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Issue 550 – November 14, 2017

In this column…
• Is Assistant Patrol Leader a qualifying position for advancement?
• When to wear your Eagle medal.
• What makes for “conservation” service hours?
• How to handle “Two-Deep Leadership” and The Buddy System.
Hey Andy,

I’m a Patrol Leader in my troop and something here has been going on that I don’t agree with. A Scout is serving as Assistant Patrol Leader in another patrol and this leadership position is counting for his tenure for Star rank. I’ve read in the handbook that APL doesn’t count as a position for rank advancement. The way my SPL tried to justify this was by saying that since the APL is in 10th grade and the PL is in 7th grade, the APL should “cover for” the PL when he doesn’t do a good job with his role as PL. I don’t like how my troop is handling this, as most of the youth leadership seems okay with this. (Confused Scout, Northern New Jersey Council)

Thanks for reaching out and writing to me! You’re 100% correct: APL doesn’t count for Star, or Life, or Eagle. This is specifically stated in both your handbook and in the Boy Scout Requirements book. In both books, 16 different positions qualify for Star, and APL isn’t in the list for any of these three ranks (that number drops to 15 for Eagle, because Bugler isn’t a qualifying position for that rank), and no one has the authority to change this, regardless of the reason.

So now, what to do… If your SPL won’t budge on this point (even when you show him what’s correct, in writing), have a conversation with your Scoutmaster about it. It’s part of your Scoutmaster’s responsibilities to make sure all requirements are met as written, so he needs to have a chat with the SPL to straighten this out. So be courteous, kind…and brave!
Hi Andy!

I remember seeing that adults could wear their Eagle medals to formal events. Obviously, this includes Eagle courts of honor, but what about routine (quarterly) courts of honor? We encourage our Scouts to pull out all the stops and wear their full “Class A” uniforms, sash, neckerchief, hat, etc. The adult leaders also wear their Wood Badge neckerchiefs and woggles, beads, and campaign hats. And we encourage our Eagles to wear their medals. Should our adult Eagles wear theirs, too? (Chet Lapeza)

All Eagles, regardless of age, can and should wear their medals to all courts of honor, understanding that there’s really no such animal as a “routine” court—they’re all significant, whether they include new Eagle Scouts or not!
Hi Andy,

When the BSA revised the rank requirements in 2016, “conservation service hours” were added to certain ranks. Great idea! But I can’t find a clear definition of what constitutes conservation hours anywhere–certainly not on the BSA’s own website! We’re basically given no tools with which to assess what conservation hours are. The determination of what constitutes conservation hours is left up to the Scoutmaster to determine. I dislike appearing to be making stuff up, but don’t have much to go on.

I’ve searched a few blogs, and the best general advice I can find is if it “benefits the environment or animals” it probably qualifies. Another blog references the BSA Conservation Good Turn Award. There, the suggested project list for Boy Scouts seems like a good guide, and does follow the concept of benefiting the environment or animals.

Our troop assists a local Girl Scout council each year in opening and closing their summer camp. Our Scouts set up platform tents; provide maintenance and repairs to buildings; clear patios, platforms, and paths of pine needles; remove items from winter storage; stack firewood; and performing maintenance on trails to various activity areas in the spring. In the fall, it’s the reverse: We take down tents, put things securely away for winter, and so forth.

We have a Scout who’s searching for some conservation hours, and is asking if any of this qualifies. While the Girl Scouts are being good stewards of the land on a USFS lease, I don’t see most of this as being conservation-related. The time spent on trail maintenance would probably qualify, but not much more than this.

If I’m missing something, please let me know. I was thinking about asking the Scout tell me how he thinks the tasks he performed helped the environment or animals and then go from there. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. (Lee Murray, SM, Nevada Area Council)

The good news here is that only advancement to Life rank is affected: “While a Star Scout, participate in six hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster. At least three hours of this service must be conservation-related.” No other rank’s requirements contain this stipulation. Yay!

