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Issue 536 – July 5, 2017

Hey Andy,

At a recent meeting, our council advancement committee announced a “Scout Night” overnight campout at our local minor league baseball field. This campout was posted on our council’s website as available to all Scouts, Cubs, Venturers, and families in the council. One of the advancement committee members pointed out that this could be a great way for any Boy Scout to add two camping nights to his “resume,” for either rank or the Camping merit badge. I volunteered to take the lead and promote this in our troop, but then our Scoutmaster said that in order for this to be considered a “Scouting activity,” a trained adult leader needed to be there, too.

Why, if our council is promoting this, and the council advancement committee is saying that the nights would “count,” would our Scoutmaster be insisting that it’s “not authorized”? If our council is behind this, wouldn’t it automatically be a “designated Scouting activity,” as in the language of the Camping merit badge requirement: “…under the stars, in a tent, at any designated Scouting activity”? Can you offer any guidance here? (Name & Council Withheld)

It seems as if the council’s advancement folks need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with that Scoutmaster. In short, he’s all wet.

Since this “Scouting night” is a council-authorized overnight camping event, it absolutely qualifies for Camping merit badge. To look at the details, Camping merit badge req. 9 states, as you quoted: “Camp…at designated Scouting activities or events.”

As to why this Scoutmaster is forbidding this, I can only guess, and my guess is that he’s exceeding his authority because he’s somewhere in the “control freak” category or the “I’m more important than both the BSA and the Scouts I’m supposed to be serving and encouraging” category…or both.

Ask your contacts at the council level to weigh in on this, and don’t waste one more moment!
Hi Andy,

At a council campout last weekend, an Assistant Scoutmaster (there were no other adults) took a hike of a bit less than an hour with four Scouts from his troop. Although the Scoutmaster and others knew they were going on this hike, should another adult gone along, to satisfy the “2-Deep Leadership” rule?

The Scoutmaster later said that since at least at least one Scout was above First Class rank, this would cover the “2-Deep” rule, but that’s not how I understand the way either “Youth Protection” or 2 Deep Leadership works. Can you help set us straight on this? (David Weissman)

The BSA’s GTSS does state that “a minimum of two registered adult(s)…are required for all trips and outings;” however, it then goes on to state this: “With proper training, guidance, and approval by troop leaders, (a) patrol can conduct day hikes.”

So a “patrol” of four Scouts, properly trained and guided (i.e., mentored; not necessarily “accompanied”), and with adult leader approval is definitely permitted to take a short day hike such as you’ve described…even had it been without that Assistant Scoutmaster.

I might add that this situation is perfect for cellphones (or, if coverage is weak, two-way radios or Walkies). At a rule-of-thumb average pace of 3 mph, a half-hour outbound would put these Scouts no more than about 1.5 miles from the campsite—certainly a reasonable distance for cellphones or Walkie-Talkies to work sufficiently.

That said, one more point: The notion that a First Class (or higher rank) Scout can “substitute” for an adult leader is definitely incorrect.
Dear Andy,

I was just asked about the requirements for Arrow of Light, which I figured would be easy. Nope! It was a new one for me. One of the requirements is that the Scout be active in his den for six months after completing the fourth grade, or for six months after becoming ten years old. The question was how to handle it if the Scout is home-schooled. This particular Scout apparently finished the fourth grade of his home-schooling a whole bunch of months ago. I’m not sure he’s 10 yet, but my initial blush is that whatever the parent tells us regarding their son’s education level as a home-schooled student should be sufficient. I’m not sure if anyone should check transcripts and don’t even know what that would look like if this were done. Do you have any thoughts on how this should be handled? (Robert McLemore, DC,
Capitol Area Council, TX)

Let’s make this easy… Think “Scout’s honor”! I definitely agree that if a Scout’s parent tells me he’s in (or completed) 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,

I get it that the BSA exists to help turn boys into self-sufficient and responsible young men and leaders, and that all the other “stuff” (camping, knots, etc.) is a vehicle to help them get there.

Unfortunately, sometimes I feel an “us versus them” going on when it comes to National. I know that’s not healthy, but sometimes I feel that they’re just concerned about the numbers and not what’s going on at the unit level. Is there any truth behind this? (Joe Sefcik)

The overarching responsibility of “National,” as you call it (aka the BSA National Council and staff) has everything to do with providing programs that attract and retain youth, the National Council nothing directly to do with program delivery at the unit level, except in the dimensions of providing training syllabi and materials, handbooks and guidebooks, and ongoing education for the regions’ and councils’ professional staff, publishing Boy’s Life and Scouting magazines, etc.

Program delivery at the unit level is the responsibility (in this order) of: (1) the chartered organization through the CR, (2) the adult volunteers of that unit, (3) the district’s commissioner staff including roundtable commissioners, (4) the district’s program and training committees, and (5) the council’s program and training committees.

Think of McDonald’s. “Corporate” is responsible for the overarching marketing campaign, quality control is regionally overseen, and actual product delivery and customer satisfaction is the responsibility of each individual store. (This isn’t a perfect match-up, but it’s pretty darned close.)

So start by “thinking local”…and roll up your sleeves!
Hi Andy,

I’m with a Venturing crew, and I’m looking at some of the awards that can be earned. There are requirements for cooking, first aid, communication, and others, many of which are similar to merit badges that were earned for Boy Scout ranks, and such. Can these merit badges substitute for the requirements of awards like Ranger? (Ben Hayes)

If a Venturer has, as a Boy Scout, completed a merit badge for which one or more requirements precisely match a requirement for the Venturing Ranger Award, then he would certainly receive credit. The key is “precisely;” however, if the merit badge requirement exceeds the Ranger requirement (but otherwise matches up), then obviously that would count.

But there’s a cautionary consideration here. I recall a bit of a controversy some years back, when a Sea Scout ship wanted to award a female youth member with a Boy Scout merit badge because a requirement for the Sea Scout rank she was working toward said, “Complete all of the requirements for ‘xyz’ merit badge.” What had to be pointed out was that the Sea Scout requirement didn’t say “earn” the ‘xyz’ merit badge; it said, “Complete…the requirements for…”

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. 536 – 7/5/2017 – 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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