I don’t want to seem rude by not replying, but I don’t know this Scout or his family personally and he didn’t give me any other information about himself—not even his troop number—that would give me a means to contact him some other way. Is there any way that I can reply without violating YP policy? For instance, could I Cc another adult leader, such as another member of the district committee? Would that be acceptable? (Mark Huber, District Committee Member, Seneca Waterways Council, NY)
There’s no written policy specifically on emailing, or iming or tming either, because the blanket policy of no private one-on-one contact, per YPT and the GTSS. So, in replying to the Scout, simply follow your own good sense and copy someone else…a fellow Scouter, for example. If the communication is of a sensitive or personal nature, then instead of using “reply” (in which the original text will appear in the thread), send a separate email message to the Scout, copying your Scouting friend, in which you suggest to the Scout that further communications will have to include a copy to someone, or the two of you can meet one-on-one in public (like a Scoutmaster conference is done) in order to converse further. Local public libraries are excellent venues for such private-but-in-the-open conversations.
We have a Scout in our troop who has legitimately diagnosed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and the Scoutmaster is aware of it. This Scout has difficulty following through with broad instructions—not a new problem—however, when this happens the Scoutmaster gets frustrated and, in front of other leaders and other Scouts, makes disparaging comments to this Scout. (It should be noted no one is in danger at any time; it’s simply that the Scout has to be given a limited, specific, short-term instruction, and then be given another, and so on, rather than being given a “laundry list” of what’s to be done.) In short, the Scoutmaster’s frustrated rants are more the problem than the Scout’s own challenges! What do we do here?
The family’s counselor has advised them that Scouting’s structured environment is a positive influence on this young man’s behavior and growing ability to cope, but the Scoutmaster takes the position that his word is gospel and no deviations or incapacities are acceptable. We need some objective insights here! (Name & Council Withheld)
To begin, if the counselor is willing, the best thing that could happen, I think, would be for the counselor, the parents, and the Scoutmaster to have a face-to-face conversation about this young man and how best to keep him in the mainstream. It seems critical to the success of this that the Scoutmaster become more educated on what sorts of behavior and thinking to expect from the Scout, while at the same time the parents need to understand that the Scoutmaster is a volunteer and a layman; not a professional. If these bridges can be built, it will do nothing but help this young man to succeed, and this is what Scouting’s goal is! Tying knots, pitching tents, hiking, and such are Scouting’s tools, but they’re not Scouting’s essence!
If this mutual understanding isn’t forthcoming, then it’s time for one of two things to happen. One is to look for another troop, so that the family doesn’t remove their son from Scouts—they just need to find a troop that “gets it”! The other is to face up to the fact that this troop may not have a Scoutmaster so much as it has a sergeant, and it’s time to look for a more sanguine and boy-minded replacement.
I’ve been registered as a Scouter Reserve for several years. Now I hear that the BSA is doing away with this classification. Is this accurate? If so, what do I do? (Bill Smith)
This is one that’s not in my area of knowledge, so I’ve reached out to Mike Walton, another usscouting.org volunteer, and—with my sincere thanks—here’s what Mike has to say…
There have been two general categories of “Scouter Reserve” members. One category was a “catch-all” for college students and others between the ages of 18 and 21 who wanted to stay active with their council in some way, but not necessarily with a particular unit (most were OA members and outgrew their troops but didn’t want to be Explorers or now Venturers). For this category, BSA stopped registering College Scouter Reserve members back in the late ‘90s, requiring, instead, that those who wished to remain registered do so by registering with an actual unit (most usually a troop). The other category was the “catch-all” for adults over 21 who wanted to remain registered in the BSA but for a variety of reasons—military deployments, out-of-the-area jobs, truckers and other transportation drivers, pilots, and so on—couldn’t take on specific responsibilities with a unit or their council. This is the category you’ve been in. Unfortunately, this category became a bit of a morass when Scouter Reservists who’d died, permanently moved away, and so forth, remained on the books (simply, in many cases, because no one knew to remove them).
So the BSA is removing that category, beginning in 2012, as part of an overall revamp of adult volunteer leadership positions. Beginning next year, Scouter Reservists will need to register as a member of a council operating committee, a summer camp staffer, or as a member of a council’s advisory or executive board, or, of course, with a unit. Another option would be to register as a Commissioner—Commissioners are needed in virtually every council in the BSA!
I hope this has been helpful, and thanks for asking Andy! I’m always happy to assist Andy with some of the questions he’s not totally familiar with, or because program changes may not have reached him yet (Mike Walton, Settummanque, The Black Eagle)
(Thanks, Mike! This sure clarifies things a bit more that I would have been able to do!)
My husband and I have been reading your columns for years and are very appreciative of your advice. My son crossed over to Boy Scouts a few months ago and the troop he picked—we all thought—was really doing Boy Scouts right.
