Camouflage/Military Uniforms and Scouting
This is a LONG POSTING because the questions and the
followups deserved to be answered as completely as possible. I've also
kept Mike Craig's original question as well as the e-mail addresses to
others who contributed to the answering of this question while I have
Mike Craig wrote and asked on rec.scouting.usa:
We have had three scouts families join our troop in the last 2 months
from troops based on military bases. All three fathers were/are registered
adults, one of the adults still wears his district commissioner shirt. All
have told our troop committee that wearing military camouflage pants and
jackets is acceptable within the BSA policy. Our troop is not stationed on
any base, and several other adults are questioning this 'policy'.
Your "District Commissioner" guy is lying.
Out and out, he's lying.
The Boy Scouts of America does NOT approve of ANY camo clothing for wear by
youth members nor adults at ANY TIME.
The immediate reference to this is found in the first pages of the BSA's
Insignia Guide where it states that "imitation of military uniforms and
clothing is not permitted under the BSA's Charter and Bylaws and in
accordance with federal law relating to the wear of that clothing."
(those aren't the exact words, but it's close enough to the exact words;
later, I'll find the exact wording and post it...).
I AM a military officer, Mike, and I also served as a former District
Commissioner. I KNOW that some "army people" will want to wear "army gear"
to give the BSA program some sort of "specialness" they think isn't there
already in the program. What I tell them, besides that it's illegal under
FEDERAL LAW (and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which gets their
attention REALLY QUICKLY!), is that this is like a soldier showing up for
work in a pair of Scout pants and a BDU (Battle Dress Uniform, the "work
uniform" of the Army) shirt.
There has been NO MOVE, no discussion, not even any kind of consideration
toward wearing ANY form of camoed gear by Scouts, Explorers/Venturers, or
Just to let the guy know, Mike: In 1996, two Scouters wearing camoed pants
and a Scouts shirt were REFUSED ENTRY into a Council Camporee by the Scout
Executive of that Council. The Scout Executive informed them of the BSA's
uniforming policy and told them that unless they choose to be in compliance
with that policy, they would not be allowed entry into the Camporee. One
adult complied; the other adult re-asserted his personal right to wear
whatever the hell he wanted to wear. The Scout Executive simply said
"fine", both Scouters went into the camp facility.
An hour later, the Scout Executive, accompanied by the local County
sheriff, served the Scouter still wearing the camo gear with a "letter of
membership denial", and advised him that since he is no longer a registered
member of the BSA, that his presence on the campground is no longer
welcomed. He was given 15 minutes to pack out his gear, and he and his son
(because the man said "If I go, my son goes too...") was escorted off the
camp property by the law enforcement people.
The message THAT Scout Executive, in central Alabama (the home to hunters,
trappers and outdoorsmen of all persuasions) gave was that "there's no
place in the BSA for militaristic uniforming."
So, Mike, you might want to share this little tidbit of information with
your "former District Commissioner" friend and let him know....
The same statement found in the Charter and Bylaws is found in the BSA's
It does NOT matter, Mike, if the person used to be a Scouter in Europe or
Asia. The SAME policy applies for Scouters there as they do for Scouters in the
States. I have been a Scouter in Europe for many years, and I can tell you
that we in Scouting Europe are even MORE hard-nosed about the wearing of
camo than our peers in the States are...because we're there and are aware
of the possible "mixed message" that wearing such things can produce among
our "host nations" and their Scouting associations.
Other then the Handbook, where can I find the documented Policy for the
BSA uniform? Is a copy of this document on the web? Do the BSA Policy or
Guidelines specifically address camouflage clothing? If so, where can I
find this information?
and Big Chris wrote:
Usually, I defer to your knowledge, but this is a bit out of left field for you Mike.
Sorry you think so, Big Chris, but the fact of the matter is that the BSA
has established uniform policy and standards.
Camoed pants and shirts (whether or not they have the nametapes on them or
not) and whether they are purchased at a military clothing goods store or
at an "Army-Navy store" are NOT one of the standards for ANYONE in the
BSA's programs. It is not an appropriate uniform, nor is it a personal
option. If we are going to do Scouting, let's at least look the part of
Scouts and Scouters.
