Who’s Your Buddy?

Scouts BSA Journey #3 – Jim Fuller

Starting a new troop may seem like a huge task. There are so many things to do, and even more questions that keep coming up. Sometimes there are some problems to solve. The good news is that you are not in this alone. There are others who are available to help you on this adventurous journey.

The BSA takes the safety of all its members very seriously. The youth members have a major role to increase safety as well as ensuring they enjoy the program. It’s called the Buddy System. The system is simple. No Scout goes anywhere without a buddy. It ensures that if there is a problem or an accident, there is somebody there to lend assistance or go find help. If you go to camp, the Buddy System is used extensively at the waterfront. If the lifeguard yells “Buddy Check!!!” you need to get to your buddy by the count of five and be holding each other’s hands up out of the water. It’s a system of safety and support.

As a Scouts BSA troop leader, you have a buddy to provide support and assistance when you need it. The role is called Unit Commissioner. This is a BSA volunteer that has typically taken numerous BSA training courses and has years of experience with the Scouting program. They are on-call to help you make your troop successful.

I was made a Cub Scout unit leader within 15 minutes of showing up with my son when the previous leader suddenly resigned. I had been a Cub many years prior but I had no idea what I was doing as a Cubmaster. A couple of weeks later at the pack recruiting night, 70 new cubs wanted to sign up. I was way over my head. Up strolls Mary, introduces herself as my unit commissioner, and asks if she can help. As a team, we got all 70 new Cubs organized into dens and leaders selected. It was a great year of Scouting and I could not have pulled it off without her guidance and support through the year.

Years later, the roles are reversed, and I am the Unit Commissioner for some units that are either new, have new leaders, or are struggling to achieve a successful program for the Scouts. Having experienced both sides of the relationship, here are some things that can help build the relationship with your buddy, the unit commissioner.

First, if you have not yet met your unit commissioner, reach out and initiate contact. If you don’t know who your unit commissioner is, ask your district executive at the scout office. Ask your commissioner over for a cup of coffee, get to know each other, and explore ways that the commissioner can help you with your unit.

Your unit commissioner will occasionally drop in to observe troop meetings. It is not an audit or inspection. They are simply there to get a sense of how things are going, so they can best identify how they can be of assistance. You’ll find that a unit commissioner will come up with ideas or suggestions that you may not have thought about. Another set of eyes never hurts. Also, invite them to outings.

If you have questions or issues to deal with, ask. Give them a call / email / text. Don’t wait until it becomes a problem or for your next scheduled meeting. They want to hear from you. Really.

Don’t be surprised if there are questions a commissioner can’t answer immediately. Nobody can know everything, but what they do know really well is where to find the answer within the Scouting world.

Remember, leading a unit is a great adventure, but not a solo climb. Are you ready? BUDDY CHECK!!

Go Back to #2 – The Method or the Madness

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