Behind the Unit numbers
By: Mike Walton (blackeagle)
Posted On: 2018-12-21
Who determines the unit numbers for Cub Scout Packs, Scout Troops, Venturing Crews and Sea Scout Ships? Are the numbers significant? Why is there so much “loyalty” to a set of numbers – after all, it’s not a mascot, or a city or state name, or even a part of town. It’s just a set of numbers, right? Four years ago, Jim Kangas, a Unit Commissioner and volunteer in one of the local Councils I serve – Northern Star, based at Fort Snelling, Minnesota and which serves the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as much of central Minnesota and western Wisconsin -- asked some of those questions, which prompted other questions. Jim asked: “Does your unit number have special meaning? Prompted by a reader of Bryan on Scouting (the BSA’s SCOUTING Magazine’s daily blog), many unit numbers have special meaning. For example, we are Troop 569 due to the fact we were founded in May of 1969 (5/69). A Venture crew in our area that focuses on emergency preparedness holds the number 1133, for Luke 11:33 - about the Good Samaritan. What, if any, special meaning does your unit number have?”
Michael Rhees responded: “We are Crew 808, the area code for Hawaii. Our Garden Island High Adventure was a district-wide trek to Kauai and our crew was formed from that group.” Amy McNeil wrote “Our Special Needs Troop is 5280 since we are in the Mile High City of Denver. Noooo … not that kind of "mile high" either. We also have a Crew 911 that specializes in EMT training.” Christopher H. DeVoe CFA wrote: “We're Troop 1, as we were the first Troop in Syracuse NY (1914 -- so this is our centennial!)”
Lou Leopold responded “Our sponsor is the Greek Orthodox Church, so we have 808 as our unit numerals arranged with tilted 8's that overlap with the 0. Care to guess what it looks like?” Bob White quipped “Olympic Rings?” Patrick Provart wrote and explained the origins of his Troop: “The first troop I served as Scoutmaster was Troop 3, the third troop founded in Springfield IL, in 1916. (The troop did not charter in 1941, as the adults entered military service. They rechartered in 1942, so they're 72 years old - still the oldest in the council.) My second troop as Scoutmaster was Troop 18, Bloomington, IL. It's presumably for the same reason, as there are also Troops 19, 20 and 21 in the area.
My boyhood troops were 245, in Lawrenceville IL and 124 in Canton, IL. Troops in those areas were "coded" with all the similar units in the district (Troop 246 and Pack 247 were in Lawrenceville, and Pack 101, Pack and Troop 104 in Canton)”
More sharing of troop numbers
Frank Rios said “My son's troop is 315 as they were founded on March 15. I like the idea of troop numbers having some special meaning.” Bill Hardee explained “As a youth 50 years ago, I was in Troop 122 in Elyria, Ohio (Scoutmaster Robert D. Lee). I do not know if it still exists but it represented to me what Scouting was all about. When we formed a Venturing Crew in Garner, NC (Johnston County) a while back, that number was requested out of respect and remembrance of my old troop.” Jack Boyle wrote “In my district, we have Crews 316 (3:16), 357, 7373, and (I think) 911. For Ministry, Shooting Sports, Amateur Radio, and Emergency Response. Jim Kangas, who started this discussion, added, “Not into radio, so I don't quite get the 7373 references, but there's a lot of imagination in the responses so far. Thank you all!” Donna Carr said “Our units are chartered by City on A Hill United Methodist Church so our number is 514 from Matthew 5:14 which says 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden...” Our tagline is Matt. 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify the Father in Heaven.” Michael E. Clark had some fun with his response: “I believe this topic has been discussed recently, if not, on another Group format on LinkedIn. Yes, some unit numerals have significance as the number reflects the same of the Chartering Organization. Personally, I would be interested in a Unit numbered as "666". (I responded to Mike Clark and everyone else later in this posting…) However, one could use any combination of Chemical elements or Compounds to form a "string of numbers", e.g. The Watertown Troop, HOH, would be 181; Troop 13's totem would be Al or aluminum; the Noble Troop 10 would Ne or Neon, etc., Likewise, Troop 33 totem would be Arsenic, too hot to handle!! Conversely, Troop 33 could also be Dilithium, the important crystal of power source in ST-TOS, as compared to Troop 333 or Trillium, the highly unstable yet lethal weapon in ST-TNG... "Oh, there are so many possibilities", uttered Spock...
