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Issue 429 – December 30, 2014

Dear Andy,

I’m the Chartered Organization Representative and Committee Chair for our troop. I’m looking for the best way to communicate with the troop, the parents, and the troop committee. We have “Scoutlander” and it’s just not user-friendly. Some want “Scout Track,” but I don’t want advancement tracking because that’s done through our council service center. Do you have any suggestions? (Bob Wasbhurn)

For general communications, a mainstream email provider (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.) has been used successfully by many units. Your troop’s Webmaster—a cool new youth position—can probably set you up with a Facebook page, which can include email. Also check with your council’s IT person for a recommendation.
Dear Andy,

Our pack historically awards the Arrow of Light the same night the Webelos bridge over to a troop. Here’s what I’m wondering… Once a boy completes his Arrow of Light requirements (and it’s logged in the BSA Internet Advancement system), he’s earned the rank, regardless of whether it’s been physically awarded. So, can a Webelos Scout who’s earned that AoL sign up and join a troop before actually going through the bridging ceremony? Is there a distinction between earning the rank and the act of awarding it, and going through the ceremony, since the badge itself isn’t the rank; it’s a symbol representing the rank.

An analogy might be a Boy Scout earning Eagle and completing his board of review, but then turning 18 and becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster or Reserve before having his court of honor where the badge is presented.

Of course there’s a reason behind the question. These Webelos Scouts want to go to a merit badge event the troop has, and it’s scheduled for the week before the bridging ceremony. Clearly, they can’t earn the merit badge as Webelos Scouts, but would they be wrong in signing up a week ahead of the bridging ceremony?

I’m on the fence myself about this. One side says they should wait—they can always attend the next merit badge event; the other side says we should make the program exciting and fun for the boys, and if this puts them on the right track from the get-go then we should try to make it work. Clearly the bridging ceremony is not a requirement for Arrow of Light. So, what would your thoughts be? (Jeff Freeman, Golden Empire Council, CA)

Let’s start with what qualifies a boy to join a Boy Scout troop: (a) he’s eleven years old, OR (b) he’s completed fifth grade, OR (c) he’s earned the Arrow of Light rank. So yes, if your boys have earned their AoL, they’re clearly eligible to join a Scout troop that very day.

Now a merit badge opportunity is pretty cool, and yes, they have to be Boy Scouts to earn merit badges. But we know that missing one merit badge event is hardly the end of the world! After all, each Scout has a full seven years to earn as many as he’d like!

But I get it that a merit badge event might be just the ticket to seal the deal and get these boys into Boy Scouting! This is, after all, what the Webelos/Arrow of Light program is specifically intended to do!

Now let’s throw in one more idea, and it’s one you’ve mentioned… The “bridging” ceremony is just that: It’s a ceremony. Period.

So here’s my sideline call: Sign those boys up right away, then make sure they all have tan shirts and khaki pants (no “blue”), and get them to that merit badge event. Then, have the bridging ceremony with their new Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader on the other side of the bridge, to present them with their new troop neckerchiefs and welcome them “ceremonially” into their new troop! This way, there’s no “gap”—they’re in the troop and, ideally, they move intact and the entire den becomes a brand-new patrol! I think we’d call this a win-win!

One caution: In general and especially for new Boy Scouts, patrols of about five to six work best, and even four to start can work out nicely because it provides room for their friends who may not have been Cubs to join up! So pay close attention to the numbers and make sure this works out okay… A patrol of eight or more definitely won’t be even close to optimal and the typical net result is that several boys will drop out in the first couple of months. Manage this aspect carefully!
Dear Andy,

The Cubmaster for our pack, which is sponsored by a United Methodist church, is personally a member of the Presbyterian church across the street. In addition to being our pack’s Cubmaster, he’s extremely active and involved with his own church, as a choir member as well as editor of the church’s monthly newsletter. We’d like to recognize him for his service to you, but through which church? And, if it’s his own Presbyterian church, would their Celtic Cross be the appropriate recognition (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, a Scouter like your Cubmaster would typically receive this recognition based on his own faith, which would make the Celtic Cross entirely appropriate. Available, also, is the God & Service recognition by the United Methodist Church, and this might be alternatively appropriate. Since these recognitions are by nomination only, talk to the pastors of both churches and see which one would like to sign and submit the necessary paperwork after you all have developed the nomination itself.
Dear Andy,

About Camping merit badge, req. 9b lists several camping experiences that Scouts choose from, and 9b(2) states, “Backpack, snowshoe, or cross-country ski for at least four miles.” Is the four miles in one clip, or can it be broken down? I’m asking because our troop has a backpacking trip coming up that’s 2.5 mile out, and 2.5 mile return (the following day). Since the round trip is 5 miles, would this satisfy the requirement, or does the 4 miles have to be in one leg? I know this may be hair-splitting, but I just want to be sure, because this would be a great opportunity for the Scouts to complete this requirement. (If not, that’s still okay, because since the trip will be fun nonetheless!)

