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Issue 515 – January 24, 2017

Hello Andy,

Our troop is looking to do a service project that will require using power tools, possibly including miter saw, table saw, electric drills, and maybe something else we haven’t thought of yet. I’m trying to find BSA information on whether Boy Scouts (ages 10-18) can use equipment like these with adult supervision, but haven’t been successful yet. Can you help us out? Can Scouts use these types of tools? (Kurt Schultz, SM, Michigan Crossroads Council)

Thanks to our friend, “Bryan on Scouting,” there’s an excellent—both comprehensive and specific—list of what youth ages can use which tools can be found here:

So, for the project you all have in mind, it seems to me you have three options:

1 – Dad-and-son “buddies” can team up, off-site, one team cutting with a miter saw, another using an electric drill, a third team using a table saw…assuming, of course, that each parent owns and regularly uses each of these; then bring everything together for on-site assembly.

2 – Buy and use “kits” (e.g., ready-to-assemble, pre-cut, pre-drilled picnic tables), so that no power tools are needed.

3 – Put your heads together with the Scouts and figure out how to do all the necessary cutting and drilling using age-appropriate hand tools.

For me, I’d opt for option 3, followed by 2, and then 1 as a “last resort.”

The one option I’ve deliberately omitted is for the parents to do all the cutting and drilling, and then the Scouts handle the assembly. That’s because, although this could be a good “team effort,” it means that the parents have the fun and the Scouts just “finish up.”
Hi Andy,

I’m noticing an interesting quirk when it comes to flag ceremonies: For BSA units, there should be no such thing as a “color guard;” it correctly should be a “flag detail.”

“Color guard” is a military term for an assembly that guards the colors—in other words, a unit armed with either swords or guns to literally guard the colors. Since BSA policy forbids the carrying of arms, there really can’t be BSA “color guards.” This is in part muddied by habitual unchecked usage but also in part muddied by the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, which, when describing a flag ceremony, uses the term “color guard.”

I’ve researched this with the best that Google and Wikipedia have to offer. I’ve also spoken with current and former military personnel. The one thing that’s definitive is that a color guard is armed in some way. The question here, I guess, is: Am I being an old fuddy-duddy who’s hung up on vocabulary? This may be one of those things that are just so ingrained in the lingo that it’s impossible to change. (James Flynn, Mecklenburg County Council, NC)

Although the BSA introduced an “Honor Guard” patch (Supply No. 621029) in 2015, it’s neither a “position of responsibility” badge nor worn on the left sleeve, but it’s, of course, as incorrect as those silly and superfluous (IMHO) “Totin’ Chip” and “Firem’n Chit” flap-type patches that inevitably get sewn on Scouts’ front pocket flaps even though they’re designated “not for uniform wear.” Fortunately, neither “honor guard” nor “color guard” appears in the 12th Edition BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK (I haven’t checked out the 13th Edition yet). Interestingly (again per the 12th Edition), this term isn’t used in any rank requirement: Tenderfoot 7a.: “Demonstrate how to display, raise, lower, and fold the U.S. flag”; Second Class 8a.: “Participate in a flag ceremony for your school, religious institution, chartered organization, community, or Scouting activity.”

I’ve done research similar to yours; I agree 110% that, for Scouting, “color guard” is inappropriate terminology and that “color detail” is correct and works just fine. So, if you’re a fuddy-duddy, then so am I!

The good news is that it’s not impossible to change. Yes, it’s a sticky habit to break, but we’ve done it here, with all of the units I actively serve as Commissioner, and also at council-level events for which I’ve been able to educate and convert the “script-writers”!

Interestingly, now that we’ve been able to fix the front-end of the flag detail’s ceremony, we now have the back-end to work on… There seems to be a fixation on “retreating” the colors at the close of an event or meeting, instead of saying, “Flag detail, retire the colors.”

