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Issue 398 – May 27, 2014

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Have you ever noticed that, when somebody misreads or misinterprets an advancement requirement, it somehow never favors the Scout? Here’s yet another case in point…

Hi Andy,

My son’s a First Class Scout. He’s just completed all requirements for Star including a total of eight merit badges to date. All eight of his merit badges are in the Eagle-required category, and that’s where he hit a surprising stone wall: His Scoutmaster is now telling him that, for Star, he needs to earn two merit badges that aren’t Eagle-required. Is that correct? (Scout Dad Steve)

Nope, that’s not correct. In fact, it’s absolute baloney. So long as your son has the four required ones he needs, any two others—regardless of what they are—can count toward the six required for this rank. Need proof? Just look at Star req. 3. It says, “Earn six merit badges, including any four from the required list for Eagle.” It certainly doesn’t say, “…and two that are not required…”
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Dear Andy,

Will the “Triple Crown” for participating in three BSA high adventure camps change now that the Bechtel Summit has opened? (Cindy Gugino, National Capital Area Council)

My guess: Probably. My guess on timing: Let’s not hold our breath.
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Hi Andy,

Back some two years ago, I submitted an application for recognition of two Scouts who earned Eagle rank to the Grand Masonic Lodge of Georgia, which has an Eagle Scout recognition program in place. Nothing happened. I’ve contacted the Grand Secretary several times, but it turns out that their paperwork somehow got lost. Now, both Scouts have “aged out.” One’s now 19 and the other, 20. Is it too late for them to receive this recognition, if I were to resubmit their applications? The Grand Lodge has no age requirement, but does the BSA for something like this? Thanks! (Dale Stoddard, CC, Georgia-Carolina Council)

The recognition certificate provided by many Grand Lodges is just that: a recognition certificate. It’s not a BSA “advancement” or “award.” Consequently, date of issuance is functionally irrelevant. Yes, by all means resubmit the requests, and ask that the certificates be back-dated, if possible, to when the Eagles earned their ranks (their Eagle board of review date). But if the back-dating can’t be done, don’t let that stop you! File the paperwork anyway! You’re still “on the level.”
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Dear Andy,

My son’s troop leaders have decided that laser tag is an appropriate outing for the Scouts because “it’s not a Scout outing—they’re just a group of boys who happen to be going laser-tagging instead of to a troop meeting.” Who do we protest this to when the Scoutmaster and others refuse to budge? The chartered organization? The council? Help! (Name & Council Withheld)

Yours isn’t the first troop that’s gone astray to do something the adult leaders know full well is taboo. Their rationale is a bunch of horsepucky, set up not to merely bend the rules but to consciously step over the line using the blatant fiction that “it’s not a Scouting event.” The troop’s chartered organization head may be interested in knowing that if there’s any sort of lawsuit-worthy mishap when they do this, there’s not an ounce of BSA insurance coverage and the sponsor’s gonna be flappin’ in the breeze, right alongside the adults who were there when the incident happened. Consider also reaching out to your district’s Commissioner staff and asking for help. If they can’t help, it may be time to look for a troop that’s willing to follow the rules.
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Hi Andy,

Can a patrol position other than Patrol Leader (e.g., patrol scribe, patrol quartermaster) count as a “position of responsibility” for rank advancement? For instance, the requirement for Star rank says, “While a First Class Scout, serve actively in your unit for four months in one or more of the following positions of responsibility…Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Scribe, Librarian, Quartermaster…” but it doesn’t say TROOP Scribe, TROOP Quartermaster, and so forth. In a troop that follows The Patrol Method, these patrol-level positions are positions of responsibility, but, can they qualify for Star, Life and Eagle? What do you think? (Rob Glazier, Potawatomi Area Council, WI)

Got a SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK? Pull it out and take a look at the definitions and responsibilities of Scribe, Webmaster, Quartermaster, and the rest. You’ll pretty quickly see why patrol-level positions other than Patrol Leader don’t count for rank advancement.
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Dear Andy,

I read your April 15th column—the Q&A on service stars—and I need a clarification. If someone is a Cub Scout for five years, a Boy Scout for another five, and then five more as an adult Scouter, does he then wear a 15-Year service star? Or, as a Scouter, does he just wear a 5-Year service star for the years as a Scouting adult leader? (Joe Sefcik, Connecticut Rivers Council)

