Did you know that there are a total of 17 official youth leadership positions in Scouting? Typically, Scouts will serve in one of these positions for a six-month term (or longer, depending on the troop), and be assigned to a new position afterward. If you’re a Scout, regardless of which position you’re in, each of these 17 roles are essential for helping your troop run smoothly!
There’s a lot that needs to be taken care of to keep your troop functioning properly, and filling these youth leadership positions is the first step to getting those things done. Whether you’re a Scout or Scoutmaster, understanding the different positions within your troop will be key to great leadership, as it’ll allow you to better delegate responsibilities.
Some troops may not have the membership to fill each of the 17 official positions, which is perfectly fine. When lacking manpower, it’s up to the troops themselves to choose the most important positions they’d like to have filled.
So, now that you know the importance of these troop leadership positions, let’s talk about what they actually are. According to Scouts BSA, the 17 positions a Scout can serve in throughout their Scouting career are:
While I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with some of these troop positions, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t know all of them inside and out. I know that was the case for me when I was a Scout. Don’t worry though, because I’m here to help! If you’ve been assigned a position you’re unfamiliar with, or are just interested in learning more about how your troop runs, this is the article for you. 🙂
To give you a better understanding of each role, I’ll be providing a quick rundown of what each position holder does during a typical troop meeting. Scouts BSA’s list of troop positions only gives a brief description of each role, so I wanted to provide you with a more accurate and “on-the-ground” look at what each troop position involves.
Hopefully, my 6 years of Scouting can teach you a thing or two about the reality of each leadership position in Scouting. Now, without further ado, let’s dive into it!
Senior Patrol Leader (SPL)
The Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) is the top dog and head honcho within every troop’s leadership structure. They’re in charge of everything. However, SPLs have a ton of responsibilities that simply all can’t be covered in just one short paragraph! If you’re interested in learning all about what an SPL does (and how to be a great one), check out our complete guide to being an SPL, here.
Senior Patrol Leader Duties During Troop Meetings
Phase 1: The SPL is often responsible for calling troop meetings to order. To do this, they’ll have everyone fall in and then hold a presentation of the colors. After that, they’ll lead a recitation of the Scout Oath and Law, and make any announcements that the troop will be needing to be aware of, such as upcoming events or changes to troop policy.
Phase 2: After the opening ceremony, an SPL will then have the troop break into patrols so that each group has time to discuss patrol-related items (AKA Patrol Corners). During this time, a good SPL will check in with the patrols to see if they need any questions answered or require extra help. After about 20 minutes passes, the SPL will reconvene the troop meeting.
Phase 3: Once all the patrols have been gathered together again, the SPL will explain the project, demonstration, or activity that will be done for the rest of the troop meeting. They’ll then supervise the activity, delegating when necessary and ensuring that everything gets completed without too many complications. Once finished, the SPL then organizes and leads the clean-up (if necessary).
Phase 4: After leading the troop in cleaning-up, the SPL will close the meeting by making a few announcements. They might remind the troop of upcoming events, assess the success of the meeting, or lead. patrol uniform inspections. They’ll then close the meeting by leading the recitation of the Scout Oath and Law and then retiring of the colors.
Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL)
The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) essentially serves as the SPL’s right-hand man (or woman) and assists the SPL in carrying out any of their duties. Additionally, It’s an ASPL’s responsibility to serve as the active SPL if the actual SPL is not able to attend a Troop meeting. In some troops there can be multiple ASPLs (but there’s usually only one SPL).
The ASPL also generally takes charge of any duties delegated by the SPL throughout troop meetings. These tasks might include:
- Serving as an additional supervisor during troop activities.
- Leading the meeting so that the SPL can attend to other matters.
- Working with Scouts that need additional assistance.
- Drafting up plans for later troop activities or meetings.
- Relaying information to everyone in attendance.
If the SPL is absent, they should provide a written or verbal meeting plan for their ASPL. In the case of an absence, the ASPL will lead the meeting and fulfill all of the duties previously described in the SPL position. While the ASPL should try to follow the plan as closely as possible, they have the power to adapt and change things when necessary.
As you probably already know, troops are often organized into groups of Scouts. These groups are called patrols. Each patrol has a dedicated Patrol Leader that manages most, if not all of the activities that the patrol participates in. During the time that the Troop splits up into patrols for patrol corners, Patrol Leaders must also lead their Scouts in coming to decisions.
During patrol corners, Patrol Leaders do things like taking attendance, planning for camps, and talking about any patrol topics that need to be addressed. Patrol Leaders also use this time to catch up with their patrol members to get their opinions on past activities or projects.
Patrol corners are also a great time for patrol leaders to lead the planning of events, such as patrol outings. While patrol outings are mainly planned by the patrol leaders themselves, they may want to discuss the patrol outing with their patrol members so that the outing is something that everyone will enjoy.
During troop activities, Patrol Leaders are usually on standby, ready to carry out tasks delegated by the SPL or relay information to their patrols. When they’re not helping out the SPL or ASPL with leadership tasks though, Patrol Leaders should work with their patrols to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Check out my other article for more information on How To Be A Great Patrol Leader!
