Author Avatar

Issue 451 – September 1, 2015

Hi Andy,

I’m told that a Webelos II den will be ready to cross over right now, in September. Seems to me this is too early. They haven’t even started their second year yet. Makes me wonder if the Den Leader is anxious to be done with that position and the sooner the boys are gone, the better. I’m all for cross-overs happening as soon as the Scouts are ready, but this seems way too soon. Can you provide any guidance here? (Gary Hanes, SM, French Creek Council)

Frankly, I don’t know how that’s possible… Among the other requirements to earn the Arrow of Light award (which means he can join a troop before his 11th birthday) a boy needs to have been a member of a Webelos den “for at least 6 months after having graduated from 4th grade” and has earned the Webelos badge. So, unless these boys are already either (a) 11 years old or (b) have completed fifth grade, they’re simply not eligible.

Hi again Andy! I spoke to the Den Leader and she said the boys are “done with all of their requirements” and now she “doesn’t know what to do with them.” I’m thinking maybe we can have them participate in some of our troop activities, as a way to keep their interest. Any other suggestions? (Gary)

Obviously, they’re not done with all their requirements. What this WDL apparently doesn’t get is that not every single den meeting is built around working on Arrow of Light requirements. There’s lots of stuff that these boys can do… Donor Awareness, additional activity badges (go for a “sweep” of compass points), and just plain having fun! Do not—absolutely not—incorporate them into troop activities: This will diminish and dilute the aspirational aspects of being Boy Scouts and these boys are not eligible to start working on Boy Scout rank requirements, merit badges, or anything else that only Boy Scouts can do.
Hi Andy,

Is it “legal” for a Commissioner or a District Executive to sit on an Eagle board of review? (Jon Brenzel, Tampa Bay Area)

For an Eagle board of review, absolutely! Heck, this is the only review that can include doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs, so if you all would like your Commissioner or DE to sit on one, by all means make the ask!
Hi Andy,

Thanks for all your columns for so many years. I have two questions—one about Merit Badge Counselors and the other about uniforms—and I can’t seem to find any guidelines. I am currently registered as a Merit Badge Counselor, and I’m in the process of updating my uniform after serving as a Cub Scout leader. First, should I just leave the “badge of office” position empty on the left sleeve and wear Boy Scout shoulder loops? Second, is it possible to pay my dues to the Order of the Arrow as a Merit Badge Counselor, or should I remove my lodge flap for the time being? (Ordinarily, I’d register as an Assistant Scoutmaster, but I’m moving soon and that’s not a feasible option right now.) I do need to update my uniform, though, since I’ll be wearing it at an upcoming event. Thanks for your help! I’ve been using your columns since before I became an Eagle Scout! (Roger)

Wow! Thanks for sticking with me for so long! Let’s tackle your questions…

Yes, the “position” badge position on your left sleeve would be blank: there’s no badge for MBCs, fundamentally because uniforms aren’t required (and neither are annual registration fees—MBC is the only position that works this way). However, MBC is a council-level position, so you’re eligible to wear silver shoulder loops on your uniform shirt.

If you’re going to remain a member of your current OA lodge (but just haven’t gotten around to paying your annual dues yet), leave the flap on your right pocket—no sense removing it and then having to sew it back on again. As for paying dues to the lodge, this is separate from BSA/council registration fees, so just send ’em a check and that’s that!
Hi Andy,

A Scouter friend is claiming that it’s okay for an adult leader to wear the Den Chief Service Award if he earned as a youth. My own thinking is that (a) this is considered a youth award, (b) youth awards aren’t worn by adults unless there is an associated “square knot award” for it, and (c) I can’t find a single source that refers to the Den Chief Service Award as permissible for adults to wear. Is my thinking accurate? I don’t want to be considered “the patch police” but I want to be able to lead this Scouter in the right direction. (Derek Cepeda)

You have it right. The key is that it’s a youth recognition that has no adult “counterpart.” The only youth ranks or awards available as “square knots” (excepting merit/heroism) are Eagle, Silver, Ranger, Denali (this one’s a guess), Quartermaster (the rank—not the position), and religious emblem. When you point this out, you’re not being a “cop”—you’re being a gentle friend.
Dear Andy,

You’ve wisely answered several questions from me over the years, and now I have one for you that’s been driving me crazy for a long time. I’m a female Merit Badge Counselor for Family Life. For that merit badge, Req. 7a. addresses the father’s role in the family and 7b. discusses the responsibilities of a parent in general. Why is there no mention at all of the role of a mother in the family? In this brave new world of both parents working to support the family, and millions of women-headed households with children, this omission strikes me as archaic and sexist. Who can I contact at the national office to get this requirement updated? (Diane Berson, Atlanta Area Council)

I can assure you that requirements 7(a) and 7(b) have no intention of either eliminating the role of mothers or being “sexist.” Neither are they “archaic.” Req. 7(b) is, in fact, inclusive: It is about the responsibilities of parents (i.e., male and female both). As for Req. 7(a), boys grow up to be fathers, and the purpose of this is to directly address the Scout’s future in this role. On a personal note, I believe—in light of widespread “absentee fathers” in this country—Req. 7(a), specifically, is critically important to the future health of American families!