It’s the Scouter’s choice. He can wear three 5-Year stars, each with a different colored background disk (yellow for Cub, green for Scout, blue for Scouter) or a single 15-Year star with a blue background disk.
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(I’ve abbreviated this next letter so specific incidents don’t identify anyone…)

Hi Andy,

We have a situation with a Scout and his family that’s turned nasty. The Scout made Life in 2010 at the age of 13, but, after that, we barely saw him till just very recently, when he started showing up again. Now, he wants to advance to Eagle, even though there have been both behavior and performance problems along the way. To make matters worse, his parents have their own history of complaining about anything that doesn’t go their son’s way and I’ve had to step in for “damage control” on multiple occasions. The last few months have been nerve-wracking. We reached out to our district’s Key 3 for guidance and, through a series of conversations and email exchanges, developed a performance agreement aimed at putting controls in place designed to protect both the Scout and the troop. But when this Scout refused to sign it, we asked him to please find another troop where he (and his parents) would be happier, because we couldn’t see ourselves recommending him for Eagle in light of his past history with our troop. This almost immediately produced a series of pretty vicious diatribes from his parents, including personal attacks at me to the point that I’m actually concerned they’ll try to seek legal action of some sort. Have you had experiences with situations like this? If so, how do we get out of this mess? In all my years of Scouting, I’ve never had a Scout or parents act this way. I can’t find any guidance directly or online. What do we do? (Committee Chair, Name & Council Withheld)

Distilling key points in your letter, here’s what seems to be clear: A Scout joined the troop in approximately 2008. From then till 2010 and age 13, he was active with the troop and reached Life rank, including six successful Scoutmaster conferences and five successful boards of review. Shortly after earning Life, he became inactive, although continued to pay his annual dues and remained registered, until early 2014 (now) and approximately age 17. He now wishes to become active in the troop again and earn Eagle rank by his 18th birthday. (There’s a “past history” of some sort that I suspect is interpersonal behavior-related, but, whatever it was, it was apparently mild enough that he still completed his Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review.)

If I have these basic facts right, then we need to focus on the time between now and his 18th birthday: Does a six-month “window” exist in which he can (1) be active and (2) hold a qualifying position of responsibility? If there is, then there’s a possible pathway to Eagle. If not, then he can remain in the troop if he stays in good standing, but reaching Eagle is simply not possible given the Life-to-Eagle tenure requirement.

As for personal attacks by parents, you may want to seek legal counsel of your own because there’s such a thing as slander, and it’s worth at least an initial conversation with an attorney to see if there’s a non-litigious way to shut these folks down.
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Hi Andy,

Who would be the appropriate choice to deliver the Eagle Scout Challenge and the Eagle Scout Charge at a court of honor? My first thought was that these both were given by an Eagle Scout (preferably one from the troop). (Rob Richmond)

I’m not sure I know the difference between an Eagle Scout “challenge” and “charge.” I’ve seen the same text used for each of these. And of course we know that this is a “theatrical nicety”—not necessary from any official standpoint but nice to do to add some additional gravitas to the occasion. At any rate, while it’s nice to have an Eagle Scout administer the “challenge” or “charge,” this is by no means any more mandatory than the idea of including these in the first place. If you do proceed, one of the things that’s often done is to have all Eagles in the audience join the new Eagle at the front of the room and raise their hands in the Scout sign as well, thereby “joining” the new Eagle to the “circle.”
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Dear Andy,

We’re trying to figure out a standard for what constitutes “active in the troop.” I think I remember seeing or hearing about a “50% rule” somewhere, but can’t find it. Related to this, how do we apply a “50% rule” (if there is such a thing) for an older, high school-age Scout who’s taking a hiatus for sports or band or other extracurricular activity while he’s trying to complete his Eagle requirements? (Jim D, ASM, Pacific Harbors Council, WA)

You can’t find any “50% rule” because there isn’t any! The BSA is pretty specific on Scouting being flexible and understanding that the best kinds of Scouts are inevitably going to be involved in lots of stuff!

