Author Avatar

Issue 280 – December 14, 2011

Rule No. 45:

  • The question, “Will you promise not to get mad when I tell you something?” is a guarantee that you will.

Well folks, you’ve figured out pretty fast that I’m not in Scotland and don’t need any money!  Yup, I got hit– My regular email account was hacked, and made a real mess of things, including the loss of a bunch of questions from you all!  So I’ve set up an alternate address:

Since I respond personally to every message I receive, if you’ve written to me and haven’t received a direct answer, it means your message was erased when the account was hacked.  So please take a moment to re-send it to me, using the new address.  This way, you’ll get your answer fast as I can read it, do the research, and get back to you.  Thanks for tolerating this nonsense and a pox on those sheepdip hackers!

Dear Andy,

I’m a newly elected Senior Patrol Leader.  My troop used to allow more than one Assistant SPL to help the Senior Patrol Leader keep meetings organized—we have over 50 Scouts in our troop.  I’m wondering if it’s against BSA rules to have more than one ASPL. Thanks a lot! (Michael, Suffolk County Council, NY)

As Senior Patrol Leader, your contacts for keeping order are your Patrol Leaders… You work through them–never directly with the Scouts themselves.  ASPLs aren’t there to “help” you with this—they have other responsibilities.

This can only work if your troop is following The Patrol Method, with consistent patrols and elected Patrol Leaders, who are the Patrol Leaders Council that you’re in charge of.  Does your troop follow The Patrol Method, or is something else going on?  Tell me a little more, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Yes, my troop does use the Patrol Leader method. As extra support I’d like to have more than one ASPL. (Michael) 

You don’t need an ASPL to help you; you need Patrol Leaders who can control their patrol members.  Here’s how: At a PLC meeting, teach your Patrol Leaders “Scout Silent Signals” (use any search engine to find these) and have them, in turn, teach their patrol members during “patrol corners at your next troop meeting.  Then, start using them.  With a troop of about 50, you’ll instantly have 6 to 8 “assistants” who now have another tool in their “patrol manager’s kit.”

Here’s another tip: Always use the Scout sign silently. No matter what, resist the temptation to shout “Sign’s up!” and talk to any Scout or other person who does this.   Make this one change and your “management technique” will change overnight!  Overlook this, and you’ll continue to have chaos and disregard for your position.

Dear Andy,

If a Scout can have his Eagle board of review up to three months after his 18th birthday, what does he need to complete by that birthday? His Scoutmaster conference? (Julie Abcede, MC & MBC, Aloha Council, HI)

A Scout must have all requirements completed before his 18th birthday.  The Scoutmaster conference is a requirement, so that’s why the deadline applies.  The board of review is necessary to complete the rank advancement process, but isn’t a “requirement,” from a technical point-of-view.  That’s why a board of review can take place on or after a Scout’s 18th birthday.

Dear Andy,

I’m wondering about a local Scouting unit filing for 501(c)(3) status.  Can or should it be done?   I’m asking because our unit was offered a chance to enroll in a corporate donation program, and to do this they need our FEIN or 501(c)(3) number.  Wee don’t have one and we can’t use our chartered organization’s number, so should we file for our own? I’ve looked around and seen some sites that say it’s OK and others that say it’s illegal.  We don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.  What can we do?  (Joe Panetta, Greater New York Council, Queens, NY)

Your unit shouldn’t have to file for a 501(c)(3) for two reasons.  First, your chartered organization is likely to already have such status and since they own unit their status and number are your “umbrella.”  So your first step is to go to them and ask for the number—there’s no reason they should refuse.  But if your chartered organization doesn’t have such status, then you revert to your BSA council’s 501(c)(3) status and number.  Try the first option again (with the “umbrella” explanation) and, failing this attempt, contact your council’s CFO.

Dear Andy,

About four years ago, our pack had a Webelos Den Leader who pushed her den to cram in all the Webelos & Arrow of Light requirements into a single year, with the hidden agenda that she wanted her own son to transition over to a troop at as young an age as allowable.  As a result, most of the boys were old enough to transition, but there were two who had earned Arrow of Light but still weren’t old enough to be Boy Scouts.  They were simply dumped by that Den Leader: No den; no leader.  Heartbroken, they stuck around for a little but ultimately just dropped out of Scouting and never went on.

Realizing the extent to which the fundamental integrity of the Cub Scouting program had been compromised, to say nothing of the atmosphere of deception and disunity, three years ago our pack committee reaffirmed that “fast-tracking” like this would not be permitted. 

