FAQ

NEW PARENTS
When and where and how often does the Troop meet?
Do parents come to the Boy Scout meetings like we did for Cub Scouts?  How can parents help with Troop 320?
How can I find out what events and dates that the Troop is planning?
How often do they have events and is the event schedule posted in advance or will we know a few weeks ahead of each event?
My son is involved in other activities like travel soccer, baseball, etc.  Is it ok if he misses some meetings or campouts ?
What is “Youth Protection Training” and do I need to take it?
What are patrols?
What medical forms are required?
How much are the annual dues, and what do they cover?  What are the other costs?
What are the major fund-raising opportunities?
What is this mysterious “Popcorn Account”?
What equipment does my son need to start out?
Who provides my son with his rank and merit badge patches?
Who keeps track of advancements and activities that my son participates in?
What is a Scoutmaster conference?
What is a Board of Review?
What is the Order of the Arrow?
If my son has an issue with another Scout, how should I handle it?

NEW SCOUTS
What's a class “A” uniform and when should I wear it?
What's a class “B” uniform  and when should I wear it?
Where do I get class “B” tshirts?
What is the youth leadership structure of the Troop and where do I fit in?
Who signs off on my rank advancements?
Who signs off on my merit badge requirements?

CAMPING
Can siblings come along on Troop campouts?
Is it required that a parent accompany him on all campouts?
What do adults do on Scout campouts?
What equipment does my son need to camp?
How do tenting and meals get arranged?  How can I help my son to work these arrangements out for himself?
What if a camper has never slept out alone before?  How do you handle it if they get scared?
What if the camper misbehaves?  Do you have a standard consequence or do you have them do a physical activity like push ups or jumping jacks?
If they are swimming in a lake is someone watching them?
Do you have a buddy system?
If your son has to miss a campout or other activity are there ever "makeup" activities?
What is High Adventure?  Does the Troop participate?

ADVANCEMENT
How does rank advancement work in Boy Scouts?
Who keeps track of a Scout’s rank advancement?
What can parents do to help with their son’s advancement?
Is it the Scouts responsibility to know which badges he needs to work on?
What are rank requirements and why do they matter?
What are merit badges and what is the merit badge process?
Can a Scout work on merit badges by himself or with his family?
How many merit badges do I need?
How can he best take advantage of advancement opportunities early on?  What merit badges does he need to start working on first?
How does my child get rank requirements signed?
What is the process for completing the Eagle rank?
Who can I talk to if I have any advancement-related questions?
How can I help my son stay on track in scouting if he does not have a parent involved in the Troop and/or to encourage him to take responsibility?

SUMMER CAMP
If my son can't go to the new scout campout what happens?
Is my child already behind if he misses the new scout campout and had to do the eagle bound program at Camp Comer?
What is Camp Comer and where is it?
Does my son need to go to Camp Comer?
If my son can't go that week can he go another week with another troop?

NEW PARENTS

When and where and how often does the troop  meet?
Troop 320 meets every Monday night at 7:00 at the Scout Hut, which is located behind Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church.  Meetings typically last until 8:15 PM.

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Do parents come to the Boy Scout meetings like we did for Cub Scouts? How can parents help with Troop 320?
Although parents are not required to attend Boy Scout meetings, parental involvement in the Troop is certainly welcomed.  There are always opportunities for a parent to get involved with the Troop activities and planning.  There are always positions open for Assistant Scoutmasters (ASM) and Committee Members.  There are a number of different committee and ASM positions, such as Equipment coordinator, Trips coordinator, Training coordinator, Communications coordinator, Popcorn coordinator, Treasurer (to name a few) that require volunteers from the parents.  In addition, we need parents to help with Boards of Review, Courts of Honor, and Merit Badge Counselors.  All parents are welcome to register through our Troop with Boy Scouts of America.  Parents can also help by remembering that we are a “Boy Led Troop” and letting their son fulfill his requirements on his own as an important part of the growing experience.

Please take the time to read this important document.  It hits the nail right on the head with regards to what we are trying to do with the Scouting program at Troop 320. 

