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Issue 431 – January 13, 2015

Dear Andy,

A Life Scout in my troop informed me last week that his Eagle project was complete and that he’d like to have a Scoutmaster conference with me. While I was aware that the project was in the works, I was surprised to find out it had been completed, because no one in the troop was invited to help out. In earlier conversations with this Scout, he did point out that at least part of the “work force” would be members of the benefiting organization, but I’d assumed that Scouts in the troop would be helping, as well. Now I learn that this didn’t happen.

Isn’t there a requirement that members of the troop participant in a Scout’s Eagle project? The Eagle Scout workbook has a spot to list how many Scouts and registered adults participated, but that’s about it. Besides, how am I, as the Scoutmaster, supposed to evaluate the leadership given by the Scout during the project if I’m not there to witness it first-hand? So, would I be out of line if I visited the project site and spoke with a representative of the beneficiary, to see how the project turned out and to get their impression? This is a new one for me. All of the Eagle projects I’ve seen before have included the troop in some way, so I’m not sure how to approach this one. In addition, I want prepare this Scout for his upcoming board of review, and I’m not sure how they will view the fact that no other Scouts or troop adult volunteers took part in the project. (Name & Council Withheld)

The good news is that a Life Scout working on his service project for Eagle can recruit any people he’d like, to help his complete his project. Although it’s fairly common practice, it’s not required that helpers be fellow Scouts. I personally know of one project for which the Scout recruited members of his high school cheer-leading squad, and this was perfectly “legal”!

As for your second question, as Scoutmaster signing at the back end, your signature is to assure that the project was indeed completed. Its purpose isn’t to indicate level of leadership; only completion. If the beneficiary’s signature is already where it’s supposed to be, you can pretty much sign with impunity; however, if you have any questions about completion, you can certainly phone the beneficiary’s signer to verify that the work’s done, or—as you said—make a personal visit. Meanwhile, take a look at the Scout’s workbook write-up to get an idea of who his helpers were and what they did.

As for his degree of leadership, this will be determined by the members of the Scout’s board of review, based on his workbook write-up and the conversation they’ll have with him at the review.

Also, while the Scoutmaster’s conference can occur at any time along the pathway to the next rank, for Eagle it’s a pretty good idea to make this last, so that you can confidently sign the Scout’s Eagle rank application and advise your Committee Chair and troop advancement coordinator that this Scout is indeed ready to advance to Eagle.

In this latter regard, since this was outside the norm as far as helpers were concerned, it may be important to be certain that every member of the board of review knows without a doubt that this is perfectly okay and that the Scout should incur no “penalty” of action or thought because he used a different method for selecting helpers.
Dear Andy,

When I was a Scout we needed the Personal Fitness merit badge for Eagle and we had to do pull-ups to get that badge. As a Scout, I remember seeing a lot of lard-butt Eagle scouts at scout camp and Order of the Arrow events who couldn’t do one pull up.

When I started training for this as a Scout, I couldn’t do even one. But by my senior year in high school I could do 20, and shortly before my 18th birthday I was up to 35!

Is it any wonder that I dropped out of Scouting when I was 15, even though I was Life rank, Senior Patrol Leader, and had been elected to the OA by my troop?

Oh, yeah, and one of my friends in the troop had also been elected to the OA, but our Scoutmaster wouldn’t allow him to go to the Ordeal weekend. (Name & Council Withheld)

Yup, pull-ups are still required for Personal Fitness merit badge. When I was a Scout, there was a specific set of age-based physical fitness requirements for push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and vertical wall jump. If a Scout went out for this merit badge at age 11-12, he’d need to do at least 4 pull-ups. By age 13-14 the number was 5. At age 15-16 it was 7, and age 17+ it was 8. So, it’s not impossible that the so-called “lard-ass” Eagles you encountered had earned this merit badge while younger and then started packing on the weight. But, of course, we’ll never know for sure.

Like you, at age 15 and a Life Scout, OA member, and Senior Patrol Leader (and a high school sophomore), I was very tempted walk away from Scouts. I didn’t, but I’d have trouble telling you why. Perhaps it was nothing more than I liked summer camp and felt I’d be letting down my troop if their SPL quit. So, shortly before my 16th birthday, I completed Eagle and then, a year later, earned the Explorer Silver Award (at that time, the virtual equivalent of earning Eagle a second time). I’m still glad I stuck with it, and I’m sorry that good guys like you took another course. We all make the best decisions we can, with the information we have at the time we have to make them.

As for that jerk of a Scoutmaster blocking a Scout from OA after his fellow Scouts had elected him, I guess that’s simply my Rule 1: There’s no cure for stupid. But here’s the thing… It’s not like Scouting has some “exclusive” on jerks. There are jerks EVERYWHERE!
Hi Andy,

Do you have a link to any national guidance on transferring troop funds from one chartered organization to another? I’ve started helping a small troop to get back on their feet, and part of their difficulty is that, last year, their old long-time chartered organization—the Knights of Columbus—had to drop them. No harm, no foul, and a local Kiwanis Club picked the troop almost immediately. The KofC Chapter wanted the troop to carry its number and history forward and there was very little troop gear to speak of, but they did have a checking account with about $2,000 in it (this was right after “Popcorn Season”).

Where we’re having trouble is that our council folks are telling us that this checking account now belongs to the council. I’ve read Article XI, Section 1, Clause 2b, which says that a chartered organization holds any funds in trust, pending a reorganization of the unit or, if that doesn’t happen, for general promotion of the BSA program. The KofC Chapter won’t be restarting a new unit, and believes that any troop funds should move with the troop and the Scouts who earned it in the first place, so they haven’t released any funds to the council.

