Climbing the Ranks

Advancement is the heart of the Scouting Program. There are four basic steps in Boy Scout advancement, and they apply to all six ranks. The four steps are as follows: the boy learns, he is tested, he is reviewed and he is recognized. A Scout who is participating in the whole Scouting program should be advancing at least one rank each year through Life Scout. Early in the program, the Scout should advance through Scout, Tenderfoot and Second Class, even more rapidly, reaching First Class during the first 12 to 18 months.

Advancement should be an ongoing process. When a Scout has completed all the requirements to a specific rank he asks the Scoutmaster for his Scoutmaster conference. The Scout’s detailed advancement/ history report and participation report will be provided to the Scoutmaster by the advancement chairman to verify that the Scout is ready for a Scoutmaster conference. The Scoutmaster will set up a time to meet with the Scout. The Scoutmaster will review with him the skills that he has accomplished during that rank. The Scout needs to prepare for this review. Skills will be reviewed for understanding and knowledge.

After successful completion of the Scoutmaster conference, the Scout is eligible for a board of review conducted by the troop committee. The Scout contacts the board of review coordinator to schedule a board of review. If the troop is on a camping trip and a Scout successfully completes his Scoutmaster conference, the Scoutmaster may recommend a Scout for a board of review. If sufficient time and committee resources are available at camp, the committee members may convene a board.

Boards of review for ranks up to Life are conducted by 3 to 6 troop committee members. A board of review for the rank of Eagle is arranged by the advancement chairman and will include a district representative. At a board of review the Scout should be neat in appearance and his uniform should be as complete and correct as possible, with the badges worn properly. The Scout is must bring his handbook and may bring merit badge blue cards earned, along with any Scout memorabilia. This information may be of assistance at boards of review for rank advancement above Second Class.

It is upon the approval of the committee that a Scout is advanced to the next rank. The members of the board of review have the following objectives in mind when they conduct the review:

  • To see how good an experience the Scout is having in the unit.
  • To encourage the Scout to progress further.

Boards of review are conducted by the troop committee to periodically review each Scout’s progress, from Tenderfoot through Life ranks, to encourage him, to learn whether he is enjoying his Scouting experience, and to evaluate the unit’s effectiveness in conducting the Scouting program to benefit him. The review presents a good opportunity to monitor the Scout’s advancement and keep him on track. It also gives unit leaders a chance to measure the effectiveness of their leadership.

A board of review focuses on a Scout’s accomplishments and progress. The issues addressed can be about the Scout or the troop. The board of review is a chance for the troop committee members to get a sense of how the troop is doing and to permit them to offer support where needed. It gives other sets of ears to hear how a Scout is doing, how he feels about the troop and his role in it, how he is advancing, and whether he is striving to live up to Scouting’s ideals. It is a good idea, therefore, to hold boards of review regularly and often.

Some reasons to have a board of review include a Scout’s lack of advancement, perceived trouble in the troop, or a certain event at the last campout or troop meeting. Ideally, a Scout should sit for a board of review every six months, whether he is advancing or not.

The most common type of board of review is for advancement. By making a board of review a requirement of advancement, a Scout will have at least one opportunity at each rank level to review his progress in Scouting.

Each rank involves a progressively greater mastery of Scout skills, advancing leadership growth, and a growth in the way a Scout understands his world and his role in it. Therefore, the different advancement boards of review reflect the increasing maturity of the Scout.

Another issue to be considered at the board of review is the elusive concept of Scout spirit, which is part of the advancement process.

The review is not an examination; the board does not test the candidate. Rather, the board will attempt to determine the Scout’s attitude and his acceptance of Scouting ideals. The board will make sure that good standards of performance have been met in all phases of the Scout’s life. A discussion of the Scout Oath and Scout Law is in keeping with the purpose of the review, to make sure that the candidate recognizes and understands the value of Scouting in his home, unit, school and community. The decision of all boards of review is arrived at through discussion and must be unanimous.

Advancement through First Class is achieved by participating in patrol and troop activities and by demonstrating his mastery of certain basic skills and knowledge. All of the criteria and facts/skills required are contained in the Boy Scout Handbook. Parents should periodically review their son’s progress.

Advancement from Star through Eagle rank is achieved by participation in patrol and troop events, serving in leadership positions, service to others (see service project section under this same heading) and earning merit badges. In the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle participation in patrol and troop events is important. A Scout is required to be active in his troop and patrol. To the maximum extent possible, the troop will provide each Scout with the opportunity to provide leadership to others. Successful completion of a required leadership position for rank advancement is based upon the Scout’s fulfilling the duties as described in the Junior Leaders‟ Handbook and approved by the Scoutmaster after consultation with the Scout’s patrol mentor (if applicable).

When a Scout is interested in earning a merit badge, he should obtain a copy of the current merit badge book and familiarize himself with the requirements. He should obtain a blue merit badge application (referred to as a “blue card”) from the Scoutmaster who signs the card. The Scout may obtain a name, address and phone number of a merit badge counselor from the troop scribe, troop merit badge coordinator, or troop website.

The Scout should then contact the counselor to ensure that he is ready for an appointment and then make the appointment. For safety reasons a Scout should never visit a merit badge counselor alone. A Scout must have a “buddy” with him. A buddy could be a parent or guardian, another Scout, brother or sister, relative or friend. The counselor explains what is expected to complete the requirements. The Scout and his buddy then meet, as appropriate, with the counselor until the Scout completes the badge.

Once a Scout has satisfied the counselor that he has completed the requirements of the merit badge, the counselor will sign the blue card and return two sections of the card to the Scout. The Scout will then present the counselor-signed blue card to the troop advancement chairman. The merit badge will be awarded at the earliest opportunity.

Service participation is a requirement for advancement for the ranks of Second Class, Star, and Life. For Second Class, a Scout must participate in a service project approved by his Scoutmaster and must be a minimum of one hour in duration. For Star and Life ranks, a Scout must participate in a service project approved by his Scoutmaster and must be a minimum of 6 hours of service to others. Participation may be completed as an individual project, as a member of a patrol or troop, or as a participant in a church or community project. Star and Life service participation may be approved for Scouts assisting on Eagle service projects. The Scoutmaster must approve the project before it is started.