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Issue 313 – June 1, 2012

Rule No. 79:

  • Ready, fire, aim isn’t always the best way to tackle a problem.

Dear Andy,

I noticed in one of your recent issues that you were sending a fellow Scouter a “Reader’s Digest” version of how a troop should operate.  Any chance I could get a copy as well?

We’re also a troop that’s relatively new, in a sense—we’re re-forming after being down to just a couple of Scouts.  I’ve been urging our Scoutmaster along the right path, and now our patrols are formed, they’ve elected their own Patrol Leaders, and our Senior Patrol Leader is now leading the PLC with guidance from the Scoutmaster.  Strangely, it’s much easier to do that with 30 Scouts than it was with just a handful.  I think we’ve getting there!  The Scouts are having a ball and doing the things Scouts do as opposed to sitting in a room listening to old goats talk, so a condensed version of “The Scouts run the troop—the Scoutmaster interfaces with the SPL, and the rest of you hush up” would be great to read through and share with our newer parents!  We all appreciate your columns and your advice! (Tim Aman, CC, Indian Nations Council, OK)

Happy to oblige… Here it is! (Readers, if you know someone who might be able to use a “Troop Operations in Ten Short Minutes”-type write-up, let me know and I’ll send it along to you.)

Hello Andy,

I want to have my Scoutmaster conference and board of review to advance in rank but haven’t been able to do it for six weeks because of a counselor teaching a merit badge class.  What do I do? (My Aunt helped me to find you.) (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)

Thank your aunt—you’ve come to the right place!  But… Your question’s a bit confusing.  First, what rank are we talking about here?  Also, what does a Merit Badge Counselor have to do with showing your Scoutmaster that you’ve completed all your requirements and asking him for a Scoutmaster conference?  Do you go to troop meetings regularly?  What has been causing this six-week delay?  Help me out with some more details, and I’ll do my best to help you.

I’m a Tenderfoot.  I attended meetings every week and I’ve done everything to get to First Class except the Scoutmaster conference, and boards of review for Second Class and First Class. The counselor has set up classes to teach this merit badge during the same time we’re supposed to have our troop meetings, so I’ve not been able to have a chance to move up in rank. I have three more years to make Eagle and I want to do it.  I’d be the first one in my family to make Eagle and I have a younger brother who’s four years old, who might want to be an Eagle when he is a Scout.  Please tell me in where I can get the rule to show the Scoutmaster that I should have my chance to move up in rank.  Thanks, Andy! (SN&CW)

You can’t “move up in rank” if you’re not showing up at troop meetings, so that you can meet with your Scoutmaster!

OK, here’s the problem… When that Merit Badge Counselor (I don’t know what merit badge we’re talking about, but it really doesn’t matter) told you he’s scheduling “classes” at exactly the same time as your troop meetings, your best answer would have been this: “Thanks, but count me out.  That’s when we have troop meetings, and that’s where I’m supposed to be.”  Then, you go back to your Scoutmaster and get the name of a different Counselor—somebody who can meet with you at some time other than your troop meetings.  Continuing with the merit badge this way isn’t helping you; it’s making a bit of a mess in your schedule.  So here’s what to do…

First, pick up the phone and call that Counselor.  Tell him you can’t meet with him anymore because you’re missing too many troop meetings, so you want your “blue card” back, with his initials on all the requirements you’ve completed so far, then go get that card from him (he can put it in an envelope and leave it outside his door, for easy pick-up, if your schedule and his don’t match up).

Second, pick up the phone again and call your Scoutmaster.  Tell him what’s been going on and why you’ve been missing troop meetings.  Tell him that you’re dropping that Merit Badge Counselor and getting your blue card back from him.  Tell him you’ll be at the next troop meeting.  Ask him to please give you the name of another Merit Badge Counselor for that merit badge, so you can finish up without missing any more troop meetings.  Then tell your Scoutmaster that, at the next troop meeting, you’d like to sit down with him and talk about your Second Class and First class requirements, and how much you’ve done.

Third, go to the troop meeting, meet with your Scoutmaster, and finish up your ranks; then enjoy the rest of the meeting!  Afterwards, call the new Merit Badge Counselor, introduce yourself, tell him how much you’ve already done, and ask to meet with him so you can continue, and finish up the merit badge.  Then go do it!

OK now?  Go that plan?  Go for it!  No more missed troop meetings!

