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Issue 311 – May 26, 2012

Rule No. 78:
• When tempted to fight fire with fire, consider that firefighters usually use water.
Dear Andy,

I’m a Scout. In my troop, we have an annual combination banquet (potluck) and court of honor every January. It’s a nice evening, but we have no courts of honor in-between. So Scouts like me can join the troop in February or March, earn our Scout badge, then our Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks by maybe September, and for that entire time until January of the next year we have nothing on our left pockets at all; not even the Scout badge. Then we get them all at the dinner in January. Then, Scouts can go on and earn Star and Life before the next January and they’re still wearing First Class badges (or less, for some of the Scouts). The same thing happens with merit badges. We can earn a ton of them on our own and at summer camp, and our merit badge sashes are still empty until after the dinner. This sounds unfair. We’ve earned our ranks and our merit badges a long time ago. Why can’t we get them when we earn them? (Name & Council Withheld)

Unfortunately, you’re in a troop with clueless adult volunteers. The BSA says this about a Scout earning his next rank or a new merit badge: “The Scout deserves recognition as soon as possible. This should be done at a ceremony at the next troop meeting (after the board of review or when you’ve turned in your completed merit badge application [aka “blue card”]). The certificate…may be presented later, during a formal court of honor” (GTA

If a bunch of you Scouts all talk to your parents about this (show them this correspondence), and they’re willing to stand up for you and demand a change, maybe the people responsible for this huge gaffe will get the idea and set things right. (Yes, this is for your parents to do—adult-to-adult.) But, if not, then the only options you all have are (a) stay in the troop knowing that what they’re doing is flat wrong but unchangeable, or (b) go find yourselves a troop where folks “get it” and join up…ALL of you!
Dear Andy,

In our troop, we used to have an “advancement coordinator” on our committee, but his son aged out and he moved on. We thought we’d found a good replacement for him, but we’re experiencing some problems. In the first place, he insists on calling himself “Advancement Chairman,” even though the BSA lists no such position in the TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK. But the send problem’s worse. He insists on being the chair of every board of review for all ranks, but he travels overseas a great deal and isn’t always around when a Scout completes his Scoutmaster conference and is ready to advance. Even for Life Scouts ready for Eagle, he lists a series of several dates extending out over a one- or two-month (usually two-month) time period, for the days he’s here in this country and can chair the review. We have a large troop committee that shows up at troop meetings a lot, so except for this one person, we could do boards of review in conjunction with almost any troop meeting. But he insists that, as Advancement Chair, he must be there or the review isn’t valid. Our Scouts are losing interest in advancing and even some of our parents are beginning to complain. What should we do? The Advancement Chair is an Eagle Scout himself, and is very dedicated and sincere. (Troop Committee Chair, Council Withheld)

Eagle, dedicated, and sincere or not, he’s not doing his job; he’s failing the Scouts he’s supposed to be serving. Immediate action is required here before you start losing Scouts entirely. This is a job that can’t be delegated: It’s yours to do.

Start by having a personal conversation with him. Tell him that his schedule, while certainly important, isn’t serving the troop or the Scouts very well. Ask him if he’s willing to stay on as coordinator, but if he’s traveling then someone else on the committee will manage boards of review. If he agrees, consider keeping him in that slot. If his reply is anything other than 100 percent agreement, tell him you’ll think about his answer. Then…

Identify someone else on the troop committee who has the time, availability, and interest in carrying out the responsibilities of advancement coordinator they way they’re supposed to be done. Then, with the Scoutmaster at your side, meet with him personally and recruit him to take over the slot. As soon as he’s agreed, meet with the erstwhile “advancement chair” and inform him that, since his schedule is holding Scouts back, you want him to take a different position on the troop committee—one that fits better with his hectic schedule. Offer him a couple of options and let him choose. If he balks, or flatly refuses to give up his present role, especially chairing boards of review, simply say, “Thank you for your services to the troop, up till now; your services will no longer be needed.” That’s it; say no more, except for the return of all Scout advancement records to you, personally. It’s over. Now, go back to his replacement and tell him he starts immediately.

As for the “Advancement Chair” title, this is, quite frankly, an exercise in aggrandizement. A “chair” is an authority, or one who presides over a committee or subcommittee. Neither is a part of the responsibilities of an advancement coordinator.

