Warrant Officer (United States)

Warrant Officer (United States)

In the United States military, a Warrant Officer (grade W-1 to W-5) is ranked as an officer above the senior-most enlisted ranks, as well as officer cadets and candidates, but below the officer grade of O-1 ("NATO: OF-1"). Warrant officers are highly skilled, single-track specialty officers, and while the ranks are authorized by Congress, each branch of the Uniformed Services selects, manages, and utilizes warrant officers in slightly different ways. For appointment to Warrant Officer One (W-1), a warrant is approved by the secretary of the service. "Chief Warrant Officers" (W-2 to W-5) are commissioned by the President of the United States, and take the same oath as regular commissioned officers (O-1 to O-10). Warrant officers can and do command detachments, units, activities, vessels, aircraft, and armored vehicles as well as lead, coach, train, and counsel subordinates. However, the Warrant Officer's primary task as a leader is to serve as a technical expert, providing valuable skills, guidance, and expertise to commanders and organizations in their particular field.


In the Navy, Warrant Officers have traditionally been the technical experts whose skills and knowledge were an essential part of the proper operation of the ship.cite web|url=http://www.usawoa.org/woheritage//Hist_of_Army_WO.htm#Introduction|title=History of the Warrant Officer|publisher=United States Army Warrant Officer Association|accessdate=2007-03-18] Navy CWOs serve in 30 specialties covering 5 categories. Navy Chief Warrant Officers are technical officer specialists who perform duties that require expertise and commissioned officer authority to direct technical operations in a given occupational area. Chief Warrant Officers should not be confused with Limited Duty Officers. They perform duties that are technically oriented, that is, requiring skills directly related to previous enlisted service and specialized training, while not significantly affecting their ability to perform those duties through advancement to other duty positions and responsibilities—--allowing the Navy to capitalize on their experience.cite web|url=http://www.usawoa.org/woheritage//WO_Prog_Other_Svc.htm|title=Warrant Officer Programs of Other Services|publisher=United States Army Warrant Officer Association|accessdate=2007-03-18] Sailors must have been a senior non-commissioned officer (E-7 through E-9) to gain the commission.


Based on the British Royal Navy warrant ranks that were in place until 1949, the Navy has had warrant officers among its ranks, in some form or another, since December 23, 1775, when John Berriman received a warrant to act as purser aboard the brigantine, the USS "Andrea Doria". That warrant was considered a patent of trust and honor but was not considered a commission to command. Since this first appointment, Navy and Coast Guard Warrant Officers have held positions as surgeons, master mates, boatswains, carpenters, and chaplains. While the United States, lacking an aristocracy, never needed to address the issues underlying the founding of warranted officers in the Royal Navy, a similar issue of rank -- that is, highly competent senior non-commissioned officers reporting to inexperienced junior officers -- gave rise to special status to the Navy's Chief Warrant Officers. They have an explicit mission to train junior Naval officers (ensign through lieutenant).

In 1975, the Navy stopped utilizing the grade of Warrant Officer (W-1). All CWOs in the Navy are now CWO-2 through CWO-5 and managed by billets appropriate for each rank.

Flying Chief Warrant Officer

As of 2006 the Navy started a test program called the "Flying Chief Warrant Officer Program" for pilots and naval flight officers. Enlisted sailors in the grades E-5 through E-7 who have at least an associate's degree and are not currently serving in the diver, master-at-arms, nuclear, SEAL, SWCC or EOD communities are eligible to apply. Upon being commissioned as CWO2s, selectees will undergo warrant officer indoctrination and then flight school for 18 to 30 months; after completion of flight school, will be placed in one of four types of squadrons: anti-submarine, combat support, patrol or reconnaissance. The pilots and naval flight officers will be trained to operate P-3s, EP-3s and E-6s; for helicopter squadrons bringing in warrant officer pilots, will be trained to operate H-60s. The program will be evaluated until 2011 when the last of the "flying chief warrant officers" are expected to report to their squadrons. They will be barred from operating tactical aircraft, such as F/A-18s and S-3s. [cite web|url=http://usmilitary.about.com/od/navytrng/a/navwarflight.htm|title=Flying CWO Program|accessdate=2008-02-28] cite web|url=http://www.usawoa.org/woheritage//WO_Prog_Other_Svc.htm|title="Warrant Officer Programs of Other Services|publisher=United States Army Warrant Officer Association]


The United States Army Warrant Officer is a technical expert, combat leader, trainer, and advisor. The purpose of the Army WO is to serve in specific positions which require greater longevity than the billet duration of commanders and other staff officers. The duration of these WO assignments result in increased technical expertise as well as the leadership and management skills that make them so effective for the Army.

