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Issue 331 – October 21, 2012

Rule No. 94
There’s no such thing as “bad weather” for Scouting… only bad clothing or equipment decisions. (Thank you, Ken King!)
Hi Andy,

Ever heard of “Jamboree Mulligan”? It’s supposed to be some sort of stew-like meal Scouts cooked “back in the day.” (Jack Wildhorn, SPL, Mantooth Mountain Council)

You’re taking me back, Jack! “Jamboree Mulligan” was a Scout dinner staple that we always looked forward to! It’s a great base-camp meal, but as you’ll shortly see, it’s not so wonderful as a backpacking meal because of its carry-weight. Here’s what you’ll need to feed a patrol of eight …

Ground beef – 2½ lbs.
Onions – 1 lb.
Tomato soup (condensed-10½ oz. cans) – 3
Elbow macaroni – 1 lb. box
Water – 1 cup (8 oz.)
Sugar – 1 level tsp.
Salt – ¼ tsp.
Equipment: 1 frying pan, 1 large pot, spatula, large spoon.

Dice and brown the onion in a bit of butter or oil, then crumble in and brown the ground beef. When done, drain any fat, then add the tomato soup, water, sugar, and salt. Separately, cook and drain the macaroni. Then mix everything together in the same pot you cooked the macaroni in, and chow down! Yum!
Dear Andy,

We have a Scout who’s completed all the requirements for Life rank save his Scoutmaster conference. Is there any BSA policy that would prevent this Scout from having his Scoutmaster conference (and subsequent board of review) in a troop other than the one he’s registered with? (Nick Ziozis)

Good question. To address it, we need to ask one more question: What’s the purpose of these two conversations (i.e., the conference and the review)?

The Scout’s conference with his Scoutmaster has two key purposes: To make sure all requirements are indeed completed (i.e., all signatures where they belong) and—more important—so the Scoutmaster can learn a bit more about how well the scout’s getting along in the troop and in his life beyond Scouting. The review with members of the troop’s committee members has four key purposes: To congratulate the scout on his accomplishments to date and to provide the Scout the opportunity for the Scout to reflect on this, to earn how well the troop is delivering the Scouting program, and to encourage the Scout to continue his advancement journey.

In this light, the answer’s straightforward: For any rank, the Scout is expected to have his Scoutmaster conference and following board of review with the troop in which he’s registered. The BSA makes no provision for an alternative to this, for reasons that should now be obvious.

Thanks, Andy. Now, if I may add a slight twist, suppose the Scout transfers from one troop to another with only the Scoutmaster conference and board of review to complete? Is it then reasonable to expect these can be accomplished in his new troop, considering all of the requirements were satisfied in his former troop? (Nick)

My first thought is that it would take some major an imminent change in residence for a Scout to not complete the final two steps toward his next rank with the troop he’s been in while completing the other requirements. However, things happen that a Scout has no control over (family move, etc.).

So, when a Scout transfers from Troop 1 to Troop 2, he’ll take his advancement records (handbook signed in the back, blue cards, ranks and merit badge pocket cards, etc.) with him, along with a letter or note from his Scoutmaster describing the positions of responsibility he’s held and the dates of tenure. In this scenario, the very first thing the Scoutmaster of Troop 2 will want to do is meet and get to know the Scout. This provides an opportunity for the Scout to get to know his new Scoutmaster, show the Scoutmaster where he is in rank advancement, and let the Scoutmaster know what he’d like to do in his new troop. Once this conversation’s taken place, it’s a short step to extending the conversation ever so slightly, so that it becomes a Scoutmaster conference. Following this, the Scoutmaster will assist in scheduling a board of review for the Scout. That’s it. It’s a no-brainer and all should be well in Troop 2!
Dear Andy,

I’ve been told that there’s a restriction on the number of Merit Badge Counselors a troop can have for Eagle-required merit badges. Is this true? (Name & Council Withheld)

All BSA councils and their respective districts have lists of registered and qualified MBCs. This list is provided to all Scoutmasters, so that, when a Scout is seeking to earn any merit badge, the Scoutmaster can give the Scout the name and contact information for a local MBC on the intended subject. So, from a practical standpoint, it’s unnecessary for any troop to maintain a cadre of MBCs, because such a cadre already exists in each district of every council, effectively making “troop MBCs” an unnecessary redundancy.

