FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Army News Service, Jan. 21, 2016) -- Warrant officers told Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Combined Arms Center, and other senior leaders that it's hit or miss when it comes to broadening assignments, depending on the branch and command.

The venue was the first-ever, chief of staff of the Army-sponsored Warrant Officer Solarium, held at the Command and General Staff College, Jan. 15.

WHAT'S BROADENING?

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Sargent said there are different types of broadening for Soldiers. For example, professional military education is considered broadening, since it's outside military occupational specialty training.

Then there's unit broadening, like during exercises and combat training center rotations. And, he said, there's self-development broadening such as pursuing a college degree when off duty.

The focus of discussion here, he said, are broadening opportunities relating to assignments with joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational partners, or JIIM, broadening assignments with an Army branch outside one's own, and broadening assignments in the form of fellowships and scholarships.

WHY BROADEN?

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Seimet, who works in aviation safety at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said a broadening assignment to a JIIM partner or another branch helps make warrants "more innovative and adaptive" when it comes to winning in a complex environment.

He was quoting from the draft document, "Warrant Officer 2025," which has similar wording to the "Army Operating Concept," U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Pamphlet 525-3-1.

Someone who is not used to working with someone from a different service or military is going to have a much harder time adjusting and coordinating planning and movements when it comes to a combat operation where there will almost certainly be JIIM partners, he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Zach Keough said broadening assignments are eye-opening experiences that give warrants "exposure to departments outside the branch but within the organization so they see how their little piece contributes to the entire organization." He said these experiences should be made available to "highly qualified" Soldiers.

WHO'S BEING BROADENED?

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nick Koeppen said he's fortunate, with regard to JIIM broadening, since he frequents Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, training with Marines on gunnery, naval gunfire and ship deck landings.

Others in the aviation branch are not as fortunate, he said. Since aviation is a high-demand asset, particularly in-theater, there's often no time for that and the focus is keeping the aircraft up and flying to move people and equipment around.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Mickelson, who is in human resources, said her branch is ripe with broadening opportunities for all the ranks. She said the same opportunities should be available in every branch, as well as across the three components.

For broadening to be effective, she said those assignments should be linked to career tracks and timelines, and be updated periodically in a user-friendly format.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Luis Martinez said "there's a lack of transparency on broadening assignment availability, no published prerequisites for broadening assignments and ambiguity in the selection process."

He suggested that the process be more transparent and clearly communicated. Otherwise, "people don't know what's available."

The selection criteria also need to be more transparent, he said. Now, if someone applies and doesn't get selected, they don't know why. It seems like "a good old boy network," of who gets selected.

Koeppen said broadening opportunity information is out there, but it's in so many different publications and websites. It needs to be consolidated to one site or one publication.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Neal Vaught suggested that one career manager at Human Resources Command be in charge of all warrant officer broadening assignments, with branch managers and senior warrant advisors providing input to that person.

INPUT FROM THE GENERAL

Brown said there's an expense involved in broadening opportunities, both in time and money, "but we can do this better."

A lot of other topics were covered at the Solarium. A few of them follow.

The general added that the warrant officers' input during Solarium was invaluable. "We're too far removed from the problem, but you can solve it and tell us what you need."

MANDATORY TRAINING

Keough said there's too much mandatory training that is not related to leadership, technical skills and warfighting. Much of that training is redundant and the same mandatory training topics come up much too frequently. Also, mandatory training is conducted and tracked on multiple online sites, making it cumbersome to access.

"Army readiness is gauged by mandatory training, not METL proficiency. It should be the other way around," he said. METL stands for mission essential task list."

Brown said he agreed with that assessment. "We've been fighting this since I was a captain. [Mandatory training] is for valid and important reasons, but winning the nation's war should be the first priority. We're working hard on this. There's better ways to do it, but it involves policy decisions. METL is not our focus when everything is our focus.

"We're not a business that loses money," when poor decisions are made, he continued. Instead, "we lose lives."

MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS

Sargent said some units have mentorship programs and others don't. It's all over the map.

Brown agreed that having mentors is important. He said he's had his own mentors as he progressed through his career.

Other warrants said they too had mentors and some of them didn't even know that they were mentors.

Brown cautioned not to make having mentorships mandatory. The Air Force tried it and it failed, he said.

COMMON EDUCATION

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Heath Stamm said a study was done a few years ago saying that warrant officer education needs to be better integrated with officer education.

"There are commonalities between a lot of officer education and warrant officer education," he said. "We should identify where we can train together. Otherwise we are duplicating.

For example, there are commonalities that exist at the Warrant Office Intermediate Level Education and the Command and General Staff Officers Course level.

The problem now is warrant officer courses are at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and officer courses are at Fort Leavenworth, he noted, recommending that the warrant courses migrate to Fort Leavenworth. "I've never heard a warrant officer say that's a bad idea. The facilities and resources are here."

Brown said he agreed with that assessment, noting that the SHARP Academy decided to locate at Fort Leavenworth and the Army Management Service Staff College for Army civilians moved here from Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

(Editor's note: This is the third and final article in a series of Warrant Officer Solarium articles.)