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Issue 322 – July 25, 2012

Rule No. 86:
o Opinions are never substitutes for facts.
Dear Andy,

About the question posed of caravans and convoying on Scouting trips, I was also surprised to not find this in the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING. But I teach a BALOO course and the no caravan rule is part of the curriculum. This can be found in the CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK under “Tips For Outings” (page 126): “Don’t try to travel in a caravan or convoy.”

For those non-Cub Scout leaders needing a current “in writing” reference, I found one. When you log onto the “Tour & Activity Plan” at, under “Important Information,” click on the “Guide To Tour and Activity Planning Principles.” This will download a document at the bottom of which, under “Your Pledge of Performance,” item 15 says: “If more than one vehicle is used to transport our group, we will establish rendezvous points at the start of each day and not attempt to have drivers closely follow the group vehicle in front of them.” (Steve Erwin, UC & CSRT Staff, Longhorn Council, TX)


Dear Andy,

Here is the specific reference. It’s kind of buried in the website, but I think if you use the “Tour Plan” process it’s presented to you: “If more than one vehicle is used to transport our group, we will establish rendezvous points at the start of each day and not attempt to have drivers closely follow the group vehicle in front of them.” (Andy Kowalczyk, BSRTC, Hoosier Trails Council, IN)

Thanks for your sharp eyes and good research!
Dear Andy,

Thanks for continuing to write your great columns. Our troop is doing pretty well, but I recently saw something another troop is doing that made me think we could be doing better. Our troop has Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) meetings on a different night from our troop meetings, but our committee meetings take place at the same time and location as our troop meetings. After the PLC meetings, the Scribe sends out the monthly plan to the youth and adult leaders. On committee meeting nights, I can’t always break away from the troop meeting (Scoutmaster conferences and whatever), and I don’t always feel the PLC’s plans have been communicated effectively. I’ve heard of another troop that has both their PLC and committee meetings on a different night from troop meetings. They meet at the same time, same location, but different rooms. After the PLC meeting the Senior Patrol Leader reports on the PLC’s next month plans to the committee. I know our parents like the convenience of committee meetings during troop meetings and I wonder what kind of turnout we’d get on another time, but this sounds interesting. I’d appreciate your opinion. (Pete McMahan, SM, Central Florida Council)

There’s nothing carved in granite on when PLCs and committees meet… It’s whatever works best for the Scouts and the committee members (ideally, in that order). I’ve seen troops that have committee meetings once a month at the same time as a troop meeting (the Scoutmaster can leave briefly, because he has only a short report to deliver and the Senior Patrol Leader’s in charge of the troop, anyway!), and other troops whose committees meet on a night separate from troop meetings, so the Scoutmaster can make his report of the PLC’s decisions, and then leave. They both work; it’s up to you as to which works better for your own troop.

Just keep clear that it’s the Scoutmaster (who isn’t a committee member, BTW… not even ex officio), not the Senior Patrol Leader, who reports on the PLC’s program and plans to the committee, at which point the committee can offer suggestions to the PLC which are then communicated back to them by the Scoutmaster. (In other words, the committee is an advisory resource to the PLC but definitely not an approval body.)
Dear Andy,

Is a Cubmaster the highest in charge, in Cub Scouts? (Paul)

The Cubmaster is primarily responsible for the program at a pack’s monthly meeting. Den Leaders are responsible for their dens. The Cubmaster reports to the Committee Chair and committee. The Committee Chair is the “highest ranking” volunteer in a pack, although I’d hope that “rank” is less important to everybody that delivering a quality year-round Cub Scout program. The committee, under the guidance of the Committee Chair, is the backbone support of the pack.
Dear Andy,

Did there used to be a national Senior Patrol Leader award, some time in the late 1980s? (Paul Romain)

For this one, I reached out to Mike Walton, a board member and highly experienced Scouter. Here’s what “Settummanque” has to say… “Yep, there was. It was called the ‘Youth Leadership in America Award’ and was funded through the Reader’s Digest Association. More information on this award and what happened to it can be found at”
Dear Andy,

I’m currently Cubmaster of a pack that’s severely struggling. No parents want to volunteer. I assign jobs as I can, but still little to no help. Our council has made threats of closing us down, and still nothing from the parents. I’m frustrated. I only took on the Cubmaster role to keep this pack from closing, and I feel regretful, stretched, and at a loss. How do I save a pack? And how do I know when to walk away? (Julia)

Cub Scout packs succeed by team effort. Packs flounder and fail when there’s no team of parents who want their sons to enjoy the Cub Scout experience.

The Cubmaster absolutely isn’t the key position for building or “saving” a Cub Scout pack. That’s the joint responsibility of the chartered organization, the chartered organization representative, and the pack’s committee chair. Unless these people are willing to identify and recruit enough volunteers –including Den Leaders, committee members, and non-registered parent volunteer “helpers”–all backed up by a District Executive from your council’s service center, there’s quite literally nothing a Cubmaster can do.

If you’re feeling regretful, stretched, and at a loss, and nobody’s pitching in where they’re needed, it’s time to take a deep breath, go find a healthy pack for your son to join, and transfer him to that pack.
Dear Andy,

We had several Cub Scouts from our pack attend day camp this summer, where they completed several of the BB Gun activity pin requirements. When we checked the requirements, they mentioned that the Cubs need to complete a “BB gun safety program and qualifying with a minimum of 60 credits in the firing activities with a parent or adult partner, and with a certified range officer present,” but we’re unable to find any information on how they earn the 60 credits. Can you please assist us in explaining how the credits are earned? (Debra Harris, DL, National Capital Area Council)

Here’s where it’s all explained:
Dear Andy,

I’m Scoutmaster of troop that has a long history and deep in tradition. An area of concern I have is merit badge activities for the Scouts. Can an activity or experience be counted towards merit badge requirement if it happened before the Scout signs up for that particular merit badge?