There’s also another weird one I heard used just the other night. After the U.S. Flag had been saluted and the Pledge of Allegiance completed, the Scout in charge said (ya can’t make this stuff up!), “Flag detail, retreat” instead of “Flag detail, dismissed.” Go figure!
Hello Andy,

We’re hoping you can give us some guidance here… When our long-time chartered organization (aka “CO”) chose to no longer sponsor our pack and troop, we sought a replacement and a local civic group happily agreed to sponsor both units. Subsequently, key representatives of the pack and the troop met with the officers of our new CO and we filled out all the appropriate documents and got all signatures for our new charters. Along with the Chartered Partner Agreement, the applications for all brand-new youth and adult members (with the new adults’ YPT certifications—existing adult volunteers’ YPT records were already on file at the service center) were reviewed once more and then given to our council service center for processing. Delivery was in December 2016. In early January I spoke with our council’s registrar, who informed me that both our units’ numbers must be changed, but that everything else is A-Okay. Then, just the other day, I received an email message from our District Executive telling me that because the chartered partner changed both the pack and the troop need to have all members—youth and adult—fill out new BSA applications. Obviously, there’s been push-back, because this seems to be unnecessary and redundant make-work that has no value-added except to be a nuisance. Try as we might, we can’t find any BSA policy for or against this; it simply seems ridiculous. (Name & Council Withheld)

According to the registrar in my own council, the standard procedure when a unit or units change chartered organizations is:

1) Current CO puts in writing to the council that it is releasing the unit number(s).
2) The new CO completes and signs the council’s Chartered Partner Agreement.
3) The unit’s adult volunteers complete and sign the New Unit Application.
4) The council registers the new unit(s) and all adult and youth members, using the original unit number(s), under the aegis of the new chartered organization.

Notice that, so long as the resigning CO releases the unit number(s), there’s absolutely no need to change number(s).

Further, it is absolutely not necessary for anyone—adult or youth—to fill out new membership applications, and that’s because the unit itself is moving, intact, from one CO to the next. The only change is at the CO level, and the chartered partner agreement lists the name and address of the new CO and the new CO’s executive officer.

DE’s are in the main quite knowledgeable, but the person you all really want to continue working with on this is your council’s registrar. If you get road-blocked by anyone, go straight to your council’s Scout Executive.
Hey Andy,

Has the “Beat of the Drum” Cub Scout elective—specifically the “attend an Order of the Arrow dance”—ever been mandatory to achieve Bear rank, or is this just an elective? I’m asking because our district’s Order of the Arrow chapter’s dance team is going all over the council putting on an American Indian dance program because they believe that this is somehow required. While our Arrowmen enjoy doing this, it’s taking a lot of time away from other chapter and lodge activities, such as elections. (Wayne Jacobson)

To earn the Bear rank, the Cub Scout will complete seven “adventures,” of which six are required and one is elective. The “Beat Of The Drum” adventure isn’t among the required six; it’s an elective among 13 available adventures. This particular adventure has eight specific requirements, among which is, as you state, “Visit an Order of the Arrow dance ceremony or American Indian event within your community.”

One simple and actually broader way to help Bear dens with this one particular elective (if they’ve chosen this particular adventure to complete), would be for an OA dance team to schedule a dance ceremony at a central location in the council perhaps a couple of times a year, and ask the lodge and council to promote it and secure sign-ups.

Beyond this, and from a practical, best-use-of-time perspective, it seems hardly necessary to go “all over the council” with such performances when the odds are 1-in-13 that this particular adventure will have been selected by a Bear den. However, if the lodge’s dance team really enjoys this, and they have the time and means to travel throughout the council to do this, then, from the standpoint of fun and involvement, it would seem perfectly fine to proceed. Moreover, since the lodge has multiple chapters, it’s not impossible to create chapter-based dance teams that could more easily serve their respective districts. This might, in fact, entice more Arrowmen to get more deeply involved in OA activities (which ultimately leads to lengthening a young man’s Scouting involvement!).

A lodge’s active and outreach-focused election team (or teams in the case of chapters) is critical to the overall success of Boy Scouting; however, a different set of skills and availability at a single, specific time of year (i.e., “OA Election season”) are required here, whereas dance team Arrowmen can practice and perform year-round. Moreover, an Arrowman’s interests may not lie in the realm occupied by dance teams, but he’d be perfectly happy to be a member of an election team that visits all troops in his nearby area once a year! So, rather than there being a “conflict” here, it’s possible that these two initiatives can complement one another and keep more Scouts in Scouting longer!

And one further thought… While it may be fun for a dance team to perform for Cub Scouts at a pack meeting, it’s important, I believe, to remember that while such a performance may be entertaining and help a den that’s chosen “Beat Of The Drum” as an adventure elective to “knock off a requirement,” when this is delivered out of context (there are seven other “immersion-type” requirements that lead to the completion of this adventure) it doesn’t necessarily add to Cubs’ understanding of the American Indian heritage and culture… It can become simply a performance to be watched, and then move on.

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. 515 – 1/24/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2017]


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.

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