Army warrant officers serve as technical and tactical experts and leaders in 45 basic WO Military Occupational Specialties.cite web|url=http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/WOgeninfo_mos.html|title=Warrant Officer MOS List|author=U.S. Army Recruiting Command|accessdate=2007-03-18] They serve in 15 branches of the service,cite web|url=http://usawocc.army.mil/whatiswo.htm|title=What is a Warrant Officer?|publisher=U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career Center|accessdate=2007-03-18] spanning the Active service, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve. They also serve at every level from section to the upper echelons of the Department of the Army. Warrant officers command the Army's vessels and most bands and aircraft. In addition, they may be found in command of various small units and detached teams.cite web |url=http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/download/Warrant_Officer_RPI.pdf |title=Army Warrant Officer |accessdate=2008-09-04 |author=United States Army |date=Aug 2007 |work=RPI-938 |publisher=www.usarec.army.mil/warrant ]

Regardless of rank, Army warrant officers are officially addressed as either Sir, Ma'am, Mr. or Ms.Headquarters, Department of the Army. [http://docs.usapa.belvoir.army.mil/jw2/xmldemo/r600_20/main.asp#p01-6 "Military Grade and Rank"] , " [http://docs.usapa.belvoir.army.mil/jw2/xmldemo/r600_20/main.asp Army Regulation 600-20; Army Command Policy] ". Headquarters, Department of the Army. 18 March 2008. Accessed on 23 August 2008.] Unofficially, the informal title of "Chief" is often used as a familiar form of address.


The Army Warrant Officer program began with the Headquarters Clerk in 1896.cite web|url=http://usawocc.army.mil/History/index.htm|title=Warrant Officer History|publisher=U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career Center|accessdate=2007-03-18] Although originally viewed as a civilian, Army Judge Advocate General review designated them as members of the military. Since that time, the position of WO in the Army has been refined as both technical expert and leader.


The body of warrant officers in the Army is comprised of two communities; technicians and aviators. Technicians typically must be enlisted in the rank of Sergeant (E-5) or above in a related specialty to qualify to become a Warrant Officer. The aviation field is open to all applicants, military or civilian, who meet the stringent medical and aptitude requirements. Civilian applicants to Warrant Officer Flight Training (WOFT) are occasionally referred to as going from "high school to flight school" because a college degree is only a recommended qualification, compared to other service aviation programs.cite web |url=http://www.goarmy.com/about/warrant_officer.jsp |title=About the Army: Warrant Officers |accessdate=2008-09-04 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) and the Department of the Army]

After selection to the Warrant Officer program, candidates attend the Army's Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) which is collocated with the Warrant Officer Career Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama. After graduation, all candidates are promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer One (WO1). Technicians attend training at their respective branch's Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) where they learn advanced subjects in their technical area before moving on to their assignments in the Army. Aviation warrant officers remain at Fort Rucker to complete flight training and the Aviation WOBC. Upon completion of their training, aviation warrant officers receive the Army Aviator Badge.


Warrant Officer 1 (WO1)
* Appointed by warrant from the Secretary of the Army, WO1s are technically and tactically focused officers who perform the primary duties of technical leader, trainer, operator, manager, maintainer, sustainer, and advisor. In 2007, legislation was proposed by the Department of Defense for consideration by Congress that would result in WO1s being commissioned by the President of the United States. This change has not yet been implemented. Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2)
* CW2s become commissioned officers by the President of the United States. They are intermediate-level technical and tactical experts who perform increased duties and responsibilities at the detachment through battalion levels. Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3)
* CW3s are advanced-level experts who perform the primary duties of a technical and tactical leader. They provide direction, guidance, resources, assistance, and supervision necessary for subordinates to perform their duties. They primarily support operations levels from team or detachment through brigade. Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4)
* CW4s are senior-level experts in their chosen field, primarily supporting battalion, brigade, division, corps, and echelons above corps operations. They typically have special mentorship responsibilities for other WOs and provide essential advice to commanders on WO issues. Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5)
* CW5s are master-level experts that support brigade, division, corps, echelons above corps, and major command operations. They provide leader development, mentorship, advice, and counsel to Warrant Officers and branch officers. CW5s have special Warrant Officer leadership and representation responsibilities within their respective commands.

