Author Avatar

Issue 458 – October 22, 2015

Hi Andy,

While I know that the Camping and Service logs in the back of the Scout Handbook are great tools to use in keeping track of these activities, is the use of these mandatory, or is this in the realm of “adding to requirements”? (Bobby Sammons)

No, it’s not “adding a requirement”—It’s a tracking aid for Scouts. The handbook is designed to help Scouts keep track of the various requirements they complete, trips they take, and service they render. It’ll become even more valuable starting 2016, when virtually all ranks have a service-related requirement.

Originally, these pages of the handbook were the foundation for requirement completion tracking. Then software like “Troopmaster” and others were developed and troops started using these as replacements for (instead of additions to) the handbook pages. Personally, I think this is a mistake, because it diminishes the Scout’s own sense of personal responsibility for keeping tabs on himself; instead, adults essentially commandeered this responsibility, so that Scouts now have to defer to their adult leaders to know where they are toward rank requirement completion, instead of doing this for themselves. It’s as if Baden-Powell’s fundamental principle (“Never do for a Scout what he can do for himself”) was reversed, to become “Never allow a Scout to do for himself what you’ve decided you can do better than he.”
Dear Andy,

I’m hoping I can find some information for us adults that are American military veterans. I’ve asked our pack’s committee chair if there’s any knot, patch, or other insignia we veterans can wear that would represent our military service, but we can’t find anything. I know the military has deep lineage with the Boy Scouts and its beginnings, and I’m sure many of us who have served would probably like to wear something signifying our service to our country. Can you help? (Andrew DuBois, DL)

For better or worse, there’s no BSA badge or emblem that corresponds to prior military service. Yes, there’s a connection between Scouting and the military: I’m told that, upon enlistment, Eagle Scouts are jumped a pay grade for being such. But there’s no Scouting-related military badge either, if that’s any consolation (which I’m guessing it isn’t).

Baden-Powell put it this way: “The military trains men for war; Scouting trains boys for peace.” Maybe that has something to do with it.

Happy Scouting and huge THANKS for your service in the names of Freedom and Democracy!
Hi Andy,

Can you help us solve a problem? We have a couple Scouts nearly ready for their Eagle boards of review. But neither of them seems to know how to talk with adults! Instead, they just look at their shoe laces or the ceiling, or fidget while standing or sitting. We’re thinking that maybe if we had a couple practice runs with adults they may not know particularly well, who can ask them questions like those on an Eagle review, but some of us think this may be a bad idea. So we’re reaching out—What do you think we can do to help these Scout? (Fawn Walden, West Tennessee Area Council)

Let’s be sure that, up to now, the prior five boards of review these Scouts have had have been conversational in nature and that the tone hasn’t been that of an “inquisition.” Let’s equally be sure that, from Tenderfoot through Life, all Scouts’ boards of review are friendly conversations and not hard Q&A’s that test their knowledge or skills, and that every member of the review understands that the goal is success and the concept of “a Scout can ‘fail’ a review” is beyond anyone’s thinking. If that’s indeed the case, and assuming—based on current national averages—that these young men are somewhere around 16 or 17 years old, and are still tongue-tied, then I do have a suggestion…

Instead of “dress rehearsals,” suggest that they both get together—as a “buddy pair”—with the Merit Badge Counselor who helped them through Communications merit badge (this is precisely where they should have mastered the necessary skills) and re-coach them on how to converse with adults. Continue these coaching sessions till they’re ready to succeed. Stay in touch with the Counselor, and get feedback from him or her on how they’re doing, and what their fears are…and how they’re doing at overcoming these fears.

Meanwhile, your troop’s Scoutmaster can start using a portion of his conferences with each Scout as a “mini-coaching session” on how to speak with “strangers”—both adult and youth.
(Asked in September 2015) Dear Andy,

It’s September and I have a Webelos Scout who was inactive during his Webelos I year and didn’t earn the Webelos badge. But—and this is a good thing!—he to be involved this year. Can he work on the new-program Arrow of Light, or does he need to go back and do the Webelos badge? (Ron Fedele)

Technically, he’s supposed to use the new program, but if he’s joining a den of boys who are finishing up with the soon-to-be “old” program, I think the best option is to simply seed him into the den and let him progress with his peers. (This also helps the Den leader not go nuts simultaneously dealing with two distinctly different programs!)
(Asked in September 2015) Dear Andy,

I’m currently serving as Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner. At our last Roundtable, a question came up with respect to the new program and a new Arrow of Light Scout wanting to join. The Webelos II den that his buddies are in, and which he’ll join, has decided to continue using the original Arrow of Light requirements till they finish up—an option that’s available to them at this time.

