FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

New Parents

How can I find out what events and the dates that the Troop is planning?

Check the online Troop calendar for the latest updates. We also communicate mainly through email, from Patrols, Committee, and our Scoutmaster. Check your email frequently for emails from Troop leadership, and please make sure we have your current email addresses. We encourage Scouts to have a personal email account when parents feel they are ready for one. Parents are encouraged to attend the semi-annual Troop planning meetings and other scout meetings.

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Should I call someone if my son can't be at a meeting? If so, whom?

Well, yes and no. We would encourage your son to make that phone call. Everything is a learning experience, even this simple act. He should contact his Patrol Leader. If he is a Patrol Leader, he should contact his Assistant Patrol Leader and the Senior Patrol Leader.

What's the “Mailbox”?

The “Mailbox” is a file with folders for each of our families. This is your Troop "mailbox" where you'll receive flyers, forms, printouts and other information, and where you can leave items for troop committee members or other families. There are also supplies of permission forms, applications, recent handouts and information sheets. Be sure to check your mailbox at each troop meeting.

How can parents help with Troop 628?

Parents can help in many ways. We always have positions open for Assistant Scoutmasters (ASM) and Committee Members. There are a number of different committee and ASM positions, such as Equipment coordinator, Activities/Outings Coordinator, Training coordinator, Communications Coordinator, Membership Coordinator, Secretary, or Fundraising Coordinator (to name a few) that require volunteers from the parents. Most positions can have a "shadow" who can assist the primary officer and learn the job. In addition, we need parents to help with Boards of Review and Courts of Honor. All parents are welcome to register through our Troop with Boy Scouts of America; the cost is only $15 per year. (There is no charge if you are already registered in another unit, e.g. Cub Scout Pack.) While all parents have a say in committee proceedings, only those registered as Committee Member or Committee Chair have a vote. Parents can also help by remembering that we are a "Boy Led Troop", and letting their son fulfill his requirements on his own is an important part of the growing experience.

What is Youth Protection Training (YPT)? Do I need to take it?

Youth Protection Training instructs adults in the steps BSA requires to keep our youth safe. It covers a variety of subjects including rules of contact, recognizing and preventing abuse, safe travel, camping, equipment, privacy, and many other subjects. You will learn the rules which all adults in the Scouting program are required to obey. All adult leaders who have contact with youth are required to take Youth Protection Training and remain current by retaking it every two years. This includes any adult who camps with the troop, drives Scouts to and from campouts or events, or works with Scouts in any capacity (including Merit Badge Counselors). Anyone can take Youth Protection Training - you do not have to be a registered leader. Begin your training by visiting the BSA Online Learning Center. Turn in your certificate of completion to the troop Committee.

What and when are Troop Meetings? Are there also Patrol Meetings?

Troop meetings are held from 7:00 to 8:30 PM each Thursday at the New Market United Methodist Church Schoolhouse. Due to inclement weather, meetings may be cancelled and notice will be provided by the Scoutmaster or other Troop leadership. At the Troop meeting, the entire Troop meets together and Scouts sit with their patrols. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend Troop meetings to stay informed and involved with Troop functions. We are not a “drop your son at the door” type of Troop! Come on in, listen to the announcements, and become involved!

During most Troop meetings, there will be time for patrols to meet and conduct business or plan for participation in campouts or future troop meetings. Patrols may also choose to hold meetings outside of Troop meetings, if necessary to work on projects, maintain their patrol equipment, or other purposes. This is up to the patrol leader of each patrol, who will notify each patrol member if a separate meeting is called.

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What medical forms are required?

Beginning in 2011, BSA and Troop 628 requires the NEW Annual Health and Medical Record form Parts A, B, and C. The same form is used by both adults and youth.

The form has three parts. Parts A and B are to be completed at least annually by participants in all Scouting events. This health history, parental/guardian informed consent and hold harmless/release agreement, and talent release statement is to be completed by the participant and parents/guardians.

