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Issue 534 – June 6, 2017

Hi Andy,

I’d like to help Scoutmaster Kociemba, who was having problems securing a Unit Commissioner for his troop. I’ve forwarded a link to your issue No. 533 to our Council Commissioner, who has tasked the appropriate District Commissioner to get on this. So, I’m hoping he’ll soon get the support he’s looking for.

This really hit home, because, in our council, our recently adopted mantra for all Unit Commissioners is:
– Inspire the unit leaders to provide the best possible program for their Scouts.
– Coach the unit leaders on how to do this.
– Connect the unit leaders with the resources they need.

Our District Commissioners are tasked with supporting the UCs by:
– Inspire the UCs to provide the best possible unit service, and put the best UCs with the units that need help the most.
– Coach the UCs in how to provide quality unit service.
– Connect the UCs with the resources they need to help units solve problems.

Keep up the great work! (Bob Elliott, Assistant Council Commissioner, Northern Star Council, MN)

What a simple, specific, succinct, and spirit-lifting “mantra”! Thanks for being a loyal reader and for making the time to share these new initiatives!
Dear Andy,

I’ve been looking over the service hours for our Scouts and have a question…

Tenderfoot through First Class ranks state the specific number of hours needed: Tenderfoot, 1 hour; Second Class, 2 hours; and First Class, 3 hours—but these 3 hours, it says, can’t be for the same project(s) used for Tenderfoot and Second Class. So if a Scout helps out at, let’s say, a soup kitchen for Tenderfoot, he can’t this towards First Class later on? Is this correct?

Further up the line, Star rank says, “While a First Class Scout, participate in 6 hours of service through one or more service projects.” Does this mean the Scout needs to have his First Class board of review completed in order for the service time for Star to start counting, or can it start while he’s still working towards First Class? And what about a situation where the Scout has completed his 3 hours of service for First Class but hasn’t had his review yet… Can he start on service hours for Star? Thanks! (John Burnham)

Yes indeed, First Class req. 9d states that the 3 hours of Scoutmaster-approved service must be for projects different from what a Scout did for Tenderfoot (req. 7b) and Second Class (req. 8e). And, moving along, for Star rank, req. 4 specifically states, “WHILE A FIRST CLASS SCOUT…” and for Life, req. 4 similarly states, “WHILE A STAR SCOUT…”

So, for Star and Life, it’s crystal-clear: A Scout can’t be credited with time devoted to service until he’s officially the rank immediately before, which means his board of review for that previous rank has been completed successfully.

First Class requirements in this department are silent on the “While a…” aspect, and that’s because the BSA permits Scouts to complete any of the requirements for these three ranks in any order. This means that, once a Scout has completed the 3 hours required for Tenderfoot and Second Class he can, according to the BSA, begin actively completing the 3 service hours required for First Class, so long as these are different from the kinds of service he carried out for the previous two ranks. Got it? Okay!
Hi Andy,

My son’s ditty bag, which contained his handbook and all the blue cards for merit badges he’d been working on but hadn’t yet completed, mysteriously disappeared (Lost? Stolen? Who knows?). In trying to re-build his advancement trail, it was easy to replicate the dates and signatures in a new handbook, using the troop’s own advancement records. Same with “blue cards” for merit badges he’d already completed. But partially completed merit badges (and blue cards) aren’t so easy, especially when all but three of these were from summer camp last year. Now, with summer camp staff gone back to college or the workplace, there are no counselors who can be easily contacted who might remember my son and what he’d done before leaving camp.

As his father, I’ve made it a point to always enter his advancement data into “Scoutbook,” the free advancement tracking app the BSA offers, so we have records of what requirements he’s completed and on what dates. Can this suffice when he goes to a local Merit Badge Counselor to finish off these merit badges? Or should his Scoutmaster sign new blue cards and then indicate the completed requirements, with a personal note to the local counselor? (Hank Eisenstein)

Partials can be slightly tricky. If your son’s counselors from summer camp kept contemporaneous records of what requirements he’d completed, your council service center may have records from the summer. If not, then your own plan should be just fine. No Scout should ever be expected (or compelled) to repeat a requirement he’s legitimately already done, with few if any exceptions (for instance, as a Lifesaving MBC and former BSA Aquatics Director, at a minimum I’d want to be certain a Scout can indeed complete the BSA Swimmer Test plus req. 1b, and can converse intelligently about the BSA’s Safe Swim Defense before providing a blanket “sign-off”), and so, on the simple basis of Scout’s honor, I think your son will be just fine in visiting with a counselor and describing what he’s already accomplished. And a note from you and his Scoutmaster certainly can’t hurt!

