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Issue 552 – November 28, 2017

In this column…
• Rank- and grade-appropriate “Cyber Chip” earning
• BSA Membership numbers—How it works
• Keeping your Scout troop “Scout-led”
• Lone Scout service opportunity…By a former Lone Scout
Hi Andy,

Our troop has a Scout who will be First Class on December 6th. Then, for Star rank, he will need to “(with his parent or guardian) complete the exercises in the pamphlet ‘How to Protect your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide’ and earn the Cyber Chip award for your grade.” He actually did this back in September, and he’ll still be in the same grade when he earns Star. Does he need to repeat this requirement? (John Burnham)

Good news! Since that requirement doesn’t say “While a First Class Scout…” he’s already just fine and doesn’t have to do a repeat! Yay!
Dear Andy,

On the unit number problem that you spoke about in an earlier column, I’ve recently seen both scenarios. In Cimarron Council, we had a pack, troop, and crew with the same number; now in the Greater St. Louis Area Council, most troops seem to have three-digit numbers and crews are the same number as their sister troops, but add a “2” at the front of the troops’ numbers. This makes it definitely not consistent council-to-council.

Related to this, when my family relocated this past summer, and my two Venturers transferred to GSLAC, they were assigned new membership numbers. This didn’t make sense to me, as I thought the membership number was “national.” When I asked, I was told that not all councils are on the same network, so they request the records from the old council, for transfers, enter them by hand here. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but I don’t know if there are any potential issues. (Rick Hautekeete)

Yup, the “unit numbers” thing is pretty odd and I hope they can work it out.

About your membership number question, in your shoes I’d pick up the phone, call the BSA national office (972-580-2000), and ask to speak with someone who’s involved in this aspect; then tell ’em exactly what you’ve told me and see what the answer is…

Thanks, Andy. I did call, as you suggested, and the national office says you get a new membership number when you change Councils. (Rick)
Hi Andy,

My grandson is an Eagle Scout and he’s in a Venturing crew. He’ll turn 18 in January. He’s earned a big bunch of merit badges already—he’s just put in for his third bronze palm this month. Even though he’ll be 18 in another month-and-a-half, can he continue to earn merit badges—and palms—as a Venturer until he’s 21? (Ben Hayes)

Merit badges—which are Boy Scout recognitions—can be earned up to age 18. The same applies to palms—which are also Boy Scout recognitions. Both of these stop on your grandson’s 18th birthday.

And, by the way, instead of wearing multiple bronze palms on the Eagle medal’s ribbon, your grandson will want to convert to the “color order” of palms, so that, when he receives his palm for having earned a total of 15 merit badges beyond the 21 for Eagle, he’ll remove any bronze palms from his ribbon and, instead, now wear a silver palm.
Hello Andy,

After having been an Assistant Scoutmaster for the past six years, under two successive Scoutmasters, I’ll be assuming that role myself next month. During my tenure as an ASM, I’ve noticed various discipline and bullying issues in our troop, including disrespect to their surroundings and their fellow Scouts. So, I’m looking for some guidance or, better yet, “words” to convey to the Scouts, in an effort to eliminate or at least reduce these ongoing problems.

I’m thinking working with the older Scouts first, and then addressing the whole troop. At the outset, I’d hold a meeting with the older Scouts and other adult leaders only, with no non-registered parents present. Then, once I’ve had my say, I’d allow the older Scouts and the adult leaders to discuss the situation, including how the “troop culture” needs to change and how it will change. What do you think? Any words or advice would be greatly appreciated. (Fred Weissert, Laurel Highlands Council, PA)

Your upcoming role as Scoutmaster actually doesn’t necessarily involve your addressing the entire troop. Reason why: This can disrupt the troop’s leadership structure and function. Let’s remember that “troop” means the Scouts; not the adult volunteer infrastructure supporting the Scouts. Consequently, the true top leader of the troop itself is the Senior Patrol Leader. All Patrol Leaders ultimately report to the SPL, and all Scouts in all patrols report to their individual Patrol Leader. (This is why these are the only positions in the troop that are decided by election and are never, ever “appointed”.)

So your first action—which can actually begin right now—is to get to know and begin to support the Senior Patrol Leader—whom you’re going to be coaching, encouraging, and mentoring once you’re Scoutmaster. This way, you and he can converse about your concerns and you can (this is very important!) listen to what your SPL has to say on the subject. From this conversation, you and he can decide and agree on how this should be handled (which won’t be you addressing either the troop as a whole or even the Patrol Leaders unless there are issues of personal physical safety involved) by the SPL. If the two of you do agree that this should be discussed (understand that you two can decide to “table” this for a while), then the SPL (with your coaching) is the one to do this—at the first Patrol Leaders Council (aka “PLC”) meeting that you and he attend together. When you do this, keep in mind further that the SPL is the chair of the PLC meeting and the Scoutmaster sits in a chair near, but behind, the SPL.

When the SPL you’re coaching brings up this subject, it can’t be along the lines of “here’s what you PLs are gonna do…” Instead, the SPL presents the problem and asks the PLs for ideas on how to deal with it. Once agreement on this is reached, then the PLs will carry out what they’ve agreed upon, each with his own patrol.

This is a significant part of what’s meant by “a troop is Scout-run” and it’s critical to the troop’s ultimate success in delivering the Scouting program the way it’s meant to be. (A troop without The Patrol Method in place is nothing more than a bunch of boys in tan shirts… It’s not Scouting!)

If you’re willing to follow this plan, you’ll be strengthening the SPL, giving focus to the PLs, and quietly improving the overall “troop culture”!
Dear Andy,

In reading about commissioners, I see that there’s a suggested position called Assistant Council Commissioner—Lone Scouts. Having been a Lone Scout myself and an Eagle Scout, and now experienced in Scouting for many years, I’d like to volunteer to serve in this position for my council. How would you suggest I go about doing this and do you have any suggestions? (Aidan)

Wow! An Eagle-Lone Scout! You’re the first I’ve ever met! Thanks for finding me and for writing. I hope I can help…

I think the best way to begin is checking with the local council that serves the area where you live (any search engine should take you there). Then, locate the service center’s phone number and call ’em up. As for the Scout Executive and tell ’em what you’ve just described to me… The SE may have an idea where and how you can help.

Alternatively (or as a back-up step if the first doesn’t work out), go to and dig into their website to see if it’ll take you where you’d like to go.

Good luck with this! It’s great to know a Lone Scout who’d like to find a way to help others!

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. 552– 11/28/2017 – 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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