Author Avatar

Issue 371 – November 13, 2013

Here’s an interesting question about the “Statement of ambitions and life purpose and a listing of positions held in your religious institution, school, camp, community, or other organizations, during which you demonstrated leadership skills. Include honors and awards received during this service.”

First, from two Scouters who are regular Ask Andy readers…

Dear Andy,

I’m responsible for approving Eagle project proposals for my district, and I also go over all the requirements in detail with the Scout and his parent or guardian.

For the Eagle-only extensions to req. 2 (references) and req. 6 (statement of ambitions and life purpose and list of positions), I explain that the Scout’s troop knows the Scout, but the Eagle board of review members don’t, so the references (req. 2) and statement (req. 6) are important to those reviewers. Everything’s bee fine, except part of req. 6 just became req. 7, with a caveat about being done after age 18:

Can you help clear this up for me? (Walter Underwood, DAC Member, Pacific Skyline Council, CA)

Here’s the second one…

Dear Andy,

One of the requirements for Eagle says to “sit for a Scoutmaster conference. Attach a life statement that includes your goals, etc.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but the sentence structure is exactly this way and that seems to be the focal point.)

Does this mean the Scout should have a Scoutmaster conference and then he should compose the life statement, attach it to his application, and share it at the board of review? Or does it mean the life statement should be shared as a part of the Scoutmaster conference? I’ve always asked to see the statement, if only to offer support and any possible tips for the candidates. It was suggested to me the other day, however, that I might be asking for something that I shouldn’t necessarily be asking for. Can you help straighten this out? (Jim Berklan, SM, Northeast Illinois Council)

Both questions are excellent. The source identified in the first letter places the “statement” clearly outside the historic req. 6, making it part of a new req. 7, and all of this new requirement may take place after the 18th birthday. However, this doesn’t match the most current Eagle Scout Rank Application (512-728 – 2013 Printing).

The answer to this one’s above my pay grade, so I reached out directly to the BSA National Advancement Team. Here’s what Team Member Mike has to say, and it definitely clears things up…

Hi Andy,

That “statement” actually is not part of req. 6. If you look at the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK and the BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS books, req. 6 simply states: “Take part in a Scoutmaster (unit leader) conference.” Because there’s no indication in either of these sources that this statement needed to be attached to the Eagle Scout Rank Application, and only appeared on the Eagle Scout Rank Application, it was assumed it was part of req. 6 and therefore must be completed by the Scout’s 18th birthday. Since this actually isn’t the case, the 2013 BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book put this mandate with the board of review requirement, implying it did not have to be completed by the 18th birthday. The BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK will be updated at the next printing to reflect this as well, as will the Eagle Scout Rank Application (this latter will be concurrent with the addition of Cooking merit badge to the “required” list). We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Thanks. (Mike for the National Advancement Team)

Thanks Mike, and thanks to the team!
Dear Andy,

Is it okay for a Scout to use an old merit badge along with the new one, or in place of the new one? For example, the Computer merit badge now is a monitor, but the old one has a data card and computer wheel on it. Communications used to have a “birthday cake” on it. Can Scouts wear the “retro” ones along with, or in place of, the new? (Terry)

A Scout can wear any version of any merit badge he’s earned; nobody really cares. But, and this ought to be obvious, he wears only one merit badge; not multiples or alternative versions of the same badge.
Hi Andy,

What can a troop do about awards that have been given, but not really earned? One of our Scouts went to camp with the troop two summers in a row, and has been on a few overnight campouts. He took the Camping merit badge sessions at summer camp, which reported “all complete” in their electronic records. These were then automatically signed off by our Scoutmaster and entered into “Troopmaster” advancement data base by our advancement coordinator. But them after the court of honor, re-checking showed that, with two weeks of summer camp fully counted, the Scout might have reached 18 or 19 nights of camping at the most. Now what do we do? For an active Scout, we might assume he’d catch up on the number of nights camping he actually needs over the next year or two, so we’d feel okay in the long run, knowing that, while he actually hadn’t earned the merit badge yet, he’ll eventually “catch up” and be legit. But this particular Scout is now ditching further camping trips, his rationale: “I’ve already got the Camping merit badge, so why should I?” (Gregg Hauser, ASM)

We don’t visit adults’ mistakes on the shoulders of Scouts. The badge stands. And I guarantee you’ll never make this mistake again.

