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Issue 318 – June 30, 2012

Rule No. 83:
o A boy kept from making mistakes is likely to be kept from making anything else.

Dear Andy,

I really appreciate your piece on “Working for Pay.” I’ve been getting flack from lots of good people who say I shouldn’t do the NAPS newsletter for free, or go to denominational conferences to set up and manage the NAPS booth for free. But it seems to me that when one doesn’t have a lot, that’s maybe when it’s most important to give as much as we can, “Because that’s what Scouts—and just plain Christ-centered folks—do.” We respond to calls for assistance and we give where we can. We give ourselves, even if we don’t have money to give to Scouting on a larger scale. I’ve been struggling with how to tell church members and my Scouting friends why I do as much as I do without pay. I think the answer’s in sharing without asking back. We’re all partners in wanting to do what’s right for the young men and women of our nation and world, so we do it even without thought of “pay.” Maybe it makes for some hardship from time to time, but it also builds commitment to others in the cause who are doing for others freely, too. (Amanda Ballenger, SC)
Dear Andy,

Just got done reading your piece on service to others. All I can say is RIGHT ON!

It seems like every time work is performed it’s for pay or to check off a box on some sort of requirement. I don’t blame the young folks; I blame us. We created this mess by not teaching them to do service because it’s simply something we should do. Even in Scouting, it often comes down to checking off a requirement, and other youth organizations, and even churches, aren’t much different. We’ve created so many “check the box” service requirements in various areas of their lives that they come to expect it.

We want our children to experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from serving others, but in order to get them there we make it a requirement. My daughter’s high school, for instance, requires each student to perform 30 hours of community service to graduate. Although I laud the idea of teens doing service, I feel it loses something in the process of scrambling to get hours done, recorded on the proper form, signed by the person who received the service, and then signed off by the vice-principal so the school can mark off a box on the graduation requirements. Is it really “service” when it’s required for graduation? Not only is it hard for me to classify that as service, but the students often pick things to do that are the easiest or fastest way to get the requirements completed, instead of seeing a true need in the community and asking if they can help out. It becomes all about getting the 30 hours, with little thought into what’s being done or why.

Even in my own reserve military service, I’m expected to report each month unpaid service rendered, on a form that I’m required to turn in so that someone at the military department can keep track of this for some reason that I’m sure seems important to someone in the government. But something seems lost in reporting my hours helping youth and other groups—hours I never really tracked before because there was no need to do it and besides, cranking hours wasn’t why I was doing it, anyway. But if I turn in blank forms every month, then it may actually hurt me for promotions and other opportunities, because my chain of command sees this and it goes in my file—it’s a no-win situation.

I don’t know what the answer is, other than using opportunities for service in my own family and in Scouting without the “check the box” expectation, while trying to instill the idea that service to others is a way of life. How else do we raise young people into adults without the selfish, me-centric attitude that’s so pervasive these days?! (Jason Orton)
Dear Andy,

I’ve heard that the BSA’s national office may be keeping track of the blue cards for merit badges. Have you heard what the scoop is on this? (Brent Jones, ASM, Chattahoochee Council, GA)

Something in excess of two million merit badges are earned each year, and the BSA already tracks how many of each of these is earned—badge by badge. Based on this alone, I’m somehow not envisioning a BSA data base that would be able to manage a load that great with the addition of all of the rest of the information on the cards: Scouts name, address, troop, district, and council; unit leader’s name; and MBC’s name and contact information. Besides, what would be the purpose? The three segments—unit, Scout, and counselor—already cover the three keys to record-keeping. Long-and-short if it, I’m guessing this is another of our famous Scouting myths. But hey, you never know!
Dear Andy,

We’re an active Venturing crew with 22 enthusiastic, active youth and an excellent group of adult volunteers. Our crew specializes in outdoors and animal care. In fact, one of the things we promote in our community is a pet vaccination clinic. We have several young people who have well-trained dogs that are used to backpacking, camping, being in parades, socializing, etc. So here’s my question: Can we take dogs with us on our outings that are not on BSA property, even though it would be an official BSA Venturing crew backpacking trip, such as to national parks and forests, where dogs are permitted if they’re kept on leashes, have current vaccinations, and we clean up after them? (Laura Hendrix, CC, South Plains Council, TX)

