WASHINGTON – The convoy was speeding across Baghdad to a senior-leader engagement in Sadr City when the brigade commander suddenly called for the vehicles to pull over.
Chief Warrant Officer Yolondria Dixon-Carter had spotted something alongside the road.
“A woman came out holding a little girl in her arms whose body was just limp and she looked lifeless,” said the brigade commander, then-Col. Roger Cloutier, 1st BCT, 3rd Infantry Division. He added that before he could get out of the vehicle, Dixon-Carter and a young medic had rushed over through a crowd of Iraqis to help.
The medic was a private first class and this was her first patrol ever. She was extremely nervous and the mother was hysterical, completely distraught, Cloutier said. The little girl wasn’t breathing.
Dixon-Carter stroked the young girl’s hair and comforted the mother as she reassured the medic. She began singing a soft, calming song.
“I just watched the whole situation change from chaos and fear to a very calm atmosphere,” Cloutier said.
The medic was able to successfully perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to get the little girl breathing and then with Dixon-Carter’s help, put her on an IV, and prepared her for medical evacuation.
“It was amazing” how the singing was able to calm the situation, Cloutier said, adding it saved the little girl’s life.
That was 2009, but Dixon-Carter is still singing to calm stressful situations, only now it’s in the office of the chief of staff of the Army.
Sometimes during tense moments, she will just start humming or break into a spontaneous song. On occasion, other staff members will join in, she said, especially now during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CW5 Dixon-Carter has been serving as the assistant executive officer for Gen. James C. McConville. On Tuesday, he announced that she would be the next senior warrant officer advisor to the chief of staff of the Army. As the SWOAC, she will be the voice representing over 25,000 warrants in the total Army.
Dixon-Carter said she is both honored and humbled to take the new position.
A panel of senior warrant officers from around the Army recommended her for the job. She’s only the third warrant officer to hold the position since it was created in 2014 and she’s the first woman.
There’s no one better suited for the position, said Cloutier, who is now a major general commanding U.S. Army Africa. He said even in Baghdad, she was an advocate for warrant officers. She organized the brigade’s warrants into a group that met weekly, discussed situations, and provided advice to the commander.
“What I’m going to do as the SWOAC is completely different from what I do as the assistant XO,” she said.
Wearing two hats
Dixon-Carter served as McConville’s assistant executive officer even before he took the CSA position Aug. 9, having worked for him almost three years while he was the vice chief of staff.
Many staff officers in the Pentagon now refer to Dixon-Carter as “Chief DC” and she has even taken to signing her emails that way.
As the assistant XO, she is the principal administrative advisor to the CSA and ensures he is properly prepared to make informed decisions, she explained.
As the senior warrant officer advisor, she will be the voice of more than 13,000 warrants in the active component, about 8,700 in the National Guard, and about 3,500 in the Army Reserve .
“I may have the title, but we, the cohort, hold the position,” she said. “Every warrant officer’s input matters; their voice matters.”
As part of her job, she will also head up the Army Senior Warrant Officer Council, or ARWOC, which last met about a year ago. It is now being reconstituted, she said, pending a final decision by senior Army leaders.
“We’re shaping it,” she said of the council which previously had 30 members. The new council will be smaller, but have better representation, she said. Council members will be senior warrant officers representing staff principle offices across the Department of the Army headquarters as well as the major commands and Army component commands.
Although the council has been out of session, she said coordination between the Army’s senior warrant officers takes place continuously through teleconferences, email and video conferencing.
More of the virtual meetings will be taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“For me, it’s always about people,” she said, explaining that taking care of Soldiers is her top priority. Soldiers in the office of the chief of staff agree.
“She’s very caring,” said Staff Sgt. Florence Ayuyu. She said Dixon-Carter is always asking Soldiers about their well-being and especially during the current pandemic, always asking about their families.
She’s also very knowledgeable about her job and always helping others in the office, Ayuyu said. “She gives us the motivation to improve ourselves.”
“She is the calming factor in the office,” said Master Sgt. John Hennessey.
“When people are winding up like a spin top, she’s the leveler, she’s the cooler in here,” Hennessey said.
When the staff is going “90 miles an hour,” she will slow them down and give them a solution or at least another viewpoint, he said. “She is the balance.”
“People first” will also be her priority as SWOAC, Dixon-Carter said, adding that’s in line with the top priority of the CSA and other senior Army leaders. Readiness, modernization, and reform are next among their priorities and hers.
“For me, there are no smoke and mirrors, or anything like that, no secrets, no surprises,” she said. “I will continue to serve at the discretion of the chief and make sure all my priorities -- all the warrant officer priorities -- are in line with the chief.”
One of her most important jobs will be to provide advice on training, development, and education to the Army chief of staff, she said, adding that she’s already been doing that “sometimes unsolicited.”
“A warrant officer will tell you -- not that others wouldn’t -- but our filters are a little different,” she said.
Many of the Army’s senior warrant officers got together to provide their input to the Army Talent Management Conference in mid-February, she said. “It was a beautiful mix” of warrant officers from across the Army and different career fields, she said, providing “winning initiatives” for both warrants and the rest of the force.
Today’s warrant officer cohort is growing, she said, especially in the cyber field.
“We’re not just your technical experts,” she said of warrant officers. “We’re combat leaders, trainers and advisors.”
Dixon-Carter was impressed with warrant officers early in her enlisted career.
She enlisted as a 75E personnel actions specialist in 1989 when she was a single mother in New York. She joined the Army as a means to provide a better life for her daughter, she said, but added in just a few months “the pride kicked in.”
In December 1989, she participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama, which ended in the arrest of drug-smuggling dictator Manuel Noriega. That operation really made an impression on her, she said, and she knew then that she was committed to the Army.
At first she wanted to become a drill sergeant, but then met her first warrant officers, who really impressed her with their poise and knowledge.
“I saw what they did, how they handled things… they would just kick butt in what they did,” she said.
She was a staff sergeant promotable and an instructor at the Advanced NCO Course when she applied for warrant officer school. She was actually a sergeant first class when she became a warrant officer in April 2002.
She served two tours in Iraq as a warrant officer with the 3rd Infantry Division. The first deployment there was in 2007 and she volunteered to return less than two years later.
She earned a combat action badge in Baghdad. “She was fearless under fire,” Cloutier said. He added that she always demonstrated leadership, caring and mentorship.
One of her first positions as a warrant officer was to serve as chief of the Military Personnel Office at Fort Detrick, Maryland, where scientists are now working hard to perfect antivirals and vaccines that will work effectively against COVID-19.
“Just like we have in the past, we’ll get through this,” she said of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The No. 1 priority … is to safeguard our people, safeguard our families, and to safeguard our nation,” she said.
She encourages all Soldiers to maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and wear cloth masks when they work around others. “I know it’s not necessarily a good look,” she said, “but we wear them to save lives, including our own.
“I truly believe as we’ve got through other things, we’ll get through this and we’ll come out stronger, better and wiser together.”