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Issue 330 – October 10, 2012

Rule No. 93
When you demand that someone meet you halfway, be sure he doesn’t use his fist to do it.
In my September 26th column, Scouter John Ruppe of the San Diego-Imperial Council asked how the BSA views outstanding military service. He noted having witnessed a Navy Corpsman and Eagle Scout contribute to life-saving actions for both troops and civilians, and felt this deserved special BSA recognition. He wanted to find a resource for pursuing this, and I offered some insights, including a consideration about whether or not these actions were in the Corpsman’s line of duty. Matt Culbertson, of the BSA National Advancement Team, has thoughtfully a web-source for heroism award references and form. Here it is…
Dear Andy,

Thank you for your column, EAGLE—IT’S A NO-BRAINER!

I recently attended a district board of review for three Eagle candidates who were all within weeks of their 18th birthdays. While I’m pleased to see them reaching Eagle rank, it makes me a little sad that they won’t get to wear that badge for very long, if at all.

My own son just completed his Eagle Scoutmaster conference. He’ll have his board of review a half-month before his 15th birthday. What’s particularly remarkable is that he didn’t become a Boy Scout till he was 12! He’s looking forward to wearing that badge for more than three more years, including the 2013 BSA National Jamboree! It just goes to show, as you said, you don’t have to wait until you’re 17 to start thinking about Eagle. (William Schmidt, [new] SM, Occoneechee Council, NC)

It’s letters like yours that truly “make my day”! Congratulations to your son! The whole world’s in front of him!
Dear Andy,

How does a unit remove a Committee Chair and fill that position with a new volunteer! (Paul)

Gently, I’d hope! In a happy situation, the CC grooms his or her successor and then ceremoniously steps aside and welcomes the new CC to the seat. In a situation other than that, ultimate authority to remove and replace unit volunteers rests with the head of the chartered organization, and/or the Chartered Organization Representative (that is, it’s not by “committee vote,” “parent vote” or anything else along these lines). Unless it’s positively rancorous, I’d hope this transition can be a non-disruptive one, in which the CO head or the CR would simply ask the CC to consider another position on the committee and give someone else the opportunity to take over the CC responsibilities.
Dear Andy,

Pertaining to a CC and troop committee, and a Scoutmaster, who ultimately steers the ship? (J. Jaglowski)

The Committee Chair “has the bridge.” This is the top position in any Scouting unit. The Scoutmaster is responsible for the troop’s program, which he guides through the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders Council…but he guides with a feather; not a broomstick. The Scoutmaster serves the Scouts at the pleasure of the Committee Chair. The CC is, in turn, responsible to the chartered organization for assuring that the Scouting program is being delivered per to BSA principles and policies.
Hello Andy –

What does one have to do, to be authorized to sign off Scouts on the BSA Swim Test? (Tonya Merritt, Bay Area Council, TX)

A lot of registered adult positions would qualify, including Scoutmaster, committee member, Assistant Scoutmaster, and Merit Badge Counselor for Swimming. But, even without these credentials, what’s most important is being a witness to a Scout’s success. So, if he does the swim test, and you’re there to see him do it correctly, you can initial his handbook, or simply tell his Scoutmaster that the Scout’s done it, and everything’s pretty kosher!
Dear Andy,

In a recent column, you had a question about an Interpreter strip for Esperanto. I’m happy to tell you that the BSA Supply Group will make a custom strip (item no. 396) for languages not in the catalog. The custom order must be for two or more identical strips. I can guarantee this because…I wear one! (Glenn Overby, Robeson Scout Shop, Prairielands Council, IL)

Thanks, Glenn!
Hi Andy,

The 2012 EAGLE SERVICE PROJECT WORKBOOK has brought lots of confusion, not to say distress, to our troop and crew. Most of our leaders recommended that our Scouts to provide a binder for their letter of need, before and after photos, project proposal, and merit badge “blue cards” for a nice presentation to the committee, district advisor, and Eagle board. Others disagree, since the workbook doesn’t require “extra work.” Who’s right?

Also, about merit badges blue cards… Who can sign them? Is this the Scoutmaster? This discussion revolves around the “Unit Leader” stated on the front of the card. Does it mean any leader in the troop? I’d think the Scoutmaster is the one, or perhaps a designated Assistant Scoutmaster when the SM is absent. (Huong Do, Advancement Coordinator)

The folks who disagree with the idea of including additional materials and information inside the ESSP workbook are correct. This is apples n’ oranges. Provide what’s asked for; no less but not more.