One more thing, just to cap this off… While it’s a nice idea for the troop’s advancement coordinator to be present at boards of review, it’s hardly mandatory and nothing’s “invalid” if the coordinator’s not there at any particular review. The BSA stipulates clearly that, for Tenderfoot through Life, plus Palms, three to six committee members—regardless of individual responsibilities—are all that’s necessary.
Dear Andy,

I’m a council Development Director. Right now, we’re putting together a new way to fund our Eagle Scout Alumni Association’s scholarship program for Eagle Scouts. One of the volunteers on our committee came up with an interesting program that has three levels of commitment: Bronze, Gold, and Silver—Silver being the highest. I’m wondering, though… shouldn’t gold be higher than the silver? (Name & Council Withheld)

I can appreciate the confusion. Here’s the color order story…

For the past 102 years (even longer in the UK) the order of colors for the BSA has been Bronze-Gold-Silver. That’s why Eagles are silver, for example, and check out the Venturing award sequence. Notice, also, that shoulder loops for district and council volunteers and professional staff are also silver, while those at the regional and national levels—considered “support”—are gold.

The only exception to this in BSA history is the more recent Journey To Excellence program, which originators chose to follow the “Olympic” color order: Bronze, Silver, Gold. Their stated rationale for this was that it would be “less confusing” to people only recently connected to the Scouting program. But, as you have yourself expressed, this had the precise opposite effect (the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in action once again!).

But the story doesn’t quite end there…

We Americans have pretty much always done things our own way, and Scouting’s no exception. For instance, when the BSA was founded (not by B-P, by the way, but by William D. Boyce, with Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard), two points were immediately added to B-P’s “Scout Law” (Brave and Reverent) and the “Scout Oath” added “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Then there’s the case of the Girl Scouts, founded in the US in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low. Mrs. Low also created certain variations, one of which was to change the color order used by the British Boy Scouts and Girl Guides as well as the Boy Scouts of America (founded two years earlier) from bronze-gold-silver to bronze-silver-gold. This is why the highest rank in Girl Scouting today is the prestigious Gold Award. (It’s a popular theory among Scouting historians that some of Mrs. Low’s changes were purposefully contrarian, she having been “bypassed” by B-P in his matrimonial pursuits in favor of a woman some three decades her younger.)

So, that volunteer gets an “atta-boy” for getting it right. And now you know!
Dear Andy,

I need help with a ticklish one… A local candidate for city council has a banner ad on his website. One of the handful of photos there shows a picture of himself with his wife and son, all in BSA uniforms. I’m guessing his intent is to show his patriotism and “Americanism,” but I believe this is forbidden by the BSA. Can you direct me to a nationally verified source for something like this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Two ready sources with the answer you need are the BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE (excerpt from the next source) and the RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA. In the latter, go to Article X, Section 4:

Clause 1 – General: “The badges…and the uniforms of the Boy Scouts of America shall be made available only to, and used only by, registered youth members…and other members who have satisfactorily complied with the requirements prescribed by the Corporation.

Clause 3 – Protection of Uniforms: “The…use of the…uniform…shall be restricted to members of the Boy Scouts of America who are registered and in good standing according to the records of the organization. It shall be the responsibility of all members of the Boy Scouts of America and especially of all commissioned officers and chartered councils to cooperate…in preventing the use of the official uniforms by those who are not members of the organization in good standing.”

But what if they’re all actually registered members of the BSA? For this, we need to look a little further in the R&R:

Article IX, Section 2, Clause 6: “The Boy Scouts of America shall not, through its governing body or through any of its officers, its chartered councils, or members, involve the Scouting movement in any question of a political character.” (Elsewhere, the R&R states that the BSA and all members must remain publicly nonpartisan.)

So, having seen neither this candidate’s website nor the photo that raised the question, it strikes me that the call of good judgment would be to politely ask this gentleman to remove that particular photo, explaining to him that it could be inferred from it that the BSA is supporting or endorsing his candidacy. If true Scout spirit is indeed operating (I’m going to start by believing that this is indeed a fine Scouting family), he’ll certainly understand and cooperate.

There are myriad other scenarios, of course. Here afe a few. Is this his “personal” or “family” website that has nothing to do with his candidacy? Is it a political campaign website? Does the photo depict him and his family engaged in a Scouting activity along with other volunteers and Scouts, or is this a posed “portrait”-type photo designed to send a different message? These considerations need to be evaluated, but the bottom line is that good judgment and Scout spirit on both ends of the conversation prevail.
Dear Andy,

Two units I serve as Unit Commissioner—a Cub Scout pack and a Boy Scout troop—have the same sponsor (aka “chartered organization”). Their adult volunteers have expressed interest in building a stronger relationship with this sponsor: a church. One of the reasons behind this, in addition to pure bridge-building, is that the church’s congregation has far more families with boys of Scout age than are represented in either the pack or troop, and they’re hoping that this might change for the better. Any ideas here? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, there are definitely some easy steps that can be taken to bolster this relationship.

