Ranks and Badges: A Troop 11 Guide to Advancement

Overview

Boy Scout advancement can generally be divided into two major phases: Up to First Class and after First Class.

Up to First Class
up to first class copyDuring this period (usually one year), the Scout works on rank requirements as documented in the back of the Boy Scout Handbook. The focus is on “Scout skills” such as camping, using a knife, tying knots, hiking, orienteering, etc. There is a great deal of assistance provided by the Troop to help young Scouts achieve the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class. Rank advancement activities are offered at Troop meetings and during campouts. In fact, the entire summer camp program for a first-year Scout is built around completing the requirements to become First Class.

Because rank advancement opportunities occur so frequently, it is critical that first-year Scouts bring their Boy Scout Handbook to all activities. This way they will get credit for work completed immediately.

After First Class
after first classThe focus after First Class shifts to earning merit badges, performing Troop leadership duties, and participating in service projects. In this second phase, Scouts are expected to be self-motivated to a much greater extent than in the first phase. The Troop continues to provide support, but the Scout must take the initiative. For instance, Scouts going to summer camp in their second and subsequent years can participate in many merit badge classes offered. Scouts can go to merit badge fairs that they hear about at Troop meetings. They can even participate in merit badge classes conducted during Troop meetings. The critical difference is that the Scout has to make the effort to engage with these offerings and navigate the necessary bureaucracy to earn the badge.

Troop 11 uses Troop Master software to track Scout advancements. Scouts and parents may request progress reports at any time or check progress themselves on Troop Master Web.

There are a number of administrative behind-the-scenes steps that must be taken after a Scout submits everything to the Advancement Chair. In order to provide the necessary time to complete these steps, no Scoutmaster conferences or Boards of Review will be conducted at the Troop meeting immediately before a Court of Honor. This means that the deadline to submit advancement requests is two weeks prior to a Court of Honor.

People Involved with Advancement

The Scout is the most important person involved. It is their Scout career and, for the most part, they must take responsibility for moving it forward.

The Scoutmaster has an approval responsibility in some, but not all, cases. See below for specifics. The Scoutmaster also conducts Scoutmaster Conferences — the next-to-last requirement for any Scout to earn a rank. These one-on-one meetings are an opportunity for a conversation about how things are going and to make a plan for what to do next.

The Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters have the authority to sign-off on completed requirements. It is important for Scouts to have their books signed off as soon as they complete a requirement by the adult who witnessed them doing it. Generally speaking, “I did that two months ago at the campout” is insufficient evidence for a signoff. Likewise, “Mr. _____ saw me do this but I didn’t have my book with me then. Can you sign it now?” will not usually work either. Note to anyone signing off on requirements: please write legibly and include the month, date, and year.

The Advancement Chairs are the keepers of the official record of the Scout’s accomplishments. They are critical to the process because if they do not receive official documentation of completed requirements, it is as if it never happened and a badge cannot be awarded. Scouts need to talk with the Advancement Chairs on the following occasions:

  • When they have completed all of the requirements for the next rank, but before they have a Scoutmaster conference. This ensures that they have actually completed all the requirements.
  • When they have completed a Scoutmaster conference so that a Board of Review can be scheduled.
  • When they have successfully completed a Board of Review
  • When it has been a while since they last checked in with the Advancement Chairs. This ensures that accomplishments are recorded in case the Scout’s Handbook gets lost. It’s also an opportunity for the Scouts to find out what requirements they still need to complete in order to finish up a rank or badge.

Merit Badge Counselors are the teachers who lead merit badge courses. They can be found at summer/winter camps, merit badge fairs, and among the adults connected to the Troop. They must be registered with the BSA, but they do not need to be leaders.

Boards of Review are panels of three adults who meet with a Scout after all requirements for a new rank have been met and the Scoutmaster has completed his Scoutmaster Conference with the Scout. This is an opportunity for the adults to get to know the Scout better, get his feedback about how things are going in the Troop, and to learn what the Scout did since his last Board of Review. It is not a test or an opportunity to independently confirm that a Scout has actually done the work to earn the rank.