Since the new Arrow of Light requirements allow a Scout to join and earn this rank without going back to earn the Webelos badge, can an exception be made for a new boy joining a Webelos II den to use the original program and still earn his Arrow of Light? (He’s the only new boy joining and there doesn’t seem to be the option of starting a new den in which all would use the new requirements.) (Christian Smerz)

Sometimes we need to apply good sense, particularly in considering the “whole” beyond the parts (i.e., the entire den, in this case). Between you and me, this simply makes good sense, otherwise you have some boys going down one track and a single boy going down another, which makes not only his but the Den Leader’s job almost impossibly difficult. I’d say this is a time for good sense, especially since they’ll all be transitioning to Boy Scouts together in just a few months.
Hi Andy,

I have a question about policies and best practices for handling unit finances for things like high adventure trips. I was recently part of a troop crew trip to one of our national high adventure bases. As you surely know, this represents a minimum of about a year-and-a-half of planning and preparing, plus collecting and using funds. In our case, since we had air travel, ground transportation, lodging, and on-site training, we needed to spend money on reservations, etc. in advance of the trip. We were instructed that all funds for the crew and this trip should be run through the troop’s checking account. But what actually happened was that the troop treasurer kept bad records and so we had no way to accurately compare the crew’s records with the troop’s records. This meant that when a crew member wanted to make a payment in cash (sometimes several hundred dollars or more), I wanted that cash to go directly to the troop treasurer, so that’s what we did. But at the back-end, as it turned out, when we did our final reconciliation, I had a problem convincing the treasurer to reimburse me for some large expenses related to the trip, even though the crew members had turned in funds to the treasurer, to cover those very expenses!

This whole experience left me feeling like it would have been much easier to open a checking account that was solely used for that trip, with two adults on the account. That way, cash received could be directly deposited the same day, all account statements could have been carefully cross-checked against paper records, and at the end of the day we would either end up at zero or could refund any excess that had been collected.

So, what’s the recommended best practice for handling finances for a trip like this? I’m asking now because we hope to do at least one if not two more high adventure trips before my son ages out and I want to both make my life easier and also have better transparency and accuracy while still following the rules. (Dan)

When a troop has a treasurer who knows what he or she is doing, and knows how to keep a chart of accounts to keep track of what money coming in goes where, and what money going out equally gets deducted from which “on-paper” account, then it’s a no-brainer. When a treasurer doesn’t know how to do this, or seems confused when you talk with him or her in advance, then the obvious “best practice” is to keep a separate account and assign it to somebody who knows how to do this sort of stuff. Usually business owners or their bookkeepers (working voluntarily, of course) are great resources, as would be any parent who’s a CPA or PA and is willing to help (even if not a registered member of the troop committee). In short, the “best practice” is getting somebody who knows their way around the ship, from the boiler room to the bridge. So as not to have a repeat of your past experience, a second separate checking account, opened for the trip and then closed when it’s over, seems definitely the way to go.
Dear Andy,

Would there be any documentation anywhere that says parents can’t be restricted from participation in any aspect of Scouting activities with their son? If so, what restrictions would apply toward excluding a parent’s participation in an activity? (Ken)

The BSA is very clear on the point that there are no “secret meetings” whatsoever, and that a parent who insists on it can’t be excluded from any activity. (This is the “short” version. For the “long” version, check online or with your council service center.)

But here’s the practical side of it: Are we talking about Cub Scouting or Boy Scouting?

In Cubs, parental participation is a part of the program, so there should be no problem. In fact, in Cub Scouts, absence of parental participation fundamentally means: No program.

But if we’re talking about Boy Scouts, and we have a parent who insists on going on every camping trip or hike with his or her son, that parent is missing the point entirely and needs to be sat down by the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster (Yes, both—stick to the Buddy System here!) and told that Boy Scouting is a youth-to-youth program, and that, if he or she persists with this, you’re going to need to ask the family to leave the troop because the presence of a parent at everything interferes with program delivery. (You might advise this parent that if he or she likes family camping and hiking, go do it—but not with the troop.)

(Addendum: One of the saddest things I ever heard was just a few years ago at an Eagle court of honor, when the new 18-year-old Eagle Scout publicly thanked his father for having attended every single hike, camp-out, and other outdoor activity with him since he was a Tiger Cub.)

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. 458 – 10/22/2015 – 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.