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Issue 375 – December 10, 2013

Dear Andy,

I recently attended our council’s annual Eagle Scout recognition dinner—a very nice, semi-formal event to recognize this year’s “class” of Eagle Scouts, their parents and Scoutmasters. It’s also a big fund-raiser for the council. As an Eagle Scout from this council, I attend most every year to connect with Scouting friends and help with the fundraising.

This year, I noticed many Eagle Scouts wearing their uniform improperly. Examples include the Eagle medal pinned to the right shirt pocket, wearing OA sashes (this isn’t an OA event and they’re not there representing the OA), wearing their merit badge sash over the left shoulder, wearing both the OA and a merit badge sash at the same time.

Not wanting to spend the evening as a “patch policeman,” I said nothing at the time. But I have to ask: Whose responsibility is it to educate these Eagle Scouts (or any Scout, for that matter) on how to wear the uniform properly? The local unit? The council? Who? Or does wearing a uniform correctly just not matter anymore?

I took Scoutmaster-specific training this past summer and there was no mention of how to correctly wear the uniform, even though it’s supposed to be one of the eight Methods of scouting. If no one teaches adults or youth about uniforms and how to wear them, I’m concerned that the situation is only going to continue to deteriorate, and that’s a pity. (Name & Council Withheld)

Yup, a whole host of glitches, due largely to (a) no decent uniform protocols at the unit level and (b) no oversight for an event like this. I’ve seen the same thing in my own council, for any number of years. So, I finagled my way onto the council’s Eagle dinner committee and then put together a “Uniform Check-List” for all Eagles attending. It covered not only what they should look like but a list of common errors (e.g., the sash stuff including leave your OA sash home because this isn’t an OA event, get rid of those dumb “Totin’ Chip” flap-shaped patches, take off all those silly pins, wear shoes instead of Nike’s, etc.) and how to get it right. This is the first year we’re doing this, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I’m attaching the Check-List in case you might be able to insert something similar in your own council’s event. (If any reader would like a copy of “My Uniform at the Eagle Dinner” let me know and I’ll send you a copy.)
Hi Andy,

We’re in the process of planning an Eagle Scout court of honor. What are the rules for selecting a Master of Ceremonies? Does the MC need to be a registered Scouter? We have a retired Scoutmaster who we’d like to ask to be the MC, but he’s no longer registered. Is this still OK? (Laura)

The MC doesn’t need to be a registered Scouter. In fact, the MC doesn’t need to be an adult, either! Consider asking your son who his best friend in the troop is, and would he like this Scout to be his MC.
Hi Andy,

My son has been mistreated by his troop’s adult leaders. They’re of a mind that a 14 year-old is too young to be an Eagle Scout, so back in June when he first presented his Eagle Scout Service project proposal to his Scoutmaster and the troop’s Committee Chair, the CC told him he’s not allowed to do the project. After two weeks of my husband and me going to bat for our son, the proposal was signed. My son then worked all summer long with his coach and his beneficiary, finishing the full write-up of his project plan by the middle of August. The beneficiary requested that the project be completed by late September, in time for a major fund-raiser, but now my son’s Eagle coach and Scoutmaster and Committee Chair and—believe it or not—the advancement chair all told him he couldn’t schedule the start of his project until March 2014. When my son stated that the September completion date was a request by the beneficiary and that he would have no trouble completing the work by then, the CC responded that he didn’t care what the beneficiary wanted, or what our son was capable of doing, he’s simply not allowed to start until next March. My son kept fighting this and this group of men finally agreed to allow him to schedule his project per the beneficiary’s needs. But then afterwards, when my son met with the CC to get a signature on his Eagle application (the CC did sign it), the CC told my son he’d heard that my son was thinking of leaving the troop, and that, if he did leave, the CC would tell the new Scoutmaster that my son was not worthy of being an Eagle Scout. I want to yank my son from this troop immediately, but he turned in his Eagle application today and we aren’t sure how to go about transferring him to another troop at this point. My son is a high school freshman and loves Scouts. He was elected Senior Patrol Leader and the younger Scouts really like him. It would be a big loss for the younger Scouts in the troop if he left, but I feel like I can’t leave my son here because of the harm that’s already been done and my belief that it’s not over, especially when it’s not limited to just one of the adult leaders there. What should we do? (Name & Council Withheld)

Unfortunately, there are far too many people who believe they have the power to slow down or roadblock an active, involved Scout who’s just eating up the program. This CC sure sounds like one of these. He hasn’t the right or authority to do this, of course. Plus, it sounds like he has cronies—the Scoutmaster and others—who pretty much believe the same.

