By Kimberly HansonOctober 12, 2018
WASHINGTON -- A year after challenging a similar audience of active, Reserve, National Guard and retired Warrant Officers to take back their role as the technical experts, Gen. Gus Perna said there is still work to do.
The Army Materiel Command commander and Army's senior logistician spoke to about 60 warrant officers Oct. 11, as part of a sustainment panel hosted by the U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association.
"You ought to be the walking technical excellence in every formation," Perna said. "You need to be the technical expert, but equally important, you have to be able to teach, coach and mentor - up, down, left and right."
After 17 years of counterinsurgency operations, Army leaders are changing their focus to prepare for large-scale decisive action - in doctrine, training and exercises. The shift marks a major change in logistics and sustainment support, Perna said. No longer will units be able to rely on support from Forward Operating Bases and contractors.
"Warrant officers will cross the line of departure in decisive action, not civilians or contractors," he said.
This new operational focus provides a timely opportunity for warrant officers, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jonathan Yerby, who serves as the chief warrant for the Quartermaster Regiment.
"We know our role as warrant officers. We know we are the technical strength of the Army," Yerby said. "We have to recognize the transition that we're in. We have to recognize the operating environment is changing; we have to change with it, and lead that change."
As the "technical backbone" of the Army, warrant officers are the foundation for the Army's ability to execute the tactical support mission, said Brig. Gen. Doug McBride, Quartermaster General.
"You must be able to troubleshoot and diagnose way left of a crisis," McBride said.
Getting ahead of crises marks a cultural shift within the warrant officer community, echoed Combined Arms Support Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard Myers.
"We need to stop worrying about where we sit, and worry about how we influence. It is more than bringing answers to the table and solving problems," Myers said. "Warrant officers need to be problem preventers. We need to identify problems before they ever become issues."
Perna challenged the warrants to do the homework, read, get in the motor pools, know the end user manuals, and learn and understand the systems.
"You need to do three things: know what's right; teach, coach and mentor; then move out and get it done," Perna said.
Adding value to commanders and young officers was a focus throughout the panel, but AMC's Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger Mansker challenged the warrants to also remember their upbringing as NCOs, and the importance of growing and developing Soldiers.
"Individual expertise is not readiness," said Mansker. "Talking without knowledge is ignorance. Enthusiasm without knowledge is just cheerleading. The rank doesn't make you the backbone - the knowledge, expertise, and leadership skills provide that. You've got to be the force that makes a difference ... Be proud of who you are."
Changing the culture of the Warrant Officers Corps did not happen overnight, said Perna.
"There is no magic button, and it is going to take time to build back to where your corps needs to be; but you need to figure out how to get there and start moving forward," he said. "Think about what's behind us; think about why we are here; think about excuses and challenges, and then go forward."
While transformation may not happen quickly, Perna reminded the warrant officers that the first step is an honest assessment and awareness of the current state.
"We are the greatest Army in the world," Perna said. "To remain the best, we must speak truth, listen, learn and adjust."