By Timothy Hale, U.S. Army Reserve CommandSeptember 11, 2013
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Sept. 11, 2013) - For dedicated Soldiers who want to give their careers a boost, becoming a U.S. Army Reserve warrant officer might be the answer.
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 rest are technical warrants including military occupations as administration, military intelligence, logistics, and signal.
"We definitely have some MOSs (military occupational specialties) 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)."
What qualities must a non-commissioned officer possess to make the transition and be a successful warrant officer?
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, the U.S. Army Reserve command chief warrant officer, shared what she sees as the top five qualities: strong character, strong leadership skills, technical savvy, across the board competence, and the capacity to be a counselor, adviser and mentor.
"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 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, known as WOCS, 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.
"You have to want it," Peak said.
Upon successful completion of WOCS, the newly-pinned warrant officers, or WO1s, will progress to their respective Warrant Officer Basic Course, Peak said.
Warrant Officer 1 Andria Simmons, a human resources warrant officer with the 98th Training Division in Lumberton, N.C., said the biggest adjustment at WOCS was making the transition from enlisted to warrant officer candidate.
"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 like the enlisted or the officer initial training, simply attending WOCS doesn't 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 is also an Army civilian, serving as 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 her 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."