Meetings affirm need for warrant officers’ critical skills

Meetings affirm need for warrant officers’ critical skills

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In May 1975, the Warrant Officer Division (WOD) was created in the Army’s Military Personnel Center (MILPERCEN).

This was largely due to the efforts of early leaders of the United States Army Warrant Officers Association, led by its visionary founder CW4 Donald Hess. They worked hard, convincing senior Army leaders of the benefits to the Army in consolidating management of all warrant officers at that time.

The creation of WOD heralded in an incredible four-decade period of evolution, transforming a largely fractured separate corps of un-commissioned warrant officers into today’s cohort of technical leaders within the Army’s larger officer corps.

Among other things, consolidated branching and management of warrant officers allowed the development of standardized, formal warrant officer professional education, in addition to specialized technical training.

Reintegrated into their technical branches in 2004, today’s warrant officers are not only recognized as guardians of the Army’s technology, they are expected to bring their technical expertise to progressively higher leadership tables throughout a successful career.

It is evident that warrant officer technical expertise has somewhat eroded over the past 15 years of sustained conflict. Senior Army leaders recognize this is largely due to the necessity of accelerating normal acquisition procedures, to rapidly field technologies to a hot battlefield.

This often resulted in drastically reduced warrant officer involvement in not only acquisitions processes, but in critical training in, and even maintenance of, Army systems. As a result, many of these important functions were performed by contractors on forward operating bases.

The recent annual meetings conducted by both USAWOA and the Association of the U.S. Army provided perhaps one of the best conjoined professional development opportunities for warrant officers in recent history. Over a period of one week, they attended briefings and professional panels in which dozens of senior warrant officer and Army leaders participated.

Throughout both meetings, the one consistent message to our cohort was clear: the Army needs it’s crucially important warrant officers to reclaim the logistical, maintenance and technical footprint ceded in contracted sustainment plans over more than a decade.

In his welcome address to the USAWOA 45th Annual Meeting of the Members, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville stressed the Army’s expectation of larger, multi-domain conflicts in the future where contractor participation would be virtually impossible.

This theme was consistent throughout the week in successive professional panels and briefings.

During AUSA’s annual Warrant Officer Seminar the following week, Gen. Gustave F. Perna, commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command, succinctly identified the requirement: “Warrant officers have to coach, train and mentor everybody – below and above them – on what the technical aspects of right looks like. I need you to self-police, be responsible and hold us accountable to end states.”

Gen. Gustave Perna, commander, Army Materiel Command, speaks at the Warrant Officer Seminar during the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition. (AUSA News photo)

If anything, the threats we still face are as serious as they have ever been, robbing our Army of the time to reset that we have historically enjoyed between conflicts.

Consequently, our cohort faces immediate, serious challenges.

But given the quality of today’s warrant officers – and their magnificent senior warrant officer leaders (in all three components) – they will undoubtedly meet these challenges head-on.