Those little square knots are a big deal

Look at an experienced Scouter’s uniform and you’ll likely see a row or more of colorful embroidered knots above his or her left pocket. These small rectangular patches represent honors and awards the Scouter has received. Here’s an overview.

How many knot awards are available?

There are about 30 knots, from the Alumni Award knot to the William T. Hornaday Award knot. A few — like the new Scouting Service Award knot — represent multiple awards. (That knot, introduced in 2017, may be worn by Scouters who have earned the Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, the ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award or the Special Needs Scouting Service Award.)

How are the awards earned?

Every award is different. Some, such as the Scouter’s Training Award, have set requirements anyone can complete. Others, such as the District Award of Merit, are bestowed on the recipient (typically through a nomination process).

Do any of the awards recognize youth achievement?

A few do, including the Arrow of Light knot and the Eagle Scout Award knot. A few others could represent either youth or adult achievement, such as the Honor Medal knot.

Can a Scouter who has earned a religious emblem as both a youth and adult wear two knots?

Yes. The adult knot shows a purple knot on a silver background; the youth knot shows a silver knot on a purple background.

How many knots may be worn?

There is no set maximum, but the BSA recommends you wear no more than nine: three rows of three knots each. There’s no set order in which the knots should appear.

Is it true that there’s a right side up for knots?

Yes. Most knots feature a square knot, and the loop of the knot that comes in front of the standing part is always to the wearer’s right. It’s easy to spot the difference when the knot uses contrasting colors, because you’ll see what looks like a capital letter C.

What are the knots with tiny pins on them?

Those pins are called “devices” and provide additional information about the award. For example, someone who has earned the Scouter’s Training Award in both a pack and troop would wear a single Scouter’s Training Award knot with Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting devices attached. A recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award would wear the Eagle Scout Award knot (or the National Eagle Scout Association Life Member knot) with a DESA device attached.

Some awards are also represented by medals. When should those be worn?

Medals are intended for formal occasions like courts of honor and council recognition events. You can wear up to five medals at a time, pinned in a single row immediately above the seam of the left pocket.

Where can I find more information?

Start with the Guide to Awards and Insignia (No. 33066), which includes color photos of most of the knots. You can access the guide at bit.ly/InsigniaGuide. For award requirements, visit bit.ly/BSAAwardsCentral

4 Comments

  1. I’ve taught the “Adult Awards” class at University of Scouting multiple times and I’m always surprised how many adults don’t know that much about the knots who have been in scouting for several years. It’s always a pleasure to see an adult recognized for their contributions and commitment to youth. Wear those knots proudly!

  2. I’d really like to see another knot offered for an Uber achieving merit badge counselor. Years of tenture, maybe teach 2-3 different merit badges and perhaps some set number of scouts completing a badge

    I know, there’s plenty of knots to choose from but it might be a decent way to widen adult involvement

  3. Can someone at National please show me an example of how five medals pinned in a single row fit above a uniform pocket? Few have this problem but those of us who do could use some direction.

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