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Issue 369 – November 3, 2013


Dear Andy,

Our troop’s adult leaders have been at odds recently over the final determination of individual Scout accounts. Our troop does two major fundraisers each year—holiday wreaths and popcorn—and we split the profits with the Scouts (the troop keeps 50% and the Scouts get 50% of all profits they make from these sales). We all agree that, if a Scout transfers to another unit, we write a check to the new unit, accompanied by a letter explaining who the money is for. The disagreement has to do with what happens to the Scout’s money if he decides to leave Scouting altogether.

Half of us believes that the Scout raised this money for use in Scouting activities and/or equipment. In fact, they instruct the Scouts to tell anyone who buys wreaths or popcorn that “The money we raise will help pay for our outings and campouts.” On this basis, they believe that, if a boy leaves Scouting, he has the option of purchasing Scout-related items (e.g., backpack, sleeping bag, etc.) before he leaves and, if he doesn’t buy Scout-related stuff, then the money goes into the troop’s general treasury. The other half believes that the money belongs to the Scout, no matter what, because he earned it, and he should be given the money to do as he wishes. I’ve checked the Internet and found that troops handle these accounts both ways. I feel this issue may cause a permanent rift in our committee. Do you have any suggestions on how we can resolve this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Since your adult volunteers are split down the middle and are at opposite ends of the spectrum, I don’t see how this can be resolved amicably unless one group or the other is willing to budge. As you’ve discovered, some troops handle this one way, and some the other way. Perhaps your best bet will be for both groups to have a conversation with your council’s Chief Financial Officer, or Scout Executive, and ask for a recommendation. But in order for this to be successful, both groups would need to agree in advance that, whatever the recommendation, everyone will be willing to abide by it. (Unless you agree on this first, you’re wasting your time and that of a professional as well.)

That said, I believe there’s a fundamental flaw in your thinking. Let’s see what would happen to your fundraising if your Scouts told wreath/popcorn buyers the whole truth: “The money we raise will help pay for our outings and campouts, and I get to keep half the profits for myself.”
Dear Andy,

Maybe you can help me with a Cub Scouting question. On the online Tour Plan site for a pack overnighter, it requires a person to have been BALOO trained within the last two years. It’s been my impression that BALOO doesn’t expire, nor has the course changed in the last two years anyway. We checked with our District Executive and he said it wasn’t a problem, but is this some new policy? (Stuart Weinberg, CM, Commack, NY)

The current BSA Tour & Activity plan (680-014—2011 Printing) available online clearly states that there’s no expiration for BALOO. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

If a Boy Scout earns his Totin’ Chip, can he bring his knife to a troop campout or district Camporee? If so, is there a restriction for use and type? Thank you for any help you provide. (Frank Tapia, SM, Fairburn, GA)

That’s exactly what a Totin’ Chip’s for. Stipulations and recommendations regarding edged woods tools are described in the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING.
Hi Andy,

There seems to be some confusion in interpreting the leadership requirement at patrol meetings when held at a Scout’s home. Do you know the official requirement for leadership presence? (Pat Dillon)

The GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING specifically states that there are exceptions to the “Two-Deep (adult) Leadership” principle, and patrol meetings in a Scout’s own home is absolutely one of these. “Two-Deep” applies to outings—that is, away from home and community—not to either patrol meetings or even troop meetings at the troop’s usual location.

Thanks Andy! That’s how we read it, too. But our District Commissioner reads it differently and has been giving us stress about it. (Pat)

When you’re doing it correctly, no Commissioner has the right or authority to butt in. Commissioners are there only to help; they’re servants of units—not “bosses.”
Dear Andy,

I recently found your website and love the amount of information that you have here. I did notice that in your September 10, 2010 issue, you mentioned that Den Leaders didn’t need to attend committee meetings, but instead they attend Den Leader meetings. I’m wondering if you’ve updated that information in more recent columns. In a current edition of the CUB SCOUT LEADER HANDBOOK there’s no such thing as a committee meeting and a separate Den Leader meeting. This is to avoid duplication of information and so that the Cubmaster doesn’t have to act as a go-between for leaders and committee members. Now, there’s simply one meeting, called the “Pack Leaders’ Meeting” which all attend. It is much more efficient method for pack volunteers. Thank you for your dedication to this amazing organization. I’ll be using you as a resource from now on. (LeAnn Wood)

Each Q&A in each column is current as possible at the time of writing. There are situations—such as the one you point out—in which there are later changes, and each column moving forward discusses the issues based on the current BSA policies and guidelines.

