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Issue 399 – June 3, 2014

Dear Andy,

For the National Outdoor Badge—Camping Segment, if a Scout spends the summer as a camp counselor at his local Scout camp, and stays in the same kind of tent that he would have were he a camper at summer camp, do all those days/nights of camping count toward this badge/segment? (Bob Fales, Patriot’s Path Council, NJ)

A Scout can use 6 days/night of “resident camping” (regardless of tent type) toward the Camping segment requirement of the National Outdoor Award, but not more than that. The emphasis on Scout camping (for the NOA, Camping merit badge, and First Class req. 3) remains the short-term troop/patrol-type camp-outs. However, the best news is that the situation you’ve described fulfills req. 8(b) for the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, which is pretty cool!
Dear Andy,

I recently became Scoutmaster, and I’ve inherited a great “problem”—Seven Life Scouts working toward Eagle. As their Scoutmaster, is there a checklist of things I need to be aware of, or maybe a list of where the Scoutmaster needs to provide approval signatures and such? Thanks! (Howie Barnes)

Congratulations and thanks for stepping up to this wonderful, rewarding position! “Servant-Leader-Educator”… Let one and three be your guide and two will happen naturally. And a corollary, from B-P: “Advancement is like a suntan…It’s something that happens naturally when Scouts are having fun in the out-of-doors.” Here are my suggestions…

– Read the requirements as written in the SCOUT HANDBOOK, including the checklist on pages 440 and 441.

– Double-check these by reading them again in the 2014 BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book.

– Download and print the most current (2014) Eagle Scout Rank Application and review it in detail.


– Visit your district’s Roundtables and get to know other Scoutmasters—They’re likely to be your very best resource on a personal level.
Hi Andy,

You recently advised a dad that his son’s prior musical experience can count toward Music merit badge requirements. Since folks around here like to quote you, if you wouldn’t mind, maybe some more specificity is needed. We know that prior things done can count towards merit badge requirements, but we should equally point out that these need to have been since the boy became a Boy Scout and a member of a troop (or team). Also, some requirements (Camping is a good example) will specify that the activity must have been under Scouting auspices. (Matt Culbertson)

Thanks! That’s an important clarification and I’m delighted that you wrote to remind me (and our readers) of its importance!
Greetings Andy,

As part of our pack’s newsletter, I like to include historical or current BSA facts. I’m looking for a description of the Webelos badge. I’ve checked the GUIDE TO AWARDS & INSIGNIA and the WEBELOS HANDBOOK, but with not much success. Can you help us out here? (Vic Roman, Assistant Cubmaster, Choctaw Council, MS)

Contrary to popular myth, it’s really not an ear of corn with a blue husk!

The Webelos (or Webelos-Arrow of Light) program is one of transition: It’s here that a boy begins his preparation to become a Boy Scout. This is the central focus and ultimate aim of this program, that all Webelos Den Leaders need to understand and work toward.

The tan-background emblem is that of a Gold Boy Scout badge over which has been laid a “W” (for Webelos) in blue. The emblem with the blue background shows the same and, in addition, includes the word, WEBELOS, and has a small gold Boy Scout badge in the bottom corner.

As long as we’re on the subject, the word WEBELOS is unique to Scouting (as is Camporee and Jamboree) and is divided this way: WE-BE-LO-S, with this meaning: WE’ll BE LOyal Scouts.

Last, Webelos is both singular and plural (there’s no such thing as “Webelo” or “Weblo”)… It’s “one Webelos Scout” and “a bunch of Webelos Scouts.”

Well, there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know! <grin>
Dear Andy,

I’m Scoutmaster of a pretty good troop that’s truly youth-led. I’ve been having trouble getting adult volunteers—especially new ones—to understand that the troop is Scout-led with the Scoutmaster as “consultant” to the Senior Patrol Leader and coach for the youth leaders of the troop. For new parents coming from Cub Scouts, I’ve developed these analogies…

Councils have volunteers, including many Cub Scout leaders, who develop the annual calendar. Cub Scout packs are led by their Cubmaster. Packs take the council calendar and attend the scheduled events, create their own to fit what they want the Cubs to participate in. The council uses Commissioners to help out the individual packs.

By comparison, in a youth-led Boy Scout troop, patrols are like individual packs. Patrol Leaders get together (the PLC) to plan a good year-long calendar (just like a BSA council). Patrols use that calendar and (like packs) can plan and participate in their own additional events. The Scoutmaster uses Assistant Scoutmasters sort of like Commissioners, to assist and guide any patrols that might need assistance.

Back to Cub Scouts: As Den Leaders or Cubmasters, you “learned by doing.” Nobody kept you from making mistakes. You had rules, policies, and procedures to work with, but these didn’t prevent every single possibility of mistakes.

The Patrol Leaders Council operates the same way, and patrols do, too. This means that, every now and again, a Patrol Leader or his patrol might make a mistake, and that’s OK—it’s a learning experience.

What do you think? Would this sort of analogy help? (Tom Tomlins, SM, Coral Gables, FL)

I think it’s a pretty good comparison… If incoming parents indeed understand the pack-to-council relationship. My guess, however, is that most don’t. So I’m going to suggest an alternative (or supplemental) approach…

– Your son was in a Cub Scout den—one of several in their pack, all led by an adult Den Leader.

– Each month, the Den Leaders, under the guidance of the Cubmaster, developed the program for the coming month, based on a year-long program they’d developed in a sit-down session once a year.