Hi Andy –

Our chartered organization changes its executive officer every two years.  The changeover happens after the unit’s recharter date.  In the past, I’d just contact our council registrar and let her know to drop the old executive officer and add the new one—an easy fix.  But now we’re being told that we have to fill out a “New Unit Application” each time we have a new executive officer and then have that application signed by him and our District Executive.  This just seems strange, especially considering we’re a 75 year-old unit.  Is this a new national policy, or is it a local council rule? (If we really must go though this re-application process, do you know of any online resource for “New Unit Application” templates?  If I have to do it this way, it would be a huge time-saver. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s start here, just so it’s covered: The chartered organization’s executive officer is not a registered BSA member unless he or she is also the Chartered Organization Representative (registration code: CR).  Therefore, unless the latter situation is occurring, no individual “volunteer” application needs to be filed, nor training taken.

As for the “new unit application” stuff: That’s nonsense.  All that should need to be done is for the outgoing executive officer to send a letter to the registrar notifying who the incoming officer will be, with contact information.  It’s completely inappropriate for a unit that’s three-quarters of a century old to be filling out a for “new” units.

Dear Andy,

I’m our council’s training chair.  We’re moving towards 100% training in our council and making training mandatory to recharter.  The training specified for each volunteer position is fairly well laid out for us…except for Venturing Crew Advisors.  Some need “Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills” (aka “OLS”) and some don’t.  We’re told that only Advisors of crews focusing on high adventure need to take OLS training, but the problem is that no one can tell us what the BSA considers “high adventure.”  There are some clear-cut specialties like computers (which wouldn’t) or whitewater rafting (which might, but we’re not sure), and then we have things like fly-fishing (not usually high adventure, but it could be).  Does anyone have an official list, or have the resources to obtain a list, of which crew specialties require Advisors to take OLS training, so that the pointer flips to green when recoding this stuff on  I have calls in to our region and to several other sources, but I thought will all your background you’d be able to nail this down for my district training folks.  Thanks again for all the time you put into solving the Scouting world’s problems! (Mike Koehen)

This may be easier than you think… Start by taking a look at the OLS syllabus.  Compare the skills focused on with what a crew will likely be doing.  If there’s a match-up, then the adult volunteers take OLS; if not, then they don’t.  I really think it’s that straightforward.

For instance, if fly-fishing is going to happen as part of a crew backpacking trek into a wilderness area, with camping overnight, meal prep., etc, then OLS would be a great help.  But if the crew is connecting with fly-fishing outfitters, with day-guides, and staying in cabins with outfitter-prepared meals available as part of the package, then there’s no obvious need for OLS.  Same with whitewater and rafting trips: They can be “high adventure” with lots of creature comforts making OLS unnecessary, or not.  It’ll depend on what the crew is planning to do, and how.

This is probably why you’re unable to find a list: There are many little in’s and out’s to be considered.

Dear Andy,

My son is an Eagle Scout, and he’ll turn 18 in just a few days.  He very much wants to continue working with his troop, and he’ll be able to do this because he’ll be attending a local college.   My question is: How does he go from Scout to Scouter?  (The troop has a brand-new Scoutmaster who’s not sure how this happens.)  Related to this, is there some sort of ceremony for this?  And how does he “transition” his uniform?  Does it have his “old” JASM patch one week and an ASM patch the next, or is there a slower transition stage?

He is planning to take ASM training at summer camp in July, but will do the online leader and youth protection training during the week between his last meeting as a 17 year-old scout and his first meeting as an 18 year-old adult (he’s already filled out the adult application, and will turn it in at that second troop meeting).

As a birthday present, we have a new uniform shirt ready for him, with his Eagle, Arrow of light and religious emblem square knots on it.  Can he wear the ASM patch and training patch (same design for youth and adults) after completing the online training, or should he wait to put those on until he completes the training at camp this summer?  Also, does he need to apply to the troop committee for the ASM position, or need to be approved by them before he can serve?  (I’ve looked for the answers to these questions but couldn’t find any definitive information online.)  Thanks for your help. (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m happy to say the process is simple.  Just as you’ve described, your son goes online and does the Youth Protection training, and whatever other training your council requires of Assistant Scoutmasters, and prints out the certificates stating he’s done these.  Then he fills out the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, gets the signatures he needs, and registers as an Assistant Scoutmaster (Code: SA) for the troop, together with the annual registration fee (the troop’s treasurer will guide him as to the amount).

