Author Avatar

Issue 510 – December 13, 2016

Several regular readers wrote to me about the pack finances problem Kevin, in the Longhorn Council, was having. Check these out (they may help you, too!)…

Hi Andy,

This is for Kevin. Start with a pack budget; it can prevent the type of problem you’re having. If the pack’s committee does what it’s supposed to do during their July annual pack planning meeting (this is when the pack’s program for the coming “Scouting year” is set up), they’ll create a budget to go with the program. The budget will specify estimated income and expenses, and what the income sources (family dues, Popcorn sales, etc.) and expense line items (Pinewood Derby cars, Raingutter sailboats, rank and other recognition patches and pins, etc.) will be, just like any good business would do. The committee then reviews the pack’s progress against the budget at their monthly meetings, so that there are no “nasty surprises” later on in the year. By the way, the pack’s estimated budget should definitely be distributed to all pack families no later than October of each year—with the understanding that open discussion about the budget can be held at any committee (but not pack) meeting.

One other thing I’d suggest is to review income and expenditures for the last year or two, as a preamble to constructing a new budget now. (Robby Wright, ADC, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

Hi Andy,

Our pack was facing issues similar to Kevin’s (although not quite as severe) a short while ago. Luckily, our treasurer was able to determine what it cost to deliver the program each month (e.g., January is Pinewood Derby month, March is our Bike Rodeo, September is Rockets, etc.) per Scout. (We have a special major event every month, so we definitely have some operating costs!)

We prepared our annual budget and shared the costs with the parents at a special meeting: “Here’s what it costs for your boy to enjoy the Scouting program we’re delivering…” We then told the parents, “Subtract your annual dues, and there’s the shortfall, so either we charge more for dues, or your son sells a minimum amount of popcorn, or we start eliminating fun events from the calendar.” That got folks’ attention—and we wound up with the funds we needed to deliver a full and fun program for the year! (Lee Murray, Nevada Area Council)
Hi Andy,

In the Merit Badge Sash section of the current Boy Scout-Varsity Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet, near the top of the back page, there’s mention of a Venture/Varsity letter and goes on to say that this letter may be attached to the bottom front corner of a Scout’s merit badge sash.

I’m familiar with the BSA Varsity Scouting program, so I know what that letter is. I’m also familiar with a Venture patrol within a troop as well as the separate BSA program for older youth known as Venturing. But I’m not familiar with a “Venture letter.”
There seems to be a total lack of good information on exactly what the Venture letter mentioned on the inspection sheet is. I couldn’t find anything in the GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA about it, and even after sifting through a bunch of online information (unfortunately it wasn’t on official BSA webpages), it looks like a Venture patrol could earn a letter in the past, and that the BSA used the same patch for this that’s used for the Varsity program. (I said in the past because it looks like a Venture patrol can no longer earn a letter.) I found examples of the requirements that a Venture patrol had to meet to earn the letter, but nothing recent, and nothing on an official BSA website (I also checked publications, including the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK). So, what is the uniform inspection sheet referring to when it talks about a venture letter? Is it still valid? Who can earn it, and what are the requirements?

Also, the GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA (page 31) states and shows that up to six merit badges can be worn on the right sleeve of a long-sleeve Scout uniform shirt, but this isn’t shown at all on the current uniform inspection sheet. In fact, I looked at uniform inspection sheets dated 2013, 2008, 2007 and 2000, and found that 2000 printing is the only one that showed merit badges on the sleeve. (There may have been other printings between 2000 and 2007 that showed it, but I only have access to the sheets listed above.) So is it still OK to wear merit badges on the sleeve, or is that a thing of the past? (Name & Council Withheld)

Stop! You’re gonna make yourself crazy!

If you go to you’ll find everything you need to know about Venture letters and how they’re earned, including a mix-up from some ten years ago.

As for merit badges on the sleeve of a long-sleeved Scout shirt, yes, they’re still legal. But here’s the deal: What Scout wears a long-sleeved uniform shirt anymore? Even in a troop I know in Anchorage, Alaska, they all wear short-sleeved shirts!
Dear Andy,

I have a question about “Scouting skills training” for my Scout son and who should do it/refresh it. I know he should have learned the skills from the older Scouts, but these Scouts just didn’t do a stellar job at training him properly in things like knot tying, map reading, or fire building, but he’s earned First Class rank anyway. So I thought that, by this point, he should have known these skills well enough to at least do them, if not begin to pass them on to other younger Scouts. This deficiency kind of came to light at one of the meetings at his new troop, where they had a friendly knot tying relay race. My son struggled a lot, to say the least. At another youth group (not Scouts) outing, there was a fire building competition, and he really couldn’t start a fire to save his life! I felt badly for him, and he was frustrated at himself to the point of tears, because he couldn’t do what his Scout rank expected him to know how to do.
Is there anything I, as his father, should be doing here? I realize that it’s a Scout-driven organization, but at what point do I step in and help to “retrain” him? I guess I could help him out to reinforce the concepts during the weekend, but some of these concepts are better taught by other Scouts (you know the “Dad knows NOTHING” dynamics between many fathers and sons). I could also sense that he may be embarrassed to ask for help in his troop and feel that they may question him how he got this far without knowing some of these skills. I’d like to help him, but without getting in the way of the Scouting method. Any thoughts that might help both of us? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m going to give you two answers. Either or both can be used (both is better!)…

If you wanted to get good at a sport, what would you do? Easy: You’d practice and keep practicing till you’re proficient. Then you’d practice some more, so that “body-and-muscle memory” gets in the groove and you can perform the skills without really thinking about them—you just do them. Scouting’s pretty much the same. We learn the skill of fire-building, then we practice it again and again till it’s pretty much automatic and we can do it even when the situation’s different. How do we “practice” Scouting skills? Simple: We go hiking and camping! Again and again. And, just like a sport, we go hiking and camping again and again because it’s fun, it feels good, and our feelings of personal competence and confidence increase each time we do it.

In a perfect world, Scouting’s not about tying knots in troop meeting “classes”—it’s all about getting out there and doing it! Yeah, we may mess up, but so what? Even Peyton and Eli don’t throw perfect passes every single time. Scouting’s a safe place to make mistakes…and learn from them. But this only happens in active troops and patrols that GET OUT THERE!

Want to help your son hone his Scouting skills? Simple: Go hiking and camping and canoeing and such with him. That’s right: Just you two. And, while you’re at it, don’t “teach” him. Instead, just do it with him or—better yet—ask him to take the lead. If he asks for help, great. If he doesn’t, that’s great, too! But, whatever you do, do it for the fun of it; not to “go learn something.”

If Scouting’s not fun, it’s just not worth doing. But…when it is fun, there’s no better life for a boy…or a son and his dad!

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. 510 – 12/13/2016 – 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.