– In Boy Scouting, these responsibilities are given over to the Scouts themselves. (They’re not “little boys” anymore, and we want them to grow into young men. The absolute best way to accomplish this is to give them increasing personal responsibilities, but with guidance, coaching, and counsel-with-a-feather by an adult—their Scoutmaster.)

– In Boy Scouting, Dens are replaced by PATROLS, appointed Den Leaders are replaced by elected PATROL LEADERS, the appointed Cubmaster is replaced by the elected SENIOR PATROL LEADER (the troop’s Top Leader), and the SCOUTMASTER guides-coaches-counsels the SPL and PLs.

– Instead of Den Leader planning meetings, Boy Scouts have a PATROL LEADERS COUNCIL (“PLC”). The PLC, based on what the Scouts in each patrol are interested in doing, set the program plan for the troop—it’s a “mini-democracy.”

– The Scoutmaster’s role is to guide, but it’s NOT to make decisions for the Scouts (if he does that, the Scouts don’t “grow”).

– The COMMITTEE of the troop SUPPORTS the decisions of the PLC and helps them make it happen. (The committee doesn’t “vote” on the PLC’s decisions–but they can offer suggestions if needed.)

– The role of the PARENTS is to TRUST THIS PROCESS!
Hello Andy,

So our troop went from the Scoutmaster picking the Senior Patrol Leader (although Patrol Leaders were elected, at least), to swinging the pendulum all the way over to electing ALL the troop youth positions (SPL, ASPL (one picked by SPL, one voted), QM, Scribe, Historian, etc.).

I understand this is not the prescribed method in BSA literature. The troop should vote for Senior Patrol Leader only, and patrols elect their own Patrol Leader. Then the SPL appoints (with guidance) the other troop roles, including ASPLs. And the Patrol Leaders each appoint their APL.

So here’s the question: Can the Senior Patrol Leader choose to hold an election for these other troop roles (Quartermaster, Scribe, etc.) as his method of appointing Scouts? It seems that by electing all the roles he (a) gets volunteers that want to do the job and opted to run for the position, and (b) gets volunteers whom the rest of troop has confidence in for that role as well. So, essentially he uses the popular vote to make his appointments, much like the Electoral College casting their vote based on public opinion.

Or should we put a stop to that process and just go with straight-out appointments? (Jeff Freeman, Golden Empire Council, CA)

You should, as you said, put a stop to that process and start doing it the way the BSA says it should be done.

You’ve got it right that the SPL chooses, with guidance from the SM, all other troop-level positions, just like the elected PLs pick their assistants. But no, the SPL doesn’t “run a special election” as a way to choose, because that’s the same mistake as before. The SPL is the Top Dog in the troop (not the Scoutmaster, which is sometimes an unpleasant surprise), and as such it’s his job to make good “personnel decisions,” and fix them if they don’t work out. This is why SPL is a really challenging leadership position! It’s a lot more than just leading opening ceremonies at troop meetings and then turning the meeting over to the “Old Goat Patrol.”

All this stuff is in the SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK and it’s also in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK. (I don’t “invent” this stuff—honest!) Start using it. Just as it’s written. That’s what it’s for.
Dear Andy,

How can I find out how many merit badges I earned as a Scout and can I complete them to become an Eagle Scout at age 54? My parents went through a divorce and we wound up moving several states away from where I grew up and was a Scout. In effect, we left everything behind and started fresh. My mother tells me I was one merit badge away from Eagle. I hope you can help me figure this out. (Life Scout Who Hasn’t Forgotten)

There was a time, up until the late 1950s, when merit badges and ranks could be earned by any boy or man regardless of age, but that’s a long, long time ago. Today, I’m sorry to advise you, the upper age limit for earning Boy Scout ranks is 17. Upon reaching one’s 18th birthday, the Boy Scout has “aged out” of the program.

That said, I hope you can find a way to become involved in Scouting as a volunteer. Being a Life Scout (the rank immediately prior to Eagle) remains a wonderful accomplishment!
Hi Andy,

Do Commissioners wear their Order of the Arrow sashes when there’s an OA event? (Ken Horne)

Absolutely! When attending an OA event, or when representing the OA, wearing your sash over your right shoulder is always appropriate… but only over the right shoulder; never draped over your belt.
Dear Andy,

Recently on the Commissioners’ “Linked In,” a Commissioner recruited two 20 year-olds as Unit Commissioners, but he is having trouble completing the online registration process. He’s wondering if there’s a minimum age requirement, which he can’t find. I tried to help, and looked for it too, but no luck. Can you help out? (Joseph Wherry)

It’s 21. This is stated with pretty good clarity on page 2 of the BSA Adult Volunteer application.
Dear Andy,

Our district advancement committee recently received a proposal for an Eagle Scout Project. In the section of the project proposal describing how the Scout will raise funds for his project, here’s what it said: “Buy-A-Scout For A Day! Friends and family will bid on Scouts from my troop in order to have them do work for them all day until they are done for the day. I will also be accepting donations.”

It seems to me that there might be an issue with this type of fundraiser. Is there documentation somewhere that would indicate that this type of fundraiser violates some BSA rule or procedure? (Rick Brewster, DAC Member, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Wow! What a weird way to raise money! I don’t know that it directly “violates” any BSA policy, but I see lots of pitfalls, including non-completion of tasks, overburdening fellow Scouts, personal injury liability, etc. I think your committee—which has final say-so in such areas—will have their hands full with this one! I’d say it’s time to have a conversation with this Scout’s project coach about counseling the Scout for some re-thinking.

Mister Spock, of “Star Trek” fame, put it this way: “You can never guarantee the actions of another person.” I think this is the line of logic to be followed here.

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. 399 – 6/3/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]


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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