A Troop named by chemists or bakers?
Actually, Troop 6023 would be the Mole or Shrew Troop, according to Avogadro, if a mole of Chemists were involved therein..... (DOUBLE PUN INTENDED) Troop 1135 would be a popular Troop in Salt Lake City, Na is 11; Cl is 35, hence Table salt!! Troop 224 would be based upon the Ideal Gas Law, stating one mole of an ideal gas at RT would occupy 22.4L... They could be chartered by the local propane company, which in itself is a completely different gas, CH3CH2CH3, MW = 44 which most people could not make the association... Troop 110 or 212 would be chartered by the local Steam Company, need I explain this one... Likewise, Troop 32 is chartered to the local Ice Company... I shall prove the matter for a while, if "my permutations add up" on the matter.... (pun intended, yet again...) OK, a couple more... Troop 314 would be chartered by the local family-owned Bakery, the “Pi Troop”. Likewise, the local PGA pro could sponsor a Unit, Number 72, “the Par Troop". Conversely, the Ideal Unit number in Philadelphia is 1776, Concord MA is 1775, Plymouth MA is 1610, and so on.... any town named Columbus, 1492... Troop 300 could be chartered by the local bowling alley, "We're all strikes" or "the Perfect Game". Is there significance, YES, if the members understand the connections therein.....? Otherwise, these are just positive Integers...”
Thanks, Mike! Back to some more serious responses… Julus Pahl wrote “We chartered Troop 247 because we live the Scout Law 24/7! Now forming Pack 247! Doing our best 24/7!” Cynthia Wolf said, “Crew 321 in the Juniata Valley Council, an Abilities Awareness Venturing Crew: we were told that because of our council's numbering system, the 3 digit unit number had to start with a "3". Beyond that, it was up to us. We were organizing in March of 2012 and there happened to be a day in the next week that was important to a few members of the Crew, as well as many of our friends. Thus, Crew 321 was named in honor of Trisomy 21, International Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21), and because we liked the idea of an enthusiastic "3 ... 2 ... 1 ... GO!" to capture all that our Crew can do.” Michael E. Clark provided some additional insights: “Julus, interesting spin on the number 24 & 7. Had you considered 365? A Year 'round program?? In a leap year, 366? James, the "73" reference goes to Amateur Radio Lingo, akin to the "messages with punctuation marks folks these days"; 73, originally in Morse Code, meant GOODBYE, I believe.....
Units based on radio codes
There are others, unfortunately, I do not remember those; however, HAMs used the "Q code" for similar abbreviated yet discrete messages, back when Morse was the main medium....check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_code for the various 3-letter codes and their meanings. Somewhere, the ARRL has a list of the numerical codes and their meanings. E.g. a local Ham Radio sponsored Crew has the number 510 for DX, code for Distant contact via radio; hence the Roman numeral... If Dad was alive, he'd have the exact resources for these, He was an Extra Class operator, W1DLW call sign. A little further research, aka guessing names on Wikipedia, I found the resources sought:
"92 Code" was originally adopted by Western Union cable in 1859. Here is a list of these numeral codes, which "73" means "regards", a polite ‘Thank you’ or ‘goodbye’ while sending a telegraph.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qcode .” Jim Kangas responded “Michael -- Thank you for the radio lesson. About the closest I ever got to amateur radio was my Cobra CB back in the 1970s and early '80s and the trucker's 10-Code...that, and the marine radio in my old buddy's Daycruiser.” Todd Skiles wrote: “Our "dirt” units (Pack, Troop, and Crew) are 91 for Psalm 91. But our Sea Scout Ship had to pick different numbers because of a mix-up involving having both a Crew and Ship 91. So we became Ship 100 to honor the Centennial of Sea Scouting, and as a play on words, the Roman number for 100 is "C". (C Scouts? :-)” Michael E. Clark did not know this back then, but he’s answering “how will the “numbering” system work today”:
Questions about females joining
[Some units are scratching their heads or taking Maalox™ because they think they have to give up their history and heritage when they start chartering female Packs and Troops under the same chartered partner roof with the same unit numbers...there’s a common-sense answer to this at the end of this summary….]
a. historical situations - One previous Council in central MA, one district had a Troop 1 in each town, about twenty Troop 1's. I later learned each was the first Chartered Troop with the "First Class Council", one with a paid Scout Professional, decades ago. This district was once a 1st class council unto itself...
