Green Bar Bill -FAQ for Patrol Leaders


FAQ for Patrol Leaders

The following is Question’s from Scouts to William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt in a 1943 edition of Scouting magazine.  Green Bar Bill wrote numerous articles for Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines, as well as three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook (1952, 1965, 1980), four editions of the Patrol Leaders Handbook (1929, 1952, 1967, 1980) and the third edition of the Handbook for Scoutmasters (1936).


“How important is it for a Patrol to hold Patrol Meetings outside of the Troop Meeting and what should the fellows do at these meetings?”

Green Bar Bill: “VERY.  What can be accomplished during a Troop meeting of an hour and a half in training the fellows?  Not very much.  So if the weekly Troop meeting were all the scouting your fellows got for a whole week, they wouldn’t have much.  But there’s one thing the Troop meeting can do.  It can inspire the scouts to get busy and do something about their Scouring;  it can suggest to them things to do until they meet again for another Troop Meeting.  That’s where the Patrol meetings outside of the Troop meeting come in.  It’s here the fellows can really settle down to work on advancement, on projects, to train for stunts and demonstrations to put on, to fix up camping equipment, and to plan the big events that are ahead for the patrol.”

“Should the Patrol Leader be selected by the members of his Patrol or by the Scoutmaster?”

Green Bar Bill:  “This is my opinion – your Troop may not agree.  “In a brand-new Troop where the boys don’t know each other too well, it may be advisable for the scoutmaster to pick the temporary Patrol Leaders.  But the ideal arrangement is to have the Scouts select for their leader the fellow they look up to and want to follow.  Scouts are generally pretty smart and usually pick the boy best suited for the job.  If they pick the wrong one – well, then I’m in favor of having them stew in their own juice for a while until they can find a way of solving the problem that will meet with their Scoutmaster’s approval.  That will teach them what to look for in a leader.”

“What are some of the things you can do to get your Scouts interested in advancement?”

Green Bar Bill:  “Take ‘em hiking!  Get them out-of-doors.  Give them real scouting.  Follow a compass direction.  Have them use a map.  Cut fire wood and light a fire – by permission, of course, and cook a meal.  Learn the trees, the birds, the stars.  Try Scout’s Pace until everyone has mastered it.  Signal with flags or smoke or fire.  Follow the animal tracks you come across.  Judge distance and heights.  Fake some accidents that may occur in the wilderness and have the fellows care for the ‘victims.’  If you go on like that for awhile, before you know a word about it all of your Scouts will have done most of the things that are required for second and First Class advancement.  Then it’s a matter of a little pushing on your part to get them to finish up and a bit of pinning them down to be ready for a date of the next local Board.  ‘Element’ry, my dear Watson’ as Sherlock Holmes would have said.”

“Is it necessary to have Patrol Leaders’ meetings with Troop officers and why?”

Green Bar Bill:  “BUT DEFINITELY!  Without those meetings your Troop wouldn’t be using the Patrol Method – that’s why.  Patrols are gangs of boys led by boys.  The Troop consists of those Patrols working together.  But how can they work together unless the leaders meet with each other and decide what needs to be done?  So, the Patrol Leaders sit down with the others officers of the Troop to plan Troop Meetings, hikes, camps and service projects.  The Patrol Leaders report on their Patrol activities and get help and advice on improving them.  But those meeting have another very important function:  It’s here that the Scoutmaster trains his boy leaders for the job of leadership in Patrol and Troop.  The Patrol Leaders’ Meeting, or Patrol Leaders’ Council or Green Bar Council, as it is often called, is the heart of the Troop, the key to the Patrol Method.”

“Is a boy a Patrol Leader because he wears two green bars?”

Green Bar Bill:  “Bingo!  Here, right off the bat, we have the $64 question!  The answer is NO – most emphatically NO!  Some may insist he is – technically, at least.  Well, I don’t give a hoot for technicalities like that.  A badge alone does not make a boy a Patrol Leader.  His actions do!  It is the way he can get his boys to follow him, the way he thinks up ideas and let’s the gang execute them, the way he keeps the fellows on the go that proves him a leader.  Unless a boy is a REAL LEADER OF A PATROL he should never be given the privilege of wearing those two green bars.”

“In many Troops the Patrol Leader picks the Assistant Patrol Leader.  How should this be done?  Should it be the highest ranking Scout or the most capable scout, for in many cases the highest ranking scout is not the most capable of the Patrol?”

Green Bar Bill:  “I, too, believe in having the Patrol Leader pick his Assistant.  Of course, while picking, he should think of the good of the Patrol and not so much his own preference.  He might have a very good friend among the Patrol members, but if he were smart he wouldn’t pick his friend unless that fellow were a good leader and acceptable to the other Scouts of the Patrol as a leader when he himself couldn’t be present.  The Assistant, like the Patrol Leaders, should be picked for leadership first, rather than for rank or age.

“Should the Patrol Leader be older than the boys in the Patrol or should he be the highest in rank?”

Green Bar Bill:  “It all depends.  It would be a simple matter if the oldest boy were of the highst rank and also had the greatest amount of leadership.  There are fellows like that.  Such a fellow would be the one to pick.  But if you didn’t have any like that around, I’d put leadership first, rank next and age last.  I’ve met First Class scouts that weren’t worth a hoot as leaders.  I’ve met fifteen-year-olds that couldn’t get along with twelve-year-olds on a bet.  So give me a fellow with leadership and I’ll take a chance on his age and rank.”

“What can I do for discipline at meetings?”

Green Bar Bill:  “My Grandmother would have had the perfect answer for that one.  When I was a tiny tot I wasn’t quite the angel I am today.  At times I’d cut up and make a nuisance of myself.  What did my Grandmother do?  She smeared my fingers with molasses and gave me a feather to play with.  The result was I got so busy trying to pick off that feather that I didn’t have time to be a nuisance.  Get the point?  Have your meetings so packed full of things to do that the fellows just don’t have the chance to stop for a moment to get into mischief.”

“Should a Patrol Leader divide the work and responsibilities among his Patrol members or should he be in charge of everything?”

Green Bar Bill:  “An emphatic YES to the first part of the question and an equally emphatic NO to the last.  For two reasons.  First, to produce an effective and efficient Patrol, and, second to give each fellow a chance for leadership.  A Patrol is a small democracy.   But a democracy can’t be strong unless each member of it accepts his responsibility and does his part.  Give each fellow a chance to help in planning the work and a job to perform in working the plan.  There’s a swell chapter on his patrol organization in the Handbook for Patrol Leaders.  Look it up.”

“How do I get my Patrol members to come to Patrol Meetings?”

Green Bar Bill:  “Why do you go to the movies?  Because movies show something you want to see!  Why do Scouts go to Patrol meetings?  Because they contain things they want to do!  There’s your answer.  The trouble is that in many Patrols the fellows would be much smarter if they stayed away;  there’s nothing but fooling around.  In the good Patrols it’s different for two reasons.  First of all, because they themselves have helped to plan meetings that are crammed full of things they want to do.  They know they’ll have fun.  And second, because they have accepted the responsibility for parts of the meetings and have to be there to carry through their job.  In patrols that work this way the fellows don’t want to miss a single meeting.”



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