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Issue 332 – October 29, 2012

Rule No. 95
Productivity is inversely proportional to the size of the committee.
Dear Andy,

Our troop just purchased a trailer. It would be a big help if other troops with trailers could give us some tips or even pictures and plans of what they did to outfit their trailer. I’ve searched online, but so far I’ve only found this design: Any help would be really appreciated. (Jim Zinkgraf, SM, Bay-Lakes Council, WI)

Scouters, can you help Jim?

You can write to him directly at:
Dear Andy,

I’ve been working with a Cubmaster and new Scouts who want to be Den Chiefs, but a question was brought up that I need some help with. The pack has a den with two “sub-patrols.” One has about eight boys and the other about four. (When the pack has a large den, it’s kept a single Den Leader and separated the boys into sub-patrols, each with an Assistant Den Leader. This is done for several reasons, including district competitions for which Webelos dens can have a maximum of eight and no more, and also as a way to work with Cubs at different ranks). So, is a den allowed to have two Den Chiefs? (Tom Tomlins, Southwest Florida Council)

What you’ve described to me, this is a bit of an “off the radar screen” pack. Yes, dens are intended to have a maximum of eight boys, regardless of rank. But importantly, there are no “sub-groups” within dens. If there are, for instance, eight Wolf Cubs, then that’s one den. If there are, let’s say, nine or ten Wolf Cubs (or Bear or Webelos—doesn’t matter), then the sensible pack creates two smaller (and incredibly more manageable) dens, each with a Den Leader. So, for the den you mention, that has some dozen Cubs, the proper way to handle it is to create two separate dens of six each. Such dens don’t need to be identical in size, but the concept of a single den, with two sub-groups, each managed by an Assistant Den Leader will be found nowhere in any BSA leader guide or pack organizational chart. So, until the pack gets itself straightened out and organized properly, I’d be really, really cautious.

As far as new Boy Scouts actually wanting to be Den Chiefs, frankly, this is weird. Most Boy Scouts want to be in their patrols, where they can build peer relationships and advance through the three foundational Boy Scout ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. I’m sure you’ve read the requirements for each of these three ranks, so you already know that holding a leadership position isn’t required for any of them. There’s a solid reason for this: These foundational ranks are designed to help boys learn all of the essentials of being Boy Scouting! Leadership can come later, after they’ve gained the necessary knowledge and skills.

All of this leads me to wonder who’s pushing so hard for these new Boy Scouts to be Den Chiefs. If it’s the folks in the Cub Scout pack, maybe your best approach is to tell them they need to wait a year before they get their Den Chiefs, because these boys need to be full-fledged Boy Scouts first. In short, let the pack deal with its own issues while you concentrate on helping these new boys become First Class Boy Scouts.
Dear Andy,

After completing the applications for the bronze, gold, and silver Eagle palms, what comes next? (Eagle Scout Mom)

An Eagle Scout earns five merit badges per palm (plus other requirements, such as three months’ active tenure, etc.). The first five earn him the Bronze Palm; the next five, Gold; and the next five, Silver. Each time he earns a cluster of five, the prior palm comes off the ribbon on his Eagle medal and the new one replaces it, until he earns five more after his first Silver Palm (which means he’s now earned 20 merit badges beyond the original 21). At this point, he’s now earned another Bronze Palm in addition to the Silver, so he wears these two, reflecting the 20 merit badges (plus the other requirements). Five more after that and he replaces the Bronze with a Gold Palm, and now wears Gold and his original Silver. Two Silvers would be next; then two Silvers and a Bronze… Are you getting how this works? Good!
Dear Andy,

In addition to the normal rank requirements, our new Scoutmaster and his assistant, along with the troop committee, have decided to move in the direction of requiring attendance minimums. The troop has now instituted a policy that all youth leaders in the troop must attend no less than two-thirds (67%) of all weekly troop meetings and all troop outdoor activities. I’m concerned that this will create a problem for Scouts in sports programs at or after school—those Scout have game and meet, if not practice, commitments both after school and certainly on weekends during their sports’ seasons, which will preclude their ability to attend a weekend camping or hiking trip with the troop.