Meanwhile, this Scout should want to go camping because that’s what Scouts do and that’s where his friends will be! Please don’t tell me you folks “sell” trips and other events to Scouts on the basis of “you’ll complete XX requirements,” or “you’ll get this badge,” or “you’ll get service-hour credit”!!! This ISN’T how Scouting works! Straighten out this aspect and I’ll be the rest drops in line too!
Dear Andy,

I have an issue that I’d like some guidance on from other Scouters who may have faced a similar situation. We’re a troop located on an overseas military base, which means we have a lot of “transient” Scouts. One of these, a Life Scout, moved back to the states in August. He’d completed his Eagle project before moving. When he and his family moved, he had three months’ tenure left to complete his position of responsibility requirement. He’s asking to continue with our troop, as Webmaster, to finish his Eagle requirements. So, should he not register with a local troop to finish this requirement? How would you proceed? Would you allow the Scout to finish up his term and Skype his Scoutmaster conference and board of review? Or would you recommend he join a local troop and finish up there? (Confused Scouter)

Of course and without hesitation this Scout should join up with a stateside troop! What’s he waiting for? Had he done so right away, and asked for an appointed position of responsibility, he’d have his tenure-in-position for Eagle done by now. But that’s water under the bridge. Encourage him to waste no more time, and then, when he’s chosen a troop and completed his transfer, you can get in touch with his new Scoutmaster and provide the Scout’s advancement and leadership history, so no further time is lost.

(To confirm what I’m advising, please write directly to the BSA folks at This way, you’re not spinning your wheels collecting “opinions” while this Scout’s wasting time rotating on his thumbs.)
Hi Andy,

I’ve been reading your column for years and always look to it for advice. I’m an ASM and looking for clarification on whether Webelos Scouts, when camping with a Boy Scout troop, each needs to have a parent or guardian with them. The most recent edition of the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING seems open to interpretation:

“A Webelos Scout may participate in overnight den camping when supervised by an adult. In most cases, the Webelos Scout will be under the supervision of his parent or guardian. It is essential that each Webelos Scout be under the supervision of a parent-approved adult. Joint Webelos den/troop campouts including the parents of the Webelos Scouts are encouraged to strengthen ties between the pack and troop. Den leaders, pack leaders, and parents are expected to accompany the boys on approved trips.”

On the basis of this, both our Unit Commissioner and District Executive say it’s not necessary, and leaders from other troops and packs in our area feel the same way.

I’m of the viewpoint that each Webelos Scout needs a parent or guardian with them. The other leaders in our troop don’t agree, and, since our council says it’s okay, don’t want to make it required for an upcoming overnighter. Their argument is that the parent is approving the pack/den/troop leaders to supervise their son, just as it says in the GTSS. I poked around on the BSA national site but couldn’t find further insight on this issue. I’ve asked several people, who all feel the GTSS is vague and not worded well. If each Webelos Scout is to have an adult accompany them, it should state so more clearly. The use of the words “in most cases” and “under the supervision of a parent-approved adult” seems to be causing the confusion. Can you help clarify what’s going on here? (Name & Council Withheld)

The GTSS statement you provided is crystal-clear. Here’s what it’s saying (boiled down)…

1. Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts, when camping, will be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or, if not either one of these, by a specifically designated adult.

2. When camping with a troop, not only will #1 (above) be observed but Den Leaders and other pack leaders are expected to be there, too (even if their sons’ aren’t on that camping trip).

So you’re absolutely correct that 1 Webelos Scout=1 parent/guardian (or alternate pre-designated and approved adult). Stick to your guns on this!

Aside from a safety policy, which they’re expected to follow, what these other folks aren’t realizing is that having the parents of the Webelos Scouts along on the trip allows for “bonding” at the adult level as well as at the boy level. (Heck, where do they think the next generation of troop volunteers is going to come from?!) ________________________________________
Hello Andy,

What is the process for electing a new Scoutmaster? Do parents have any say in voting? Also, can a newly elected Scoutmaster’s spouse be a Committee Chair and their son the Senior Patrol Leader? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’ll bet there’s a lot more going on here than you’ve revealed, but let’s tackle your questions as asked…

Scoutmasters aren’t elected. Scoutmasters are appointed by the Committee Chair in collaboration (and with the approval of) the Chartered Organization Representative (or, in a situation in which the CC and CR are the same person, then ideally with the agreement of the head of the chartered organization).

