NOAC 2022 Recap

Last month, Arrowmen from across the country gathered at the beautiful University of Tennessee, Knoxville for the 2022 National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC). Over 6,500 Arrowmen attended the first conference in four years with hundreds more tuning in virtually from home. During the week-long conference, Arrowmen attended training, competed in athletic challenges, participated in fun activities, met Scouts and Scouters from around the country, and attended amazing theme shows. 

Our section was well-represented at NOAC this year with all three of our lodges sending strong contingents and many more Arrowmen attending on staff. 

Even before NOAC officially kicked off, all three of our lodge contingents had some fun at Dollywood, a theme park located near the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. Our Arrowmen went on roller coasters and other rides, enjoyed a variety of exhibits and entertainment, and closed out the day with an amazing fireworks and drone light show. 

On Monday morning, the contingents arrived on campus and checked in to NOAC. One of the unique aspects of NOAC is that it also provides many Scouts with their first experience of “college life.” Participants and staff sleep in residence hall dorms, eat in campus dining facilities, attend training in college classrooms, and recreate in campus recreation facilities. 

After spending the day checking in and getting oriented to campus, the 6,500 Arrowmen of NOAC trekked to the Thompson-Boling Arena for the opening show – A Grand Opening. 

The opening show featured many traditional elements from past conferences, including the parade of lodge flaps, the introduction of the national officers, and an overview of the week. The conference was treated to an amazing performance by singer and America’s Got Talent finalist Cristina Rae, who also performed the national anthem. 

National Chief Timothy Reiss gave the keynote address for the show. During his address, he challenged Arrowmen to shape our future and define our history by the actions they take today, reinforcing the conference theme, “Tomorrow Begins Today.” 

“Our tomorrow, the months and years we have ahead of us, and even the tomorrow that we will not see will have many challenges. But it is how we step up today that will define our organization in the end.” 

— Timothy Reiss, 2022 National Chief
“The legacy that we leave behind comes from the action that we take today.”

— Timothy Reiss, 2022 National Chief

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were packed full of programs. In the morning, delegates attend training sessions on a wide range of topics from leadership to American Indian crafts and dance. The afternoons and evenings were filled with activities, competitions, and special events including the ever-popular escape rooms, athletic tournaments, aquatics, and many more. Of course, it wouldn’t be a NOAC without patch trading! The student union was often filled with Arrowmen displaying their patches on blankets trading and collecting all the popular lodge flaps. 

Tuesday came to a close with the evening show – United We Recognize. The recipients of the Red Arrow Award and Distinguished Service Award were recognized on stage. One of our section members, Mike Johnson of Tsisqan Lodge, was one of the DSA recipients. The two region chiefs, Alex Pillis of the Eastern Region and our very own Dirk Smelser of the Gateway Region, battled it out in a variety of onstage competitions to determine region supremacy. In the end, it was declared a tie (but we all know who actually won 😀). The show came to a close with a hilarious and exciting performance from America’s Got Talent finalist Passing Zone, a pair of juggling comedians. 

This was a historic conference for a number of reasons. It was the first in-person national Scouting event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first NOAC with youth female Arrowmen. It was the first conference in our history to put a greater emphasis on inclusion, belonging, and mental health. New this year were four affinity spaces organized by the OA Admonition Team. These spaces, each with their own specific programs, all provided a space to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the program, provide awareness, and a place to foster discussion. The Scouts of color, Scouts with disabilities, women in Scouting, and ArrowPride, the first-ever officially sanctioned LGBTQ+ space at a national BSA event, were very popular throughout the week. 

Dirk Smelser (center) cutting the ribbon for the ArrowPride grand opening

On Wednesday night, Arrowmen gathered in the arena for the third show – Reclaiming Our Mission. This show featured a themed live-action show that reminded members of our Order’s mission and purpose. During the show, National Vice Chief Steven Buer gave the keynote address where he reminded us to create tomorrow through our actions today and that all it takes is three things: you matter, you belong, and you can do amazing things. The show came to a close with a special tribute to those who came before us. As delegates and staff exited the arena, they were given a candle to place on a memorial, symbolizing our commitment to the Order and its legacy.

“Smile, ask how they are doing, and just listen. Those three things, in all, can turn a day around. Those little things can change a perception. Those things can change a life. And those things can make you feel like you belong.”

— Steven Buer, 2022 National Vice Chief
“It’s all on us to create tomorrow, today. And it doesn’t take some great force or act. All it takes is reminding others… of these three things: you matter, you belong, and you can do amazing things.”

— Steven Buer, 2022 National Vice Chief

There was no show on Thursday night. Instead, Arrowmen went to their respective region gatherings. The Gateway Region gathering featured remarks from the region chief, games, and entertainment. Following the region gathering, the sections broke out into section gatherings. The Section G16 gathering featured mini donuts and Italian sodas. 

Friday brought the last full day of the conference and a final opportunity for Arrowmen to participate in all the NOAC activities and events. The highlight of Friday was the Ignite Festival. This conference festival featured a catered lunch, special activities, and booths for lodges to showcase their home areas. 

After a jam-packed week of fun and fellowship, the conference came to a close on Friday night with the theme show – The Fire. The show reinforced all the thematic messaging from the week and concluded with an exciting fire show. 

The 2022 NOAC was definitely one for the record books. Arrowmen were given the tools, the challenge, and the inspiration to go home and take action. Because “Tomorrow Begins Today!. 

As the music blared and the lights flashed, one final message faded onto the screen. “NOAC will return in 2024.”

We look forward to seeing you at the next National Order of the Arrow Conference!

We may never see the end result of our service, but that is the mark of a leader. The dawning of a new chapter in our Order is before us. Your light illuminates the new day. Our time is now. Tomorrow Begins Today!