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How can I find out what events and dates that the Troop is planning?
Check the online Troop calendar (at www.troop320.org) for the latest updates.  We also communicate mainly through email.  Check your email frequently for emails from Troop leadership, and please make sure we have your current email address.  We encourage Scouts to have a personal email account when parents feel they are ready for one.  Parents are also encouraged to attend the monthly Troop Committee meetings as well as the semi-annual Troop planning meetings.

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How often do they have events and is the event schedule posted in advance or will we know a few weeks ahead of each event?
The Troop typically plans events or activities on a monthly basis, with at least one activity planned for each month of the calendar year.  These trips and activities are posted online to the Troop calendar, and are discussed in emails that are sent out to the Troop 320 email distribution list. 

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My son is involved in other activities like travel soccer, baseball, etc.  Is it ok if he misses some meetings or campouts ?
The Troop makes every effort to accommodate Scouts that have conflicts due to other activities.  This may include making separate travel arrangements to and from campouts. Please remember that being active in the troop is Requirement 1 for the higher ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle. Attendance at meetings and campouts are the major elements of being active. A Scout who has conflicts which make it difficult to be active should meet with the Scoutmaster to discuss ways he can meet this requirement.

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What is “Youth Protection Training” and do I need to take it?
Youth Protection Training is required for *all* registered adults that interact with the Scouts.  It 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. 

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What are patrols?
The Scouts in the Troop are divided into patrols, with each patrol having a patrol leader and assistant patrol leader.  Scouts camp, tent, and cook by patrols and virtually all Troop activities are geared so that the Scouts work together as a patrol.  As Scouts founder, Lord Baden-Powell put it, “The patrol system is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried on. It is the only method.” 

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What medical forms are required?
Beginning in 2011, BSA and Troop 320 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 health 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.

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How much are the annual dues, and what do they cover?  What are the other costs?
Currently, Troop 320’s annual dues are $100 per Scout.  Dues cover all rank advancement, merit badge, and special insignias or special event patches.  It also helps pay for costs such as youth training, program materials, supplies, equipment, gear, camping, trip expenses, and activity fees.  Occasionally the Troop will schedule a campout or activity where an additional nominal fee may be charged.  Adequate notification will be provided for any such activities.

Additional fees are required for summer camp and these will be publicized during the summer camp registration process (they typically are in the $250 range). 

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What are the major fund-raising opportunities?
Each year Troop 320 participates in a Christmas Tree sale at the Over the Mountain Scout Lot on Highway 31 in Vestavia.  Each Scout, as well as parents, are expected to participate in the tree sale.  This is the single most significant fundraiser for the Troop and proceeds from this event help to fund the operations Troop for the entire year.  Additionally, Scouts are encouraged to participate in the fundraising event for the Vulcan District (selling popcorn).  All proceeds that the Troop receives from this District fundraising event goes directly into a “Popcorn Account” for the Scout and can be used to help offset the cost of any camping-related expense (campouts, summer camp, high-adventure trips, etc).

Another duty that Troop 320 participates in, and that is tied in with the Christmas Tree sale, is the duty to put up and take down flags along Highway 31 in Vestavia.  The Troop is assigned a weekend to either put up or take down the flags and this is done usually on a Saturday morning. 

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What is this mysterious “Popcorn Account”?
Each year the Troop participates in the Popcorn fundraising drive for the Vulcan District.  Each Scout is asked to sell (delicious) popcorn to help raise money for the district.  The district allows the Troop to keep a portion of the proceeds raised through this fundraising event.  Instead of keeping the money, the Troop allocates these funds to the Scouts that participated in the event in the form of a “popcorn” account that they can use to pay for camping activities such as summer camp, high adventure trips, campouts, etc.

For instance, imagine that Little Johnny participates in the popcorn sales and he sells $100 worth of popcorn.  The Troop gets to keep, let’s say, 50% of that money (that’s not the actual percentage, but we’ll use that in this example).  The Troop then allocates $50 to Little Johnny’s “popcorn account.”  Little Johnny can now use that $50 to help pay for a camping activity with the Troop. 