Thanks so much for continuing to write, raising always important issues that need bringing to light! And thanks for the time you devote to helping the young men you counsel grow into the kinds of men (and fathers!) we all hope they’ll become!

Thanks Andy. I guess I didn’t look at it that way. I understand now that we’re talking to boys specifically, and their future roles. I still find it odd, though, that in a discussion of family, the mother is simply some vague unnamed figure in the background.

At least in my own family of origin, our mother was never, ever a “vague unnamed figure in the background”!  If you want to pursue this further, you can definitely write directly to the good folks at
Dear Andy,

I was looking through the rank requirement changes to take effect in 2016. For each rank, the last requirement is reworded as, “Successfully complete your board of review …” I thought a Scout wasn’t supposed to be able to “fail” a board of review. What would constitute an unsuccessful review? (I realize the requirements were already worded this way for Eagle, but I always thought that was because Eagle boards of review were set up differently.) (Xanthe Walker)

The language was changed most likely for compatibility and to eliminate any impressions—such as your own—that boards of review were somehow conducted differently. The only actual difference between a board of review for Eagle, relative to all other ranks, is in the composition of the reviewing members. Other than that, no difference at all.

On the point of “unsuccessful” boards of review, there’s no change here either, nor should the inclusion of “successfully…” change anything. Just as one doesn’t “pass” a Scoutmaster’s conference (a Scout simply needs to have one), boards of review are expected to be successful; it’s the extremely rare instance where one would not be (there might, however, be a “tabling” of the completion based on some unique, unforeseen aberration that requires conclusion at some later date).
Hi Andy,

I read your column back in April about Eagle courts of honor. Our troop definitely expects the parents to plan these courts of honor separate from “regular” courts of honor, but I can see how having them as a part of our regular courts of honor would likely boost attendance.

But here’s a question… If you’re an Eagle Scout when you receive confirmation from the BSA national office, why do so many Eagle court of honor scripts call the new Eagle Scout a “candidate” until the part in the ceremony when the badge is pinned on? (Rick Hautekeete, ASM, Cimarron Council, OK)

Actually, you’re an Eagle Scout the moment your board of review is concluded; the BSA National Office essentially confirms that all the paperwork is complete and correct. And, if you think about it, you were really never a “candidate”—you were a Life Scout. (Heck, we don’t call, for instance, Second Class Scouts “First Class candidates,” so why all of a sudden are Life Scouts “candidates” instead of just what they are: Life Scouts.)

So to your question: I believe the reason is as simple as this: Originally faulty thinking perpetuated because—unlike you—nobody ever stepped back and asked “Why?” Instead, folks seem to believe that the Scout isn’t an Eagle till that medal’s pinned on. (I cringe every time I see a Scout, at a court of honor, photographed wearing his Eagle medal over his Life badge! For goodness sakes, give that Scout his oval embroidered cloth Eagle Scout badge as fast as you’re able, and let him know to sew it on immediately!)
Hello Andy,

We have a situation getting out of hand in our troop… We have one Scout who scheduled his Eagle Court of Honor on a specific date while another Scout already had this same date as his “rain date” for his Eagle service project. Of course, the project got delayed to the rain date, so that Scout modified his schedule to allow a gap for the troop to attend the other Scout’s court of honor. Meanwhile, we have a bunch of parents, some of whom are saying the project should be moved while others are saying the court of honor should be moved, and that it’s my fault for not watching the scheduling more closely. How do I solve this mess? (Scoutmaster-under-fire)

Sounds like too many cooks are stirring the pot, without bothering to check with anyone else! And, as usual, it all comes down on the Scoutmaster’s head! (Been there—more than once!)

The best course at this point is probably to try to bring all folks involved in this “tempest-in-a-teapot” to a place where you can all have a cup of coffee (or cocoa) together and work out a solution that does the least damage (and, we’d hope, smooths the ruffled feathers). I can assure you of one thing: Trying to resolve this via email will definitely not work; in fact, it’s more likely to make it all get even more sour!

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. 451 – 9/1/2015 – 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

Comments are closed.