Author Avatar

Issue 505 – November 1, 2016

(Here are two letters that follow up on last week’s troop “horror story”…)

Hi Andy,

Thanks for sharing the letter from “Puzzled & Confused” last week. Sometimes, when I think our troop is all messed up, I open your column and when I compare ours to others, I realize we’re doing more things right than wrong, and we’re not as messed up as I thought we were! Please pass this along to Puzzled and Confused…

Andy’s right. Your son’s troop is majorly fouled up. You might be able to change it, but it will take a lot of time and energy—energy that could be better spent helping your son and his friends grow into young men. If I were in your boots, I’d either find another troop or start my own.

In my own son’s troop, our Committee Chair had difficulty understanding The Patrol Method, often confusing the so-called “troop method” for The Patrol Method. At first (this was a new troop), there was only one patrol, and so “troop” and “patrol” got confused. But fast forward a couple of years. We now have five active patrols doing all sorts of activities—as patrols! The changeover can be made, but it takes perseverance and time. You might not want to waste that much of your son’s time. Good luck! (Lee Murray, new SM, Reno, NV)

Hi Andy,

I’m not surprised by your answer—it’s right on target! I was intrigued by the comment by “Puzzled & Confused” that the Scoutmaster was using an old SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK… I’ve used virtually every edition since the 1947 version that my old Scoutmaster gave me way back when. There’s a lot going for some of the older ones, but none of them played down The Patrol Method in favor of the “troop method” being promulgated by this troop. However, in my own Scouting life, I’ve even seen a Scoutmaster tell the troop, “This is going to be a boy-run troop, and I’m going to tell you how to run it!” I hope these “newbie” parents take your advice and find a real Scout troop. (Somehow, I get a feeling that a new troop will be seeing arrival of others from this loser “troop method” troop!) (Dean Whinery)

Here’s some more good news about The Patrol Method”… The two-volume HANDBOOK FOR SCOUTMASTERS first published in 1936 runs to 1,145 pages, but you don’t have to read any further than page 27 to find this: “The Boy As a Member of His Gang, His Patrol. Boys want to be a vital part of a gang—their own gang, under their own leadership. Part of the genius of Scouting is that it recognized this. The boy as he enters the Movement is accepted by fellow Scouts into a true boys’ gang, the Scout Patrol.” This seminal work goes on to observe: “Several Patrols form the Troop…the Troop gives impetus and purpose to the work of the Patrols…Each boy, through his Patrol Leader, influences the program and the activities of the Troop; each boy has a chance to participate actively in its leadership.”

This is as true and important today as it was 80 and more years ago. It’s truly what makes Scouting completely unique among programs serving the youth of America. Simply put, without The Patrol Method, it’s not Scouting.
Hi Andy,

In your August 16th column (No. 498), you published a letter from a Scout’s parents concerning the scheduling of their son’s project for Eagle in which they expressed concern because the troop said that their son had to use other Scouts to help with his project and that adult troop leaders needed to be present during the project.

You’re correct that there’s no stipulation that project helpers be Scouts. The GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (Topic states: “Helpers may be involved in Scouting or not, and of any age appropriate for the work.” This means that a Scout may involve anyone who’s willing to help with his project—including adults—whether or not they’re registered with the Boy Scouts of America. The Life Scout isn’t required to include other Scouts, either exclusively or even in part.

The second part of the parents’ question involved having adult leaders present to observe “how well the Scout leads his project.” While not precluded by the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT, it really isn’t the role of a troop leader to attend a project to assure that a Scout is doing the leading. This aspect will ultimately be considered by the members of the Scout’s board of review. That said, it’s also important to note that the unit does have important responsibilities that are addressed in the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT topic “Risk Management and Eagle Scout Service Projects.” This topic explains that such service projects constitute an official Scouting activity that’s part of the unit’s overall program; therefore, during any such service project, the unit is indeed responsible for everything they’re normally responsible for, for any other unit activity, including ensuring that BSA policies regarding safety, youth protection, two-deep leadership, etc., are being followed. If unit leadership decides that they want to have an adult leader at the project to fulfill the unit’s responsibilities, then they may insist on it. Thus it may actually be necessary to schedule Eagle-required service projects for dates when unit leaders are available to participate. (Wayne Huddleston, National Coordinator-Eagle, Summit, and Quartermaster Issues Task Force)

Thanks, Wayne. The only unofficial caveat I might add is that, when registered adult unit volunteers decide that they wish to be present at all gatherings of a Scout’s “work crew,” they take into consideration the Scout’s and his helpers’ own usually rigorous schedules and extend every effort to remain flexible and accommodating. In short, it works better when the adults adjust to the service project’s schedule rather than the other way around—in the spirit that we adults are here to serve the Scouts; as Scouting’s “first and most important volunteers,” they’re not here for us.
Dear Andy,

How many times have you heard of a Scout being a member of two units? Are these typically two local Scout troops, or is it some other unit combination, like a troop and a Venturing crew, for instance? I’m asking because we’re having an issue with a few families who want to have their sons belong to a second troop as well as ours.

