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Issue 304 – April 22, 2012

Rule No. 70:
• Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people look intelligent…until you hear what they have to say.
GOOD NEWS! That little email hack problem I had a while back has been solved. Feel free to send to

OK, Folks, here’s a little quiz for you. Let’s see if you can figure out which statements are really true and which are myths that we’ve been passing along for who knows how long! (Give it your best shot… I’ll publish the answers and the sources on Tuesday.) Hint: They’re not all true and they’re not all false.

1. Packs and troops can decide how much of the uniform they want to wear.

2. Most all council- and district-to-unit communications go through the Commissioners.

3. Boards of review are excellent opportunities for re-testing Scouts, to make sure they’ve mastered the requirements.

4. BSA advancement requirements represent the minimum standards—Troop and pack leaders set the final standards.

5. Commissioners can’t concurrently hold a unit leader (e.g., Cubmaster, Team Coach, Scoutmaster, Crew Advisor, Skipper) position.

6. Troops and packs can do Karate, pistol-shooting, and paint-balling, so long as they don’t call it a “Scout activity” or fill out a Tour Plan.

7. The unit’s committee runs the unit.

8. A Scoutmaster’s key responsibility is to run the troop meetings.

9. Assistant District Commissioners have administrative responsibilities, not unit contact roles.

10. It’s a troop’s option to have either elected or appointed Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leaders.
Dear Andy,

I have a question regarding the American Flag on the right shoulder of uniforms. All Scout shirts have the flag sewn on them now when purchased; however, I have a flag with the union on the right (to some this may look backwards) sewn on to my right shoulder….as a military member and someone who loves the flag, I felt compelled to wear it as I’ve always worn it: military-style—with the field of stars forward. I remember seeing it noted in BSA literature somewhere that this style of flag is authorized, but now I can’t find it. Do you know where it is? (ASM’s Name & Council Withheld)

Inserting “american flag direction uniform” into the dialog box of any search engine will give you loads of answers, both military and beyond. Further, if you refer to the BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE (also available online) you’ll find an illustration of the U.S. Flag emblem that’s to be worn at the top seam of the right sleeve on BSA-issue uniforms, and you’ll see that the white-stars-on-blue-canton (or field, or union) is to the top-left and the stripes are to the right.  And the reason you can’t find what you’re looking for in BSA literature is that it doesn’t exist: The BSA provides no alternatives to the U.S. Flag emblem shown in the INSIGNIA GUIDE. So, much as I hate to say it (I will, since you raised the issue): You’re out of uniform, Sir. <smile>
Dear Andy,

What do you do when another Scouter lies and has stolen from your unit? I’ve described what happen and everyone turned on me for bringing it up and tried to kick me out of Scouting. We ask the Scouts to live the Scout Law but we don’t expect it from our leaders. (Name & Council Withheld)

In the first place, the only people who can “kick you out of Scouting” are the Committee Chair and/or Chartered Organization Representative of the unit you’re registered with. Beyond that, I can’t offer any suggestions for you until I know a bit more about what you mean by “lying” and “stealing” from your unit. It doesn’t have to be a “blow-by-blow” re-living of whatever happened; a “Reader’s Digest” version would be just fine. But I do need to know a little more that simply accusations without substance if I’m going to try to help. Meanwhile, let’s not use the Scout Oath or Law righteously—these are meant to guide; not bludgeon.

This person stated that a family in the unit had their house burn down and lost everything, thus the plea for help. Several families in the unit provided requested household items to help the family only to find out later that the person asking for this family had personally kept the items. To me, that’s lying, and then it’s stealing when the items weren’t passed along to the family in need. I’ve voiced my comments to my district, our council, and to the BSA national office and I’m told that I am what’s wrong with Scouting, for putting down another volunteer. They also said that since this person is a volunteer, there’s nothing that can be done. This person shows up at Roundtables all the time, and I refuse to attend knowing what was stolen from our unit. (N&CW)

OK, so my takeaway from this is that you weren’t personally involved and that your information is, at best second-hand. Moreover, although the incident allegedly happened between Scouting families, it happened at a personal level and wasn’t a part of some Scouting event, which makes “stealing from a unit” a bit beyond the apparent reality of the situation. So now you’ve apparently decided to exclude yourself from meetings that are valuable to Scouters like yourself and ultimately to the units and Scouts you all serve…which means that the loss here is ultimately to yourself and the youth you’re supposed to be serving.

