Warrant officers: Counselors, advisers and technical experts

August 30, 2013

Warrant officers are highly specialized experts and trainers in their respective career fields.
​U.S. Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denver Gillham performs a pre-flight inspection on the main rotor of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Simmons Army Airfield on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 29, 2013. Gillham, a native of Cincinnati, has been an aviation warrant officer since 2009 after being an enlisted soldier in another in a non-flying career field. The Army Reserve is looking to fill hundreds of warrant officer positions in both the aviation and non-aviation career fields.

Story and photo by Timothy Hale
U.S. Army Reserve Command

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Are you looking for a way to give your military career a boost?
Then perhaps becoming a U.S. Army Reserve warrant officer might be the answer you are looking for.
Warrant officers are highly specialized experts and trainers in their respective career fields.
As such, they provide expert guidance and leadership to commanders and units in their given specialty, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Darrell Peak, the U.S. Army Reserve Command lead for Warrant Officer Management and Policy.
Peak said 50 percent of Army Reserve warrant officers are in aviation, including aviation maintenance. The balance of warrant officers are technical warrants including military occupations as administration, military intelligence, logistics, and signal.
Peak added there are shortages in all three Army components – active, Army Reserve, and National Guard.
“We definitely have some MOSs that we need help with in the Army Reserve,” Peak said. “We would like to see those positions in combat service support (units) filled, but we do have a few combat-related MOSs (to fill).”
But what qualities must an individual possess to become a successful warrant officer?
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, the U.S. Army Reserve command chief warrant officer, shared her top five qualities – technically savvy, possess strong leadership skills, be a counselor, adviser and mentor, across the board competency, and strong character.
“We want some of the best NCOs to come into the Army Warrant Officer Corps,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to be extremely good at your skill set: being a strong leader and knowing your technical skills so you can advise – the same things that the rest of the Army leadership talks about.”
She said the competence a warrant officer must have is not only the technical aspect of their MOS, but also tactical competence.
“Character – that’s not exchangeable for anything else,” Wilson said.
The road to becoming a warrant officer
The path to becoming a warrant officer is not unlike the enlisted or officer career track. Once recruited, warrant officer candidates attend the five-week Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Ala.
“It’s a very vigorous course of training,” Peak said. “The course is designed for the cadre to evaluate the candidates’ skills, qualities, and traits to ensure they are commensurate to what the Army expects of a warrant officer one.”
He said that individual skills and leadership capabilities are tested along with transition training from being enlisted to officer.
Upon successful completion, the newly-pinned warrant officers, or WO1s, will progress to their respective Warrant Officer Basic Course, Peak said.
“You have to want it,” Peak said.
For Warrant Officer 1 Andria Simmons, attending WOCS met her expectations. Simmons, a a human resources warrant officer with the 2nd Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 98th Training Division in Lumberton, N.C., said the biggest adjustment was making the transition from enlisted to warrant officer.
“Being a senior enlisted, or almost a senior enlisted, and then going back to being treated like a private – it’s not easy,” Simmons said. “You have to distinguish when to lead and when to follow. They treat you like a private but expect you to perform like an officer. It’s difficult to find that balance but that’s what that course is all about.”
Simmons said that just like the enlisted or the officer initial training, simply attending WOCS doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
 “It’s not a sure thing. You have to want it,” she said. “It’s mentally and physically exhausting. Once you’re done, you’re done, and it’s an awesome sense of pride.”
Simmons has served in the Army for 11 years as a soldier and was selected for master sergeant before making the switch to warrant officer. She also is an Army civilian, working as the executive assistant to Addison “Tad” Davis IV, USARC’s chief executive officer.
Simmons cited the many warrant officers who have mentored her during her career as one of the reasons for becoming a warrant officer.
“I’ve always looked up to warrant officers. They are the subject matter experts,” Simmons said. “As an enlisted and a civilian for the Army Reserve, people have always come to me as a subject matter expert. I just wanted to take that even further."
“Warrant officers are perfect liaisons between enlisted and officers,” she said. “I wanted to be that person that everyone comes to when they need solutions.”
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