You’re 100% correct: The most current CUB SCOUTS LEADER BOOK (SKU 33221-2011 Printing) describes (see page 87) the monthly “Pack Leaders Planning Meeting,” headed by the Committee Chair and attended by all committee members, Den Leaders, Cubmaster, and (Webelos) activity badge counselors. Up to fairly recently, the uniformed leaders and the committee met independently—the uniformed leaders planned the monthly activities and pack meeting; then the Cubmaster reported these plans to the committee and elicited their support, as necessary. Today, these two meetings have been combined into one; however, the purpose remains the same. Thanks for taking the time to write, and for taking the time to read! ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Will the new Cooking merit badge be an Eagle-required for Scouts who earn their Life Rank this year? I’m wondering because of past practices it has been told to me that when a Scout is working on a merit badge or rank, and the requirements change, then the Scout stays with the old requirements until he’s completed the merit badge or rank requirements. (John Kasanicky)

Between now and December 31, Cooking is an “elective” merit badge and can’t be counted as an “Eagle-required.” Beginning January 1, its designation shifts to “Eagle-required.” So, a Scout earning Star, Life, or Eagle before December 31 puts this merit badge in the “elective” column. Meanwhile, a Scout earning Star or Life before December 31 who earns Cooking in the process of this puts this merit badge in the “elective” column now, but, after January 1, when he goes for Life or Eagle, he puts it in the “required” column instead.
Dear Andy,

My wife is a pack committee member. She’s worn her yellow uniform shirt uniform for the last three years, but now that our son is getting ready to cross over into Boy Scouts, the troop’s leaders have told her she can’t wear the yellow shirt because that one is for Cub Scout leaders only, so she’ll have to buy the tan uniform shirt instead. Is there any reference stating that she can’t wear the yellow shirt as a Boy Scout volunteer? And, if there is, can you tell me were it is, because I can’t find anything that says she can’t wear the yellow shirt. (Jorge Lugo)

First, let’s realize that, in all of Scouting, committee positions (whether on the unit, district, or council level) don’t require uniforms at all! They’re completely optional for all positions except unit leaders (Scoutmasters, Cubmasters and Den Leaders, Skippers, etc.) and Commissioners. So the first bit of good news is that your wife doesn’t need a uniform at all if she becomes a troop committee member. If, however, she’d like to wear a uniform as a troop committee member (or chair), she should definitely wear the tan Boy Scout shirt (the yellow Cub shirt gets “retired”), but only if she’s equally prepared to wear the rest of the uniform as well, including pants (or BSA-provided alternative), socks, and belt.

If you need this in writing by the BSA, refer to the Scout Leader Uniform Inspection Sheet, which clearly states that the yellow shirt is for Cub Scouts only.
Hi Andy,

I’m the advancement chair for our troop, and I need your help to clarify a rank advancement requirement question. A Scout in our troop has requested his board of review for Star rank. He’s earned three Eagle-required merit badges, and for the fourth Eagle-required merit badge for this rank he wants to count Cooking. Since he wants his review right now, before January 1, 2014, I believe he needs to follow the current rank requirements as stated in the BSA advancement rules, in which case Cooking isn’t yet an Eagle-required merit badge. This Scout’s dad is our District Executive, and he’s telling me that his son should be able to count Cooking as the fourth Eagle-required merit badge right now; that he doesn’t have to wait till January 1st for this. I disagree with him. I’ve called our council office for clarification, and haven’t received an answer yet. I plan to call the BSA national office next week to find out, but I thought I should ask you, as you have given me invaluable advice before, and I really enjoy reading your column. (Name & Council Withheld)

You’ve asked me not to include your name or council, and of course, I’m honoring that. But I’d really like folks to know who that mistaken District Executive is, not only because he’s wrong, but because he seems to be throwing his weight around to get what he wants for his son, instead of behaving like an informed parent.

Yes, you’re completely correct: Until midnight December 31, 2013, Cooking merit badge is an elective. It’s not on the Eagle-required list until January 1, 2014. There is no wiggle room on this. This has been published by the BSA in a whole bunch of places for several months already. So ask the Scoutmaster to help this Scout find a required merit badge that he can earn fairly rapidly, so that he can stay on his advancement plan he’s made for himself.
Hi Andy,

How many Assistant Patrol Leaders can a patrol have? We have a patrol with an APL who attends meetings on an irregular basis and really doesn’t do his job when he does show up. There’s another Scout in the patrol that unofficially fulfills the APL position and would like to be officially recognized as the APL. The PL would like to make this Scout his APL, but the Scoutmaster is insisting that troop protocol says they’d have wait for the troop’s leadership elections, which are several months away. Can you offer any guidance on this situation? (Ron Rycharski)

So, if I get your drift, we have a Scoutmaster who’s permitting so-called “protocol” to damage a patrol’s effectiveness and a Patrol Leader’s good judgment. And this is over a patrol position that has no bearing on Scout advancement, making the whole thing a bit silly, especially since APL isn’t an elected position, anyway—this position is always appointed by the PL, and troop’s don’t have the latitude of doing it any differently.