As for his uniform, the oval Eagle badge comes off his left pocket, replaced by an Eagle square knot directly above the left pocket flap.  The Arrow of Light badge comes off, too, replaced by the AoL square knot above his left pocket flap, along with the religious award knot for a nice, neat row of three.  The JASM badge comes off his left sleeve, replaced by the ASM badge.  He coordinates all of this with the troop’s Committee Chair and Scoutmaster.

But, Mom, heart- to-heart, it’s time for your son to be asking these questions and doing these things for himself.  (As a father, I know it’s difficult to “let go,” but that’s a big and important job of us parents!)

Dear Andy,

My son, as a Webelos Scout now, wants the tan “Scout” shirt, but he previously earned a religious emblem pendant and knot, and also earned the centennial recruiter emblem.  Is it permissible to transfer these emblems to his new uniform, or should I leave them on the blue uniform? (Wes Bradford)

Yes, all emblems and badges transfer from the Cub Scout blue shirt to the Webelos Scout tan shirt.  And, while you’re at it, encourage the parents of all the den’s boys to switch over to the tan shirts, too… This is a subtle reinforcement that they’re going to go on to be Boy Scouts (and that’s our number one objective here!).

Hi Andy,

I just found your columns and I’m impressed!  So here’s a question…

I’m the full-time Commissioner for Camp Geronimo in Payson, Arizona,  this summer.  Traditionally, the five or six Commissioners have done the opening skit in the Friday night closing campfire program.  We’re all pretty bored with previous skits and need some new stuff.  Do you have any ideas for us?  (Kevin Hunt, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)

The website has a boatload of skits!  Check ’em out!  But also remember that folks—Scouts and adults alike—enjoy the familiar: It makes ’em feel at home.  Think about it… How many times do you think Arlo Guthrie has sung “City of New Orleans”?  Why does he keep doing it, even though he may be bored out of his skull?  Simple.  Folks love it!  Same with Jimmy Buffet and “Margaritaville”!  So just be sure you’re not throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a Unit Commissioner for the past three years, following a two-decade break from the movement.  Our council has had changes where two of the districts combined.  I now have a new District Executive and District Commissioner but continue to serve the same units I’ve had since I started.  I continue with my unit visits and we’ve reached a point in our relationships where they realize I’m their friend and not a detective for the district.  Prior to every visit I report to my DE what topics to discuss.  Recently we had a situation where one of the units’  leaders wanted to “do it all,” and failed to ask for more committee members.  I kept in close contact on this by attending more committee meetings.   At the most recent meeting, the DE showed up and essentially took over the meeting, but never really said or did anything substantive that would help.  I was confused about what was going on, so I reported to my DC that this didn’t seem appropriate to do.  The DC spoke to the DE and said he needs to communicate with me on anything going on with the units I serve, and that I’d do the same. 

Now the problem is that the DE isn’t holding up his share of communicating.  Some of my units are now feeling like they should communicate with the DE (only), instead of me.  They’ve told me that  the DE wants to be included with everything, and that he pays no attention to what I’m doing (or have been doing for the past three years).  At this point, I’m not sure what to do.  Do I transfer to another district, or just step down altogether?    I’d think the DE would concentrate on the units that are failing and/or the ones that don’t have a Commissioner at all, instead of these, which have been served pretty well already.  I’ve suggested that it would be better for him to attend courts of honor, Blue & Gold’s, and such, and not the regular meetings, because that’s my job, but to no avail.  I’d understand if I’d not been performing as I should, but that’s not the case.  All my units attend roundtable and other council related activities, and have been Quality units.  So what can I say to them?  Or, as a UC, will I always be out in left field?  I have a Commissioners meeting tonight and it might be my last unless I can get some answers! (Name & Council Withheld).

DEs can sometimes side-track themselves.  They have difficult jobs that don’t come easily to some.  So, what do they do?  They go brain-dead on their actual responsibilities and start doing stuff they shouldn’t be messing with.  Why?  Simple, it’s familiar, non-threatening, and they enjoy it.  That’s a lot easier than doing the real work, which is unfamiliar in many cases, scary to some, and not necessarily “fun.”

As a UC, your best ally is your DC.  Tell him what’s going on and ask him to please get that wayward DE off your back, out of your units, and doing the job he’s supposed to be doing.  This is your DC’s fight; not yours.  In the meanwhile, chill, baby, chill.  Keep on doing what you’re doing and don’t sweat the DE’s mucking about.  Your unit folks will figure him out pretty soon; just be patient.  And take some deep, cleansing breaths!

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. 313 – 6/1/2012 – 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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