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Issue 478 – March 15, 2016

Dear Andy,

I’ve noticed that the activities qualifying for certain segments of the National Outdoor Awards have been changing rather quickly, but a few BSA activities still seem to have been left out. Specifically, can dog sledding at Northern Tier be counted for toward the mileage requirement for the “Riding” activity? On a related note, does any merit badge support dog sledding? It seems this should be a part of the Winter Sports merit badge, but it doesn’t seem to be included (Dawn Pilcher, Three Rivers Council, TX)

The simple answer: If it’s not listed, it’s not an option.
Dear Andy,

Our adult leaders meeting was recently held at the same time as our troop meeting. I’m the Scoutmaster. I didn’t sit in on this meeting because I was unaware if it being scheduled or taking place. I found out later in the week that they had decided to let Bear Cub Scouts attend our troop’s upcoming campout. I advised them that Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are separate for a reason and that this was an unwise decision that I can’t support. But this didn’t have any effect. Can I have your thoughts on this issue—pro or con—please? (Gary Hanes)

You’re 100% correct, as the edited (for clarification) excerpt from the BSA GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING (page 21-22) describes:

“Age Guidelines. The Boy Scouts of America has established the following guidelines for its members’ participation in camping activities: Overnight camping by Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scout dens as dens is not approved, and certificates of liability insurance will not be provided by the Boy Scouts of America. A Webelos Scout may participate in overnight den camping when supervised by an adult…It is essential that each Webelos Scout be under the supervision of a parent (or parent-approved) adult. Joint Webelos den-Boy Scout troop campouts including the parents of the Webelos Scouts are encouraged to strengthen ties between the pack and troop. Den leaders, pack leaders, and parents are expected to accompany the boys on approved trips…If a…leader brings along a child (or children) who does not meet these age guidelines, disservice is done to the (Boy Scout) unit because of distractions often caused by younger children. A disservice is also done to the child, who is not trained to participate in such an activity and who, as a nonmember of the (troop), may be ignored by the older campers.”

As Scoutmaster have an obligation to the boys in your overall care to make certain that all troop leaders READ THIS FOR THEMSELVES. Though I’m sure well-meaning, they’re completely incorrect and inappropriate. This will NOT “benefit” the Bear Cub Scouts, and will truly do a complete disservice to the Boy Scout troop, because they’ll be converted into “babysitters” or worse. Moreover, by bringing these younger boys along, it tells the Boy Scouts—who are there for adventure in the outdoors—that Boy Scouting is no longer special if lower grade school kids (and their parents!) can tag along.
Dear Andy,

Our troop is sponsored by a Kiwanis Club, and they support us tremendously. They recently had small round “Kiwanis” patches made, and then gave them to each Scout to wear on his uniform. I’m not against that: we’re proud of our sponsors and their endeavors for our troop. So we’re thinking of allowing our Scouts to place these under the troop numerals on the left sleeve. But this won’t leave room for “Trained” patches. Would it be okay to move the Trained patches to underneath the patrol medallions on the right sleeve? (I’ve looked at the regulations and it doesn’t say we can’t put them there; nor does it say we can. What do we do? (Richard Wegemann, Mount Baker Council, WA)

The “Trained” patch is shown where it’s supposed to go, so the BSA doesn’t waste words telling us where it doesn’t go: It belongs on the left sleeve as shown. Moreover, if you were to put this Kiwanis patch below the troop numerals, where are your Scouts (and your uniformed adult volunteers) going to put their position patches (e.g., Scoutmaster, Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Scribe, etc.)?

If your troop wants to wear a Kiwanis patch, the perfect place for this is centered on the right pocket or—better yet—inside a round, clear-plastic “patch holder” that can be suspended from the right pocket’s flap button (like a Philmont arrowhead). Other options simply aren’t available. And I’m obligated to note this final technicality: The BSA does state that non-BSA patches aren’t permitted on BSA uniforms.
Dear Andy,

Concerning that adult volunteer with epilepsy who was considering becoming a Scoutmaster, I want to mention that not all cases of epilepsy are the same. I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder about 20 years ago, and I’ve had good control through medication. Not only that, but my seizures have only ever occurred while sleeping. Luckily, I never had any problems with seizures while I was Scoutmaster, though I’ll tell you that I had to pick my spots on activities and of course I drew the line on things that would get the boys or myself injured if I had suffered a seizure during an activity like climbing, scuba, etc. (I had ASM’s who were more capable than I was in those areas to lead those activities.) (Barry Puryear, ADC, Indian Nations Council, OK)