Frankly, trying to keep up regular attendance and coordinating advancement and leadership records is extremely challenging under the best of conditions, and these aspects are just part of our concerns. Any thoughts on this? Thanks! (Tom McCandless)

Short answer on multiple troops: Almost never! (The rare exceptions are when a Scout divides his daily, weekly, or part-year life in two distant geographic areas, usually when his parents live apart but share in their son’s Scouting life.)

Here’s the fundamental problem: A Scout is registered with a troop, of course, but what he’s really joining is a PATROL.

The PATROL (not the troop) is the fundamental unit of Boy Scouting. The Patrol Method is one of the eight methods essential to a quality Boy Scout program. As Baden-Powell himself said, “Without The Patrol Method, it’s not Scouting.” The SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK put it this way: “PATROLS are the building blocks of a Boy Scout troop” and “All (scouts) enjoy the friendship, sense of belonging, and achievements OF THE PATROL AND ALL OF ITS MEMBERS” and “A PATROL takes pride in ITS OWN IDENTITY” and finally, “…(The Scouts) see their PATROL as THEIR HOME IN SCOUTING.”

While record-keeping (participation, advancement, service, etc.) would become a small nightmare for both troops, the bigger onus is on the boy himself, and he and his parents need to have a very clear picture of what’s in store if he registers with two troops. If he indeed proceeds on this course, he’ll be a member of a patrol in each troop. This means he’ll be expected to attend two troop meetings (with his patrol) every week, double the number of hikes and camp-outs (with his patrol) per month, and so on…and if he can’t do this “double-duty” he would be letting down his fellow patrol members as well as himself.

Now as far as being both a Boy Scout registered in a troop and a Venturer registered in a Venturing crew, this can work quite nicely for those who are 14 years old or high school freshmen. That’s because Venturing crews operate differently from Boy Scout troops and the “fit” can work. BTW, this also applies to Sea Scout ships and to Order of the Arrow lodges and chapters: These are all programs that encourage young men to stay involved and active in Scouting till they ultimately “age-out” at 18 or 20 (depending on the program).

Thanks, Andy. Very helpful, as always! Folks at our council told me that this is permissible or, more correctly, that they found nothing in official BSA documents that preclude this. We’d like to discourage it, or at least be sure everyone understands the ramifications before jumping into two barrels at the same time. Can you help? (Tom)

Okay, so let’s put the onus where it belongs: on the Scout and his parents. Here are the questions I’d ask, if I were Scoutmaster of Troop A…

– If you join Troop B, are your parents prepared to get you to our meeting Monday night and Troop B’s meeting Tuesday night, virtually every week for ten months a year?

– (If both troops meet on the same night) How will you get to both troops on the same night, in such a way that you’ll be active in both?

– We go camping once a month, and so does Troop B. Are you prepared to go camping twice a month, every month?

– Same with once a month hikes… Are you prepared for twice a month?

– What will you do when both troops are camping or hiking on the same weekend and you’re expected to support your patrol at both?

– Down the road, you could well be elected Patrol Leader… What then?

– How will you handle special events like courts of honor?

– You’ll be paying annual dues for both troops. Are you prepared for this, financially?

– Are you prepared to have two uniform shirts– One with our troop number and your patrol medallion, and the second for the other troop and patrol? By the way, you’ll also need two neckerchiefs.

– When you start along the advancement trail, from Scout on up to Eagle, which troop will be keeping your official records and how will you keep the second troop abreast of your ranks, merit badges, and so forth?

– Both troops go to summer camp for a week. Are you, as a family, ready for this, including two camp fees?

– Lastly, our troop needs and expects parent involvement, either as a registered volunteer on the troop committee for instance, or as a non-registered regular helper, for things like driving to trail-heads, camping overnight to provide adult presence, and so forth. If Troop B has the same expectations, are you, his parents, prepared to volunteer with two troops?

When you’re asking these questions, be certain you don’t attempt to “rescue” the Scout and his family by providing solutions… Just ask the question and stop talking. Be sure all answers are forthcoming and concrete. Write down the answers, so that you can review all points at the back-end of the conversation.

The key to this whole thing is WHY? Why would a boy (or his parents) want to do this two-troop thing?

The bottom line remains: You do have the option of simply saying, “Not in this troop—we don’t work that way.” It’s correct that double-registering isn’t “illegal”… It’s simply not the most practical or effective thing a boy or his family could do.

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. 505 – 11/1/2016 – 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

Follow Andy

Subscribe via email or RSS and follow via social media.

Comments are closed.