You son always comes first. This mistreatment he’s been getting is definitely cause for finding another troop for him. Quietly do a search, and then, when you find one, have a conversation with that troop’s Scoutmaster about what’s been happening to your son. Tell him just what you’ve told me, including the CC’s threat to interfere with a successful transition. Gauge his reaction. If he agrees that this isn’t Scouting as it should be, simply fill out a new application for the new troop and check the “transfer from” box. Then let the new Scoutmaster handle the rest, including getting your son’s advancement and other records from the troop he’s in now.

As for his friends in the current troop, don’t be shy. Let their parents know exactly what’s going on, and why. (Who knows— They may feel the same as you and also be equally at sea about what to do about it! So you may be doing them a great service.)

As for your son, be sure he understands that transferring is absolutely not “being a quitter”—because I’m going to guess that this CC is going to try to throw that one at him (and you). That’s just baloney. The fact of the matter is this: Boys like your son are Scouting’s first and most important “volunteers,” and if a troop isn’t delivering the promise described in his handbook, he has every right to go find a troop that gets it right.
Dear Andy,

I attended the 1989 National Jamboree as a Scout. Can I wear the Jambo patch on my adult leader uniform? (John)

Yup, you sure can! It’s worn above the right pocket, as shown in the inside cover of any BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK.
Dear Andy,

I’m involved with my sons at both the Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop levels, so I’m hoping you can answer this question from both points-of-view. Who should hold on to the Scouts’ health forms? And should there be only one copy of this form per Scout?

At the Cub level I think it would be good for both the packs’ camping coordinator and the Den leader to have a copy, since dens go on hikes and outings on their own, this information may come in handy during an emergency. At the troop, level I don’t know that it’s that important to have multiple copies. Or maybe I am missing something? And I know there also has to be consideration for HIPPA restrictions. Any guidance would be appreciated. (Paul Botzman)

The easiest way to handle this is for all medical forms, permission slips, and medical release forms (the originals—not photocopies) for all youth members in the unit to go into a single binder. Then, that binder is given to whoever is the outing leader, who retains it from the start of the trip to returning home. Once home, it’s given to whoever has volunteered to be its custodian till the next trip.
Hi Andy,

You have a great site here and I’ve referenced it often. I was unable to find my question in your past columns, so I’m posing it to you directly.

We have a situation where our troop committee doesn’t meet. Our Committee Chair tells people if they fill a committee position they’ll not have to attend monthly committee meetings. He does this so that they’ll accept the position. His logic is that he’s in one-on-one contact with each member and can report to the Scoutmaster meetings on the committee’s status. We have to call a special meeting just to get the committee members to come to vote on something. I can’t get the group to see how illogical it is to have a committee that doesn’t meet. Can you give me some advice? (Mike O’Neill, Springfield, VA)

My first suggestion is that every member of the troop committee needs to take the BSA training module” Troop Committee Challenge. My second is this: The Committee Chair has it completely backwards. The Scoutmaster reports to the committee (the CC is actually his “boss”); the committee doesn’t report to the Scoutmaster.

Unit committees—whether Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, or Venturers—work best when they meet monthly. Most usually, this is done concurrently with one of the troop meetings, especially since the parent-committee member with be there anyway, to drop off and pick up his or her son, so once a month they stick around for the committee meeting. At this meeting, the Scoutmaster breaks away from the troop meeting for 10 to 15 minutes so that he can report to the committee on the PLC’s meeting and outing plans, and ask for specific help as needed.

All of this is in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, too, so maybe the Scoutmaster needs to be clued in as well, so that he knows what the playing field actually looks like.
Hi Andy,

I’m our troop’s secretary. I’ve been asked to research how individual troops conduct audits of their financial transactions/records/history so that we can implement the same procedure. I’m not finding any “checklists” or “guides” on how to do this. I have no financial training, so I’m unable to do any formal audit. (Name & Council Withheld)

First, let’s understand that unit accounts should be on the small side—we shouldn’t be talking about tens of thousands of dollars here. This makes the idea of a formal audit probably overkill. Nevertheless, I believe the best person to advise you on this is your own council’s Chief Financial Officer or legal counsel. Check with either of them; I’m sure they can give you good direction.
Hi Andy,

A question in your November 13th column prompted me to respond with a suggestion on “Fix It” requirements for Cub Scouts…

In our Bear and Webelos dens, we came up with the idea of bringing the needed repair to the den meeting! Between all the parents, we came up with several simulations of real problems—a leaky faucet, a loose hinge, replacing a lamp socket, replacing a door knob, a wall to patch, and a couple others–and let the boys at ’em, with parents there to guide as necessary! We even let the Cubs decide what tools they needed. This way there was no water-damaged kitchen, no living room wall to repaint, and so on. The Cubs had a blast and completed the requirements at the same time. At the end of the year the simulated fix-its were passed onto the next den.