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What equipment does my son need to start out?
Of course your son will need a proper Scout uniform (pants, shirt, socks) and a Scout Handbook.  These can be obtained at the Birmingham Scout Shop located at Liberty Park.  The next most important items are a sleeping bag and ground pad, and a mess kit (plate, silverware, and mug).  These can be purchased at Mountain High Outfitters or any other camping or outdoor center.  High-quality rain gear (not Wal-Mart brand), a water bottle, flashlight, and camp chair are also necessary.  Other camping items (tent, backpack, stove, etc) may be rented at first and be purchased later on down the road. 

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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 dues payment.  When a boy advances in rank, or completes all the requirements for a merit badge, he receives his new rank and/or merit badge patch at a subsequent Troop meeting. 

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Who keeps track of advancements and activities that my son participates in?
The Scout should record his service hours, camping nights and hikes in his Boy Scout Handbook.  While all of this data will be recorded into the Troop database, the Scout Handbook is considered to be the primary source for this data.  In case of a catastrophic crash of the Troop database, the only record we will have to go by is the 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. In a Scoutmaster Conference, the scout meets one-on-one with either the Scoutmaster or an Assistant Scoutmaster. 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 two uniformed Assistant Scoutmasters of the Troop. It usually takes place during the fourth Troop meeting of the month.  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 should 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. 

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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

What's a class “A” uniform and when should I wear it?
Troop 320 recognizes two kinds of uniform: Class A and Class B. 

The Class A uniform consists of the official Boy Scout uniform shirt, olive green pants or shorts, belt, and socks.  A Boy Scout neckerchief and slide is optional, and appropriate footwear (leather or canvas shoes, neat and clean, or hiking shoes or boots) is required. The Class A Uniform is customarily worn:

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

    * at all Troop meetings

    * 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.

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What's a class “B” uniform  and when should I wear it?
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. Occasionally, scouts may be asked to wear “work jeans” instead of their green pants. The Class B uniform can be while at a campout, except as noted above. 

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Where do I get class “B” tshirts?
Class B tshirts are available at the Scout Hut.  Just ask the Scoutmaster or a uniformed Assistant Scoutmaster. 

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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 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 rank 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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Who signs off on my merit badge requirements?
In general, the Merit Badge Counselor that teaches the merit badge should be the only one who signs off on those specific requirements.  However, exceptions may be made so that the Scoutmaster or a uniformed Assistant Scoutmaster may sign off on the merit badge requirements.  Other exceptions may be made if the Scout is completing requirements with a qualified adult at a summer camp or other organized event.  This is at the discretion of the Scoutmaster.  Parents should not sign off on any merit badge requirements. 

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CAMPING

May siblings come along on Troop campouts?
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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Is it required that a parent accompany him on all campouts?
Unlike Cub Scouts, dads are not required to accompany a Scout on all campouts (unless special circumstances exist which would require that he be present).  Dads are certainly welcome to join us and help with delivering the Scouting program.  Dads do not sleep with their sons. Any dad who comes to camp, whether he spends 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. 

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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 dads 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 the boys (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.

Adult ASMs are members of our Big Dog (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 Big Dog 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 320 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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What equipment does my son need to camp?
The most important items are a sleeping bag and ground pad, and a mess kit (plate, silverware, and mug).  These can be purchased at Mountain High Outfitters or any other camping or outdoor center.  High-quality rain gear (not Wal-Mart brand), a water bottle, flashlight, and camp chair are also necessary.  Other camping items (tent, backpack, stove, etc) may be rented at first as needed and be purchased later on down the road. 

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How do tenting and meals get arranged?  How can I help my son to work these arrangements out for himself?
All tenting and meal arrangements for any campout are to take place within the patrol with the guidance of the Patrol Leader.  These arrangements may be made during a patrol meeting at the Scout Hut or via email between the members of a patrol.  Before a campout it’s OK to ask your son who he’s going to tent with and who’s going to cook the meals.  If he does not know or does not have a satisfactory answer, encourage him to seek guidance from his Patrol Leader.  If that does not work, encourage him to speak with the Senior Patrol Leader or Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.  If the issue still does not get resolved, tell him to speak with the Scoutmaster or an Assistant Scoutmaster. 

