FORT SILL, Okla. (Oct. 5, 2018) -- Why be a warrant officer?
Fort Sill Medical and Dental Activity's acting chief of logistics has an answer for that: in his military occupational specialty (MOS) it goes with the territory.
"I was a 68 Alpha, a medical maintenance technician," Warrant Officer 1 Ernest Cervantes explained. "Our MOS directly translates into a 670 Alpha for warrant officers, so every one of my OICs (officers in charge) has always been a warrant officer, and I can transition directly into that, from my career field to theirs, to this one that I'm in now."
As he moved up in rank, he always felt the influence of warrant officers who served as officers in charge of the biomedical equipment management branch.
"I always saw the warrant officers as the elite. And it always appealed to me, but as a young man I wasn't too sure what I wanted to do with my career. As I moved up in the ranks and got more mentorship from senior NCOs (noncommissioned officers) and from warrant officers, I became more driven, more focused on the direction I wanted to take my career, what I needed to do to get promoted, to essentially be hungry for more," Cervantes said.
In his case, that hunger took the form of wanting to do more and to improve the area he was in.
The best time in a medical maintenance tech's career to make the transition might be when you're a staff sergeant with at least two assignments under your belt, Cervantes said, and that's what he was when he was approached about becoming a warrant officer.
He taught advanced individual training for 68 Alphas at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, when Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hayes, the program director for the biomedical equipment technician school, talked to several of the NCO instructors about taking their careers to the next level.
"At that point in my career, I wanted to have an impact on the career field. I wanted to have greater influence to improve some of the areas that I felt that I could improve on, or to lead different departments," he said.
Cervantes submitted his packet when he was at the 13.5-year mark of his Army career and didn't get word back for about six months.
He became a warrant officer in March 2017, shortly after passing the 14-year anniversary of his enlistment and then, along with all the other new warrant officers, went through both the six-week Warrant Officer Basic Course to qualify as a 670 Alpha and then the six-week Medical Logistics Officer Course for 70 Kilos.
Cervantes said the timing of this could vary.
"I would say it's when you've gained the experience that you need to justify to the selection board that you're ready to take on that responsibility," he said.
Warrant officer candidate school is challenging, he affirmed.
"They find unique ways to add stress to you other than the old-school 'drop and give me 20 push-ups' kind of stuff. It's very team-based. They force you into a situation where you have to work as a team. You have to help each other out; otherwise, you're not going to be successful Going through it, I can say, is a rough experience. Looking back at it, I can say I had a great time because of the relationships I built in that school," Cervantes said.
He likens it to a second brotherhood. He's kept in touch with his classmates, and they rely on each other for help. He also depends on friends outside his career field to be resources of knowledge.
In his current job, Cervantes serves as chief of the equipment management branch and the management manager, which means he's directly over the property book officer and the medical maintenance section.
Medical maintenance does all the maintenance and repair of medical equipment for Reynolds Army Health Clinic and the four dental activities on Fort Sill.
The staff takes care of all equipment used for patient care, from thermometers to an MRI machine and everything in between.
The section also supports the occupational health clinics at McAlester (Okla.) Army Ammunition Plant and Pine Bluff (Ark.) Arsenal, as well as three Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), including the ones in Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.
"We also support the veterinary services clinics at several different Air Force bases (and the one here at Fort Sill)," he noted. "The Air Force doesn't have their own veterinary services as far as treating the animals; therefore, the Army provides that service for them on the Air Force bases."
In addition to all of the above, there's an optical fabrication department that makes eyeglasses for all active-duty personnel on Fort Sill and Air Force bases throughout the region.
These include Tinker and Altus in Oklahoma and Sheppard in Texas.
Rather surprisingly for someone in the Army, Cervantes was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base when he went through AIT. He began earning credits through the Community College of the Air Force and later earned his associate degree in health sciences with a focus in biomedical equipment technology while assigned to Fort Sam Houston, as an AIT instructor.
That was through the Community College of the Air Force, and his attendance there resulted from the fact that under a tri-service approach (Army, Navy, Air Force) to schooling in the medical field, he was then teaching AIT at Sheppard. That was before it was relocated to Fort Sam.
"Every day is a new challenge. On a typical day I'll be in and out of the office following up on different tasks, different projects," Cervantes said.
He relies on his noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Rafael Henriquez, to make sure management of medical equipment is topnotch, and on a host of others who make his life so much easier -- his property book officer, Armando Mendoza, and Bruce Christie in the inventory management section, to name but two. Cervantes said he could go on and on.
"These people, they're the ones who run the show," he said after listing the job functions of several more key people. "I have an outstanding crew."
Both Cervantes and his wife of 13 years, Marla, come from families where military service is a way of life. They have four children: son Jaivonni, 12; daughter Keiani, 10, and sons Aiven, 6, and Kievan, 4, soon to be 5.