Author Avatar

Issue 421 – November 11, 2014


The Chicago Area Council’s annual University of Scouting is coming up on Saturday, November 15th. It’s going to be held at the Veterans Memorial Campus, 4248 West 47th Street, Chicago. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m., and the program kicks off at 8 a.m. sharp! I’m honored to be the Keynote Speaker, and I’ll also facilitate a couple of sessions during the day. So c’mon out if you can! For more info, check out:
Today is Veterans Day. When I was a boy growing up, it was known as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of WWI at 11 AM on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

My great uncle, who’d just completed Army basic, was on the dock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with his fellow Doughboys that very morning, waiting to board his troop transport ship, when news of the war’s end reached America. My grandfather saved a copy of that day’s New York Times, which our family kept and passed down until a few months ago, when, after 96 years, I donated it to my town library’s memorabilia collection. THANK YOU to all service men and women, and veterans, everywhere!
Dear Andy,

After having read your 9/2/2013 issue (No. 364) about whether or not a Scoutmaster should or shouldn’t sign off on rank requirements for his own sons, I was reminded of some things that happened a while back in my own troop…

First, our procedure was that no one signed for his or her own son’s rank advancements (Eagle was the sole exception).

Second, while I was first Scoutmaster, ASMs and sometimes committee members would sign off on requirements, with the problem that “quality control” swayed a bit. This gave rise to a phenomenon I dubbed “signature shopping.” While most Scouts were diligent in completing the requirements, we had a few who sought the path of least resistance. Following a campout, for instance, they’d come to me for a signature on a requirement they claimed another adult leader had “approved” as completed, unfortunately failing to remember that I’d been on the same campout and was well-aware that the Scout hadn’t really completed the requirement as written. Or, I’d find someone else’s initials in a Scout’s handbook, but the date signed had a bit of a problem: That signer hadn’t been at the event on the date shown! While every Scout ultimately did do what was necessary, dodges of this sort incentivized me to exercise a bit more control over who signed off on what. So here’s the best part… When I gave this responsibility to the Patrol Leaders and our Senior Patrol Leader, they never once cut corners! (Name & Council Withheld)

Your idea of putting the foundational ranks’ requirements in the hands of the Scouts’ own elected leaders is spot on! In fact, this is a brilliant way for them to learn and practice the “EDGE” method of teaching!
Dear Andy,

My son is in a troop, but he really doesn’t want to participate. He doesn’t say much other than, “I don’t want to go (to the troop meeting, on the campout, etc.” I’d like him to be in Scouting, and I don’t want to push him too hard, but I hate to see him give it up. He doesn’t want to do anymore dishes, doesn’t like the food, and the older boys don’t include him. I can fix the food by sending him with his own, but the other two I can’t fix. Any ideas? (Concerned Parent)

Your son’s supposed to be in a patrol of Scouts approximately his own age; he’s not supposed to be “on his own” in the troop, without a patrol of peers and a buddy. As his parents, you both need to have a face-to-face chat with his Scoutmaster (without your son present). If it turns out that this troop doesn’t provide the opportunity for similar age/rank Scouts to be in the same patrols, where they divvy up responsibilities fairly and evenly, waste no time finding a troop for your son that gets it right.
Dear Andy,

Our troop is planning to sell popcorn at some local businesses. They’ve asked us for an official letter stating who we are and our non-profit tax status. How do we do this? Can you help? (Karen Giglio)

You bet I can help! If this is part of your council’s annual fundraiser, you just need to have a conversation with the right person at the service center—probably starting with your District Executive. Give ’em a call—that’s what they’re there for! On the other hand, if your troop’s selling popcorn independent of your council’s annual popcorn-selling event, then use the BSA Money-Earning Application available online at Fill it out and then have a conversation with your District Executive, who can point you toward the person at your council’s service center who can get you whatever else you may need. Happy Popcorning!
Dear Andy,

I’m our troop’s advancement chair, and I need some help with the BSA’s National Outdoor Awards. The requirement I need help with is: “Complete 25 days and nights of camping—including six consecutive days (five nights) of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America—including nights camped as part of requirements 1 through 3 above…A gold device may be earned for each additional 25 nights of camping. A silver device is earned for each additional 100 nights of camping. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of nights camping.”

Since the award defines camping under the auspices of the Boy Scouts, would any Scout who’s camping at a council- or national-level event—such as OA weekends, National Jamboree, High Adventure, NYLT, or NAYLE—be eligible to log these toward the award, or does all camping have to fall under troop-based activities?

Related to this, would a Scout who’s on a summer camp staff be able to also log such nights towards the award if he’s sleeping in a tent similar to the Scouts attending the camp?

Finally, to earn the silver device, is it a 125 or 150 total nights of camping? (The wording always seems to confuse me…) Thanks! (Jeff Willett, ASM, Old North State Council)

The first good news is that “Scout” means BSA or any of its entities, including Jamborees, OA activities (OA is an authorized BSA program), and troops, AND PATROLS! That’s right: Even a patrol overnight counts!

