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Service Stars

Question about calculating years for Service Stars - in our area it’s a school year calendar, so a Scout joins in August and advances in May. For a Scout who completes the whole five years of Tiger/Wolf/Bear/Webelos/Arrow of Light, is that a five year pin or only four years, since they’re not sticking around until their August anniversary date? Thanks!

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I would be inclined to award a five-year pin with a yellow backer to the scout. Personally, I hope that the few months of “grace” being granted will pale in comparison with the long duration of the scout’s time in the scouting program. I believe that, technically, it would be a four-year pin, then start the count for Scouts BSA (green backer) on the bridging date.

I’m not aware of anything that explicitly addresses the Webelos-to-Scout transition and its impact on service stars, but I haven’t personally looked too hard. :^)


We went away from awarding them all together a couple years ago. But when we did, we awarded them based on join date anniversary, but I can see Charley’s point about not getting too worried about a couple month difference.

On a related note, do your 2nd year Webelos really stay in the pack until the end of the school year? In most places, they cross to Scouts BSA a little earlier, like February (but with lots of variance).

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@AmySorenson, the guidance given by Bryan on Scouting in 2014, indicates that in the scenario you provided, only a four-year service star should be worn, since the star is earned on the anniversary of the registration date.

We do not do it that way in my pack. I recall reading years ago (probably in an Insignia Control Guide from the 1970s, but I’m not sure) that when leaving one BSA program and moving on to another, the program the Scout is leaving should award the next service star, if the Scout has x years and 6 or more months of service. In addition, service stars were traditionally presented at the final pack meeting or court of honor of the program year in May or June. It was routine at the time to present a one-year service star to a boy who had joined in September, even though he had only been a member for eight or nine months.

If a Scout got a service star by the rounding up rule, he started accruing time for his next service star on the anniversary date of his membership. In other words, he was to make up for the time he owed.

The Bryan on Scouting article also says the registration anniversary date is used. Since BSA registration fees always cover full months, prior to 2014, I had been under the impression that the time for service stars begins on the first of the month when the Scout was registered.

Here’s an example that illustrates the 1970s rules that I remember using actual dates instead of full months:

Scout is born on March 15, 1967. He joins a pack as a Wolf on September 15, 1974. At the June 1975 pack meeting, he is awarded a one-year service star, even though he has only nine months of service. On May 25, 1977, he graduates from the pack and becomes a Boy Scout. The pack gives him a three-year service star for his two years, eight months and 10 days of service, since it is at least two years and six months. His new troop does not begin to accrue time for his first Boy Scout service star until September 15, 1977. At the June 1978 court of honor, the troop awards him a one-year service star. At the March 1985 court of honor, his last as a youth member, the troop presents an eight-year service star. From September 15, 1977 to March 14, 1985, his last day as a youth, is seven years and six months, if you count the day of joining and the last day as a youth as full days. That’s why the anniversary date doesn’t make sense to me. January 1 to June 30 is six full months. July 1 is six months later than January 1, but January 1 to July 1 is a time span of six months and one day. So, it should really be the day before the anniversary date. Anyway, the new young adult should not begin accruing time for his one-year adult service star until September 15, 1985, since he still “owes” time on his final Boy Scout service star.

If the boy’s birthday had been a day earlier, and he was one day short of seven years and six months, the “by the book” answer would be that the seven-year service star he received in June 1984 is his final Boy Scout service star. However, he would start accruing time for his one-year adult service star on September 15, 1984, while he was still 17, because this is “carryover” time from his youth registration. In other words, the rounding rule was intended to work in both directions.

I revived service stars when I became Cubmaster last year, and that’s how we’ve implemented it. With Scouts joining at different times of year, we decided these will not be presented at each monthly pack meeting. Instead, they are presented at the June pack meeting, the January pack meeting (just after we recharter), at any crossover ceremony (to anyone eligible, not just those crossing over) and at the Blue & Gold dinner. I’ve developed an Excel spreadhseet that relies on the joining date and calculates the correct service star as of any calculation date that is entered. One exception to our pack’s rule is that we do not present service stars to Lions until the day they cross over to Tigers, because they have no place to wear them.

It is notable that the Bryan on Scouting article fails to address what to do with Scouts who are crossing over. It just says to use the registration date. That would presumably mean that if a Cub Scout crossed over to Scouts BSA with excess months of service time not included in his or her last Cub Scout service star, that time will never end up on a service star, even if it is 11 months. In theory, the same Scout could lose another 11 months, if his or her 18th birthday falls just before the crossover date. Somehow, that doesn’t make sense to me.

