Author Avatar

Issue 506 – November 11, 2016

The aftermath of an appendectomy gone bad, producing a lower intestinal infection that plagued me for several years, I was physically rejected by the U.S. Army on three separate attempts to enlist, which effectively eliminated any possibility of military service for me, even though I was otherwise healthy. This was at the height of the Vietnam War. Some might say I was lucky and should be grateful. I wasn’t and I’m not. This was and remains one of the great regrets of my life…that I could not stand beside my brothers-in-arms and carry forward my obligation to my country and the name of freedom. Instead, all I can do is express my gratitude to those men and women who have served and are serving our country in uniform, particularly those who returned home Veterans of Vietnam and, even more particularly, those who did not return alive. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you.
Hi Andy,

In your November 1st column (Issue No. 505), there was a conversation about some parents who wanted their sons to be in two troops, and you proposed this question: “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?”

Is there any chance that the “Scoutbook” advancement tracking software could help in this case? I’ll admit I am not an expert on this, but I’m wondering if the boy could add two troops to the software and have his advancement show up in both troops. (Robby Wright, ADC, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

That software, as well as “TroopMaster,” is troop-run (typically by the troop’s advancement coordinator)—not the Scout. Yes, it might be possible for both troops to concurrently record a Scout’s advancement, each in their own software and using the Scout’s BSA membership ID number, but, fundamentally, it’s messy.

The biggest issue, of course, is being a member of two patrols, and being expected (correctly!) to carry his weight in both, including showing up!

(As was revealed in further conversations not published last week, what the parents—who didn’t understand The Patrol Method at all—intended to do was “cherry-pick” events from each troop, rather than actually having their son establish bonds in either one. This, of course, is nonsense.)
Dear Andy,

What’s a Scoutmaster supposed to do when his Scouts keep planning campouts but he can never find a second adult (registered adult leader, parent, etc.) to go with him and the Scouts to provide appropriate two-deep leadership?

Our troop is supposed to go camping this weekend. The Scouts have planned the menu and two of them are planning to complete three merit badges while on this campout, but I’m having trouble finding a second adult to be there with me this weekend. This is the second time in a row that this has happened, and it’s killing out outdoor program. (Danny Ball)

It’s not the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to find a second adult to attend hikes and campouts in conformation with BSA Youth Protection and Safety policies. This is the responsibility of the troop’s Committee Chair and the committee itself. That point established, here are two ways to go with this…

Option 1: Confer with your Committee Chair to identify and recruit one Assistant Scoutmaster. Obtain a commitment from him that he will take YPT right away and position-specific training as soon as your district (or a nearby district) offers it. (Check out… This may also be available online!)

Option 2: Team up with your troop’s Committee Chair and hold an all-parents’ meeting. Tell these parents—point-blank—that unless there’s a second adult available to attend, there will be no campouts. Period. (They can divide outings up amongst themselves, but regardless of how they do it, coverage has to be provided. This isn’t optional; it’s a firm BSA safety policy.)

If these can’t be done in time for this weekend, then you have no choice but to cancel the campout. At this point, it will fall to you and your Committee Chair to send a message to all Scouts and their parents describing (without apology!) why the trip has been cancelled, and then call for that all-parent meeting right away.
Hi Andy,

I’m our troop’s former Scoutmaster; I’m now a Merit Badge Counselor. Several months ago I was working with a group of Scouts on the Aviation merit badge. Two of the Scouts went to a local air museum and completed the remaining requirements. Following this, they brought me proof of this, and I signed the merit badge off for both of them. When one of them took the “blue card” to his troop meeting, the Scoutmaster also signed his card and handed it to their advancement chair. This should have completed the circle of signatures (i.e., the advancement chair doesn’t sign; he or she is there to simply record the completion and submit the troop advancement form to the council service center). However, instead of doing what an AC is supposed to do, this one proceeded to re-test the Scout using an old merit badge worksheet accessed via her smartphone. The requirements on the worksheet she’d accessed included requirements that no longer existed, but she told the Scout that he wouldn’t get the merit badge until he completed those requirements. This is, of course, not only a violation of procedure but also a violation of BSA advancement policies. I brought this mess to the troop’s Committee Chair, but hit a brick wall. Now the CC is saying that the AC was “so sweet about the whole thing” that there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong. Both Scouts subsequently left the troop, refusing to put up with an advancement chair-turned-judge-and-jury and a CC with the spine of a chocolate eclair. Is there anything that can be done to stop this from happening again, and losing more Scouts? (Frustrated Former Scoutmaster)

It seems a bit unexpected that Scouts would quit your troop on the basis of a single miss-step by this advancement chair. I’m strongly suspecting that this isn’t her first judge-and-jury act; I’ll bet dollars to donuts she does this sort of stuff regularly, as the (in her mind) “guardian” of advancement. Of course, what she’s doing is undermining the troop’s advancement program and Scouts’ natural course of advancement. On these grounds, I’d say four things need to be done immediately…

1 Have a sit-down with the entire troop to make certain they know that once a requirement is signed off, and once a merit badge “blue card” is signed as completed by the counselor, that’s it: The Scout can neither be challenged nor re-tested by anyone, for any reason. It’s done—End of story.

2 Repeat this step for all adult volunteers associated with the troop, and all Scout parents.

3 Reach out to those two Scouts, tell them about Steps 1 and 2, and invite them to re-join the troop on the basis that this nonsense will never occur again!

4 The troop’s Committee Chair sits down with the advancement chair, tells her that her job title is now changed to “advancement coordinator,” and that her sole responsibilities are to (a) record advancements in the troop’s records, (b) assist in scheduling boards of review for Scouts ready to advance in rank, and (c) file troop advancement reports with the council service center. Period. (If she either resists or argues, or mumbles some assurance that she’ll “phase this in,” replace her instantly.)

(Yes, such self-important adults often like to spray Pam on their stilettos before sticking them into minors.)

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. 506 – 11/11/2016 – 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.