Of course for the future, I’d recommend showing your son how to keep his own records, for himself (better he becomes self-reliant in this regard—it’s an important “life-skill”).
Hi Andy,

Recently, I was asked about the requirements for the Arrow of Light. I figured this would be easy. Nope! It was a new one for me. One of the requirements is that the boy be active in his den for six months after completing the fourth grade or for six months after becoming ten years old. The question is, how is this handled when the boy is home-schooled? His mother tells me that he finished the fourth grade of his homeschooling last fall, and we’re just past the six-month mark on that, but I’m not sure he’s 10 yet. At first blush, it seems to me that whatever the parent tells you about their son’s homeschooling education should be sufficient. So I’m not sure if transcripts should be checked and I certainly don’t know what would happen if these don’t jibe with the parent’s statement. If you have any thoughts on how this should be handled, I’m all ears! (Robert McLemore, District Commissioner, Capitol Area Council, TX)

Let’s make this one easy… Think Scout’s honor!

I definitely agree that if a boy’s parent tells me he’s in such-and-such a grade level, then that’s that. (Besides, I’ve never found it profitable to pick a fight with Mom )
Hi Andy,

In our troop locker that we’re slowly cleaning out, we have lots of ancient (some at least six years old or more) “stubs” from merit badge blue cards in a file cabinet, and we’re wondering just how long we should be holding onto these. Our Scoutmaster wanted to keep everything, “just in case,” but is this realistic? (John)

A unit’s merit badge stubs (the “unit” segment—one of three segments) are only needed before the troop files an advancement report with the council service center; after that documentation, they’re no longer needed. Plus, keep in mind that the other two segments are kept (a) by each Scout and (b) by their merit badge counselors.

Once a Scout has “aged out,” you might want to offer him the unit stubs for his merit badges and such, but it’s more than likely he’ll decline, because he already has his segments, or because he’s simply “moving on.”

At this point, I’d say it’s pretty safe to use “File 13” for extraneous or duplicate papers.
Hello Andy,

I need to know if standing in patrols during the troop meeting is a BSA rule or stipulation. Our troop—which I’ve been variously involved with since 1995—has been doing this for the last two dozen or so years, but I have a feeling it’s more in the “we’ve always done it this way” category, even though nobody knows why it ever got started in the first place. Others think it’s a “this is the way the BSA wants it” thing, including new parents, who think this is the only way a troop meeting can be held. Over the years, however, I’ve seen other troops. Yes, they all stand for the opening flag ceremony, but then they sit down. Is there one correct way? Can you shed some light on this, for me and for our troop? (Patricia Smith)

Patrols staying together during troop meetings is definitely a good idea, but standing for the entire duration of a troop meeting is definitely, positively, not in any BSA literature, handbook, guidebook, or training manual, or training course I’ve ever seen…and while I haven’t seen everything, I’ve seen a lot.

Does anyone associated with your troop read “Scouting” magazine, or spent any time reading their son’s Scout Handbook, or attended a local District Roundtable? Start with these, and if you can find any photographs that suggest a troop of Scouts has stood through an entire troop meeting without some specific reason for doing this beyond the “always done it” thing, please let me know. In the meantime, get some chairs. Please!<insert smiling emoji here>

Think about it… Scouts will sit, stand, lie down, or run around based on what’s going on at the time. Reviewing what requirements remain to be signed off for their next rank, it seems pretty obvious they’d be sitting. Opening and closing ceremonies would be conducted while standing, equally obviously. Running around happens during the intra-patrol games portion of the meeting. And lying down would happen while learning or reviewing certain First Aid/rescue techniques.

To stand for the entire 90-minute (on average) troop meeting seems like an exercise in preserving some draconian ritual that needs to go the way of broadswords, pikes, and… leg irons <insert grinning emoji here>

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. 534 – 6/6/2017 – 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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