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Issue 529 – May 2, 2017

Hi Andy,

What’s the BSA policy for an adult leader to wear his actual Eagle Scout medal? The term, “formal occasions,” has come up on some websites. What’s considered a formal occasion in Boy Scouting? (McKay Dunn, CSLRTC/CM, Trapper Trails Council, UT)

Let’s start with this: Male, uniform-wearing BSA volunteers who earned Eagle Scout rank are entitled to always wear the Eagle “square knot” above the flap seam of their left shirt pocket. The oval Eagle pocket-badge is worn only by Boy Scouts and is removed and replaced by the square knot on one’s 18th birthday.

As for the medal, yes: It’s perfectly okay—and often recommended!—for anyone having earned Eagle to wear the medal, correctly either while in uniform or while in civilian attire (i.e., sport or suit jacket) at appropriate “formal” Scouting events, such as courts of honor, annual district or council meetings, etc. To determine appropriateness (or not), just ask the event hosts or coordinators.
Dear Andy,

As a parent who’s registered as a Merit Badge Counselor, may I counsel my own son? My preference would be that he works with a Merit Badge Counselor other than me, to facilitate the growth process and for interacting with other adults. But pickings for Merit Badge Counselors in our tiny council are exceedingly slim. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m happy to advise you that the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT addresses this exact issue: GTA Topic (page 47) says, “Approved counselors may work with…any member (i.e., Boy Scout), including their own son, ward, or relative.” I hope this makes you and your son happy, too!

To enhance your son’s experience, even while working with Dad, ask him to recruit a buddy from his troop and then the two of them can do it together, side-by-side!
Hi Andy,

When a boy moves to the US after having been members of the Scout program in the UK, and join a troop here, how do we deal with advancement and advancement requirements? Is there any mechanism for transferring the Scout’s completed advancement requirements from the UK system to BSA’s? Are there clear equivalences, or does the Scout have to start over in the BSA system? I was asked this by a fellow Scouter in my council because I was myself a Scout in the UK, and earned the Queen’s Scout Award. But that was in 1964, and I’ve been here in the US since 1988, so my knowledge of the UK system is now way out-of-date. Thanks for any advice or pointers you can provide. (Phil McHale, ASM, Pacific Skyline Council, CA)

Unless requirements match precisely, this is likely to not work out too well. That’s unfortunate, but that’s how it works. First, use a search engine to check out current Queen’s Scout requirements (and the awards that lead up to this high achievement). Following this, I’d recommend sitting down with the Scout reviewing what he’s done so far—in detail and ideally including the handbook he used, to find matches. At the same time, this in-bound Scout may be young enough so that it’s not really a burden to start with “Scout” rank and move on from there. It’s also worth checking in advance with the chair of your district’s advancement committee.
Hi Andy,

The rules for the Cyber Chip “recharge” aren’t clear to me. If a Scout earns the chip in 5th grade (under one set of requirements), then a year later, when he’s in 6th grade (with different requirements), does he “re-earn” the chip for the 6th grade level or does he just recharge his previously earned 5th grade chip by watching the 6th grade recharge video? (Justin Vickers)

Here’s what the BSA says: “All Cyber Chips will expire annually. Each Scout will need to “recharge” the chip by going back to the NetSmartz Recharge area. This space will hold new information, news, and a place for the Scout to recommit to net safety and netiquette. Then, with the unit leader, the Scout can add the new date to the Cyber Chip card or certificate.”