Part C is the physical exam that is required for participants in any event that exceeds 72 consecutive hours, for all high-adventure base participants, or when the nature of the activity is strenuous and demanding. Service projects or work weekends may fit this description. Part C is to be completed and signed by a certified and licensed heath-care provider—physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. It is important to note that the height/weight limits must be strictly adhered to when the event will take the unit more than 30 minutes away from an emergency vehicle–accessible roadway, or when the program requires it, such as backpacking trips, high-adventure activities, and conservation projects in remote areas.

Part D is required to be reviewed by all participants of a high-adventure program at one of the national high-adventure bases and shared with the examining health-care provider before completing Part C.

The form is online and is in the Portable Document Format. The fields are fillable on your computer and the completed form can be saved. We advise that you keep the originals and provide two copies to the troop.

BSA has prepared an informative frequently-asked questions page about the new form.

How much are the annual dues, and what do they cover? What are the other costs?

Currently, Troop 628's annual dues are $100 per scout. This can be paid in full or in two payments due January 31 and July 1. For new scouts, the $100 dues have different due dates—March 31 and September 1. Dues fees cover all rank advancement, merit badge, and special insignia such as Quality Unit or special event patches. It also helps pay for costs such as youth training, and program materials and supplies. A scout joining in mid-year is charged a pro-rata amount based on when he joins.

Members of Troop 628 also pay an Equipment Fund fee. New members pay a $50 Equipment fund fee upon joining to help outfit a new patrol. All members pay a $25 Equipment Fund Fee July 1 of each year, bringing the total Equipment Fund Fee for new Scouts to $75.

Registration fees of $16 covering registration with Boy Scouts of America and accident insurance is due annually at re-charter time in December. A one-year subscription to Boys' Life Magazine is optional, for $12. The adult registration cost is $16 per year unless the adult is also registered and paid for through another unit (e.g. Pack).

Dues only covers a portion of the costs of running the troop. There is a charge for most campouts, normally $25 unless a special event or out-of-town trip is planned. This charge is mainly used to cover food and cooking fuel expenses. Fees for summer camp are approximately $250. There are small costs involved with activities such as swimming or fun activities. The cost of a full 12 months of scouting is approximately $600, if the scout participates in all activities.

The Troop offers several fundraising activities in the Spring where the scouts can earn money for their scout campership account to help pay for summer camp and other outings. Look in the fundraising and Campership portions of this FAQ for further details.

What equipment does my son need to start out?

The most important requirements are a sleep system (sleeping bag and ground pad) and a mess kit (or dishes, silverware and mug). High-quality rain gear, a water bottle, flashlight, and a camp chair are also necessary. It's also helpful to have a duffel bag or backpack to carry everything in.

The Troop provides tents to all youth members and maintains an inventory of other equipment including dining tarps, cooking equipment, and other camping gear. This equipment is purchased from the proceeds of Troop fundraising activities.

Of course, normal outdoor clothing appropriate for the weather is a must. Look in the Camping section of this FAQ for a list of essentials.

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Are there fund-raising opportunities?

Troop 628 offers scouts an opportunity to earn money toward scouting expenses through participation in fundraising activities. All scouts are expected to participate in sales and by working at events, as all Scouts benefit from the proceeds. In addition, our fundraising efforts provide our Scouts with an opportunity to earn money for their campership account. Many Scouts earn enough to pay for summer camp as well as a few other outings.

Currently, our big scout account (and troop general fund) fundraiser is our annual mulch sale. A portion of the profit from each bag of pre-sold mulch goes to the selling Scout’s campership account, so a scout can raise an unlimited amount of money toward his expenses.

The troop sponsors other fund-raisers from time to time, either to raise funds for troop operations and equipment or for a specific activity such as high adventure or toward the purchase of a Troop trailer.

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What is a Scout Campership Account?

A Scout Campership Account is a fund held by the troop but belonging to the scout, which can be used to pay for scouting activities and related expenses. A scout earns money for his scout account by participating in fundraising activities. Money can also be deposited into the scout account for convenience. The scout account can be used to pay for campouts, summer camp, dues, troop t-shirts, merit badge classes, and scout-related purchases such as merit badge books and other publications, and outdoor equipment including hiking boots, backpacks, personal camping gear, and the like. An account is established for each active scout. The balance is the Troop’s resources and will not be provided to the Scout or his family upon separation from the Troop. Separation is evidenced by failure to re-charter in the annual Troop re-charter process. Scout accounts do not earn interest. The Troop Treasurer can tell you your balance at any time.

