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Issue 423 – November 26, 2014

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Hi Andy,

You do a great job with those merit badge worksheets! But while I was downloading the ones for Rifle Shooting I noticed that the last requirement changes were shown as 2002. This should be 2012. The requirements are correct, but the year isn’t. (Gary Balzarini, W.D. Boyce Council, IL)

Thanks for your sharp eyes, but I’m not the “merit badge worksheet guy.” In fact, as a working merit badge counselor I’ll offer this caution: While these can be helpful once underway, they frequently encourage Scouts to work independently of their counselor (some even to the point of texting me with a message like “I’ve completed all the worksheets; can I get your sign-off signature” and we haven’t even met yet!). This, of course, defeats one of the two fundamental aims of the merit badge program. So if you’re a Scoutmaster, please encourage your Scouts to not begin work on a merit badge by starting with the worksheets. The very first thing that Scout does after he has his “blue card” is call the counselor of his choice. (That’s right: It’s the Scout’s ultimate choice; no one else’s.)
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Dear Andy,

The Scoutmaster of my son’s troop wants to have co-Senior Patrol Leaders. His rationale is that, being a good judge of character, he believes the two Scouts he intends to co-appoint would work well together. When challenged, his response is, “Well, there’s no BSA policy that says I can’t do this.” To me, this seems pretty far west of Scouting’s True North. What are your thoughts? (Chris Francis, ASM, Narragansett Council, RI)

The BSA doesn’t have any rules against wearing clown shoes with your uniform, or calling patrols “squadrons,” either. The BSA figures folks have brains, and can read and comprehend. Show me, in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, anywhere that say the Scoutmasters (or anybody else) appoints the Senior Patrol Leader or that multiple Senior Patrol Leaders are OK. Just check any troop org chart… see any more than one Senior Patrol Leader?

With an attitude like that, and the pomposity to think he gets to pick the key youth leaders of a troop—actually, they’re either elected as in the case of the Senior Patrol Leader and all Patrol Leaders, or they’re appointed by none other than the Senior Patrol Leader—it’s time for him to get his proverbial “gold watch” as you send him off into the sunset. Get yourselves a Scoutmaster who can get these essentials right and comprehends that his responsibility is to deliver the Scouting program as written and not according to individual whim.
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Dear Andy,

I just left a troop meeting where two Scouts were in literally tears by the end. They’re first-year Scouts who joined up last May, just before summer camp. In the rush to sign up, and in our troop’s rush to get everyone ready, these two never had their Scoutmaster conference to go over the joining requirements (page 17 of the handbook). So they went to camp and, while there, did a terrific job working on Tenderfoot-through-First Class requirements. Most recently, we’ve had a few other brand-new boys who wanted to start working on rank and merit badge requirements, and that’s when we noticed that they hadn’t gone through the official joining requirements. Finally spotting this, and consequently to assure that we’re following the correct procedures, our Scoutmaster wisely decided to check all of the boys’ books. This led to his telling the first two Scouts tonight that since they didn’t have their Scoutmaster conference when they joined up last May their advancement requirements completed to date may not count, because they hadn’t officially joined the troop before going to camp. The boys are obviously very upset, and their parents are as well (it seems that none of the parents knew that the official joining requirements must be completed prior to working on advancement items). What do we do now? I suggested that the boys go over the joining requirements and meet with the Scoutmaster at the next troop meeting, but then the date of that meeting will post-date their camp-based rank requirements and the merit badges they’d earned. My personal take on this is that it was a failure of the adult leaders (me included!) and I’d hate to penalize the boys who worked very hard and are very enthusiastic about Scouting. Any suggestions? (Paul Martin)

I’m sorry this happened to these Scouts. Yes, you’re correct: This was a mistake by the adults. In such situations, Scouts are never, ever to be penalized for the errors of adults. So, my suggestions for immediate action are: (a) apologize to both the Scouts and their parents for your errors, (b) assure all that what these Scouts did at camp will absolutely count, (c) and get them their Scout badges immediately, using the date on their Boy Scout applications as the date they joined the troop. Then (1) promise yourselves that you’ll make sure this never happens again and (2) forgive yourselves! (We wouldn’t be on this planet if we were all “perfect”!)
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Dear Andy,

My son just turned 18 and filled out an adult application for Assistant Scoutmaster. He attached his ID card and Youth Protection training certificate to the application and submitted it to our council service center. The council wrote back asking if he had taken IOLS and Scoutmaster-Specific and ILOS (Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills) training. Does an 18 year-old actually need to take these training courses, especially if he’s still a student? Any insight will be appreciated and knowing where this is in writing will be beneficial. Thanks! (Jerry Scott, ASM, Monmouth Council, NJ)

Yes, he sure does. The BSA’s website section on training specifies that the SM and AS position codes require this training. You council service center staff can help you find that section, if necessary.
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Dear Andy,

Our troop wants to invite some Scouts from another troop to go camping with us. One of our Assistant Scoutmasters is saying that we need a written permit from the Scoutmaster of the other troop to do this. I think that that’s certainly a courteous thing to do, but not a requirement. Is it? (Ari Feliciano)

What you need to do is work through that Scoutmaster, not with the Scouts directly. The paperwork you’ll absolutely need are parents’ permission slips, the Scouts’ medical records, and “consent to treat” forms, just like you’d have for every member of your own troop who’s going camping.
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Dear Andy,

On the subject of color guards, I found this on page 46 of the Varsity Coach Leader Specific Training-Instructor’s Guide (2010 Printing): “…an opening ceremony. Ask one of the squads to serve as a color guard. As the color guard conducts the ceremony… the Varsity team captain directs, ‘Color guard, raise the colors.’ The squad leader of the color guard takes charge… the color guard may also present a Varsity Scout team flag)… the squad leader…directs the color guard to retire.”

