Order of the Arrow
Scouting’s National Honor Society
For more than 100 years, the Order of the Arrow (OA) has recognized Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. This recognition provides encouragement for others to live these ideals as well. Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, developing leaders, and providing cheerful service to others. OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich, support, and help to extend Scouting to America's youth.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Scouts USA through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
- Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
- Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
- Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
- Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
The Order of the Arrow was founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson in 1915 at the Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council, Boy Scouts of America. It became an official program experiment in 1922 and was approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934. In 1948 the OA, recognized as the BSA's national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1998, the Order of the Arrow became recognized as Scouting's National Honor Society when it expanded its reach beyond camping to include a greater focus on leadership development, membership extension, adventurous programming, and broader service to Scouting and the community. Today, its service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults, are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich, support, and help extend Scouting to America’s youth.
The OA has over 160,000 members in lodges affiliated with more than 270 local BSA councils.
Unit elections are permitted in Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scout units. The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are as follows:
- Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Have experienced 15 nights of Scout camping while registered with a troop, crew or ship within the two years immediately prior to the election. The 15 nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of at least five consecutive nights of overnight camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. Only five nights of the long-term camp may be credited toward the 15-night camping requirement; the balance of the camping (10 nights) must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps of, at most, three nights each. Ship nights may be counted as camping for Sea Scouts.
- At the time of their election, youth must be under the age of 21, and hold one of the following ranks corresponding to the type unit in which they are being considered for election: Scouts BSA First Class rank, the Venturing Discovery rank, or the Sea Scout Ordinary rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster, Crew Advisor or Sea Scout Skipper, be elected by the youth members of their unit.
- Adults (age 21 or older) who meet the camping requirements may be selected following nomination to and approval by the lodge adult selection committee.
The induction process, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. Upon completion of the Ordeal and its ceremony, the member is expected to strengthen his involvement in the unit and encourage Scout camping.
After 6 months of service as an Ordeal member and after fulfilling certain requirements, a member may take part in the Brotherhood ceremony, which places further emphasis on the ideals of Scouting and the Order. Completion of this ceremony signifies full membership in the Order of the Arrow.
After two years of exceptional service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow committee, a youth or adult Arrowman may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for their distinguished contributions to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one Arrowman for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.
Generally there is one chapter created for each district of the council. Each chapter has its own officers and advisers, the officers being elected by the youth Arrowmen OA members within the chapter, and the advisers being appointed by the Scout executive often with the consultation of the lodge adviser and district executive(s).
Chapters provide the ability to have meetings closer to home, and meetings and events can be scheduled to coincide with the district events. The chapter is central to providing quality unit visits for camping promotion, and unit elections.
At the local level, lodges exist to serve BSA councils and individual units. The key leaders in the lodge are the youth lodge chief, volunteer adult lodge adviser, and professional staff adviser. The lodge chief presides over the Lodge Executive Committee, which is responsible for executing the annual program of the lodge. While each lodge is different, the Lodge Executive Committee typically consists of one or more vice chiefs, a secretary, and a treasurer, as well as chapter and/or service area chiefs and operating committee chairmen who are responsible for various aspects of the lodge’s program. Many lodges, especially large ones where additional structure is necessary, have service areas and chapters to chapters. These often align with BSA districts and execute the program of the lodge on a community level.
An Order of the Arrow section consists of lodges within a geographic vicinity. Each section is led by a chief, vice chief, and secretary, who play a crucial part in supporting lodges within the section as well as planning an annual conclave. The section may lead training seminars, promote national programs of emphasis, and provide resources to local lodges. The section chief presides over the Council of Chiefs, attended by delegates of each member lodge.
Each year, the approximately forty elected section chiefs are invited to a national planning meeting. The section chiefs form the conference committee for the following year’s national program of emphasis, such as the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC), which is held under the guidance of the National Order of the Arrow Committee.
The Order of the Arrow is organized in two geographic regions: the Eastern and Gateway regions. Each region is led by a youth region chief, a volunteer region chairman, and a professional region staff adviser. The key three are, at the discretion of the region chairman, also supported by a region OA committee consisting of youth and adult volunteers. The region leadership team helps execute the national program on a more local level, implements the National Leadership Seminar (NLS) and Developing Youth Leadership Conference (DYLC), provides its member sections with resources, and facilitates communication between local organizations and the national OA committee.
At the national level, the Order of the Arrow is governed by the National Order of the Arrow Committee. The national committee sets program policy, directs the national program of the Order, and broadly manages the organization above the local lodge level. The committee is composed of the national chief and national vice chief (and their immediate predecessors), who are elected annually at the national planning meeting; the current and immediate past region chiefs, if appointed by the chairman; the volunteer chairman, who is appointed annually by the Chief Scout Executive; other volunteer members, as appointed by the chairman; and two staff members, the director of the Order of the Arrow and the associate director.