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Issue 305 – April 24, 2012

Rule No. 71:
• Procrastination can always be solved…eventually.
SHOWDOWN TIME! Here are the answers to Sunday’s quiz, and the BSA sources behind the answers. How did YOU do? Did any surprise you?

1. Packs and troops can decide how much of the uniform they want to wear.
SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (p. 9): Wearing the uniform helps boys develop a sense of belonging to their patrol and troop. It reinforces the fact that all members…are equal to one another…Scoutmasters in full uniform set a good example for…their troops”
CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK (Ch.16-1): The uniform…is a way we give each other strength and support. It is a bond that ties us together…It is a way of making visible our commitment…(to) positive values… No changes or alterations in the uniform may be made without…approval (of the national committee)… All Cub Scout leaders should…set a good example for the boys.
BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK (pp.32-33): The BSA’s official uniform includes a Scout shirt, Scout pants or shorts, Scout belt, Scout socks… Your troop may also elect to wear a cap… Outdoors, you can (wear) a T-shirt with Scout pants or shorts… Whether your uniform includes a Scout neckerchief is up to the troop.
(COMMENT) Yes, headgear and neckerchiefs may be decided by a troop (which, by the way, means the Scouts; not the committee or other adult volunteers) but the notion of a “troop uniform” that allows jeans, Dockers, “baggies,” and non-BSA belts or socks is, in a word, nonsense and counter to this Method of Scouting.

2. Most all council- and district-to-unit communications go through the Commissioners.
HANDBOOK FOR DISTRICT OPERATIONS (p.7): Unit Commissioners conduct most of the direct contact with units.
THE DISTRICT (p.9): A Commissioner is the connecting link between the BSA and the unit leader.
THE DISTRICT (p.10): Certain specific responsibilities (of the Unit Commissioner including) keep unit leaders informed about district and council events, interpret their values, and encourage unit participation.
(COMMENT) It’s entirely likely that this doesn’t happen in your council, but that’s no reason not to work toward achieving it!

3. Boards of review are excellent opportunities for re-testing Scouts, to make sure they’ve mastered the requirements.
BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK (p.55): The purpose of the (board of) review is to give you the opportunity to talk about how you are getting along in the troop, and to review the rank requirements to ensure that they have been met.
GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (p.45 – A board of review…shall become neither a retest or “examination,” nor a challenge of (a Scout’s) knowledge… It should be a celebration of accomplishment.
(COMMENT) Some troops try to get around this by having “informal reviews” in advance of formally convened boards of review—They know they’re in violation of BSA policy, which is even worse than ignorance.

4. BSA advancement requirements represent the minimum standards—Troop and pack leaders set the final standards.
BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS (p.13): No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or to subtract from, any advancement requirements.
GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT—POLICY ON UNAUTHORIZED CHANGES TO ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM: No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements.

5. Commissioners cannot concurrently hold a unit leader (e.g., Cubmaster, Team Coach, Scoutmaster, Crew Advisor, Skipper) position.
COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE (p.23): Commissioners must not be registered as unit leaders… Although some commissioners may be registered on a unit committee…their principle Scouting obligation must be with commissioner responsibilities.
(COMMENT) Some folks think this means “well, not for the unit I’m serving as a Unit Commissioner.” Wrong! It means any unit.

6. Troops and packs can do Karate or go pistol-shooting and paint-balling, so long as they don’t call it a “Scout activity” or fill out a Tour Plan.
GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING: Boxing, Karate, and related martial arts—except Judo, Aikido, and Tai Chi—are not authorized activities. Defensive Judo, Tai Chi, or Aikido…should be done with proper mats and with qualified instructors…whose objectives and coaching methods are compatible with the principles of the BSA.
GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING: Handgun use is limited to the Venturing program (Ref.: VENTURING LEADER MANUAL, No. 34655).
GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING: Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may…participate in paintball, laser tag, or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations.
“Insurance Coverage for BSA Volunteers and Chartered Organizations”: “The general liability policy does not provide indemnification or defense coverage to those individuals who commit intentional and/or criminal acts. The BSA does not have an insurance policy that provides defense for situations involving allegations of intentional and/or criminal acts.”

7. The unit’s committee runs the unit.
TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK (p.8): The troop committee’s primary responsibilities are supporting the Scoutmaster in delivering quality troop program, and handling troop administration.
SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (p.14): The Patrol Leaders Council plans and runs the troop’s program and activities and gives long-range direction with an annual program planning conference that lays out the troop’s calendar for the coming year… The PLC also meets each month to fine-tune upcoming troop meetings and outings. Meetings of the PLC are conducted by the Senior Patrol Leader… The Scoutmaster attends PLC meetings as a coach and information resource… The (Scouts) run the meetings and make the decisions. (The Scoutmaster and committee can “veto” if the PLC’s plans would violate a BSA safety or other policy.)
(COMMENT) Taking this one step further, Scoutmasters don’t run troops or head the troop committee, and Cubmasters aren’t in charge of packs and their committees.

8. A Scoutmaster’s key responsibility is to run the troop meetings.
SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK (pp.5,10): The Senior Patrol Leader…shoulders the responsibility for leading meetings of the troop and the Patrol Leaders Council…planning and carrying out the troop’s program of outdoor activities, service projects, and events. Duties of a Senior Patrol Leader: Run all troop meetings, events, activities, and the (PLC’s) annual program planning conference.
SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (p.13): The Senior Patrol Leader is in charge of troop meetings from beginning to end.
(COMMENT) Time to stop being “The World’s Oldest SPL” (or PL).