I have spoken with them and indicated my disagreement with this new attendance stipulation. I can understand the need for a Senior Patrol Leader to be at most meetings, but the Bugler? The Chaplain’s Aide? I’ve have pulled up the relevant parts of the new GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT, but the Scoutmaster and committee “interpret” the language differently. The Scoutmaster feels that if a Scout in a leadership position isn’t at most of the troop meetings and outings, he’s simply not leading—the Scout can’t be successful in his position if he’s not there the majority of the time. Now, attendance is being taken at every meeting and if the Scouts in leadership positions aren’t at a majority of the meetings, they will be denied advancement. My own thinking is that it’s not about “attendance” as the primary criterion; it’s about carrying out the responsibilities and the impact the Scout has had while in the position.

Once I gather more information—including yours—I’m hoping to set up a cordial meeting with the Scoutmaster and committee to reassess this attendance issue. However, if I discover that I’m the one who’s not looking at this correctly, then I’ll keep my mouth shut. I’ve read what you’ve said on this topic, but I need a little more, so I can try to nip this in the bud. In my opinion, this is especially troublesome for the older Scouts, as they are in more extracurricular activities. Thanks for your help with this. (Richard Graham, ASM, Pikes Peak Council, CO)

Regarding the stipulations placed on your troop’s youth leaders, several considerations come to mind…

Have the Scoutmaster and committee considered that, as a volunteer movement, the BSA’s very first and most important volunteers are the youth who decide they want to be Scouts?

Do the Scoutmaster and committee understand that, in any volunteer movement like the BSA, participation is often worst when it’s legislated? Boys and young men have little to no interest in a program that makes demands such as are being contemplated. There are any number of other ways they can spend their time and energy that make no such demands. The sole “tool” a troop has to generate participation is superior program—not “rules.”

Are the Scoutmaster and committee placing equal strictures on themselves? For instance, do the duties of all committee members include a minimum of 67% participation in all committee meetings and boards of review? Per the document you sent to me, are the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters prepared to attend a minimum 75% of all troop meetings and away activities, PLCs, and summer camp, as they’re now demanding of the Scouts?

Do these folks understand that they’ve provided a “loophole” in its leadership expectations? It’s in the document you sent me. Here it is: “…unless otherwise coordinated with the Senior Patrol Leader and/or Scoutmaster.” Effectively, this means that a Scout in a leadership position, by contacting the appropriate person, can state that he can’t attend a meeting, activity, etc. because of (a) a prior family commitment that supersedes his Scouting activities, (b) a church activity of similar nature, (c) a school event, (d) a sports season or game, meet, or other event, (e) a musical commitment (band, orchestra, choral group rehearsals or performance), (e) the event(s) of another youth group of which he’s a member, and the list goes on, and such commitment cannot be used against him. Moreover, if these folks attempt to close this window then we no longer have Scouting; we have a penal system.

Do they understand that the ASPL “job description” doesn’t match the position description in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK? Same with Troop Guide, Instructor, and others. Also, do they understand that they’ve given Den Chiefs a “bye” on all troop meetings and activities and the OA Troop Representative a “bye” on all lodge/chapter activities? As for the LNT Trainer, his training isn’t optional (as suggested by use of the term “ideally”); it’s mandatory. And, there’s no JASM position or description.

Moreover, something’s missing throughout. Where is this statement: “In the event that a Scout finds he cannot fulfill the attendance or other duties of his position, the Scoutmaster will consult with him and, via mentoring and collaboration, find an alternative position for him that he can carry out per expectations.” Perhaps this all means that the piece you’ve sent to me is a work in process? If so, here’s my recommendation: Stop the process and go back to the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK.

In the spirit of cooperation, I’d like to see the commitments the committee, its chair, the Scoutmaster, and all Assistants, will make to the youth leaders and Scouts of the troop. Where, for instance, is the statement that the committee will support to program decided on by the PLC? Where is the statement that the Scoutmaster will train, coach, guide, mentor, and counsel the Senior Patrol Leader and other youth leaders so that they can run their own troop? In short, the plan the committee has in mind is 100% lopsided, and not in favor of the very youth the committee and all other adult volunteers are there to serve. (That’s right: You all SERVE the youth of the troop; the way this is written, it gives the appearance that someone thinks it’s the other way around.)

Here’s the raw truth: If I were a Scout in this troop interested in leadership, and you presented me with this, I would “vote with my feet” and immediately seek out a troop that will actually teach me something instead of one that gives every indication of wanting to hold my feet to the fire.