Step-by-Step: How to Earn Ranks

  1. Scouts should participate in activities that give them the opportunity to complete the necessary requirements for their next rank. For ranks up to First Class, they should have a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster sign off on these accomplishments as soon as they complete them.
  2. Once the Scout believes that all of the requirements have been met, he needs to take his book to the Advancement Chair to make sure that the advancement management system is up-to-date. The Advancement Chair will provide the Scout with a printed progress report that is their ticket to request a Scoutmaster conference.
  3. The Scout takes that progress report to the Scoutmaster and requests a Scoutmaster Conference. These are often completed at the same meeting.
  4. After completing the Scoutmaster Conference, the Scout needs to take their signed book back to the Advancement Chair who will update the system and organize a Board of Review.
  5. The Board of Review is conducted with the Scout. See full information about these meetings here.
  6. After the Board of Review, the Scout takes his book to the Advancement Chair one more time to finalize the official record.
  7. The Scout is immediately credited with earning the rank. The badge itself will be presented at the next Court of Honor. (This distinction can be important if opportunities or activities are limited to Scouts who have earned a particular rank. For instance, only Scouts who have earned First Class can bring their own tents on campouts.)

Step-by-Step: How to Earn Merit Badges

merit badgesFor work done at summer/winter camp or a merit badge fair

  1. A camp or merit badge fair is organized and announced.
  2. Scouts and their families determine whether or not to attend the camp or merit badge fair. If the Scout can go, part of the registration process involves signing up for the specific courses the Scout is interested in taking. (Note: If you are a new Scout at summer camp, you will likely participate in a program focused on getting to First Class. In this case your merit badge choices are very limited.) Scoutmaster pre-approval is not required for Council, District, or Houston Museum of Natural Science merit badge classes.
  3. Scouts should go to all the class sessions, read the course booklet*, do the work, and earn the badge.
  4. The camp or fair organizers will send an official report to the Troop itemizing which requirements were completed by each participating Scout. The Advancement Chair, then records the information into the advancement management system.
  5. The Troop will share the information provided by the camp or fair with each Scout. Scouts should review the information to make sure that it is correct. If not, Scouts should bring the error to the attention of the Advancement Chair as soon as possible. Scouts do not need to submit anything to the Advancement Chair, unless they identify an error in the report.
  6. If complete, the merit badge will be awarded at the next Court of Honor. The Scout should also note completed merit badges in the requirements section for the appropriate rank in the back of his Boy Scout Handbook.
  7. If incomplete, a “partial” will be recorded in the Troop’s advancement management system that itemizes which requirements have been completed. It is up to the Scout to complete the requirements to earn the badge.

For work done in a Troop-organized course

  1. Troop leadership determines that several Scouts need a particular badge. The Troop makes arrangements to have a counselor conduct a course during Troop meetings and announces the availability of that course to anyone interested in taking it.
  2. The Scout needs to get a signed “Blue Card” from the Scoutmaster. This card will identify which badge, the name of the counselor, and give permission for the Scout to engage with the counselor for the course.
  3. The Scout must provide the signed Blue Card to the counselor at the start of the course.
  4. Scouts should go to all the class sessions, read the course booklet*, do the work, and earn the badge.
  5. At the end of the course, the counselor must sign the Blue Card and indicate whether it is complete or a partial. If a partial, they must identify which requirements were completed. The signed Blue Card is given back to the Scout.
  6. The Scout provides the signed Blue Card to the Advancement Chair, who then records the information into the advancement management system.
  7. If complete, the merit badge will be awarded at the next Court of Honor. The Scout should also note completed merit badges in the requirements section for the appropriate rank in the back of his Boy Scout Handbook.
  8. If incomplete, a “partial” will be recorded in the Troop’s advancement management system that itemizes which requirements have been completed. It is up to the Scout to complete the requirements to earn the badge.

For Scout-initiated work (done one-on-one with a counselor, at a museum, a school, or elsewhere)

  1. The Scout finds someone who can be a counselor for a badge they are interested in. (All merit badge counselors must be approved by the district or council.) There are courses offered in public places, such as museums and parks, or a course may be organized on an individual basis. The Troop maintains a list of merit badge counselors for many badges. If the Troop does not have a counselor, the Sam Houston Area Council can often assist. No Scout should use the same counselor for more than five merit badges.
  2. The Scout needs to get a signed “Blue Card” from the Scoutmaster. This card will identify which badge, the name of the counselor, and give permission for the Scout to engage with the counselor for the course.
  3. The Scout must provide the signed Blue Card to the counselor at the start of the course.
  4. The Scout should go to all the class sessions, read the course booklet*, do the work, and earn the badge.
  5. At the end of the course, the counselor must sign the Blue Card and indicate whether it is complete or a partial. If a partial, they must identify which requirements were completed. The signed Blue Card is given back to the Scout.
  6. The Scout provides the signed Blue Card to the Advancement Chair, who then records the information into the advancement management system.
  7. If complete, the merit badge will be awarded at the next Court of Honor. The Scout should also note completed merit badges in the requirements section for the appropriate rank in the back of his Boy Scout Handbook.
  8. If incomplete, a “partial” will be recorded in the Troop’s advancement management system that itemizes which requirements have been completed. It is up to the Scout to complete the requirements to earn the badge.