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Who provides my son with his rank and merit badge patches?

The Troop provides all rank and merit badge patches as part of his annual dues payments. When a boy advances in rank, he receives his new rank patch at a subsequent Troop meeting, but is formally acknowledged during the next Court of Honor. Traditionally we have two or three Court of Honor ceremonies per year. Merit Badge patches and blue cards are handed out at Courts of Honor only.

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Who keeps track of the activities that my son participates in?

All service hours, nights camping, miles hiked, advancement dates, and miscellaneous events are recorded by registered troop leaders in the Troop Database. Merit badge applicant records (blue card), as well as rank advancement cards, and special award cards should also be kept by the Scout in a safe place. This documentation may be required to document the Scout's advancement to Eagle Scout. The scout should also record his service hours, camping nights and hikes in his Boy Scout Handbook.

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What is a Scoutmaster conference?

When a scout is finished with the requirements for his next rank, a Scoutmaster conference is required. Along with a Board of Review, these are Scouting's method of checks and balances. It is the scout’s responsibility to request a Scoutmaster conference. The Scoutmaster will go through and review to be sure that the scout's handbook is signed off properly and will review with the scout many of the requirements he has gone through. The Scoutmaster (or Assistant) will also talk about the requirement which speaks to living the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life. If the Scoutmaster feels that the scout is ready for this advancement, he will sign the scout's handbook. If the Scoutmaster feels that there are any deficiencies, they will be clearly outlined with what needs to be done to correct them, and a follow-up conference date will be set.

The Scoutmaster Conference should be carefully prepared for, and the scout must be wearing his complete Class A Uniform, his scout handbook, and a pen or he will be turned away.

After a successful Scoutmaster Conference, the next step is for the Scoutmaster to ask the Advancement Chair to schedule a Board of Review.

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What is a Board of Review?

The Board of Review is a conference with members of the Troop Committee who are not Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters or the boy's parents. A Board of Review typically follows a Scoutmaster Conference for rank advancement, but may also be requested by the Troop Committee for other reasons, such as to find out why a boy is not advancing.

Requests for a Board of Review must be directed to the Troop Advancement Chair at least one week before the requested board date. The Board of Review is requested by the scout, not by the parent.

The board will spend a few minutes with the Scout discussing the things he had to do to earn this advancement, as well as the Scout's general feelings about the Troop, the program, his goals, etc. This check and balance system allows for the Scouts to be able to openly discuss issues with people they can trust, as well as to be sure that the boys are truly deserving of advancement and not watering down the program. It is fair game for the Committee to ask the Scout about not only this current advancement, but ALL ranks earned previously. He will not be re-tested on any requirements, but may be asked how he completed them. For example, for the cooking requirement, he could be asked what foods he prepared and how he did it.

As with the Scoutmaster Conference, the scout must be in his complete Class A Uniform and have his handbook and a pen.

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What is the Order of the Arrow?

The Order of the Arrow is the BSA's National Scouting Honor Society. OA members exemplify brotherhood, cheerfulness and service, and assist Scouting through camp improvement projects, service to units, and assistance with council and district events. Scouts are elected to the OA by fellow youth members of their troop, and must have met certain requirements including achieving First Class rank and experiencing a minimum number of nights camping. For more information on OA, visit the website of Amangamek-Wipit Lodge 470, our council's OA lodge.

If my son has an issue with another scout, how should I handle it?

Your son's first and most important leader is his Patrol Leader. If there is no satisfaction at the Patrol Leader level, then Senior Patrol Leader should be involved. If no satisfaction is found within the youth leadership, the issue should be escalated to either the Scoutmaster or one of his assistants. The final escalation point within the Troop is the Troop Committee. This same escalation process also is in play when disciplinary action needs to be involved. We always try to have the youth leaders police their own issues, if possible. If the Troop is unable to resolve the issue, assistance is available through the Unit Commissioner, who is a district-level volunteer and who can call upon district and council resources.

If any issue ever involves conduct that endangers personal safety, the process skips directly to the adult leaders.

