ORDER OF THE ARROWTHE ORDER of the Arrow is Scouting's national honor society. It sets out to recognize those youth and adult campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives, to develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit, to promote Scout camping, and to crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others. The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson at Treasure Island, the summer camp of the BSA's Philadelphia Area Council. The Order of the Arrow became an official part of the Boy Scouts of American in 1948.
To gain membership in the Order of the Arrow, a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout must hold the First Class rank or higher. He must have taken part in a minimum of 15 days and nights of Scout camping in a 2-year period, including a 6-day and 5-night camping experience at a local or national council facility operated and accredited by the BSA. Eligible Scouts must then be elected to the Order by other members of their unit, following approval by their Scoutmaster or Varsity Scout team Coach.
The two membership levels of the Order of the Arrow are Ordeal and Brotherhood. During the Ordeal period, the first step toward full OA membership, a Scout is expected to strengthen his involvement in his Scout unit and encourage Scout camping. After 10 months of service and after fulfilling certain requirements, an Ordeal member may take part in the Brotherhood ceremony which places further emphasis on the ideals of Scouting and of the Order. Completing this ceremony signifies full membership in the Order of the Arrow.
Following 2 years of service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the National Order of the Arrow Committee, a Scout or adult leader may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for outstanding service to Scouting, his OA lodge, and his community. The Vigil Honor is granted by special selection, and is limited to not more than one person for every fifty members registered each year with a lodge.
Among the OA's national activities are service projects, college scholarships. American Indian camperships, matching grants for council camp improvements, and national leadership seminars. OA trail crews completing conservation projects at Philmont Scout Ranch provide invaluable service as they care for the environment. The National Order of the Arrow conference (NOAC), held every two years at a major university, trains leaders of local lodges and allows Scouts from across the country to share in the fellowship of OA membership.
While it recognizes both boys and adults, the Order of the Arrow is a youth-led program. Youth members are elected to serve as the national chief, vice chief and chiefs of four national regions. Boys are also members of the National Order of the Arrow Committee to provide youth input on national OA policy, and they serve as the presiding officers for national regional OA events.