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OAHA Over The Years

  Aidan Benefield and Michael Esimio             Officer Outlook

OAHA Over The Years

The Order of the Arrow High Adventure (OAHA) program, a hallmark of adventure and leadership, approaches its 30th year. This program, serving as a symbol of growth and resilience, has shaped the experiences of Scouts for three decades now. Built upon the tenets of outdoor exploration, service, and brotherhood, Scouts can participate in five different treks: OA Ocean Adventure at Florida Sea Base, OA Trail Crew at Philmont Scout Ranch, OA Summit Experience at Summit Bechtel Reserve, OA Canadian Odyssey, and OA Wilderness Voyage at Northern Tier.

Two men in particular, Mr. Whit Culver and David Stowe, had the opportunity to experience one of the first OA High Adventure Treks, OA Trail Crew, in 1995. After hearing about the opportunity at NOAC 1994 at Purdue University, Mr. Culver was hooked on the rewarding, enriching ideas of the trip. Mr. Culver loved Scouting, the mentors, and the involvement that came with it. He felt OA Trail Crew was the next step to take. For Mr. Stowe, he loved Scouting and all the opportunities it offered. He enjoyed the brotherhood, the ordeals, the ceremonies, and the friends he made along the way. Mr. Stowe always wanted to go to Philmont but never had the opportunity until then. After hearing about OA Trail Crew, he knew he wanted to participate. For both young men, it was an experience to remember, the people coming from all different places, the amazing staff, and the dynamic crews. This was the start of their exciting and successful scouting career in OAHA.

In 1995, the two went to OA Trail Crew at Philmont as participants. A usual day consisted of waking up early eating breakfast and going to the worksite, followed by a trail meal for lunch, and being rewarded with a well-prepared dinner. In the evening, there was a program that each crew participated in. The two worked on building a trail from Highway 64 to the Vaca campsite. After their week of service, they were able to plan their personalized trek. One of the best parts of the program is being able to create one’s trek, giving it a more specialized and interesting experience. The two had such an impactful experience that Mr. Stowe would go on to staff the next four years, serving as a foreman twice, assistant director, and ultimately director. Mr. Culver would do the same, starting a year later. Mr. Culver was assistant director to Mr. Stowe and then Director the year after in 2000.

After their experience in 1995, Mr. Culver and Stowe knew instantly that they wanted to return. Why? It was the experience they had as participants– the people they were around and wanted to be more like. Most importantly, they wanted to go back and provide the same experience they had to other Arrowmen across the country. From there it was: What is the next step? How can I make a bigger, better positive impact for others to enjoy? How can I be a better Arrowman? The experiences they had each year, pushed them further. This is how Mr. Culver described being a director, “Being a director was not an easy feat…it was like running a small business…it was a summer-to-summer experience”, which involved hiring staff, creating and planning training, organizing and working with the national committee and with the BSA, and much more.

The skills learned from OA Trail Crew and OA High Adventure bases, in general, stay with a person throughout their life. Arrowmen from different cultures and backgrounds, from all across the country, come together for this experience. The ability to see how other Arrowmen think aids in developing team skills: learning how to come together and accomplish a common goal among the crew no matter the circumstances, rain or shine.

This summer marks a notable moment as Waite, the son of Mr. Culver, and Isabelle, the daughter of Mr. Stowe, step into the spotlight, ready to embark on their adventures within the OA High Adventure program. With excitement and anticipation, they will write their chapter in the program’s history. The experience of a parent participating in the program years ago becomes a cherished story, passed down through the years. Now, as Waite and Isabella reach the age to participate for themselves, there comes a sense of continuity and connection unlike any other. It is not just about continuing a family tradition; they are creating their own stories and memories. This balance of familial legacy and personal exploration serves to deepen their experience and strengthen their commitment to the program’s principles, just as their parents have. As Waite and Isabelle establish their place in the OA High Adventure program, they are not just honoring their parents’ legacy, they are defining their own and shaping the future of the program for generations to come.

As the anticipation builds for this year’s program, the stories shared by those who have completed the journey serve as a source of inspiration for those to come. Mr. Culver’s and Mr. Stowe’s experiences during OA Trail Crew proved to be extremely meaningful. The skills they learned were beyond comparison to any other program, for they stated it was, “Perfect. There is no better program…it is a critical step in building self-confidence…[like] walking the tightrope with a net.”

It is clear that this program means so much and has taught these two men so many valuable life lessons. Mr. Culver and Mr. Stowe eagerly await their children’s experiences this summer, finding contentment in knowing the same trails and challenges that once shaped their journeys will now foster those of their children. So, why pass up on the opportunity to attend OAHA? OAHA is not just an ordinary trip; it is an adventure where one can leave a positive lasting impact on not just oneself, but the base and on others to come.