We decided ahead of time what repairs to have the Cubs do, and each parent came up with a fix-it. The fix-its were set up like stations around the meeting room and the tools on a table in the center. The boys had to choose which tools they needed to do the job, and the adults guided them in the repair if they couldn’t figure it out on their own. When they were done with one job, they would change stations. The fix-its were all practical repairs within their skills and all included at least one operation which was required for the achievement; the rest was expanded knowledge.

For the drywall repair, a mini wall with scrap drywall and 2x4s about 18″ x 18″ was prepared with a few small holes in it poked in it. The boys then patched a hole with quick-dry spackle and later in the meeting sanded it smooth.

For the faucet repair, a garden spigot was mounted on a board/stand and the boys had to replace the washer. The boys were asked what to do first—about half remembered they would need to turn the water off!

For the doorknob, one parent had just replaced a door in his house, so he mounted the doorknob area chunk of the old door on a stand and let the boys remove the doorknob and then re-install it, then make sure it works.

The loose hinges were on several simulated “doors” (scrap 1″x2″ wood) in a “jamb” about 18″ tall. One hole in each hinge mounting on the jamb side was drilled larger than the others, and the boys had to make the screw fit tightly by doing the toothpick trick.

An old wood table lamp with a light bulb socket that needed changing provided a double challenge. The “old” socket and bulb had to be removed, then replaced with a “new” socket (the parent had a spare), and the electrical plug on the end of the cord also needed to be replaced (the easy screw-type). The Scout had to strip the wires with a wire cutter to install either part, put it all together and replace the bulb.

Maybe somebody else can make this even better! (Jim Kangas, Northern Star Council, MN)

VERY cool! What a great way to do this, especially with the parents’ involvement. My hat’s off to you!
More on Scout Carter Harwell (The following is condensed from an online article by Valerie Rowell)

Carter Harwell, age 13, has earned all 133 BSA merit badges. “It’s fun,” Carter said. “It’s a lot of fun to try and do this stuff. I met so many people along the way. I didn’t start Scouting thinking I’m going to get them all. It just kind of happened. I started working toward them.” Carter believes he’s the 210th Boy Scout to earn every merit badge, including decades ago when only half the current number were offered.

“For any (Scout) who earns every single merit badge the Boy Scouts of America offers is probably about as rare as a kid becoming the president of the United States,” said Georgia-Carolina Council Scout Executive Jeff Schwab. “He very much makes Scouting a big part of his life,” his Scoutmaster, John Estep added, describing Carter as motivated and focused.

Carter, who also sings with the Augusta Children’s Chorale and is an avid golfer, is home-schooled through Georgia Cyber Academy. He said he most enjoyed the Snowboarding badge. The Backpacking and Wilderness Survival were some of the more strenuous badges to earn: He was required to backpack at least one 30-mile trip, plus 15 additional miles other than the trip. “That was definitely one of the more difficult ones,” Carter said. “They are definitely very difficult. They are very strenuous, too.” Other badges were more academic, such as Bird Study, which required him to identify 30 birds and study them at a feeder for 30 days. Carter even learned to play the trumpet to earn the Bugling badge. He was required to learn the instrument and play 13 different calls. “That one took a little bit of time,” he said. Carter said earning all the badges definitely introduced him to a lot of new and interesting people and led him to a lot of new experiences. Some, like ice skating and leather-working, he never thought he would enjoy. “They are all so fun,” Carter said. “I’ve met so many great people.”

Carter is a Life Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow, a Scouting honor society. “It’s a big deal,” Carter said of Order of the Arrow. “That’s mainly what I think I like the most. I’ve met tons of great people in Order of the Arrow. It’s like the official honor society of Scouts that is used to recognize exemplary scouts that exemplify the scout oath and law.”

Carter, who also is his troop’s Senior Patrol Leader, already has another goal in mind: becoming an Eagle Scout before his 14th birthday. The average age of an Eagle Scout is 17.5 years old, according to Smith. Carter still has five more years in Scouting and plans to continue community service and special projects to help others.

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. 375 – 12/10/2013 – 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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