Jean pants, I can see...the earlier Scouts wore dungarees and shirts until
they could afford the pants and leggings. Other pants, again, I can see
until they can get the official pair. Jackets...again, I can see wearing
what Mom and Dad got you as an outdoor jacket to "play rough" in and to
keep you warm. But a Camoed jacket isn't an option to wear with the Scout
uniform. They don't mix.
CAMOED pants and shirts, I don't see at all...even until they can get the
official pair. They don't mix and presents a negative image of Scouting and
A couple other points:
You wrote in part:
I don't think many people will mistake a group for 14 year olds in the woods
for the US Marines.
Not necessarily the Marines, Chris, but as part of a paramilitary group
(which the BSA is trying hard to distance themselves from!). Surely you
don't want your son and his friends being associated with the "Young Klan"....
No, we don't hunt, but there is nothing wrong with blending in with our
surroundings, in fact I prefer that over a troop running around in hot pink.
Why? Why are we trying to 'blend into our surroundings', Chris?? Even with
our earlier uniform -- the green khaki uniforms didn't readily blend in
with the outdoor surroundings (it did a better job than the current
khaki-tan shirts do), but we were not concerned with "blending in" back
then, so why should we do it now??
Are we in Scouting "trying to hide what we're doing" in the woods?? No. We
want people to see our program and what we're doing....so, there's NO need
to camouflage any aspect of our outdoor program!
I can choose to wear whichever I want, the GSS (Guide to Safe Scouting)
does not limit the colors or patterns one might wear.
No, it doesn't, Chris...but the Rules and Regulations (I previously stated incorrectly
that this was in the Charter and Bylaws) of the BSA does limit you.
Here's the official statement:
"BSA Rules and Regulations, Article X, Section 4, Clause 4. Prohibition of
Alteration or Imitation:
a). No alteration of, or additions to, the official uniforms, as described
in the official publications, or the rules and regulations covering the
wearing of the uniform and the proper combinations thereof on official
occasions, may be authorized by any Scouting official or local Council or
any local executive board or committee, except the National Executive Board
after consideration by the Program Group Committee.
b) Imitation of United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force
uniforms is prohibited, in accordance with the provisions of Act of
Congress, approved June 3, 1916."
And JW Walker wrote in part:
I think we now need the benefit of seeing the actual written BSA guidelines
concerning "civilian" camo....
Me too, JW. The BSA doesn't address "civilian camo" in anything except
written memorandum to Scout Executives concerning "camouflage clothing worn
by Scouts and Scouters" (the last copy of such a item I have was dated
November 1994 and was signed by the former Program Group Director now Chief
As part of the memorandum, it talks about the Insignia Guide being updated
to reflect the emphasis...but I have three copies of the Insignia Guide
here in my hotel room, and all three doesn't address "civilian camo" like
"hunting gear" even though Mr. Williams' memorandum does address "hunting
and military-style clothing and equipment" in the memorandum.
He states that "hunting and military-style clothing, combined with or worn
instead of the official Boy Scout or Explorer uniform, are not acceptable
wear during any Boy Scouting or Exploring activity. Scout Executives are to
instruct unit leaders and volunteers that those articles of clothing along
with equipment like pistol belts, suspenders and military field gear are
not allowed to be worn with official Boy Scouts of America clothing or in
the place of BSA uniforms and outdoor clothing."
(I wish that someone will dig out that copy and send it to the Chief and
tell him to please post in in the new edition of the Insignia Guide.....I
think it's pretty clear but it's not out there where everyone can read and
go by it....)
I can only post what the Rules and Regulations state, and it doesn't
address "hunting camo" or "military gear", but DOES make a point of talking
about uniforming which is clearly "military", as the poster asked about.
Does the BSA National policy on camo pants list them as "prohibited" or are
I posted the exact wording, JW...it can't be any clearer than that. We in
the BSA DO NOT WEAR MILITARY-STYLE CLOTHING as part of our uniforms.
As to your account of a Council Executive "banning a Scouter for life" and
throwing his son out of a Camporee.. I would love to see the complete story...
First, the facts are that the Scouter was given a "letter of denial of
membership". Not "banned for life". The letter of denial of membership
offers that Scouter an opportunity to appeal that decision through the
Region and if necessary, through the BSA's National Executive Board. As I
wrote, the Scouter was then escorted off the property by the local law
enforcement personnel acting at the behest of the Council's Scout Executive.