9. Assistant District Commissioners are in administrative, not unit contact, roles.
HANDBOOK FOR DISTRICT OPERATIONS (p.): Assistant District Commissioners are responsible for an assigned share of units in the district and supervise the Unit Commissioners who serve those units.
COMMISSIONER ADMINISTRATION OF UNIT SERVICE (p.8): ADCs are assigned certain units in the district where they supervise…the Commissioners who serve those units… Administrative Commissioners are not Unit Commissioners… When a UC resigns, or cannot adequately fulfill the responsibilities of the job, the ADC temporarily assumes the vacant position. However, immediate action must be taken to provide a replacement.

10. It’s a troop’s option to have either elected or appointed Patrol Leaders and SPLs.
SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (p.13): The Senior Patrol Leader…is elected by all members of the troop… One Patrol Leader is elected by the members of each patrol.
SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK (p.5): You have been elected by your fellow Scouts.
PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK (p.7): Congratulations! The members of your patrol have elected you to be their leader.

So how did you do? More importantly, how do you think the other folks in your unit (or district) would do?
Hi Andy,

About that question regarding a BSA policy on email, vis-à-vis Youth Protection, the BSA’s Social Media Guidelines make a statement about this. Just go to:  (Gene Annas, CSLRTC, Piedmont Council, NC)

Thanks—much appreciated!
Dear Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster of a troop with a pretty big Order of the Arrow (“OA”) membership among our older (ages 14 and over) Scouts. Our previous Scoutmaster used the OA as a resource because we could get trip discounts, which I agree with. But something I’m noticing is that while the intention of the OA is as an honor society, some Scouts use it as either an inclusionary or exclusionary tool in the troop, and some that are in the OA are definitely not what I’d call exemplary Scouts. My feeling about the OA is that it’s “extra”—in other words, troop first; OA second—and I plan to have activities for the troop regardless of OA events on the same day or weekend. Am I off track here? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, the OA is an “honor society,” especially because it’s the troop’s own Scouts who elect their fellow Scouts into the order. Some call this a “popularity contest” disparagingly; I believe that’s a mistake. Yes, elections are certainly based on popularity: The Scout who smiles a lot, helps his fellow Scouts, is a good camper and good leader, and also a good follower, will almost always be elected over the grumpy do-nothing, can’t-find-him-when-we-need-him, no-show Scout!

Yes, one’s troop (actually, one’s patrol) always comes first. However, it’s more than a kindness and definitely considerate when the Patrol Leaders Council (i.e., not the Scoutmaster) selects a non-OA weekend to go hiking or camping, because while OA weekends certainly involve fellowship, their main purpose is service to others.

I’m guessing you’re not an “Arrowman”… But as Scoutmaster, you need to know what the OA is all about. Go buy an OA handbook (it’s obviously not a “restricted” item!) at your local Scout shop or at and do some reading… Knowledge is the greatest enemy of concern about the unknown!

It’s actually more a matter of giving non-OA members activities that are offered from outside originators, like commercial operations that offer “Scout Days” and “Scout Weekends,” because it seems these are always on an OA weekend. And our other trips, many of which are contingent on site availability, happen on OA weekends, too.

On a recent trip to a historic area, some Scouts bailed claiming an OA fellowship weekend, but: Three OA Scouts chose to go on the trip with the troop rather than, in one Arrowman’s words, “sit around a cabin for the weekend.”

All I hear about our lodge is how poorly it’s run and how unhappy everyone is, and from what I see locally, they perform very little service. Our troop used it primarily as a way for Scouts to go on high adventure treks at a discounted price. Although several of our Scouts actively do serve, most view it as an “exclusive” club.

My main objective with our troop is to have a rich program to keep the Scouts busy, active, and having fun. OA activities should be more extra-curricular, since so many of our Scouts aren’t Arrowmen, and a good opportunity for a trip or camping shouldn’t be denied them because there may be a date conflict.

I guess it boils down to my belief that the many shouldn’t have to sacrifice for the few. After all, without Scouts there would be no OA, but if there was no OA there would still be Scouts. (N&CW)

I think we’re dealing with perspective here… Our objective is to get the young men in our care “out there” and participating in Scouting activities. Whether they go on a trip with their troop or, occasionally, to their OA lodge’s fellowship weekend, does it really matter, so long as it’s Scouting? I’m not sure “bailed” is the best way to view this. Different if they “bailed” to go to a mall or just stayed home and “couch-potatoed” the weekend. But it’s Scouting no matter where they’ve gone. Moreover, OA involvement is proven to help retain older young men in the Scouting program—if only because it’s special. Moreover, hangin’ out at a commercial operator’s event “for Scouts” might be lots of fun, but it may not be “Scouting” per our old friend B-P. After all, while the promoters have offered special deals for Scouts, that doesn’t guarantee a Scouting experience. That being the case, what’s so terribly wrong with an OA Fellowship Weekend, for those who enjoy Scouting friendship and service?

Again, what weekends are selected for what outings is up to the Patrol Leaders Council to decide; not the committee or even the Scoutmaster. This isn’t about “sacrifice.” It’s about providing a variety of activities that keep these young men involved and active in Scouting programs.

The OA has been around since 1915, and it’s been pretty successful in expanding young men’s horizons in the dimensions of commitment to Scouting and providing cheerful service to others. That’s pretty difficult to fault!

So a few Scouts like to go to some OA stuff and others go camping with the troop. I somehow think it’s a lot better than Scouts just doing nothing Scout-related, weekend-after-weekend.

Please take a deep breath and consider that, so long as our young men are involved, we’re accomplishing the goals of the BSA in character, citizenship, mental and physical development along ethical guidelines.

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. 305 – 4/24/2012 – 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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