Dogs, even those on leashes at all times, can still scatter, dragging their leashes behind them, thereby placing them in potential danger of getting hung up somewhere and choking. Dogs are subject to ticks, which can leap surprising distances, and therefore to such pathogens as those which can cause Lyme Disease. Dogs can decide to chase our little woodland creatures, and end up getting bitten, with no sure way of knowing if the bites are rabid or not. Dogs can decide to roll in animal scat to cover their own scents (it’s instinctual in many breeds). Dogs can eat plants and other materials that are highly poisonous. Dogs can find bones that can become lodged in and potentially tear their innards. Dogs can become injured. Good sense (not “common” sense) says: Leave ’em home.
Dear Andy,

I’m a relatively new Scoutmaster trying to correct some misused or incorrect procedures of the past. This is about req. 9a of the Camping merit badge. The text reads clearly, but the interpretation of “long-term camp” by various counselors has come under question. There are three groups of thought in our troop concerning the definition of “six long-term days and nights.” The question relates to Scouts who have already accrued six nights of long-term camping.

Here’s the first interpretation: “Long-term” is defined by BSA as camping lasting longer than 72 hours. These activities require additional medical clearance and the time-frame is determined by the Tour Plan and length of trip. The duration at any one campsite isn’t important; the length of the trip is the determining factor. So, if a Scout has a second long-term experience, then no additional nights should count toward req. 9a.

The second goes something like this: We’re changing campsites on a daily or every other day basis, traveling from one location to the next. Therefore, days and six nights in the wilderness should count as six additional nights for Scouts who already have accrued six nights at a summer camp in the past, and we should not adhere to the definition of “long-term” because of the effort and skills derived by such a trip.

The third has a slightly different spin: For Scouts who have already accrued their six days and six nights at a long-term camp, if they then participate for only three days/nights (less than 72 hours) on an otherwise longer-term camping trip, it’s just those three days/nights that should count.

I’d very much appreciate any comments on how the BSA expects to enforce Camping req. 9a. (Alex Nanai, SM, Greenwich Council, CT)

Let’s take a different starting point…

If a Scout camps all 20 days (and nights) under the stars or in a tent he pitches, he’s completed Camping req. 9a. End of story.

If he camps 19 days in the same manner and spends at least one day at a long-term Scout camp, his 20 days are done. Same for 18+2, 17+3, 16+4, 15+5, and 14+6. But if he gets below 14 days/night excluding long-term camp, then he needs to camp some more under the stars or in a tent he pitches.

As for the BSA “enforcing” this or any other merit badge requirement, that’s not the BSA’s job. It’s the responsibility of each individual Merit Badge Counselor to get this stuff right, and rarely if ever is “interpretation” needed. The BSA’s advancement requirements—for both ranks and merit badges—are written so that no “interpretation” is necessary. So, if your know of a Merit Badge Counselor who insists on “interpreting” requirements rather than following what’s written, don’t send your Scouts to him or her.
Dear Andy,

I’m looking for some advice. One of the units I serve is having a tough time with a Life Scout who just completed his Eagle requirements. He hasn’t had his board of review yet but all of his paperwork is in. The problem relates to his Eagle Service Project.

His project was to have benefitted a local not-for-profit organization. Turns out that someone from the BSA’s regional office works there. The Scout reportedly told this person that the project was approved by the hospital and he was about to meet with our district advancement committee to get final approval to start work. This person’s secretary, who happens to be a leader in the troop, overheard the conversation about the project being approved, but knew that this isn’t correct: The project hasn’t been approved by the organization or the troop yet.

The Scout has scheduled work days for the project, but according to the leaders in the troop, he doesn’t come prepared (he apparently expected everyone else to bring materials for project). His point of contact at the organization wasn’t the BSA regional contact; it was the facilities manager there, who wasn’t at work on the day the Scout returned to get the final signature verifying that the project has been completed as agreed, so the Scout asked the BSA regional person to sign off, and he did. Next, the Scoutmaster got a phone call from the facilities manager, who said that the project wasn’t to his satisfaction and that, if he’d been there, he wouldn’t have signed it off.

So the Scout has his Scoutmaster conference and, although the Scoutmaster didn’t know he could refuse to sign off on the conference, he does sign off on the Eagle Rank Application and that Scout turns it in two days before his 18th birthday.