This is not to say that a volunteer or non-registered parent can’t enroll as a MBC; it simply means that a troop-specific cadre isn’t necessary for Scouts’ advancement. Moreover, a troop-specific cadre ultimately can deplete the effectiveness of the BSA Merit Badge Program because one of the program’s two goals is to provide an environment in which a Scout independently contacts and works with an adult who is unfamiliar to him. This is part of the personal growth plan of the Movement.
Dear Andy,

Our troop just had a Senior Patrol Leader election. Two Scouts were up for the slot. Scout #1 gave a brief speech to the Scouts that included bad-mouthing Scout #2. We—Scouts, parents, and Scout #2—were shocked by this negative approach. In fact, one of the Scouts went over to the Scoutmaster and asked him to stop what was going on. But the Scoutmaster did nothing except tell that Scout to go back and sit down. When it was Scout #2’s turn, he stood up, took a deep breath, and confidently talked about his qualifications, including how he’d demonstrated the necessary skills and service for the position. He never mentioned or suggested that Scout #1 shouldn’t be elected; he spoke only about himself. Even though he’d written a speech, he didn’t use it. Speaking extemporaneously, he showed everyone present how Scout #1 was wrong and addressed everything Scout #1 had tried to use against him. While this was happening, the Scoutmaster appeared very tense, rubbing his head and looking nervous. Scout #2 did an outstanding job, even though he’d just been ridiculed by a fellow Scout in front of his troop and others. The tally of votes clearly elected Scout #2 Senior Patrol Leader. But the Scoutmaster, instead of congratulating him, told the new Senior Patrol Leader that “to do the right thing,” he should pick Scout #1 (the Committee Chair’s son, BTW) as ASPL.

Scouts who’ve been SPLs in that past have already told Scout #2 to be aware that he’ll merely be a “puppet” for the Scoutmaster—just handed notes to read at weekly meetings, and not permitted to provide any leadership, input on program, or much else.

Do you have any suggestions as to how our troop can be helped, so that it can become a truly Scout-run troop instead of an autocracy? (Name & Council Withheld)

Leave it to the Scouts and they’ll get it right, almost every time! They elected the right Scout. So, even though the Scoutmaster, by the actions you’ve described, seemed to have a preference for the other Scout (perhaps because he believed he could manipulate him?), the Scouts themselves got it right.

Now, the new Senior Patrol Leader needs to get himself a copy of the SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK. And, you parents and committee members need to immediately demand that the Scoutmaster start reading the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK. Here are a few things they’ll both learn…

– The SPL runs the troop meeting from beginning right up to the Scoutmaster’s minute (which is called a “minute” because it should last 60 seconds, no more than that).

– The SPL runs the Patrol Leaders Council meetings from start to finish, and the Scoutmaster has no public voice in these meetings.

– Patrol Leaders are elected by their patrol members; they’re not “appointed” by anyone.

– The ASPL position isn’t “mandatory.” This position is filled only if one is needed and an available Scout qualifies, in the eyes of the SPL (and no one else). This particular SPL is under no obligation to appoint the other candidate to ASPL or any other troop position (see below).

– All non-elected positions in the troop (e.g., Scribe, Quartermaster, etc.) are selected and appointed by the SPL; the Scoutmaster can offer an opinion on the SPL’s choice but doesn’t have “veto power.”

– All this SPL needs do is stand up for himself (which, it seems, he’s capable of doing) and refuse to be buffaloed by the Scoutmaster.

Finally, if you parents see the Scoutmaster deviating from the points I’ve just outlined—which, just in case anyone’s wondering, are the way the BSA says things are to be done—then immediately let the Committee Chair know you disapprove and demand that whatever went wrong be rectified immediately. (If you get no action here, don’t waste a minute—go straight to the head of your chartered organization.)

