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Issue 540 – August 15, 2017

Hi Andy,

Thanks to a great district committee and a marvelous nomination I hadn’t expected, I’ve recently received the District Award of Merit and, with it, my tenth “square knot.” But then, at our summer Roundtable, a long-time Scouting friend who scanned my uniform shirt pointed out to me that the BSA only allows a maximum of nine “square knots” to be worn, so I’d better decide which one I’m going to remove.

Before I start playing “Solomon” with these badges, I figured I should check with somebody else first, and that’s why this letter. What’s the deal here, Oh Wise One? Is my friend correct? If he is, this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. Why would the BSA create recognitions for BSA adult volunteers to earn or receive and then restrict wearing them? Can you set me straight? Thanks! (Glenn Watkins)

In a current BSA video, our National Commissioner Charles Dahlquist is seen in uniform, wearing—wait for it—ten square knots. Now, turn to page 61 in the BSA’s GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA (SKU614937), were you’ll find this statement in the paragraph on “Wearing medals and embroidered knots”: “…It is recommended that the number of knots (worn) be limited to…a total of nine.” (Note: “recommended”—not “mandatory.”)

As to why there’s even a “recommended” number, I’ll admit that this is way above my pay grade. It seems to me that this is about the same as telling a Scout there’s a maximum number of merit badges he can wear on his sash, like “only the 21 you earned on your way to Eagle.” Sound silly? Yup! So enjoy your tenth…and more as you continue to serve the youth of our nation. Happy Scouting!
Hi Andy,

Do you know of or have a chart with all the merit badges on it? I have a seamstress that does a lot of Scout uniforms and sashes, and sometimes she struggles with their orientation—particularly the merit badges. Thanks! (Rod Honeycutt, CC)

The BSA produced a full color poster titled “The Merits of Scouting” a while back that showed all merit badges. Maybe it’s still available:

Call to see if they’re still in stock. If not, just Google “merit badge poster” and then print your own from “Images” (since you’re using it purely to help a seamstress, I can’t see this violating copyright laws…but I say that as a layman, not an attorney).
Hi Andy,

Two questions here… Does a Scout need to have his Eagle Project Workbook completed and ready for his Eagle board of review, and must his application be filled out before he has his Unit Leader conference? Thanks! (Jeff Beiermann)

The BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT informs us that a Scoutmaster (aka “Unit Leader”) conference can take place at any time, and even multiple times; it’s not “required” to hold these conferences only after all other rank requirements have been completed. That said, it’s definitely not a bad idea, in the case of Eagle Scout rank, to wait until all other requirements are indeed completed, because this allows the Scout and his Scoutmaster/Unit Leader to briefly review the next steps to Eagle.

Directly related to this but often overlooked, a Scout doesn’t “pass” a conference; he simply has one. That’s because these conferences aren’t “tests” and a Scout doesn’t “go before” his Scoutmaster, as if such conferences were in any way judgmental in nature—they’re conversations that focus on support and encouragement!

So, to your specific questions…

– A Scout will definitely want to have his Eagle Scout Rank Application completed before his conference, because the Scoutmaster will want to sign it at the end of the conversation.

– The “Project Report” section of the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (Project Report Page C) should already have been signed as completed by both the beneficiary and the Scoutmaster, so it’s not “mandatory” that the Scout have this with him for the conference, but he’ll definitely have it as part of his board of review.

(As an interesting and important point in some instances, neither the Workbook nor the “Ambitions and Life Statement” need be completed prior to a Scout’s 18th birthday.)