Assistant Patrol Leader (APL)
Note: APL does not count for the youth positions of responsibility rank requirements.
Source: BSA Troop Leader Resources (bottom of page)
In my opinion, Assistant Patrol Leaders are some of the most important members of any troop. Here’s why: In this role, Assistant Patrol Leaders can lead their patrols by example, and also relay important information to their patrol leaders!
The duties of an Assistant Patrol Leader are fairly straightforward. APLs mainly relay information from the troop leadership to the rest of their patrol. Additionally, an APL must lead the patrol in the PL’s absence and set a good example for all patrol members.
During a troop meeting, you can usually find Assistant Patrol Leaders working alongside their patrol and keeping morale high. Sometimes, APLs are also assigned to help Scouts who are experiencing more difficulties, 1-on-1. Their main mission is to make their Patrol Leaders even more successful.
Being an Assistant Patrol Leader was one of my all-time favorite positions early-on as it allowed me to practice my hands-on leadership! I even wrote a full article on my experiences and listed out some tips. You can check out my Guide to Being a Fantastic Assistant Patrol Leader Here!
A Troop Guide is essentially an advisor to the patrol leader of the new Scout patrol. While not every troop has a Troop Guide, it’s still important to pass on key troop information to the younger Scouts. Often, it’s the Troop Guide’s responsibility to pass on basic Scouting techniques and introduce new Scouts to the troop’s different functions. Therefore, a Troop guide must be responsible and at least First Class rank.
During your typical troop meeting, you may see the Troop Guide advising patrol leaders during patrol corners. Troop Guides sometimes even hold separate activities for the new Scout patrol to teach them useful Scouting principles. In this way, new troop members can be brought into the loop fairly quickly.
Quartermasters are known as the inventory keepers of a troop. If your troop owns any items such as camping gear or cooking equipment, the quartermaster is in charge of knowing where everything is at all times. Responsibilities of a troop quartermaster include:
- Keeping a running list of all troop-owned items.
- Tracking who has what.
- Figuring out what items need replacing or refurbishing.
- Following up with Scouts who’ve kept items for too long.
- Making sure everything is fueled up and ready to go for camps.
During troop meetings, you may see your quartermaster bringing items from a central storage place to be used during that meeting’s activities. Scouts may also come up to their troop’s quartermasters to ask them if they know where a certain item is. If a Scout is returning an item they’ll need to confirm it with their quartermaster before putting it back in the central storage area.
The troop Scribe mainly takes notes during Patrol Leader Council (PLC) meetings. In some troops, Scribes also help with email correspondences and make sure that all information being relayed is correct.
Scribes don’t have much of a role outside of these responsibilities, so they’ll be just like any other Scout during most troop meetings (since PLC meetings usually occur outside of PLC meetings).
Den Chiefs are youths involved in Scouts BSA who assist the Den Leaders of Cub Scout Packs. The Den Chief role is unique, as these Scouts’ main leadership responsibilities aren’t to their troop, but rather the Den they are a part of. These individuals often help out Den Leaders in Den meetings, Pack meetings, and any other Cub Scout-related activities that the Den does.
During regular troop meetings, Den Chiefs will act just like any other Scout. However, they’re responsible for attending the Den Meetings that their Pack holds once a week. Often, the best Den Chiefs are Scouts who have a younger sibling within the Pack, as they have a more “on the ground” perspective of their Pack’s needs.
The Chaplain’s Aide is another unique leadership role, as their main responsibilities aren’t directly to the troop they are a part of. Instead, a Chaplain’s Aide will act as the liaison between the religious organization the troop is affiliated with and the troop itself. In some troops, Chaplain’s Aides are also in charge of delivering any prayers or blessings.
You may often see the Chaplain’s Aide leading prayers or other religious messages during troop meetings, especially at the beginning and end of troop meetings or before meals. While not every troop has enough Scouts to assign a Chaplain’s Aide, this is a very important role if you hold a lot of church-based service projects.
The troop Historian documents and chronicles memories from troop meetings, activities, and ceremonies. The most common way of doing this is by taking pictures and items from events and including them in a troop photo hard drive or scrapbook. Web pages or display cases are also great ways to document your troop’s legacy!
The Historian can often be seen taking pictures during notable troop meetings and events. Sometimes, they’ll even create monthly newsletters to keep everyone in the loop of what’s been going on that month. These written pieces are a great way to preserve your troop’s history, and can be saved quite easily!
A troop’s Instructor is in charge of teaching Scouting skills and techniques to young Scouts so that they can rank up and complete merit badges. Being an Instructor was one of my favorite troop positions of all time! 🙂 A good troop Instructor needs to not only be proficient in the skill themselves, they should also be able to effectively teach it to other Scouts.
Troop Instructors are often experts on the subjects they teach, so you may see them leading certain portions of troop activities during meetings. This could be anything from setting up a proper campsite, to teaching camp cooking skills, or even showcasing different first aid techniques. Being an Instructor is a great way to build leadership experience, so I’d highly recommend giving the position a try!
