JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawai'i - In one of the most technically demanding fields in the Army, expertise matters; and warrant officers provide that knowledge.
The United States Army Warrant Officer Corps was officially created on July 9, 1918, but traces its lineage to the medieval and renaissance eras. Nobles would assume command of ships but would often have no knowledge of shipboard life, let alone navigation or operation. These nobles would rely upon the expertise of senior sailors who tended the technical aspects of running ships. While the nobles held the Kings commission, the technical experts trusted to actually command the ship would hold a warrants commission.
The beginnings of the United States Army Warrant Officer is traced to the position of headquarters clerk in 1896. The act of August 1916 formally authorized the headquarters clerk, renaming it to Army Field clerk. Initially considered civilians, the Judge Advocate General determined these positions held military status.
On July 9, 1918, Congress established the Army Mine Planter Service as part of the Coastal Artillery Corps. Forty warrant officers were authorized to serve as masters mates, chief engineers, and assistant engineers. Although warrant officers were part of the coastal artillery, they themselves were not artillerymen and were therefore called artillerettes. They wore simple bands of brown cloth as rank, lending the Warrant Officer Corps its official color.
The Warrant Officer cohort has undergone several changes throughout its long and storied history. Currently, there are 43 career fields throughout the Army where warrant officers serve as subject matter experts. Warrant Officers have served in every aspect of war and at every level of command.
What hasn't changed is commanders' reliance on their technical expertise and trusted counsel. As Lieutenant General Daniel Karbler, commander of the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command has stated, "The most successful Warrant Officers are the ones who act as the unit Ombudsman - for maintenance, logistics, personnel, and training. They understand the standards, procedures, and processes, and are tireless in pursuit of mission accomplishment. The best Warrant Officers are part of a vast professional and personal network that can be relied upon 24/7 to work issues. Their advice, recommendations, and counsel is unvarnished, and they are as at ease working with Privates and 2nd Lieutenants as they are with Command Sergeants Major and Generals".
Warrant Officer 5 Caroline Surprenant, the 94th AAMDC Command Chief Warrant Officer, has a keen appreciation for the importance of warrant officers in the largest region of the world, "Warrant officers have expert authority. They are specialized in their fields and their craft and have an inherent ability in their role to network within their community and across other services. It’s this expertise and networking that makes them superb problem solvers and vital to our branch. In the Indo-Pacific theater, warrant officers are often geographically displaced by thousands of miles of water, but our expertise allows us to communicate, act, and integrate like we are right beside one another."
As we celebrate the 104th birthday of the Warrant Officer Corps, we thank all past and present warrant officers for everything they have done to make our Army the finest fighting force in the world.