On a separate note, I finally read up on what the official merit badge process is all about, and boy, did I misunderstand it! By and large, most of my own son’s merit badges were earned in the summer, at camp, so he didn’t have to worry about many of the nuances. But a lot of the ones he’ll now be earning are ones he has to pretty much work on his own to earn (e.g., the Citizenships, etc.), so I’ve made sure he’s fully aware of the process. The main point is going to be his interaction with Merit Badge Counselors. Up till now, they’ve sort of been considered the “last step tester,” or “final examiner,” but we’ve now learned that the Counselor is really the Scout’s guide, to help him out and help him set his goals and then reach them. In fact, the Counselor is a Scout’s greatest asset as he moves forward into the merit badge program! I guess it really does help to “Read The Friendly Manual”! (Name & Council Withheld)

Seems to me you’ve answered your own question. When it comes to completing requirements, the Scout’s best source of information on how to do this, and what will qualify, is the Merit Badge Counselor he’s working with! So, for that upcoming backpacking trip, he (not you!) will want to have a chat with his counselor so that they can reach an agreement between them on what will work.
Greetings Andy,

I’ve been asked to find out what special parameters, if any, there might be for an Eagle Scout project by a developmentally disabled Scout, who has an exemption in place already. The research I’ve done so far—, the GUIDE TO ADVAMCENET, Bryan Wendell, and you—talk about alternative rank requirements and about merit badges, but I can’t find much of anything on service projects. A call to our Scout Executive on this resulted in this response: “Yes, they have to do a project. There’s no way around it. Good Luck.” What has me concerned are the stiff attitudes that all projects have to be worthwhile, challenging, substantial in nature, reflect leadership, and help the beneficiary, etc., etc.

As we know, it’s very likely that members of this young man’s eventual board of review for Eagle (should he complete all requirements satisfactorily), will be people who may not know the Scout. So, with that in mind, I advised his mentor to research with the Scout and his parents something within his capabilities that he can do, and include in his workbook all appropriate letters from physicians, his school’s IEP, and other agencies, to support his personal challenges. Any guidance on Eagle projects for Scouts with disabilities that you can would be appreciated. (Thomas Barber, UC, Southern Sierra Council, CA)

There are hundreds of physically and mentally challenged Scouts across the country who advance in rank—all the way to Eagle—despite their disabilities. Yes, an Eagle project is required, and yes, all merit badge requirements—for the merit badges selected via collaboration between the parents, unit volunteers, and advancement committee—must be met without shortcuts. The Eagle project’s general guidelines must be followed also, with the consideration of the Scout’s capabilities and applying the principle of “do your best.” Regardless of the handicap, project can be found that fit the criteria stated in the project workbook if a little imagination is applied. This isn’t in any way insurmountable. Have a conversation—right now—with your council’s and district’s advancement committee folks, so that everyone’s on exactly the same page and this Scout can be mentored in the direction of a project in which he can succeed. Here’s the best guideline: We’re all here for one purpose only…to help boys and young men SUCCEED!
Dear Andy,

Many parents in our pack are concerned about a man who, we were told, was our district representative. He always came to pack meetings, and he always came uniform. But, some months ago, he stopped coming around. Then, just recently, a story started to spread that’s freaking out some of our parents. They’d heard he was kicked out of Scouting, and one parent claimed that he saw this man in a local court room. Nobody seems to know the whole story, but it was something about abusing a minor. We have asked about this at our council service center, but they say they don’t know anything about it and won’t answer any other questions about him. Our Committee Chair told us we’re not to contact him. Now, some parents are concerned for their children’s safety. How can we get answers to our questions about what this man did, and if it involved any Scouts? (Name & Council Withheld)

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, let’s see if we can dissect this unfortunate hairball…

So, he’s no longer showing up, and an unsavory second- or third-hand rumor is spreading, but no one seems to have first-hand information. He was seen, apparently, in a court room, but the story is sketchy at best. Apparently, no one has checked with the court or the local police department to confirm whether or not charges were actually filed. Then, there’s a second rumor that he’s been “kicked out of Scouting” but this, too, appears to be hearsay. Folks at the council office have no knowledge of anything amiss, and we’re obliged to assume that that’s the truth. Meanwhile, fear is spreading that he may show up again, even though, if he did, this would obviously have to be a public appearance (i.e., a pack meeting where lots of folks are present). So, you can let the rumors persist, or insist that, since nothing has happened that can be confirmed, you let it all drop. Or, you can check with the local court or police to check the possible veracity of these rumors. The choices are yours, keeping in mind that everything so far is unconfirmed hearsay, and he’s not coming around anymore.

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. 429 – 12/30/2014 – 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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