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Issue 314 – June 10, 2012

Rule No. 80:
• Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Dear Andy,

One of our Scouts is under a time crunch to earn his Eagle. He made First Class on January 30th and will turn 17 in June. The active and leadership requirements for Star are both four months, so I called for a board of review for him on May 30th –that’s the four-month mark. Our Scoutmaster complained that I overstepped my authority as Committee Chair and that we should have a board of review at our regular meeting on May 28th, which would have been two days short of the four-month mark. I informed him that, as Committee Chair I have every right to call for a board of review, especially when it conforms to BSA requirements. Did I actually overstep? (I just want to get some clarity on this, should it arise again.) (Greg Brown, CC, Circle Ten Council, TX)

Continue to stick to your guns.

First, let’s all agree that all new rank “clocks” start from the board of review date. Let’s also agree that four months means four months, six months means six months, and the BSA national advancement program has absolutely no allowance for short-changing this.

If this Scout earned First Class on January 30, then he would have been eligible for his Star board of review no sooner than May 30, for Life no sooner than November 30, and then all requirements for Eagle (excluding that final board of review) must be completed no sooner than May 30 next year (for Eagle, the board of review may take place after one’s 18th birthday). This means that, with an 18th birthday in June 2013, this Scout has some—but not a lot of—”wiggle room.” He’ll definitely need to stay focused and keep moving forward.

Scoutmasters request, but do not set, board of review dates; the Committee Chair and the committee’s advancement coordinator are responsible for setting the date and assembling the review members. You didn’t overstep; that Scoutmaster did.

Keep in mind that the final board of review, for Eagle, may take place after a young man’s 18th birthday so long as all requirements—including the Scoutmaster conference—have taken place before that birthday.

To prevent this in the future, discuss with the Scoutmaster the idea that Scouts should target earning Eagle by age 14 or 15, so that it doesn’t become an “18th Birthday present”! The troop outdoor and activities program will have a lot to do with success here!

Finally, the Scoutmaster reports to the Committee Chair; it’s not the other way around.
Dear Andy,

When we register for district events we’re asked to make a check out to an individual; no formal receipt is given. It’s my understanding that the individual then pays the bills for the event and the surplus funds are held by that individual until the funds are used for some other district event. I thought that all funds had to go through the council. What should be happening here? (Gerald Findley, Hiawatha Seaway Council NY)

That’s not cricket. All fees for district events are to go through the council. Checks are made payable to the council, with an account number to be written on the “memo” line for the specific event. You need to speak personally with your District Executive, for starters, to stop this inappropriate procedure and get on the right track. This nonsense has persisted long enough.
Dear Andy,

Can you help us understand how the National Outdoor Badge for Camping requirement no. 4 works? It says: “Complete 25 days and nights of camping—including six consecutive days (five nights) of resident camping…”

Does that mean at least 6 days/5 nights or only 6 days/5 nights of resident camp? (Heidi Bornemann, CC, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

It doesn’t mean “at least” and it doesn’t mean “only.” It means exactly. No “translation” or “interpretation” required. So, to qualify for the NOB-Camping req. 4, a Scout will have camped for 19 days/nights in a tent he’s pitched (or under the stars) and 6 consecutive days (5 nights) at a resident camp, since becoming a Boy Scout and having earned both First Class rank and Camping merit badge, all of which camping will have been Scouting experiences.
Dear Andy,

Recently while planning a trip, our troop didn’t have any available leaders or parents with the training required for the planned activities: No adult going on the trip had either Safe Swim Defense or Safety Afloat training, and it was to have been a swimming and boating trip.

One of our more experienced committee members proposed a disturbing option: He proposed that the swimming and boating be done as a “non-Scouting” portion of the trip; the parents were to sign an additional permission slip for the “non-Scouting” in- and on-water activities. Thankfully, the whole plan was abandoned, but not without a great deal of tension.

I recall reading about various “non-Scout” trips ending poorly for the troop and the chartered organization, but I can’t seem to locate any articles or web pages that show the consequences of such unofficial activities. Do you know of any articles or web pages that will show the reality of situations such as were proposed? (Jim McGlash)

No, I’m not aware of a “Scouting Disaster File”! But I do recall with absolute clarity a case of some years ago where, on a day-hike, a Scoutmaster abandoned the “Buddy System” and by the end of the day a Scout was lost, only to be found dead from lack of water and food about five days later (it was a mountain S&R team that found the boy, still in his Scout uniform, curled up in a fetal position under a large downed tree limb).

