Get Our Leadership Sourcebook | Sitemap | Contact Us |
Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Chat 14 The Working of the Patrol Method

From Handbook for Scoutmasters, Volume One. Boy Scouts of America, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY © 1936 Boy Scouts of America. Compiled by Bill Hillcourt.

[Thanks to Lew Gardner for providing this article. Original emphasis and grammar used throughout.]

"ALL good things come in threes," says an old proverb. The Patrol Method is one of them. There are three phases to it, each of decided importance and each closely related to the others:

  1. The Troop Leaders' Council--treated in the previous Chat.
  2. The activities of the Patrols as separate units--Patrol Work.
  3. The activities of the sum of the Patrols as one corporate unit--Troop Work.

Patrol Work

Chat 11--The Working of the Patrol Method

Having received his training in Patrol leadership in the meetings and on the hikes of the Green Bar Patrol, the Patrol Leader sets out to build his Scouts into the best Patrol imaginable. He will try to make each member realize that the reputation of the Patrol depends on the labor and achievement of each Scout. His work is to see that every one of hit Scouts has an opportunity to share in the planning of Patrol activities, to learn and to live, at Patrol meetings, hikes and camps, and that they get as much benefit as possible out of every Troop undertaking.

Patrol Meetings

And when we speak of Patrol meetings we mean independent gatherings of the group for specific Scout purposes under its own leadership with no adult present. The Scoutmaster's aim in training his leaders is to make these gatherings not only possible but purposeful.

Troop life and Troop spirit are created at Troop meetings and hikes, but it is mostly at individual Patrol meetings and hikes that Patrol spirit is formed, that the Scouts are molded together as one solid individual "gang." At Troop meetings the Scoutmaster's individuality reigns--it cannot be otherwise but at the Patrol meetings the Patrol Leader gets his chance to put his ideals up to his Scouts, to be to them, so far as he can, what the Scoutmaster is to the Troop as a whole.

Patrol spirit in action
Hiking back to their camp site, singing as they go, this Patrol is swinging along with the breeze. Their totem is with them.

The time and frequency of Patrol meetings will be governed largely by circumstances. For younger boys the afternoon, for older lads the evening may be best suited. As to frequency, it is recommended that Patrols hold Patrol meetings at least once a week in addition to the Troop meetings, except when the Scouts have extraordinary demands on their time from school work and home work. As a matter of fact, many wide awake Patrols with boys of the same neighborhood or school come together almost daily to train in Scoutcraft.

In warm weather Patrol meetings should be held in the open. When colder weather comes, the boys will need an indoor meeting place. For new Patrols, the homes of the Scouts will most appropriately constitute the meeting place, alternating from one to the other from week to week. It will be found that parents welcome Patrol meetings more readily if it is made clear that "eats" are not expected. As the Patrols grow older they should bend every effort toward finding and developing their own "dens."

As to the contents of these meetings: the time will be spent in training for and reviewing various Scout Requirements, working on a Patrol project, playing Scoutcraft games, discussing a proposed program for the Patrol for the year, welcoming a new recruit, planning the next hike or Patrol Good Turn, preparing for an Inter-Patrol contest. Occasional meetings will be just good times designed to build Patrol morale, a songfest, an evening of fun, games and the like.

Patrol meetings are discussed fully in Handbook for Patrol Leaders, Chapter V.

The Scoutmaster, an Assistant or a junior Troop Leader should attend Patrol meetings only occasionally, and at all times should leave the conduct of the meeting in the hands of the Patrol Leader.

Patrol Hikes and Camps

Patrol hikes and camps
With a contour map, a compass, and certain rules to be followed, off goes one of your Patrols under its own leadership.

While Patrols are encouraged to go hiking and camping on their own, obviously no group of raw recruits should be permitted to wander off into the woods without adult guidance. From sheer ignorance they are almost certain to get into some kind of trouble. It is always desirable for an adult to be with such Scouts.