As for signing blue cards, the term Unit Leader is there to accommodate leaders of male youth in other Scouting unit-types, such as Advisors of Venturing crews, Skippers of Sea Scout ships, and Coaches of Scout teams. It is definitely not meant to include Assistant Scoutmasters (or assistants of any kind) or committee members (not even the committee member who serves as unit advancement coordinator or chair). If it did, you’d find the words “or designee.” ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

My son’s troop organizes patrols based on age. In February, when a new group bridges in, they become a patrol. When I was a Scout in the 70s, new boys were put into patrols with older Scouts. I’ve seen units in our council that do it either way, without any particular rhyme or reason. I can see pros and cons to each. I’m wondering if there’s a way this is supposed to be done, or is it random. Any recommendations? (John Pinchot, Longhorn Council, TX)

Back in the day, a boy joined Boy Scouts at his 11th birthday, no matter what month that happened to be, and so he was usually seeded into an already-existing patrol… He’d be the “newbie” and had some older Scouts to show him the ropes, which was good part. But, being the newbie might sometimes mean the other Scouts would make him the patrol “goat”—with the worst jobs, the ones nobody liked doing, like KP and such. This cost Boy Scouting a lot of new boys—They just didn’t stick around much if they wound up in the second scenario.

Today, over 80% of all boys who join a Boy Scout troop are coming from a Cub Scout pack, most often in the form of a Webelos/Arrow-of-Light den that’s typically been together for three or four years. Since they’re already well-bonded, why bust them up?! Makes no good sense. There’s no intrinsic value to either the boys or the troop in doing that. So the transition plan calls for keeping the den itself intact and converting it to a new-Scout patrol, with its own unique identity, its own elected Patrol Leader (who chooses his assistant, BTW), and a Scout-mentor: a Troop Guide. The TG doesn’t “run” the new patrol; he provides counsel and training to the newly-elected Patrol Leader for the first year. After the first year, the patrol carries on, on its own. In a perfect world, that patrol will remain as such for the next seven years; until all of its members age out of Boy Scouting.

Since you asked for a recommendation, here it is: Stick with Plan 2. Plan 1 has too many opportunities for things to go badly for the newbie and once he’s quit, he’s pretty much quit forever. Plan 2 almost guarantees new Scouts will stick together, and maybe even bring in some non-Cub Scout friends along the way! ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

OK, I’ve got a noodle-scratcher for you. I know that Scouts can’t participate in partisan political activities. So what’s the policy on non-partisan activities? The Commonwealth of Virginia has a new “Election Page” program by which 16 and 17 year-olds may serve in support of the upcoming national election. They work much like election officials. No endorsement of any party; supportive of the right to vote, only. What does the BSA think of Scouts in uniform, in this context? (Mike Sierra, Vice Chair-Communications, Goose Creek District, National Capital Area Council)

You won’t find a single scratched noodle here! I was a Scout when we hung millions upon millions of “Get Out The Vote” doorknob-hangers, back in the 50’s! I was a Scoutmaster when my troop did the same in our home town for a mayoral election! This was, of course, totally non-partisan.

But the story doesn’t end there. Scouts can actually have limited participation in partisan politics; here’s how: The BSA says it’s OK for Scouts in uniform to perform an opening ceremony (e.g., American flag salute and Pledge of Allegiance), but then they immediately leave the platform or dais, and exit the event.

Bottom line: There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between “partisan politics” and the patriotism accompanying the first of the Four Freedoms! Yes, by all means get out there and support the Freedom of Speech implicit in the voting process! In blazing full uniforms!

Hi Andy,

For a Venturing Leadership Skills course I’ll be taking soon, I’ve been asked to do the “Vision” section. The course is combining ten crews, and I’m supposed to choose a Venturer from my crew to work with in developing the Vision module. I’ve never done or been to a VLSC, so I don’t know what to expect. I’ve been given little information about my assignment. Do you know if I’m expected to present, or is it the Venturer I choose, or is it both of us? (Shaye Larsen)

I’ve taken, but not taught, the VLST course. Your best bet is to check with the Course Director and find out what he or she has in mind. ________________________________________
Hello Andy,

Have the Eagle requirements changed? I’m noticing at,
/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/eagle.aspx that they don’t list “Statement of life ambitions and life purpose and listing of positions and awards in other organizations.” Is this statement no longer required? I found Internet postings from last year that list this, but there’s nothing more current showing it. (Roger Burcroff)

You’re correct. While the entire requirement is certainly stated on the rank application itself, it’s absent from the web page you cite. I’ll bet this is a pretty straightforward “fix”! Thanks for spotting it… I’ll pass it along.

Thanks, Andy, and thanks to the Advancement Team! As a Scout’s approaching Eagle, it’s best to make sure he understands fully what he needs to complete. Here in Michigan, we have a lot of Scouts waiting till just about their 18th birthday; they don’t need last-minute surprises. (Roger)

Since it’s on the application, that’s a good start. But obviously, the web page, the handbook, and the Boy Scout Requirements book all need fixes. That said, why are your Scouts waiting so long? Eagle can be earned in about three years without a significant struggle by most active Scouts… even those involved in all sorts of other activities. The key question: Why take seven years to accomplish something that can reasonably be done in half that time? That’s sort of like me saying to you, “Hey, here’s a half-day’s work, but be sure you don’t finish till 4:59!” ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

In your column no. 327, you made this statement: “It’s perfectly acceptable by the BSA for Scouts to meet at the troop meeting location with a single adult—”two-deep leadership,” etc. applies to outings away from troop meeting locations.”

