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

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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: The BSA policy of allowing the unit leader in a board of review is regulated by BSA Guide to Advancement. The unit leader may observe, but not participate. However, what about a unit leader who recently changed positions to committee chair and now wishes to sit on Eagle boards of review? He would be on these boards for Scouts of whom he was their Scoutmaster for the majority of their career. Does the fact that the Scoutmaster changed positions make it allowable to be a member of a board of review for Scouts he led for many years?

A: Technically, there is no rule that prohibits a former Scoutmaster from sitting in on a board of review for a Scout in this situation. We agree, however, that it would be a disservice to the youth. Consider, perhaps, a conversation in which you explain that a BOR is designed to give youth the opportunity to talk to adults they don’t know, build relationships with new adults and otherwise explain their Scouting experience to someone who wasn’t already there most of the time.

Q: What’s the difference between a Scouter Reserve (91) and a College Scouter Reserve (92)?

A: Scouter Reserve positions are for supportive adults who have no immediate, specific leadership role. The Scouter Reserve (non-unit registrant position code 91) is designed for any adult who would like to be “on reserve” should a Scouting unit need some extra help. The College Scouter Reserve (code 92) is designed specifically for college students who are interested in filling that same role. Both require criminal background checks and Youth Protection Training. Those who would like to volunteer as a reserve for specific units can use codes 91U and 92U, respectively.

Q: When a den chief goes camping with the den (and usually with the pack), can they count the nights camping towards the Camping merit badge?

A: Yes, assuming the den chief performs some kind of den chief-related duties during the campout. Requirement 9a says, “Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.” This means the experiences are held under the auspices of some level of the BSA, and that “Scouting” happens on them. As long as the den or pack campout is a designated Scouting event (it most certainly would be, unless they’re participating in some kind of unauthorized activity), then it would count toward the requirement.


Den Chief patch on uniform
BSA file photo

Q: How can the Scouts at our church earn a merit badge for learning American Sign Language and learning about ASL culture?

A: Requirement 3b of the Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge states, “Describe what American Sign Language (ASL) is and how it is used today. Spell your first name using American Sign Language. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using ASL.” Although it’s not one of the requirements, a knowledge of sign language will come in handy when working on the Disabilities Awareness and Communication merit badges.

Q: How do you start a brand-new Cub Scout pack? Is there a “best practices” method? A checklist? A BSA protocol?

A: First of all, thanks for taking this on. You’re doing a huge service both to your community and to Scouting by starting a new Scout unit from scratch. The first thing we recommend is that you contact your local council. There might already be a unit in your community that’s looking for leadership. If there isn’t, click here to get started. Get more details in the official BSA publication Unit Roadmap: Starting, Sustaining & Growing Units. Don’t forget to add your unit pin to (step No. 2 under “Getting Started”) so interested families can find your new unit.

About Aaron Derr 393 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.