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Issue 479 – March 22, 2016

Hello Andy,

Can an older (age 21) Eagle Scout wear his old Scout uniform and Eagle medal to his younger brother’s Eagle court of honor, even though he’s no longer active or registered in Scouting? (Ray Pietersen, their dad)

All adults who are Eagle Scouts can and should wear their Eagle medals to courts of honor and other special Scouting events of a similar nature. The best way to do this is pinned near the top of the left breast pocket of their sport coat, suit jacket, or blazer. (Some like to drag out their “old” uniforms—often to proudly prove that it still fits!—but this is a bit “overkill”—the Eagle medal almost always says it all!)
Dear Andy,

We have two Second Class Scouts in our troop. They both have been earning a bunch of merit badges, but they haven’t been able to make it to First Class. Neither one can swim! They’ve tried. They’ve taken lessons. But they just haven’t been able to pass the First Class swim test. One of them has been trying for over a full year. What are our options here? How do Scouts advance in rank if they can’t swim? (Ron Myers, CC, Wiesbaden, Germany)

The quick answer: They don’t.

That said, let’s back up a bit… They’re both Second Class. This means that (req. 5b) they can jump feet-first into water over their head in depth, surface and level off, swim a total of 50 feet (swim 25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming, and return to the starting place). In short, this means they definitely can swim…just not very far quite yet, and perhaps with not all of the necessary strokes in their repertoire. So let’s not say they “can’t swim” because that’s not only inaccurate but it stigmatizes them and creates a mental attitude of defeat. Truth is, they just haven’t learned their strokes well enough and haven’t yet built up the necessary stamina to complete First Class req. 6a: The BSA swimmer test. However, there’s another First Class requirement that might help them: 8a. This requirement asks for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, five days a week, for a minimum of four weeks. I’ll bet that, with access to a pool this spring or coming summer, if they swam seriously for those 30 minutes each day, they’d complete their First Class swimming requirement with flying colors. Absent a pool with that sort of availability, I’m sure a swim instructor could suggest a series of activities that would help improve their stamina, so they can complete the 100 yards and the swim strokes necessary.
Hi Andy,

My grandson just passed his board of review for Eagle. He’s earned 33 merit badges along the way. Can he apply for a Gold Palm immediately, or does he have to apply for the Bronze Palm first? He’ll turn 18 in four months and a couple of days. (Dennis Calain)

Congratulations to your grandson! Palms are earned in increments of five, coupled with three months active participation and leadership with his troop (your grandson should check his handbook for the remainder of the Palm requirements). So, counting months from his Eagle board of review, there are four remaining till his 18th birthday, which means he’ll qualify for a Bronze Palm via merit badges 22 through 26. Although he has enough additional merit badges for a second Palm (Gold), he’ll have run out of time between the end of this first three-month period and his 18th birthday. (Semi-good news is sure a lot better than bad news!)
Dear Andy,

Our district is working on re-chartering and we had an issue come up that I’d like to get your thoughts on: When does a new Scout officially become a member of the unit? I’d always assumed that a boy becomes a member of a unit as soon as he or his parents turn in a completed application and fees, and that if somebody in the unit, district, or council hangs onto the application, or if the application goes into some sort of “backlog” for data entry, this shouldn’t negatively impact the Scout. Am I correct? (John)

Turning in the completed application—with parent’s/guardian’s signature—to the unit he’s joining, along with a check for whatever dues and fees are required, is certainly the first step. Second step: The unit leader (or designee) signs the application and deposits the family’s check. Third step: The unit leader fills in the TEMPORARY MEMBERSHIP CERTIFICATE (see application p. 3), cuts it out of the application, and gives it to the boy and his parents/guardians. Fourth step: The unit submits the application and necessary fees (see application p. 3) to the council service center. Fifth step: The council service center records the application information, submits the necessary fees to the BSA national office, and receives a member ID card complete with membership number. Sixth step: The new membership card, with the Scout’s name, unit number, and membership ID number is given to the unit and, in turn, given to the Scout and his family. Note that the boy officially becomes a Scout at the THIRD STEP.
Hi Andy,

My son is a Wolf Cub Scout. He recently sold a bunch of popcorn as part of our pack’s and our council’s annual fund-raising season. He filled his sales order sheet and earned $955, which qualifies him for various prizes. I’m wondering what I do to make sure he gets his prizes. It’s a bit confusing, so I’d like to be able to fax the sales order sheet somewhere as proof, instead of just emailing it. I found the directions for this online, but there’s no fax number listed. What do I do? (Stacey Aldrich)

Unfortunately, I don’t know how your son’s pack leaders have organized the popcorn selling program for the Cubs, but I can certainly encourage you to make several copies of the sales form, so that you can keep a copy and you can provide a copy to the sale organizer(s). If there’s an email system set up, consider scanning the sales sheet and, when you email it as an attachment, email it to a second person as well, so that someone else can verify the sales amount and that you did indeed send it in. And best wishes to your Cub Scout son! I hope he enjoys the program as much as I did, when I was his age.
Hi Andy,

I guess this isn’t so much a question as a sort of bewildered comment. We’re an active troop with monthly outings in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Normally, we’re camping in remote areas, but we do occasionally have contact with the public. Last spring, we visited Kartchener Cavern (an amazing natural wonder). As we were purchasing our tour tickets, our Scoutmaster mentioned to the folks at the ticket window that we’re a Scout troop. The agent rolled his eyes and said, “We’ve had a lot of problems with Scouts on this tour.” This last weekend, we were on an outing that required staying in a National Forest Service campground. When we paid out fee, the ranger there made a similar comment about Scout troops doing a lot of damage at the campground, with the leaders being the worst. We assured him, as we had at the previous encounter, that we wouldn’t be a problem—our Scouts were well-behaved, practice Leave No Trace camping, and would leave the area better than we found it.

We were all quite discouraged and even a bit angry that our hard works at instilling the values of Scouting was all for naught in the eyes of people like these. I guess my point is that a single Scout doesn’t only represent himself, a troop doesn’t only represent itself, and the same applies to a Scouter. You represent all of us in that uniform. Perhaps Leave No Trace should extend to not leaving a negative trace with the public. (Dave Pela)

Well, first, my own “bewildered comment”… How was it that the folks at the entrance didn’t immediately recognize you all as Scouts? Were you all not in uniform, by any chance?

One of the “Methods of Scouting” is indeed the uniform—and it’s not designed just for troop meetings and courts of honor: It’s made to be worn everywhere, including while camping and hiking. It not only tells the world that you’re Scouts, and helps the young men themselves feel a part of something special, but it also improves behavior. That’s right: Improves Behavior! Among both the Scouts and among the adult volunteers of the troop (or pack—it works there, too).

When you’re in your Scout/Scouter uniform, you somehow act better, and watch your language more. You’re less inclined to do stupid stuff, or be a jerk. Can’t explain exactly why this happens; I can only tell you it does!

So I’ll bet dollars to donuts (even though donuts cost almost a buck these days) that those other Scout groups weren’t in uniform, and so their behavior got rowdy (or worse) because of that simple factor.

Give it more than a “try”… DO IT! From now on. And watch what happens.

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 – 3/22/2016 – 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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