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Issue 448 – July 30, 2015

Hi Andy,

I have a new “Andy’s Rule” for you, that I learned the hard way: “It’s easier to grow a spine than to have someone manually insert it.” (Jimmy Day)

Amen, Brother!
Hi Andy,

I joined Scouts as a volunteer when my sons joined because I always support my boys 100% in whatever they want to do. Now that they’re aged out and moved out, I still stay involved. It’s a great program and I will give back for as long as I can. As Scouting volunteer now for 13 years, I want to personally thank you for your column. As a Scoutmaster and ASM 12 of those years, your columns have always been a huge help for me. Thanks for your guidance along the way. (Chris Hill, Monmouth Council, NJ)

Thanks for being a loyal reader! I’m delighted I could help.
Dear Andy,

There’s recent been some discussion about the optimal size of a Scout troop being 32: Four patrols of eight. Anything new on this? (Jim Maker, Bossier City, LA)

This goes all the way back to B-P who stated something along the lines of, “Since I’m able to manage 16 Scouts, and I believe you’ll be twice as good as me, 32 would be the ‘perfect’ troop size.”

Then, for years in the BSA, all “training troops” (e.g., at the original National Junior Leader Training Camp at Schiff Scout Reservation and, later, Philmont) were 32 Scouts in four patrols of eight each (I know this for a fact because I was an NJLTC participant and then a youth staffer in the 50’s).

Also originally, and for decades thereafter, Wood Badge, which followed the “model troop” template, also included eight-per-patrol.

Over the years, however, this began to change. Many later council-level junior leader training courses found that six-per-patrol worked better, and even Wood Badge courses switched to this size.

As a Scoutmaster several times and as a long-time Unit Commissioner, I’ve observed that a successful troop will have successful patrols, and the better way to achieve success is with the more manageable six-per-patrol.

Remember that, originally, a boy was 12 years old before he could become a Boy Scout, while nowadays it can be as young as 10-1/2! That’s a huge difference at that age! To expect a 10-1/2 year-old Patrol Leader—even with a personally-selected APL—to manage a patrol of eight is asking an awful lot! But six does work quite nicely, in my experience.

So, after that long-winded answer, let’s cut to the chase: Your best route to success will be patrols of 6 Scouts each, and when you do this it almost doesn’t matter how many patrols make up the troop!

(BTW, here’s one throw-back to the historical model… A Jamboree troop is composed of four patrols of eight Scouts each, but remember that they’re older and at least First Class rank, per Jamboree application standards.)

Thanks, Andy! I have a friend who’s fresh back from a military tour who feels strongly about the 32-4-8 size ratios. (Jim)

I get that. Let’s remember that squads, platoons, companies, regiments, etc., are always of precise sizes, so it’s no surprise that your friend’s perspective flows over to Scouting. So the key concept he needs to recognize is that Scouts absolutely aren’t “soldiers-in-the-making”!
Hi Andy,

Our Venturing crew was recently contacted by a young man who’s moved to our area. He was a member of a crew in his former town and is close to earning the Ranger Award. He had contacted our council’s service center, looking for a crew he could join, and was referred to us, but we’re still about 60 miles away from where he lives!

Because the distance is near-impossible, he’s asked about the “Lone Scout” program, but I don’t think this is an option for Venturers. Is that correct, or is this a path he could pursue? (Robert Burden, Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, CA)

Well, it’s a fact: “Lone” is available to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts only; not Venturers. That confirmed, and understanding that 60 miles isn’t exactly a walk in the park, I have two possibilities for this young man…

1) Depending on the Ranger requirements he has remaining, he might still join your crew and complete his work toward this rank “long distance” via email, phone, etc. But, understanding that this is rank-oriented only, and not much fun outside of that…

2) Using his ZIP code, he can go to and then, enter his ZIP code, and see if there’s a crew closer to where he lives.

If both of these draw a blank, he has one more option: There just might be a Sea Scout ship closer to him than any Venturing crew. This is worth checking out, because Sea Scouting is a part of the Venturing (not the Boy Scout) program, and might be a pathway worth considering.

If none of these works out, let me know. I’m not sure what we’ll try next, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there!

