Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 2

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Want proof as to how passionate Scout volunteers are about the Boy Scouts of America?

Just look at my inbox.

Last week, I provided answers to eight frequently asked questions, and at the end of the post, I provided information on how to ask your own Scouting-related question. (By the way, you can do so by emailing, subject “Ask the Expert.”)

Well, 78 emails later, it’s time for Round 2 of my rapid-fire FAQs. I can’t answer every question, but I have answered nine more common ones below.

This round will cover Cub Scouts earning merit badges, funeral services for a fallen Scouter or Scout, uniform questions, and more. Perhaps a question you’ve been wondering about is covered… 


Cub Scouts earning merit badges?

Question from Harvey: “I’m a Scoutmaster, and if a Scout has completed Cub Scouts in the spring but hasn’t crossed over to Boy Scouts, could he go to a merit badge clinic and take a merit badge that summer but not receive the badge until he is in Boy Scouts in the fall?”

Answer from Bryan: No. A boy can’t begin work on a merit badge until he is enrolled in a Boy Scout troop. He’ll have plenty of time to work on merit badges once he’s a Boy Scout.

Funeral services for a Scouter or Scout?

Question from Kevin: “If a Scout or Scout leader passes away, can they have a flag draped over their casket or a military style funeral.”

Answer from Bryan: The BSA doesn’t specify. During such a difficult time, that decision is best left up to the family of the Scouter or Scout. You may want to consult the Manual for Chaplain Aides and Chaplains under the heading “Scout Funeral Services” for some ways a Scout unit can honor one of its fallen members. A funeral service outline is available there, as well.

Tuck or no tuck?

Question from Michael: “Is it a ‘requirement’ for the uniform shirt to be tucked in? I’ve searched through all BSA publications and cannot get a clear answer.”

Answer from Bill Evans: “No stated requirement. We just say neat appearance. We know many women, for example, prefer to have their shirt out.”

Mix and match?

Question from James: “Can a Scout or Scouter wear the ‘old’ olive green pants with the new Centennial shirts? I’ve heard many people claim that mixing and matching is against the rules, but that rule isn’t in writing anywhere!”

Answer from Bill Evans: “We state that a Scouter and Scout can wear any previous uniform as long as it is in good shape. So, yes. But you can’t mix programs. For example, you shouldn’t wear Venturing pants with a Boy Scout shirt.”

Loop us in: Red or green?

Question from Carlos: “I remember a ‘recommendation’ when the Centennial uniform was first released that Scout troops stop wearing the red shoulder loops and adopt the Centennial Boy Scout (green) shoulder loops even on the ‘old’ uniforms. Is this in writing anywhere? The red loops are discontinued in the ScoutStuff catalog. Is there any reason to still wear them?”

Answer from Bill Evans: “Red loops are no longer available, but we still see plenty of troops wearing them, which is not a problem. Same as seeing a Boy Scout wearing the long green-and-red knee socks with the garters and tabs. That is fine. We offered them once, so you can still wear them. It should be noted, however, that locally made shoulder loops are never authorized.”

Palm presentation?

Question from Heather: “I have an Eagle Scout who has now earned the Bronze Palm. Who should be the one to present it to him? And when is an appropriate time for it to be given to him? I’d like him to receive it at our troop’s Eagle Court of Honor, which involves three other scouts as well, but have been told it can’t be presented there because it’s not a rank badge?

Answer from Bryan: First, congrats to the Eagle Scout who has been active in his troop for at least three months and earned five merit badges beyond those required for Eagle. As to your questions, that’s a matter of troop preference. The Senior Patrol Leader, Scoutmaster, or the Eagle Scout’s mom or dad could present the palms. I’ve never seen palms awarded at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, but I have seen them handed out at regular troop courts of honor. My instinct would be to keep the Eagle Scout Court of Honor “sacred” for those boys in the troop earning Eagle and make the palms part of the regular troop court of honor. But that’s just me. Any other thoughts for Heather? Please leave in the comments.

Related: Eagle Palm requirements

Jamboree prep?

Question from Veronica: “I was just wandering if you’re going to the Jamboree? Any advice, hints on things to know so I can better prepare my 13-year-old?”

Answer from Bryan: Tell him to get ready for the best 10 days of his life, first of all. My jamboree experiences as a participant in 1997 and 2001 and a staffer in 2005 were some of the best weeks of my Scouting career. There’s a wealth of info over at the official Jamboree website, so be sure he’s browsed around there. As for my advice, it would be to see and do as much as he possibly can. Said another way: Save the lounging around for when he gets back home.

