Joining our Troop

A Brief Guide for New Scouts and New Scout Parents

 
Whether you are transitioning from a Cub Scout Pack or are getting involved in Scouting for the first time, this guide is intended to briefly answer many common questions about Boy Scouting. 
How do I sign up? Boy Scouts are organized into "troops." Fill out a youth application form. Be sure and check the box to get "Boys Life" magazine. Turn in the form and fees to the troop Registrar. 
How much does it cost? Joining fees will generally include the fee for registration with the Boy Scouts of America (currently $15 per year), insurance (currently $1), a Boys Life subscription (currently $12 per year) and troop dues, which will vary from troop to troop -- just ask. If you are currently registered with another troop or a pack, the transfer fee is only $1 (which many troops will pay); but you still may have to pay the troop dues. Other costs that you will have over time will be the Boy Scout Handbook (about $10), the Boy Scout Uniform (around $80 for the whole rig--more on the uniform below), camping equipment (more on that below, too), and fees for various campouts, summer camps, and outings, and your share of the food expenses for each campout. Most troop have fundraising activities to help pay for Scouting expenses. 
What do I need to get now? Get the Boy Scout Handbook first. Get the uniform second. Don't purchase any camping equipment until you've been with the troop for a while (see below). 
What is the Handbook? The Handbook is pretty much everything a Boy Scout needs to know. It has his advancement requirements and the information necessary to complete those requirements. It serves as his record of achievement and his Scout encyclopedia. Take good care of the Handbook, and take it with you to every troop meeting and activity. 
How about the uniform? The official Boy Scout uniform consists of the shirt, pants or shorts, belt, socks, and merit badge sash. Neckerchiefs and hats are optional and are determined by the troop. Some troops don't require the uniform pants. However, the official "Switchback" uniform pants are comfortable with big pockets, are made for outdoor activities, and have zip-off legs so you can wear them as pants or as shorts. They are a good value, and are suitable for any Scouting activity. You may hear unofficial terms like "Class A" and "Class B" uniforms. Class A often refers to the entire uniform, while Class B may only require a troop t-shirt or other t-shirt or polo shirt with a Scouting logo or design. Ask the Senior Patrol Leader what these terms mean in your Troop. 
How about camping equipment? Don't buy any camping equipment until you are settled into the troop and can really see what you will need. One troop may do a totally different style of camping than another one, so your equipment needs may be very different than what you think. Check out what the older Scouts and adults are using for ideas about what you will need and ask for recommendations. In the meantime, you can usually borrow what you will need from another Scout, and the troop will usually have some equipment for you to use. Many sporting goods stores also rent equipment, so you can try before you buy. 
So how does this Scouting thing work? Generally, our troop will have meetings for all Scouts twice a month for about an hour and a half. Try to attend as many of those meetings as you can--this is where a lot of the "work" of Scouting (planning, preparation, learning skills, working on rank advancement) is done. This is also where a lot of information about upcoming activities is distributed. Parents are welcome to come to meetings and observe, and should attempt to do so regularly, at least for part of the meetings, so they know what is going on in the troop and can also get the information on upcoming. Once a month or so, the troop will have an outing or activity, such as a weekend campout, a hike, bike, ski, or canoe trip, or perhaps a fundraiser or service project. Preparation for these activities usually happens at the regular troop meetings. Parents are always welcome (and usually needed) at these activities, but they should be aware of the level of fitness required and what their role might be (for example, providing transportation, teaching a skill, or simply relaxing at the campsite while the boys are off on their main activity). These monthly (usually outdoor) activities are what Scouting is all about--it is where Scouts test their skills and leadership--and where much of the FUN of Scouting happens. 
What about ranks and advancement? Ranks and advancement show your level of skill and experience in Scouting. When you join Boy Scouting, you must first complete the "Joining Requirements." You will then get a plain "fleur-de-lis" badge, the Scout Badge, to wear on your uniform. You can then begin working on ranks and Merit badges. You can work on requirements for the first three ranks (Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class) all at the same time, but you must complete each rank in order. You can also work on merit badges, which you will need for higher ranks. When you reach First Class rank, you will have learned and are expected to know (and be able to teach) all of the basic Scout skills. The next three ranks (Star, Life, and Eagle) call for a Boy Scout to develop skill and knowledge in specialized areas by earning merit badges, and also require demonstration of leadership and service to others. Each time you complete work on a rank, you must asks the Scoutmaster for a "Scoutmaster Conference," where you and the Scoutmaster will review the skills you have learned, your goals, strengths, and areas that need more attention, and how you are living the Scout Oath and Law. If the Scoutmaster is satisfied that you are ready to advance, you can then request a Board of Review. The Board will meet with you to assess your progress. If the Board is satisfied, they will notify the Advancement Chairman so the advancement can be recorded and the new rank awarded. You should receive your new rank badge as soon as possible after completion of the Board of Review--either at that troop meeting or the next. You should also be publicly recognized for your advancement at the next troop Court of Honor (a ceremonial occasion, usually held a few times a year). 