Also, in our troop, achievements and experiences for rank advancement and merit badges are done separately, to avoid credit being given for both.

Is either of these BSA policy? I have parents asking about both, and I’d like to be able to give accurate information. (Mick Mulhern, SM)

The answer to your first question is page 20 in BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS-2012: “…You (the Scout) should also discuss (with your Merit Badge Counselor) work you have already started or possibly completed.” That said, it’s important to understand that it’s not a troop’s or a patrol’s responsibility to “help Scouts complete merit badge requirements.” If, in the course of activities, various requirements here and there are met, that’s for the Scout to discuss with his counselor. For a troop to, let’s say, visit an airport or aviation museum for the main purpose of having Scouts complete Aviation req. 4, that would be completely inappropriate to the purposes of the BSA Merit Badge Program.

As for duplication (what some call “double-dipping), if you look at requirements you’ll notice that there’s actually very little exact overlap, and when there is—number of camping trips for Second and First Class ranks, and Camping merit badge req. 20—it’s completely OK to use the days/nights camping for both the ranks and the merit badges.
Dear Andy,

I see that boards of review regulations state that a Scoutmaster and his Assistant(s) are not to sit on reviews. Our Troop has five new Eagle Scouts who are now over age 18 and newly-appointed Assistant Scoutmasters. I feel that adding them to boards of review for Star and Life bring an age-related level of connectivity with the Scout being reviewed. So, so long as these new young leaders are non-voting, do you see a problem with us adding them to our unwritten operating procedures for reviews? (We could put an Assistant Scoutmaster age-cap on it, also.) This idea has the support of many adult leaders in our troop…I just thought I’d bounce it off of you. (Joe Bosche, Troop Advancement Coordinator, Keystone Area Council, PA)

First, here’s the “bounce” part: I understand your reasoning and give you full credit for your interest in the youth-to-slightly older youth connection. But that can happen in troop meetings and camp-outs, and that’s where this ends.

Now, here’s the BSA policy part: For all boards of review, neither Scoutmasters nor Assistant Scoutmasters may participate (although silent observation is permitted—but the BSA does mean silent, which is considerably more than merely “non-voting”). For boards of review for Tenderfoot through Life ranks and Eagle palms, only registered members of the troop committee may participate.

And as long as we’re on the subject, are you folks aware that all boards of review must reach unanimous decisions; not just Eagle reviews?

Thanks, Andy. Since I’ve sat in on boards of review for the past couple of years, we’ve had only one instance that we said “no” to a scout… He was totally unprepared and admitted to it (a week later, he recovered).

In every other instance, all our reviews have been unanimous. The vetting process with the Scoutmaster conference and the amount of adult support helps to ensure that only Scouts ready to take the next step move to a board of review. But I’m hearing rumblings along the lines of, if a Scout has completed all the requirements for a rank, presents himself in front of the board and bombs, there’s no rule to support not moving him up. I haven’t seen anything in writing but that’s the scuttlebutt. (Joe Bosche)

I’m not getting what you’re saying here… His Scoutmaster conference is intended to assure that the Scout is prepared to advance, so how could a Scout possibly be “unprepared”…for what? Boards of review aren’t “orals” or “inquisitions” and they’re certainly not “re-tests.” So this makes me very concerned about what you all actually do in your reviews, if it’s not focused on learning how well the troop is providing a positive experience for the young man and encouraging his toward his next steps.
Dear Andy,

My son is an Eagle Scout and turns 18 in about a month. He very much wants to continue working with his troop, as he’ll be attending a local college. How does he go from Scout to Scouter? Is there a ceremony for this? Does he wear his Scout uniform with the JASM patch one week and an ASM patch the next, or is there a slower transition stage? He’s planning to take ASM training at summer camp, 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 to be turned in right after his birthday
As a birthday present, we have a new uniform shirt ready for him, with his Eagle, Arrow of light and religious award 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 that on after he completes his position-specific training?

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 anything definitive. (Eagle Scout Mom)

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, just as you’re planning, the oval Eagle badge comes off his left pocket, replaced by an Eagle square knot directly above the left pocket flap, along with the square knots for Arrow of Light and his religious award square knot. 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 now 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!

You’re right, Andy, it’s hard to let go. This is our third child to have reached adulthood, and it does not get any easier to let go. (Our two older children were in Civil Air Patrol). He is our first Eagle Scout and there’s still a lot I don’t know about Scouting. I do know he should be doing this but he’s on a senior class mission trip right now. As the mission team is coming home on the just before his 18th birthday and his Scoutmaster hadn’t given him any guidance on these issues before he left, I decided to do a little research on my own so we could surprise our son with the new shirt and the appropriate insignia already in place for his birthday, without asking at the troop level to avoid the appearance of “doing too much for him.”

You’re a caring and wise Mom! So, when he gets home, we won’t tell him about our little conversation here, so that he can get in touch with the Scoutmaster on his own to work things out (while you keep that shirt tucked away till your son gets the transition done under his own sails).

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. 322 – 7/25/2012 – 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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