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Issue 328 – September 30, 2012

Rule No. 91
o To avoid being elected to a volunteer position you don’t want, chair the nominating committee.
Dear Andy,

I went to a Roundtable the other night and received a stack of paperwork for our troop and crew. For both units, I was given a list of registered adults who were missing training courses. I was happy to see that our records matched regarding the troop, 100% trained leaders and committee. I wasn’t so happy when I saw the crew’s report; it listed all of our committee members as not having completed a required course: Venturing Leader Specific Training (“VSLT”).

When later asked by these committee members—many of whom are also troop committee members—why they’re required to take a full-day training course as Venturing committee members, yet as troop committee members they were able to meet the training requirement online in a much shorter time, I was at a loss for an explanation. So I’m turning to you: Why is there such a major difference in training requirements for what amounts to identical positions? Why would non-contact volunteers need to take the full-blown VSLT course? After all, just like in a Boy Scout troop, their function is behind the scenes support of the program. (Curt Kamichoff, CA, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

You’re certainly correct that members of all Scouting units’ committees carry out many of the same responsibilities. However, what are very different are the goals, methods, and programs of each of these four types of units. Consequently, what one learns about how a pack, troop, or team works isn’t necessarily transferrable to how a Venturing crew works. In fact, this is especially true of Venturing crews, perhaps especially for current or former troop committee members. Venturing, often considered a sort of “senior Boy Scout” program, is actually much different, with different goals, methods, structure, and program. As you already know, even Youth Protection training is different, if it’s for Venturing crew volunteers.

At a personal level, having serve on staff of and as a consultant for Venturing’s “Powderhorn” training course, I can also tell you that many of the folks taking the course were brand-new to Scouting itself—their sons and daughters hadn’t been either Boy Scout or Girl Scouts. Consequently, they were starting from “ground zero” when it came to understanding the “gestalt” of Scouting, in addition to having no Venturing experience. Further, in starting or helping start three separate Venturing crews at various times over the past several years, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon of new-to-Scouting parents repeating itself. Consequently, VLST was absolutely critical to providing a base of knowledge for them as to just what Venturing, and the larger context of Scouting, were all about!

So get everyone together and go to a VSLT course as a group—a “crew” of your own, in effect! You’ll get a lot out of it, and this is the best way you can prepare yourselves to serve the youth of the crew. (Hey, think of it the other way around… Would you want your son or daughter playing on, let’s say, a basketball team that has a coach with no experience in the sport or training as a coach?!) Remember, also, that VSLT is one of the items on your crew’s Journey to Excellence check-list!
Dear Andy,

I’m a bit troubled by what I might consider a “morally straight” issue. I’m wondering how to handle this situation and would like some advice. Here’s the situation…

I have an Eagle Scout candidate who will shortly turn 18. Right now, he’s finishing the paperwork and expects to have it all to me before he turns 18 and will qualify to have his board of review within the 90-day grace period after his birthday. But I also have positive confirmation that he has a girlfriend who’s about two years older than he who just gave birth to their child. Doing the math, he got her pregnant when he was just past his 17th birthday. However, I also have confirmation, in writing, that he appears to be taking responsibility for both the mother and child, and plans to join the Marine Corps after he graduates from high school, which will be shortly.

Somehow it just seems to be wrong, and it seems to endorse this kind of behavior as being acceptable, if this Scout becomes an Eagle Scout. I can go either way, recognizing that the world as we know it has considerably changed from when we were his age, but I want to make sure I’m not going against any BSA guidelines, policies, etc., in conducting this board of review. It can be as simple as he has successfully completed all of the requirements and is to have his review, but then I think about requirement 2, in which he is to demonstrate that he lives by the Scout Oath and Law, and I start thinking about the “morally straight” part. (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s start here: We don’t know how the young woman became pregnant by this young man. To say “he ‘got her pregnant'” may be 180 degrees from the truth. It may be that we have a female predator here. Moreover, in some jurisdictions, a person over age 18 having sex with a minor is a serious offense. But does any of this matter, as regards the Eagle rank? IMHO, no it doesn’t.