So there you have it. Happy Cybering!
Hi Andy,

We have a new troop with really young patrols. The BSA says that a troop is boy-led; however, if there are no experienced Scouts (e.g., Troop Guides), is it allowed for the Scoutmaster teach the Scouts how to lead so long as the EDGE method is used? I’m guessing it’ll probably take about six months while a young troop is Scoutmaster-led before becoming Scout-led. Is this acceptable? (Sergio Rodriguez)

Some years back, I was in a similar situation as Scoutmaster of a brand-new troop and brand-new Scouts. Any Scoutmaster in this situation may seem overwhelmed, but it’s not as big a problem as you might think. In the first place, there are no “bad habits” to contend with , and that’s good news! And don’t worry about not having Troop Guides…Just remember that the Scoutmaster’s primary (and most important) responsibility is to coach and train the elected leaders of the troop to manage themselves and plan for themselves. So, you begin with an elected Senior Patrol Leader and he’s the one you’ll coach the most. But the Patrol Leaders are elected, too, and you’ll be coaching them also, for a while. But not on “Scoutcraft skills”! They learn these from their handbooks! What you begin with is teaching them HOW TO LEAD and HOW TO TEACH! You explain and demonstrate the E.D.G.E. method first, perhaps using some simple example, like tying a bowline knot. But this is only to show the method; it’s not to teach the knot, per se. Next, the Patrol Leaders, under the guidance of the SPL, teach knot-tying to their patrol members. Then on to other Scout skills but ALWAYS with Scouts teaching Scouts!

For all troop meetings, definitely use the Troop Meeting Plan (, and the Patrol Leaders Council (the SPL and PLs, with a Scribe to take notes) decides—with your guidance—what will happen in each troop meeting.

For hikes and campouts, you’re the “information provider” (brochures, maps, etc.) but the PLC makes the decisions and the Patrol Leaders carry them out.

If you start out this way, instead of the “Scoutmaster-as-Den Leader-in-a-tan-shirt” you’ll be off to a great start!

Always keep this in mind: These Scouts will live up to your expectations and how you treat them! Treat them as competent and capable and they’ll respond! But treat them as “little boys who can’t think for themselves” and they’ll meet that expectation instead!

So enjoy the journey and be sure to use all the “tools” available to you, including the HANDBOOK FOR SCOUTMASTERS, and the handbooks for Senior Patrol Leaders and for Patrol Leaders, too!
Hi Andy,

We had a Scout who, by December 31, 2016, had all rank requirement sign-offs except his board of review, when the requirements officially changed over on January 1, 2017. We wondered what to do here, so I called the BSA National Office and was told this: “Simply stated, the policy is that, if the requirements (which includes the unit leader conference and board of review), for a rank weren’t completed by the end of 2016, then the Scout must complete any new, or new elements of, the rank requirements for 2017. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, that is the policy.” What now? (CW)

Despite what someone may have told you, the bottom line is that a board of review is absolutely not a “requirement.” Here are the citations, all from the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT-2015 Edition (the most current):

Topic “After he has met all requirements for a rank, the Scout meets with a board of review.”

Topic “After a Scout has completed the requirements for any rank or Eagle Palm, he appears before a board of review.”

Therefore, the BSA’s use of the language, “after he has met all requirements,” tells us plainly that the board of review is not among the requirements. So whoever who informed you otherwise is certainly—though likely unintentionally—mistaken.
Hey Andy,

Is it okay to let Cubs actually deploy a real fire extinguisher at a Cub Scout Fire Prevention-Home Safety event? (Paul Reins, Wolf DL, Tidewater Council, VA)

Some fire extinguishers are hand-held (about the size of a can of Right Guard deodorant) and others are the size of a Tiger Cub. Some fire prevention-home safety events have a member of the local fire department present; others might not. Some events are done by dens of six to eight Cubs, with supervision by the Den Leader (and maybe even a ADL to boot); others might be done on a “pack” basis. Some have Boy Scout Den Chiefs or Scouts who have earned Fire Safety merit badge, present. Some may have a Merit Badge Counselor for that merit badge present. Without knowing what’s what, I’m a bit at a loss to help you via this column. So here’s an alternative… You council has a risk management committee. Check with them and they should be able to help you out, including not only BSA safety guidelines but also anything you might need to know about local ordinances in your jurisdiction. Assuming this all works out, HAPPY SPRITZING!

Happy Scouting, Folks!


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. 529 – 5/2/2017 – 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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