Scouting Service Award combines five awards into one cool new square knot

The release of a new square knot is always cause for celebration. But one square knot that combines five different awards? It’s party time.

Square knots, which are primarily earned by adults, recognize an individual’s service and commitment to Scouting. There are more than 30 different knots recognizing leaders in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing and Sea Scouting.

The new Scouting Service Award recognizes adult volunteers who have earned one of five different awards, each celebrating a leader’s dedication to a special segment of Scouting.

The new knot recognizes Scouters who have earned one of these five awards:

  • Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award*
  • ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award*
  • Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award*
  • American Indian Scouting Association Grey Wolf Award
  • Special Needs Scouting Service Award

Each of the awards marked with a * above currently has its own square knot. But once supplies of those knots run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot will be used to recognize recipients.

The Scouting Service Award knot has khaki and white loops on a black background with a yellow-and-red border. You can purchase the $1.99 knot by bringing proper documentation to your local Scout shop.

How to earn the Scouting Service Award

There aren’t really any requirements for the Scouting Service Award. The knot is presented to recognize Scouters who earn one of the five awards listed above — each of which has its own special set of requirements that I link to below.

Each award has other recognition items — some combination of a certificate, letter, plaque, ribbon, lapel pin and medal — but the square knot is the item honorees can wear on their uniform.

The knot goes on the official field uniform (informally known as the “Class A”). Like all square knots, it’s worn over the left pocket, as seen from the wearer’s perspective.

Line them up in rows of three in any order you choose. Typically, the knot you deem most important is worn on the bottom row on your right, but that’s your call. If your knot total isn’t divisible by three — aka you have a row of one or two knots — you can either center them in the row or keep them aligned to your right. The latter method means you won’t have to re-sew those knots if you get a new one.

Notice how one loop on the square knot appears to be on top of the other? The knot should be oriented so that the top loop is on the wearer’s right.

Learn more about square knots and how to wear them in this post.

Details about the five qualifying awards

  • Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award: Honors an adult or an organization for bringing Scouting opportunities to Asian-American youth. Learn more here.
  • ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award: Honors an adult or an organization for bringing Scouting opportunities to Hispanic/Latino youth. Learn more here.
  • Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award: Honors an adult or an organization for bringing Scouting opportunities to youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds. Learn more here.
  • American Indian Scouting Association Grey Wolf Award: Honors an adult for bringing Scouting opportunities to American Indian youth. Learn more here.
  • Special Needs Scouting Service Award: Honors an adult (volunteer or professional) for bringing Scouting opportunities to Scouts with special needs. Unlike the other awards here, it can be earned. A provisional application form can be found here

Hat tip: Thanks to Edward, the eagle-eyed commenter who let me know about this, and to Mike Lo Vecchio, the BSA’s in-house expert on awards and insignia.


  1. Nice. Makes sense, since the different knots have similar missions in expanding Scouting to under-served youth.

    It’s similar to the way the Community Organization Award and the Religious Emblem Knots cover a lot of similar awards.

  2. Excellent. Combining these makes it more consistent with the Community Organization Awards and the Adult Religious Emblems Awards knots.

  3. First of all, I thought some of these were to presented to non scouters…but I’m old and memory is bad.

    Second, just what we needed, another “garbage” knot. From the nickname given the exploring highest award knot that even my oldest son still wears, where about five different versions of an award are all represented by one knot.

    And now the venturing garbage knot, which recognizes two highest awards since the committee of volunteers that decided to change it to the summit award was easier than the task I took up out of my own pocket almost 20 years ago, when I notified every college or university admissions department of what venturing is, what it’s highest award was, what ranger was. No, it’s easier to change the award name and make a new knot that now indicates too much.

    How about we give out one knot that means everything?

  4. This makes a lot of sense, but one thing they might consider is some kind of device related to the specific award to be put on the knot. Then, if the rare individual earned more than one of these awards, it would be noted. Like the Key; there are various devices to indicate which Scouting area the award covers.

  5. Since I cannot locate an “edit” button, note that “be” should precede noted in the comment recently posted. Bryan, is there an edit capability I am not seeing?

  6. “Typically, the knot you deem most important is worn on the bottom row on your right, but that’s your call. ”
    Bottom row? I had thought top row right as the first one seen.