Second, the man's son was NOT "thrown out of the camp"; he left with Daddy
when Daddy was being escorted off the property because Daddy didn't want
him there anymore.
Third, the rules (including the prohibition on the wearing/usage of
camouflaged clothing) was in the materials sent to every unit prior to the
Camporee...and those two Scouters I am sure were not the only ones asked to
change....most did once they understood what the "deal was". This guy was
determined to have his own way no matter what the "rules are"...and like
you, I am sure that the Council's Scout Executive used an appropriate level
of tact when explaining and asking the two Scouters to please change their
clothing before coming into the camp. I am positive that this guy didn't
immediately "fly off the handle" and say "it's my way or the highway...."
Fourth, the same weekend as the Camporee, *another organization which uses
camouflaged materials as a uniform* was holding a similar type event
close by. The Council was aware of it, which is why the Scout Executive was
present at the Camporee.
I am sure that if you contact someone in the Central Alabama Council whom
was there when the Council was the Tennessee Valley Area Council (I believe
that was the name of the Huntsville, AL Council before it's merger), they
can probably give you lots more detail. It was a big deal back then.....
Do I REALLY have to say this again?? I guess so....
A SCOUT EXECUTIVE (not your District Executive, but the Council's Scout
Executive or Council Executive) can remove ANY REGISTERED SCOUTER from the
BSA for ANY REASON WHATSOEVER ("I don't like you; you're a troublemaker;
you are not a "team player"; you do not follow the Scout Oath and Law....")
for ANY PERIOD OF TIME (two weeks, a month, six months, forever...) AT ANY
He or she does NOT need a "hearing" to determine whether or not to remove
you; he or she does NOT have to contact National to do this (although most
do as a matter of course and in the processing of the refund of your
prorated registration fee).
He or she simply has to complete two pieces of paper, faxing one copy to
the BSA's Registration Service, and deliver the original to you in person
or via registered mail the letter and that's it.
Done. Finished. End of story. And if he or she feels that you will not
cooperate appropriately, he or she can be accompanied by the Council's
legal counsel and/or by law enforcement personnel.
This is all written in the BSA's "Maintaining Standards of Membership"
publication which every Scout Executive has and can use.
Someone posted me privately and asked me "Does this mean that unless I show
up wearing the COMPLETE SCOUT UNIFORM (pants, shirt, etc.), I stand the
chance of being thrown out of Scouts?"
The BSA's policy is simple: we do NOT wear clothing which is associated
with our military. It cannot be any simpler than that, folks. We don't wear
"camo pants or shirts". We don't wear "camoed field jackets". We don't wear
those military camo hats -- even if it has a BSA emblem on it.
We have a uniform, and everyone should wear it. SHOULD is the operative
word. If you show up at a Scouting event wearing jeans with your shirt, I
feel that while some people will question your choice of clothing, nobody
will throw you out of the program.
But the BSA is VERY STRONG on its members wearing SCOUTING-LIKE CLOTHING as opposed to MILITARY-LIKE CLOTHING.
ONE MORE TIME, because I can just see my email box filling with "comments":
- *Paramilitary organizations -- and more closely, their "young adult
organizations" tied to them -- wear camoed clothing. It doesn't take a
rocket scientist to understand that there stands to be a bit of confusion,
especially in locations in our country where those organizations freely (as
they should be) organize and participate in local events and activities,
between the BSA program and their "club" or "group". The BSA stands in part
for equality, and this is the strongest reason why the BSA and some local
Councils come down hard on people wearing such clothing during BSA events
- *It is against FEDERAL LAW. With all due respect to my peers over at
rec.scouting.issues arguing about why the BSA doesn't follow "ALL federal
laws", this is a no-brainer. This could get people placed IN JAIL, not just
fined or slapped on the wrist. The law clearly states that only military
people (active, reserve, guard, retirees) wear military clothing.
A while back here, I posted a note in part based on what happened to some
Scouts whom were wearing military-like clothing. The military police,
looking for a deserter, saw the boy and his friends who bore the same
description as the deserter. They detained all three boys and gave them the
opportunity for their parents to come get them after they determined (a few
hours) that "they were not deserters". Yes, that's a responsibility of our
military police, working with local law enforcement, to have -- to find
deserters and return them to military custody.
