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Issue 367 – October 20, 2013


Dear Andy,

I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m now 20. I’d earned Life rank when I was 13, but just couldn’t find the right Eagle Scout Service Project that I wanted to do (I had lots of suggestions for the next more than four years about building shelves, making birdhouses, replanting shrubbery, repainting sheds, etc., but none of these really fit with my personal interests). I finally found something I really wanted to do—it was for a school with all special needs students and it came out great!—when I was about halfway to my 18th birthday. I completed it on time, had a conference with my Scoutmaster, wrote my Life Statement, and had already earned 38 merit badges along the way in addition to having been both a Patrol Leader and Senior Patrol Leader as a Life Scout, so all requirements were more than completed before that significant birthday. So far, so good, but then the board of review couldn’t be held before I left for college (about two thousand miles away) and I didn’t get back home until about four months past my 18th birthday. At that point, my board of review was finally scheduled. It concluded successfully. So I’m an Eagle… but I have a problem that’s been bothering me ever since that board of review that I just can’t seem to get past. That’s why I’m writing to you for the very first time (although I’ve been a reader for a while now, even though I’m in the College Reserve and not actively involved in Scouting).

Here’s the thing that’s been bothering me. On the night of the review, the representative from the advancement committee announced that, because it had been four months past my 18th birthday, a special letter to the national office would be required. He said, “That’s just too much bother for me.” So, he got the other review members to agree to back-date the review, by picking a date that it fell inside the three months for which no letter is required. It bothered me then, because the date he chose wasn’t reality—it was completely arbitrary. So now I’m an Eagle, and the false date of my board of review is what’s on my certificate. Maybe this is a small thing. But I just can’t seem to get past it. Can you help out here? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m beyond sorry that this happened to you, and beyond disgusted with a Scouter who, while supposedly representing the highest standards of Scouting, chose to lie. This is a terrible miscarriage of Scouting’s principles and a horrible way for you to have to remember what should have been your “finest hour” (aside from your court of honor, of course). Moreover, to use laziness as an excuse for lying only makes this a greater miscarriage. That no one else on the review board chose to speak up is a complete mystery to me. What in heck were these people thinking!)

Well, I suppose I could say “what’s done is done.” But that helps nothing. So, instead, I’m going to (privately) give you the name of the person at the BSA national office that you can write to, telling him exactly what you’ve just described to me and requesting that your certificate be changed to the correct date. You have my sympathy for having had this done to you and my personal assurance that your letter will be read. Thanks for speaking up for yourself—as a true Eagle Scout will always do.
Dear Andy,

In a recent column, in response to a question about the Venturing sign, motto, and handshake you said that “All youth members of the BSA will use the same sign, handclasp, Oath, Law, etc.” I thought I’d better write, to note that this isn’t exactly true for Cub Scouts. Although Cubs will be using the Boy Scout Oath and Law, the current Cub Scout motto, sign, salute, and handshake will be retained as they currently exist. See below (Tony Hooker):

Yes, according to that blog—which represents the editors of Scouting magazine—this is the way it will be. However, this isn’t a statement issued under the aegis of (it’s, as shown,, which is a bit different). So, while it’s likely to be accurate, it’s worth keeping an eye out for direct BSA backup.
Dear Andy,

I think the person below who asked about soapbox derby rules may have been referring to “Cubmobiles.” The text below comes from I think Cubmobiles are basically soapbox derby cars with a Scouting name

“Cubmobile Derby – Each den works together to build a ‘Cubmobile,’ a pint-sized racing vehicle. Each den has one racer, and each Cub Scout in the den races in the car once. Usually, a ramp helps start the cars, and they roll downhill to the finish line. The race is held on a smooth street that slopes downhill.” (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks! Nice pickup!
Hi Andy,

What’s the story on Jamboree patches? Above the right pocket, right? What else can be worn above the right pocket? (Ray Heberer, Far East Council)

The BSA Insignia Guide (available online) informs us that one National Jamboree or one World Jamboree patch may be worn above the right pocket. In addition, an Interpreter strip, if earned, and/or a “Venture” patrol strip, if the Scout is a member of a Venture patrol, may be worn directly above the “Boy Scouts of America” pre-sewn strip. That’s all.

Thanks Andy! So now we’ll cut all those various OA & NYLT patches off their uniforms, right? (RH)

Not so fast there! NYLT/NYLIC/NAYLE patches can go on the right pocket, just like their handbook says. Yes, they’ll need to make a decision, ’cause only one patch goes on the right pocket, but isn’t decision-making one of the things we’re supposed to be teaching and modeling? As for OA flap-patches, they, of course, go on the right pocket flap; again, this is in their handbook. Stupidly designed flap-shaped “Totin’ Chip” patches aren’t for uniform wear, just like the catalog says, so they don’t get switched over to the left pocket flap just because there’s room there. ________________________________________
Hi Andy.