This past Sunday, we waved goodbye to him as he went off for his first summer camp. He and all of the other Scouts were dressed in their full uniforms for the trip… Well, all but one. This one Scout simply wore t-shirt and plaid shorts, and carried his Scout shirt crumpled up in his hand. Although both his parents and various other adults had several times asked him to put his uniform on, he just made jokes and carried on, and didn’t do as asked, with no apparent consequences forthcoming.
This Scout, apparently, is ADD-ADHD, which the troop and its leaders seem to take to mean that he’s exempt from all rules, with no consequences. The unfairness is bothersome, of course, but beyond that, it seems to me that the troop is being short-sighted. It might be the easy path to let him get away with such things rather than correct him or insist that he get in line with the other Scouts, but as this laxity stretches out, the more likely it will become that the other Scouts in the troop will begin to take their cues from him, along the lines of, “Why should I wear my uniform when he doesn’t?” and “Why should I have to stick with my buddy when he doesn’t?”
Now admittedly, I don’t know what may be going on behind the scenes. I also don’t know if I’m taking this too seriously. Could I, or should I, talk to someone about the special treatment this Scout is getting, and—if so—who? (I don’t really know anything about the adult leadership in a troop and who might be the appropriate person to talk to.) (Name & Council Withheld)
I understand and appreciate your concerns. My single question would be: Is this Scout’s behavior affecting his fellow Scouts in some adverse way, or is the very fact that he’s apparently been “main-streamed” sufficient for his fellow Scouts to understand his challenges and roll with them, as we hope they would by following the Scout Laws of Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, and Kind, to note the most obvious ones.
If you, as a parent, continue to have misgivings about this, perhaps a quiet conversation with the Scoutmaster (no email, please!), might help to allay your concerns—or point up the fact that “there’s an elephant in the campsite.”
I’m the Committee Chair of a Boy Scout troop, and I have a general question on whose decision is it to ask an ASM to step down. Our District Executive is telling us this is a committee decision, but that’s not what I’m finding online. Can you help? (Joni Hougan)
Whoever “hired:” the ASM would usually be the one to remove him or her from office. It is absolutely not a “committee decision” and that D.E. should have known better—some homework is in order!
Per the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, the final decision on all adult volunteers in a Scouting unit rests with the executive officer (per your charter) of the chartered organization, which may be deferred to the Chartered Organization Representative, who makes the decision typically in concert with the unit’s Committee Chair.
In the case of an ASM, I’d usually expect the Scoutmaster (with the CR and/or CC) to break the news to the ASM, but you, as CC, and your CR (or just you if you hold both positions), can do this.
The language, by the way, is simple: “Thank you for your services to the troop; they’ll no longer be needed, so we’re eliminating the ASM position.” Then stick to your guns.
I need some advice on an issue that was just brought to my attention by our council’s NYLT Course Director: He telephoned to tell me that our ASPL, a Life Scout, carved his name into a bathroom door while on the course (it was discovered by the summer Camp Director and passed through the pipeline to me). We recently had to discipline this same Scout for using a lighter and aerosol can to make a flame-thrower while on a troop camp-out. My direction to the troop at that time was that it has to fall within the guidelines of the Scout Oath & Law. The punishment handed down was 30 days loss of his Firem’n Chit and to write a paper on fire safety. Nevertheless, this Scout is popular: He’s been elected to the OA by his fellow Scouts. I’m not sure whether I should inform our Senior Patrol Leader about this new incident, or handle this with a special Scoutmaster conference. Any insights would be greatly appreciated. (Stuart Fegley, SM)
Sounds like it’s time for you and the troop’s Committee Chair to have a come-to-Jesus conversation with this Scout. It seems to me that he’s trying to send a message via his behavior (when you carve your own name into something, you’re begging to be caught!), but you won’t know what the message is until you sit him down, eyeball-to-eyeball, and ask him what’s going on in his life that these sorts of things are happening. This is a non-accusatory conversation—it’s about how can you help this Scout get through whatever problems he may be facing right now—but yes, he does need to open up to you, because while the carving isn’t harmful to a person (which in no way diminishes it as a vandalistic and destructive act), the flame-thrower incident is: If either of you believes that this Scout is capable of bringing harm to himself or others, this alone is grounds for dismissal from the troop—you all are not professionals, you’re volunteers, and you cannot permit a known danger to the members of the troop to persist. Now you don’t want to remove this Scout from the troop if you can prevent this, because then there’s no way Scouting can have a positive influence on his life and future; but you’re obliged to do what must be done. So, this Scout needs to make a decision: Either he opens up and talks to you or he resigns from the troop till he works his own issues out, at which point he’s welcome to return.
Meanwhile, let’s stop with this “punishing” Scouts for inappropriate behavior. Instead, let’s find ways to turn the situation into a positive learning and growing experience. For example, it sounds like the camp needs a new outhouse door, all painted and put in place, and maybe the building’s whole interior needs a fresh coat of paint while he’s at it!!
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