- *We don't hunt in the BSA. While some Venturing units may use handguns or
rifles in their program, the BSA doesn't hunt. So, we don't need to "blend
in with the woods" to do our program. (note: The Venturing program has an OPTION
whereby Venturers working toward the Ranger Award, can indeed hunt. However,
while hunter training is a part of the Venturing program, it is NOT a part of
the Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Cub Scouting programs.)
- *It doesn't even MATCH. There's NOTHING in our khaki-tan uniform shirts
which matches the woodland or desert patterns of military clothing. So why
would you want to wear such clothing (I know, I know...it keeps you warmer
than the BSA's stuff does. Good come-back. So find something which IS NOT
CAMOED to wear instead if you feel that way).
The BSA (not Mike Walton) says "no military clothing". Our Sea Scouting
program uses clothing approved by the Coast Guard and Navy and which is
DISTINCTIVELY DIFFERENT from their uniforms. Their insignia is located in
DIFFERENT PLACES than how we wear ours, and the color scheme is
DIFFERENT. Our Venturing, Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting programs have NO
NEED for "military clothing". And in Learning for Life/Exploring, those
units associated with military installations or their units, wear clothing
which is NOT CLOSE to the official military clothing worn by our Army, Air
Force, Coast Guard, Navy, or Marine Corps.
If you show up wearing jeans or chinos or Levi's (tm) pants, chances are
very little will be said about it...uniforms ARE expensive and there ARE
people whom cannot afford every bit of clothing the BSA puts out. Financial
realities say you wear what you can afford to wear and most people will
understand this and will do what they can to help you out. I've seen it
happen here a lot and it should continue.
But let's not trade in what is LAWFULLY WRONG with what's "comfortable and
cheap"...again, with respect to the ongoing conversation going on down the
hall in rec.scouting.issues, two wrongs don't make a right, and if there's
a law on the books (the BSA's or in THE BOOKS), the BSA and it's membership
does the best it can to uphold that law.
The other Scouter, by the way, allowed entry into the campground area,
changed into a pair of jeans; and Scout Executives DO have that power to
remove anyone from the program at any time for any reason and all it takes
is a phone call and a typewritten piece of paper to do it and its done.
Mike Brown wrote and asked:
So, what are the grounds for appeal, if the CE can remove you for any reason
The underlying reason for denial of membership, Mike, is because "the
person is not a suitable positive example of an adult using the Scout Oath
and Law in his or her life". It's a judgemental personal character thing.
So, to appeal to the Region or to National, one must demonstrate through
written exhibits (one cannot appear before the appeal committee nor can he
or she have legal or other representation to appear before the appeal
committee) and testimonials that indeed you are a person of sound, moral
character and that to the best of their knowledge, know that you try to
abide by the Scouting ideals in your life as a Scouter and around young people.
The appeal process is explained in a paragraph and a half in the letter of
Even though the BSA's own publications publish photos containing Scouts and
Scouters wearing incomplete uniforms, uniforms with badges in wrong places
and Scouters wearing military-style items - that does NOT denote "a change
in policy". (Changes in official policy come down from National to our
local Councils in written form.) "Anything goes to make a good action
photo", one of the BSA's photographers commented to me way back when I
asked about why they continue to take "action photos" of Scouts wearing
"whatever". "It gives the idea that the uniform is secondary to the activity."
It's hard to disagree with that statement, gang, but it's still one of my
personal pet peeves of our Magazine and Editorial Divisions.
I've already posted the BSA's policy as it is written in their publications. I've also provided separately a snippet from a BSA professional memoradum on the same subject. Additionally, Stephen Henning (a field professional posting from Pennsyvania) provided a similiar take on this on rec.scouting.usa about this topic:
Stephen M. Henning wrote:
Point: not all camo is military. Much is for sporting such as that for archers.
More important points: no camo is appropriate for Scouting:
1) bright orange clothing is more appropriate than camo for safety.
2) uniformity is appropriate so that a Scout group is recognizable as a Scout group.
3) hunting is not an approved Scout activity.
4) military games are not approved Scout activities.
5) units that wear camo usually have much bigger problems than the camo. I have
never seen a good troop wear camo, and I have seen many troops with serious
problems wear camo. It is usually a symptom of a "boys club" that wants to
use the name "Scouting" but doesn't use Scouting methods or Scouting
principles and doesn't achieve Scouting aims.