This is a minor thing, but it’s a question that came up with our scouts, and I couldn’t answer it… Let’s say a patrol earns one or more National Honor Patrol Awards and a Scout from that patrol has one or more star around his patrol emblem to show it. What should he do if he changes patrols? He’ll need to change his patrol patch, of course, but should he remove the stars?

Maybe there’s an underlying question here. Does a Scout normally stay in the same patrol for as long as he’s with a troop? It seems that some troops keep the patrols together while others shift their Scouts around from time to time. Which way is correct or better? If a Scout does stay with a single patrol, what would be a valid reason for him changing patrols? (Name & Council Withheld)

We’ll do the easy one first… Since the Honor Patrol star(s) are patrol awards, a Scout would wear the stars earned by the patrol he’s in. If he moves from an Honor patrol to a non-Honor patrol, then the star(s) come off when he changes the patrol medallion. Conversely, if he moves from a non-Honor patrol to an Honor patrol, then the star(s) go on, even if he wasn’t in the patrol when the star(s) were earned.

As for changing patrols, the BSA plan has always been this: A Scout remains in the same patrol for his entire Boy Scouting “career” (unless he’s elected Senior Patrol Leader, in which case he’s not a patrol member during his SPL tenure). Some troops do “re-shuffle” patrols from time to time. This is a mistake. The foundational unit of Boy Scouting isn’t the troop; it’s the patrol. The patrol is the Scout’s “home” and his fellow patrol members are his “family.” Understanding these parallels, would you send one of your sons to live with a different family after a couple of years, and accept into your home some boy who isn’t a family member, instead?
Dear Andy,

I was a Scout in the 60s. We wore or uniforms in the field then I’m now an Assistant Scoutmaster and we wear the uniform shirts to the field, but then take them off and hang them up. The reason isn’t so much lack of pride in the uniform as lack of confidence in the durability of the uniforms. The uniform we wore when I was a Scout was similar to the old Army fatigue uniform—it was designed to be worn in the field. It was also reasonably priced compared to other children’s clothes. We could afford complete summer and winter outfits. Today’s Scout shirt is similar to a bed sheet and looks like it was designed to be worn in an office; not the woods. It’s also pricey, relative to the clothes kids actually wear outdoors. I think that’s why we wear activity shirts (T-shirts) in the field. (David Rees, ASM, Lincoln Heritage Council)

I was a Scout in the 50s and 60s and so wore several different uniform shirts. Then, I returned in the late 80s, and got the new shirts, pants, and shorts. None of these was ever a major problem when, rather than “evaluate” the various kinds, I simply wore them like a Scout/Scouter would do. They’ve all held up well. I can still wear shirts I wore 20 to 40 years ago—and they’re all intact! How about that!

But this really isn’t about what you or I might choose to do. This is about the message we want to deliver to the Scouts in our charge. How much pride, sense of unity and belonging, and sense of identity do we want to communicate by what we, ourselves, do? This is, to me, the real challenge. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

It’s been about 13 years since I was a Boy Scout. I have a grandson who’s new in Scouts. He earned his first merit badge within three months. Then he went to summer camp and earned five more. He’s now Second Class. We just had our autumn court of honor, where he received his pins for Scout, Tenderfoot, and Second Class. He also got a patch for being Troop Quartermaster. I’ve looked everywhere on the Internet to see where things go on a sash. I know the merit badges go three-across on the front of the sash. So where does he put his old advancement badges, pins, troop responsibilities positions, and summer camp patches? (Bill Dodson)

Merit badges go on the front of the sash—they’re the only badges permitted on the front. Position (e.g., Patrol Leader, etc.) and camp patches can be sewn on the back. “Old” rank badges are specifically not permitted on merit badge sashes–anywhere.

Thanks for asking and welcome back!

OK, Andy, so then where does the Scout wear his old rank badges and rank pins? And, what’s a sash used for, if it can’t be used as a record of what a Scout has done in Boy Scouts? (Bill)

1 – He doesn’t. Each new rank replaces the one before it.

2 – It’s officially called a merit badge sash. It’s 99% for merit badges, just like the name says.

3 – To keep a record of accomplishments, many Scouts start a scrapbook. (I still have mine. It’s more than 50 years old, and still intact.)

