Updated Jan. 29
That bright red arrow atop a crisp white band is an unmistakeable symbol that the wearer is one of Scouting’s best.
The sash is an outward sign that the man or woman wearing it is a member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society.
But when should Arrowmen wear the sash and when shouldn’t they? That question was on the mind of a crew advisor and Brotherhood OA member from Phoenix who contacted me last week. Here’s his email:
First off I know there is no hard set rule that I am aware of on when to wear your OA sash. Back in my day it was only for OA events or during tapouts at Scout camporees. I don’t want to sound like a “grumbler,” but it seems that rule has become very skewed in recent years. We currently have an adult and Scout who wear theirs to regular meetings.
Any clarification you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the question. In fact, there is a hard-set rule. To get it, I went to National OA Chairman Ray Capp. Ray also answers questions via the “Ask the Chairman” feature on OA’s newly redesigned website. Here’s what Ray said about wearing OA sashes:
Thank you for your question regarding the proper times for wearing the Order of the Arrow sash. The answers to your question are on pages 57-58 of the Order of the Arrow Handbook (#34996):
“Only currently registered members of the Boy Scouts of America and the Order may wear the insignia of the Order of the Arrow.”
“The Order of the Arrow sash is worn with the official Scout field uniform or Scouting’s official adult professional dress wear (a blue blazer and gray slacks). The sash also may be worn by Elangomats who are not in uniform at an Ordeal, youth wearing ceremonial attire, and in such other instances as approved by the Scout executive.”
“The sash is worn at Order of the Arrow functions and special Scouting activities, when members need to be identified as Arrowmen rendering special services.”
In other words, a Scout or Scouter who wears the sash to regular troop or crew meetings is going against BSA protocol.
However, at a campout where Arrowmen are working in a special capacity such as service corps or honor guard, the sash is an appropriate way to set them apart. Otherwise, the sash wouldn’t be appropriate there either because they’re not serving in an official OA capacity.
Long story short: If you’re at an OA event or working for the OA at a non-OA event, the sash is probably appropriate. Otherwise, it’s probably not.
Thanks to our questioner and to Ray for lending his wisdom to the answer.
Wearing the OA sash and merit badge sash together
Updated: The BSA Insignia Guide says that a Scout should never wear both his merit badge sash and his OA sash. Wear one or the other. (Thanks to Michael Marks for this clarification)
The Troop OA Representative and OA Troop Advisor
Updated, Jan. 29: Ray responds to comments about whether the Troop OA Representative and OA Troop Advisor should wear their sash:
I would only suggest wearing it while actually conducting official OA duties, like making announcements, during elections, at Courts of Honor when presenting the OA calendar to the parents, etc.