Sure, seeing and doing it all is impossible. But by packing his days with fun activities, he’ll come home with a lifetime of memories. Speaking of, make sure he takes a camera or a smartphone with one built in. He’ll need it to show his classmates what they missed! Anyone else have tips? Leave ’em for Veronica in the comments.

Sustainability MB requirements?

Question from Bobby: “I have seen that the Sustainability Merit Badge will have an earn date of July 15. Do you have any idea of when the merit badge pamphlet and requirements will be released to the rest of us? I am a Merit Badge Counselor for several merit badges that are related and I would like to be “the first on the block” to be able to offer this one.”

Answer from Bryan: Love the enthusiasm. And I’m as excited as you to see these requirements. You’re right about the July 15 earn date, and that’s when I’ll post the requirements here on my blog. Speaking of, have you bookmarked my New Merit Badge Calendar? That always contains the latest info I have about merit badges.

Two roles, two knots?

Question from Tim: “Can a leader earn knots as both a Cub leader and Boy Scout at the same time? A person would be registered as both a den leader and a Scoutmaster trying to earn Den Leader Knot and Scoutmaster Key.”

Answer from Bill Evans: “The bottom line is yes, he can. But it’s important to specify that nobody is ‘earning’ a knot like the Den Leader Knot. Knots only represent an award, like in this case would be the Den Leader Training Award.”

Other Ask the Expert posts

Take a look at this link to see if I’ve addressed your question in a previous Ask the Expert post. If not…

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Send me an email with your question, and I’ll try to track down the answer.


37 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 2

  1. Our Troop hands out Eagle Palms at our normal Troop Courts of Honor. Our Troop doesn’t host Eagle Courts of Honor, they are hosted by the new Eagle’s family.

  2. Our troop awards the Eagle Palms at the next Court of Honor, unless the scout has earned it prior to his Eagle Court of Honor. in which case we award it to him when the Eagle Emblem is pinned on him by his mother.

  3. My troop will give Eagle Palms if they were earned in the intervening time between the Board of Review and the Eagle Court of Honor at the ECOH, and then only if the Eagle Scout in question is the one the ECOH is for (this happens on occasion, as at times, Scouts like to coordinate ECOHs — my ECOH, for example, was one with seven other friends from my troop being recognized — in these cases, the three months can pass by while Scouts wait for each other to summit before working out logistics). Otherwise, the focus of the ECOH should be on the Eagle being recognized.

  4. Why isn’t the Cub Scout immediately registering in a Boy Scout Troop? He shouldn’t be waiting until the Fall to cross over and join a troop! He should be in a Troop the very second he has completed Cub Scouts and be going to summer camp! I don’t know the logistics of your pack/troop bridging and retention plans, but it’s much better to have them complete Cubs and start going to troop meetings the very next week.

    • Absolutely. The Scout will loose a summer camp, and time to work on trailhead requirements. This will also cause retention issues too.

    • There’s a Boy Scout troop near us that doesn’t sign up bridged over Cubs right away. They say they’re in a “probationary” period. Not to see if they’re going to be accepted by the troop, but to see if they like it. Problem is, they’re working on things with the troop during this period that would technically not count (merit badges, ranks, etc.), but they do it. No one questions it, and the district advancement chair says there isn’t anything they can really do about it. They said they also do it so that it doesn’t make their retention numbers look bad, for JTS, among other things. If they have a lot of UBS sign up but then drop out after a few months, that makes their “numbers” look bad.

      I’ve had Cubs who have bridged over linger on my roster for months because they didn’t sign up right away into this troop that they bridged to back in February at Blue-Gold.

      Other Scoutmasters I’ve talked to don’t like these tactics, but they realize there isn’t anything they can do about it. Boys are free to join whatever troop they want.

      • Actually, you can use the statement that no unit can add/remove requirements from rank/MB’s/ or the eagle service project. You can find this in our advancement guide in many places, and as long as the boy is not registered in a unit, he loses time in correctly earning rank and merit badges. To say he is in a probationary period sounds like the SM is adding a requirement to the Scout Rank.

        Yes, a boy who drops out after a few months does look bad on the retention metric of the JTE, but what is more important: a gold JTE unit patch and banner, or giving that youth his opportunity to grow and advance as soon as is rightly so? I would remind that SM that our purpose is not to look good on paper but to offer our program to the community so to fulfill our mission.

