Army Warrant Officers Continue Legacy of Technical Expertise

By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard BureauJuly 7, 2023

Warrant Officer Catherine Trujillo, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with C Company, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, Washington Army National Guard, sits in the pilot’s seat of a Black Hawk at the Army Aviation Sustainment Facility at Joint Base McChord-Lewis Washington. Warrant officers like Trujillo serve as tactical and technical experts in a variety of fields throughout the Army and Army National Guard. The warrant officer corps turns 105 on July 9, 2023.
Warrant Officer Catherine Trujillo, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with C Company, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, Washington Army National Guard, sits in the pilot’s seat of a Black Hawk at the Army Aviation Sustainment Facility at Joint Base McChord-Lewis Washington. Warrant officers like Trujillo serve as tactical and technical experts in a variety of fields throughout the Army and Army National Guard. The warrant officer corps turns 105 on July 9, 2023. (Photo Credit: Peter Chang) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Army Warrant Officer Corps turns 105 this year. On July 9, 1918, the Army created the Army Mine Planter Service as part of the Coast Artillery Corps, forming the warrant officer corps along with it. Warrant officers were appointed to serve as masters, mates, chief engineers and assistant engineers on mine planting vessels.

From that start, the warrant officer corps has grown to include 17 Army branches and 46 specialties, ranging from marine deck officer to field artillery targeting technician.

As birthday celebrations get underway, the warrant officer cohort continues to provide tactical and technical expertise throughout the Army and Army National Guard.

Though the cohort may have begun on the water, for many, Army warrant officers are nearly synonymous with aviation.

“You know, roughly half our warrant population are aviators,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brian Searcy, the command chief warrant officer of the Army National Guard, referring to Army Guard warrant officers.

For Warrant Officer Catherine Trujillo, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with C Company, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, Washington Army National Guard, becoming a pilot was a dream that almost didn’t become reality.

At 35, she was three years past the cutoff age to begin flight training.

“I kept hearing from others that I couldn’t, but I could not not try. I cannot have that regret later in life,” said Trujillo. She pushed forward and jumped over each hurdle, including an age waiver.

“I kept getting yesses, so I went through the flight evaluation board and I was selected,” she said.

Now that Trujillo has earned her wings, she’s mentoring others who worry they’ve missed their chance.

“You can fly,” she said. “Don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t. Don’t ever tell yourself that you are disqualified. Other people are going to tell you that enough. Don’t let yourself speak those words and I can tell you, yes, you can. There is always a way.”

Warrant officers also serve in career fields outside aviation, tackling numerous technical challenges.

For Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nichole Rauscher, a military intelligence systems maintenance technician and security manager with the California Army National Guard, being the technical expert is imperative because of the focused nature of her military occupational specialty.

“Our MOS is very small and specialized,” she said. “We maintain the intelligence architecture for the [California Army Guard] with very limited personnel. In the state there are currently less than a dozen enlisted [personnel in the field].”

Installing, operating and repairing those intelligence systems is a tall order, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Benjamin Burnett, the command chief warrant officer of the California Army Guard.

He said Rauscher’s technical expertise as a warrant officer “speaks volumes” about her character and dedication while ensuring “the systems are always up and running and providing critical intelligence to support military operations around the world.”

Burnett’s technical savvy has also had a lasting impact. In 2021, he was recognized in the Army’s “I Own This” maintenance campaign, which focused on individuals who exemplify the highest standards and contribute meaningfully to their unit’s overall maintenance and supply posture.

“After assisting various units with maintenance and command maintenance discipline program training, Chief Burnett helped streamline their processes by creating an application that provides information to operators and maintainers that assists them with drivers’ training, work orders, reports, dash 10 TMs [technical manuals] for PMCS (Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services) and much more,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Apodaca in his nomination of Burnett.

The computer app, called “Mobile Soldier,” has made the maintenance program easier to manage, said Apodaca, adding that it wouldn’t have been possible without Burnett’s experience.

“Chief Burnett spent numerous hours of his personal time to develop an app designed to train, assist and guide Soldiers in the field to achieve Army standards,” he said.

That’s just what warrant officers bring to the fight, said Searcy.

“We are the technical experts,” he said.

For Warrant Officer 1 Victoria Morales, assigned to the California Army Guard’s 340th Brigade Support Battalion and part of the team at the Fort Irwin Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, her knowledge of Army equipment and parts inventory systems led to a reconciliation of nearly $10 million of missing equipment and parts.

“A lot of it was helicopter parts that had been ordered to the wrong [location] and were showing up on the ground maintenance side of things instead of on the aircraft side,” she said.

The parts were installed on aircraft without being properly logged in the system. The rest of the parts were for the ground maintenance side but had similar accounting issues.

That’s when Morales got to work.

“Multiple inventories were conducted, as well as reorganizing the shop stock on hand for the aviation ground support equipment and countless hours of research and emails,” she said.

The missing parts weren’t really missing; they just hadn’t been accounted for. Morales’ work to reconcile the discrepancies between on-hand inventory and what had been ordered meant there was no need for an official investigation.

“After six months of grueling work, the reconciled [inventory] was handed over to the incoming commander, relieving my commander from a [liability] of $10 million,” said Morales.

Morales’ tenacity, especially with technical details, isn’t surprising, said Searcy, adding that’s the hallmark of the warrant officer.

“We tend to be a little bit blunt and attack issues,” he said. “We try to get into issues and get things resolved as efficiently as we possibly can.”

And with the Army’s shift to countering near-peer threats and large-scale combat operations, Army Guard warrant officers’ technical skills will remain in demand as the Army Guard of 2030 is built, said Searcy.

“The Army of 2030 is going to be very technical,” he said. “You’re going to need those technical warrant officers to be able to fix systems, run systems, maintain systems. They’re going to need to be technically ready.”

That holds true for aviation warrant officers as well.

“They’re going to get those new aircraft, whatever they may be, and those aviators are going be in aircraft that are more technical than what they’re in right now,” said Searcy.

Attracting and retaining the right people is essential, he added.

“We need to have really smart, well, not just warrant officers, but enlisted too, because that’s where we feed from,” said Searcy.

That ensures the warrant officers’ legacy as technical experts continues for the next 105 years.

“This is a team effort — taking care of people, reforming, getting ready for the Army of 2030,” said Searcy. “That’s going to take all of us to do that and all of us working together.”

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