Finally, a Scouter wrote me privately and asked me (I'm leaving his name and location out...it doesn't matter who he is or where he's from...):
You wrote and asked me:
I am a Scoutmaster for a new Troop and we are trying to acquire uniforms
for out Scouts. We have access to a large quantity of inexpensive unofficial
shirts. The only real difference is BSA nametape, unofficial buttons, and
slightly more khaki than beige color.
In other words, these are surplus military shirts. Why haven't you asked
your local Council to assist you in getting some "experienced" Scout shirts
instead of trying to "create" a shirt from "TW" khaki shirts.
There's several problems with the way you want to do this:
First, the "Boy Scouts of America" strip isn't something you can order from
the Supply Division. They are only manufactured with the stock Scout shirts.
This means that you have to purchase or somehow get some tan shirts, remove
the strips from those shirts, and attach them to your shirts. They are made
also in a color combination which doesn't come close to the khaki color used
on the shirts.
Second, the pockets of the "TW" (tropical wear, or the khaki shirts used by
the military in the past) are not of the same size and dimension of the BSA
pockets. This is the most obvious "discovery" that the shirt isn't a BSA
Third, while you can purchase the BSA buttons from the Supply Division (they
come in a sewing kit), the buttonholes on the shirt are SMALLER than the
Scout buttons by about a quarter-inch. That doesn't mean anything between
you and me, but can cause some frustration for some kid trying to button the
shirt and not realizing that a lot more pressure would have to be exerted on
the button to get it through the smaller buttonhole.
I can understand the financial situations that many of your Scouts may be
under, but I also know from fact that if a kid wants a $5-10 Scout shirt,
then they can save the cash to get one. While new shirts cost between $12
and $19 (based on material), older shirts cost a lot less. As a matter of
fact, I've got sitting beside me in my office here in the Pentagon a cotton
and a polyblend small Scout shirt which I purchased for the patches via eBay
for $16. ($8 per shirt).
The other thing you need to do is to have a fund-raiser involving your Scouts
with the purpose of purchasing Scout shirts. This too is where your local
Council will come into play here...they can purchase the shirts under a
reduced-price plan straight from the Supply Division (you can't do this on
your own; it requires a signature from a field professional because they
reduce the price based on the professional's "expense accounting code", which
he or she has to provide). The fund-raiser also establishes the fact that
you and your chartering organization are DEAD SERIOUS about organizing and
supporting Scouting and the new Troop.
When we "try to short-cut the program", it gives a definite message to the
youth that other aspects of the program can be likewised "short-cutted" just
because "we are who we are". If you ask your Scouts about this, they will
tell you privately (or publicly) that "we want to do the same things that
every other Scout has to do" and that means to raise or have their own,
official Scout shirt. NOTHING, and I do mean NOTHING makes a child feel most
inferior when *they know* that the clothing they are wearing are "knockoffs"
of the real mccoys. They can deal with wearing "someone else' shirt" as long
as its the SAME shirt that EVERYONE ELSE in Scouts is wearing (they can look
in the mirror and see the same things that the books and the other kids have)
but they can't deal with the teasing and stares and pointed fingers that they
will get with "piecemeal uniforms."
Ask your Council if they have "experienced" uniforms that they can loan or
give you....most Councils have them (they get them from Sal Army, GoodWill
and other sources to include the BSA's Supply Division). Raise the money to
purchase a new or "experienced" uniform shirt for each Scout and Scouter. Go
online to one of the auction houses (eBay and Yahoo frequently have the old
"khaki tan" shirts for auction starting at $1.00 each).
But please don't try to "make a Scouting uniform" from a "military uniform".
That may have worked back when Scouting was younger, when people truly didn't
care, and when there was less of a "divide" between "rich" and "poor". It
doesn't work today.
I truly feel that every Scout -- and I'm am example of that "every Scout"
statement -- can raise the money to purchase a Scout shirt. That's the most
important part of the Scout uniform, and it is the part which all of the
insignia of our program goes on and is displayed from. It is the item which
makes me just as equal as every other Scout in every other Troop in every
other Council. It it the item which tells the world that I'm ready for
I and every Scout deserves to have "the real deal" and not a "imitation
shirt". And the same goes for camoed gear as well.
I hope this all helps out! Thanks to those who contributed in this page!
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