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Issue 299 – March 25, 2012

Rule No. 66:
• Anything told to you “for your own good” isn’t.

Dear Andy,

We have a Scout whose Eagle project is re-building an animal enclosure that was destroyed during winter storms, for a petting zoo at a local day camp. He just found out that the animals will arrive in approximately nine weeks from now. He wants to know if he can do the build-out first, and then the fund-raiser later. The Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook doesn’t specifically say that you must do the fund-raiser first, but I’m still wondering about this. What do you think? (Josef Rosenfeld)

Personally, I think the Scout’s putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Moreover, if the funding for materiel is provided in order to do the construction, then he wouldn’t be doing so much a “fund-raiser” as he’d be seeking reimbursement. Moreover, with nine full weeks lead-time, there seems little impediment to keeping things aligned: Fund-raiser, then construction. There are also two other options: The day camp (which I’m assuming is a not-for-profit organization) itself can provide the materiel and the Scout and his helpers provide the work, or the day camp can do its own fund-raiser.

Let’s remember that any funds raised by the Scout are distinctly not for the BSA, or for the troop, or the council or district: They’re specifically for the day camp and all donors need to be advised of this before they commit. Moreover, on project conclusion, any residual funds are turned over to the day camp.

Dear Andy,

I’ve recently been asked to restart a pack that was once large and successful, but has lately fallen on hard times. The troop sponsored by the same chartered organization is still thriving, but without a strong leader the pack has floundered. I’m currently still in the planning stages, and would like to share what my thoughts are on how to proceed…

My first thought is that in order for this pack to succeed, I need to lead from the top-down. Our chartered organization is a large church, but the troop and pack have never recruited from among the congregation. While the church has been supportive, we’ve largely remained apart. I think this is a mistake and want to do the majority of the recruiting for both leaders and Cubs. My preliminary plan is to draw from the current Sunday school teachers and active parents, since most are already attuned to handling young boys and probably enjoy teaching.

My second thought is that the meetings should be held on Sunday afternoons, after church service. From a bit of reading I’ve done, Sunday meetings tend to be more successful, though they do have the drawback of possibly taking away from family time. I’m hoping that, if I can use the facilities about an hour after church services and events end, I can hold enough interest to keep people around.

I want to get the adult leaders selected sometime over the summer, so that we can go over plans for den meetings and make sure that they understand the program; however, my concern is that, if there’s too much time elapsing between training and meetings, they’ll be fatigued before they’ve had any interaction

What are your thoughts on my plans, and what advice can you give me on making sure that the pack is prepared? This pack means a lot to me (I was in it as a kid) and the District Executive and District Commissioner have both made grumblings that if the pack dies again this year they’ll ask the church to end the program. (RI Smith, Indian Waters Council, SC)

Instead of “grumbling,” your D.E. needs to be helping you. Also, so does your district’s membership committee. Get them involved—”One-man shows” usually cost huge amounts of time, plus, you don’t want to get known as a “Lone Ranger.” Also, get the pastor or youth minister involved! In fact, these people will be key to success here.

What’s needed most, it seems to me, is a special recruiting or open-house event of some sort. Late August or early September is usually a good time. This way, you get the parents along with the boys, so that when you sit folks down with their sons, they can be told that, for every grade-group of up to six boys, they’ll need one parent to sign on as the boys’ Den Leader–then stick to this and don’t allow bunches of reluctant parents to overwhelm the lone one who says “Yes.”

Sunday school teachers can be committee members; this is a good idea because they don’t need to have direct involvement with the new Cubs. Where will the Cubmaster come from? You? A parent? This needs some thought in advance. Also, reach out to the Scoutmaster of the troop and get him to talk up the idea of Den Chiefs to help the brand-new Den Leaders (recruited from the parents of the boys who join up).

Your district should have a recruiting “template” available; tap into it. There’s no need to “invent” here—The BSA is the most resource-heavy youth organization on the planet!