Second: Yup, summer camp staff can count as you’ve described it.

Last, it’s 100 nights beyond the first 25.
Dear Andy,

According to the “Composition of a Board of Review” section at the website, an Eagle Scout candidate may request an individual to be a member of his board of review. However, our district advancement representative tells us that, “per BSA policy the Scout may not have any input into the makeup of his Eagle board of review.” Can you confirm one way or the other? Can you provide me an official BSA reference? (Randy Woodham)

Just like this column, although written by a registered Scouter, “” isn’t an “official” BSA resource. For your question, refer to the BSA’s official GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (I use it all the time!). Refer to Topic, last sentence: “The candidate…shall have no part in selecting any board of review members.”
Dear Andy,

Our past few Senior Patrol Leaders have had NYLT training as well as lectures on how to run a “boy-led troop,” but our troop meetings continue to be poorly organized. Our adult volunteers, also BSA-trained, have resisted stepping in to run the meetings. Our Senior Patrol Leader and PLC meet monthly to plan the meetings, but they never seem to follow through with their plans. Instead, after announcements and patrol meetings, the troop meeting becomes pretty much “happy hour.” For the past couple of months we’ve been pushing the Troop Meeting Plan on the youth leaders in an attempt to get them to follow that format, but not with a lot of success…yet. Can you suggest any ideas for straightening things out? (Joe Powell, ASM, Georgia-Carolina Council)

This sounds like a problem for the Scouts themselves to solve. The Scoutmaster can begin by collaboratively conferencing with the Senior Patrol Leader. The question to pose is exactly what you’ve just described to me, followed by, “How can I help you remedy this?” Then, encourage the Senior Patrol Leader to come up with ideas of his own—remember: no idea is a “bad” idea in a setting like this!—and then encourage him to bring the Patrol Leaders Council together, discuss the same issue with them, and stay in the background as the PLC brainstorms what they can do to get things on the right track. They may not get it perfectly right the first time, so be prepared to repeat the process, this time along the lines of what worked, what needs more help, and what should be added or dropped. The classic Troop Meeting Plan and its seven parts are a great resource. The other excellent one is the three-volume TROOP PROGRAM FEATURES.

The worst thing to do is “rescue” these Scouts by stepping in and running the meeting for them. Better to do a “roses n’ thorns” debrief after the meeting’s over.

Scouting is man’s work, cut down to boy size. No Scout can truly succeed unless it’s by his own gumption. And, unless he has “skin in the game” he just won’t care! Put the responsibility where it belongs and adopt the (unspoken) attitude that you believe these Scouts can be successful!
Dear Andy,

I’ve checked with our council and just can’t seem to get an answer to this question… When an adult volunteer’s Youth Protection training lapses, even though it has been brought to his or her attention weeks prior to the expiration date, are they still allowed to interact with Scouts or do they stay away until Youth Protection is current again? (Dale Stoddard)

Here’s the deal… If an adult volunteer’s YP training tenure has expired, that person is dropped from the unit roster and from membership in the BSA on the re-chartering date. If the re-chartering date hasn’t happened yet, and this YP-expired adult interacts with youth, he or she is putting the unit and chartered organization in jeopardy from a liability standpoint. So, your troop committee chair can sit on his or her hands and wait for re-chartering to roll around, so that the council does the right thing, or the CC can step up to the plate and tell this volunteer that, especially since he or she has been cautioned about lapsing and has refused to take action to correct this, they’re history. Take your pick.
Hey Andy,

Can you recommend an Eagle court of honor program that has the Scouts themselves as involved as possible?

I’m a paperwork-pending Eagle Scout and I’d like to steer clear of having the adults run the program, which is what they’ve done for almost the last 50 years. The only problem I see with getting the Scouts involved is that we have only a few Scouts in the troop who are Eagles themselves. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! (Jack Bradley)

This one’s a great idea and a no-brainer! Simply replace adults with Scouts for all speaking parts. In fact, your troop can do this for every one of your troop’s courts of honor—not just Eagle. And BTW, there’s absolutely no “rule” anywhere that says “only Eagle Scouts can speak at or emcee courts of honor.” Your troop’s Senior Patrol Leader can be the master of ceremonies. Patrol Leaders, regardless of rank, can handle other sections as well. If you have no youth Eagle Scout to do an “Eagle Charge,” have your Dad do this or your brother (if you have one), or just drop doing the charge (it’s not “official” anyway—it’s only a ceremonial nicety)!

That said, it’s still appropriate for the Scoutmaster to handle the actual “pinning” part of the ceremonies. But that’s about all the “adult involvement” you really need.

Scouting is for SCOUTS!

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. 421 – 11/11/2014 – 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

Comments are closed.