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Issue 298 – March 20, 2012

Rule No. 65:
• Anyone who must tell you he always tells the truth, is lying.

Dear Andy,

On merit badges, I can’t find anything written by the BSA about how long a Scout has to complete a merit badge once he’s started it. A troop has set a time limit, and if the Scout doesn’t complete in that space of time frame he must start over. I don’t agree with this, but I can’t find any support. Can you help me here?

Also, I noticed that Citizen in the Community req. 5 says that the Scout must watch a movie that shows how the actions of an individual (or group) can have a positive effect on a community. Where can I direct Scouts on this one? I’m thinking of showing them “Waste Land,” but I’m wondering what else is out there. (Carole Gentry, UC & MBC)

The BSA informs us that a Scout has until his 18th birthday to complete a merit badge, which he can start at any time once he’s a registered Boy Scout. For a troop to try to enforce some arbitrary time limit of its own, much more in opposition to standard BSA national policy, is totally inappropriate; in fact, it’s an unequivocal and unacceptable violation. You’ll find the statement in BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS and of course in the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT.

On movies, check out “Pay It Forward,” “October Sky,” and the classic “Follow Me, Boys.”

Dear Andy,

My Assistant Cubmaster and I are debating whether Cubs who earned belt loops as Wolf and Bear need to now re-earn them as Webelos Scouts to qualify for the related activity pin. Our council didn’t give me a real answer on this one. Can you help? Laura Sawgle, CM, WI)

It’s not from your council that you get this sort of information; it’s from the WEBELOS HANDBOOK. A little requirement-reading will give you the answer you’re looking for!

Hi Andy,

About four months ago a new boy joined our troop. He earned his Scout badge and we’ve held a new Scout orientation with him and his mother. We’ve also had several Scoutmaster conferences: There’s a problem…

During our opening ceremonies at meetings, while the other Scouts in the troop are doing the Pledge, Oath and Law, this boy just stands there leaning on one leg, with a half-hearted Scout sign while looking around the room. He’s got a solid Patrol Leader who’s Star rank and an NYLT graduate, but this boy just never cooperates and the Patrol Leader’s at his wit’s end on what to do. Our troop is uniformed from head to toe, but this boy wears just the shirt along with baggy, mid-calf shorts. We’ve had to tell him about no open-toes shoes, but he ignores these directions and continues to wear flip-flops. On outings, there are the usual patrol duty rosters, but he consistently ignores them and does as he pleases.

In short, he either just doesn’t get it or is deliberately refusing to get it, and it’s escalating. He constantly uses foul language, he’s instigated fights with other Scouts, on camp-outs he won’t lend a hand with firewood, water, dishes, and such, yet he’s always pushing to be first in the chow line. He’s damaged troop gear…You name it, he’s either done it or will, next week.

Three of my ASMs, and even our immediately prior Scoutmaster, plus myself, have all reached out to this young man in a variety of ways, to try to get through to him, but he’s brushed every attempt off. And if we attempt to get him on the right track, his favorite reply is, “It’s a free country…what’re ya gonna do?”

We’ve also tried speaking with his mother about these behaviors, but so far this has only resulted in her screaming obscenities, hopping in her car, and laying rubber on the way out of the parking lot. Almost weirdly, the very next week she’s back to drop her son off again.

When our Committee Chair tried taking with her, she accused us of singling her son out—which, she claimed, only happens here because he’s just fine at school and such. She also informed us that we don’t have the right to just tell him what to do; we have to ask him and then respect his decision if he doesn’t want to go along. We also can’t “force him into a patrol,” she said, because he “doesn’t like strict structure” and he should be allowed to hang out with who he wants to, when he wants to.

I’ve been an volunteer with the BSA for the past 18 years, and I’ve never once turned a boy away from Scouting… but I’m seeing this young man as poison to the troop. We I allow him to continue doing just what he wants when he wants, it’s going to destroy the teamwork if not the entire spirit of the troop. Right now, I’m actually thinking of inviting this young man to move on. Am I being too harsh? (Robert Schleich, SM, Occoneechee Council, NC)