Notice how often term, “color guard,” is mentioned. Now I understand your point that if it’s a “guard” it implies carrying some sort weapon, but not all guards carry weapons. I don’t know if you’ll find this anywhere else in BSA publications, but it does go to show that there can be conflicts of terminology. (Bobby Sammons)

Varsity Scouting comes up almost never, so I’ve done very limited reading on that program over the years. Based on your citation, I’m obliged to comment that it’s unfortunately incorrect. This incorrectness isn’t uncommon because “color guard” has become the almost universal catch-phrase, used without thought about what it really means. That’s why I’m on a sort of one-man mission to alert folks that “flag detail” is actually the correct terminology. The “color guard/flag detail” discrepancy is akin to the equally common use of “Class A/B” when referring to uniforms: The BSA has never used these terms; they were borrowed decades ago and have, unfortunately, become seated in people’s minds as correct when, in fact, they aren’t.
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Hi Andy,

I recently visited a troop camp-out and saw something I hadn’t seen before: The Scoutmaster and his assistants went around to each patrol site after dinner and after cleanup was supposed to happen, opening up the patrol boxes and cooking equipment for an inspection. If the pots and utensils weren’t clean, or if food wasn’t properly put away, or if trash hadn’t been picked up from the kitchen area, the SM and ASMs wrote down what they saw and then tell the patrol to fix those problems. think they did this after every patrol meal. Then, at the end of the camp out, points would be given to patrols for the inspections.

My old troop didn’t inspect Scouts this closely. I wonder what you think about this approach. I like the idea that the Scouts are being held accountable for their stuff, but is this too much intrusion into Scout patrols? So what do you think? (Al Green)

No, I don’t think this is too intrusive or invasive. Health and safety are significant concerns, especially if the troop is camping in an area where bears and other food-enticed predators may be president. That said, I do think the wrong people are doing this. This is the job of a good Senior Patrol Leader with maybe one assistant, and then the report is given (privately) each morning to each Patrol Leader (only the Patrol Leader speaks directly with his patrol, for corrective action).
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Dear Andy,

I’ve just been approved as our troop’s Committee Chair. The advancement chair wants things his own way, does not share the advancement records, and is focused almost exclusively on advancing his own son and friends (to the exclusion of our troop’s other Scouts). He’s just sent out an email “blast” to our troop families informing them that we’ll not be able to meet at the middle school where our meetings are typically held because the meetings will interfere with the school’s winter sports programs. Checking into this, I discovered that the middle school has simply asked us to move to the high school, so ultimately there’s no actual problem at all. This is only the most recent of a long list of troop-wide problems he’s caused. I don’t believe I can just stand by and let these problems continue. The other committee members want him removed. We’re calling an emergency committee meeting this week to discuss this. Any comments or thoughts would help at this time. Thanks. (Mary Weaver)

If by “approved” you mean by the troop’s chartered organization and Chartered Organization Representative (registration code: CR), plus the BSA council’s representative, then as Committee Chair, you’re in the cat-bird seat, especially if the committee’s behind you on this. In fact, you don’t even need a committee “vote.” You simply need the CR also on your side, because, as Committee Chair, you have the authority to fire this guy on the spot. No “three strikes,” no “warnings,” no “second chances.” Do this diplomatically, definitely in-person, and with a witness (the CR makes the best possible witness) who supports this decision. Be sure you ask him to bring all advancement records with him and do this beforehand, so that you and the CR can take possession instantly. (Tip: If he keeps this info on his personal computer, ask him to bring a disk or thumb-drive to the meeting, and collect it before you engage in conversation.) Here’s the bottom line: Any volunteer who’s working against the best interests of the Scouts needs to be escorted to the nearest exit.
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Dear Andy,

Requirement 5 for Second Class states that a Scout must “participate in an approved (minimum of one hour) service project(s).” Does that mean he has to put it together and lead it, or just participate? (Robert Lewis, MC, Boston Minuteman Council, MA)

The requirement means exactly what it states: Participate means “participate.” It should not be reinterpreted to mean anything else; specifically, it should not be interpreted to mean “put it together” or “lead it” or anything else beyond “participate.” Note, also, that the requirement sets no limitations, such as “only troop projects,” or “only Eagle projects,” or anything else. So long as the Scoutmaster (and only the Scoutmaster) has approved it, it can be a soup kitchen, at church, a school project, a “town clean-up,” or anything else the Scout might be interested in volunteering for.

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. 423 – 11/26/2014 – 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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