Ask us anything! We answer some of your most frequently asked questions

Have questions about the BSA? We’ve got answers.

And if we don’t have the answers, we’ll find someone who does.

Below are a handful of questions we’ve recently gotten from readers (some of them, multiple times), along with the best answers we can provide.

Leave your question in the comments below, or send us an email, and we’ll answer in a future post.

Q: Can a volunteer serve in different positions in different units? For example, could the same person be Scoutmaster of a girls’ troop and assistant Scoutmaster of a boys’ troop? Could the same person be a Cubmaster and a Scoutmaster at the same time?

A: The BSA’s registration system will not allow an adult to officially register in more than one leadership position in the same unit, in part to keep Scouters from being overwhelmed by too many responsibilities. (The only exception is the role of Chartered Organization Representative, which can be filled by someone who’s also registered as the committee chair or committee member in the same unit.) Although technically speaking, an adult could be registered in different units, the BSA encourages its volunteers to think twice before embarking on such an undertaking, for the same reason. The practicality of dual roles is going to depend a lot on the volunteer’s personal situation. Could a longtime Scoutmaster who’s retired from their day job also make themselves available to serve on a second unit’s committee, to share their expertise and be available to answer questions? Most likely, yes. Could a working parent of one elementary school student and one middle school student find enough time to be an effective Cubmaster and Scoutmaster at the same time? It seems like a stretch. The bottom line is, spreading out the volunteer roles of Scouting over a larger number of people helps ensure a more balanced life and prevents volunteer burnout. If you’re a current leader who knows of a unit that’s running low on volunteers, instead of signing on to lead it, consider helping that unit find more volunteers. Your local commissioner and district-level volunteers can help.

 

Q: Can a Scouts BSA troop restrict merit badge counselor options? My son’s troop has a rule that Eagle-required merit badges must be taken with a troop-associated merit badge counselor. To me, that sounds like the troop is overstepping its authority. Does the BSA have an official policy on this?

A: Great question. The BSA’s official policy is that your local council’s advancement committee is responsible for approving merit badge counselors. But there’s nothing that says an individual unit’s code of conduct can’t also address the issue. As a member of a Scouts BSA unit committee, I’ve been involved in this exact conversation: We had concerns that a merit badge counselor at a district event wasn’t being thorough enough on the subject matter. Ultimately, we decided that if that counselor was approved by our council’s advancement committee, then we had to respect that authority. At the same time, we allowed ourselves to step in and reinforce certain elements of the badge as needed. Your best bet is to start a discussion with your unit’s committee, then with your local council, if needed. You can also use this form to report merit badge counselor concerns to your council’s advancement committee.

Q: Is there an Eagle Scout pin that an adult Eagle Scout can wear on a business suit rather than wearing the medal?

A: Yes! The BSA’s Scout Shop has you covered. For a business suit, consider the Eagle Scout tie tack, which features an understated Eagle Scout logo in a fine antique finish. Or, check out the Eagle Scout cufflinks, which feature both the logo and the words “Eagle Scout,” which might serve as a clearer symbol to those who aren’t already familiar with the program. For more Eagle Scout-related items, check out the Scout Shop’s Eagle Scout Gifts store.

Q: Can a den chief count hours spent serving as a den chief as service hours for rank advancement?

A: While this might not be explicitly prohibited, one could make the argument that this would go against the spirit of service. Consider this line from the BSA’s Guide to Advancement, Section 4.2.3.6, Fulfilling More Than One Requirement With a Single Activity: “When contemplating whether to double-count service hours and apply the same work to pass a second advancement requirement, each Scout should consider, ‘Do I want to get double credit for helping others this one time, or do I want to undertake a second effort and make a greater difference in the lives of even more people?’ ” Our advice: Get those service hours by working on a service project.

Q: Can merit badge patches be sewed on the sleeve of a short-sleeve shirt? As part of our troop’s safety warden program, we are looking to have our Scouts sew their First Aid, Emergency Preparedness (or Lifesaving), and Fire Safety merit badge patches just above the hem of their right sleeve. But only a maximum of three on the sleeve. All other patches would be on the sash.

A: According to the Scouts BSA Guide to Awards and Insignia, you have only two options for where to sew merit badges: On the right sleeve of a long-sleeve “Class A” BSA uniform shirt (with a limit of six total badges), or on a merit badge sash, with a maximum of three per row, with no total limit. If you’d like the Scouts in the safety warden program to wear those patches on the sleeves of their long-sleeve uniform shirt, you should consider putting that in your unit’s code of conduct, so everyone is aware of the expectations.

About Aaron Derr 116 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.