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 scoutstuff.org) 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.

Which numbered service star do I wear?

First, figure out your registration date with the unit. At the year anniversary of that date, you’re eligible to wear a 1-year service star. Repeat that every year. Most units will wait to award their service stars at a court of honor or special ceremony.

Here’s how the stars break down for Scouts and Scouters. Note that there are differences in the way Scouts wear them and the way Scouters do.

For Scouts

The Guide says: “If an individual’s primary registration is in one phase of Scouting and later in another, separate stars with the appropriate background and numerals may be worn simultaneously.”

Example 1: A boy was in Cub Scouting for three years then crossed over into Boy Scouting and has been there for two years. He would wear two stars. One 3-year (with gold backing) and one 2-year (with green backing). More on backings later.

Example 2: A boy was in Cub Scouting for four years, spent five years Boy Scouting and now has been a Venturer for a year. He would wear three stars. One 4-year (gold backing), one 5-year (green backing), one 1-year (red backing).

Example 3: A boy joined Boy Scouting two years ago, and is still involved. He would wear one 2-year star (green backing).

Example 4: A girl joined three years ago and is still involved. She would wear one 3-year star (red backing).

Example 5: A boy was in Cub Scouting for a year, left the program, and returned to Boy Scouting, where he’s been registered for two years. He would wear two stars. One 1-year (gold backing) and one 2-year (green backing).

To be clear, the boys in Examples 1, 2 and 5 cannot combine their time in separate programs into one pin. So the boy in Example 2 would wear three separate pins as explained above, not one 10-year pin.

For Scouters

Adult leaders are a different story. The Guide says: “Leaders may combine youth and adult tenure into one or two stars with blue backgrounds.”

Leaders are allowed to represent their time spent as a youth in Scouting separately through an additional pin or pins as mentioned above. But I imagine most will want to show the total time they’ve spent in the program. That means they get to wear a larger number, after all.

Example 1: An adult was in Cub Scouts for four years and Boy Scouts for six. Now he’s been a registered adult leader for 10 years. He would wear a 20-year star (blue backing). (Or he could wear a 4-year star with gold backing, a 6-year star with green backing and a 10-year star with blue backing.)

Example 2: An adult was a Venturer for three years and has been a Venturing advisor for four. She would wear a 7-year star (blue backing). (Or she could wear a 3-year star with red backing and a 4-year star with blue backing.)

Example 3: An adult was in Boy Scouts for five years and has been registered as an adult leader for 30 years. There’s no 35-year star, so he would wear a 30-year star and a 5-year star — 30+5 = 35 (blue backings on both). (Or he could wear a 5-year star with green backing and a 30-year star with blue backing.)

Example 4: An adult was in Boy Scouts for two years then wasn’t involved in Scouting for 10 years. Now he’s back and has been a Scouter for two years. He would wear a 4-year star (blue backing). (Or he could wear a 2-year star with green backing and a 2-year star with blue backing.)

Example 5: An adult was in Boy Scouts for five years and has been registered as an adult leader for 71 years. He would wear a 70-year star and a 6-year star — 70+6 = 76. Or, I suppose, a 75-year star and a 1-year star — 75+1 = 76. And he should get a parade in his honor immediately. (Or he could wear a 5-year star with green backing and a 70-year and 1-year star each with blue backing. Three stars total.)

Example 6: An adult wasn’t involved in Scouting as a youth but has been a volunteer leader for five years. He would wear a 5-year star (blue backing).

Example 7: An adult wasn’t involved in Scouting as a youth. He’s been registered the past five years with a pack and the past three with a troop. Those years overlapped, so his total time with Scouting has been five years. He would wear a 5-year star (blue backing).

The pins themselves

service-star-90The numbered gold pins include every digit from 1 to 10 and jump by 10s from there: 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. After that the gap is every five years: 75, 80, 85, 90. With those last few you’re getting into rarified air.

Here are the pins along with their Supply number. Protip: The number makes it easy when searching at ScoutStuff.org. Just enter the number in the search box, and you’ve saved yourself a few steps.

1-year service star, No. 71.
2-year service star, No. 72.
3-year service star, No. 73.
4-year service star, No. 74.
5-year service star, No. 75.
6-year service star, No. 76.
7-year service star, No. 77.
8-year service star, No. 78.
9-year service star, No. 79.
10-year service star, No. 80.
20-year service star, No. 68.
30-year service star, No. 69.
40-year service star, No. 70.
50-year service star, No. 81.
60-year service star, No. 82.
70-year service star, No. 83.
75-year service star, No. 1182.
80-year service star, No. 1183.
85-year service star, No. 1184.
90-year service star, No. 1185.

service-star-certificateYou can present them with the certificate seen here (Supply No. 34396).