Yes, I understand a lot can be controlled nowadays. I had an epileptic Scout on my camp staff some 50+ years ago, and it was a very different story then. He was a great guy, and although he did have a couple of seizures during one summer, he’d “pre-coached” us on what to do if this happened. It all turned out fine!)
Dear Andy,

Our troop is experiencing some major turmoil right now with an interim Committee Chair and interim Scoutmaster. A few people retaining “control” of the troop are incapable or unwilling to correct issues after months of talk. There are also numerous safety issues going unchecked (Scouts at a campout swimming in illegal areas, Scouts departing from campouts after dark in the own cars to go to drive-ins, verbal abuse of a Scout by an adult going unchecked, and more).

I brought my concerns to the CC and then to our council, which thanked me for doing so and observed that I’d expressed legitimate concerns. But then the council staff revoked my Assistant Scoutmaster registration due, they said, to “communications issues.” They provided me no opportunity to resolve whatever “communications issues” they supposedly had. My concerns were never addressed and likely won’t be as the behavior continues as recently as last weekend. My sons and I were also removed from a Philmont Trek trip this coming summer, after I brought up concerns about lack of preparation (which actually led to injuries to two adult volunteers).

My main concern is about my sons, who at 15 years old and Life rank are not getting a positive Scouting experience. They, however, don’t want to switch troops (they’d rather just quit Scouts than to start over), but this troop has no high adventure activities and doesn’t have qualified adults to lead. I’m encouraging them to pursue opportunities via the Order of the Arrow as well as high adventure opportunities with other troops, but this is difficult to arrange. In addition, this troop isn’t offering merit badges with any frequency and the council has shut me out from doing so.

I’m left feeling very disappointed with Scouting. What should and could be a great program for youth allows itself to be run by adults with a bully mentality who are going unchecked and allowed to destroy a troop. Given that there are only a few adults who are this way, I would think the best course would be to remove those few elements and train newer adults to take over. It may be a slow start but at least we’d be headed in the right direction.

I’m considering advising my sons to finish up the last few requirements they have for Eagle and then take a year off before doing their project (they are 15 year-old twins). At that point, they can decide to go back to their old troop or try another one. (I’m wondering if you know of an option for them to complete the Eagle project on their own—outside of a troop—once their leadership, merit badges, and other requirements are complete.

The other option I thought they might consider is joining a Venturing crew while completing their Eagle.

My question is, do you have any advice on how to provide my sons with a better Scouting experience? My thought at this point, in addition to the suggestions I’ve already offered them, is to work with them myself outside of the troop so they get exposure to merit badges and high adventure. (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s get clear on a few things:

When your sons change troops, they don’t “start over”… They hold their current ranks and they join new patrols—simple as that! If you mean “start over in a new troop,” they’d join with all of their advancements and tenure in place and then, when joining patrols, they’d make new friends pretty quickly.

Troops don’t “offer merit badges.” Scouts are free to earn merit badges from registered Merit Badge Counselors anywhere in the district (or council, even), and your district’s advancement committee has a list of such counselors for virtually any merit badge your sons choose to earn.

As for the troop they’re presently in, no troop (or any organization, for that matter) that’s become corrupted can be changed “from the inside.” It can only be changed from the top. If you were able to become the “permanent” Committee Chair or—better yet—the Chartered Organization Representative, you could replace any and all current wayward volunteer adults with adults who understand what the Scouting program is designed to deliver. Short of either of these positions, you’re essentially powerless.

At the rank of Life, if your sons were to walk away now, they’d ultimately regret it for the rest of their lives!

“Take a year off” before tackling their service projects? No way! They’ll have moved on and are highly unlikely to return, and—again—they’ll wind up regretting this (and maybe resenting you for having made that suggestion) for the rest of their lives.

Unless you’re a BSA-registered member, you don’t have the authority to sign them off on rank requirements, and unless you’re registered as a Merit Badge Counselor for specific merit badges, you can’t “help” them with these, either.

So, bottom line is simple: They need to find a new troop for themselves. So help them find one where they’ll get the kind of Scouting experience that’s fun, adventurous, and challenging. Start looking right away… Then run, don’t walk!


Last thought for the day (call it “Andy’s Rule 101”)…

If you meet a jerk one morning, okay so you met a jerk and that’s that; but if you keep meeting jerks all day long and everywhere you turn, you just might need to ask yourself: What’s wrong with this picture?

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. 478 – 3/15/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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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