  7. The professional side is BSA wants to limit the amount of bling volunteers wear. Last thin they want is volunteers thinking they are in charge….

    • Funny, I heard this same thing a couple of years ago when National did away with all the Cub Scouting knots. Supposedly some of the professional Scouters were upset that they could not earn as many knots as volunteers and were restricted to how many they could wear on their uniforms. It is rather ridiculous and petty if true; the professionals get paid to be Scouters, the volunteers take on an unpaid second job, and the professionals begrudge a few rectangles of cloth. I repeat : if true.

      • As I recall, there is (or was) a rule to cover this. Volunteers wear knots to celebrate their unpaid service. Pros, however, cannot wear knots showing service within their council–that’s part or their job. They do have the black and white knot for pro training, and I have heard several execs laughingly celebrate the fact that volunteers cannot get that knot. They can also wear service knots from another council in which they are a volunteer, just not their own.

        • Professionals can wear any knot they have earned. If a professional is a volunteer Cub Scout leader and earns a knot, he can wear it. The only knots that cannot be earned by a professional in his own council is the Silver Beaver. He is not eligible for that knot until at least five years after leaving the profession. Even the District Award of Merit is earnable by a professional if it is earned outside of his duties and approved on the national level.

      • As I said earlier, the reduction also had to do with cutting down on “knot collection”. I’ve seen Scouters with seven and eight rows of knots, and often with more than one device on the knots; and they end up looking like North Korean generals. Two or three rows of up to three square knots should be quite enough.

        I have two rows of three; and if by some miracle I ever add to those, and merit more than three, I will retire as many knots as are needed to keep to the three rows.

      • I have never heard a professional complain that volunteers get more opportunities to wear knots. Most professionals I have worked with don’t even wear knots they have earned like the Eagle Scout, Arrow of Light, or religious emblems. It’s not why professionals do the job.

  8. Agree with most of the above, especially with a device to identify which award this was granted for. Otherwise, its confusing to someone not familiar with the knot. (Some uneducated “uniform police” will claim it to be a false knot with something to say “why” this was earned.”

    My 2 cents

  9. I’m looking forward to the Special Needs Scouting Service Award…..As requirements are being developed, who can we send suggestions to? I have a special scout troop now. One requirement that I’d suggest is for the leader to contribute by bringing youth together in duel activities and not just special needs grouped alone.

    • One knot at a time. You can wear either the Young Knot or this one. Once the Young knots are gone, then you will have to get this one.

  10. 1. Are there Special devices for the knot to indicate what award was earned?

    2. I know that for the first 3 awards covered, they had/have their own specific knots.

    Does the last 2 awards have a previous knot assigned to their award?
    While the “Grey Wolf” seems to have been around for awhile, the Special Needs Scouting Service Award is new.

  11. So, until the supply of the old awards are exhausted, you are basically earning a knot, for earning a knot? Does that mean you can double, or triple-up on the knots until then, meaning earning the original knot AND this one, and have both on the uniform?

    • No. You can wear either what ever knot(s) you earned or this one. Once the old knots are gone, then you will have to get this one.

      Do know how they are going to do devices since these awards are so rare.

    • No, There are requirements that must be met for this award. The Torch of Gold and the Woods Services Award are bestowed to a recipient. Those that have been awarded the Woods Services Award are permitted to wear the community organization award knot

  12. Wow, thanks for answering my question with one of your wonderful articles Bryan. It’s nice to know we can always count on you for getting an official answer both clearly and promptly.

    It’s certainly a handsome knot, isn’t it? And I appreciate the streamlining of some of the knots like this; it’s a very sensible change to make since each of these awards is so uncommon anyway.

      • I like the consolidation of knots ( with a device available). I’ve seen volunteer and Pro-scouters who look like Admirals/Generals with 4-5 rows. I wear mine on my “dress class-a” shirt ( C of H. B of R. Eagle B of R ) My “everyday-camp” shirt has just the important ones for leadership and the boys. ( Eagle etc.) FYI: I do and have taken exception to the idea the most important goes on the end. Me, my Eagle goes Front and Center on the first row. ( just saying it should be whatever you the earner wants ) thx.