We thought we’d be keeping this problem from ever arising again, but we were wrong.  We’re now facing this all over again.  One of our Webelos Den Leader (he’s also a Scoutmaster, which is significant to the problem) want to repeat the same scenario, for the same reason: He wants his own son to become a Boy Scout and join his troop as young as possible (ostensibly so that his son has “enough time” to make it to Eagle rank).   Like the first time this happened, this man is working behind the pack committee’s back by secretly promoting and then managing an intense Webelos/Arrow of Light program so that the entire den will complete everything by the end of fourth grade.  He knows our pack’s stance on this, but has disregarded it.  On the side, he’s also urging the parents of all older boys who aren’t in his den to transfer their sons into his troop at the end of fourth grade so they can attend Scout camp that summer, which will keep them from “falling behind” and being “at a disadvantage” compared to their early-graduating den-mates.  He’s now telling all Webelos parents that if they wait until the normal February Blue & Gold and cross over with their younger den mates then, they’ll be jeopardizing their son’s chances of making it to Eagle rank!

Topping this off, both our pack’s and the troop’s Committee Chairs (they’re sons are in this Scoutmaster’s den) have been “sold” on doing this and are going along with it.  Meanwhile, the parents with younger Webelos boys are wondering why their sons are being rushed through the program, not realizing that their sons’ den friends are planning on leaving them behind while they move on to Boy Scouts to “get ahead.”

This past August, we discovered that many of our first-year Webelos Scouts—who should be starting their second year and final six months—had already transferred to a troop.  Several of us parents we spoke out against this and reminded both the Den Leader and the pack committee and chair about the policy the pack had established, but their retort was that a pack can’t make a policy on this because the BSA allows boys who are age 10-1/2 and have earned their Arrow of Light to become Boy Scouts.   We agreed that individual parents can choose to transfer their own son early, if they wish; however, we do have the right to determine the type of Webelos program that we want to our pack and its leaders to deliver.  We’re asking our Webelos Den Leaders to deliver the BSA’s “18-Month Webelos Program” as written because it benefits all the boys in the den; not just the older ones.

But the Webelos Den Leaders (particularly the Scoutmaster) became extremely angry when we raised this issue, because they’ve been actively campaigning against the 18-month program and have now brought in our Chartered Organization Representative into the picture.  Luckily, he sided with the core group of us who want to stick to the Webelos program as written, but this made the others even more angry, and they went directly to the chartered organization itself.  As a result of that, our Chartered Organization Representative was removed; replaced by a man who is also the troop’s Committee Chair (and whose son is being fast-tracked with his support).  We’ve tried to get someone from our council’s office to help, but we’ve not had much support from that direction, and we currently don’t have a Unit Commissioner.

We’re having a pack leader meeting to discuss this issue, and it’s come out that the executive officer of our chartered organization is “on the other side,” as well, and intends to tell us how the pack will be run (i.e., “their” way).  Do you have any idea at all on how we—or I—should handle this? (Exasperated Cub Scout volunteer, Orange County Council, CA)

Advice leading to a happy ending is tough in the situation you’ve described.  These renegades are not only displaying idiocy themselves; they’re apparently causing idiocy in others as well.  Your council’s professionals are pretty much up a creek when it comes to “policing” such situations, because the chartered organization actually owns the unit—not the council.  Yes, a Unit Commissioner might help, and it’s definitely worth calling the District Commissioner to ask if someone might be assigned to the pack, but—let’s face it—personally, I’d rather be Daniel walking into the proverbial lion’s den than have to deal with this motley array of misguided folks.

Of course they’re wrong, and of course they know it.  They’re misusing the Webelos Scouts to satisfy their own needs for achieving a false goal.  Becoming a Boy Scout at the age they’re targeting is no more assurance of earning Eagle rank than firing a rocket to the moon at twice the normal speed… It’s the accuracy of the journey, not the speed, that matters.  But this will fall on ears as sensitive to boys’ needs as Van Gogh’s to music.

The only realistic advice I can offer with any hope of success is for you to find another pack and troop, where they get it right, and transfer your son and his friends as rapidly as you’re able.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and with a poof that misguided gang would all disappear, but that’s just not going to happen unless a group of parents more numerous than these renegades bands together to demand that they set things right.  A corrupted organization can be de-loused only one of two ways: From the top, or by storming the walls with overwhelming forces.

Hi Andy,

Should a unit’s treasurer be a registered BSA member, such as a committee member? (Alice Wilson)

Without hesitation or doubt, the person a unit’s entrusting fiduciary responsibility to should be a registered member of that unit.  Registering as a BSA Adult Volunteer in the position of committee member (Code: MC) is definitely in order here.