Resist the temptation to make these arrangements for him.  One of the primary goals of Scouting is to teach the boys self-reliance, confidence and to learn from their mistakes.  No one has ever gone hungry on a Troop 320 campout although many forgot to plan meals.

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What if a camper has never slept out alone before?  How do you handle it if they get scared?
Scouts are not truly “alone” on any campout.  They will tent with their patrol mates and other Scouts in the Troop, and the adult leadership team is never far away.  Scouts that may become homesick or scared are encouraged to interact with the other Scouts and to try to have fun in the activity, so as to steer their thoughts in a different direction and not focus on their being scared or lonely.  

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What if the camper misbehaves?  Do you have a standard consequence or do you have them do a physical activity like push ups or jumping jacks?
Troop 320 does not encourage nor condone any use of corporal punishment in any Scouting activity, so push-ups or jumping jacks are out of the question.  If a Scout misbehaves at a campout or other Scouting activity, the behavior will be addressed in correlation to the seriousness of the action.  The first line of authority comes from the Scout’s Patrol Leader, then the Senior Patrol Leader.  If the situation warrants, an adult Assistant Scoutmaster will get involved and, if necessary, address the issue with the Scoutmaster and Troop Committee Chair. 

Any disciplinary action for any Scout will be handled by the Troop Committee Chair.

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If they are swimming in a lake is someone watching them?
BSA groups shall use Safe Swim Defense for all swimming activities. Adult leaders supervising a swimming activity must have completed Safe Swim Defense training within the previous two years. Safe Swim Defense standards apply at backyard, hotel, apartment, and public pools; at established waterfront swim areas such as beaches at state parks and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes; and at all temporary swimming areas such as a lake, river, or ocean. Safe Swim Defense does not apply to boating or water activities such as waterskiing or swamped boat drills that are covered by Safety Afloat guidelines. Safe Swim Defense applies to other nonswimming activities whenever participants enter water over knee deep or when submersion is likely, for example, when fording a stream, seining for bait, or constructing a bridge as a pioneering project. Snorkeling in open water requires each participant to have demonstrated knowledge and skills equivalent to those for Snorkeling BSA in addition to following Safe Swim Defense. Scuba activities must be conducted in accordance with the BSA Scuba policy found in the Guide to Safe Scouting. Because of concerns with hyperventilation, competitive underwater swimming events are not permitted in Scouting. 

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Do you have a buddy system?
Troop 320 will follow BSA’s Buddy System whenever appropriate. Examples include water activities, whenever a Scout is to go beyond visual range of a campsite, instances where Scouts are interacting with large groups of people not known by the troop, and whenever the Scoutmaster declares the Buddy System is in effect.

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If your son has to miss a campout or other activity are there ever "makeup" activities?
Meetings and campouts are not required attendance.  Of course your son would miss out on any activities that took place during that meeting or campout that he missed.  While the Troop typically does not arrange for any make-up sessions or activities, arrangements can certainly be made to bring Scouts up to speed on a case-by-case basis. 

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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 RanchNorthern Tier Canoe Base, and Florida Sea Base. 

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ADVANCEMENT

How does rank 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 by 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 rank 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. 

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What can parents do to help with their son’s advancement?
Ask him how things are going, ask to see his Scout Handbook and inquire if he is getting sign-offs on the requirements that he completes.  Encourage him to talk to the Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmasters when he has met a requirement. Parents are involved at home encouraging, mentoring, and supporting, but they do not sign for rank advancement requirements. 

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Is it the Scouts responsibility to know which badges he needs to work on?
Absolutely!  Advancement responsibilities, to include merit badges, are up to the Scout to keep up with.   A large part of the Scouting effort is to teach the Scout that it is his responsibility to dig into the badges and know what he needs to do next.  Remember, this is a chance for a boy to learn how real life works. 

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What are rank requirements and why do they matter?
The rank advancement program teaches boys to set goals and work toward them. We try to follow a “First Class -First Year” program for new scouts, helping them to advance through the ranks to First Class in their first year in our troop.  New scouts start advancing by going through the rank requirements in their Boy Scout Handbook.  The book defines the rank requirements and what needs to be done for each one. 