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It’s a fault of ours, but we haven’t tracked (nor awarded) service stars at all in our pack. We’re not “against” them at all, it’s just one more thing to do and we would rather focus on program.

I’m waiting for someone to say, “Hey, what about service stars?” so I can say “Great, you’re the chair of the tenure committee in charge of determining and awarding services stars!”

I agree we should track them, it’s just been low on our priority.


Last year I started tracking adult tenure to award service stars to our registered adult volunteers. Turns out we have 173 years of BSA scouting experience spread across 26 leaders. And, yes, for the ladies I track GSUSA time, but do not award stars for it; 8 leaders & 42 years.

@PaulMcDonald, I wasn’t sure how these would be received by the Scouts, but they usually pin them on their shirts right away. We had a Scout cross over in June and gave him a five-year service star, the first one he had ever received. He thought the yellow backing was packaging, and he pinned it above his right pocket instead of his left, but it went on his shirt right away.

I’m attaching my service star template. The names of the Scouts have been changed to protect the innocent. You’ll see that if the calculation date is before the join date, you need to make sure the formula is not in the cell for that Scout. The formulas used in the first calculation column are different from those in all other calculation columns, because the first column will award a service star, if the calculated service is one year or more. In all the other columns, it checks to see whether the calculated service star has already been awarded, and if it has, it leaves the cell blank for that Scout. Once a Scout has been awarded his or her service star, I make the cell green to keep track of who might have missed the pack meeting and still be owed one. The formula is blocked for Lions, and the cells are greyed out until the date they will cross over and become Tigers, since they cannot wear a service star on their tee-shirts. When a Scout leaves the pack, the cells for all future calculation dates have their formulas removed and get greyed out. A control total at the bottom lets you know how many service stars are presented at a given award date. I used December 31, 2019 as the calculation date for December, since we had a Scout crossing over, and he was going to remain registered with the pack and officially cross over at recharter. We expect the same thing to happen in 2020, with another Scout, who will be too old to recharter with us for 2021. I have calculations for future dates on the spreadsheet just to verify that it is working as expected. Rules and explanations are on a separate tab.

It took me a few hours to figure out how to write these formulas and test it, but I’m happy to share the product at no cost!

Keep in mind, this spreadsheet only works if you want to calculate service stars the same way I do.

Service Star Template.xlsx (20.7 KB)


As a new Scout troop we just had to decide if we should do them. We decided not to.

It is funny how there are things I did as a cub and Scout my current pack and troop don’t do. I think they are fine choices to cut, but each time I thought “oh, we aren’t going to do that?”

What I did as a cub and Scout, but isn’t done now:
-service stars for cubs or scouts
-mothers/parents pins for cubs and Scouts (only Eagle)
-cub brag vests with segments for every activity that go around a central council round patch
-den numbers (only big enough for 1 den per grade, so they never go by number, just lion/tiger/wolf/etc)
-den flags
-den pinewood races and ribbons for them. Only a whole pack race
-den & troop meeting dues (50 cents? collected at each meeting in Cubs)
-day camp as a den (our council doesn’t have a day camp, and resident camp costs $235 for 4 days, so a few will go this year, but only 5 out of 45)
-membership cards (now that we moved to print your own)

There aren’t enough stars for some of our leaders… We have two that are currently active with their grandsons, that have been in Scouting for nearly 50 years each.

We had our OA Lodge Dinner earlier this month. The number of Brothers with 50 years or more active with Scouting was impressive… We have one Scouter with over 75 years in the OA!

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Check it out: https://www.scoutshop.org/service-star-75-years-1182.html

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The starts go up to 90! So, if a lion starts at 5, and is still a member at 95, you are set!

Nope. It’s tenure by program and they couldn’t register with cub scouts from age 11-17

For Scouters

Adult leaders are a different story. The Guide says: “Leaders may combine youth and adult tenure into one or two stars with blue backgrounds.”

Leaders are allowed to represent their time spent as a youth in Scouting separately through an additional pin or pins as mentioned above. But I imagine most will want to show the total time they’ve spent in the program. That means they get to wear a larger number, after all.

Bryan on Scouting: Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

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No, you are allowed to do it either way. You can do tenure by program, or by total.

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