Need further thoughts, or is this enough—at least for now—to get you moving along a course to success?

Hi Andy,

Just a small correction to one letter from your March 13th column, about what’s worn above the right shirt pocket…

You mentioned that the BSA Uniform Inspection Sheet says that Interpreter strips and one Jamboree badge are worn above the right pocket. However, if you’re an OA member and have a name badge, the name badge goes above the right pocket, and if you’re not wearing an OA flap patch the name badge goes on the right pocket flap. (It looks like there’s some sort of Venture patch too, but I’m not into Venturing, so I can’t say for sure.) (Jon Yearous, Northern Star Council, MN)

Yup, you’re right… Name Badges (like, plastic name badges, if you get my drift here) are worn above the right pocket when there’s an OA “flap” patch worn, and Interpreter strips are also worn immediately above the OEM “Boy Scouts of America” strip. Then there’s the Venture strip when a Scout is a member of a Venture Patrol (aka “senior patrol”) in his troop. I didn’t go into all that detail because it can be found just where you found it, and lots of other places, too. What would really be cool would be when folks take off all the other trash that they put above their right pockets, which are too random and too many to even begin naming here. Thanks for your sharp eyes and for taking the time to do the research and write.

Dear Andy,

My son has been in Scouts since he was a Tiger, bridged with Arrow of Light, and reached Life rank last year when he was 13 (he just turned 14). He wants to pursue Eagle now; he’s concerned that if he waits or “coasts,” it may not happen.

He’s met all Eagle requirements including leadership tenure except for just one Eagle-required merit badge and his service project. He hooked up with an experienced district-level Eagle coach and presented his project proposal. The coach told him it’s good to go and ready for signatures by his Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, and a representative of the recipient organization.

The benefiting organization—his school—agreed with the proposal and signed off, so my son made an appointment with his Scoutmaster and Committee Chair. But, at that meeting, what ensued wasn’t encouragement but, instead, a conversation to persuade him to postpone his project for a year. It was argued that he has too much to accomplish in too short a time, and that things needed to be added to the proposal (even though the district coach said it was just fine, as written). Nevertheless, both the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair did sign off on the proposal. Our son returned home, confused.

Following this, the Scoutmaster came over to our home, wanting to have a “parent meeting” about this. He proceeded to go on for two hours about how he doesn’t feel my son is mature enough and is too young to carry out a “meaningful” Eagle project, or be able to “give leadership at an Eagle level.” He even disputed whether the project was “Eagle-worthy,” but then allowed as how it would be “too difficult” to do (of course, we’re wondering: Which is it?). Suffice to say the conversation got heated and didn’t end well, although all four needed signatures are still in place.

Now, the Scoutmaster is demanding that he be included in any conversations and meetings between my son and the district coach. He’s now also making statements that he’ll be the “judge” of whether our son has planned, led, and completed the project.

I’m feeling like my son’s hardly in a winning situation. Now I’m no newcomer to Scouting: I’ve been a Den Leader, Webelos Den Leader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, New Unit Organizer, and I’m presently an Assistant Scoutmaster in my son’s troop; I’m Wood Badge-trained, and have served on Wood Badge staff as Troop Guide and Assistant Scoutmaster. I’m saddened and disheartened by this Scoutmaster’s attitude and conduct, but I’m afraid to make a stink because it could affect my son’s project. Can you offer any advice? (Name & Council Withheld)

You say you’re “afraid to make a stink because it could affect my son’s project.” This just in: Your son’s project is already on the way of being compromised.

Your very first obligation to your son is as his father. Start there. Bring all your experience, knowledge, contacts, and clout to bear on this sorry situation.

This erstwhile Scoutmaster has either dialed 1-800-CLUELESS or 1-800-TINGODS or both. The perfect solution is to fire him, and if you and the troop’s Committee Chair agree that he’s way out of line and won’t be reforming anytime soon, kick his sorry butt out of the troop before he mistreats any more Scouts. In short DO NOT SIT ON YOUR HANDS. This isn’t the time. Besides, your son needs to know Dad will stick up for what’s right.