READERS: Any ideas about this one? Let’s hear from you!
Dear Andy,

Recently, a lot of talk is being given to the idea of a “Unit Key 3.” Has this been around but just hitting us now, or is this something new? (Mitch Erickson, Commissioner, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Here’s what the BSA has published recently, for Commissioners:

“The unit Key 3 concept. Scouting has utilized the concept of a Key 3 at many different levels of Scouting. All of us are familiar with the district Key 3 and the council Key 3. We also employ the Key 3 concept at the area, region, and national levels. It just makes sense to use it at the unit level, the most critical level of Scouting. A unit Key 3 comprises the unit leader (Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, crew or team Advisor), the unit’s committee chair, and the chartered organization representative. Many wonder why the unit commissioner is not a member, but the unit commissioner is not a member of the unit. He or she serves as an advisor to the unit Key 3. The unit’s length of existence and current situation determine how frequently the unit commissioner meets with the unit Key 3. Like other Key 3’s in Scouting, the unit Key 3 meets monthly at the midpoint of unit committee meetings. The Key 3 addresses unit challenges, checks on Journey to Excellence status, and adjusts program and administrative elements to ensure unit progress toward JTE. The unit Key 3, along with the unit commissioner, reviews Voice of the Scout feedback and makes recommendations to the unit committee to strengthen unit service to youth.

“(Some) 30 councils across the United States have been employing the concepts outlined in the Unit Performance Guide for nearly two years. In the most recent survey of those councils, 90 percent endorsed the unit Key 3 as the most successful element of the program. In addition, the pilot councils had 33 percent fewer dropped units than those councils not utilizing the methodology outlined in the Unit Performance Guide. The unit Key 3 played an important role in those results.

“If the units you serve are not currently using the unit Key 3 concept, encourage them to start—27 of the 30 pilot councils think it is great!”
Dear Andy,

I wear my Camp Pioneer-BSA cap almost everywhere I go. It often gets a lot of young men talking to me about Scouts. The other day, while I was shopping, a young man commented on my cap and, while we were chatting, he told me about how, as a Life Scout on his way to Eagle, he was just about done with his service project when he was told he was “not mature enough” to be an Eagle Scout, and so he stopped working toward finishing it.

Now I know that stories will always change with time, but I’m saddened that he now believes he didn’t receive the rank he should have gotten. It made me think that what we do with these boys does really stay with them all their lives. We’ve got to be careful what we do and how we present things to them, and what we tell them they can and can’t do. (Paul Peery)

Thanks for sharing this incident and your thoughts. What troubles me perhaps most is that someone would say this to any boy, on any pursuit of his, at any age.

We don’t condemn “youngest” athletes, scholars, elected officials, etc., etc., but we continue to tell Scouts they’re “too young” to be Eagles or, on encountering a man who earned Eagle before his hair turned gray, an “Eaglet” or worse. What asinine jerks such people are!

However, it equally troubles me that a boy or young man would take the word of a relative stranger that he’s “too” anything and ultimately convert that into an excuse for abandoning his own chosen goal and quitting right before the finish line. Did his five prior achievements through the ranks of Scouting teach him nothing about self-reliance and self-determination? This is a travesty at so many levels!
Hi Andy,

Is it a requirement to have a ceremony after one becomes an Eagle Scout? My son says he doesn’t want one. (Name & Council Withheld)

A Scout becomes an Eagle Scout on the date of his board of review. From that date, forever, he is an Eagle Scout. A court of honor is a public recognition of this achievement, but is in no way something “mandatory,” because, in actual fact, he’s already an Eagle!

If your son would prefer to not have a public ceremony, it’s okay. It’s tough on parents when this occasionally happens, because they—more than anyone else—have shared the journey to Eagle most intimately, and it’s both a delight and a relief to see your son standing there, before his peers, leaders, and other audience members, wearing that very special medal that he’s worked so industriously to earn. But it’s okay. So long as he’s an Eagle in his heart, this is what matters most.

I was presented with my medal almost 60 years ago. I don’t remember much of the ceremony, but I remember, every day, that I’m an Eagle, and still try, insofar as I’m able, to live my daily life by the precepts of the Scout Oath and Law that I first learned even longer ago. I would, however, say this to your son (and you have my permission to pass this along):

Fellow Eagle,

I have my medal, which I cherish with pride, but I also have a photograph of my parents and me at my court of honor. I remember fondly and with love the pride writ on their faces that night so long ago. Both have passed now. All I have are my memories and photos, and the one photo that’s most important to me is this one, from my Eagle court of honor. You will have this opportunity only once in your life. Consider taking it…if not for now, for the years to come.

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. 448 – 7/30/2015 – 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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