You all need to remember that your sons are Scouting’s first “volunteers,” and if they’re not getting what the BSA promises them in their handbooks, they have every right to demand it or walk away from this troop and join up with another that gets it right. Stand for nothing less than the Scouting program as it’s intended to be delivered—these are your sons!
Dear Andy,

We’re having a serious problem with Scouts who accept leadership positions and then do little to nothing during their tenure. Part of the problem seems to be that the troop hasn’t established expectations. We’re trying to remedy that. But our troop committee and Scoutmaster don’t agree on how to set expectations.

Section of the 2011 GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT says that the unit may establish expectations: “Meeting Unit Expectations. If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within
reason, based on his personal skill set, the Scout meets them, he fulfills the requirement. When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.”

Can you provide some guidance on the kinds of expectations a troop may establish? For example, could a troop set the expectation that the Scribe will take PLC minutes; the Quartermaster maintain a record of what equipment is used, when and by whom; or the Historian maintain a scrapbook of troop activities. Also, what about attendance and participation requirements? Then, would it be appropriate to hold periodic reviews for the Scouts in these positions? (Here, I’m thinking that, if we’re going to set expectations, it would be logical to check to see if the expectations are being met.) I realize this may be done in a Scoutmaster conference for rank advancement, but I’m thinking of something more frequent that corresponds to the term in office. (John Pinchot, Longhorn Council, TX)

Not having stated expectations and the absence of Scoutmaster guiding, coaching, and mentoring isn’t “part” of the problem here; it IS the problem. Apparently, expectations have been zero and so your Scouts have lived up to them.

This isn’t about “enforcing” or “legislating” responsible youth leadership. It’s about coaching, mentoring, and guiding—including setting the example—by the Scoutmaster. In point of cold fact, this is the Scoutmaster’s single-most important responsibility. (That’s not my “opinion”…read the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK.)

For what levels of responsibility can be set, again, it’s right there in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK. It’s also in the SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK and PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK. Use these as the Scoutmaster’s coaching “playbooks” and you’ll be fine! Your Scouts will thank him for his guidance and I guarantee that, if he gets this right, the Scouts will sink their teeth into their jobs!

Attendance requirements? Be careful here. Remember that the very first “volunteers” is Scouting are the Scouts themselves. The best producer of attendance and participation is an active, challenging, fun troop program. ________________________________________
Hello Andy,

I have been following a discussion on LinkedIn about whether or not the BSA considers tearing off the corners of a Totin’ Chip hazing. One participant mentioned a ruling by the BSA back in the ‘90s that tearing corners off is a form of hazing and that the correct course of action is to take the card and have the Scout re-train and earn it back. Personally, I like that course of action because sooner or later a recalcitrant Scout will take the responsibilities conferred by the Totin’ Chip seriously if it’s taken, and his right to carry and use knives and other edged tools, go with the card. If there’s any real confirmation of this, would you be able to refer me to it?

Also, along the lines of hazing, wouldn’t sending a new Scout off on a wild goose chase for a left-handed smoke-shifter also be considered a form of hazing? (Josef Rosenfeld, Westchester Putnam Council, NY)

Yes, we do not “tear corners” from Totin’ Chips. If a Scout is mistreating or misusing a woods/edged tool, our responsibility is correction; not punishment. In fact, there’s no provision anywhere in Scouting for “punishment.” Correction is by way of instruction, and the EDGE method works very well in this situation. So, instead of even taking the card, when you, as guide and mentor, show the Scout the correct way and obtain his commitment to follow it, you’re fulfilling the commitment to youth you made when you enrolled as a BSA volunteer.

Confirmation? How about this: How would you be feeling if, on stopping you, an officer of the law tore a corner from your driver’s license? Or, you’re a Scoutmaster and some mirrored sunglass lensed, Smokey Bear hat-wearing Commissioner-as-Council Cop tears a corner off your Scoutmaster registration card?

