The Patrol Method is one of the most important tenets of scouting. This method gives boys an experience in group living and participating in citizenship. It places responsibilities on young shoulders and teaches boys how to accept it and manage it more effectively.
According Lord Robert Baden-Powell the founder of Scouting, the Patrol Method “is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organizations”. Why are patrols needed? The answer, according to Baden-Powell, is two-fold. First the patrol is “the character school for the individual,” where Scouts learn “subordination of self to the interest of the whole”. Second, it’s a leadership school for the youth leader, a way to give real responsibility to as many Scouts as possible. In other words, everyone in the patrol typically has a specific job to do: Patrol Leader, Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Treasurer, Patrol Grubmaster, and Patrol Quartermaster.
For a patrol to be successful, it must develop its own identity, almost to the point that the members think of themselves as their patrol first, and members of the Troop 69 second. For this reason, Patrols develop their own names, Patrol Flags, Patrol Yells and each member wears a Patrol patch. Patrols should target a minimum of 10—12 members as nearly every boy is active in at least 2 other organizations besides school (sports, music, church) & a critical mass of 6 is needed on outings.
One, two, three, four, or even five Patrols, each under its own boy leader, form the Troop. The Patrols are the working units in Scouting, while the Troop organization provides supervision and coordination, and establishes loyalty and opportunities for service. In other words, a Troop is not divided into Patrols. A Troop is the sum total of its Patrols.
There are different types of patrols: the first-year scout patrol, the regular patrol and venture patrols. Each has different levels of scouting competency. The Green Bar youth leaders patrol can be comprised of members of each.
The single troop activity that best illustrates the elements off the Patrol Method in action is the monthly campout. Patrols must organize themselves, collect money, plan their meals, who is acquiring the menu items, who is securing needed troop equipment, tent mates and draw up duty rosters that include such tasks as gathering & chopping fire wood, gathering water, cooking, & cleaning dishes.
Unlike a Cub Scouting camping trip, where the parents shop & prepare all the food and the program is not impacted by late arrivals or early departures, on a Boy Scout camping trip every Scout has an important role within his Patrol. The Patrol is led by the Patrol Leader and his Assistant Patrol Leader. Each Scout in the Patrol is assigned duties, in advance of the trip, which are posted on the Patrol’s Duty Roster. These responsibilities may include food purchasing, food preparation, cooking, cleanup, water collection, building a fire, etc. Other duties on a camping trip may include packaging and carrying some of the Patrol’s camping gear (tents, water jugs, pots, etc.), erecting the campsite, gathering firewood, striking the campsite, packing the Patrol’s gear, patrolling the site for litter, etc.
There’s plenty of time for fun and games as well, but ALL of these duties are performed by the Scouts themselves. Scouts quickly learn that if they don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. So, it should be clear how arriving late or leaving early can be disruptive to the equitable functioning of the Patrol. Who is going to take down David’s tent, if he has to leave before breakfast on Sunday morning? Who is going to do clean up if the person listed on the Duty Roster for that chore is suddenly gone?
There may be times when a late arrival or an early departure is absolutely necessary in order to participate in an event back home. And we will certainly try to accommodate those special scheduling needs that enable a Scout to participate when there is a conflict (sports, family events, etc.). But please understand that each member of the troop and the Patrols is important, and it is extremely disruptive to the program when people come and go independently. So please, try to keep this to a minimum.
Likewise, as a troop prepares for any type of event, there is a need to confirm the “final” headcount. Accordingly, communication follows a chain of command, with patrol members calling their patrol leaders, the patrol leaders calling the Sr. Patrol Leader (or Assistant SPL) and the SPL calling the Scoutmaster or other adult event leader. All patrol members are expected to communicate with each other weekly about the upcoming troop meeting and any other activity. Communication by the boys can take the form of calling on the phone, emailing, text messaging or just visiting with each other during or after school. Generally, boys do not begin to become regular users of email until they reach high school.
The adult leaders act as role models on campouts and form the “Old Goats” Patrol, securing a separate campsite, planning and performing the same tasks as the boy patrols and try to keep their distance from the boys in order to allow their patrols to function as a complete unit.