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New Scouts

When should I wear my uniform? Should I wear the full (Class A) uniform or the T-shirt (Class B) uniform?

Troop 628 recognizes two kinds of uniform: Class A and Class B.

The Class A consists of the official Boy Scout uniform shirt, olive green pants or shorts, belt, socks, and Troop hat (hats are not worn indoors at certain times), Troop neckerchief and slide, and appropriate footwear (leather or canvas shoes, neat and clean, or hiking shoes or boots). The Class B T-shirt is worn under the Class A shirt. The Class A Uniform is customarily worn:

* while traveling to and from campouts, and for dinner and chapel while at the campout

* at Troop meetings from the first meeting after Labor Day until Memorial Day

* at a Troop or Eagle Court of Honor

* when participating in a public event such as flag ceremony or parade

* when sitting for a Scoutmaster Conference or Board of Review

At formal events such as a Court of Honor, the Merit Badge Sash may be worn over the right shoulder. If a scout is a member of the Order of the Arrow, the OA sash may be worn instead of the Merit Badge Sash. Both sashes may not be worn at the same time, nor may the Merit Badge Sash be worn draped from the waist or belt.

The Insignia Guide contains information on how to wear the uniform correctly and where all insignia should be placed.

The Class B Uniform substitutes the troop T-shirt for the official BSA scout shirt. Khaki or green pants or shorts are still part of the Class B, and footwear appropriate for the activity. Occassionally, scouts may be asked to wear “work jeans” instead of their green pants. The Class B uniform can be worn to Troop meetings from Memorial Day through Labor Day and while at a campout, except as noted above.

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What is the youth leadership structure of the troop and where do I fit in?

Unlike Cub Scouts, which is run by the adults, Boy Scouts is a boy-led organization. The troop consists of several smaller groups called Patrols. These may seem to be similar to dens in Cub Scouts, but with one important distinction: Boys in a patrol elect their own leader from among themselves. The Patrol Leader's job is to help the boys in the patrol succeed by helping them advance, defining and supporting their roles in the patrol, and to represent the patrol on the Patrol Leaders' Council (PLC). The Patrol Leader appoints an Assistant Patrol Leader and also designates other members to ongoing or per-event functions, such as a patrol quartermaster The Patrol Leader also assigns duties for each member at campouts such as cooking and cleaning. Patrol Leaders are elected by patrol members at twice-yearly troop elections.

The top youth leader of a troop is called the Senior Patrol Leader. The SPL is elected by all the boys in the troop at the twice-yearly troop elections. His job is to chair the PLC, appoint Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders and other troop officers not appointed by the Scoutmaster, and to support the Patrol Leaders in their duties. He also chairs the annual troop program planning conference and conducts Troop Leadership Training with the support and participation of the Scoutmaster.

Other troop officers include the Scribe, who records the happenings of the PLC and at troop meetings, and takes attendance; the Librarian, who maintains the troop's library of handbooks and merit badge pamphlets; the Chaplain Aide, who plans and conducts religious services at campouts; Historian, who keeps a written and photo record of troop activities; the Quartermaster, who helps keep track of the troop's equipment; Webmaster, who helps maintain the Troop website; Troop Guides, who help new-scout patrols get settled in the troop and with their advancement; Instructors, who teach Scout skills; and Den Chiefs, who assist Cub Scout den leaders.

Every scout in the troop (except for the SPL, ASPLs and Troop Guides) is a member of a patrol. Patrol members can choose their patrol name, have a patrol flag and cheer, and camp as a patrol on troop campouts. As a new scout, your patrol leader and members of your patrol will do everything they can to make you feel at home in the troop and help you learn what you need to know to succeed.

As you may have figured out, the role of a leader is not to rule from above and give orders, but to support and serve those he leads and give them the tools they can use to be successful.

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Who signs off on my advancements?

In general, when a Scout learns and masters the task in a requirement, he demonstrates it for the Scoutmaster or ASM, who will initial and date his Boy Scout Handbook on the page (in the back) for that requirement.

Each rank has a requirement to show scout spirit, which is normally approved by the Scoutmaster or an Assistant Scoutmaster at the Scoutmaster Conference. The Board of Review space will be initialed by the committee Chair.