        Plus, until the youth is registered in the troop, he may have lost his ability for your council’s accident insurance should anything happen to him at a troop activity. registration is not just a JTE numbers game, but a good safety net of insurance for our members. Any person not a member of the BSA that is injured at a BSA event may not fall under your council’s accident and sickness insurance.

        • If the boy is being actively recruited, and it sounds like he is, he is covered by both the accident and liability policies.

        • Well, they are still registered–with the Pack they graduated from. I have some boys who bridged over to that troop at our Blue-Gold in February, and if I go on ScoutNET right now, they’re all still listed as registered to my Pack. They’re all going to summer camp in a month, and they still haven’t transferred from my pack to their new troop. One boy says he’s halfway to Second Class already. I’m not sure how the Scoutmaster got that done on the advancement forms…

      • Well, that’s certainly a perverse way of looking at things. If you feel that the paperwork really matters, you could try publicly shaming them at a roundtable. Or, not worry about it.

        Do the boys get to go to summer camp with their troop? Some of these electronic registratons make it increasingly difficult to enroll a boy who’s not on the roster. But if that’s not a problem where you are, then it’s not a problem.

      • That Scoutmaster clearly doesn’t understand JtE for what it is: A performance metric, not an award. If his JtE shows he’s doing a poor job in retention, then that’s his signal to improve his program, not to massage the numbers so that he can feel good about himself with a Gold patch that he jimmied instead of a Silver or Bronze that he earned. Since every other unit around him knows what he’s doing, his Gold patch becomes an ironic point of ridicule, anyway.
        As Cubmaster, maybe ask yourself if maybe next year your dens don’t visit this troop that isn’t serious about improving and honestly evaluating its program.

        • The thing about this Scoutmaster is, he really doesn’t need to do what he’s doing–he has a huge troop, and kids want to join (the whole strength in numbers thing). They’re a young troop (only founded in 2010), but they have siphoned off a lot of boys from other troops in the area.

          He’s rubbed a lot of scoutmasters the wrong way because he has rather agressive recruiting techniques, such as going into schools himself and doing school talks right before the DE goes in in the fall to do his annual talk. He’s gone into schools at chartered orgs of other troops and then badmouthed the troop at that chartered org to get boys to join his troop.

          But one of the things that is told to Webelos in our area is to look at a prospective Troop’s JTE ranking, because it indicates a quality troop, and if a troop can’t be bothered to fill out the paperwork to get a JTE ranking, they’re not worth joining. So, a lot of troops in our council try to get the highest ranking they can so that they can use that as a selling point. Don’t bother telling a parent what’s involved in achieving a certain JTE ranking, they just need to know you’re a gold troop, or whatever, and that other troop down the road isn’t.

          This Scoutmaster has said that in addition to the JTE stuff, he doesn’t want to get a reputation like other troops of having high turnover, so if they never join officially in the first place, but hang out with the troop and do stuff before deciding it’s not for them, it’s no harm, no foul on their part. If a boy decides not to stay on, he doesn’t want it used against his troop.

          There are lots of reasons why a boy may not join a troop–it’s just not a good fit, the meeting date/time doesn’t work schedule-wise, they’re not doing much activity or advancement-wise, etc.

          But again, this guy doesn’t need to do what he’s doing. He has a large troop, with lots of assistant scoutmasters and committee members, they’re the only troop in this particular suburb, so if they just keep putting on a quality program, everything else will just fit into place. What concerns we as Cubmasters have is that during this “limbo period”, they’re earning advancements that they technically shouldn’t be.

      • I would highly suggest visiting other trooops first. (minimum of 3) Hopefully while the Scout and his parents are visiting this particular Troop the policy is clearly communicated up front during the SM conference with the Parents. Although not a sound nor popular practice, the decision rests with the CC and SM in their recruit/retention policies.

  5. Regarding Eagle Palms – Our Troop awards Eagle Palms at the very first opportunity which is usually one of our four Troop COHs held during the year. We also take a moment and make a special announcement about any Eagle Palms earned since our last ECOH during our ECOH. Finally, we list such award recognitions in our ECOH program both in the list of the events for the ECOH and in our enumerated list of Troop Eagle Scouts – e.g. Troop’s 65th Eagle Scout John Doe – Gold Palm

  6. Bryan, I recommend that when you have an expert answer a question that you provide a little information on who the expert is. I know of you and your relationship to Scouting. I am unfamiliar with Bill Evans and his relationship to Scouting.