Parents do have a say in this. For instance, if there’s someone they’d really like to have as their sons’ Scoutmaster, and he or she agrees, then the parents can propose this person to the people I’ve just mentioned. Parents also have a say in the negative: If they believe their sons aren’t going to get the best possible person, they can propose an alternative and, if that alternative isn’t accepted, then the parents can take their sons to a different troop and get them registered and active there.

As for a Senior Patrol Leader being the son of wither or both the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair, let’s first remember that the SPL has been elected by vote of all Scouts in the troop—He’s not appointed by the Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, or anyone else. Second, an SPL’s tenure is usually six months; sometime a year at the most. Thus, this shouldn’t really have much of an influence in the long term.

As for a SM and CC being wedded to one another, there’s no BSA policy that prohibits this. However, I can tell you from long experience that this isn’t ideal. For example, when the family as a whole takes a vacation, this leaves the troop with only assistants or fill-ins in charge—not an ideal situation in many cases. Moreover, it can be crippling to a family, because they can get tangled up in their own underwear—simply too much Scouting going on in one family (Boy Scouting is a youth program; it’s not a family program). Further, sometimes somebody needs to be replaced, and this is incredibly difficult when that person turns out to be your spouse!

So there you have it: I’ve answered your questions. But I don’t believe we’ve actually dealt with what the problem really is. If you’d care to write again, I’m here for you. ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

I need to create two easy projects for my Bear Cub Scouts to fix using hand tools (Bear req. 20c). I’m not finding any helpful hints online. I have eleven boys in my den, so these fix-it projects need to be fairly simple. Any ideas? (Beth Breda, DL, Dan Beard Council, OH)

This is a great opportunity for you to get your Cubs’ parents involved! Show them what their sons are working on and ask them to bring something to the next den meeting that’s from home that their son can fix for them? This way, it’s not just an academic exercise—they’re actually doing something for their families that has meaning! ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

I’ve become aware of a situation that is occurring in our troop and I’ve also noticed it happening in others. It’s this: A Scout advances quickly and enjoys Scouting. He reaches Life rank, holds a position of responsibility and participates very frequently for at least six months. Usually, he’s in 8th grade by about this point in his Scouting “career,” and he’s likely to be elected to the Order of the Arrow right about this same time. Then he moves to high school as a freshman, where he becomes involved in football, band, drama, etc. At this point, although he remains registered and pays his dues, he’s no longer regularly coming to meetings, outdoor trips like hikes and campouts, service projects, or any other troop activity. He might go to summer camp (usually just to get merit badges) or sometimes show up at a troop meeting to get a new merit badge “blue card” or ask about his possible Eagle project, but he’ll often leave the meeting as soon as he gets what he came for. So he might be still involved in Scouting, if it involves earning a merit badge or working on his Eagle requirements, but he’s no longer giving anything to his troop.

In our troop, we have a patrol of these older Scouts and it’s virtually non-functioning. We recently were going to have several Webelos Scouts and their parents camping with us, so we asked these older Scouts to try to attend and help out, even if it was for just one night or just for Saturday (we already there were no OA, football, band, or drama activities on that particular weekend) and only one of these Scouts showed up.

I serve on Eagle boards of review for our district, and I’ve found this scenario to be common. The Eagle candidate is often 17 or 18, but their Life board of review was two or even three years ago, and their tenure for their position of responsibility happened usually in the first six months following earning Life rank. Then there’s a “hole” in their Scouting involvement until about halfway through their 17th year, when they complete their Eagle Project and maybe some required merit badges (usually Family Life, Personal Management, or one or more of the Citizenships).

Two things happen next. First, when we reviewers ask them what they’ve been recently doing in Scouting, they either admit that they haven’t been with their troop much or that their Scoutmaster held back his signature for Eagle until they became more active. (This latter situation I understand isn’t valid, since a troop isn’t permitted to set activity requirements.)