Let’s start here… For an “older Scout,” has he by any chance already served in a position of responsibility and been active as a Scout for six months since becoming a Life Scout, even though his tenure may have been some time ago? If that’s the case, then the requirements in this dimension are already completed! If, however, he’s a recent Life Scout and he has a sports season coming up (or he’s in the middle of one right now), then conference with him on what sorts of demands this schedule will put on him and how active he believes he can reasonably be. Help him find a position of responsibility the Senior Patrol Leader can appoint him to, that he can do successfully at odd times, not necessarily requiring regular attendance at troop and/or patrol meetings (Webmaster immediately comes to mind here), and then ask the SPL to make it official.

Use the most current GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT for more detailed information, of course, but always focus on this: We’re in the business of growing Scouts into young men of distinction and character; we’re not here to find ways to throw monkey wrenches into their plans and goals.
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(This next letter was sent to me this past March…)

Dear Andy,

Has anyone ever had an Eagle project postponed due to the weather? My son turns 18 on April 2nd and we still have over a foot of snow on the ground! His plan is to build a fire pit and put in a flag pole at his church. It’s all approved, but the ground’s still frozen solid! (Grace)

Your son (not you) needs to speak with his Eagle advisor, Scoutmaster, and the district advancement committee right away. There are two obvious choices: An extension due to circumstances beyond his control or a new project that’s not weather-dependent. I recommend he waste no time in having these conversations.
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Hi Andy,

I have a question about the term, “six months,” specifically for positions of responsibility for Life and Eagle ranks. Instead of “six months,” our council is requiring 182 days’ tenure. When I learned of this, it raised a couple of questions.

Our troop uses calendar months for our positions of responsibility—six months for all positions. So, in our troop, a term from January 1st to June 30th (six calendar months) would only be 180 days—two days short of the council’s 182-day requirement. Meanwhile, the six-month term from July 30th to December 31st is 184 days. In actuality, xxx Actually, any term that included the month of Feb. might have problems with the 182 day definition.

I then did a little more research and found that there are a couple of interpretations that can be given a month. Two of the most prominent definitions are calendar month (differs depending on the month, 28, 29, 30, or 31 days) and lunar month (always 28 days), I’m not a lawyer, but I read somewhere that legally a month is considered a “lunar month” if not specified. If “lunar month” definition were to be used, then that would only require 168 days to complete a six month term, a 14 day difference between 182 and 168, about 1/2 month (not small). (Mark Barfield, Troop Advancement Coordinator)

Yeah, it’s messy, to say the least. January 1 to 31 is a month, but so is February 1 to 28 (or 29)! Now what? No easy answer, except for troops to be sure there’s just a little overage (like the old “baker’s dozen” rule), so that Scouts don’t get hung out to dry by some pedantic nerd.
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Hi Andy,

Can you clear up some confusion about “temporary insignia”? The GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA says, “Boy Scouts may wear only temporary patches (no badges of rank) on the back of the merit badge sash” (notice that it says “patches,” which is plural) and also says, “Temporary Insignia…Only one such patch may be worn at a time…the patch is worn centered on the right pocket…” Do these mean that the “only one” rule applies to the shirt but not the merit badge sash?

Which way is it? Is it “only one temporary patch at a time, total” or “only one on the shirt but more than one allowed on the back of the merit badge sash”? Also, I’ve heard it said that the last temporary patch earned is the one that should be worn, but I couldn’t find this in writing. Maybe it’s the newest one on the shirt with older ones on the back of the sash? And who decides how a patch qualifies as “temporary”? (Confused in Colorado)

Wow! Talk about getting tied up in our own underwear! Relax, please. The BSA is pretty clear if you simply read what’s said and don’t let your mind start spinning. First, we know that rank badges and merit badges aren’t in the “temporary” category, and we know there are designated places for items like interpreter strips, Jamboree patches, position patches, etc., etc. So a “temporary” patch is pretty obviously a camp patch; camporee patch; my personal least-favorites, the “totin’ chip” and “firem’n chit” patches; etc. So, just like the literature and inspections sheets show, you can wear one “temporary” patch on your right pocket and you can put as many “temporary” patches as you like (and there’s room for) on the back of a merit badge sash. Who decides which one to wear? You do…pick the one you like the most and sew it on your shirt. As for how to determine if a patch is “temporary” or not, just send me a photo of any one you have a question about and I’d be happy to help you figure it out.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to askandybsa@yahoo.com. 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. 398 – 5/27/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]

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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.

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