What does matter, from a Scouting viewpoint, is that this young man is shouldering his responsibilities like the man we’re in business to help mold. End of story, unless someone’s worthy of casting a stone.

To which a BSA Advancement Team member adds: “In this case what would we expect from an Eagle Scout? We’d expect him take responsibility for his actions and to honor his commitments. He appears to be doing both.”
Dear Andy,

A local candidate for city council has a banner ad on his website. One of the several photos shows him with his wife and son, all in Scout uniforms. Undoubtedly, this is intended to show his “Americanism”, but I believe it’s forbidden, in light of the “politics” involved. Can you direct me to a proper, and nationally verified, answer? (Name & Council Withheld)

Check two sources: The BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE (excerpt) and 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.”

I’ll also bet there’s a section-and-clause about prohibiting use of the uniform in a partisan political environment (can be inferred to suggest “endorsement”).
Dear Andy,

Back in your column 303 (April 17, 2012), your advice to an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader who had no time to change into his uniform between sports practice and his troop meeting was: “As things stand, I guess that unless you can get creative about how to get into your uniform (sweat and all—so what!) or have a conversation with your Scoutmaster, telling him that you can be in uniform but you’ll be a few minutes late, you’re pretty much out of luck given his inflexibility.”

You may want to check “Assistant Senior Patrol Leader responsibilities” at One of the stated responsibilities is, “Enthusiastically and correctly wears the Scout uniform (all four parts)”. If this Scout truly takes his position seriously, he’ll work out something with mom or dad—whoever transports him to troop meetings—to have his uniform in the car when they bring him from practice/games. Although the BSA doesn’t require it, wearing the uniform is an expression of his commitment to the ideals and methods of Scouting. (Robin McAlister, SM, National Capitol Area Council)

Yup, you and I are on the same page. Problem: The Scoutmaster isn’t. He provides no time for the Scout to change from one uniform to the other, and refuses to acknowledge that the Scout’s on a to-the-second timetable. He also doesn’t recognize the Scout’s willingness to do the clothes-switch if simply provided the “window” to do this. The idea of changing clothes while in a moving vehicle flies in the face of vehicle safety; should they by stopped by a peace officer, it’s a citation offense in many jurisdictions. My bottom line here is that this is a Scoutmaster problem; not a Scout, parent, or even sports problem. Pity.
Dear Andy,

Is the BSA developing a Geocaching Academic belt loop and pin program for Cub Scouts now that there’s a Geocaching merit badge for Boy Scouts? In my pack, we’ve included geocaching as an activity at our annual family camp-out for the past two years and the boys love it! Would be great to see them be able to earn recognition for this. (Scot Hawthorne, DL, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

The BSA National Advancement Team is studying the CS A&S program right now. At the moment, geocaching isn’t in the pipeline, but that’s not to say it won’t be, down the road. Your message has been forwarded to the folks who consider these sorts of additions, so they’ll know of the interest. Thanks for your letter! ________________________________________
Hi Andy!

About “blue cards”—merit badge applications—when is a “blue card” considered signed off by the Counselor? It has three sections: Counselor’s Record, Applicant’s Record, and Troop Record. Some have said that the Counselor has to sign off on the back of the Applicant’s Record for each one of the individual requirements. I’ve even seen MB Counselors note that all requirements are met, and then sign across the lines. But others say that Counselor only needs to sign that the Scout has completed the requirements on the Troop Record portion, and that the detailed requirements listing on the back can be left blank. Is it both, either, or something else? (Robert McLemore, MBC, Heart of Virginia Council)

A merit badge application (aka “blue card”) has three segments or sections: The Council Section, the Applicant’s (i.e., Scout’s) Section, and the Counselor’s Section. The matrix on the back of the Applicant’s Section is for the Counselor and Scout to use for requirement completion tracking; it’s not “mandatory”–it simply aids tracking. When a Scout has completed all requirements, the Counselor signs the Applicant’s Section (the front of what is titled, APPLICANT’S RECORD) and the Council Section, adding his or her contact information to that Section, and enters the date of completion on all three sections.