Yes, “left-handed monkey wrenches,” “smoke-shifters,” “bacon stretchers,” and the like are now no-no’s, for the very reason you state: They’re forms of hazing. “Snipe hunts” for the troop’s newbies are now also considered a part of the same unacceptable genre. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Our son is 14 and is a Life Scout. He has just three merit badges to go, for Eagle. In recent years, the troop’s adult volunteers have always been willing to help when a Scout’s nearing Eagle and concurrently his 18th birthday. But since our son is 14, the same help isn’t there. Our son’s actually been told, flat out, to slow down! The Scoutmaster’s now refusing to give our son Merit Badge Counselor contact information, so he can complete the remaining merit badges, so our son’s been working on the requirements without a counselor. Is this OK with the BSA? Or should the Scoutmaster be encouraging enthusiastic Scouts? (Name & Council Withheld)

“Slow down”? Baloney! This is not only nonsense, it’s anti-Scouting. In Boy Scouts, it’s the Scout himself who makes this decision, and no one else.

Read my August 11, 2012 column (no 324).

That said, regarding merit badges, your son should absolutely not be working on requirements without having officially started the merit badge with a registered Merit Badge Counselor. Putting the cart in front of the horse is a huge mistake. Your son needs to follow these steps: (1) Go to the SM and tell him he’s like a “blue card” for XYZ merit badge (the Scoutmaster can’t refuse him!), (2) obtain from his Scoutmaster the name and contact information for a registered Merit Badge Counselor who lives nearby, (3) call that counselor on the phone and arrange for a first meeting. This is when the counseling begins!

To affirm: No BSA volunteer is authorized to refuse a Scout a “blue card” when he asks for one or to refuse to provide the name of a council-registered Merit Badge Counselor (NOTE: MBCs do not need to be associated with your son’s troop—he can go to any MBC on the council or district list.)

None of this is “opinion.” These are irrefutable BSA policies that no one is authorized to override, for any reason.
Dear Andy,

Recently I heard about a Scout smelling of marijuana while at camp this past summer. I then learned that this Scout had approached another Scout, as well. Our Committee Chair brought this up at a recent committee meeting and asked us members to overlook this, since the Scout in question was having “some issues at home” and, besides, he was about to reach Eagle Scout rank.

A month ago, the CC did circulate an open letter to parents and Scouts to the effect that drugs aren’t tolerated in the troop, but that was the only action taken. The Scout was neither disciplined nor removed from the troop roster.

I don’t agree with how this was handled. Since I knew the CC was a close friend of that Scout’s family I told him he needed to step away and let this matter be handled by the BSA. But he didn’t do this, either. So what should have been done? Was the CC wrong for not going to the BSA about this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Whatever took place happened at least two months ago; probably longer. Moreover, what you’re stating is in the category of “hearsay.” The chair’s letter was after-the-fact; therefore, late. Its point is accurate: There is no tolerance for controlled substances in Scouting. However, whatever did take place last summer warranted immediate action then and there, at camp. The correct action would have been to immediately go to the director of the camp—a council employee—to report the matter and deal with. If this was not done, the adults with the troop at camp at that time made a serious mistake.

If you have reason to believe this is ongoing, then you have an obligation to contact your council’s Scout Executive and report the incident(s). The council’s professionals can do nothing unless this is reported to them.

I can’t comment further because there is no further substantive information for me to assess. If you believe this matter should be reported, I encourage you to do so. No one—not the BSA council nor law enforcement authorities—can do anything unless someone is prepared to report the incident, with corroboration if at all possible. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

I have a situation where several Scouts will earn Eagle and also turn 18 early in the school year, so the new “College Reserve” designation seems to fit the bill, even though the official script that I’ve seen seems to look at this registration as one for a young man in college, on a mission, or in the military. But here’s the question: What status would a young man registered as a College Reservist travel/camp with the troop as… A Scout, or an adult? (Josef Rosenfeld, SM, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

With the troop, age 18 or over, he’s an adult.

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. 331 – 10/21/2012 – 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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