I’m going to suggest a bucket of ice cubes… It’s time to chill, take a deep breath, and get back to the business of helping your Scouts. If you don’t want to go to Roundtables because this person’s there, OK that’s your call. So start going to another district’s Roundtables instead (with no argument about “they’re too far away”—It’s your own decision not to attend your local ones).

The district, council, and national folks are correct: Unless there’s a felony conviction here, there’s not a lot anyone can officially do except, as I pointed out to you, the CC and/or CR of the home unit want to take up this gauntlet.

I hope you’re able to move past this. Your community’s youth need you…but only if you’re not carrying around this sort of second-hand angst.
Hi Andy,

Our troop has a problem: Too many parents want to come along on the Scouts’ weekend camping trips. Can we make a troop policy to limit parents’ tagging along? It’s really distracting to the Scouts when their parents “hover” and try to help them do things they’re supposed to be doing on their own (like pitching tents, cooking, and so forth)! Does the BSA have a policy about this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Boy Scout hiking and camping is supposed to be an outdoor experience for the Scouts, where most (like 95%) of the leading and Scoutcraft skills teaching is done by the Scouts themselves, under the watchful (but not hovering) eyes of the Scoutmaster and an Assistant Scoutmaster. Only new-Scout patrols need oversight-at-a-distance by their Troop Guide (a Scout) and maybe an Assistant Scoutmaster. Regular patrols have their own Patrol Leaders to guide the Scouts in their patrols.

It’s up to the Scoutmaster—with the support of the Committee Chair—to explain this to the Scouts’ parents, stating clearly that any parents who want to “come along” will hike separately from the Scouts, camp separately from the Scouts (meaning: out of sight and ear-shot), cook separately, etc. This is done so that the Scouts can have peer experiences, they will explain. They will further encourage all parents who’d like to go hiking and camping with their sons to do so on their own; with the further reinforcement that Boy Scouting is not a program or vehicle for promoting either “family” camping/hiking or “parent-and-son” camping/hiking. (For parents who want a different sort of program, they need to check out Indian Guides or similar programs.)

Or… here’s a way to accomplish much the same thing without saying a word: Have every camping trip begin with a minimum five-mile hike straight into wilderness, with everything personally backpacked in.

BTW, the BSA has no “policies” on this because the BSA figures that the people with some wisdom either outnumber or can outsmart the “apron-string” folks.
Hi Andy,

About a year ago, we recruited a guy for Cubmaster who turned out to be impossible to work with. Just a few months into his “term” he sent a memo to all Den Leaders and committee members actually giving us “grades” for our performance, according to his “standards.” Most of us got Ds and Fs; a few got Cs, but that was about it. There wasn’t one of us who wasn’t incredibly insulted. We tried working this out and even reached out to our Unit Commissioner for help (he tried to convince this person that there are better ways to work with fellow volunteers), but nothing seemed to work and we had to ultimately remove him from the pack entirely. We recruited a new Cubmaster, and everything’s been going smoothly and happily since then.

Now, we’ve just learned that this same person—the former Cubmaster—was appointed by our council to a major council committee position, where he will have direct contact with both packs and troops. Personally, I’m very disappointed to learn that our very own council could actually appoint this man to such a position. (Are they that desperate for volunteers?) I’ve been advised by my friends to let this go, but I can’t because I have integrity and this needs to be shared. (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s realize this: “The council” didn’t appoint this guy; a committee of volunteers did… Just like you all did, back a year ago. They’ve probably made a mistake, just like you did. They’ll figure it out in time, just like you did. Just hold your breath and keep your distance. Bad-mouthing someone—true or not—usually has about the same effect as standing in front of an electric fan and heaving horsepucky into it.

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. 304 – 4/22/2012 – 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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