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Can parents and family members come along on troop campouts?

Parents who are registered ASMs and have been given leadership responsibilities attend campouts with the scouts. Parents do not sleep with their boys. Any parent who comes to camp, whether they spend the night or not, must complete Youth Protection Training. This may be taken online through the BSA Online Learning Center. All participants must also submit a current health form - both Scouts and adults.

The Troop will be working on merit badge or requirement activities which may not be age-appropriate for other family members, and whose presence may create a distraction. Siblings outside of Troop members may not attend campouts.

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What do adults do on Scout campouts?

Baden-Powell taught the lessons of leadership to boys in a giant laboratory called The Outdoors. It's no surprise, then, that camping is the heart of Boy Scouting, so please take a few minutes to understand Boy Scout camping. Boy Scouting is absolutely different from Cub Scouting or Webelos! And while parents often accompany the Scouts on campouts, the Scouts camp with their patrols and not with their parents!

Boy Scout camping activities center on the patrol, where boys learn teamwork, leadership, and most camping skills. It is important that adults not be in the middle of patrol activities such as site selection, tent pitching, meal preparation, and anything else where boys get to practice decision-making.

A key difference between Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting/Webelos is leadership. Look for the word “leader” in a job title, and you will begin to appreciate the difference. The responsible person for a Cub/Webelos den is the adult Den Leader. The responsible person for a Boy Scout patrol is the boy Patrol Leader.

This isn't token leadership (like a denner). A Patrol Leader has real authority and genuine responsibilities. Much of the success, safety, and happiness of his Patrol Scouts depends directly on him.

Boy Scouting teaches leadership. And boys learn leadership by practicing it, not by watching adults lead.

So what do we adults do, now that we've surrendered so much direct authority to boys? Here are our troop's guidelines on the indirect, advisory role you now enjoy (no kidding, you should enjoy watching your son take progressively more mature and significant responsibilities as he zooms toward adulthood).

The underlying principle is: Never do anything for a boy that he can do himself. We allow boys to grow by practicing leadership and by learning from their mistakes. And while Scout skills are an important part of the program, what ultimately matters when our Scouts become adults is not whether they can use a map and compass, but whether they can offer leadership to others in tough situations, and can live by a code that centers on honest, honorable, and ethical behavior.

Boys need to learn to make decisions without adult intervention (except when it's a matter of immediate safety). Boys are in a patrol so they can learn leadership and teamwork without adult interference.

Being an adult advisor is a difficult role, especially when we are advising kids (even worse, our own sons). Frequently (usually two to three times a year), the Boy Scouts of America offers special training on how to do this, which we require our uniformed adults to take.

Adult ASMs are members of our Compass (adult) Patrol. This patrol has several purposes-good food and camaraderie (of course), but more important is providing an example the boy patrols can follow without our telling them what to do (we teach by example). Since a patrol should camp as a group, we expect the Compass Patrol to do so also; that way, adults don't tent in or right next to a boy patrol where your mere presence could disrupt the learning process. We practice the same camp etiquette we expect of the boys; for example, we don't just wander in to a patrol campsite but ask for permission to enter, just as the boys are expected to do when entering other patrols' (or the adults') sites.

Troop 628 adults tent separately from the Scouts (even dads and sons). We also either cook and eat separately, or are invited by the patrols to join them for meals. We are safely nearby, but not smotheringly close. Sure, go ahead and visit the patrol sites (not just your son's), talk to your son (and the other Scouts), ask what's going on or how things are going. But give the guys room to grow while you enjoy the view. Show a Scout how to do something, but don't do it for him. Avoid the temptation to give advice, and don't jump in just to prevent a mistake from happening (unless it's serious). We all learn best from our mistakes. And let the boys lead. If you see something that needs doing, like dirty dishes on a table or a fallen clothesline, don't do it yourself, and don't just tell the boys to do it either. Mention it to the Scoutmaster, and if it's important enough, he'll bring it up with the Senior Patrol Leader, who will decide how to handle it.

Your job is tough, challenging, and ultimately rewarding, because your son will be a man the day after tomorrow.

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Does my son get Scout credit for nights spent camping with his family?

