Author Avatar

Issue 518 – February 14, 2017

Dear Andy,

One of the participants in our Wood Badge course asked for some advice with a particularly challenging Scout. This young man’s parents are regularly in and out of jail; he’s largely cared for by his grandparents. Apparently prone to ADHD, his need is to be the center of attention; he instigates other Scouts to follow his lead, which usually leads to getting in trouble of one sort or another. Recently, he encouraged other Scouts to wear moss as wigs. On another occasion, he took off his shirt and rolled in the grass until he was covered with chigger bites. A more senior Scout has been appointed as his mentor, but this hasn’t resolved the problem. Any ideas or suggestions? (Brian Godsy, Greater Alabama Council)

I understand the problem… First questions: Is this Scout in a patrol and does the troop use The Patrol Method? If not, then this is the first thing that needs to be put in place. If he’s in a patrol, then I think a three-way conversation between the Scoutmaster, the Senior Patrol Leader, and this Scout’s own Patrol Leader (but not the Scout himself, yet) needs to happen. Put the issue on the table—it’s the “elephant in the kitchen” until these key three are willing to discuss it openly. See if the two youth leaders can come up with a possible solution. Maybe it’s giving this Scout one or more specific responsibilities that are within his capabilities and at the same time will “stretch” him a bit.

Keep in mind that moss-as-a-wig is more goofy than actually damaging, and rolling around in chigger territory—pretty dumb though it may be—provides a lesson all its own! So, for instance, maybe he needs to be the troop’s “morale officer” who is challenged to come up with silly but harmless ideas that let these boys be boys and not “perfect little Scouts” (of course, any ideas would be need to be “cleared” by his Patrol Leader beforehand and, if the Patrol Leader is dubious, then he consults with the Senior Patrol Leader, with the Scoutmaster in the background for consultation if needed).

One thing I’d stop doing right away is assigning a “babysitter” to him—That’s unfair to the babysitter and will be completely transparent to the “problem Scout”—who may not be such a problem if his energy can be channeled!

(Rule No. 101: When you spot a “misguided missile,” your job is to catch hold of it and redirect it for a positive result.)
Hi Andy,

For our pack, I have two questions about advancement…

First, with the modifications to the Cub Scout Program (effective November 30, 2016), I’m wondering about the timing for revisions to each of the Cub Handbooks.

Second, will the new Webelos Handbook’s cover also reference that this handbook is for both Webelos and Arrow of Light (since the ranks were separated as of June 1, 2015)?

I’ve tried to find the answers to these at, but may have missed where to find them. Can you help? Stephanie Oslik, Pack Advancement Chair, Orange County Council, CA)

Here’s a great website for answers, thanks to our friend Bryan Wendell of “Bryan on Scouting”: to FAQs about the Cub Scout modifications
Hi Andy

In one of your columns a couple of years ago, you pointed out that, for Second Class and First Class ranks, participation in patrol and troop activities (including camping nights) are cumulative “since joining the troop,” based on the actual language of the respective requirements. Has this changed with the new requirements book that came out in 2016?

I’m asking about this because our troop has an advancement chair who is absolutely refusing to consider the “since joining” aspect, instead insisting that “separate events” means separate from Tenderfoot to Second Class and Second Class to First Class. Consequently, he’s insisting that the Scouts attend a total of nine campouts between the two ranks and, when confronted, his blanket statement is, “This is my decision and I’ve made it.”

To get an authoritative answer, I called the BSA National Office in Irving, Texas. But I’ve been given two different answers. In my first phone call, the answer was specifically that all activities for Second Class and the First Class are cumulative since the boy joined the troop and became a Scout. But, earlier today, a young man who identified himself as a “service agent” told me that “cumulative” effectively means “double-dipping” and so nine total camping nights among the activities are required. And when I asked him to transfer me to “someone in advancement,” he refused to do this (so I hung up, more confused than before).

Why can’t BSA advancement people just define these requirements as cumulative, or not, as the case may be?

If you don’t personally respond to emails, can you let me know if you plan to reply on your website, so I may use any information to advocate for the Scouts? It’s very perplexing to me that there’s this kind of inconsistency. (Concerned/Confused Scout Parent)

Yup, I do personally reply to every single comment and question sent my way, and I’ve been doing this since 2001.

First, about the young man in the BSA’s national office Dallas whom you spoke with… Unless he has a direct connection to the BSA National Advancement Team, he has no foundation to make any statement, or draw any conclusion, about requirements for ranks or merit badges or anything else advancement-related. The people you need to speak with are the BSA Advancement Team, whom I’ve copied here.