However, after the Patrol Leaders have been properly trained for hike and camp leadership and the Scouts have learned to take care of themselves on several Troop hikes and camps, to respect growing crops and green trees, to avoid unnecessary danger, to be courteous to farmers, and in all ways to conduct themselves as Scouts, opportunities for them to go on their own outings under the leadership of a responsible Patrol Leader should be very definitely provided.

Patrol Hike and Camp Leadership

To aid the Scoutmaster in determining whether a Patrol Leader is ready to take his Patrol hiking or camping, the Handbook for Patrol Leaders suggests the following boy leadership requirements:

To take his Patrol hiking, a Patrol Leader should have:

  1. His First Class Rank.
  2. Experience on at least three Troop hikes and two hikes of the Green Bar Patrol.
  3. One month's experience as a successful Patrol Leader.
  4. Written consent of the parents of each boy.
  5. A reasonable familiarity with the country to be covered.
  6. Permission of the property owner to build fires and cook.

For Patrol Camping Leadership

To take his Patrol short-term camping, a Patrol Leader should have:

  1. As above.
    1. Experience on at least two Troop overnight camps and one Troop Leaders' overnight camp, or at least one week in an Approved Boy Scout Camp.
    2. Experience on at least fire Patrol hikes to the satisfaction of the Scoutmaster.
  2. Three months' experience as Patrol Leader.
  3. As above.
  4. As above with Familiarity with camp site added.
  5. As above with Permission to make camp added.

These requirements are not meant to be hard and fast regulations, but rather to be considered as a measuring stick for the Scoutmaster's use. You may find, for example, that a certain Patrol Leader, not yet a First Class Scout, may be trusted absolutely to make a Patrol hike a success, while another, apparently should have still stricter requirements imposed upon him before he is allowed to take his Scouts out alone. Use these "requirements" therefore "with a grain of salt" for the best of the Troop--and the boy leaders themselves.

In all instances, plans for Patrol hikes and camps should be submitted in writing to the Troop Leaders' Council and should be definitely approved by the Scoutmaster, who must be ever conscious of the fact that his is the ultimate responsibility. Furthermore, no Patrol hike or overnight camp should be undertaken without the expressed approval of the boys' parents.

As to the technique of Patrol hikes, the Patrol Leader should be directed to the helpful suggestions found in the Handbook for Patrol Leaders, Chapter VII. Similarly, Chapter VII in the same volume provides thorough instruction in the art of Patrol camping.

Program of Patrol Outings

The program of these Patrol outings should include the activities of camping and Scoutcraft such as fire lighting, cooking, tracking, signaling, using knife and hatchet, exploring, mapping, judging, nature lore, pioneering, games.

Frequently it will be desirable to have the Patrols start out on separate hikes and to meet as a Troop at an agreed place later in the day. This method is particularly useful in Troops in which the all-day Saturday hikes are handicapped by the Scoutmaster's having to work in the morning.

Patrol Good Turns

Patrol Good Turns
Gathering around their Scoutmaster to plan details of the evening camp fire. Will the Eagles or Bob-Whites have the honor of serving?

A very fruitful means for stimulating the regular performance of individual Good Turns is the Patrol Good Turn. Patrol Leaders should be encouraged to guide the thoughts of their Scouts along this line and to welcome the suggestions of all Patrol members.

Patrols have strengthened themselves and their members' loyalty to the unselfish ideals of Scouting by the assumption of a definite and continuous job of helpfulness, caring for an elderly cripple, a blind person; directing traffic at a school corner; keeping vacant lots in a given section properly cleaned; helping to train a newly organized Troop. Many are the sorts of Good Turns that may be done by Patrols, either as a regular thing or as occasion arises. Patrols meeting in churches and schools can often give very practical help to their supporting institutions.

Patrol Specialization

Often Patrols may be stimulated by pursuing subjects in which the boys are especially interested.

