If you are a wolf or a tiger, an arrow seems like something you would try to avoid. If you are a Boy Scout, however, the Order of the Arrow is a lofty goal. Chris Loutsch joined Cub Scouts as a Wolf in second grade and his brother, Nathan, joined as a Tiger in first grade. Both continued in Boy Scouts and attained membership in the Order of the Arrow.
Their dad and scoutmaster, Jeff Loutsch, is the newest member of the family to be inducted into the highest level of the Order of the Arrow. He earned that honor last October, and now all three men are Vigil members.
The Order of the Arrow was established 106 years ago today on July 16,1915, to recognize Scouts who best exemplify the Boy Scout Oath and Law in their daily life.
An Arrowman is known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others. Nathan explains, “After you meet the requirements, your troop still has to vote you in. The voting process is done in a way so it is not a popularity contest. You vote for the people who best meet the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. Someone who has worked really hard.”
Chris adds, “You vote for people based on their character. If you are the person selected from your troop, then you have the opportunity to go to an Ordeal, which is a series of tests during a weekend campout.”
Once you complete the Ordeal you become an Ordeal member. After one year, you are eligible for the Brotherhood of the Order of the Arrow. Nathan says, “Half of the Order of the Arrow is focused on service and the other half is fellowship — doing fun activities together. A common saying calls it a brotherhood of cheerful service.” How has scouting changed these young men’s lives? Chris says, “The first thing is I have been to a lot of cool events. Then, externally, it has changed how I interact with people. If I see someone who needs help, I am willing to jump in and help them. I don’t have to have a full conversation with them. I could, but instead, I just hop in and help people when they need it. It’s the mentality the program instills in you.”
Nathan and Chris say they have also attended the National Order of the Arrow Conferences (NOAC) in Indiana and Michigan. Next year, the 2022 NOAC will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the University of Tennessee.
Nathan says, “Most NOACs include around 10,000 scouts. You spend a whole week there, and there is so much to do. At one, the National Guard brought in climbing towers and it also offered a full scuba course where scouts could get certified. I went to an area where we built Lego robots and then battled each other. And, there’s an area they call Adventure Central, and it’s full of booths.”
“Patch trading,” the brothers say, “ is still a big thing on Boy Scout trips. “It’s huge. People go insane collecting them,” Chris says, “I prefer trading the nontraditional ones. Scouts come from different places and lots of different backgrounds, and their activity patches are a way I can see what other people are doing around the country. Maybe find something for us to do here in Milbank. I remember when I traded for a cool, little, movie night patch,” he recalls. “It’s kind of like trading baseball cards.”
The Loutsch family is one of the few families in Milbank that has several members who have attained the higher ranks in the Boy Scouts. But, they believe if more families got involved, they would realize the benefits and be hooked, too.
Why would a kid want to join the Scouts? Chris says, “Through Boys Scouts, I have done really cool stuff. I remember riding zip lines. I remember one other really fun time was going out in the middle of a lake on a raft and spending the night Huck Finn style.” Nathan nods enthusiastically and says, “I’ve slept in tree forts, too.” Chris says, “Another exciting activity was International target shooting. We threw ninja stars, did blow dart guns, spears, and even threw atlatl spears — spears like the cavemen used.”
The Boy Scouts encourage STEM learning and seek to reimagine creative ways for their members to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Chris cites the time at camp when he and Ben Wagner built a fly swatter robot. Nathan says, “At that same camp, I did scientific experiments with uranium and one with hand sanitizer and a dollar bill. We also shot off rockets and went up huge climbing towers.”
Besides the tons of fun activities, Boy Scouts also offers leadership opportunities. “It looks great on your resume.” Chris says, “Sure, their resume is not something younger kids are thinking about, but their parents understand it.” Marie says the scholarships available to Boy Scouts are very important too.
“I feel the biggest thing is exposure,” Chris comments. “Even if you are not interested in any of the things we mentioned, you’ll find something you are. It’s the best way to learn what some of your interests are.” Nathan says, “Maybe you do the fishing merit badge and discover it’s not your thing. So, you try another badge and you figure out you’re interested in doing that as a career or you find out you enjoy playing chess as a hobby.”
“That’s the neat thing about merit badges,” Chris interjects. “They’re a taste of what that field of study actually is. Say you’re working on a programming badge, you won’t be writing a huge or sophisticated thing, but you will try out different programming languages and programming in general. And, say I find out I don’t like programming, I can try something else and get another merit badge. It could save you a lot of time in college picking your major,” he says with a big laugh. “But, the best part of scouting is you have fun goofing off with people your own age.”
Jeff says he appreciates the long-term friendships between Boy Scouts. ”It’s amazing how many functions you attend away from home such as weddings or graduations, and you run into someone you met at a scouting event.”
As a member of Troop 45, Chris also served two years as the lodge chief. (A lodge is over the chapters.) In March, Nathan completed his second year as the lodge chief. Nathan explains, “The lodges make up your section. For a frame of reference, envision the lodge as slightly bigger than the eastern side of South Dakota because it also includes two counties in Iowa and a little bit of Minnesota. Our section includes several states — all of South Dakota, North Dakota , Minnesota, and parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Montana, and Wyoming. It encompasses seven different lodges in the Midwest. In 2004, our lodge contained a national chief Jeff Hayward, who lives in Sioux Falls now.”
The Conclave is a gathering of sections. Last year, the event was held so everyone could visit the Boundary Waters. Marie says, “It’s another example of a cool opportunity.”
“There were half a dozen of us that went up there,” Jeff says. “In September, it’s our lodge’s turn to host the section. We plan to hold it in Watertown.”
If you value learning new skills, teamwork, service, personal responsibility, building character, faith, friendship, and more — the list is about as long as the list of merit badges — encourage your child to join the Boy Scouts. It’s a treasure trove of opportunities and experiences with life-long benefits. Interested in finding out more? Ready to join Troop 45? Call Scoutmaster Jeff Loutsch at 605.949.1354. Troop 45 is supported in part by the Grant County Combined Appeal.