The primary purpose of the 1997 National Planning Meeting was to plan the upcoming 1998 NOAC to be held at Iowa State University. The National Elections, which are always highly anticipated, was a highlight.
Planning started for a National OA web site in March of 1997. During the 1997 National Jamboree the first web team staff was recruited. The National OA Committee approved a budget in September of 1997 and the first pages went online in November. The site was officially launched in the National Bulletin at the beginning of 1998. The web site immediately started archiving pdf’s of National Bulletins. The primary purpose for the new web site was to have an online way to interface with lodges, participants and staff members for the upcoming 1998 NOAC.
1998 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Order of the Arrow being fully integrated into the Boy Scouts of America. While a concern at the time was that the OA would lose its autonomy and independence that did not prove to be the case at all. The OA had always been a complement to the BSA and had actually been run by professional Scouters volunteering their time. After 1948 primarily volunteers set the course and guided the OA.
The last National OA Conference of the 1900s was held at Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa. It set a new record for delegates. For the first time a NOAC had over 7,000 Arrowmen in attendance with a tally of 7,043. The Conference theme, “Memories of the Past, A Vision for the Future” was the subject of the opening show which included a moving dedication to 1997 National Vice Chief Josh Sain who had been killed in an automobile accident while in office.
Conservation work by the Order of the Arrow (OA) had its roots at Philmont Scout Ranch. Special OA Treks were held at the ranch in 1985 and 1989, but these were short-term treks based more on camping and fellowship and without any long-term plans. However, the treks helped prove that an outdoor program for the OA could be successful.
By 1995 the national theme for the Order was “The Year of Service” and the OA Trail Crew (OATC) program became the major service initiative for the year.
The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) is presented to those Arrowmen who have rendered distinguished and outstanding service to the Order on a sectional, regional, or national basis. The following were presented the DSA at the1998 National Order of the Arrow Conference - Jason Accola, John L. Alline, Jeremiah J. Arnold, Joseph D. Barton Jr., John K. Berry, Gregory D. Buckler, Devang Desai, Phillip M. Dullock, Rees A. Falkner, Anthony J. Fiori, Clyde B. "Bud" Harrelson III, Marcus Haubenstricker, John W. Hess, Brett M. Higgins, Edgar J. LaBenne, Joseph M.
Beyond the success of the OA Trail Crew (OATC) program, the 1995 OA Retreat held August 20 – 24, 1995 also was a sensation for the 400 attendees. Reminiscent of conclave training, there were four seminar choices: American Indian events, ceremonies, quality program development and showmanship.
The traditional end of year National Planning Meeting held in Dallas, Texas primary purpose was to plan the 1996 NOAC and to elect national officers. Ryan Pitts of El-Ku-Ta Lodge, Salt Lake City, Utah was elected National Chief. Ryan Miske of Tonkawampus Lodge, Rockford, Minnesota was elected National Vice Chief.