The “we’ll just wink at Scouting Safety and then do as we darned well please” is the surest way I know to disasters like this, and when it happens you’re all hung out to dry. Make no mistake about that: No silly little piece of paper is going to save anyone from losing their house and bank accounts in lawsuit. And, “well, it wasn’t really Scouting at the time” is absolutely not going to prevent headlines like SCOUT DROWNS ON TROOP CAMPING TRIP!

So as for that “more experienced committee member,” it’s time for him to go… Out the door on his butt!

Meanwhile, both SSD and SA training are available online, and both can be accomplished in under an hour. My recommendation is that all your uniformed leaders take this training immediately…. I think that’s called something like “Be Prepared”…
Dear Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout and currently our troop’s Order of the Arrow Representative. I’m also involved in a high school program called NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps). I’ve just been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (LCDR—the fourth rank and just two away from Captain) and assigned the position of Commanding Officer (CO—the senior cadet representative of our corps). (I’m told that I’m the first Boy Scout to even command this corps.)

By anyway here’s my question… Are Venturing crews able to be not only associated with JROTC units (AJROTC, AFJROTC, MCJROTC, NJROTC) but actually be a part of the JROTC unit itself? The reason I’m asking is because we have several older Boy Scouts in our corps, and we’re looking for more recreational and high adventure-type activities. One of the higher-ups in our local BSA council was also CO of his high school JROTC unit, is also an Eagle, and he had a Venturing crew in his corps, which he was president of. If you can help me with this, I’d sure appreciate it. (Alan, Council Withheld)

First, congratulations on your Eagle rank and your appointment as JROTC LCDR and CO!

The BSA’s Venturing program is available to all young men and women ages 14 up to 21, whether or not they are or have ever been Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. From your home troop’s Scoutmaster, get the name and contact information for your local District Commissioner and/or District Executive, and ask them the very same question that you’ve just asked me. If the corps itself, or its high school, can’t be the sponsor of a Venturing crew, I’m sure they can help you all find an alternative sponsor. Your idea’s an excellent one and is definitely worth pursuing further! (Thanks for finding me and for taking the time to write!)

Readers: If you’re wondering whether this makes sense of not, consider the U.S. Army’s elite Rangers. Here is the Ranger Creed (capitals mine):

“Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.

“Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.

“Never shall I fail my comrades I will always KEEP MYSELF MENTALLY ALERT, PHYSICALLY STRONG, and MORALLY STRAIGHT and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

“Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

“Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

“Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

“Rangers Lead The Way!!!”

Are you getting what’s going on here, fellow Scouters! Are we in the business of “building tomorrow’s leaders” across all walks of life? You bet we are!
Dear Andy,

Is it appropriate to wear a Wood Badge award knot with one’s other square knot awards on an adult uniform? (Mike)

Sorry to be the one to break the news… The BSA doesn’t have a “Wood Badge award knot.” The symbols of Wood Badge are the Maclaren neckerchief or scarf, leather woggle, and wood badge beads on a leather thong. That’s it.
Hello Andy,

I’ve just been appointed Committee Chair of Troop 1, Hong Kong. Our troop has been established for 40 years and has recently seen some big changes, including more than four Eagle Scouts this year! Our Scoutmaster has stepped down and since most of our families are only in Hong Kong for three to perhaps five years, continuity isn’t easy. We have come up with the solution of having two Scoutmasters instead of one. They work well together, respect one another, and are both committed to the boy-led program. We interviewed one other candidate, but these two are absolutely the best for our troop.

My contact at the BSA Direct Service Council has said that it’s not possible to have two Scoutmasters. I know this is unusual, but do you know if it’s actually forbidden, or just unusual? Before I query her again on this I want to find out as much information as possible—Internet searches haven’t turned up any information. I’d be highly appreciative of any advice. Of course if it is expressly forbidden, then one of these men will have to be Scoutmaster and the other the Assistant Scoutmaster, and they can proceed that way. Our troop currently has 45 Scouts and we think in about six to eight months, with a new Webelos influx, we’ll be around between 50 and 55 Scouts.

