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Rank Advancement is the Essence of the Program

Advancement and recognition in the Boy Scouts of America is a tradition dating from the inception of the Scouting movement. A fundamental purpose of advancement is the self-confidence a young man acquires from his participation in Scouting. Advancement is one of the methods used in the “Aims of Scouting”– character development, citizenship training and personal fitness.

The advancement program for Boy Scouts has two phases. The first phase, “Scout to First Class,” is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. Scout is the joining rank, and is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals. Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class  have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit. These ranks are earned by completing a series of “requirements” which are listed in the Scout Handbook every Scout receives upon joining the Troop.

The second phase of Star, Life, and Eagle is designed to develop leadership skills and allow the Scout to explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program. The Star and Life ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service.

The Eagle Scout rank likewise requires a position of responsibility, as well as a community service project planned and led entirely by the Eagle Scout candidate and the earning of a series of at least 21 merit badges, 11 of which are “required” and the other ten (or more) are elective. After attaining the rank of Eagle, a Scout may earn Palms for additional tenure and merit badges.

Avancement in a Boy Scout Troop is quite different from Cub Scout advancement. In Cub Scouts, the young Cub Scouts advance as a group under the close supervision of the Den leader. Often parents are permitted to “sign off” on requirements the Cub Scout meets. At the Boy Scout level, advancement is largely an individual responsibility of the boy–parental encouragement is important, but the Scout must demonstrate completion of the various rank requirements and merit badge requirements to leaders in the Troop and qualified merit badge counselors.

When the Scout has completed all of the requirements for a particular rank, he must schedule a one-on-one conference with the Scoutmaster to review his progress and to discuss his future plans. Provided the Scoutmaster agrees, the Scout then goes before a Board of Review, conducted by a group of parents or other registered adults who must approve of the rank achievement.

The “Scout to First Class” phase is designed to be achievable by the Scout in about 12 months, and we strongly encourage all Scouts to make that their goal when they join the Troop. The relevant rank requirements are all in the Scout Handbook, and the boys can work with adult leaders in the Troop and/or the senior Scouts to learn the needed skills and to get the necessary sign-off in the handbook. We set aside ample time for advancement activities in the regular Troop meetings, but the best way to advance is regular participation in our monthly campouts and, especially, summer camp. We have found that a critical ingredient to advancing through all ranks is parental encouragement and support.

Once a Scout gets to First Class rank, the nature of the requirements for the remaining ranks changes. Instead of demonstrating competence in basic Scout skills, to advance the Scout now must earn merit badges, do community service projects and hold leadership positions within the Troop. When the Scout achieves Life rank (one rung below Eagle), the intensity of the process increases, culminating with a major community service project which must be approved in advance not only by Troop leaders but by the William Henry Harrison District Eagle Coordinator as well.

In Troop 850, we have a general Advancement Chairman who works with the Scouts to make sure they have ample opportunities to succeed in advancement, helps them keep track of their advancement records, and generally oversees the advancement process through the rank of Life Scout. We also have a designated Eagle coordinator who assists our Life Scouts in designing an Eagle project, getting the necessary approvals, and encouraging them as things get more challenging. When the Eagle candidate has completed all of the necessary leadership requirements, has earned the required number of merit badges, and has finished his project, he must undergo a Scoutmaster conference and then a Board of Review as for the other ranks. However, the members of the Board of Review include District and community representatives. Our goal is to make sure every Scout has the opportunity to earn the Eagle rank.

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