No - Credit for nights of camping for Scout advancement, merit badges or Order of the Arrow eligibility must be earned during Scouting campouts only (Troop campouts, Camporees and BSA summer camp).

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What personal gear should I bring to a campout?

The File Cabinet section of our website contains two lists of suggested gear: one for weekend campouts and another for summer camp. For cold-weather camping, there is a list of winter camping tips as well. Be sure to wear clothing appropriate for the weather, and resist the urge to over-pack. Scouts should pack their own gear, not the parents.

Does my son need to have his own tent or cooking equipment?

No, the Troop provides tents and cooking equipment for all camping and backpacking events. Each Scout will provide personal eating utensils.

Are there any other policies or rules that are observed on campouts?

Yes - a few things:

* Shoes: Appropriate shoes must be worn at all times. For general around-camp an old pair of sneakers is fine, but for any hiking or adventure, we recommend a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. These don't have to be serious boots; a pair of “light hiking” shoes should be fine. You can find good hiking shoes at outdoor outfitters like Brass Pro Shops, Cabella’s, REI, or Gander Mountain. It's important that no open-toed shoes be worn, including flip-flops, sandals, etc. This is to prevent stubbed toes!

* Electronics: Electronic devices are not permitted in camp. The use of such devices separates the boy from his patrol, possibly at a time when his patrol depends on him, and contributes to distraction during the campout. If an adult leader notices a Scout with an electronic device, the Scout will be asked to put it away. On second notice, the device will be taken and returned when we leave camp. If you need to contact your son while he is at camp, you can reach the Scoutmaster or adult campout leader via cell phone; the number will be on the permission slip.

* Snacks, soda, etc.: We do not permit Scouts to bring soda pop, snacks, etc. The Patrol and Troop will provide all food and drink. Under no circumstances is food ever kept in tents; it attracts animals, which will invade and destroy the tent to get it.

* Dangerous behavior: Rules of common sense apply. Pocket knives may be brought and used as long as the Scout has earned the Totin’ Chip. Pocket knives may be used only in a designated Ax Yard under the direction and permission of the Ax Yard Marshall, and not otherwise prohibited (such as during a planned activity). Running is not allowed in camp. There is plenty of forest to trip over, and running makes it more likely that an injury will occur. The campfire is to be tended only by the Fire Marshall or another Scout that he designates. All who tend the fire must have earned the Firem'n Chit. Scouts are not permitted to poke at the fire with sticks. If it goes in the fire, it stays in the fire.

Because Scouting is boy-led, the Scouts themselves are responsible for enforcing the rules. Adults monitor (from a distance) to make sure the rules are followed. If an adult sees a dangerous situation, he or she will stop the behavior at once, but any other issues need to be taken up with the Scoutmaster, who will address it as appropriate. (See above for What do adults do on Scout campouts.)

Of course, it should go without saying that alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs or controlled substances, and smoking (including vaping) are all prohibited at all Scouting events including troop meetings, Courts of Honor and campouts.

See our Code of Conduct for Scouts and Article 11 of our By-Laws for further information.

What is High Adventure? Does the Troop participate?

High Adventure is a personally challenging outdoor experience, usually involving hiking or boating (canoeing or sailing) for several days to a week. The Troop strives to provide a long-term high adventure opportunity each year, along with two or three short-term (weekend) high adventures. Some examples of long-term high adventure include BSA's high adventure bases at Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier Canoe Base, Bechtel Summit, and Florida Sea Base. Non-BSA high adventures include the Appalachian Trail.

What are the age and rank requirements for backpacking treks and high adventure?

For Troop-conducted backpacking treks, there is no minimum age, but scouts should be old enough and strong enough to be able to backpack all their gear (approximately 20 pounds) and hike the distances involved. They should also possess adequate scout skills, which means having attained First Class rank or nearly so. The Scoutmaster or High Adventure Coordinator can give you more details.

BSA high-adventure activities do have age requirements. Scouts must be 13 for Northern Tier and the Summit, and 14 for Philmont and Sea Base. Specific birthdates are listed on those BSA websites linked above.

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How does advancement work in Boy Scouts?