* The Troop maintains a library of merit badge pamphlets that can be checked out at no cost. Pamphlets are also available from a Scout Shop, and online at the ScoutStuff website.

Step by Step: How to Earn Service Hours

“Service projects required for Second Class, Star, and Life ranks may be conducted individually or through participation in patrol or troop efforts. They also may be approved for those assisting on Eagle Scout service projects.

An approval is important because it calls on a boy to think about what might be accepted, and to be prepared to discuss it. It is up to the unit to determine how this is done. In many troops, it is the Scoutmaster’s prerogative. Service project work for Second Class, Star, and Life clearly call for participation only. Planning, development, or leadership is not to be required.”

from the Guide to Advancement 2015

Examples of opportunities to earn service hours include assisting with another Scout’s Eagle project, helping at a non-profit organization, helping at a church or synagogue, or doing service hours at school.

  1. The Scout finds out about an opportunity to do service hours. This can be a project organized by others or a project the Scout initiates on his own.
  2. The Scout proposes the work project to the Scoutmaster who must approve it prior to the Scout doing the work.
  3. The Scout should go to the work sessions, work hard, and earn the hours.
  4. The organizer, or someone in a position of responsibility at the organization, must provide documentation of the work completed. This should minimally include the following information: the name of the Scout, location the work was done, the date the work was done, what was done, and the total number of hours worked.
  5. The Scout should present this documentation to the Advancement Chair, who will record the information into the advancement management system.
  6. The Scout should also keep a record of these activities in the Service Hours section at the back of his Boy Scout Handbook.

Special note for Eagle Scout projects: Eagle Scout candidates must provide the Advancement Chair with an Eagle Scout Project Service Log documenting volunteer hours of all participants on their project before proceeding to their Scoutmaster Conference.

Step by Step: How to Earn Nights Camped

Tenderfoot rank requirement 2: “Spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout. Sleep in a tent you have helped pitch.”

Second Class rank requirement 3a: “Since joining, have participated in five separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meeting), two of which included camping overnight.”

First Class rank requirement 3: “Since joining, have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight. Demonstrate the principles of Leave No Trace on these outings.”

  1. The Troop offers camping trips nearly every month of the year. These opportunities are announced at Troop meetings and elsewhere. A parent or guardian of a Scout who wants to participate in a camping trip should register the Scout using the procedure described in the event announcement/invitation.
  2. The Scout must go on the camping trip. The Person-In-Charge of the trip will record who participates and the number of nights they camped.
  3. Periodically, the Camping Chair will provide a report to the Advancement Chair indicated who has attended which campouts. The Advancement Chair will record the information into the advancement management system.
  4. The Scout should also keep a record in the Service Hours section at the back of his Boy Scout Handbook.

Step by Step: How to Earn a “Position of Responsibility”

To earn the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle, a boy has to serve in a position of responsibility for six months (four months for Star rank). Not every position of responsibility applies. Assistant patrol leader, for example, is not considered a position of responsibility in this sense. But senior patrol leader is. The following positions will count for advancement:

Patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, senior patrol leader, troop guide, Order of the Arrow troop representative, den chief, scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, chaplain aide, instructor, troop webmaster, or Leave No Trace trainer. Note that bugler is not considered a position of responsibility for Eagle.

Depending on the position, the Scout is either elected or selected for the role. The Scout should make sure the Advancement Chair is aware of his position, when he started and when he finishes.

During Scoutmaster Conferences for Star, Life, and Eagle, the Scout will need to provide the Scoutmaster with a written summary of his work in that position.

Notes for Adult Leaders

  • Leaders signing Handbooks must write legibly and must include month, day, and year.

  • Special note for Tenderfoot rank – the date on requirement 10a (physical fitness test) MUST be 30 days before requirement 10b (show improvement after practicing for 30 days).  PLEASE do not put the same date on 10a and 10b.

  • The “Demonstrate Scout Spirit” requirement is part of the Scoutmaster conference.

  • No Scoutmaster conference should be performed unless the Scout has brought his book to the Advancement Chair who can update the advancement management system and verify that the Scout is ready for a Scoutmaster conference. Scouts need to provide a Troop Master progress report indicating all rank advancement requirements have been met.

  • No Scoutmaster conference should be performed unless the Scout has completed all previous ranks.

  • No Boards of Review should be performed unless the Scoutmaster has signed in the book that a Scoutmaster conference has been completed. Advancements has sample questions for each rank to assist the leaders conducting the Board of Review.