The Counselor retains the Counselor’s Section and gives the remaining two sections (still attached to one another) to the Scout. The Scout then obtains the signature of his Scoutmaster (called “Unit Leader” on the form, to allow for Team Coaches, Venturing Advisors, and Skippers) on those two sections. The Scout retains the Applicant’s Section/APPLICANT’S RECORD for himself; the Scoutmaster gives the remaining Council Section to the troop’s advancement coordinator for recording and submission to the council service center.

If the matrix is blank, this is irrelevant so long as the Counselor’s signatures are in their proper places.

To verify what I’ve just described, go to and click on “Online Merit Badge Application.”
Dear Andy,

I have a dilemma. My son’s Eagle Court of Honor is coming up. I’ve outlined the program to include my husband, an Eagle Scout himself, to do the Eagle Promise with our son. I don’t see anywhere that states the Scoutmaster must administer the promise, but I’ve just been told by his wife that he’ll be doing this and that my husband might consider participate in some other capacity. Do you have any thoughts on this that could help? (Soon-to-be Eagle Mom)

Troops have traditions; often among these is how courts of honor are done. In your experience, who’s usually administered the Eagle Promise (also called the Eagle Charge) at past events? If it’s been the Scoutmaster more often than not, you’re asking for a significant deviation. But if it’s been more-or-less random, or hasn’t been included in the ceremonies, then your request’s not unreasonable and a face-to-face conversation (email’s not a wise option in a situation like this) with the Scoutmaster may go a long way toward making what you have in mind happen. In fact, maybe your son’s the one who needs to do the asking here; it’s pretty tough to deny a Scout his request to have Dad participate!

Dear Andy,

As a Scoutmaster, I have very few problems, if any at all, with our Scouts’ behavior at meetings or outings, but I do have a pretty major problem with the mother of one of our scouts. Both at troop meetings and when we’re in a public place, she is invariably loud and obnoxious, yelling at the Scouts all the time. She also berates Scouts for not moving at a speed that satisfies her on ranks or merit badges. I’m not sure how to address this problem without her figuring out that some of the Scouts have come to me about this, because she might decide to get back at them for it. (Name & Council Withheld)

A significant part of your responsibilities as Scoutmaster is to clear the path for the Scouts of the troop to govern themselves, with your guidance and support. This includes keeping all adults except you and an occasional ASM separate from the Scouts. Boy Scouts interact with one another; interaction between Boy Scouts and a troop’s adults and parents other than the Scoutmaster is expected to be nonexistent to minimal at most. If you need help doing this, get help from the troop’s Committee Chair.

As for this particular mother, the behaviors you describe are those of a bully. She’s not only intimidated the Scouts; she’s intimidated you.

Scouting has zero tolerance for bullies, regardless of age. You, together with the CC, need to make these behaviors stop immediately. You do this using he same method you teach to Scouts: You and the CC confront the bully. You tell her that she has only two choices. She must immediately stop this behavior or she must remove herself from all future meetings and activities of the troop. There is no “middle ground” and there is no “I’ll try…” This is absolute one or the other.

It likely won’t go this far, but if the conversation gets to the point of her refusing both options, then Jeremy Bentham’s principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” must come into play (you can’t save a kid from his own parent; your job is to save the rest of the Scouts!). So, you and the CC will tell her that, in the best interests of all the Scouts in the troop, her son will be removed from the roster as a way to provide no reason whatsoever for her continuing to show up at meetings and activities. She needs to understand that this is not on a “next time…” basis: If she does not agree with either of the first two options, the third will be enacted on this very day.

However, what more likely will happen is that she’ll threaten to “pull” her son from the troop (bullies are superb at making threats), in which case your immediate response is: “We accept your son’s resignation from the troop. Please take him home right now.”

Cautionary note: Do NOT get into describing details of her behavior to her; this will only devolve into “reasons” and a “he said-she said” dialogue that will sway you from your goal (and also waste a lot of time and energy). Besides, she already knows precisely what she’s been doing.

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. 328 – 9/30/2012 – 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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