Let’s start with “Scout Sunday”… Both the pack and the troop, and all adults involved with these units—parents, unit volunteers, the works!—show up en masse, and those with uniforms wear ‘em to the hilt—youth and adults alike. However, once you have an approximate “head count,” be sure to advise the pastor well in advance, so that he or she is prepared (maybe the sermon that morning might even include Scouting—if you let the pastor know soon enough, so that the sermon can be developed in that direction). But don’t stop there. Offer, that morning, to provide the ushering, distributing the liturgy, and any other ways that would help (and coincidentally not only “do a good turn” but raise even further the Scouting profile).

Next, what was their last combined-and-in-uniform (again, visibility is critical) service project for the church? If it’s a “once-a-year” sort of thing, or perhaps less frequent, consider raising the bar: There’s nothing that prohibits a pack or troop from doing good turns for their sponsor every couple of months!

Packs have annual Blue & Gold banquets; troops have Courts of Honor at least three of four times a year. Invite not only the pastor by the youth minister, if any, as well. If no youth minister, then the church volunteer responsible for the church’s own youth program. But again, go beyond just inviting them; offer a “speaking role.” Not just the invocation, either. A few-minutes’ talk on what the pack/troop means to the church and how important what’s being accomplished here not only compliments the Scouts and their adult volunteers; it also seats this idea in the pastor’s own mind!

Further, for the pack, invite the pastor to the graduation pack meeting, when the “cross-over” ceremony takes place and the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader and Scoutmaster are there to welcome the Arrow of Light Scouts who are bridging over to the troop (all should—that’s another goal here!). It’s hardly “mandatory” that this be done at the B&G banquet in February (to celebrate the birthdays of Baden-Powel in 1857 and the BSA in 1910 together), so make it a separate event. Again, participation by the pastor, not just observation, is the key to success.

Troop boards of review are next. Not only will you want to invite the pastor, always, to boards of review for the Eagle rank; you’ll want to go the extra mile and, with him or her, choose a time the pastor’s actually available, with no scheduling conflict. But why stop there? Why not invite the pastor to sit in on a Tenderfoot board of review, too? Yes, I know that boards of review for Tenderfoot through Life, plus Palms, are to be carried out by troop committee members, but that’s no reason to exclude the pastor from observing!

Religious awards are next… In Cub Scouts, a Webelos requirement option (8.d.) is to earn the religious emblem of one’s faith. Recruit a pastoral staffer or alternative to set up a religious emblem program open not only to all Cub Scouts but to non-member youth of Cub Scout ages (these programs—check out—are available to all youth!).

Recruit a Chaplain from among the church’s deacons or elders (who isn’t already a registered BSA volunteer) to mentor a Scout Chaplain Aide. (Again, another “bridge.”)

Promotional stuff is next. Ask permission first, and then distribute “Be A Scout” invitations to all age-appropriate boys in the church’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs. Post the units’ meeting dates and times on the church bulletin board and get these printed in the church’s monthly calendar and/or newsletter. Send brief articles about upcoming pack and troop activities to the church’s newsletter staff. Get listed on the church’s website, with links to your own more extensive websites. Put signs on or next to the church’s “all-purpose” room: “Cub Scout Pack XXX Meets Here!” – “Boy Scout Troop XXX Meets Here!”

Finally—this may be a “toughie,” but it’s not insurmountable—reach out to the pastor’s designate—possibly the youth minister if there is one, or the congregant/parishioner responsible for the youth program—to take over the position of Chartered Organization Representative (registration code: CR). Now the odds are that the Committee Chairs of both the pack and the troop are “double-registered” as both CC and CR, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! If you can get someone in a youth-related position from the church who isn’t already a pack or troop registered volunteer, you have a new ally and a communications conduit directly from the units right into the belly of the church!

Well, that’s the plan. I’m sure there are even more things that can be done, and they’ll emerge one-by-one as these units take the first steps and then keep on keepin’ on. But even with a plan, there won’t be any real or concerted action unless the pack and troop have a single “Champion” for this effort. So the actual very-first step here is to identify someone who can build a passion for success, tell ‘em the idea, show ‘em the ways, recruit ‘em, and the get out of their way!

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. 311 – 5/26/2012 – 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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