One other thing to keep in mind about Eagle Service Projects and a Scout’s board of review: Far too often, the review centers on a lengthy discussion of the project—as if it were the single-most important requirement. It’s not. In fact, it’s simply one of some 125 rank requirements a Scout will have accomplished from the time he joined his troop, and this doesn’t count the many, many requirements for the 21 or more merit badges he earned along the trail to Eagle! So, folks, let’s concentrate on the “complete” Scout!
Dear Andy,

Was Vice President Mike Pence ever a Scout? Is he an Eagle Scout? (Don & Doris Riley)

Several online biographical statements state that our vice president was definitely a Cub Scout. (But, gotta say, he sure acts like an Eagle!)
Dear Andy,

I’ll soon join our district as a committee member. Up to now, I’ve been a Unit Commissioner. When I begin my new district committee assignments, do I need to remove anything from my shirt besides the Unit Commissioner badge (replacing it with a District Committee badge)? How about removing the Arrowhead Honor? Anything else? (Jim Trombla, Circle Ten Council, TX)

You’ve got it right… As a district committee member you’ll replace the UC and Arrowhead badges. (The Arrowhead is only worn when there’s a Commissioner [any kind] badge above it.)
Hi Andy,

I’m updating our troop’s JTE Award records for 2017, and I have a question: We have two Scouts who, in preparation for going to this year’s National Jamboree, participated in and completed the KODIAK Challenge, and earned the “Bear Claw” award. I’ve asked our District Executive if this would count toward our troop’s JTE Award. She said it wouldn’t because this is a Venturing award. So, if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate your “second opinion” on this…

Is the KODIAK Challenge strictly for Venturers, or is it available to Boy Scouts as well? And, if it is, can it be used as an advanced training course in the Patrol Method portion of the Troop JTE? (John Burnham)

Let’s first reaffirm this important ground-rule: I steadfastly resist offering “opinions.” What you find here 99% of the time is what the BSA has to say on the subjects I’m asked to tackle, and when I do provide an opinion, it’s always identified as just that.

First, that Kodiak “bear claw” is the symbol of completing the course; it’s not an “award,” like a rank or merit badge. That established, let’s take this point-by-point, per the BSA…

– Kodiak is absolutely available to Boy Scouts as well as Venturers (the application itself provides for this).

– The JTE (Program Measures #9 for troops) states, in part: “…and youth have the opportunity to participate in advanced training.”

– To be eligible for Kodiak, a youth—Scout or Venturer—will have completed ILS, NYLT, or NAYLE; thus Kodiak is indeed “advanced training.”

Based on these points, it certainly seems to me that the troop meets the “advanced training” criterion for the pertinent JTE section (i.e., Program Measures #9).

Thanks, Andy – I knew I could count on you! Now we just need to hold a Junior Leader training course in our troop, and we should be all set for that part of our JTE. If things fall in our favor we just might make Gold again! Thanks again and happy trails (John)

In “going for the gold,” you’ll be advancing the knowledge and skills of the Scouts you and your fellow volunteers have committed to serve, and it just doesn’t get better than that!

“The Scoutmaster’s most important responsibility is to train the Scouts so that they can run their own troop” (SM Handbook)
Hi Andy –

My neighbor and fellow troop committee member and I have just been invited to sit on an Eagle board of review. We’ve done lots of reviews for other ranks, but this will be our first time at the Eagle level and we have a couple of questions.

In our troop, for Tenderfoot through Life, review members from our committee show up wearing everything from tank tops to cargo shorts and flip-flops (which has always seemed a little odd to both of us). Is this okay for Eagle, too? Second, I’ve heard that there’s a lot of talk about the Scout’s service project. Is this what the review is all about? Thanks! (Milt and Burl, Davenport, IA)

In reverse order, we’ve addressed the focus-on-the-project aspect of Eagle reviews in this column, above. So let’s take a look at your first question…

When we hold boards of review for any rank, the Scout is usually expected to wear his complete and correct uniform. Even the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (Topic makes the point that “it is preferred that a Scout be in full field uniform for any board of review” (but goes on to state that this is definitely not mandatory and no Scout can be rejected on the basis of attire). This topic continues: “…the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance and dressed appropriately…for the milestone marked by this occasion.”

Let’s look at that last statement—“dressed appropriately”—and ask: If a Scout showed up in a tank top, cargoes, and flip-flops, would we be okay with this, or would our teeth start to itch? It strikes me, having sat on a bunch of Eagle boards of review, that if we’re asking the Scout to “dress appropriately,” we owe him the courtesy and respect of doing the same.

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Just to me at: 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. 540 – 8/15/2017 – 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

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