As far as the activity requirements for Second Class (1a) and First Class (1a) ranks are concerned, “since joining” needs no “interpretation” and obviously means we count from the day the boy became a Scout when he joined his troop. Then, understanding that Tenderfoot req. 1b asks the Scout to camp overnight on a patrol or troop campout, Second Class (1a) asks for a total of three campouts since joining, and First Class (1a) asks for a total of six campouts since joining, then six is the obvious total number of campouts necessary. It’s not nine; it’s not ten: It’s six, and here’s how it’s done:

Tenderfoot: 1 campout.
Second Class: 2 more plus the first one = 3 campouts, minimum on attaining this rank.
First Class: 3 more plus the 3 from Tenderfoot and Second Class = 6. DONE! Now, on to lots more campouts and adventures!!!

Of course, the requirements ask for more participation than just campouts beyond troop and patrol meetings, but it’s not mandatory that the other activities be campouts…They can be day-hikes, trips to a historical site or a museum, a patrol or troop community service project, participation in Scout Sunday/Sabbath, and so on…

I hope this helps; however, I’ll caution you that while I’m a working commissioner, I’m not presently a member of my district’s or my council’s advancement committee. So, when you receive word back from the BSA’s Advancement Team, that’s what you should consider “gospel.”

In the meanwhile, it can tell you that troop “advancement chairs” absolutely do not have the authority to personally “interpret” requirements. So unless this martinet is prepared to abide by BSA policies, he’s the wrong guy in the wrong place, and we know what should happen next.

Thanks, Andy! But now things have taken a worse turn… Our son’s patrol, as a group, participated in two merit badge nights of substantial duration with a local Merit Badge Counselor. The patrol submitted this information, so that these would count as a patrol activity, but the advancement chair didn’t accept this and wouldn’t record it because not all patrol members were able to attend (he insists that such activities don’t count unless the entire patrol is present). He’s also refusing to count a patrol flag ceremony for a local organization, for the same reason. I have to say that, at this point, our frustration level is through the roof, and we’re considering pulling our son out of this troop! (C/CSP)

After a few days, word did indeed come back from the Advancement Team, and ths good news is that it fully supported the key issues involved…


Thank you for your email and your questions. I will try and address the issue you stated.

Second Class 1a – “since joining” means once he has registered as a Boy Scout. It also says to participate in five separate troop/patrol activities. The two merit badge nights you mentioned was a patrol activity and should be counted as such.

The Guide to Advancement is the policy and procedure publication. When it states “must” and “shall,” it’s a mandate. You’ll find this on page 2 of the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT along with “Unauthorized Changes to the Advancement Program.” You should direct these issues to your unit’s committee chair so he or she can counsel the advancement chair. You may also contact your chartered organizational representative or the district’s advancement chair. This person is clearly not adhering to the policies. It is also stated in the guide that requirements must be completed as written.

While I can quote policy, I cannot intervene with a unit, district, or council. I can only advise and counsel. It is up to the local unit/district/council to enforce and uphold national policy. If a volunteer dismisses the policies and wants to do their own thing, the appropriate entity has the authority to train or remove this person.

I hope this helps you. If you should have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. (Michael J. Lo Vecchio, BSA Program–Advancement Specialist)

Sincere THANKS to Mr. Lo Vecchio for weighing in on this!

Here’s something else that might help your Committee Chair in counseling the troop’s advancement coordinator… It’s the BSA-provided job description, which I’ve edited only for brevity and added some boldface to highlight the verbs used (note that no verb in this job description involves requirement decision-making; all are in the help and support arena):

Unit advancement coordinators…support the unit’s advancement program, to maximize rank achievement, and…facilitate a smooth implementation of the process:
– Know and understand the advancement procedures for the Boy Scout program.
– Support and facilitate the Scoutmaster’s vision for advancement, providing consultation on the policies and procedures in the Guide to Advancement.
– Assist the Scoutmaster in establishing practices that will provide opportunities for each new Scout to achieve First Class rank within 12 to 18 months of joining, and Star rank soon thereafter.
– Arrange for timely boards of review and see that Scouts ready for them are invited.
– Maintain advancement records and submit reports to the unit committee; use the BSA’s Internet portal to report advancement the council.
– Obtain necessary badges and certificates, and arrange for timely presentation.
– Help plan, facilitate, or conduct advancement ceremonies; schedule and support regular courts of honor.
– Educate parents and committee members on appropriate methods to stimulate and encourage advancement.
– Keep a current and accessible copy of the district or council Merit Badge Counselor list.
– Maintain a library of advancement literature, such as merit badge pamphlets and the annual Boy Scout Requirements book.
– Learn about other BSA awards and recognition opportunities helpful in delivering a well-rounded advancement program.

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. 518 – 2/14/2017 – 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.

Read Andy's full biography

Follow Andy

Subscribe via email or RSS and follow via social media.

Comments are closed.