CW5 Gary Nisker, the command chief warrant officer for the Army National Guard.
Three of the Army’s senior-most warrant officers urged their comrades to step forward and make their presence better known throughout the service, during a professional development seminar for their ranks held at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.
Senior leadership needs to be kept abreast of issues that affect the small but tight-knit warrant officer community, they said. Up-and-coming non-commissioned officers need encouragement to pursue career paths as a possible alternative to the top enlisted ranks.
“We as a cohort are 2 percent of the Army,” said CW5 Gary Nisker, the command chief warrant officer for the Army National Guard.
“It isn’t out of malice. It’s not intentional. But too many times, I go forward to my leadership and say, ‘Hey, did you mean to leave the warrant officers off of this list?’” Nisker said.
More often than not, Nisker said, the response is a sincere apology, in reaction to an inadvertent oversight.
“You need to get to your commanders and make sure they remember the warrant officer cohort each and every time,” Nisker said. “If you don’t represent us, who will?”
Nisker and his colleagues on the panel – CW5 James Thompson, the command chief warrant officer for the Army Reserve, and CW5 David Williams, from the Department of the Army’s G-3, G-5, and G-7 (operations, plans, and policy) directorates – outlined several key issues that remain on the table.
For example, Nisker described the inequity afforded to warrant officers who must travel from their homes of record in order to take long-duration advanced courses. For commissioned officers, such trips are considered temporary duty (TDY). But for warrants, they are permanent changes of station (PCS) – even though the spouse, children, family, and mortgage are back at the home of record. Nonetheless, the warrant officers will collect a basic allowance for housing (BAH) at the rate assigned to the new duty station – even when the mortgage back home might be much higher.
“They … ask those soldiers to lose money in order to go to an advanced course,” Nisker said. “We do not want to set them up for that.”
Long deployments, a byproduct of 10 years of conflict, also affect warrant officers’ abilities to further their careers, said Williams.
“Between the fourth and seventh years of combat, we found that an awful lot of officers and non-commissioned officers were not attending to their professional military education [PME],” Williams said.
While the problem is not unique to warrant officers, Williams said, some issues affect them directly.
“The big discriminator for warrant officers [is that they] have to ask their commander,” Williams said. “That commander is trying to get his unit ready for combat. Getting that warrant officer an education may not necessarily be his top priority.”
The Army’s top leadership is reviewing the issue, Williams said.
The Army Reserve is generally meeting or exceeding its aggregate recruiting target for warrant officers, Thompson said. But while the bottom line looks good, some military occupational specialties – all sources intelligence technicians and construction engineering technicians, for example – are still short-staffed, he said.
“We’re working hard to meet those numbers, but what I’m getting back from my folks … is they’re not seeing enough packets,” Williams said.
Recruiters are doing a good job once they see packets from applicants who want to become warrant officers, Williams said. Warrant officers in the field, however, could be doing more to identify non-commissioned officers who would make suitable replacements for them in the future.
“It’s tough being the only cohort in the Army that has to go out and recruit its own replacements, but that’s one of our responsibilities as warrant officers – to go out there and find those NCOs who are sharp, smart, dedicated, aggressive, and want to climb the ladder in a different direction than becoming a sergeant major,” Williams said. “It’s our responsibility to take those soldiers by the hand, or by the throat, and lead them to those Army recruiters and say, ‘This guy or this gal has what it takes.’”