Remember, it is the Scout’s responsibility to complete rank requirements and get their paperwork signed.  Rank advancement, although encouraged, is not a requirement in Boy Scouts; the adult leaders will not approach the scout to sign off on requirements.  If they’re not advancing at all, they may have a conference with the scout to find out if there is anything wrong, but in general, the scout must be the one to take the initiative.

Scouts typically advance by doing the following:

-          Attending  the troop meetings

-          Attending troop outings and activities

-          Studying the requirements listed in the handbook on their own

-          Attending Camp, Merit Badge Roundup, and other merit badge workshops (See merit badge page for more information)

-          Holding leadership positions within the troop

Experienced scouts learn skills on specific topics by working on merit badges and develop leadership skills by holding positions of responsibility.  Helpful Hint: You can work on rank requirements in any rank at any time; scouts often have some First Class requirements complete before they are a Tenderfoot. 

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What are merit badges and 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.

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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 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 many merit badges do I need?
To attain Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle, requires the completion of 21 merit badges, of which 12 are required and the rest electives.

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How can he best take advantage of advancement opportunities early on?  What merit badges does he need to start working on first?
Of the 21 merit badges that a Scout must earn before achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, 13 are required.  That means only 8 of the 21 merit badges are elective.  If you are a Scout that intends to earn Eagle Rank, then it is a good idea to concentrate on the thirteen Eagle-Required merit badges starting early in your Scouting career.  The electives will fall into place as you attend summer camp or perhaps other events.  So, keep focused on these important 13 Eagle-required merit badges and not the electives. 

Let’s talk about those 13 merit badges, and perhaps the best time and place to earn them.

Swimming, Environmental Science, Communications, First Aid, Cooking, Lifesaving:  No better place than summer camp.  If you are a swimmer, you will be passing a swimming test your first day at camp.  Might as well keep going and get the Swimming merit badge!  (If you are not a swimmer, this is absolutely the best place to learn.  I taught swimming to non-swimmers as a lifeguard at a Scout camp many years ago.  I had every boy swimming within a week.)  Many camps have an age limit for Lifesaving, so this might be delayed until your third or fourth season at summer camp.  There are alternatives for Swimming and Lifesaving, but I personally recommend these two merit badges.  I believe that every person should know how to swim, and also how to rescue someone in the water.  Environmental Science, First Aid, Cooking and Communications are also a natural for camp, and all three should be earned early on your advancement trail.  Not a bad idea to use four of these merit badges for your Star advancement.

Family Life is a merit badge that should be earned as young Scout.  It is fairly easy, requiring a couple of family projects and a family meeting.  (This is one of the “90-day” merit badges.  You must keep a record of your chores for 90 days, so there is no way to earn the merit badge in less than that time.  If you are seventeen years old and have not earned this merit badge, you MUST start the merit badge at least three months before your 18th birthday, or you will not be able to earn Eagle Rank.)

Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World:  Citizenship in the Community is a complex merit badge, requiring an interview of a public official, attendance at school or town board meeting, and eight hours of community service to an organization that you have identified and interviewed.  Citizenship in the Nation is easier, requiring only one trip, but requires a reasonable knowledge of our government and how it works.  Citizenship in the World is what I call a “homework” merit badge.  You can earn the entire merit badge by reading the merit badge pamphlet and answering the questions.  (I had one Scout earn this merit badge in one 35-minute session with me.  He was a history buff and really knew his material.)  All three citizenship merit badges can be earned at any age, but they are probably easier for a Scout of 13 years or older.

Camping:  You will earn this over the course of several years camping with your troop.  A total of 20 nights of camping are required, only 7 of which may be summer camp.  Keep good track of all your camping trips in your Scout handbook!

Personal Fitness and Personal Management:  These two merit badges are the most important ones for launching yourself into adulthood, and should be the last Eagle-required merit badges earned.  They are “real world” and require a lot of work.  And they are also the two other “90-day” merit badges, requiring a log of personal fitness activities and a journal of income and expenses for 3 months.