The ammunition you need is in your own son’s handbook, in the BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book, and in detail in the new (and downloadable) GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT. Get your ammunition lined up and have one conversation with the Scoutmaster, making sure the Committee Chair is present as well. If he doesn’t instantly agree to change his tune, the Committee Chair can fire him on the spot. If the Committee Chair’s somehow afraid to do this, then immediately get to the district-level folks, describe the situation, and ask them what they can do to help your son succeed.

If all of this fails, get your son out of that troop and into one that doesn’t have a dictatorial duckwank for a Scoutmaster.

Dear Andy,

My son and two other Scouts from our troop have been Den Chiefs for two years. Their first year was very uncoordinated and they seemed to be spending a great deal of time waiting around for something to do. Their second year seemed to be going better, until I realized that the person from the pack that was supposed to be coordinating the Den Chief program backed out of the position with no replacement.

Our pack’s Blue & Gold Banquet is coming up in a few weeks. At the same time, I started asking questions about the Den Chief Service Award. (First, shame on me that I didn’t do this sooner with my son and his friends; second, the leaders in the pack and den didn’t even try to help the Scout review the requirements, let alone accomplish them.)

My own son has either done or will have the opportunity to do all of the DCSA requirements except possibly No. 5: He’s not done all of these yet because the Tiger den he’s working with this year didn’t do all of them. Also, neither my son nor I realized that he needed to keep track of the exact things he did and the dates that he did them over the last two years. For instance, he never asked the Bear Den Leader he worked with last year sign off on anything he’d done. We’re now trying to remember all of the details, document them, and get them signed off on by the appropriate leaders.

In a last-minute effort to recognize these three Scouts for their service to the pack over the last two years, I’m trying to help them complete the checklist for this award, but I found a discrepancy that caused a stalemate between our troop committee members and the Scoutmaster: The 2012 BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book lists all of the requirements from the DEN CHIEF HANDBOOK but it doesn’t itemize the specific items required for req. 5. Which book (and set of requirements) should be followed?

I don’t want to cause any arguments, and I don’t want to short-change any requirements, but I do want to recognize these three Scouts appropriately for all of the work they’ve done for the last two years. Thanks for your help! (Name & Council Withheld)

Just as you’ve yourself recently discovered, not a lot of folks know about the Den Chief Service Award and its requirements… Including, apparently, your son and his two friends! So one thing to consider, if you haven’t brought this up to them, is to simply let it pass… These boys, we would hope, have been Den Chiefs because they enjoyed it; not because they were expecting some sort of “reward.” Moreover, their two years of service, assuming they were First Class rank for at least four months and/or Star rank for at least six months during this two-year period, will count as a leadership position for Star and/or Life rank (Eagle, too, if appropriate).

As to your specific question about requirements…

For the Den Chief Service Award, the asterisked footnote on Page 244 of BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS states: “See DEN CHIEF HANDBOOK, No. 33211, for retailed requirements.” The detailed requirements are listed on pages 86-90 of that book. These are the ones to follow. If records weren’t kept contemporaneously, it’s OK to work from memory. To do this, it’s best to collaborate with the Scouts themselves as well as any Den Leaders who may have been involved at the time. If, by “requirement 5,” you’re referring to the section titled “Complete Four of These Projects,” follow the same basic procedure: Work from memory as best you’re able, to see if at least four of the eight options have been accomplished and, if not, then help the Den Leader and Den Chiefs schedule and carry out whatever remaining project(s) might be needed for qualification. If further time is needed, the Scouts can extend their service as long as is necessary to complete, or not, at their own discretion.

Do keep in mind that these Scouts can certainly be recognized for their leadership, with a special certificate or plaque presented to them at the B&G, and then repeated at a troop court of honor, thanking them for their service (and maybe signed by all the Cub Scouts, too!).

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 299 – 3/25/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]


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

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