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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2013

Technical, tactical trainers: Why the Army has warrant officers

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Before World War I, the Army relied solely on their commissioned and enlisted work force to accomplish any task set before them.

At the close of the 19th century, Army leadership soon realized there were jobs requiring more expertise than a junior-enlisted Soldier could offer, and too specialized for the broad-range of talents offered by senior enlisted personnel and officers. To face these challenges, Army officials created a new tier of Soldiers known today as warrant officers.

WOs are technical experts in their fields of study. They solve problems, train Soldiers and provide counsel to their leaders from a tactical perspective. However, WOs have dealt with setbacks in their past, like manning reductions and rank classifications, and are still in a state of change to this day. Regardless, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jack Gordon, Training and Doctrine Command cyber defense technician, believes WO specialties will only grow.

"Warrant officers are [military occupational specialty] gurus," said Gordon. "With the growing number of specialized equipment and tactics used in the modern military, I know we will only continue to expand."

But before they became the specialized workhorses of the Army, the WO position had to find its niche outside the normal enlisted and commissioned structure of the Army.

Since its initial appearance as the headquarters clerks in 1896, the WO position has undergone serious reconstructing. Originally seen as a civilian placement, headquarters clerks were eventually given rank-status in World War I. The new warrant officer and chief warrant officer ranks were members of waterborne vessels as engineers, shipmasters and shipmates, similar to the U.S. Navy from which the Army originally borrowed the position, according to the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College.

In 1920, administrative, clerical and musical band-leading activities opened up to the WO career choices. Units had special slots for these experts, and the system largely resembled the one in place today. However, in 1922 the program was cut in half and only mine-planters and band leaders were left as WOs because of their specificity. But, once again in 1936, after realizing the need for more specialized Soldiers, the WO corps was replenished after a competitive examination process, and has remained the roughly the same since.

WOs are in almost every broad career field, serving as combat specialists, logistics experts, quartermasters and much more. Often, these technical experts are called in to evaluate problems and provide counsel for commissioned leadership as well as assist in training.

"We are the problem solvers," said Gordon. "For us, there is no 'I don't know,' there is only 'I'll find out.'"

Sometimes, WOs have to think outside the box, and the process WOs use to find the right answers make them unique, said Gordon. Where an enlisted or commissioned Soldier may utilize guides and Army-specified rulebooks, WOs look beyond the Army scope into civilian sectors.

"There is a lot of research involved as a warrant officer," said Gordon. "We communicate with civilian enterprises to find solutions when needed, and sometimes we have to make up a whole new guideline."

Creating, developing and organizing new guidelines, such as repair procedures on a Humvee or the different cables associated with a complicated server system, is a mainstay for WOs. Forming these new tools expedites the mission and prevents delays, said Gordon.

"Without us, there are no gray-area solutions," said Gordon. "If there is a missing link somewhere in a server and simple troubleshooting doesn't solve the problem, that could mean shutting down the server. However, because of a WO's intervention, that server doesn't have to be replaced or otherwise wasted."

Beyond working as technical experts, WOs are also utilized as prime trainers in their career fields. According to WOCC, WOs have the capability to create and execute training plans after evaluating a specific unit or team. Furthermore, their technical proficiency proves invaluable in enacting and sharing training with enlisted and commissioned Soldiers.

Although they have many tasks, WOs are not at the forefront of every unit. Gordon believes this is a blessing in disguise, and he loves working behind the scenes to help out his Soldier.

"I love my job, and having the ability to share what I learned with my fellow Soldiers is invaluable," said Gordon. "Working behind the scenes gives me more time to interact with my Soldiers and show them the intricacies of the job."

From the creation of the corps to present day, WOs have always been the "go-to" Soldiers for all questions technical. Answering the hard-hitting questions fast gives their fellow Soldiers time to work without ever skipping a beat, ultimately leading to the team completing the mission.