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How does my child get rank requirements signed?
Rank requirements may be signed off by the Scoutmaster or by any uniformed Assistant Scoutmaster at a Troop meeting or other Scouting event (such as a campout).  Scouts are encouraged to bring their handbooks to campouts so that they can have requirements signed as they complete the requirement.  The Troop also periodically schedules advancement nights where rank advancements are reviewed and approved as appropriate.  Additionally, encourage your son to approach a uniformed Assistant Scoutmaster when he has completed any rank advancement and wishes to get the requirement signed.  This strengthens his self-confidence and helps him get accustomed to interacting with adults and other leaders. 

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What is the process for completing the Eagle rank?
The fact that a boy is an Eagle Scout has always carried with it a special significance, not only in Scouting but also as he enters higher education, business or industry, and community service. The award is a performance-based achievement whose standards have been well-maintained over the years. Not every boy who joins a Boy Scout troop earns the Eagle Scout rank; only about 5 percent of all Boy Scouts do so. This represents more than 2 million Boy Scouts who have earned the rank since 1912. Nevertheless, the goals of Scouting—citizenship training, character development, and personal fitness—remain important for all Scouts, whether or not they attain the Eagle Scout rank. 

To earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement rank in Scouting, a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills. Although many options are available to demonstrate proficiency in these areas, a number of specific skills are required to advance through the ranks—Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. To advance, a Boy Scout must pass specific tests that are organized by requirements and merit badges.

Take a look at this resource for great information on the path to Eagle.

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Who can I talk to if I have any advancement-related questions?
The Scout should address any advancement-related questions with his Patrol leader first, then an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, then the Senior Patrol Leader.  Parents should speak with the Advancement Chair, Scoutmaster, or Troop Committee Chair if you have any advancement-related questions. 

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How can I help my son stay on track in scouting if he does not have a parent involved in the Troop and/or to encourage him to take responsibility?
Make sure he has the handbooks and badge books needed, and talk with him to develop an action plan.  For example, the plan might include things like:  1-Tell Citizenship in the World Badge Counselor Smith about attending the Cherry Blossum Festival at the Botanical Garderns so he can sign off requirement X;  2-Ask Assistant Scoutmaster Doe about XYZ.  Suggest a written list kept in the handbook, so that if your son doesn't have the opportunity to accomplish something at one meeting, he will remember to keep trying in the next few weeks. 

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SUMMER CAMP

If my son can't go to the new scout campout what happens?
The “new Scout campout” is designed to give your son an opportunity to interact with his peers and other Troop leadership (older Scouts and adult leaders) in a camping environment.  A number of rank requirements will be addressed at the campout as well to give your son a head start on rank advancement.  If your son cannot attend the new Scout campout it’s OK.  The same rank advancements and peer interaction will take place at Summer Camp through the Eagle Bound program.  The new Scout campout mirrors what is typically done through the Eagle Bound curriculum.  So either way, your son is still getting the essential rank advancements taken care of. 

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Is my child already behind if he misses the new scout campout and had to do the eagle bound program at Camp Comer?
Certainly not.  Scouting is not a race, especially when it comes to new Scouts that have just joined the Troop.  There will be plenty of time and opportunity to fulfill rank requirements and pursue merit badges.  Please do not feel as if you are behind this early in the game. 

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What is Camp Comer and where is it?
Each year Troop 320 spends a week at a Boy Scout Summer Camp.  Traditionally, Troop 320 has done this at Camp Comer located in Mentone, Alabama.  The Scouts spend the week working on merit badges and fulfilling rank advancements.  It’s a fun and safe environment for them to learn and interact with one another (as well as with boys from other Troops). 

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Does my son need to go to Camp Comer?
While it is not required, the value of going to Camp Comer cannot be understated.  Camp Comer offers Scouts a unique opportunity to work on a number of merit badges (up to 7) in a short amount of time.  It also affords them the opportunity to interact with one another and to simply enjoy the great outdoors. 

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If my son can't go that week can he go another week with another troop?
Absolutely!  There are a number of times when we host a young man from another Troop or a member of Troop 320 attends Summer Camp with another Troop.  These arrangements just need to be made through the Scoutmaster so that proper credit is given to the Scout.

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