Advancement is one of the methods that is used to deliver the aims and purposes of Scouting. All boys are encouraged to advance, because it gives them recognition for accomplishment, teaches them useful skills, and gives them a benchmark by which to measure their progress.

Unlike Cub Scouts, where all boys advance in rank by age or grade, Boy Scout advancement is not tied to a specific timetable. There are boys who advance to Eagle by the age of fourteen, and there have been some who reach age 18 without advancing higher than Tenderfoot. For a boy to get the most out of the Scouting program, however, we encourage him to complete First Class rank within a year or so of joining.

A boy advances through the first few ranks (Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class) by mastering scout and life skills of increasing complexity. As he completes requirements, he'll have his Scout Handbook signed the Scoutmaster or ASM (see a separate FAQ entry on this), complete his Scoutmaster Conference and Board of Review, and be recognized for his achievement. Boys may work on all three ranks simultaneously, but they must be awarded in order.

The next ranks, Star and Life, require completion of varying numbers of merit badges, including some that are required for the rank of Eagle, along with service hours and fulfilling a leadership role in the Troop.

The highest rank, Eagle, requires completion of 21 merit badges, of which 12 are required and the rest electives, development and execution of a service project involving supervision and leadership of others, and holding a position of leadership in the troop. The process is more complicated, and the rank is awarded by the national organization rather than the local council.

More information and links to videos for each rank can be found on the Advancements & Awards page on the BSA website.

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Who keeps track of a scout's advancement?

He does! Although the Troop keeps advancement records once advancements are completed, a large part of the Scouting experience is for the boys to learn responsibility for their own advancement. The Scout Handbook should be taken on almost all Scouting events, and the Scout should be aware of what requirements are outstanding. Generally, nobody is going to tell him he needs requirement such-and-such until it is noticed that he's not been advancing for a long period of time and he's called into a conference with the Scoutmaster.

When do service hours count? How many do I need?

Service hour participation predominates the higher ranks (First Class and above). However, Second Class requirement 5 requires "Participate in an approved (minimum of one hour) service project". Service projects are also counted as Troop "events," which many newer scouts need for advancement. The Star rank requires participating in service projects totaling at least six hours. These must be approved by the Scoutmaster in advance. Excess service hours worked for a specific rank do not carry forward to the next rank.

The Eagle-required Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge also requires 8 hours of community service for the same organization.

One common question about whether service projects "count" or not is the question of "double dipping." Sometimes schools, clubs, churches or other groups require a certain number of service hours. Our Troop's rule is that if you've received credit for your service hours from a different institution, then you cannot count it again ("double-dipping") for Scouts.

Whether it "counts" or not, participation in service projects is a large part of a boy's demonstration of living the Scout Oath and Law, and is strongly encouraged.

What is the Merit Badge process?

The Merit Badge program helps the scouts learn career skills, develop physical fitness, and provide hobbies that give a lifetime of healthful recreation. Merit badges must be earned with the assistance of a Council-approved registered Merit Badge Counselor. A scout who would like to earn a merit badge talks to the Scoutmaster (or one of the assistant Scoutmasters), who will assign a counselor and issue an Application for Merit Badge, commonly called a "Blue Card".

* The Scout fills out the first part of the blue card and has the Scoutmaster sign it.

* The scout contacts the Merit Badge Counselor and sets up a schedule for earning his merit badge.

* The Merit Badge Counselor will sign off individual requirements until the merit badge is completed.

(In keeping with youth protection rules, a scout never meets alone with a merit badge counselor. The Scout and Leader must bring a buddy when they meet, or must meet in a public setting, such as at a Scout meeting, mall or coffee shop, etc.)

The blue card is divided into three sections:

* The Merit Badge Counselor holds his part of the card as a record for at least one year.

* The Scout keeps the middle third (the "Applicant's Record") at home in a safe place such as a special merit badge binder.

* The last section goes to the Scoutmaster to be signed, after which the scout gives it to the Advancement Chair to be recorded in the troop and Council records, and to obtain the Merit Badge itself, which is awarded at the next Court of Honor.

