FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Warrant Officer Cohort consists of today's Army's technical experts and, in celebration of that expertise, the cohort commemorated nearly a century of service with the generally accepted thing worthy of any birthday celebration -- cake.

The cohort turned 99 July 9, and many Fort Rucker members celebrated with a cake cutting ceremony at the Warrant Officer Dining Facility July 6 to commemorate the ongoing service and leadership that warrant officers provide, said CW5 John D. Howze, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College deputy commandant.

"Warrant officers have been a critical part of militaries around the world," he said during the birthday celebration. "For 99 years, the talented professionals of the Warrant Officer Cohort have served with great distinction. You all know that we confront a very complex environment, and the challenge in our world today is quite evident."

Although warrant officers in the U.S. Army can be traced as far back as 1896, the cohort wasn't officially established until July 9, 1918, when Congress passed legislation to form the organization.

Retired CW5 James R. Rathburn, former WOCC director of academic instruction, was invited to speak during the celebration and said that the relevance of the cohort is dependent on each individual officer within the ranks, and the dedication of warrant officers young and old is something he has seen throughout his 40 years of service.

"We have survived nearly 100 years," he said. "Are we going to be relevant in our future force for the next 100 years? That's a question that all of you need to ponder.

"It's on all of you to make our cohort relevant," he continued. "You've got to get back to what makes you a unique office -- you have to know your technical skills."

Warrant officers are the U.S. Army's technical experts, combat leaders, trainers and advisers, who administer, manage, maintain, operate and integrate Army systems and equipment across the full spectrum of Army operations, and it's because of that level of expertise that Howze said warrant officers must learn to adapt.

"Our nation is going to require a warrant officer who is just as adaptable [as the complex environment it confronts], just as lethal and just as great," he said. "We require a cohort that can go anywhere, that can fight in any corner of the globe -- that is us. My challenge to you today is to uphold the legacy of the leadership of the Warrant Officer Cohort by always remaining relevant, reliable and ready.