The notion of “waiting till the term’s up” is completely unfair to the PL and every Scout in that patrol. It’s also unfair to the current APL, because I guarantee you that, at some level, he knows he’s letting his patrol down. So here’s what needs to happen: The current APL needs to be told by his PL (with the SPL present for support) that, since he can’t seem to do the job right now, he needs to step aside. Then, the PL appoints the Scout who’s getting the job done.

Hi Andy,

My two sons recently switched troops to be with their friends and to be closer to home. In their former troop, the Senior Patrol Leader was also the Patrol Leader of the older boys; in their new troop the Senior Patrol Leader has been told that he can’t be SPL and Patrol Leader of the older Scouts at the same time. The SPL’s concern is that during competitions, he won’t be allowed to participate, since he’s not in a patrol. I’ve looked through all my notes from my training and can’t find anything related to this. I’ve also searched the BSA website, but I still can’t find an answer. I’m hoping you can clear this up. (Harry Brand, Jr.)

The answer’s in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK and the SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK: Senior Patrol Leaders, during their tenure in that position, are never members of any patrol. Troops don’t have the latitude of altering troop structure, so the troop your sons were first in not only got it wrong, they flew in the face of standard BSA troop structure.

The SPL is “Top Dog” in the troop. The reason why the SPL doesn’t “participate” in inter-patrol competitions is because he’s in charge of the competitions. This is one of the six (out of seven) parts of a troop meeting that he’s specifically responsible for (the only troop meeting part he doesn’t run is the last one: the Scoutmaster’s minute).

As for “older Scout” patrols—they’re patrols, just like any other patrol in the troop. There’s no difference in structure between “old Scout” patrols, “new Scout” patrols, and “in-between Scout” patrols. They all have elected Patrol Leaders, patrol names, etc. (Yes, new Scout patrols have a Troop Guide to assist the elected Patrol Leader as a coach and mentor, but that’s it.)

Thanks for taking the time to write, and I hope you’ll make the effort to help this Senior Patrol Leader understand just what his role and responsibilities are.

Thanks, Andy. If I can, I need some clarification on two more issues related issues. The SPL is concerned about competing in Camporees and Klondike Derbies. I asked the other Assistant Scoutmasters and they’re not quite clear on this, either. For district or council competitive events, does the troop’s SPL become just a member of a patrol, or does he assume leadership of a patrol, or neither? Also, can an SPL sign off in Scouts’ handbooks for rank requirements, or is this restricted to adult leaders only?

The SPL is the top leader of his troop; the Scoutmaster is his guide, consultant, coach, and mentor. The SPL is responsible for helping the troop’s Patrol Leaders whip their patrols into shape for Klondike and Camporee competitions. The SPL’s gratification comes when his troop’s patrols compete in and win these competitions.

If the Scout who’s SPL wants to be a patrol member instead of top dog in the troop, maybe he needs to resign. This way, a Scout who “gets” what the SPL position is really all about can get elected, and the Scout who’d rather “just be a Scout” can go and do that.

As for “signing off” on Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class requirements, not only can and should an SPL do this, but he should be training the Patrol Leaders so they can do it, too! Remember this: Boy Scouting is designed so that Scouts learn from Scouts; they don’t learn by being lectured to be any adults! (Check the “EDGE” teaching method in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK if you need “proof” of what I’ve just said.)

Okay, Andy, I’m getting it. But just one last question (clarification, actually): You mentioned that the SPL can and should sign off on the first three ranks. Can he sign off on the requirements for Star & Life? (Harry)

Star, Life, and Eagle no longer deal with “Scout essentials.” There’s virtually nothing for an SPL to sign off on for these three ranks (take a good look at the requirements). This is where the Scoutmaster does come into play for real. As an easy example, the service-to-others/service project requirements for all three of these ranks have direct involvement specifically with the Scoutmaster (or “unit leader” if a Boy Scout team, Sea Scout Ship, or Venturing crew). Whereas, for the foundational ranks, the ability to, for instance, identify local poisonous plants, or basic first aid, can be taught (using the “EDGE” method) by and ultimately be verified by a Scout’s Patrol Leader and/or SPL because these can and ideally should be taught on a Scout-to-Scout basis.

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. 369 – 11/3/2013 – 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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