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Issue 531 – May 16, 2017

Thought for the Day…

“It’s easy to lead a group of Scouts who want to go where you’re leading them. The challenge is when they don’t want to head in that direction!” (Tim Donohue, Eagle Scout-April 12, 2017)
Dear Andy,

We have a Scout in our troop who we’ve been working with for years to help him participate in troop activities and advance through the ranks. He has a tough home-life, so we’ll even go so far as to arrange transportation for him, for troop hikes and campouts, and sometimes even to get to troop meetings. Once he reached Star rank, we assigned a special “coach” for him to help him continue to move forward. As he approached, and then passed, his 17th birthday, we redoubled our efforts to keep him on-track, but, despite this, his own commitment to getting to Life rank as quickly as possible began to waver. As he crept up on his 17-and-a-half milepost, our advancement coordinator both called and texted him, to encourage him to finish his last Life requirements. Well sure enough, this Scout did finish his Life requirements, and this was still before he was 17-1/2, so our AC scheduled a board of review for him the day before the drop-dead date, and let him know that we’re ready for him to be successful and have enough time to reach Eagle rank in six months’ time…but only if this review was held on the date scheduled.

We were all there: our advancement coordinator and three more committee members. But…where was our Scout? Turns out, he was a “no-show.” Yup…we received a text from him later that same evening, after we all waited for more than an hour and finally left and went home, that said he’d “forgotten” what time the review was scheduled for (even though this had been succinctly communicated to him just the day before) and by then it was too late for him to get to where we’d gathered (it was the normal troop meeting room, by the way—not exactly some unknown location!).

The very next evening, we re-gathered and this time our Scout was there; the review was successful and he became a Life Scout…one day short of six months before his 18th birthday: His 18th birthday is the same date—six months later—as his Life board of review date.

It looks like we’re stuck at this point, because this Scout is now at least a solid day short of the six months he needs for tenure and leadership. We’re all pretty distraught about this, particularly since he’d worked pretty hard to complete everything in time to have a full six months’ tenure. But we’ve come to realize that, despite our own valiant efforts on his behalf, responsibility for not hitting the necessary review date ultimately falls to this Scout, himself, and no one else.

Or is there something we’re missing here that might still help this Scout still cross the finish-line? If you have any ideas, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

Well, much as you all tried, it sure looks like this Scout, unfortunately, has shot himself in his own kneecap. Based on the dates you provided me, there are 181 days between his Life BOR and the day before his 18th birthday. So, no matter how it’s sliced and diced (calculated based on “average days in a month,” etc., etc.), he’s short. He’s at 5 months and 30 days, but he needs that one more day and he just doesn’t have it. Bummer, but in light of the way it happened, you all just can’t “save” him any more than you’ve already tried. He needed that review to be when it was first scheduled and he, well, blew it. It’s a darned shame, and it’s one heck of a life-lesson.

Don’t blame yourselves. He had it in his grasp but managed to pluck defeat from what would have been a victory. Time for everyone to move on…and keep in mind that there should be no embarrassment about being a Life Scout! This is, after all, the second-highest rank in all of American Scouting!
Hi Andy,

Our Scoutmaster is retiring. On his watch, our troop has doubled from around 16 Scouts to over 30! In brainstorming with our other adult troop volunteers, we’re concerned that the Scoutmaster’s present responsibilities may be just too much for one person, in light of personal and business schedules, and other non-Scouting demands. So we’re considering the idea of having two “co-Scoutmasters,” instead. Is there any precedent for this, or is it really contrary to Scouting’s aims, goals, or methods? Thanks for your input. (Name & Council Withheld)

Yup–Totally contrary. Doesn’t work. Even on aircraft (private, commercial, or military—doesn’t matter which) the “copilot” means ASSISTANT pilot. There are NEVER two “co-pilots” on a plane, just like there’s only one captain on a ship, and one Patrol Leader per patrol, and a single Senior Patrol Leader in a troop…and one Scoutmaster. Not convinced yet? Okay, ever seen two CEOs in a corporation? And besides, if this were okay with the BSA, wouldn’t there be a badge that said, “Co-Scoutmaster”?

So, now that I’ve beaten that to death , what to do…

How about keeping this simple by asking your two top candidates to choose between themselves which one will be the Scoutmaster and which one will be the first Assistant Scoutmaster? (The designated ASM takes over when the SM may not be available, but ultimately still “reports” to the SM.) I firmly believe you can make this work!
Hi Andy,

My son just completed his Scoutmaster conference for Eagle and the Scoutmaster denied his application for this rank—one day before my son’s 18th birthday. Apparently, according to my son, his Scoutmaster didn’t appreciate my son’s “lack of Scout spirit,” because, when asked, my son “revealed” that his “interest” wasn’t in “earning the badge” but, rather, in learning and enjoying the Scouting experience. As a result, his Scoutmaster didn’t “pass” him for his conference.

My son’s been in Scouting since he was seven years old—that’s quite literally a decade. In the past couple of years, as a junior and then senior, his high school academics and activities increased dramatically, and we’ve had some family issues that have been distractions, but, still and all, he still completed all of his other Eagle requirements before his 18th. It seems a darned shame that, here at the last minute, his own Scoutmaster would choose to bar him in this way. Is there anything that can be done at this point? (Name & Council Withheld)

First off, a “Scoutmaster conference” is not for the purpose of “approving” or “denying” a Scout his opportunity to progress to the rank of Eagle; your son’s Scoutmaster severely and completely inappropriately mis-used and exceeded his authority by using this conference in the manner he chose.

Plus, as far as I’m personally concerned, “learning and enjoying the Scout experience” is exactly what a youth-serving volunteer should be hoping for and working for! “Getting a badge” is hardly a reason to be or remain a Scout; this flies in the face of everything the BSA advancement method and process is in place to accomplish. I’d personally stand beside your son and defend his viewpoint in the face of all opposition!

Now, here’s some good news: Eagle Scout requirement 6 says, “…participate in a Scoutmaster conference.” It doesn’t say “pass” or “be approved by”—it says “participate,” and your son did that, and he was age 17 when it happened. This means that EVERY Eagle requirement has been fulfilled!

So here’s your next step… Go to this link:

There, download the BSA GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT and save it to file. Then go to Topic Section 8. Boards of Review and start reading. Focus specifically on Sub-Topic Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances.

Go straight to your district’s advancement committee chair, on behalf of your son, and describe exactly what you’ve described to me. If you hit a wall (which I believe will be highly unlikely) write to me again and we’ll go to Plan B: The Council Advancement Committee Chair. (Oh, yeah…there’s a Plan C as well, but I’m going to guess we won’t need to activate it.)
Dear Andy,

We’re having an Eagle ceremony for a Scout whose father died three years ago. This dad was active in the troop and came to almost every meeting. His son—understandably—floundered for a while, but bounced back and finished his Eagle. The family and the troop want to present the “Eagle Dad” pin in a way that celebrates his encouragement but is tasteful and doesn’t dampen the spirit of the court of honor as a whole. We’re hoping you might have some suggestions. Thanks! (Robin Weingart)

Congratulations to this Scout, and to your troop for your continuing support of this young man! As for that pin, there’s a basic principle I’ve tried to apply in such situations… When in doubt, ask the Scout. Give it a try, and I’ll bet you all reach a good decision—mutually!

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. 531 – 5/16/2017 – 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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