Thanks, Andy, for answering my questions. It’s good to get ideas from other Scouting people in different councils. I have another simple question. Should a Scout wear his rank pin and his rank badge at the same time? I’ve seen so many Scouts do this. I’ve even seen Scouts wear all of their rank pins with their current rank, and I’ve seen an Eagle Scout wear his Eagle Pin and his Eagle patch. I’m guessing it’s okay, because I see it all the time. But why? (Bill)

Understand, please: I didn’t provide “my personal viewpoint” or “my opinion.” I gave you the BSA stipulations regarding merit badge sashes. What’s worn (and not worn) on a merit badge sash (or elsewhere on Scout uniforms) isn’t open to “opinions.” The BSA has stipulations on this subject, expressed in precise language. “Gathering opinions” isn’t the way to go with this. Determining what the BSA says is correct and incorrect is what matters here. This applies to rank pins as well. Scouts are free to wear a cloth rank badge or a rank pin, but not both. In the exceptional case of Eagle Scouts, the cloth rank badge is worn 100% of the time and the medal is worn along with it on special formal or ceremonial occasions (e.g., courts of honor)—a stipulation made by the BSA, not by individual Scouts, troops, districts, or councils…or me.
Dear Andy,

You’ve probably received hundreds if not thousands of emails on this subject… Recently, a topic came up on a Facebook Wood Badge group where a Tiger Den Leader wanted to use a military style “camo” hat with a Tiger rank patch sewn on it as his Den’s hat. The topic got heated, and may have been since deleted. The Den Leader cited this page:

As I read this official BSA stance is that the Cub Scout uniform should be hidden from public view, just to be worn at Cub Scout den and pack meetings. Forget about Scout Days at sporting events, parades, worship services—just wear what you want when in public representing this movement. (Dave Mountney, UC & CSRTC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

It’s unofficial remarks such as appeared in the blog you referenced (different from the statement on the site) that give the impression of somehow being “The Word from On High” that often cause confusion and concern. They’ve happened before, luckily on a pretty limited basis. I remember, a few years ago, the “” website, by the BSA’s supply division folks, claiming that flap-shaped “Totin’ Chip” patches were legitimate wear on Scout uniforms—when clearly they weren’t. Fortunately, the actual folks “On High,” when alerted to this indiscretion, nipped it in the bud.

I’ve read the official blurb your link sent me to. It states: “The Cub Scout Activity Shirt (can) be worn in place of the official uniform shirt for certain activities, such as sporting events or day camp.”

I don’t dispute that one possible extrapolation from this could be that “the Cub Scout uniform should be hidden from public view,” but one might equally extrapolate that “the Supply Division just wants to sell more stuff.” But, if we take the statement at face value, it may not be so very terrible. It might even mean that somebody had the good sense to note that, just like what used to be called “the Scout activity uniform” (red BSA polo shirt with BSA khaki pants or shorts), this provides a sensible option that still shows the Cub Scout blue, and with a Cub Scout “logo” no less, for activities like day camp (where Cubs can get truly sweaty, dirty, wet, and otherwise ruffled up) and activities (like a soccer afternoon, perhaps) were something more sports-designed might be a better idea than broadcloth.

Frankly, what’s often a lot worse is what some packs do at public events like parades and such… Every patch known to creation sewn on the backs of the Cubs’ uniform shirts, as if they’re quilts or small versions of “patch blankets,” blue uniform shirts with mayhem south of the belt, neckerchief tied like half-completed bow ties, and so on. Or Scout troops that think they can adopt “troop uniforms” and have adults who think un-tucked shirts over a pair of Levi’s suffice to be called “a uniform.”

I remember getting expelled from high school for a day designated “formal Monday” when a bunch of us guys (Oh, such naughty mavericks for our era!) showed up in white shirts, sports jackets, ties, dress shoes, and…Bermuda shorts with knee socks! But that was about as much as we ever flouted authority back in the Eisenhower era! Today, it’s not even flouting (or challenged as being in poor taste at best) to wear pants so low that boys’ boxers show nine-tenths of their charming patterns, or girls who dress so that their thongs and “tramp stamps” can be seen from the other end of the school hallway.

Only Scouting and some sports, and of course the military, represent the last bastions of decent attire. Even the corporate uniform—the “sincere suit”—has gone the way of the Dodo bird. And now Scouting’s seventh “method”—the uniform—is crumbling.

Imagine, for a moment, applying the “leave it home in the closet” guideline applied to, say, Wood Badge courses. Or Scout flag details at annual council meetings. Or Memorial Day and Independence Day parades.

Yes, somebody connected with the BSA made a mistake. But before we cast the first stone, let’s be sure to look in the mirror first.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to write. But take an equal moment to smile and take a deep breath. Throwing an embolism over this, instead of chuckling and shaking our heads, just isn’t worth it!

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. 367 – 10/20/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]


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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