Dear Andy,

It’s my understanding that “legend” patches, autographs, beaded sashes, and just about anything else other than the classic white-with-red-embroidered-arrow isn’t allowed.  But I’ve also heard that there are two exceptions: The “legend” strip can be worn by members of a ceremony team, at ceremonies, and the 50th and 60th Anniversary service patches are allowed to be worn on the sash.  I’ve also been told by a source claiming to be knowledgeable about this stuff that only one of the two anniversary service patches can be worn at a time, but then another equally knowledgeable source told me that if you’ve earned both, you can wear both.  Who do I believe here? (Robert Achibis)

Everything I’ve ever read says no embellishments to an OA sash except for the anniversary patches—ceremonial team or not (i.e., no exceptions).  If your “knowledgeable sources” can show you, in BSA writing, where it says whatever they’re claiming, ask them to forward it on to me and I’ll be happy to publish it.  Otherwise, follow the rules in the OA HANDBOOK.

By the way, those sashes you see being worn by folks at courts of honor… Big hiccup… The sashes are only worn when at an OA function or when representing the OA, which is not the typical situation at a unit court of honor.

Dear Andy,

We have an Assistant Scoutmaster who, despite claiming to “always follow BSA policies and rules,” doesn’t.  Just recently, he took it upon himself to “escort” several of our Scouts (two of whom were his own) on a Eagle project that required the use of watercraft.  Later conversations with the Scouts revealed that not one of the Scouts or this ASM wore a PFD (personal flotation device—a “Mae West” as they used to be called) while on the water.  While two of the Scouts were First Class rank and therefore had passed the BSA Swim Test, the third Scout hadn’t and his swimming ability is unknown and unproven.  This ASM claims to have attended National Camp School for Aquatics, and he also holds a significant district-level chairmanship, so one would expect that he’d be a shining example of not only two-deep leadership but also safety afloat.  But that’s simply not the case here.  I’m his Scoutmaster, yet he refuses to take any guidance from me; nor will he accept any from both our committee chair and our chartered organization representative.  What can or should we do? (Puzzled & Frustrated)

When a unit volunteer continues to violate BSA policies, especially in ways that place Scouts in harm’s way, and refuses to modify his actions in the face of suggestions and requests that he do so, the chartered organization has just one option remaining: Offer to accept his resignation or, if he is reluctant to resign, remove him. Waste no time.

Understand: Regardless of whatever other volunteer positions in Scouting he may hold, removal by the chartered organization head, or chartered organization representative in concern with the committee chair, is permanent and irreversible by anyone save the chartered organization itself.

(If he threatens to pull his own Scouts from the troop, then you know for sure you’ve made the correct decision: He’s a renegade and a bully both.)

Dear Andy,

Can one activity be used for two different merit badges?  For example: A visit and discussion with a dentist is required for both Personal Fitness and Dentistry merit badges, so could one conversation with a dentist be used to meet both of the requirements? (Scout Dad, Great Smoky Council, TN)

In the specific case of the example you chose, so long as the subject matter of each of the two separate requirements is covered, there’s no reason why both requirements can’t be met in a single visit… with a willing dentist and an attentive Scout, of course!  That said, it needs to be further noted that most requirements that appear similar and might be thought to be compatibly combined into a one-off aren’t.

Dear Andy,

I have a Cub Scout who’s interested in earning the God and Me religious emblem. I know there’s a workbook for this, but I want to know what the program entails.  This way, I want to give my rector a heads-up on the commitment time and make sure the boy is indeed ready to attempt it. (Elizabeth Greene)

Your best bet will be to go to, where you can find the appropriate workbook to order and also a phone number for more detailed information.

Hi Andy,

I’ve been asking around our local and regional BSA offices to find out if there are any movies, videos, or DVDs from past Jamborees, High Adventure camps, etc. available for borrowing or renting, that I can use to show our local Scouting parents. Although I can talk about these subjects based on my own experiences as a Scout in the 70’s, a DVD is worth a thousand words and would be a great asset to these presentations.  (My son and I watch “Scouting for Adventure” together, and we promote the show frequently, but to purchase past episodes costs money that I’ve yet been able to convince anyone to spend.)  (Patrick Pittarelli, CR, Los Padres Council, CA)

The folks at Boy’s Life magazine ( have DVDs for sale at $15.95 each.  Maybe you can convince your council folks to buy a few copies?  If not, do remember that, as a volunteer, this is a tax-deductible item if you buy one for yourself.


HappY ScOuTing!


(No. 280 – 12/14/2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)


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.

Read Andy's full biography

Follow Andy

Subscribe via email or RSS and follow via social media.

Comments are closed.