Keep your rank cards and merit badge cards in a safe place! There have been incidents where cards are lost accidentally by Troops. If there is any question as to whether a scout has earned a merit badge, the scout's signed portion of the Blue Card is positive proof. We recommend getting plastic trading card sleeves and a three ring binder to hold the cards. This can be a place to record camping nights, merit badge write ups, etc. It's also a good idea to photocopy your cards and keep them in a safe place.

Watch this entertaining 10-minute YouTube video on the process of earning a merit badge. It was produced by two scouts from Troop 121 in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

Can a scout work on merit badges by himself or with his family?

A scout has to follow the procedure above for earning a merit badge, or work on merit badges at summer camp, merit badge clinics or classes conducted within the troop. In all cases, he must have Scoutmaster approval and a Blue Card before beginning. A parent cannot counsel his son unless he is also a registered Merit Badge Counselor for that particular merit badge. It is not recommended that a parent be his son's counselor unless the parent is teaching a class or clinic for the troop, camp or outside organization, or if there is no other counselor for that merit badge in the Catoctin Mountain District. It is up to the discretion of the Scoutmaster as to whether to allow a particular counselor to counsel a scout.

There are many reasons why a boy's parent may not be a suitable Merit Badge Counselor for his son. Chief among these is that the merit badge process is intended to give the scout experience in dealing with people outside his circle of acquaintances. It can be a challenge to pick up the phone, call a trustworthy adult whom the scout has never met before, and ask him or her to be his counselor, but within that challenge is a character-building experience that will prepare him for the associations he will have later in life.

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How can I become a Merit Badge Counselor?

Any adult over 18 can be a Merit Badge Counselor and help scouts with one or more of the over 120 merit badges available. All that is required is a knowledge of the subject area through experience, work, hobby or other means.

A Merit Badge Counselor does not need to be registered in any other position in Scouting, or even have a son in the program. Prospective Merit Badge Counselors must complete a separate adult application and disclosure form, giving position code 42, as well as the Merit Badge Counselor information sheet which lists which badges you want to counsel. All Merit Badge Counselors must complete Youth Protection Training and include a copy of their certificate with their application. The forms are mailed or brought to the Council office. There is no charge or registration fee. A counselor can choose to work with scouts throughout the district, or from only a single Troop.

Each year, in May, Council sends renewal letters to all registered counselors. The renewal letter needs to be signed and returned to the Council office in order to remain a Merit Badge Counselor. At this time you can also add or drop merit badges.

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What can parents do to help with their son's advancement?

One of the biggest things you can do for your son is to encourage him to keep working and to help him remember all of our Troop activities on our calendar. Write important dates on your family's calendar. Keep track of his advancement progress via his book. Remind him of items he still needs to complete. Encourage him to talk to his Patrol leader so they can review what he needs to get done. You can also work with your son on rank advancements, although you cannot sign them off. You certainly can, however, help prepare him to demonstrate what he's been working on and get those things signed off at a meeting by the appropriate person (usually, the Scoutmaster or an ASM).

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How can I find out what the current requirements are for a rank or merit badge?

The current requirements are found on the National BSA Web Site. We also have convenient links in the sidebar on this website. The BSA website is updated as requirements change. BSA also publishes a book each year titled "Boy Scout Requirements" which is an annual compendium of the requirements. The Scoutmaster, Committee Chair and Advancement Chair usually have the current edition. When requirements change, BSA usually issues some guidelines as to when the new requirements take effect and the permissive period, if any, when the old or new requirements are acceptable. In general, once a scout begins working on a particular item (rank or merit badge), he can use either the requirements in effect at the time he started, or the new requirements that take effect before he finishes (but he cannot pick and choose which ones he wants to do - he has to do all of the old, or all of the new, requirements).

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What is the process for completing the Eagle rank?

The Life to Eagle process is considerably more complex than any of the previous ranks. National Capital Area Council has a comprehensive guide to the Eagle process online. Scouts must use the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927.

Troop 628 has an established procedure for obtaining committee approval of an Eagle project.

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Who can I talk with if I have any advancement-related questions?

You or your son can always talk with the Scoutmaster or one of the Assistant Scoutmasters if you have a question about a particular requirement. You can also talk with the Advancement Chair if you have a question about whether an advancement has been recorded or any other advancement-related issue.

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