Patrol specialization may take one of two forms: either all the members of the Patrol agree to concentrate on one particular activity or project, such as first aid, craftsmanship, or nature study: or the Patrol is organized as a team of experts, each boy specializing on a different activity or phase of the Patrol work. Each Patrol will decide for itself by common consent which method it will follow.

First aid and signaling are very popular subjects, but there are a number of other activities in which a Patrol-may specialize. A group of good swimmers may practice and train themselves as a life saving corps. A Patrol interested in nature may work together to form a collection of leaves, of moths and butterflies, or rock specimens. Boys inclined toward craftsmanship may concentrate on the building of models. Or a Patrol may take pride in its record of long hikes or in some other special achievement.

Patrol Spirit

One of the most significant characteristics of the common gang, its esprit-de-corps, its morale, evolves through its activities. In Scout Patrols, the spirit of loyalty in the boy, if properly guided, acts as a powerful reinforcement to the Scout Oath and Law. The development of Patrol spirit should be encouraged in every way possible. Patrol activities are the most effective means of intensifying Patrol vitality and permanency. The Scout Uniform gives the Patrol members a feeling of group consciousness and is an important factor in Patrol spirit.

Once a boy has qualified as a Scout and is admitted to a Patrol, he should be expected to remain a member of that Patrol until he severs his connection with the Troop or is promoted into Troop leadership, unless some compelling reason develops, for a change. In a Troop in which the boys are shuffled together at frequent intervals and dealt out into new Patrols according to the whim of the Scoutmaster, there obviously can be little opportunity for the development of Patrol spirit and Patrol traditions.

When your Scouts begin to think and to say, "Our Patrol doesn't do that kind of thing," your job is more than half done. Group opinion among the Scouts in the Patrol is one of the most potent factors in determining conduct. A Scoutmaster at best sees his Scouts but a few hours each week. The Scouts, on the other hand, are meeting each other all through the week in school and at play, and are influencing each other for good or evil. It is for this reason that the Scout Ideals, developed in the Patrol, may be even as important as the personal influence of the Scoutmaster in shaping the character habits of the Scouts. This again shows how necessary it is that the Scoutmaster himself trains his boy leaders toward this ideal.

Developing Patrol Spirit

The Handbook for Patrol Leaders (Chapter II) gives numerous suggestions on how Patrol Spirit may be fostered.

The right Patrol Name is of importance. Instead of being merely a boy, the new Scout as he enters his Patrol becomes a Buffalo, a Beaver, or an Eagle. He learns to make his Patrol Call and sets out to learn the habits of his Patrol animal or Patrol bird. He is shown how to use the Patrol Signature whenever he signs his name. He wears the Patrol's totem in the Patrol Medallion on his sleeve, and soon learns to take pride in his Patrol Flag and the traditions for which the Patrol Log Book stands.

All of these things--the name, the call, the signature, the flag--are for use, and the Scoutmaster can assist his Patrol in developing Patrol traditions by calling for their use.

Another valuable reinforcement of Patrol consciousness is a definite Patrol headquarters. Just as the boys' gang always has a special meeting place which it jealously defends against all comers, the Scout Patrol should have at least a corner of the Troop meeting place to call its own. The Patrol Corners should be individualized as much as possible by decorations with flags, pictures, knot-boards, trophies and the like, and by appropriate names, such as "The Panthers' Cave," "The Fox's Lair," "The Eagles' Aerie." Here also the Scoutmaster can aid his Scouts through his guidance and enthusiasm toward making these corners real homes to their respective Patrols. At the same time he should help and encourage them in their efforts to find real Patrol Dens for themselves away from the Troop's meeting place for their individual Patrol meetings, as well as suggest to them ways and means of making or purchasing Patrol Equipment for hiking and camping.

The cumulative effect of such items as these continuously emphasized will eventually build that all desirable thing in every Patrol--Patrol Spirit.

Next: Troop Work