Signal officer makes history with direct commission

By Laura LeveringNovember 18, 2022

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FORT GORDON, Ga. – Fifteen years ago, Capt. Derrick Kozlowski would never have imagined making a career in the military, much less making history.

On Nov. 16, Kozlowski was directly commissioned to the rank of captain, after holding the rank of chief warrant officer 2, by way of the Direct Commission Program. Kozlowski is the first Signal Corps candidate to receive a direct commission through the program.

Historically, direct commissioning has been available to qualified professionals in the medical, legal, and religious field. In September 2019, the Army implemented the Direct Commission Program as a way of bringing in highly qualified professionals into the Army to fill and perform critical roles. Civilians, enlisted, and warrant officers from the Regular Army, National Guard, and Reserves with specific, highly specialized knowledge and experience may be eligible for the program.

In March 2021, the Signal Corps became the third branch to execute the program, following the Cyber Corps and Military Intelligence Corps.

Originally an enlisted infantryman, Kozlowski shared some insight on how he got to be where he is today, as he prepares for the Signal Captains Career Course next week.


Born in Redding, California, Kozlowski was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Following high school, he decided to pursue higher education, but quickly found himself in situations that were less than ideal.

“I joined the Army to get away from college,” Kozlowski said. “I did one year and was like, ‘This is not what I want to do right now.’”

Upon meeting with an Army recruiter, Kozlowski said he “wanted to do something physical and have fun.” He was offered infantry (11B) and accepted.


Kozlowski’s first duty assignment was Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where he was assigned to 1st of the 27th Infantry Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, as a rifleman. Merely one month after arriving to his unit, Kozlowski deployed to Iraq. He would go on to meet his now-wife and deploy again, during which time he decided he no longer wanted to be infantry, so he submitted a reclassification request to information technology specialist (25B). The request was approved, and Kozlowski arrived at Fort Gordon for the 25B training course in October 2012. While there, he spoke to a special operations recruiter and was selected for assignment with 112th Signal Battalion (Special Operations) (Airborne) in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he spent about two years and served as the system information specialist, information technology section sergeant, and information section chief. In April 2015, Kozlowski was selected for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where he served as the Global Enterprise Operations Center night watch NCOIC. A staff sergeant at the time, Kozlowski recalled promotions were sparse in his career field, so his supervisor (a warrant officer at the time) took him aside and advised he consider pursue either the commission or warrant officer route. He opted for warrant officer and submitted an application.

While attending the Senior Leaders Course, Kozlowski was not only selected for promotion to sergeant first class, but also selected to attend the Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He went on to graduate from WOCS in March 2016, then went on to the Warrant Officers Basic Course at Fort Gordon. He was selected for the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 2 and subsequently assigned to 75th Ranger Regiment, during which time he obtained the rank of chief warrant officer 2.

In November 2018, Kozlowski joined 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), where his most recent role was OIC of the Digital Integrated Maintenance Environment (DIME).

A lifelong learner and always up for new challenges, Kozlowski said he came across information about the Direct Commission Program on LinkedIn and was intrigued.

“I’ve always been somebody who wants to try and learn something new,” he said.

Kozlowski reached out to the Office Chief of Signal. With the program in its infancy, there wasn’t much information readily available on warrant officer candidates for the program. But after some research, Kozlowski found out he was eligible, so he pursued it.

“They were looking for somebody that is cloud-savvy, that understands data, that can kind of take all these pieces of signal and branch them together to the next generation of what signal is going to be, and that’s really what I wanted to do,” Kozlowski explained. “I was getting kind of comfortable where I was, and even though I was briefing senior leaders and building partnerships with different innovation cells across the U.S., I no longer felt challenged. That’s when I knew it was time to do something else.”


Despite an impressive career and plethora of opportunities Kozlowski has already seized, the newly pinned captain said he has no plans to get out of the Army anytime soon.

“I love the Army; I have no issues,” he said. “I plan to keep going either until I don’t enjoy it anymore or my family decides it’s time.”

One of his main roles, after graduating from SCCC, will be assisting with developing the signal curriculum to implement artificial intelligence, data literacy, cloud-based computing, etc.

“The key is data-driven decisions in the future – providing data to commanders to make data-driven decisions,” Koslowski said.

He also plans to put forth significant effort in helping to refine and increasing awareness of the Direct Commission Program – something the officer believes is well-worth it.

“I’ve had at least 20 people reach out to me and ask questions since they heard I was selected for the program last year,” he said. “Getting them to take that leap of faith and submit their packet … I hope they at least try.”

Reflecting on his career thus far, Kozlowski said the 11B version of him could never have envisioned where he is today. From obtaining bachelors and masters degrees to build predictive maintenance models and presenting them to industry partners and more, Kozlowski is “so grateful.”

“Here I am, 15 years later. Without the Army, I don’t know where I’d be, but I know I never would have gone back to school.”

To learn more information about direct commission opportunities in the information network engineering career field, visit

For information about direct commission opportunities in other career fields, visit