Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Tale of a Scout's Uniform

Well for about 24 hours I was in the Boy Scouts of America.  (See previous post.)  When I at BSA Sea Base I was with other Scout Leaders from across the globe.  I talked to a man who was from the Philippines, and had attended one of the World Jamborees.  As I noticed everyone in their Class A uniforms it got me to thinking.  Despite being members of one organization, all of our uniforms are rather personalized.

The one organization I can think of with uniforms such as the Boy Scouts is the U.S. Military.  Except for certain medals and designations of which division members are in, the uniforms are pretty much homogenized.  That's a bit different from the Boy Scouts where the uniform can be customized quite a bit.

Take for example, my uniform.  (Note:  This is my adult uniform, not my youth uniform.)

It's actually quite colorful isn't it?

Let's start on the left and work our way to the right.

Every Scout uniform comes with the American flag.  Only that and the "Boy Scouts of America" patch are the only patches that come standard on the uniform.  Everything else much be sew on by the Scout's Mom (ha, ha, but not really.) 

The Quality Unit patches (mine are from 1997 and 1998) mean that the troop maintained or increased it's membership that year.  So unlike a lot of the "gimmie" patches, this one can be difficult to get.  It falls more on the leaders than it does the boys. 

Let's talk loops.  Those are those red things on the shoulders.  On a funny sidenote, it seems that I am a bit out of date.  Boy Scouts now wear forest green loops.  Cub Scouts wear blue.  Varsity wears Orange.  Venture Scouts wear green (not forest green) loops.  Council and District wear silver loops, while the higher ups at National and Regional wear Gold. 

One rule of thumb is that whenever you see someone with Silver or Gold loops, be on your best behavior.  That rule works equally well for both youth and adult.  (Sometimes a good reminder always helps.)  So just by those little loops you can tell which level a member is at.

The nice colorful patch is my Order of the Arrow patch.  They also have districts (more correctly Lodges, and I belong to Seminole Lodge #85.  This is a special patch celebrating the 1992 Olympics. 

The place below that on the left side pocket is a free for all.  You can put an earned patch here.  I put my river clean up patch since that event meant a lot to me.  That, and that patch looks cool.  So back to my main point.  This is where you can really customize your uniform.

The purple patch is definitely a "gimmie" patch.  It means you support world scouting.  In other words, you can go to your local district, buy it, and slap it on.  The "ring" patch that is around it just came out.  It is also a "gimmie" patch.  It celebrates the birth of Scouting in America.  You can also buy this at your local district.

The "knot" patches that go above the pocket flap are some of the hardest to get.  My one and only means that I was awarded the "Arrow of Light" from my graduation from Webelos to Boy Scouts.  Other knots are for getting your Eagle Scout award, religious awards, and district awards.  Again, they are very hard to get, and you have to put in many years to earn them.

At the top of the sleeve is the Council patch.  This tells what Council you are in.  I'm in the Gulf Ridge Council.  On a funny sidenote, I am a bit out of date with mine.  A new patch was created four years ago.  It's always neat to go a far-away summer camp, and see who is from different Councils.  A lot of Scouts will carry extra Council patches, and trade Council patches with other.  I have done this a few times.  I have a nice one from Pennsylvania from a Scout I met at Philmont.

The next patch is your Troop number.  I have been in Troops 12, 189, and 180.  Again, I am a bit out of date in that I have the red numbers.  The new ones are green. 

On yet another sidenote, I am still allowed to wear the red loops because my numbers are still red. 

Under the troop number you wear your position patch.  I was an Assistant Scoutmaster.  The youth Scouts wear what position they are as well.  Positions such as Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Chaplain, Quartermaster, etc. 

If you attend a School of Scouting event you get the "Trained" patch.  I attended and took a few courses.  It is hosted by the Boy Scouts, and was held at the University of South Florida.  Both leaders and youth can wear this patch as long as they attended.

One thing I didn't get to cover was neckerchiefs.  Most of the time, they aren't worn unless it's for a special occasion.  I usually only wore mine during Scout dinners and awards ceremonies.  The rule is that usually the troop will decide on one style of neckerchief to wear, and everyone will wear that one. 

So that's the tale of my uniform.  As you can see, they really are customized depending upon what you have accomplished.  I do think I like it that way.  It allows one to be part of the organization, but still be an individual. 

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