Twenty Special Forces warrant officers took another step up the ladder of their professional military education March 16 by completing the Special Forces Warrant Officer Advanced Course, marked with a graduation ceremony held in Kennedy Hall on Fort Bragg, N.C.
The course is designed for chief warrant officers 2 and 3 who will go on to serve as operational-level planners and operations officers in special-operations units.
"Today, [these graduates] will return to their Special Forces groups having acquired the additional knowledge and expertise necessary to carry their careers and the regiment into the future," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Daniel Wilke, the commandant of the Special Forces Warrant Officer Institute, part of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.
"Over the last 10 weeks, these officers have undergone an arduous education that has focused on a myriad of instruction," Wilke said. "This instruction, their own personal desire for excellence and the values we all share will make them a formidable adversary, as well as a valued friend, in our future global engagements."
The course's topics include strategic, operational and tactical studies, the military decision-making process, joint and interagency studies, and a variety of writing assignments and information papers, Wilke said.
For these graduates, the 10-week resident phase was not the beginning of their Warrant Officer Advanced Course education. Approximately 100 hours of distance-learning lessons must be completed before the students report to Fort Bragg for the final phase of the course. During this distance-learning phase, these warrant officers continue to execute their regular duties, whether that may be an active-duty assignment with a special-operations unit, or as a member of the Army National Guard, balancing the course with their unit's military responsibilities as well as a civilian career.
"Ten years of war, and back-to-back deployments … makes the lack of a true Special Forces education no longer tenable," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 William E. Gunter during the ceremony. "We as warrant officers require it, because the regiment desperately needs everything that we have to offer."
Gunter is the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's desk officer for the U.S. European Command and the U.S. Africa Command. He has been a Special Forces warrant officer since 1995, and a U.S. Army Soldier since 1978.
"Being on staff at any level is not very pretty and it's not particularly fun. However, the seriousness of what you do can have a deadly impact on those below you," Gunter said. Special Forces warrant officers generally first serve as assistant operational detachment--alpha commanders before moving into staff positions in Special Forces companies and battalions, as well as component comments, joint task forces and joint staffs.
"Sometimes we lose sight of what the job is really about. The job is about supporting the teams, facilitating the mission and taking care of the welfare of the guys that are executing the mission out on the deployments," Gunter said. "As staff, we have no other function but that, and we must always keep that in mind."
Wilke also recognized the professionalism of his institute's instructors, who managed the graduates throughout the distance-learning and resident phases.
"Those who instructed this course utilized their time away from the force they love, striving through countless hours to ensure our legacy continues and the next generation is better-armed than the last," Wilke said.
Graduates have returned to their original special-operations commands and Special Forces groups. During the ceremony, honor graduates and members of the commandant's list were recognized by the Special Forces Warrant Officer Institute and the Special Forces Association.