The good news is that that statement aligns perfectly with my own understanding of this policy works.

Unfortunately, it’s apparent that there’s confusion about the BSA’s current youth protection policy among both volunteers and professionals. Many often conflate the “two-deep leadership” policy with the “no one-on-one contact” policy, and use them interchangeably. They’re of course not the same thing. While the “no one-on-one” applies at all times in all settings (unless the adult and youth are father-son), the BSA has been consistent in communicating that “two-deep leadership” is required on all “trips and outings.” Until recently. In an “Open Letter to Parents” published on in mid-September this year, and now re-posted and distributed by councils across the country, the BSA now says, “Scouting’s two-deep leadership policy requires at least two adults to be present for all Scouting ‘activities.’ No youth should ever be alone with a Scout leader for any reason.” The second sentence is consistent with longstanding policy; the first sentence is a change. Web-searching, I found many references to two-deep leadership, but the word now used is “outings” (“trips” is missing). Then, at a BSA “Know The Facts” web page, we have this: “At least two adults supervise all Scouting activities.” This is also what the BSA’s new Tour & Activity Plan—clearly oriented to outings and trips—says: “…at least two adult leaders on all BSA activities.”

Is it possible the new wording is intended to reflect a change in BSA policy? Must, in fact, two adults be present for every single Scouting activity (i.e., not just “trips and outings”), including den meetings, merit badge counseling sessions, door-to-door popcorn sales by individual Scouts, and perhaps even Scoutmaster conferences?

Obviously, the BSA should continue to set safe and protective policies, and I’ll absolutely follow them to the letter. But which is it? Is it “trips and outings,” or “all Scouting activities” no matter what or where? Yes, I guess words do matter. (Robert Brunson, District Vice Chair-Program, Circle Ten Council, TX)

Your research is exemplary and your descriptions explicit. If I were to attempt to determine where the flaw may lie, I suspect it’s in the use of the word “activities.” It’s not beyond reason that “activities” is intended to replace “trips and outings,” with the unintended consequence that it is now perceived to include “meetings”—referring to usual unit meetings (e.g., troop or pack meetings at a school or church; den or patrol meetings in a home) and other Scouting events that hardly require hovering.

As a volunteer, I obviously can’t speak directly for the BSA, but I promise to investigate this further for you, so that whatever or whichever is intended can be described with greater precision in the future. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Is it true that Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters can sit on boards of review, along with committee members? (Patrick Lesley)

Nope! It’s a BSA policy that this is not to happen. Whoever told you this needs to do some homework! That said, it’s permissible for a Scoutmaster to be present at a board of review for any rank, for the purpose of introducing the Scout and answering any questions the reviewers might have about troop program, activities, etc.

The reason for this stipulation is pretty simple. Since committee members have no direct contact with the Scouts as a whole (including the fact that even their presence at troop meetings and outings isn’t in the “job descriptions”), the review provides them the opportunity to learn how well the Scoutmaster is training and guiding the troop’s youth leaders, how well the Patrol Method is working, and how much (or not) the Scout is enjoying his Scouting experience. If the Scoutmaster’s present, this could temper the Scout’s responses and ultimately not provide the committee members the information they need to help keep the troop pointing toward Scouting’s True North.
Dear Andy,

Is it correct for a troop’s leaders to insist that all Scouts about to advance submit to a “skills review;” in which they must repeat every skill they learned for all prior ranks? Our troop has been doing this for years, but I remember when I was a Scout we went straight from the Scoutmaster conference to the board of review (yes, I’m an Eagle Scout). My son’s troop seems to be re-testing every Scout, again and again. Is this how it’s done now? (Name & Council Withheld)

No, this is definitely not how it’s done, or supposed to be done. Your son’s troop is—I have to say it—hideously off the mark. Effectively, they’re re-testing every Scout when the BSA specifically states (it’s been a policy from “Day One”) that no Scout is ever to be re-tested on any requirement he’s completed. Unless they’re open to the idea of stopping this renegade procedure immediately, I urge you to find a nearby troop that delivers Scouting as the BSA expects and transfer your son without a moment’s hesitation.

It’s definitely intended that Scouts retain as much as possible of what they’re learning along the advancement pathway. But not by re-testing in the sense that your son’s troop is doing it, under the dubious if not devious guise of a “review.” What this troop is doing is turning Scouting inside-out. Shame on them!

The Scouting program encourages and endorses activities—camping and backpacking trips, hikes, canoe trips, attending Camporees and other events that have inter-patrol competitions, etc.—in which the Scouts use their skills and knowledge in challenging, fun ways. Scouting’s designed to be “FUN-WITH-A-PURPOSE,” not a stultifying series of repetitive, pedantic final exams.

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. 330 – 10/10/2012 – 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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