No, you’re not being too harsh, but I think you need to take command of this situation, and now’s the time. Based on what you’ve described, I’m thinking there’s only one remaining way to deal with this, and it’s based on the principle that while Scouting is for all boys, not all boys are for Scouting. I’m recommending a conference between the Committee Chair and you, the Scoutmaster, and the boy and his mother. I’d lead off with an affirmative to the mother: Yes, we are definitely singling your son out, just as we’ll single out any boy who regularly uses foul language, picks fights, doesn’t carry his weight, refuses to cooperate with his Patrol Leader, and in his general behavior communicates that he has no interest in living up to the Scout Oath and Law. So, here’s how this is going to work: Boy Scouting is all about living and acting cleanly, showing respect for one’s peers and leaders including Patrol Leader and Senior Patrol Leader, pulling one’s own weight on camp-outs and in troop meetings, refraining from foul language at all times, and being a team-player. Unless your son is prepared to immediately start doing all of this, beginning right now, it will be obvious to all of us that he has no interest in Scouting and is largely unhappy being here, in which case his relationship with this troop is over, right now, tonight. So, which is it going to be, and yes, we want an answer right now.

Make certain that this conference takes place in a room separate from the troop meeting, and is scheduled at least 15 minutes before the start of the meeting. This way, if the woman throws a hissy fit, you can tell her that you take her actions as the answer, and this meeting is over: Please leave now and take your son with you. (Then remove his name from the troop roster—but don’t “de-register” him via the council registrar; just let his name drop off when the troop recharters.)

As you proceed, keep in mind two key points: (Rule 49) No boy can be saved from his own parents, and (Rule 3) Don’t try to teach pigs to fly… It wastes your time and annoys the pigs.

Dear Andy,

Several years ago, I was a Webelos Den Leader and in my tenure completed all the requirements to receive the recognition for this—the Webelos Den Leader Award—but at that time I didn’t apply for it. Can I still apply now, or is it too late? (Keith Moore, UC, Three Rivers Council, TX)

Absolutely! Just do a search for the correct progress record, print it out, fill it in with the initialing needed, and take it to your friendly local council service center. You’ll get a certificate, and you can buy the knot right there!

Hi Andy,

In a recent column, Scoutmaster Bill Egan mentioned that his troop is going to Sea Base and he’s looking to set up a duty roster. I don’t know if his trip’s already happened or what type of program he’s signed up for at Sea Base, but he definitely needs to contact them. My experience at there is that the assigned Captain is in charge and will work with the Scouts on all aspects of their voyage, which means, essentially, that any previous arrangements typically go out the door. The Captains generally have pretty specific guidelines and organizational methods they use. For instance, on the sailing trips, the Captain will organize the night watches, and he’ll also want the galley run a certain way. He’ll also organize the crew around tasks as he sees fit: anchor crew, sail crew, etc. In other words, he’s in charge. So I’d say don’t worry about that stuff too much and wait until you get there. It’s quite an adventure! (Larry Geiger)

Thanks! And I hope your insights help others, too!

Dear Andy,

Since there are different Arrowhead Honor criteria for the different Commissioner positions, does that mean a Commissioner needs to re-earn the Arrowhead whenever he or she changes Commissioner positions (e.g., Goes from Unit to District Commissioner)? I’ve asked, but received different answers and I’d like to get your opinion, too. (James Hoke, Cornhusker Council, OK)

The good news is that the Arrowhead Honor is earned once. That’s it. Moreover, it can continue to be worn by any volunteer in any Commissioner position, even if the position changes over time. That’s per BSA guidelines (Meaning: It’s a fact, not my opinion).

Dear Andy,

My son is a new Scout working on Tenderfoot. Among the requirements, there are two that have to do with several physical fitness measurements, done in two phases with a 30-day window between them. My son’s second phase was postponed several times, and now it’s been 90 days since he did the first of the two requirements. How close to 30 days does the second fitness requirement need to be? Is the 90 days he’s at right now OK? Or does he need to start a 30-day “count” over again. (New Scout Dad)

So long as 30 days have passed, and your son can show improvement in at least one of the results, he’s met the second of the two linked requirements. (Suggestion: Pick up your son’s BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK and do some reading—Yup, I’m serious, because 99% of what he and you need to know is right there! Honest!)

Hi Andy,

Here are a few ideas for that Crew President who wanted more Venturers in her crew…

She and her Crew Advisor should contact the district’s Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner and ask to make a presentation about Venturing in general and the crew in particular at an upcoming Roundtable. At that time, she can spread the word about Venturing to the folks there, and then ask to make a similar presentation at various troops in the district.