That ensures that the star isn’t lost before you’re able to present it to the Scout or Scouter.

Most units will pin the star to the certificate and present it all as one.

What colored backing do I wear?

The stars must be worn with a colored background.

For Scouts, that background represents the phase of Scouting in which the service was
rendered:

service-star-yellowGold backs (No. 63) are for youth Cub Scouting service (Tigers, Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts).

 

 

service-star-greenGreen backs (No. 66) are for youth Boy Scout service.

 

 

 

service-star-brownBrown backs (No. 67) are for youth Varsity Scout service.

 

 

 

service-star-redRed backs (No. 65) are for youth Venturing service.

 

 

 

For adults, the same backings are used regardless of program. And as I explained above, an adult may combine youth and adult service to come up with one number of total service to Scouting.

service-star-blueBlue backs (No. 64) are for adult Scouter service.

Where are the service stars worn?

Service stars are worn centered above the left pocket, about three-eighths of an inch above the seam/flap.

If a medal or an embroidered knot is worn, service stars are worn above the left pocket a quarter-inch above the medal or knot.

service-star-where2 service-star-where1

The source

This information came from Page 63 of the BSA’s Guide to Awards and Insignia and was verified by Peter Self, team leader with council support here at BSA.


H/T: Thanks to Peter Self and to Scouter Brandon Kleimann for suggesting the blog post idea. 

105 thoughts on “Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

  1. If it is this difficult to understand intuitively, then the service star system is badly designed and should be overhauled.

  2. Me stated: “If it is this difficult to understand intuitively, then the service star system is badly designed and should be overhauled.”

    No, the “Tenure pin” has been designed from the start to be a UNIT PROGRAM. Each and every unit does this a bit differently. The only BSA guidance is the color of the backings, the fact one-“year” equals one service star, and where they are worn on the field uniforms.

    • The market has spoken, Mike. Lack of use and the necessity of a two page article to explain them is evidence the service stars don’t work for people.

      The colors of the backings make no sense. Why would boy scouts wear pine green backings? That has never been a color that represents the boy scouts. Explorers uses red. But if you look at the Webelos colors – they use gold for cubs, red for boy scouts, and green for explorers. Then the brown backing for varsity? What? Brown isn’t anywhere in the program at all. And what about the light blue for adults? Light blue representing what exactly?

      The pins need to be overhauled. Most people don’t wear them, and most people don’t have any idea what the backings represent. If it were up to me, the backings would be the same as the loops on your uniform – blue for cubs (adults or youth), olive for boy scouts (adults or youth), silver for district/council, and yellow for national. Or just make them all olive backed and not worry about the programs.

  3. As I recall, at one time there were nave blue (not adult light blue) and white service star backgrounds that contrasted with white and blue Sea Scout uniforms???

    • I don’t have any Sea Scouting records which reflect navy blue or white service star backings used for BSA programs. I believe that Girl Scouting at one time used white backings for their adults and blue backings for their Cadettes program.

  4. blank Stars.
    At one time, BSA had service stars without numbers and the Cub or Boy Scout just added another star each year. I do not know when (1950s?) or why BSA went over to having only numbered service stars.
    Admittedly, after several year the number of blank start could get out of hand on the youth’s uniform and might not be a good idea for adult Scouters past year one.
    But I think that the boys, especially CUBS, would take to wearing individual blank service star (with appropriate background circle) rather than just the most recent numbered service star. Call it “bling.”
    Something for National Supply to think about as an option for local units, especially packs.

    • An Old Scout wrote and asked: “At one time, BSA had service stars without numbers and the Cub or Boy Scout just added another star each year. I do not know when (1950s?) or why BSA went over to having only numbered service stars.”

      Actually, it was the middle 50s when the BSA decided on using numbered service stars. The first stars actually went from 1 to 40 (I have a 27 and a 31 year pin. I sometimes wear it to Scout Shows and people ask me about “how do they go about getting one with a specific number of years??” It does make it easier to wear.

      The “blank” or unnumbered year pins are STILL available, although it will be hard to find them. National Supply no longer stocks them (their stock went out somewhere around the turn of the century when the Den Chief tab no longer was in vogue. That, and the Youth Leadership in America medal were the only two places where the unnumbered service star was still being used back then…)

  5. What about “Explorers” before the modern day Venturing? I was an “Explorer” and I assume they would wear the red backing.

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