A troop’s Librarian is in charge of keeping track of all merit badge books, binders, photographs, and documents. They’re essentially like a quartermaster for your troop’s records! A librarian will also need to keep Scouts accountable for the documents they borrow.
During meetings, Librarians can usually be found handing out resources and following up with Scouts who may have forgotten to return things. Typically, before or after troop meetings, Librarians will visit your troop library to take out and file materials like merit badge books and manuals.
If your troop has a website, the Scout taking on the role of Webmaster will be in charge of maintaining your online presence. They’ll also be in charge of updating events and information on your website as well! In smaller troops, sometimes the Scribe takes on the responsibilities of a troop’s Webmaster.
During troop meetings, you might find your Webmaster uploading new information, such as troop announcements about events or schedules. They might also create summaries of troop meetings and post them to the website for Scouts who were unable to attend. Although it’s a tough job, if you’re planning to go into a tech-related field, being a Webmaster will look great on your Eagle Scout college application!
The Bugler of your troop is responsible for playing the bugle (or a similar instrument, such as a trumpet) for special events and ceremonies. They may also play the bugle to wake up your Troop in the morning on camping trips so that all Scouts are ready for roll call.
Your Bugler won’t always play their instrument during troop meetings, but you may hear them practicing from time to time! My troop didn’t have a Bugler. However, if you have a Scout with some musical talent, setting them up as your Bugler may be a great way to build troop spirit!
Order of the Arrow Representative
Order of the Arrow (OA) Representatives are the main liaison between your troop, your local Order of the Arrow Lodge, and the greater OA National organization. These individuals are responsible for guiding potential OA members through various aspects of their initiation process and making sure their troop holds a yearly OA election (and assisting when necessary).
Recently, an OA Chapter Advisor kindly took the time to reach out to let me know that the main responsibilities of an OA unit representative, with the support of their adviser, include:
- Ensuring that their unit schedules a unit election.
- Talking to all youth members about the purpose of the Order of the Arrow and the criteria their fellow Scouts should use in voting for those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law.
- Helping maintain excitement among eligible Scouts before the election.
- Contacting the members of their unit a few days before the unit election to ensure that the maximum number of Scouts will participate.
- Contacting the OA members in their unit (both youth and adult) a few days before the unit election and reminding them to attend the election in full uniform with sash.
- Assisting in conducting the election, if needed.
- Helping complete the Unit Election Evaluation Form (page 35) and sending it to the lodge/ chapter if requested by the unit elections team.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about the Order of the Arrow, be sure to check out the official OA Representative Support Pack and our summary on Scouting’s Order of the Arrow. It’s super interesting!
Your troop’s OA representative may not be an active part of every meeting. However, you’ll often find them leading OA-related segments, such as presentations, the OA election, and recognition ceremonies. If your troop is very serious about getting the most out of Scouting, participating in the OA is a great way to get involved in more activities!
Outdoor Ethics Guide
The Outdoor Ethics Guide in your troop expert on the Outdoor Code. To make sure that troop activities don’t harm our environment, your Outdoor Ethics Guide is in charge of screening all troop ideas. They’ll also advise you to the best of their abilities in the principles of Leave No Trace, the Outdoor Code, and Treading Lightly!
During a troop meeting, you may see your Outdoor Ethics Guide give a quick debrief on the environmental impact of a planned activity. During the actual project, they’ll review work being done and remind Scouts of how their decisions will affect the environment.
Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (JASM)
The Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (JASM) is a position for Scouts between the ages of 16 and 18 who have shown incredible leadership within the troop. In this role, a JASM takes on more responsibility in training up new leaders within the troop. When Junior Assistant Scoutmasters turn 18, they are eligible to become official Assistant Scoutmasters.
During troop meetings, Junior Assistant Scoutmasters will take on responsibilities similar to those of the Scoutmasters. This means they’ll be largely advising and observing the Scouts who are running the troop meeting. While a JASM might help out and give advice when needed, they usually don’t participate in the Troop meeting, itself.
With so many leadership roles in Scouting, it’s sometimes tricky to understand what role does what. Hopefully this article cleared up any confusion you may have had about the positions, their responsibilities, and what their role actually looks like in practice!
If you enjoyed learning about each of the troop leadership positions, I’d highly recommend also checking any of the following articles if they spark your interest:
- My All-time Favorite Scout Camping Games And Activities
- Why Scouts Wear Neckerchief Scarfs (And Their Symbolism)
- Why Is Earning Your Eagle Rank Worth It? The Lesser-known Benefits Of Eagle
- The 5 Most Common Mistakes That You’re Probably Making As A Leader
- 99 Extraordinary And Creative Eagle Scout Project Ideas
Hope you found this article interesting, and that have the opportunity to try some of these positions to find your favorite! Thanks for visiting ScoutSmarts.com and, as always, best of luck on your Scouting journey. 🙂