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Issue 464 – December 12, 2015

Dear Andy,

I have a question about one of the Q&A’s in your December 1st column about the relationship between chartered organizations and the Scouting units they sponsor. This is the reference point I’m using:

Your advice about the service projects for the chartered organization was great, up until your “by the way” comment regarding the chartered organization’s help with buying equipment. While it is, of course, great if they do, this is far beyond their responsibility, and I’m concerned that an inexperienced reader might get the wrong idea. Also, even if gear is bought through fund-raising by the Scouts, all troop equipment purchased by or for the troop becomes the property of the chartering organization. (Name & Council Withheld)

Although you haven’t asked a question, and this is an advice column, not a forum, I’m going to stretch a bit and give you an answer that might help you and others as well, in the spirit of “Troop 1—Gilwell”…

It’s accurate that, among the responsibilities of a chartered organization, there’s no mandate to assist a Scouting unit with the purchase of equipment, etc. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

Chartered Organization Responsibilities
By receiving a charter from the Boy Scouts of America, the chartered organization agrees to:
– Conduct Scouting in accordance with its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the BSA.
– Include Scouting as part of its overall program for youth and families.
– Appoint a chartered organization representative who is a member of the organization and will represent it to the Scouting district and council, serving as a voting member of each.
– Select a unit committee of parents and members of the organization who will screen and select unit leaders who meet the organization’s leadership standards as well as the BSA’s standards.
– Provide adequate and secure facilities for Scouting units to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved.
– Encourage the units to participate in outdoor experiences.

That affirmed, and looking at the final point immediately above, there’s no reason—should a chartered organization choose—to “encourage (the troop) to participate in outdoor experiences” by assisting with the purchase of patrol-based camping equipment (notice “patrol” and not “troop” because the patrol is the essential unit of Boy Scouting, from the “boy” perspective, while the troop serves as the “umbrella” under which the patrols operate).
Dear Andy,

Our troop has recently undergone significant changes in adult leadership including a new Scoutmaster and new Committee Chair after several years with the same leadership. All the new leaders were active adults in the program under the prior leadership. So here’s my question: I’ve recently learned that the new Committee Chair has insisted he sit on all Star and Life boards of review. First, do BSA regulations speak to this anywhere? Second, do you have an opinion on this? (CR Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (2015) states what all boards of review from Tenderfoot through Life be composed of, and I recommend that you all read through the topics pertaining, in particular Topic In brief, these reviews are carried out by a troop’s committee members—no less than three nor more than six—and the mix of committee members can be changed review-to-review so that no parent of a Scout is reviewer. The troop’s committee decides on who will chair each review.

With this as a basis, it’s not in the least unreasonable for a Committee Chair to wish to sit on reviews for Star and Life, and I’d actually encourage the CC to sit on more than just these two ranks. After all, these reviews of all ranks are in large part specifically designed to provide the troop committee with feedback on how well the Scoutmaster, youth leaders, and the troop’s overall program of activities are meeting the needs of the Scouts.

The only caution to be aware of is the Committee Chair’s availability. Nowadays, Scouts are earning Star, Life, and Eagle considerably later in their Scouting “careers” than formerly. Specifically, where thirty to forty years ago the average age of a Scout earning Eagle was just past his 15th birthday, today it’s past his 17th birthday! Consequently, your troop’s committee could be doing a Scout a disservice if they were to hold back convening a review for the convenience of any one potential reviewer; better to proceed with the review as soon as possible after the Scoutmaster advises that the Scout has completed all requirements and is prepared to advance, than to delay while waiting for one person’s availability.

(The GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT [SKU 620573] is available at your local Scout shop or online at and I encourage you to purchase a copy for use by all! It’s one of the better investments you’ll make!)
Dear Andy,

We were having a discussion recently about using to record advancement and some people were insistent that the handbook itself must be the primary sign-off document and that it must be presented at all boards of review up to Eagle. Is there any official guidance on this? (Ron Fedele, ASM)

Use both. How is a Scout supposed to keep track of what he’s accomplished and what he has left to do for a rank unless it’s recorded in his handbook, with dates and initials? The “Scoutbook” or “Troopmaster” software is a great backup record, but the handbook has precedence because it belongs to the Scout himself!

That said, bringing his handbook to each board of review for the purpose of “verification” is—in a word—silly. That’s because there would be no board of review at all unless the Scoutmaster has already advised the troop’s advancement coordinator or advancement chair that the Scout has completed all requirements and is therefore ready for his review (which can’t be arbitrarily withheld, by the way).

Even further on the subject of requirements and boards of review: This isn’t what such reviews are for. The purpose of a board of review is to determine, from the Scout’s perspective, how well the troop is delivering a quality program that provides fun, adventure, and advancement opportunities. That’s right, it’s a review more of the troop than of the Scout, and you’ll find that in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK, the SCOUT HANDBOOK, and the BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT.

Just a follow-up question, Andy… Scoutbook (which is now owned by the BSA) is accessible by Scouts, leaders, and parents via any mobile or desktop device, and accomplishes the same purpose as the handbook. So is there and actual, official directive on this? (I know there are a lot of opinions, but the question that came up was about the existence of any specific BSA policies.) (Ron)

Wisely, the BSA doesn’t have a “rule” for every single element in Scouting; much relies on people’s good sense (more than merely “common” sense), and this is one of those instances. There is no BSA “directive” on how individual Scouts’ advancement records are kept; instead, the BSA provides the tools for doing so, with the expectation that good sense in using them will prevail. For the Scout, he has his own handbook and uses pages 432 through 447, plus the “blue card” stubs that are his to retain, for record-keeping. For the troop, the BSA provides “Scoutbook,” the unit “blue card” stubs, and has long provided both paper and electronic advancement reports. Employ all of these to eliminate (or at least sharply reduce) the possibility of a Scout’s records becoming lost or misplaced. As for “opinions,” the only one that should prevail is that all available record-keeping opportunities should be employed.

Further, once a rank or merit badge is completed and earned, the BSA also provides “pocket cards” that can be signed and dated, thereby becoming permanent records of these accomplishments.

On a personal note, and I doubt that I’m unusual in this regard: Within 60 seconds, I can put my hands on the book I created almost sixty years ago that contains every one of my signed and dated rank cards—Tenderfoot through Eagle—all 25 of my signed and dated merit badge pocket cards, all four of my Explorer rank cards—Apprentice through Silver Award—and all five of my Explorer rating cards (equivalents, in that era, of four to five merit badges), plus my OA Ordeal and Brotherhood cards. (Incidentally, in none of my ten boards of review–six as a Scout and four as an Explorer–was I ever asked to produce any advancement records, and that’s because my troop and my post had created and retained duplicates of everything.)

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. 464 – 12/12/2015 – 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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