These are all good Scouts, but what can be done to keep them involved with their troops, especially when they can use their knowledge and experience for the benefit of the troop and the younger Scouts? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’ve sat on nearly 200 boards of review for Eagle candidates ranging in age from 13 to 18, across multiple councils. Based on this, I can confirm that Eagle Scouts have only one thing in common: They’re into EVERYTHING! I’ve never yet met an Eagle who was “only” involved in Scouting!

I’ve also known several troops that have such solid programs that Scouts drive themselves to troop meetings! (Yup, they’re old enough to have their licenses, yet they still show up!)

It’s been long said that “Program Produces Participants.” This is truly the key. For your older Scouts, troop meetings need to be interesting for them. They need to be involved. Most important, they need to have “skin in the game.” They need to have made their own plans for what they intend to do. They need to be in patrols by age group; not scattered among the “younger” patrols. They can even be “Venture Patrols” that go out and do their own stuff together! They need to hold leadership positions with actual responsibilities that bring them to troop meetings. For age 16+, they can be Junior Assistant Scoutmasters, with specific jobs to do (not “babysitting” younger Scouts!). They need their own adventures. If your troop is “losing” the older guys to sports, band, girls, etc., maybe they need to form a Venturing crew so they can do stuff the younger Scouts can’t, like hangin’ with girl Venturers, going pistol-shooting, snow-boarding, caving, etc.

So the way to do this is to GIVE THEIR PROGRAM TO THEM TO RUN! That’s right: “The troop” doesn’t plan stuff for them; they do all their own planning, right down to selecting what they’re going to do, and planning the whole thing, including arranging their own transportation, etc. Assign a “teenage-savvy” Assistant Scoutmaster to them, to help them get started (but the ASM doesn’t run things or decide things—the Scouts do this!). Don’t just “try” this—DO IT! True leadership rests in the ability to give leadership away.

Dear Andy,

Why isn’t Color Guard listed as one of the youth leadership positions? Is it not just as important if not more so than Bugler, which is listed, or Scribe, or Historian, or maybe even Librarian? (Christine)

First, let’s clarify… In Scouting there’s no such thing as a “color guard.” A true color guard literally “guards” the colors with rifles or sabers (or simulations thereof). What Scouts do when they carry the American and their unit flag is act as the “Flag Detail”—this is the correct name for the function. Being a member of a flag detail will vary from meeting to meeting, usually with different Scouts each time. Moreover the “tenure” of any flag detail, at any meeting, is approximately one to four minutes. This is a far cry from the ongoing responsibilities of a Patrol Leader, Quartermaster, Historian, or even Bugler (this latter position qualifies for Star and Life ranks as a position of responsibility, but doesn’t qualify for Eagle rank).

OK, Andy, I get it, but in our troop the Flag Detail Captain is responsible for the flags and the ceremony at every troop meeting and other event where flags are used. He selects the team, makes sure they know what to do and how to do it, and leads them through the opening and closing ceremonies, week after week. So shouldn’t this be a qualifying position of responsibility? (Christine)

“Flag Detail Captain” is a really nice idea. It’s “unofficial,” of course, and pretty much unique to individual troops that choose to do something like this. But, of course, it’s neither a nationally recognized elected youth leadership position, nor an appointed youth position of responsibility, and I don’t think the BSA will be altering this anytime soon. This is, in fact, similar to the position of Bugler, which qualifies for Star and Life ranks but is not accepted as qualifying for Eagle. So, keep your “FDC” and let the Scout(s) know that this is a position of honor, but, for rank advancement, they’ll want to be elected PL or SPL or appointed to one of the standard youth positions available to Boy Scouts.

If, however, you’d like to pursue this further, don’t hesitate. Write directly to ________________________________________
Hi Andy,

I’d sure like to learn how to trash nature, maybe in Utah! I’ve seen a couple of Scout leaders are already doing this. Can I join them, please? Maybe I’d need special qualifications? Like being a jerk? I’m hoping you can advise and let all other good folks know your views on this. (Col Wilson)

The BSA can screen for criminal backgrounds and teach youth protection, but we haven’t yet figured out a way to screen for idiocy. We’re workin’ on it, though!

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. 371 – 11/13/2013 – 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

Comments are closed.