How do you earn merit badges? There are over 100 merit badges, covering everything from advanced Scouting skills to sciences, arts, and hobbies. Certain merit badges are required in order to earn Star, Life, and Eagle ranks (these are listed in the Boy Scout Handbook). If you would like to work on a merit badge, go to the Scoutmaster to ask permission. If the Scoutmaster agrees that you are ready, he will give you a "blue card"--a record of your work on that merit badge, and the name of a merit badge counselor (who may not be involved with your troop). A merit badge counselor is someone with special knowledge or expertise in the subject matter of the merit badge. Then it is up to you to call the counselor to set up an appointment to work on the merit badge with him or her. Usually the merit badge counselor will ask you to bring along an adult or buddy to your appointment. You may not meet with the merit badge counselor alone. Sometimes the troop may offer a merit badge during regular troop meetings. There may also be times when your District or Council offers a "Merit badge Day" where counselors for many merit badges hold classes for many Scouts at once. You will need to read the merit badge pamphlet for that badge. You may be able to borrow the pamphlet from the troop library or from the counselor, or you can purchase it from your local Scout Shop or online from ScoutStuff.org. When you have completed all of the requirements, the counselor will sign the "blue card" and tear off one section of it for his or her records. Take the other two parts to the Scoutmaster. He will sign it and turn it in to the troop Advancement Chairman so that you can be awarded your badge. You do not need a Board of Review to receive a merit badge. You will get one section of the blue card back. Keep it safe! It is your record that you earned the badge. Get a 3-ring binder and some clear plastic "baseball card" holder pages to keep your merit badge and advancement cards. 
Why does the troop sometimes seem so disorganized? The purpose of Scouting is not simply to do activities, but for the BOYS to LEARN the skills necessary to do the activities and to LEAD their fellow Scouts in accomplishing all of the tasks and planning needed. Things seem disorganized because, usually, the boys aren't as efficient as parents are at getting activities planned and tasks completed. The best troops are "boy-led" and use the Patrol Method. That means that the boys work through their patrols and their elected Patrol Leaders to plan and carry out activities. The troop adults are responsible for maintaining health and safety, taking care of things like advancement paperwork, activity permits, and money, and providing support (like transportation) for the activities that the boys plan. This is different from Cub Scouts, where the adults actually plan and lead the activities. In Boy Scouts, troop adults and parents play a supporting role rather than taking charge of activities and telling the boys what to do. Sometimes, the hardest thing for new Boy Scout parents is learning to sit back and let the boys do it themselves. 
What is the "Patrol Method"? The Patrol Method is how Scouting gets done. Each troop is made up of patrols, usually 5 to 8 boys each (the equivalent of a den in Cub Scouting, usually a little smaller than a Girl Scout troop). Patrols may be formed based on age or grade level, or by special interests, or may just be groups of friends who want to be in the same patrol together. Boy Scout patrols work together, camp together, cook together, plan together, and play together. They are a team. Each patrol will have a name (such as "Dragons," "Flaming Arrows," or "Invisible Men"), and should have a patrol flag and patrol yell. Each patrol elects one of its members as the Patrol Leader (elections are usually once or twice a year). The Patrol Leader appoints an Assistant Patrol Leader to help him, and may appoint other patrol officers, such as Grubmaster (in charge of Patrol cooking) or Scribe (in charge of tracking attendance and taking notes on what the Patrol decides, such as campout menus). The Patrol Leader is responsible for helping his Patrol organize and carry out its responsibilities and activities, and for representing his Patrol on the Patrol Leaders Council. In addition to Patrol Leaders, the entire troop elects a Senior Patrol Leader, who is the top youth leader of the troop and is in charge of what the boys do at troop meetings and activities. The Senior Patrol Leader appoints an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and other troop officers, such as Quartermaster, Chaplain's Aide, and Librarian. Together, the Patrol Leaders, the Troop Guide(s), the Senior Patrol Leader, and the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader form the Patrol Leaders Council. The Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) generally meets once a month to plan the upcoming meetings and activities. Then individual patrols will be assigned specific tasks and responsibilities to carry out the plan. During troop meetings, the individual patrols will get together to work on their parts of the meetings and activities, and to discuss the things they would like the troop to do. At each PLC meeting, the Patrol Leader will represent the patrol and talk about what his patrol needs or wants to do. 
So what do the adults do? The Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters are like big brothers to the boys. They advise, nudge, and make suggestions, teach skills (if there isn't a qualified boy to do it), and make sure that the boys are following Scouting rules and policies (including safety rules). The Scoutmaster works closely with the Senior Patrol Leader. The Troop Committee has overall responsibility for approving the troop program developed by the PLC, for finding money and other resources to carry out the program, keeping records, sitting on Boards of Review, and otherwise helping the boys carry out a Scouting program. Parents play a vital role in the troop. They not only serve in official troop positions, but also provide transportation and other support. They are strongly encouraged to participate in some way in troop activities, and to stay informed about troop plans and events. Perhaps the best way for a parent to learn about the troop and what it does is to join the Troop Committee or become an Assistant Scoutmaster. Above all, parents need to encourage their son's Scouting activities--if parents don't care, the boys won't either. 
We Invite You to Visit our Troop to Find out More   Here is a list of questions you might want to ask when you visit:
1. Where and when do you meet?
2. How big is your Troop?
3. Is there a published Troop roster?
4. Who is in your Troop (any friends)?
5. Is there a published Troop calendar?
6. What kind of outings (backpacking, hiking, car camping, etc) do you go on?
7. How often do you go on outings?
8. Where and when are you going to summer camp?
9. Is there a Troop meeting program?
10. Is the Troop run by youth or adults?
11. Is there good Scout skills instruction for new Scouts?
12. Is the Patrol method used?
13. How are Patrols organized?
14. Is there strong Patrol activity?
15. How many adult leaders are there?
16. Are the adult and youth leaders trained?
17. Is there a Troop website or newsletter?
18. What are the dues?
19. What is the Troop uniform?
20. What is the advancement record of the Troop?