Moreover, this invites a more interesting yet puzzling situations to our current day BSA registration system, aka SCOUTNET, yet another story, with those "Unit ID #'s" on your Rechartering paperwork...
b. Council Administration - a second previous Council in eastern MA, the result of a three, "mini-council" merger in the late 1960's, had Unit numerals assigned to them. Again, as I have been informed, the Unit numeral matched specific communities which matched the initial District designation, District 1, 2, 3, and so on, So, Units in each District then had their Unit number incorporate their District Number, hence, District One had the 100's, District 2 had the 200's and so on. This made for a quick "associative" of Unit number & Town once the pattern was recognized...
This practiced has continued to today, some 50 years later to avoid confusion in those same Communities now two Districts in a much larger (geographic) Council...
c. Council Administration - I would not be surprised where some Councils in their long history simply assigned Unit Numerals as these new Units were chartered therein, i.e. a rolling tally by the choice of the Council Executive or Registrar of the day. Possible and feasible, YES.
Lodge numbers to Pack numbers
This would be akin to the manner in which OA Lodge numbers were assigned at the National Office decades ago, as each new Lodge was chartered in those early days, someone assigned the next number on the registry list. Hence, the "hodgepodge" of Lodge Numbers across the Country... Yes, I will agree in the more recent or "modern" age of the BSA, Unit numbers have a direct connection to their Chartered Organization or theme, as already mentioned here. Andrew Kosmowski, SM stated: “My pack and troop number when I was a scout was 650. The town previously had a pack and troop that folded, 65. When mine was founded, the flags were still around, and they were donated. All we did was add the zero to both.” Jeffrey Goldmeer said: “We formed a new troop this year (long story for another day) and the Scouts that formed the new troop were given the choice of unit numbers. Units in our district start with 1000, the Scouts asked to be Troop 1701. (Lots of scouts who have inherited a love of SciFi and have grown up on Star Trek reruns.) We have red activity shirts; Next Gen red (command) shirts, not Original Series (get automatically killed by the alien) red shirts. The boys have adopted "To boldly go" as our new troop motto. Michael E. Clark responded: “Jeffery, your Scouts are brilliant! Red Shirts and all! "The needs of the many do out weight the needs of the few or one!!" Fascinating! Logical!” Jacqueline Jobson wrote and stated: “One of the newer units here in Pikes Peak council is 6900 I believe, and it is the altitude of the school they are chartered with. I also found out that Fountain just started a new troop, 911, and I am suspecting that it has something to do with the zip code... 80911!” Ronald Rice stated “My first Crew was 357, and the one formed to take its place is 308...” Jim Kangas asked: “Ronald, are you aware why or how those numbers were chosen/assigned? Daniel McCoy said “Our boys chose to be Troop 410 as in 1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10 NIV “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Warren Johnson wrote “For years our Council's youth leadership training (now known as NYLT) was called Pahuk Pride (based on a Pawnee Indian Legend) when we formed a Venture Crew for the Staff, they wanted to pay tribute to that name so they asked for the 2 numerals designating the letter of the alphabet. So we are Crew 1616.”
Tom Ball, CHMM commented: “This was a very interesting discussion. I did not know that you could request a unit number at the time you chartered a new unit. I think that most units here in the Great Salt Lake Council just take the number assigned to them by the council.
One unique thing here is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). When a new LDS ward charter new units it is typically four units, Pack, Troop, Team, and Crew. Because of this most LDS wards end up with unit numbers like this: Pack 3998, Troop 998, Team 6998, Crew 9998.” Sean Mobley responded: “Tom, you can always try and request a number. If it is open, you should be able to snag it. We had a Scoutmaster who chartered a new unit and requested the number of the Troop that he was in growing up (the unit had since folded). It was available, so that's what he went with!”
Todd J. Johnson wrote and stated, “I wasn't with the troop at the time but have been told that Castle Pines, CO Troop 316 chose the 316 based on the bible verse, John 3:16.” Jacqueline Jobson said “I forgot to mention, someone else made me think of it... in my council, ALL LDS units start with a 5. Not sure why they picked that number, but it's a great way to identify "traditional" vs LDS programs.”
