Considering a Transition to Trail Life?

Speaking UpI know a fair number of fellow scouters who are considering a transition to Trail Life USA, sooner or later.  However, I need to offer this disclaimer….This is NOT an article about why they’re considering the move, or why anyone ought to make a decision one way or the other.

I’ve heard a lot of questions and heard some folks repeating myths and misperceptions about the new program since it’s brand new.  The good news is that as we approach the program start date of January 1st, more details are being “officially” released and confirmed.

Of particular interest is how advancement will be handled and how boys who do move to the program will receive “credit” for work already completed while tenured at BSA.

A new web page deals with this —

TLUSA for docs

Here are some highlights that I found interesting (If you’re curious about other advancement issues, take some time to investigate the link, above.) [Note:  BSA terms used are for clarity in comparison only — informational use only, Trail Life has it’s own terms for similar awards, ranks, etc.]

How will this [transfer] happen?

  1. A youth or adult will be able to access a software module where they can enter all of a boy’s BSA achievements including earned rank advancement requirements, ranks, merit badges, Totin’ Chip, Firem’n Chit, service hours, religious awards, nights of camping, etc.
  2. The software will generate a printout that will list:
    1. All of his BSA achievements
    2. The corresponding Trail Life USA achievements for which credit will be given
    3. The documentation required to substantiate the BSA achievements
  3. The boy can then go to the Trail Life USA Troop leader that handles advancement tracking for the troop, who will then populate the boy’s advancement record under Trail Life USA.

Comparison bsa to tlusa ranks

What is the best thing to focus on now for Scout advancement to prepare for the transfer?

  • Complete BSA’s Tenderfoot, if you have not done so. Complete any other rank for which you are close to completion.
  • For those in the primary ranks (TF, SC, FC), it would be advisable to earn your Firem’n Chit and Totin’ Chip Cards.
  • If possible, complete partial merit badges.
  • Complete as many of the following Trail to First Class Requirements as you can – Tenderfoot: 2-6, 9, and 11-12; 2nd Class: 1-4, 7-8; 1st Class: 1-4 and 7-9.
  • Document your participation in 8-16 Troop Activities outside of regular troop meetings in middle school, or in high school if you’re a high school student. A good place to track these activities may be in your camping log in your Boy Scout handbook, if you have one. Even track day events here – just write them down as zero nights overnight.
  • Log your nights camping – any nights camping so long as it was in a tent or under the stars (i.e. all summer camps count). 15 total are required for the Camping Trail Badge and 40 total for the Outdoor Life Trail Badge.
  • Log your service hours in the service log starting in June of this year.
  • The most useful Eagle required merit badges for a Trailman’s advancement are: Swimming, First Aid, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Personal Management, and Family Life. Those are worth completing if you’re close.
  • Also, useful for a Trailman’s advancement would be completing one of the following BSA merit badges: Personal Fitness, Cycling, Hiking, or Swimming AND the “Mile Swim BSA” ward.
  • Next, consider completing all 3 Citizenship merit badges or Communications and 2 of the Citizenships; Camping or Environmental Science.
  • Cooking and Sustainability will transfer as electives, so are not as highly recommended.

What about Transferring in to Trail Life USA as an Eagle Scout?

The Eagle Scout Rank is a special situation because we have devised a way for that achievement to transfer over rather smoothly. In the Trail Life USA program, our Horizon Award (see the chart on the previous page) includes having completed all the Merit Badge work that is required to earn the rank of BSA Eagle Scout. The only thing that a Horizon Award recipient would not have completed that an Eagle Scout would have completed is a special service project, which we call our Freedom Servant Leadership Project.

To earn the Trail Life USA Freedom Award (our top award), a Trailman in the program is required to complete his Horizon Award and then complete his Freedom Servant Leadership Project, a high school faith requirement, and four real-life hands-on “Freedom Experiences” in our Majors and Minors Program. These are experiences in active citizenry that help prepare a boy for the real majors and minors program at college or life in the world as an active Christian man.

Those who are Eagle Scouts are grandfathered into the Trail Life program with credit for 3 of these 4 required “Freedom Experiences,” so here is what a transferring Eagle Scout would need to do in order to then earn our top award, the Freedom Award:

  1. Maintain active participation in the troop to the satisfaction of the Adventurers Advisor.
  2. Complete a High School Faith Building Activity Option (unless an activity deemed by the Advisor to be equivalent was already completed in the BSA)
  3. Complete a single Freedom Experience, which will determine the major that the Trailman will have associated with his Freedom Award.

Adult Eagle Scouts can also earn the Freedom Award as well by completing the following requirements:

  1. Enroll as an adult leader and adhere to and abide by our Statement of Faith and Values.
  2. Complete training required for your adult position (some BSA training will be recognized as meeting this requirement).
  3. Complete a meaningful project to assist the new Trail Life USA organization — like starting a troop, serving as an effective Area Point Man or Commissioner, or some other meaningful service that is reminiscent of the Woodbadge Ticket in BSA.

TLUSA red Banner


About Troop113

Our Troop # comes from Psalm 1:1-3 - describing the men we want our scouts to become
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4 Responses to Considering a Transition to Trail Life?

  1. Christine says:

    Great article, thanks! Do you have any details for cub scouts? I’m concerned about those transferring in the middle of 1st, 3rd, or 5th grade — especially those working on Arrow of Light.

    • Troop113 says:

      Hi, the Woodlands Trail program consists of three age groups — Fox (K-1 or ages 5-6); Hawk (2nd-3rd grade or 7-8 years old) and Mountain Lions (4th-5th grades or 9-10 years old). Each age group has a level award completed by earning leaves to be pinned to branches. Branches represent themes like citizenship and leaves are accrued by participation in program (meetings, outings, events, etc.)

      To my knowledge there’s not a “direct” counterpart to AOL which is a crossover theme (accomplishing the “SCOUT” badge from the older boys program), but there is a “Timekeeper Award” offered.

      If you’ve not watched the 38 minute video overview, jump to the 17 minute mark and watch the next four minutes to get the Woodlands trail overview.

      Stay tuned to for more specific details as they become available — and MUCH is soon to be released based on my conversation with a board member last night.

  2. Troy of ECC says:

    This article is well done and I will sending scouts and scouters to this as it explains a great deal in a few words. Thank you.
    It is also important to understand that Trail Life USA is about men mentoring boys to become men and not so much about achievements. This is one of the many reasons BSA Pack 2 and Troop 2 will be Trail Life USA Troop 2 in January. (Chief Kiondashawa, French Creek Council)

  3. Pingback: Misaligned Objectives May Lead to Unintended Results | Troop 113's Blog

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