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Issue 489 – May 31, 2016

Dear Andy,

You recently answered a question about where the Doctorate of Commissioner Science patch could be worn. There is, in fact, a DCS “square knot” that can be worn on the uniform. It’s Item #18093 in and the BSA Uniform Guide and it can be worn above the left pocket flap of the uniform shirt. (David Olson, ADC, Northern Star Council, MN)

Yup, these square knots are absolutely appropriate! The patch that writer was asking about was the same three-inch round size and general design of a Commissioner (CC, ACC, DC, ADC, UC) position patch. That’s the one not designed for uniform wear; square knots are just fine.
Dear Andy,

Like many Scoutmasters out here in the trenches, I’m trying to get a grip on the new rank requirements released this past January. One of these that I’m struggling to figure out how to accomplish is the Cyber Chip for the “Scout” rank. Most of its requirements are easy: sign the pledge, write and sign a personal contract, watch the video, talk with your unit leader. But req. 4 for the 6th-to-8th grade group is our sticking point: it requires the Scout to teach his patrol or another patrol about Internet safety rules and appropriate online behavior using one of the four mini-activities of his choosing. It further states that each Scout must teach using the EDGE method and that the patrol will be the “students.”

Our troop’s new Scout patrol consists of ten Scouts. How do they get through this requirement without having all ten Scouts sit through the same activities multiple times? I’ve considered breaking them in to sub-groups of four, and then having each member take and teach one of the mini-activities, but I’m interested in hearing your own thoughts on this. (Scott Jones, SM, San Antonio, TX)

The problem you’re experiencing is actually not the problem—it’s a symptom of a more fundamental problem. The true problem is: Patrol size.

No Boy Scout patrol—whether “new” or otherwise—should ever include more than eight Scouts, and if you remember your Wood Badge days, you’ll remember that patrols of six members work best.

So, to solve the whole magilla, ask those ten new Scouts to create two patrols by dividing themselves into two groups of five each, with no one left out. Then walk away and let them do this for themselves (it’ll take maybe 5-10 minutes, maximum—often a lot less!).

Having two patrols of five Scouts each means that the Patrol Leader each will elect will have an easier job, AND each patrol will have room to grow (read the last Q&A of my May 24th column for how successful this will be for everyone!). If you stay with ten in a single patrol, I can guarantee you that, instead of growing, it’ll shrink—you’ll lose Scouts over time because they won’t completely bond and their PL will be happy when a couple stop showing up.

Fix your patrol size hiccup and everything else will work out—I promise!
Dear Andy,

I recently saw this posting. What do you think?

“Use games. Try out the ‘Democratic Game’ where each patrol creates a game to be played, then makes a skit about their proposed game and its objectives. After all skits have been done, the troop votes on their preferred game. Then they go off and play it. Follow this with the patrols creating—instead of a game—a full troop meeting program, and again vote on the preferred proposal. Expand at will. Sometimes instead of doing the creating at the troop meeting, patrols can hold separate meetings at a member’s house, create, for example, a video about their proposal, and then the troop watches all videos at troop meeting and votes. This gives a kick-start to boy involvement.” (Tom Linton)

Interesting concept. It does, however, seem to bypass the Patrol Leaders Council (“PLC” for short), at which each Patrol Leader represents the interests of the members of his patrol—effectively, representative democracy.
Hi Andy,

Our troop has been working to start a new Pack. Everything was in order, or so we thought. We have twelve youth applications and enough adult volunteer applications to qualify for starting a new unit, and we have all of the other forms we need (e.g., new unit applications, charter agreement, etc.).

Some of the adult volunteers already hold positions in our troop, so they’re already qualified as being YPT (Youth Protection Training) current. However, others are new volunteers, with no training credentials yet.

When our Unit Commissioner contacted our District Executive to arrange for formal creation of the pack, the DE told our UC that the brand-new volunteers needed to complete their YPT before their applications and the new unit documents could be accepted. But the current BSA Adult Volunteer Application says that new leaders have 30 days following registration to complete their YPT! Even the website says this, if you go to the YPT section: “New leaders are required to take Youth Protection Training within 30 days of registering and before volunteer service with youth begins.” But our council (and others as well, if you do an online search) insist that YPT be completed before the application is turned in!

So, which do we believe and go by: The 30 day rule we see on the BSA national website pages and the applications, or our council and other councils that stipulate YPT must accompany all new applications? (Name & Council Withheld)

Darned good question! Here’s the deal… In the area of health and safety (under which aegis YPT falls) local councils are permitted by the national council to exercise policies more (but never less) stringent than national policies.

My guess is this is exactly what’s happened here. Frankly, I think it’s a wise policy. Here’s why: How would you like to be the one who has to “chase” new volunteers who “forgot about” YPT or are “too busy” for YPT after 30 days, and on and on… Are you really going to terminate them (which is the council’s right, BTW) and risk watching a unit collapse on itself thanks to a few folks who just don’t abide by the commitment to get ‘er done? Better it’s done before or concurrent with the application turn-in, or—trust me on this—it’s gonna be a greased pig chase if you don’t!
Hi Andy,

I’m considering having a breakout session for Commissioners at our district’s monthly Roundtables. Our normal monthly meeting—usually before the Roundtables start—just don’t provide enough time for additional training. Maybe not every month but as needed. I’m also planning on using the topics that are in the Commission College—Continuing Education; they’re short and on-topic, especially for new Commissioners, and with all the changes going on they’ll help all of us stay focused. Your thoughts would be appreciated. (Norm Moran, Greater Alabama Council)

I really like your breakout idea! In addition to the “continuing education” learning modules that the BSA provides, several councils that I’m aware of (because they asked, and of course I said yes) cherry-pick Q&A’s from my columns that fit Commissioner work and use these in roundtable meetings for Commissioners. They’ll pose the question and then form the attendees into small groups (2 to 4, usually) who brainstorm to see who can come up with a practical and workable solution to the unit’s or Scouter’s problem. Then, after each group has had their turn, the session facilitator reads my answer, and they take a few moments to weigh all ideas.
Dear Andy,

A good friend and I are sharing our Eagle Court of Honor and are trying to determine who to ask to present the Eagle Charge and/or Challenge. I’ve been with our troop since crossing over as a Webelos II, but my friend is fairly new to the troop, so there are different leaders with whom we’ve worked toward this award, and to whom we’re especially grateful for their support and leadership.

We have two questions with regard to choosing those men and women whom we’d like to ask to participate in our ceremony. First, must the charge be given by a man who, himself, has earned the rank of Eagle Scout? Also, can more than one person give the challenge or charge? In other words, can each of us have our own presenter? (Scouts’ Names & Council Withheld)


It’s usually expected that the one who gives the “Eagle Charge” is himself an Eagle Scout. In fact, it’s also fairly traditional, at this point in the ceremony to call up all Eagles in the audience, to form a semicircle behind the newest Eagle(s). That said, it can be someone “outside” the troop, if you’d like… Your District Commissioner or Unit Commissioner, the head of your sponsoring organization if he’s an Eagle, or even a relative (father, uncle…).

Yes, you can each have your own, although that’s a bit of “overkill” IMHO. (You need to consider your audience!)

(In all, do keep in mind that the so-called Eagle Charge and/or Eagle Challenge are ceremonial niceties; they’re in no way mandatory for your or anyone’s court of honor that includes the Eagle rank. You’re already Eagles.)

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. 489 – 5/31/2016 – 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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