You’re spot-on about the absence of guidance on what would constitute “conservation-related” service, but I wouldn’t get my knickers in a knot over this. I think it’s in the category of “I don’t know what makes for ‘good’ art, but I know it when I see it.” Clearing a trail of garbage and debris? You bet. Painting stripes on a parking lot? Hmm…Not so much. Planting seedlings? You bet! Raking up autumn leaves? Pretty iffy. Trail repair at a camp? Got it! Stacking firewood? Prob’ly not. Removing the bark from a cord or two of firewood so it doesn’t rot out? Good idea! Clearing a brook of pop cans and other garbage? Go for it!

In all, it’s not “common sense”… It’s good sense. This is a great opportunity for Scouts themselves to go out and identify ecological problems and come up with ideas to fix ’em…in other words, they get to be self-initiating and individually creative. Plus, when a Scout comes up with a conservation-focused idea, his wise Scoutmaster can suggest that he ask other Star Scouts to help him out (remember that this doesn’t have to be a solo venture), and so they all qualify!

Scouting in America is all over the place, from inner cities to suburban enclaves to vast farmlands. Attempting to impose a fixed list of “qualifying projects”—no matter how lengthy—would be simultaneously too broad and too limited. This is why the front-end of the requirement includes “…approved by your Scoutmaster”–meaning in advance. This is where you get to apply your own wisdom and good sense.

So relax, encourage your Scouts, and guide them to meaningful goals—this is one of the great joys of being their Scoutmaster.
Hi Andy,

My son’s troop is leaving for a campout this weekend. They will have two-deep leadership. He and I, and two other Scouts will be going to the campsite Friday night for some pre-campout work and then camping overnight; the rest of the troop will arrive on Saturday. On Saturday, the troop will take a day-hike, with activities along the way, and we’ll be joining up with the troop for this.

My question is about two-deep leadership at the campsite when we first arrive on Friday, and then for the Saturday hike. The GTSS requires two-deep for overnight campouts. Is being in camp with the Scouts Friday night to Saturday morning okay?

Then there’s the hike itself. Usually I let the Scouts take off on their own and then follow them at my own pace. But, what if they hang back to talk with me? Should I make them keep going? (Yes, I’m YPT-certified and have my position-specific training completed.) (Jeff, Mid-America Council)

“Two-Deep (adult) Leadership” applies to “all trips and outings,” so you’ll want to have a second adult with you Friday night. However, the GTSS is silent on day hikes that take place in between arrival at the campsite (or trail head) and departure (whether same day or following day). So the fallback, always, is The Buddy System, which applies at all times. So, combining these two, let’s see where we net out…

Two qualified adults need to be present Friday night. They can remain in the main campsite area while patrols take day-hikes beyond that area, so long as all Scouts on the hike have a buddy and follow the Buddy System protocols. I’m going to assume that the now ubiquitous cell- or smart-phones are with both Scouts and the adults, so that, if there’s a problem on the trail, cellphone contact can be immediate.

On hikes, whether adult or youth, NOBODY EVER HIKES ALONE. In fact, nobody’s ever alone! Gotta go to the latrine? Take your buddy (he stands outside while you do what you have to do) and then return together. So your idea of hiking behind the Scouts, by yourself, goes out the window. No dice. Besides, a fundamental trail rule is that the patrol hikes at the speed of the slowest hiker…No exceptions.

Now if there are just two hiking groups (two patrols, or two pairs of “buddy patrols,” for instance) and each of the two adults wants to hike with them—one adult per hiking group, that’s perfectly okay. Just make sure the campsite is secured and all valuables are locked away (using a vehicle trunk or other lock-able method, for instance).

I think this covers all you need. Except maybe “is it okay for just one adult to be in the campsite when Scouts are present?” The answer’s yes, so long as there are two or more Scouts at the campsite with the adult. (This conforms to the “no one-on-one contact specification.)

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. 550 – 11/14/2017 – 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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