      • Thanks, knowing your other experts positions or background will only help to lend a little more weight to their answers. His reply on Two Roles, Two Knots has always been a hottly debated topic.

  7. Tuck or no tuck…“No stated requirement. We just say neat appearance…” While I know there are way bigger items to tackle and standardize; seriously that is the official response??? I say fine if you want to allow women to leave theirs untucked, but all Scouts and male Scouters in their field uniform should have their shirts tucked in. Period. Not to make a stand on this is….NUTS!

    We keep going down this path and soon we’ll be like the GSA where we only wear a vest or sash over our street clothes.

    • No stated requirement leaves it open to interpretation by different units that may have different financial situations within that unit. Personally, I think it’s smart.

    • Please remember that Girl Scouts is GSUSA, not GSA. Please also note that Girl Scouts is not merely a girl involved copy of BSAs program, and that is for a reason. Its not a statement about BSA’s program quality. To hold any other youth organization to BSAs program as an appropriate comparison for standards of a good program is uneducated and inappropriate The GSLE is a wonderful program model for leadership development in girls and young women. Lets not do that old, worn out, debate here please!!! Thank you in advance.

  8. One point; Eagle Palms are a rank advancement. They count toward the Unit, District and Council advancement percentages. They are also a restricted item which requires Scoutmaster conference and Board of Review. They are entirely appropriate any a Troop Court of Honor. I would not include this in an ECOH, as that is a separate ceremony.

  9. Bryan, have two full-length photos taken of you in your uniform: 1) shirt tucked in; 2) shirt NOT tucked in. See which one looks better. Better yet, post both of them here – side-by-side – and let us decide. Not trying to pick on you personally, just trying to illustrate a point. I could swear that my old Patrol Leader’s handbook from the early 1980s stated that the shirt must be tucked in, and referred to those who don’t as “slobs.”

    • I completely agree that it looks much nicer. If I were Scoutmaster, I would strongly recommend to my youth leaders that they set a tucked-in policy.

      • I too would strongly reccomend to my youth leaders that they set a tucked-in policy. And in turn, I would expect my Adult Leaders to lead by example.

  10. Regarding tucked in shirts – the question was raised by participants while I was Wood Badge Course Director, and a member of my staff called National – he was told that “scalloped” (ie curvy) shirt tails needed to be tucked in, but “square” (ie straight) shirt tails could be worn either way.

  11. I see that the new training awards requirements, got rid of the old “Dates of service
    used to earn this award cannot be used to earn another key or award” restriction.

    IT”S ABOUT TIME! 🙂 ( And yes I’m screaming in joy, although it no longer affects me)

    • The vetting and publication of these FAQs should be done more carefully, thoroughly, and thoughtfully. Sorry, neither an informal blog FAQ nor a new adult recognition form equates to new policy. The adult recognition/award forms are governed by policy in BSA’s Leadership Training Committee Guide (#34169). Page 26 of that publication clearly states, “Tenure used to earn one key or award cannot be used to earn another key or award, unless otherwise noted in the award requirements.” Nothing (including this blog, unofficial remarks from the quoted “uniforming SME”, the BSA’s Volunteer Training Team, nor the official announcement of the new forms) has identified BSA’s revision to that vetted and published policy. If/when BSA staffers want to revise the adult recognition tenure policy, please update the governing publication on the topic or explicity state that policy has changed – just as BSA often does to revise advancement requirements and policies on youth protection, uniforms, etc.

  12. on the shirts being tucked in for court of honors flag ceremonies etc it does look better if all the boys are tucked in. however if on a long drive to camp they can be untucked

  13. As to funerals for scouters or scouts could the BSA approve a badge orblack shoulder loops that could be worn to funerals in respect for the passed?

  14. For Veronica on Jamboree prep – have your son look at all there is to do and have him list his ‘must see/must do’ and then add what he’d like to do next. That way, when all of the excitement is going on, he will have a goal to aim for, and he won’t miss anything that he really wanted to do. Also explain that things may change (weather, availability) and to have a back up plan for changes. Say, he wants to do the bike course, but the weather, or too many scouts signed up, does not allow it what would be a good alternative. And please make sure that he has a filled water bottle every day and that he drinks plenty of water, so he doesn’t suffer from dehydration.

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