As my own district’s Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner, I arranged for members of two different crews to make that sort of presentation to promote Venturing here. We used two consecutive RTs to allow the Venturers to explain Venturing and their crew programs and to work though all the questions the Scoutmasters had. (Turned out these were the only sessions in recent memory that ran overtime because the participants had so many questions they wanted answered—It did more to advance unit leaders’ understanding of Venturing than you could ever imagine!)

We also had representatives of our council’s Venturing team—both adults and the council’s youth Venturing President at our RT. They did a great job of making sure all the information being discussed was accurate.

In the presentation, it’s crucial for to assure every Scoutmaster that Venturing doesn’t want to “steal” their Scouts—they just want to invite them to come along on the cool events the crew has scheduled.

Many troop families resist Venturing crews because a crew requires adult volunteers, too, so part of the pitch should include this: “If your sons dual-register with our existing crew, where we already have a committee, none of your troop-connected folks are required to become crew committee members in addition to your troop responsibilities!” (Perhaps some parents will have so much fun with the crew that they choose to become dual-registered with the crew and the troop, but they don’t have to, for their sons to join the crew!)

If the RT presentation is timed well, the crew can give all the Scoutmasters the crew’s outings schedule for the next few months, to show their Scouts. The open-minded Scoutmasters will be happy to do this, because they already know that Scouting is about offering lots of fun opportunities, and to keep our sons and daughters in the program for as long as possible for the ideals of Scouting to have their greatest influence in their lives.

Finally, it’s worth noting that when a council’s National Scout Jamboree contingent fills up, it’s now possible for Venturers to attend as members of a separate Venturing Crew contingent! (Bob Elliott, District BSRTC, Northern Star Council, MN)

These are excellent ideas that I’m sure many readers can put to good use! Thanks for taking the time to write.

Dear Andy,

Out troop has separate accounts for our Scouts based on their personal efforts in our annual fund-raisers. It’s been the rule that the Scouts can use these individual funds for anything that’s Scouting-related: gear, camping fees, etc. Although this has been the way the troop’s done things for over three decades, the question came up: Is this really OK? Or, should we have the Scouts themselves vote on how the funds should be spent? A Boy Scout troop is a non-profit group, yes? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, Scouts don’t vote on financial matters such as this. But for a more educated response to questions about how troop finances, including “Scout accounts,” should be managed, and beyond, I suggest you have a conversation with your council’s legal adviser and/or financial expert.

(Our Netcommissioner adds:) I think that unless the Scout accounts are managed by a non-profit entity recognized by the state that is properly chartered, registered, etc., the funds held on behalf of the Scouts generally are the property of the unit’s chartered organization, which in most instances is itself non-profit entity. A couple of examples of exceptions would be a local BSA Council Camp Savings Plan (allows Scouts to systematically save money for camp) or a 501(c)(3) or other type of NFP entity organized for the purpose of benefiting the Scouts of the unit.

The rules for how funds may be used by non-profit entities vary from state to state. If the entity is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation recognized by the IRS, there are specific rules that apply. Your best bet for determining what the rules are for any of these scenarios is a local attorney licensed to practice in your state who understands tax law and the law of non-profit entities. This is not something where we can provide advice and an area where it might be best to find an attorney who can give you advice (there are probably several attorneys in your area who are also Scouting volunteers who would do this for free).

Aside from the rules for non-profit entities, I believe there are some rules about fund-raising and funds management from BSA. It would be best to consult with your local council for advice in these areas because rules can sometimes be colored by local law and local policy.

With respect to Scout accounts (sometimes called activity funds for summer camp and/or high adventure trips), I do know that many units have been doing this for years. In none of the cases I’ve observed were Scouts involved in any decision about how the money in the account could be used. Managing the finances of a unit is an adult role; not a youth role. This is spelled out in the BSA Troop Committee Guidebook and The Unit Budget Plan. These guides do provide for units having activity funds for summer camps and high adventure trips for youth members (usually paid by the participating Scout and his parents or raised through special troop money-earning projects that are supported by an approved Unit Fund-Raising Application).

Dear Andy,

Do you get credit towards service stars if you were in Scouts for 14 years as a Cub, Boy Scout, and leader, then were out of Scouts for 15 years, and then re-joined as a Cub Scout leader for the past two years? Or do you just get credit for the last 2 years? (Jay Striemer, CM, Twin Valley Council, MN)

Add up all your years in Scouting, then use one or more stars with a light blue background disk to cover all of them! Stars are available in single digits and ten, and then in ten-year increments. Here’s the link:

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. 298 – 3/20/2012 – 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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