Final thought: The FAA and DHS, looking back on how our nation’s air traffic controllers got every single plane over the U.S. or entering U.S. air space on the ground in record-breaking time on September 11, 2001, considered writing a rule book or procedure manual, to be used should this ever be necessary at some future time. After considerable investigation, records review, interviews, and analysis, they jointly reached this decision: We will not write such a manual. Why? Because there are times when individuals must be provided the freedom to make decisions and act on their own knowledge, skills, and initiative in collaboration and cooperation with one another, rather than wasting precious time trying to mindlessly “find the rule” or “stick to procedure.” Isn’t that what we’re really talking about here? Stop for a moment and think: Do we want to create our country’s future citizens… or sheep?
Dear Andy,

I have a couple of questions about defining “service”…

Many units in my district—both packs and troops—promote specific unit service projects to their youth members and families. They talk about “showing Scout spirit” and “Doing a Good Turn.” Yet, as a part of their unit’s service project plan, they file for state grant money (in the $300 to $500 range) through their local community government for carrying out this “service.” I’ve read and reviewed the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, and the most current GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT on the topic of service. It’s most often described as “doing something for others without expecting anything in return.” Makes me wonder… are these so-called service projects actually service projects that incorporate the Ideals of Scouting, or are they unit money-earning opportunities?

The Eagle Scout Service Project workbook specifies that the service performed can’t be for the benefit of the BSA, but nothing I’ve read talks about this for the Second Class, Star, or Life service-to-others requirement. Can service given for these rank requirements benefit the BSA (e.g., council camp improvement, staffing a Cub Scout event [excl. Den Chiefs], or ceremonies or ushering at a district or council event)? (Name & Council Withheld)

Good questions! Let’s try to break them down…

Grant funding is fine, so long as the funds are used to benefit the recipient(s) of the Scout service. Grant funds to bolster a Scouting unit’s “piggy bank” or to be used to the benefit of the Scouts or the unit, would be entirely inappropriate.

Besides, Scouts and their units are, by policy, not permitted to solicit donations for the BSA, the council, their unit, or themselves. Yes, if donations are spontaneously volunteered, they may be accepted; but they absolutely may not be requested.

In this same vein, Scouts acting as Scouts are not permitted to raise funds for ANY organization–BSA, Relay for Life, Red Cross, Salvation Army, you name it. (“Scouting For Food” is in a different category because no money is sought and the food donated is passed through to the end-recipients.)

Yes, service to others is only true service when nothing in return is expected or sought. This is where many troops fall off the boat… Their volunteer adults tell the Scouts, “Show up for this service project and get ‘service hour credit’.” That’s tantamount to “working for pay”– The “pay” is in the form of “credits.”

Scouts should, ideally, be enthusiastically encouraged to show up and help out “because this is what Scouts do!” As Baden-Powell pointed out over a hundred years ago, we’re not about “being good;” we’re all about DOING good!

The Eagle Scout Service Project stands alone with regard to service within the Scouting/BSA milieu. You’re correct that no ESSP can be for a troop, district, council, council property, or the BSA. You’re equally accurate in your observation that this limitation doesn’t exist for Second Class, Star, or Life ranks. In this latter regard, however, it’s important to keep in mind that a council typically has just two kinds of properties: the service center and camp(s). The service center itself is managed and maintained by full-time professional and administrative staff; therefore, virtually nothing with regard to the physical plant need be done…except, perhaps to plant new flowers or shrubbery when Spring rolls around. As for tasks like raking leaves, weeding, etc., best leave that to the council’s paid subcontractors. Regarding camp property, keep in mind that, in many council, this is the exclusive province of the OA Lodge and its chapters.

I’ve myself participated in “OA camp rehab weekends”– the last time I did this, 250 Scouts showed up, along with about 40 “Sagamores” and we scrubbed the camp from stem to stern, built new and repaired old tent platforms, and re-built the council fire ring and sitting logs, all between a Saturday morning and mid-day Sunday, and we had our own campfire with songs and skits Saturday night! It was a blast (especially since our nearest neighbor was a Girl Scout camp, and they were there, doing the same thing, that same weekend– so we had a joint Saturday night campfire that absolutely rocked)!

Performing ceremonies? Cool! Scouts get a chance to “show off”! Helping out at Cub Scout events? Almost as cool! Scouts get to be “the big guys” and show off! But, does this stuff get “service hour credit”? Frankly, I wouldn’t even bring this up, and I absolutely wouldn’t use it as the incentive!

I remember, as a Scout, placing “Get Out The Vote” doorknob hangers on literally hundreds of homes up and down the streets of my neighborhood… with no thought whatsoever about “credit”—we did this ’cause we were SCOUTS!

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. 332 – 10/29/2012 – 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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