I attended the troop’s Scout-year-end court of honor and everyone who approached me brought up this situation, asking how they could deny this Scout his Eagle rank. I’ve spoken to my District Executive, who gave me the national policy for advancement, and I’ve read the section concerning denials and appeals for Eagle Scout boards of review. The troop’s adult volunteers feel that this Scout didn’t live up to the expectations of an Eagle Scout and until I mentioned that there’s a policy in place to deny a board of review, they were reluctantly going through the motions. Have you ever been involved with a denial like this, and the ensuing appeal process? (UC’s Name & Council Withheld)

Messy situation. Yes, I’ve been through the denial-appeal process any number of times. It’s never pleasant, for either side of the proverbial desk.

OK, advice… Commissioner-to-Commissioner, our responsibility is to advise, so if I were this unit’s UC I’d advise that a face-to-face with the district advancement chair is in order here. Emails in a situation like this tend to have the opposite effect from intended; face-to-face is definitely the way to go. Your role is that of a football coach: You can advise and encourage from the sideline, off the field; it’s the players on the field who have to tough it out. The troop’s volunteers, especially the Scoutmaster, need to sit down with the district’s advancement chair to talk this through and agree on appropriate next steps.
Hello Andy,

My two boys are Cub Scouts who have completed the Light of Christ religious award requirements. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find out where to mail their completed and signed work. (Susan Cruz, National Capital Area Council, VA)

The Light of Christ program is a wonderful beginning for young (pre-third grade) Tiger and Wolf Cub Scouts, and you’re to be congratulated for mentoring them through it! Your best bet is to speak with your parish priest and ask him to carry out the next step. Perhaps he’ll include presentation of the emblems to your son as part of a Sunday mass, in addition to repeating this at a pack meeting!
Dear Andy,

Can you wear an Order of the Arrow sash to an Eagle ceremony? Also, can the Eagle Scout award be presented to a Scout who is in the OA and can he wear his OA sash? (Mike)

Yes, of course you can wear your OA sash to a court of honor, so long as you are rendering special service as a member of the Order of the Arrow. The same applies to the Eagle Scout: If he is present to render special service as a member of the Order of the Arrow, then wearing his sash is completely appropriate. If, however, the consideration is to wear the sash to merely identify oneself as being an OA member, and no special service is being rendered, then the appropriate manner in which to do this is to wear either the lodge pocket flap badge or the universal arrow ribbon. Further, it is completely inappropriate to wear the sash draped over one’s belt, just as merit badge sashes are never to be worn draped over the belt. (You can find this described in your ORDER OF THE ARROW HANDBOOK and the BSA INSIGNIA GUIDE.)
Dear Andy,

Is there a written BSA policy regarding adult leaders taking their non-Scout children on troop outings and campouts? Our local council has said to us that these children are not covered under BSA insurance, so if something happens to the children, the troop committee as well as the chartered organization could be liable. Further, we’re told that if a “hold harmless” agreement were signed by the parent, that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, that a good lawyer would tear the signed agreement apart.

Our Scoutmaster considers the other children of adults going on troop outings a “family camping” experience, and if the committee forbids this, he and others will quit the troop. Some adults face hardships and can only go on outings if they take their other kids with them. It’s a touchy subject for our troop and your help will be of much benefit. (Name Withheld, West Tennessee Area Council)

Bringing Scouts’ brothers and sisters along on troop camping trips is antithetical to the aims and methods of Scouting. If that Scoutmaster refuses to say no to this, fire him. If the Committee Chair refuses to enforce the fundamental that troop activities are for the Scouts, fire him, too.

This isn’t about insurance and it’s not about “financial hardships.” If families want to go family camping, that’s wonderful; it simply has no place in the Boy Scout program the BSA is expecting you all to deliver.

Boy Scouting is all about peer-to-peer relationships, including learning, teaching, leadership, and bonding. In fact, “troops” don’t go hiking and camping: Patrols go hiking and camping (they do so under the “umbrella” of the troop, but not “as” a troop).

As far as multiple adults accompanying patrols when they hike or camp, except for the Scoutmaster and an Assistant Scoutmaster, all other adults should be hiking and camping separately from the Scouts and their patrols. This includes cooking meals, too—it’s separate from the Scouts. I sure hope this troop can start playing the game of Boy Scouting and stop the “family camping” nonsense.

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. 318 – 6/30/2012 – 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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