ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army warrant officers are part of two groups that are celebrating their centennial this year.

"This is the 100th year anniversary of the warrant officer and it falls in line with First Army being 100 years old," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Darryl Sams, a First Army personnel management officer.

And for the first time in those 100 years, First Army held a warrant officer summit. From May 15-16, warrant officers from all First Army brigades, as well as other commands, gathered in First Army headquarters here. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sherry Freeman, a First Army human resources technician, said the summit served to "empower warrant officers to find creative ways to support the First Army mission."

The summit included sessions on warrant officer professional development, leadership, human resources, and history. "It was very helpful for warrant officers to be able to put names to faces and to create a First Army network," Freeman said.

Maj. Gen. Chris Gentry, First Army deputy commanding general for support, told the nearly 50 attendees they are an integral part of a crucial mission.

"We're here to do one thing in First Army: Train Soldiers. And that's a pretty serious business. Because when they leave the mobilization station, they go potentially into harm's way," Gentry said. "Sixty-five percent of the combat support capability is in the Reserve Component, which means the Army can't go to war without those forces."

Gentry stressed the importance of warrant officers in helping make sure those forces are ready. "You're going to get units and leaders at exercises that are struggling," he said. "But you've got to be able to take that and meld it and work with it. And if you can leave that exercise and look yourself in the mirror and say, 'I have done my best to get that done,' then you can leave with a clear conscience."

Gentry added that since warrant officers occupy a unique niche in the Army's command structure, they carry with them certain amounts of responsibility and prestige.

"Never underestimate the value that your leadership has," he said. "You wear that bar and that means something. It's technical expertise, it's experience, it's leadership, and it influences people. Whenever you walk into room, you automatically get a certain degree of respect."

Sams declared the summit a success and said plans are to make it an annual event. "We accomplished the commanding general's priorities. We've just got to refine them," he said. "We're looking forward to next year and beyond that. We're going to build on what we started."