  13. As a Whitney Young Award winner this saddens me this award is going away. In areas like Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta this award is tied to great community gatherings to celebrate positive works. I am sure the other awards are the same. Just sad it is being discontinued under the premise of an umbrella award that has to be explained, “I actually won the Whitney Young Award but was given the Scouting Service award”

    • An individual can still receive (not “win”) the Whitney Young award and its corresponding medal or certificate, but they would wear the Scouting Service Award KNOT to go with it. These awards are not going away as Bryan points out; the only change is that they are all going to share one Square Knot patch. So in reality, somebody such as yourself is receiving TWO honors – both the Whitney Young AND the Scouting Service Awards. That’s definitely nothing to be sad about, unless one is “sad” that they are not getting more attention from having the old knot on their uniforms as opposed to the new one – which STILL doesn’t make sense since almost nobody will know the difference anyway.

      And remember, we are in this program for the boys, not the awards. Those who want attention the most are often those who need it the least.

  14. Not a bad idea, but consider…

    *The SNSSA is very easy to earn when compared to any of the other four awards. The incredible majority of SSA-knot-wearers will wear it for this new award only. If “cost” and “overhead” is the reason for doing away with the three Scoutreach knots…are they really going to make devices for the less-than-1000 VLP and AASSA recipients since 2003 or the 3000+/- WYA recipients since 1979? That seems like a huge waste of cost, design, manufacture, metalsmithing, etc when an embroidered patch already exists and are so rare anyways that “uniform clutter” with these awards (unlike the 2012 cub scouter award consolidation) is virtually non-existent.

    *The AISA Grey Wolf Award is not a BSA award…it is presented to adult scouters in boy scouts and girl scouts at a rate of 53 PER 40 YEARS! Seriously? Why bother? Also, as the AISA is an external organization, shouldn’t the Gray Wolf Award be lumped in with the Community Organization Award knot as they are a community organization just like the VFW, Freemasons, or AFL-CIO? The other four awards are all BSA-administered and presented. Why does this one organization get to toss their lot in with the SSA-knot and not the COA-knot like everyone else has to?

    *Please, for the love of all that is holy, no more devices! They are expensive, tear up uniforms, get snagged on everything, have to be removed before laundry, fall off whenever you lose the affectionately-named dammits from the back (and stab you in the chest), and it is infinitely harder to “read” a scouter’s “resume” by staring at little pins on a knot where in the old days I could see a scouter a mile away and say “former tiger DL and webelos DL and scoutmaster”. So easy.

    BTW, I am a Whitney Young recipient. As soon as Bryan posted this two weeks ago I went to my scout shop and bought a packet of 12 knots to cover my uniforms till I’m dead. I’m not wearing a catch-all knot just so some professional scouter in Texas gets a bright-idea raise.

    • Well, it’s been a month since this new award (SNSSA) and knot (SSA) were introduced. I was right. My council can award 2 WYJ awards, 2 VLP awards, and 2 AASSAs per year…and in the last 10 years we have awarded 5 WYJ awards and none of the other two. Yet, in a month we have already approved nearly a dozen of the new SNSSA awards with more in the works. So this knot will effectively represent only one award across our council and the rare few holding one of the higher national awards no longer stand out. This trend will likely be reflected nationwide. As for devices…not even a whisper of their creation, and due to rarity and cost, nor should there be.

      Bottom line, the new knot will only really represent the new award. The national awards, rare before, are now even further sidelined unless you wear the bulky medallion.

  15. Why is the backing cloth red? I always cut the backing extending beyond the edge embrodiary away, as it looks sloppy, and doesn’t fit with my older knots. Hopefully, the cloth is not now becoming partnof the award’s identification.

  16. Looked over the knot requirements. Only 3 of the 12 you actually have to involve scouts with disabilities and one that is optional that scouts with disabilities participate. Eight of the requirements involve just promoting or training. While that is important, how about a knot for the leaders in the trenches. The kind of leader who works to figure out how to include the scout with disabilities so that the scout is actually involved not just sort of there or the leader who helps the other scouts understand the differences but see the similarities. The kind of knot that says Hey! We recognize that including scouts with disabilities can take extra time and effort and thanks for taking the time. The new knot seems to be a lot of promoting and big projects and does little to encourage every day sort of participation.

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