I’ve found information from a couple of councils that waived the $1 transfer fee, and spelled out how the unit could transfer its number, history, equipment, and funds from one sponsor to a new one, but I can’t find anything in writing on this from the BSA national office.

Meanwhile, the KofC and the Kiwanians agree that the Scouts earned the money and they should have it to rebuild the troop, but the council is seeing this quite differently. Any advice you can offer would be really appreciated. (Name & Council Withheld)

I sure have a lot of admiration for the honorable approach to this by the Knights of Columbus and the Kiwanis Club—I sure wish more folks would display this sensible absence of avarice! The funds revert to the council only in extremely extenuating circumstances resulting from a unit becoming totally defunct, and that’s not what you’ve described. This is a simple transfer of chartered organizations. So just do it, including any equipment and funds—especially since everybody directly associated with the troop is in agreement on this! As for those misinformed or misguided council folks, sometimes it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission…and you can quote me on that. So just do it and get that troop back up and running!
Dear Andy,

In looking over the requirements for the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement that several Scouts in our troop are interested in, I noticed that one of the requirements is to have the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a silver device. The page describing this is It says that it’s earned after each 100 additional nights of camping. So am I interpreting it correctly that a Scout who’s wearing the silver device must have had at least 125 nights (25 to earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping plus another 100 additional nights)? Or does the 100 nights for the silver device include the 25 nights counted when earning the Outdoor Badge for Camping? (Terry Nani, SM, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

You got it right the first time: The requirement for the silver device says 100 additional nights beyond the basic 25.
Hi Andy,

What are the requirements for a Boy Scout to be a Den Chief (e.g., age, rank)? (Charles Gneiting, UC, Delmarva Council)

It’s always great to hear from a fellow Unit Commissioner! The qualities one would look for in a Den Chief are generally described in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK. They’re not hard and fast, because the ability to take on one of the most challenging leadership positions in all of Boy Scouting can’t be pigeonholed—it largely depends on the qualities and aptitudes of the individual Scout. As a former Den Leader, Webelos Den Leader, and Scoutmaster who identified, recruited, and trained a pretty good passel of DCs over a series of years, I found the best to be (a) at least Second Class rank, but First Class usually works out a little better; (b) about 12 to 13 years old (although one Scout, still shy of his 12th birthday, turned out to be great!); and (c) happy, well-adjusted, and slightly mischievous (if he doesn’t have a twinkle in his eye, forget it)! I’d also say: Do the Cubs really like him? If so, you’ve got a winner! If there’s no “connection” between the den and the possible DC, let it go—it’s just not going to work.
Dear Andy,

I’m looking for some resources to help my local Cub Scout packs. For instance, recruiting seems to be more challenging every year. Where can I learn about successful ways to recruit boys to become Cub Scouts? (Kurt Lindemann, UC, Potawatomi Area Council, WI)

And another Unit Commissioner! Thanks for reaching out! For successful recruiting ideas, I’d start by regularly attending my district’s roundtables and asking other Cub Scout leaders, my District Executive and fellow UCs, and my district’s membership development committee.
I recently received a letter from a very distraught father—an Eagle Scout himself—of two Boy Scout sons who were being…the politest term would be…mismanaged by their Scoutmaster. He asked me not to describe the details of the plethora of injustices inflicted on his sons, for fear of retaliation (as if a Scoutmaster such as he described would be reading my columns—about as likely as pigs fly!, and so I’m honoring that. But I am at liberty to share with you what I shared with him about the martinets, tin gods, and buffoons that we sometimes encounter in what’s supposed to be a youth-supporting movement. Here we go…

In an active, well-run troop, one in which the Scoutmaster understands and carries out his role with enthusiastic, involved Scouts, Star rank should happen by about 12 or 13 years old, with Eagle in sight by about a Scout’s 15th birthday. Any Scoutmasters or other adults who are keeping this from happening need to be taken out back and handed their pink slip.

Any Scoutmaster who acts like he believes his personal predilections supersede BSA national policy, and deliberately substitutes his own so-called “requirements” for BSA national standards, is barely worth the dirt to bury him, and any Committee Chair who supports a renegade tin god of a Scoutmaster should be buried alongside him.

The only way to effect a change in the face of a corrupted program is from the top. The key position is that of Chartered Organization Representative (Code CR), because (short of the head of the charted organization) this is the one position that has hire-fire power over every volunteer associated with a unit. (Understand that neither a DE nor a Scout Executive has any direct authority over the conduct of unit-level volunteers—this is per the fundamental BSA-to-Chartered Partner structure.)

When Scouts decide to remain in harm’s way because they have friends in the troop that they don’t want to desert, it’s our responsibility as parents to move the whole bunch of them into a new troop!

Yes, from time to time you’re going to find Scout leaders who are petty and sometimes vicious, but that’s not because they’re Scout leaders. It’s because they’re human, and humans in all walks of life do this sort of thing to one another from time to time.

Final note… As an 11-year old, I quit two troops because my first Scoutmaster thought of himself as a drill sergeant and the second considered himself judge-and-jury for requirements he made up out of his own head and damn what the handbook said. Luckily—and God bless him—my father helped me finally find a third troop, where the Scoutmaster “got it” and became a life-long friend (read my column #173, April 28, 2009, titled “Bill”).

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. 431 – 1/13/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]


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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