Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

service-star-1Been involved in Scouting for more than a year? You get a gold star.

All youth or adult leaders who have reached one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to begin wearing service stars. The stars are an underused outward symbol of how long you’ve been involved and a quick way for new Scouts, parents and leaders to see who has Scouting experience.

Anyone can simply walk into a Scout Shop (or go to and purchase the pins and color background. There’s no application.

Scouters and Scouts are trustworthy, so the BSA trusts someone born in 1960, for example, not to purchase and wear a 60-year pin.

Stars start at one year and go up to an impressive 90 years (though you can combine multiple stars to send that number even higher). They’re worn with a specially colored backing that corresponds to the appropriate Scouting program.

But what if your Scouting tenure spans several programs, includes time spent in Scouting as a youth or has a gap of several years? That’s when things get a little trickier — but not much. I’ll answer those questions after the jump.

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Eagle Scout Connor Stotts receives 2014 Citizen Honors award

On July 31, 2011, Eagle Scout Connor Stotts singlehandedly saved the lives of three swimmers caught in a dangerous riptide near Oceanside Beach, Calif.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

This bravery earned Connor the BSA’s Honor Medal With Crossed Palms, as well as the Carnegie Medal (which came with a $5,000 reward). But the college sophomore now has another award to add to his collection: a 2014 Citizen Honors award.

Selected by living recipients of the Medal of Honor — the highest award bestowed upon military heroes for acts of wartime valor — the Citizen Honors awards recognize three civilian American heroes for acts of bravery in their daily lives. Connor’s actions certainly fit the bill.

(Read on to learn more about Connor and find out how you can watch the Citizen Honors Ceremony March 25 at Arlington National Cemetery.)

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Spirit of the Eagle Award honors the Scouts we lost too soon

spirit-of-the-eagleIt’s a tragic reality that some Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers are taken from us before their time.

These young people who die in an untimely accident or illness leave behind two grieving families: their actual family and their Scouting one.

To help bring these families a small bit of comfort, the Boy Scouts of America created the posthumous Spirit of the Eagle Award. It memorializes the contributions to Scouting these young people made during their time with us.

A recent, devastating example came out of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. Two of the victims, Chase Kowalski and Benjamin Wheeler, were Tiger Cubs, and the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock personally presented the families with the Spirit of the Eagle Award. It was a touching gesture that helped these families heal.

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Interpreting ‘under the auspices’ in National Outdoor Awards requirements

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Two perfectly reasonable people can read the same phrase and have drastically different interpretations. Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court.

That happened recently in a troop in eastern Washington. The phrase in question relates to the National Outdoor Awards, and a Scouter contacted me looking for guidance.

But before I get to his question and the expert’s response, let me put in a quick plug for the National Outdoor Awards, which I first told you about in 2010. The awards are earned by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who demonstrate knowledge and experience in the outdoors. There are five segments: Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding and Adventure. They’re a ton of fun to earn, and they reward Scouts for doing things they love to do anyway.

Scouts who go above and beyond can earn National Outdoor Award Devices and even the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. See the full list of requirements here.

But back to our eastern Washington Scouter’s question. He noted that each of the five segments’ requirements uses the phrase “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America.”

For example, take this requirement from the Hiking segment:

“Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America … “

We know “auspices” means “endorsement and guidance,” but what exactly qualifies as “under the auspices of the BSA”? Here’s what the Scouter said in his email:

The National Outdoor Awards use the word “auspices” to describe qualifying activities. The question is what “auspices” means? Some people believe that this means that the requirements must be completed as part of organized unit activities and that any activity performed as an individual Scout, even if performed with the intent of earning the award, does not qualify.

Here’s the clarification from Eric Hiser, member of the Camping Task Force who was also the designer and developer for the award. In other words, he knows of what he speaks. Continue reading


Meet your 2014 Silver Buffalo Award class

Unlike most Scouting awards, there are no requirements for the Silver Buffalo Award. It’s not something you work toward or apply for yourself.

But when you consider the recipients, you could say the men and women who earn Scouting’s highest honor for adults have been working toward the Silver Buffalo Award their entire lives. They just didn’t know it.

The award is special because of the people hand-picked by the National Court of Honor to wear the red-and-white medal and square knot. These men and women — just 741 in the 88-year history of the award — have given “noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth.”

