NEWS | Oct. 10, 2019

Creating Experts at Warrant Officer Candidate School

By Sgt. 1st Class David Bruce warrant officer corps

The role and purpose of the Army’s warrant officer corps is to provide the force with technical experts in diverse fields, drawn from the ranks of talented noncommissioned officers and enlisted soldiers. These exceptional soldiers are created in Warrant Officer Candidate School with Camp Atterbury, Indiana just graduating the largest class in its history in September.

For National Guard soldiers, Warrant Officer Candidate School is divided into three phases. According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mariah Nunley, supply systems technician with 38th Sustainment Brigade, 38th Infantry Division, Indiana Army National Guard, and an instructor at WOCS.

“The first phase is conducted through distance learning. Phase two is conducted over five drill weekends,” said Nunley.

The second phase consists of a 6.2 mile ruck march, Army Physical Fitness Test and two exams.

The final training, phase three, for the reserve components is conducted only at Fort McClelland, Alabama and Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

Phase three takes place mostly in a field environment and tests the candidates’ leadership skills through various scenarios and situations: fill roles in a tactical operations center, negotiate an obstacle course as a team, conduct entrance control point operations on a forward operating base, conduct military briefings, perform land navigation and defend a forward operating base following chain of command and assigned tasks.

“During the course, we try to transition noncommissioned officers who have excelled in their field to the mindset of a warrant officer; to take them from being the executers to the planners,” Nunley said.

Avery J. Frantzen, from Topeka, Kansas with Kansas National Guard branching as a supply systems technician said becoming a warrant officer opened up career opportunities both as a traditional Guardsman and professionally in his full-time position as a federal technician. His reason for choosing warrant officer over commissioned officer stems from the people who have influenced him over the span of his military career having been warrant officers.

“People see the difference warrant officers make in soldiers’ lives,” he said. “All it takes is one instance of a positive leadership effect on an individual for them to recognize that they can do the same kind of thing.”

Frantzen said of the challenges presented during warrant officer school, the most significant is coming together as a team. “You build that teamwork you need to succeed here. You can’t succeed as an individual in this environment,” he said.

According to Frantzen the role of warrant officers is to teach and enhance the abilities of teams around them to meet the commander’s intent: provide counsel, guidance and mentorship to that end.

“It’s a good career path,” he said. “Warrants are uniquely positioned to do that, I think. They work for the commander, but they have the ability to speak truth to power that others might not.”

Hosting the Phase three site at the Indiana National Guard Regional Training Institute requires coordination. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jarred Stettler is the course manager at the RTI said, “We build a product and environment for the nation-wide staff to fall in on and execute.” They secure the training areas, provide the training equipment and ensure they have everything they need for the program. These preparations consume Stettler’s time for 11 months.

“The end product is a battalion formation of staff from 22 states and candidates from 29 states. It’s a busy job,” said Stettler.

According to Stettler, approximately 225 warrant officers will join the reserve components this year with 176 graduating Phase three at Camp Atterbury. Atterbury typically graduates approximately 120 warrant officers per year.

The program is undergoing changes. Starting next year, the distance learning portion is going away and WOCS will consist of two phases; phase one will be weekend drills over a five month period and phase two will be two week annual training. Additionally, the training is standardized

The growing interest in noncommissioned officers transitioning to the warrant officer corps can be attributed to an increase in awareness of the program, according to Stettler. “I remember as a young enlisted guy, nobody ever talked about warrant officer candidate school.”

While there is no requirement for warrant officers to have a college degree, it does require significant technical expertise. Each proponent is different but many proponents require three noncommissioned officer evaluation reports to show leadership and experience.

Not all fields have warrant officers and to become admitted into these ranks, one must possess a feeder military occupational specialty, with the exception being aviation— however, those with aspirations to become Army aviators have other criteria.

“Those are the challenges getting here, but we’re doing a great job of getting out and presenting the program and letting young [soldiers] know it’s out there,” said Stettler.

According to Nunley, the instructor, prospective warrant officers need to demonstrate that they are a leader of character and that they are a subject matter expert in their field.

“Ultimately, we are the commander’s advisors in our field because [commissioned officers] are generalized. We help them make good decisions based off our recommendations and evaluations of the situation,” said Nunley.