How I chose my Troop numbers 1st story
Finally, it was my (Mike Walton) turn. I offered two stories:
When I formed my own Scout Troop at the age of 15, the chartered partner organization wanted to have a distinctive number to "mark their Troop from all of the others in town". The Council/District’s numbering system started with 126 and for some reason, after 128 it jumped to 184, and then jumped around to numbers ending in "28" (328, 428, 628). The LDS Troop and Pack was 667 and I was a member of Troop 666 before it merged with the new Troop I started. (Michael Clark asked about “Troop 666” and the circumstances of their number as a Scout Troop. Troop 666, Fort Knox was chartered to an Army Armored unit at Fort Knox - Troop D, 10th Cavalry (which called themselves the “Demon Dogs of the Buffalo Soldiers”). The military unit was “tasked” to provide community support to the residents of the Rose Terrace housing area back in those days – that included sponsorship of Girl and Boy Scout Troops. Their support didn’t last long, the Scout Troop ran out of steam and eventually merged with Troop 801. I was the last Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 666 and for an 8 month period of time I was Senior Patrol Leader of BOTH Troops 666 and 801.) The new Troop’s number was chosen to represent, as I stated, the chartered organization of the new Troop. The 8th Battalion of the 1st Cav Regiment, an attack helicopter unit, was the partner of my new Troop. Red and white were the Cav colors – they had no problem with the flag or the uniform patch -- it was a perfect match! The problem was that the local Council wanted to originally give them -- Troop 129 (We already had 126, 127 and 128 on the base). I asked for 801. Why that number? 8 of 1, the 8th Battalion OF the 1st Cavalry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade. And 801 was so distinctive that kids wanted to join just because of the uniqueness of the number. We got it, the Troop was chartered Troop 801, and it stayed at Fort Knox unit after the turn of the century, when many Scouting units on military bases around the nation folded due to lack of military support.
How I chose my Troop numbers 2nd story
The first "College Scouter" Explorer Post in the nation belonged to the Bluegrass Council and to Eastern Kentucky University. I was one of the eight students which organized the student club and Explorer Post. I served as its first Professional Advisor. Those who went through the induction ceremony in becoming members of this unique post learned the significance of the unit's number. It was not just the "next number in the list of open unit numbers". March of 1979 was when the first charter for Explorer Post 379 was issued. The nineteen original members of that Post was chartered that year (add up 3-7-9).
Can 2 troops have the same number, what if…?
About having "two Troops with the same numbers" for boys and girls:
In the cases whereby there are dual Troops sponsored by the same chartered organization with the same local unit number ("Troops 000 and 000"), the members and leaders of those Troops will distinguish the differences between the two Troops. It is allowed. In the cases whereby there are dual Troops sponsored by the same chartered organization with different local unit numbers ("Troops 0 and 1" for instance), again the differences in the numbers is not a big deal and the members and leaders of those two Troops will distinguish the differences between the two Troops. This won't mess up paperwork, or confuse people when it comes time to record and chart advancement since the two Troops are separate in composition (one Troop for boys; one Troop for girls -- NO "co-ed" or "mixed" Troops) and leadership. Your Council has figured this out based on history and you should use whatever they figured out. In most cases, the "local unit number" (the number which is on the flags and the left shoulder of the Scouts and Scouters) is what you should use. If someone cannot figure out "Mary" from "Mark", there may be some educational challenges to overcome, but not a technology issue to overcome. There are communities in the Northeast (and also overseas) which share the same "local unit number". For instance, in several places in Europe and Africa, we have "Troop 1". That's their "local unit number". However, when they look at their charter, they will see something like "Troop 1(18) or "Troop 1 (1)" which the local Council uses to distinguish the one in Capetown, South Africa from the one in Heidelberg, Germany or the one in Paris, France. So it may be that although everyone's wearing the same unit number, the local Council through SCOUTNET has the numbering stuff down...and again, except in some really weird situations, Troop 000 is only going to have ONE "Michael Walton" and ONE "Michelle Walton" (and folks can figure out one from the other.)
GREAT discussion everyone…and THANK YOU ALL for your contributions and responses back explaining how YOUR unit has the “local unit number” it has!! Please add your comments on your own troop number story below #ScoutMeIn