The 2014 class consists of eight men and one woman. Among this year’s recipients are Joe Manchin, the junior U.S. senator from West Virginia; David Beck, general president of the LDS church’s Young Men organization; R. Chip Turner, chairman of the BSA Religious Relationships Task Force; and Rosemary Wixom, general president of the Primary of the LDS church.

The full list of recipients follows. The noteworthy nine will get their medals in a special recognition ceremony at the National Annual Meeting in May in Nashville, Tenn. And in doing so they’ll join a prestigious list that includes Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan, Yogi Berra, Bill Gates, Robert Baden-Powell, William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt and many, many more who have kept Scouting strong for more than a century. Continue reading


Tuesday Talkback: How do you organize belt loops, pins, other recognition items?

Tuesday-TalkbackWhen Cubmaster Lee inherited the position earlier this year, he was pumped to make an even bigger difference in the lives of youth.

That is, until he saw the shape of his pack’s advancement and award collection.

“I inherited multiple plastic bags full of belt loops and pins in no particular order,” he writes. “I’d love to know if others have found some great organizational folders, cabinets, etc. to keep things together.”

Great question, Lee, and it’s one that applies to Boy Scout leaders, as well. Certainly there’s a better solution than a mess of zip-top bags.

Today’s Tuesday Talkback topic is a simple one: How do you store and organize awards and advancement items before presenting them to Scouts? Leave your thoughts on this topic below. If you have ideas for future Tuesday Talkback questions, send them directly to me. Continue reading

Citizen Honors Awards

Nominate a Scout or Venturer for the Citizen Honors Awards

Courage. Sacrifice. Selflessness. Patriotism.

Do those words describe an act of service performed by a Scout, Venturer or Scouter you know?

Chances are, they do. And you’ll need to act quickly to recognize this person by nominating him or her to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s Citizen Honors awards. The nomination deadline is Jan. 10, 2014.

The same foundation that honors acts of wartime valor (with the Congressional Medal of Honor) seeks to also celebrate “unsung heroes” or citizens who’ve selflessly put the lives of others first through an act of heroism. And, as Scouts pledge to “help other people at all times,” it’s likely that you know of a Scout, Venturer or fellow Scouter deserving this great distinction.

Nominate this person today — the Jan. 10 deadline is approaching fast. Nominees must be age 18 or older, and this person’s act of selflessness must have occurred in the last three years. Find more details regarding the nominating criteria here.

Read more and watch a video about the award after the jump.

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Lincoln Electric wins North Star Award for bringing welding to Scouts

You’d expect a bunch of welding experts to forge some strong bonds, but the folks at Lincoln Electric have gone above and beyond.

Their work bringing welding and the Welding merit badge into the Boy Scouts of America has already helped introduce tens of thousands of Scouts to this hot career.

In recognition, the Boy Scouts of America presented Lincoln Electric and three of its key employees with the North Star Award on Wednesday afternoon at the BSA’s annual Top Hands Conference in Washington, D.C.

The award, an eight-pointed, star-shaped medal worn on a black ribbon, is presented by councils on the behalf of the National Court of Honor for nonregistered volunteers who have made a significant contribution to Scouting.

You can consider it to be on same level as the Silver Beaver Award, which is for registered volunteers. Continue reading


Five big takeaways from today’s release of the 2013 Guide to Advancement

2013-Guide-to-AdvancementHere’s one for your browser’s bookmarks bar: The newest edition of the Boy Scouts of America Guide to Advancement released today.

The PDF version contains answers to pretty much any advancement question that might come up, and it’s essential reading for your unit’s advancement chair and others who like to be kept in the loop on all things advancement.

You’ll want to spend some time with this user-friendly guide. Consider downloading the PDF to your tablet for portable reading. Or print off a copy on recycled paper and keep it handy.

There’s so much inside the guide that it’s pointless for me to go into too much detail here. But I did want to draw your attention to five takeaways I gathered from a first look at the guide: Continue reading


More on the 2013 Silver Buffalo recipients’ service to youth

The Silver Buffalo Award recognizes leaders whose service to youth is broad-reaching—whether it’s the creation of exciting new programs, the organization of high-magnitude events, or bringing Scouting to under-served youth.

The award is Scouting’s highest honor, and this year’s class joins previous recipients such as Bill Gates, Robert Baden-Powell, Bob Hope, William Hillcourt, and many more.

In February, we announced the list of 2013 Silver Buffalo recipients. Now, learn more about these distinguished Scouters.

If you’re like me, just reading about the Scouting service listed below will make you reflect, give thanks, and even inspire the question, “How can I do more?”

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