I’m new to Scouting, so I’m turning to you! Many, many thanks for any thoughts or advice. (Emma Vijayaratnam, CC, Direct Service Council, Hong Kong)

First, may I tell you how honored I am to know that, halfway around the world, you’re reading my columns! Thank you!

Let’s start by drawing a couple of analogies… How many pilots on larger planes? Two? A pilot and a copilot? Nope? “Copilot” means “assistant pilot.” How many captains on ships? Right: There’s one captain and one executive officer—the captain’s second in command. How many Patrol Leaders for each patrol? How many Senior Patrol Leaders in a troop? So, how many Scoutmasters? And there’s your answer: One.

If two people have registered in the SM position, it’s likely that this simply slipped by whoever at the Direct Service office handles registrations. The BSA doesn’t make any “policies” or “rules” on this sort of stuff because it’s assumed we’re intelligent volunteers who don’t need to be told stuff like this. That’s why you won’t find some “rule” about “only one Den Leader per den” or “only one Patrol Leader per patrol” or–how’s this one—”only one Chair of a unit committee.”

So this isn’t about a “rule” so much as it’s about intelligent management of a Boy Scout troop. You see, the Scouts themselves need to know who’s the Scoutmaster! This is especially important in these formative years!

But here’s the really good news: Just let your two men decide… One is SM and the other is ASM, and then the third candidate can be another ASM! That’s called a Win-Win-Win!

To help you all along, I’m also sending you “How A Scout Troop Works” – I’m sure you’ll put it to good use!
Dear Andy,

I’m fairly new to the Scouting program and have taken on a lot of different positions in the past three years. My question is about the swim test for Cub Scouts. I’ve been told that it’s the same as the Boy Scout swim test but I can’t find information on this. Can you help me with this? I thought that the Cub swim test was a little easier, like instead of them jumping into water over their heads they have to start from the beached area and swim the 75 feet. This is a big difference to me so I want to make sure which way is right for my Cubs. (Leisa Barber)

The BSA classification of swimming ability, and the corresponding tests and standards, apply to all, regardless of age. This includes children, youth, and adults too. There are no exceptions. You’ll find the classifications and standards in the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING.
Dear Andy,

I’m a female Scoutmaster and I have a Scout who has a difficult time following directions. He argues with the leaders, scoffs at his duties, and expects his dad to do the majority of his assignments. His father seems to think that we all need to pitch in and help. His mother and father are both involved deeply with the troop, and his mother’s sister is the troop’s Committee Chair. When his parents assist and guide their son if a duty is new to him, I have no quarrel; but completing the task for him instead of allowing him to shoulder the responsibility prevents him from learning responsibility and team cooperation. How do I handle this situation? (Name & Council Withheld)

Looks like you’re outnumbered by some folks who either think Boy Scouts is little more than “Webelos 3” or won’t cut the apron strings, or are so indulgent that their son has become an expert on parental manipulation, or maybe all three. But here’s the bottom line (my Rule No. 49): No boy can be saved from his own parents.

As Scoutmaster, your responsibility is to guide and oversee the troop program through the youth leaders (i.e., not directly), which means that it’s this Scout’s Patrol Leader who’s “in charge” of him, not you (or any of the other adults, for that matter). So the first thing you need to do is coach the Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leader on fundamental leadership skills (communicating, controlling the group, understanding the needs and wants of the group, etc.) plus how to cope with “problem behavior.” Then, if the Patrol Leader is having problems with this particular Scout, he enlists the aid of the Senior Patrol Leader; not you.

Next, how to deal with the parents and aunt. Since you’re outnumbered, confrontation is destined to result in failure. Sun Tsu taught us centuries ago: Never engage in a battle you’re certain to lose. Instead, be more clever. Quietly arrange for troop meetings to be “adult-free.” That’s right: No adults except you and an ASM (other than either parent) in the troop meeting room; all other adults go hang out somewhere else in the building. Next, organize hikes and camp-outs where only you and an ASM are with the Scouts (as they lead themselves); all other adults (whether parents, committee members, or whatever) hike and camp separately from the Scouts—this means out of sight and out of hearing range. No exceptions. Do this by subtly convincing the PLC that this is what they want; then let them “announce” it (or announce it on their behalf at a committee meeting).

Implement just these few things and you’ll have made a huge difference in the lives of all Scouts in the troop, and especially the Scout who has his own personal staff!

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. 314 – 6/10/2012 – 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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