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Issue 543 – September 5, 2017

Just a heads-up… I’ll be traveling sans computer till September 22nd, so no columns on the 12th or 19th. But when I return I’ll be personally answering every letter and there will definitely be a new column on the 26th!


Hi Andy –

From your August 29th column, I found the term “third world general” hilarious and I aspire to be one someday! Enjoying your columns very much—thank you. (Donna)

Well, yeah…It’s pretty funny, until you consider how “offended” those generals are gonna be
Dear Andy,

I received an email today from one of our troop’s older Scouts, asking if it’s still possible for him to reach Eagle Scout rank. He’s 17 years old and will turn 18 on July 21, 2018. He’s a Star Scout and needs three merit badges for Life along with a 6-hour service project, time in a position of responsibility, and teaching an EDGE skill to some of the younger Scouts. In addition, he’ll need to complete these nine required merit badges (including three for Life rank): Camping, Cit-Community, Communication, Emergency Preparedness/Lifesaving, Environmental Science/Sustainability, Personal Fitness, Personal Management, Swimming/Cycling/Hiking, and Family Life.

So with his very short time-frame, is this doable and, if not, how do I tell him nicely that he has a very slim chance in making Eagle? He had been inactive for over a year and came back to attempt making it to Eagle. If he can’t make this happen, I’ll be emailing him, his father, and several members of the troop committee, to cover all my bases. (Scoutmaster, Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s tackle this in two parts: First, we’ll look at tenure; second, what needs to be accomplished…

With his 18th birthday on July 21, 2018, this Scout will need to have his Life rank board of review absolutely no later than January 21, 2018 or he won’t have the required six months of tenure-in-rank. This means that he needs to have had his Star rank board of review on or before July 21 this year, in order to qualify for Star-to-Life tenure-in-rank. Anything less than these two dates means he won’t meet the tenure requirements for Life and, ultimately, Eagle.

But even if this happens, there’s no reason to stop learning and doing: he absolutely shouldn’t “abandon” further advancement, acquiring new merit badges, service to others, camping and other outdoor activities, or active participation. It simply means he’ll likely come to the conclusion of his Boy Scout experience as a Life Scout—which is nothing to be sneezed at! (Using the military for comparison, this would be akin to retiring as a Colonel instead of General…and there are an awful lot of very solid retired Colonels out there! In business, it’s like retiring as a COO instead of CEO, which would still be considered a fabulous career!)

Let’s assume the dates needed are okay, and that, as of the date you wrote to me (August 29th) he’ll have a total of six months’ tenure as a Star by January 21, 2018. If, however, he was inactive for the past year but was active as a Star for at least a couple of months prior to going inactive, he’s okay. If not, but he has valid reasons for his year of inactivity—for example, a family “situation,” a highly demanding sports, music, theater, or other extracurricular activity schedule—he can be offered a “bye” on the inactivity time, since these are perfectly legitimate reasons for Scouting to become a lower-priority activity. So I’m going to make the assumption here that this can be resolved.)

Between now and a January 21 (or sooner, if possible) Life board of review, he needs to: [1] be active, [2] complete three of the nine merit badges you’ve listed, of which three (Family Life, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management) require three-months, [3] have held a position of responsibility (for six months, which might be a deal-breaker unless he’s already got a couple of months already), [4] complete six hours of service (including three hours of conservation-related service), [5] use the EDGE method to teach at least one Scout any of the eight options available for Life req. 6, and [6] have a conference with his Scoutmaster (which can be done at any time between now and January 21).

Special note: If this Scout is indeed “short” in tenure in a position of responsibility (see Life req. 5), with his Scoutmaster’s agreement and approval in advance he can “carry out a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project to help the troop.” (This is a sort of “get out of jail free” card that bypasses the six months’ tenure aspect of req. 5, designed for special situations among which this may be one.)

Regarding service (see [4] above), keep in mind that the six hours of service need not be a single service project, or—for the conservation part—two projects. The requirement absolutely does not suggest or imply that this or these are “mini-Eagle projects.” It’s simply “six hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster,” meaning that he can accumulate time helping out on other Scouts’ Eagle service projects, or a broader troop service project, or service through his school, religious institution, student service club (e.g., Interact, Key Club, etc.)…just so long as his Scoutmaster provides a go-ahead in advance.

As for the merit badges, my own recommendation would be that he tackles the three 3-month merit badges immediately!

Back to the timetable… He has almost five months to get items [1] through [6] completed before January 21, 2018. Even though he’s likely entering his junior or senior year of high school, THIS ISN’T IMPOSSIBLE! It does, however, demand MAKING A PLAN and STICKING TO IT.

If he can do this and make it to Life rank in time, he has only a few merit badges to go, plus a leadership position (see Eagle req. 4), and, of course, a significant service project (see Eagle req. 5). For his service project, it’s important for him to know he doesn’t have to wait till, for instance, he’s completed all merit badges before starting his project. He can start work on his project the very morning after his successful Life rank board of review. (And, even right now, he can certainly start thinking about what he might like to do!)

Bottom line: Yes, if the dates are okay this is eminently doable, and I’d absolutely encourage this Scout to go for it.

Just one caveat: While I’ve come to know a heck of a lot about advancement and such, I’d strongly recommend that you find a local fellow Scouter—like the chair of your district or council advancement committee—and go over what I’ve outlined here, just to be sure that what I’ve said is accurate and in accordance with BSA policies and procedures.
Hi Andy,

My Life Scout son just came home from a troop meeting, where he preliminarily described what he’d like to do as an Eagle service project. He’s already hit two roadblocks. His Scoutmaster told him that there needs to be “construction” of some sort involved, so that his project has lasting value. Then the troop’s advancement chair told him that he needs to include a fund-raiser for the materials he’ll need to build whatever he decides on.

As an Eagle Scout myself, I’m pretty sure neither of these demands—“construction” for lasting value and fund-raising—are mandatory for a Scout’s Eagle project. But I don’t know where to find the right documentation (except for supporting my son and his younger brother—a Webelos at the moment—I’m not an “active” Scouter) or how to advise my son on how to overcome these obstacles—if I’m right about them, of course. Can you help me out here? (Phil Zastrow)

It’s a darned shame that the two people in a troop who should know better are both one hundred percent wrong! (When I think about how many Scouts before your son have been misdirected by these two ignorant yokels, smoke starts coming out of my ears!)

As his father, you can be his advocate at the next meeting with that Scoutmaster and advancement guy or gal. Here’s how to proceed…

Go online to –then download and save it to an easily accessible file.

Now, start by printing pages 67 and 68, with special attention to the top-left of 68: “He will be allowed, if he chooses, to have a parent, unit leader, or other adult present as an observer at any time he is discussing his proposal or project with someone who is reviewing it.” This shows that it’s your right to enter into a conversation, as your son’s advocate, and to show these raisin-brains what’s correct (and what isn’t).

Next, print page 72, and highlight this statement (left side, about the middle of the page): “Fundraising for an Eagle Scout service project shall not be required of any candidate.” Showing this in the meeting will kill the “must have a fund-raiser” nonsense.

Then print page 73, and highlight statement 3 in Topic “There is no requirement a project must have lasting value.” End of story on this one.

Finally, print page 2 and highlight POLICY ON UNAUTHORIZED CHANGES TO ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM: “No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements.” This will silence any sort of “well in this troop…” baloney.

That’s the whole ball o’ wax. Go for it –

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. 543 – 9/5/2017 – 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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