Last month we explored one of the essential but often neglected committee functions in a Cub Scout pack – the membership coordinator. In this article we’ll look at another position that’s essential to smooth operations – that of the advancement chairperson. If you’ve recently taken on advancement for your pack, you’re finding out that it’s an important job, but be assured that it’s not overwhelming once you learn what’s involved.
Advancement is one of the eight methods of Cub Scouting, and it is one of the most visible. Cub Scouts is all about fun, and while they’re having fun the boys are also doing things that lead to advancing in rank. It’s through advancement that the familiar symbols appear: rank badges, Progress through Ranks beads, arrow points and activity badges, as well as the supplemental awards such as Academics & Sports belt loops and pins.
Since boys like to receive recognition for the things they’ve earned, and since families like seeing their boys receive them, it’s important for the pack to make sure that they’re promptly awarded. This is where the pack advancement chair comes in.
If you’re new to Cub Scouting, here are the basics:
- All Cub Scouts must first earn the Bobcat badge indicating that they have completed the joining requirements. Diamond-shaped badges of rank are worn on the left pocket.
- First-graders work toward the Tiger Cub rank, earning Tiger Track beads (which attach to a tiger paw totem) along the way, and receive other beads for additional electives.
- Second and third-graders work toward Wolf and Bear ranks respectively. Every three requirements completed are marked by a Progress Toward Ranks bead (yellow for Wolf, red for Bear) worn on a totem from the right pocket. Electives completed past earning of the rank are marked by arrow points ironed on below the left pocket.
- Fourth-graders work toward the Webelos rank by earning Activity Badges (actually pins) worn on the Webelos Colors (a three-colored ribbon set that attaches to the sleeve). The oval Webelos badge replaces the diamond array of lower rank badges on the left pocket.
- Fifth-graders earn Arrow of Light, a badge worn on the left pocket flap as a Cub Scout which moves to below the pocket of the Boy Scout uniform – the only Cub Scout insignia worn in Boy Scouts.
- Cub Scouts of all ranks may earn “belt loops” (metal clips worn on the Cub Scout belt) and activity pins in the Academics and Sports program.
What do you do as a pack advancement chair? The official job description reads like this:
- Have a working knowledge of the Cub Scout advancement plan.
- Help plan and conduct induction and advancement recognition ceremonies, coordinating as needed with the Webelos den leader or Scoutmaster.
- Educate parents, guardians, and pack committee members in ways to stimulate Cub Scout advancement.
- Promote the use of Cub Scout den advancement charts and other tools to recognize and record advancement in the den.
- Collect den advancement reports at pack leaders’ meetings for use when ordering badges and insignia from the local council service center.
- Promote Boys’ Life magazine as an aid to advancement.
- Help build or obtain advancement equipment for use in making advancement ceremonies more effective.
- Promote the wearing and proper use of uniform and insignia.
Let’s take a look at these duties and explore ways that you can help as advancement chair.
First, it’s important to know how advancement works in Cub Scouts. The way to get started understanding advancement is by viewing the Fast Start videos for each of the rank leadership and by taking position-specific training for the pack committee. A valuable resource for anyone involved in the advancement process is the Guide to Advancement. Chapter 4 of the Guide, specifically all of section 4.1, deals with Cub Scout advancement. It sounds daunting, but section 4.1 runs about four pages, can be easily read in a few minutes, and can be referred to whenever there’s a question. The Guide to Advancement is the canonical reference when it comes to anything related to BSA advancement. The handbooks for each individual rank cover advancement from a boy perspective, and the Cub Scout Leader Book can help with the adult expectations.
Once you understand how Cub Scout advancement works, your most important duty will be collecting advancement reports from the den leaders, compiling the pack advancement report and recording them with the council service center and the Internet Advancement system, obtaining the insignia and other recognition materials from the council service center or Scout Shop, and preparing them for presentation at pack and den meetings. Make it a point to call the den leaders a week or so before the pack meetings to find out who has earned ranks or other recognition items such as arrow points, Webelos activity badges (pins, actually) and Academics and Sports belt loops and activity pins. Check with the Cubmaster to fill him or her in on boys to be recognized at the pack meeting and to also find out if there are any others that the Cubmaster may know about.
It sounds like a lot to do, and at times it will be, particularly after a few months of pack and den meetings when rank advancements start to roll in. Many packs find that their rank advancements take place around the time of the annual Blue & Gold banquet, but achievements should be recognized as soon as possible after they’re earned. Boys should not have to wait weeks or months to receive their awards – be sure to award anything earned at the next pack meeting. You can always recognize them again at the banquet.
You can also get help from others in the pack when it comes to running errands. Advancement is the usual reason for a visit to the Scout Shop, which may not be conveniently located for you. Get help, if you need to, from others who travel near the council service center or can make the run for you. Most councils will also do business by mail, so it’s often possible to mail your advancement report and insignia order and payment to your council office and ask them to mail you the patches and pins. Keep copies of anything you send through the mail in case they get lost. Check with your council office or district executive to see if it’s possible.
Recording advancement with the council is extremely important, since your council registrar keeps track of all Scout advancement. Missed information at the council level may result in problems later, such as if Bobcat isn’t recorded before other ranks are earned, or when a boy earns the Webelos rank, because that starts the clock on crossing over to Boy Scouts. Since the registrar only records actual ranks earned, it’s not necessary to report miscellaneous awards such as patches for activities like pack outings, popcorn sales or Good Turn service projects. Be sure to include your phone number and e-mail address on the form in case the registrar has any questions. It’s also important to check your pack’s mailbox at the council office regularly for any returned paperwork. I’ve seen rejected advancement reports languish for months (and honors that the boys received go unrecorded) because nobody bothered to check.
The Advancement Chair can help the Cubmaster and other leaders in putting on recognition ceremonies by preparing advancement materials in advance of the pack meeting, getting signatures on award cards from the den leaders and Cubmaster, and organizing everything so they’re easy to present. And even though it’s clearly described in the books, placement of insignia is something that not everyone knows or understands, so families will sometimes need your help understanding where everything’s worn. The BSA has made the official Guide to Awards and Insignia available online. Keep it bookmarked so you can refer to it when you need it.
Visual reinforcement of achievements is important to encourage other boys, so you can help maintain advancement charts showing how the Scouts are doing, or provide them to the den leaders so they can track progress themselves.
Most boys will advance as a natural outcome of participating in Cub Scouting, but you’ll occasionally deal with a Scout or his parent who wonders why he’s not getting recognition items. Usually the den leaders are the ones asked, but you can also talk to the parents (and support the den leaders) about how advancement works, what’s required in order to advance, and the need to participate in den and pack activities. The den programs of today result in more consistent advancement, but boys have to participate in order to earn those colorful bits of cloth.
Parents love seeing their sons advance and be recognized, and the pack advancement chair has an important role in making it happen. Do your best to ensure that your pack’s advancement program runs well, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it from other pack leaders, your unit commissioner, or at Roundtable.