Coast Guard

The warrant officers in the Coast Guard may be found in command of smaller stations and some vessels and as specialists and supervisors in other technical areas. They wear insignia essentially like that of their Navy counterparts, but add the USCG shield between the rank insignia and the specialty mark, as Coast Guard commissioned officers do with their rank insignia. Candidates for Chief Warrant Officer must be a senior non-commissioned officer (E-7 through E-9), or an E-6 in the top 50% of the promotion list to E-7. The Coast Guard does not use the rank of Warrant Officer (WO1). While the Coast Guard has been authorized use of the W-5 grade, to date, it has not done so.

Marine Corps

The Marine Corps has had warranted officers since 1916 as technical specialists who perform duties that require extensive knowledge, training and experience with particular systems or equipment. Marine warrant officers are selected from the ranks of non-commissioned officers and given additional training in leadership and management. The duties Marine warrant officers typically fulfill are those that would normally call for the authority of a commissioned officer, however, require an additional level of technical proficiency and practical experience that a commissioned officer would not have had the opportunity to achieve.

An enlisted Marine can apply for the Warrant Officer program after serving at least eight years of enlisted service, and reaching the grade of E-5 (Sergeant) for the administrative warrant officer program or after serving at least sixteen years of enlisted service and reaching the grade of E-7 (Gunnery Sergeant) for the weapons warrant officer program. If the Marine NCO is selected, he or she is given additional training in leadership and management. While Marine warrant officers may often be informally referred to as "gunner", this title is actually reserved for a special category of chief warrant officer known as the "Marine Gunner," or "Infantry Weapons Officer." These Marines serve as the senior weapons specialists in an infantry unit, advising the commanding officer and his staff on the proper use and deployment of the current Marine infantry weapon systems. The title "Gunner" is almost always used in lieu of a rank (i.e., "Gunner Smith" as opposed to "Chief Warrant Officer Smith"), and the rank insignia worn on the left collar or shoulder is replaced with a "bursting bomb", similar to the insignia inside the rank chevrons of a Master Gunnery Sergeant.

Air Force

The United States Air Force no longer employs warrant officers. The USAF inherited warrant officer ranks from the Army at its inception in 1947, but their place in the Air Force structure was never made clear. When Congress authorized the creation of two new senior enlisted ranks in 1958, Air Force officials privately concluded that these two new "super grades" could fill all Air Force needs then performed at the warrant officer level, although this was not publicly acknowledged until years later. The Air Force stopped appointing warrant officers in 1959, the same year the first promotions were made to the new top enlisted grade, Chief Master Sergeant. Most of the existing Air Force warrant officers entered the commissioned officer ranks during the 1960s, but tiny numbers continued to exist for the next 21 years. The last active duty Air Force warrant officer, CWO-4 James H. Long, retired in 1980 and the last Air Force Reserve warrant officer, CWO-4 Bob Barrow, retired in 1992. Upon his retirement, he was honorarily promoted to CWO-5. Since then, the Air Force warrant officer ranks, while still authorized by law, are not used.

Flight Officer

During World War II, prior to becoming an independent service in 1947, the US Army Air Force created the rank of Flight Officer [http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Rank_page/WarrantOfficers.htm] [http://www.afa.org/magazine/1990/0390third.asp] , equivalent in rank and in the pay grade of "Warrant Officer Junior Grade" (today's WO1). Some of the first men who held this rank were Americans serving as Sergeant Pilots in the British Royal Air Force and were transferred to the US Army Air Force after the US entered the war. Most were later graduates of various US Army Air Force flight training programs, including pilot, navigator and bombardier ratings. A portion of each graduating class were appointed as Flight Officers while others were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants. Once reaching operational units and after gaining flying experience, many Flight Officers were later offered direct commissions as officers. With the end of WW 2 in 1945, creation of Flight Officers ceased.

Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

UnitedStatesCode|42|204, UnitedStatesCode|42|207 and UnitedStatesCode|42|209 of the U.S. Code of law establishes the use of warrant officers (W-1 to W-4) with specific specialties to the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps for the purpose of providing support to the health and delivery systems maintained by the service, however the grades have never been used in Public Health Service history to date.



External links

* DoD Almanac. [http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/insignias/officers.html The United States Military Officer Rank Insignia] . "United States Department of Defense".
* United States Congressional Budget Office study on Warrant and Limited Duty Officers [http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=3287&sequence=0&from=0#anchor] [http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/32xx/doc3287/WarrantOfficer.pdf PDF]
* [http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Rank_page/WarrantOfficers.htm US Army Institute of Heraldry Warrant Officer Insignia History]
* United States Warrant Officer Association [http://www.usawoa.org/ (USAWOA)]
* Fort Bragg's USAWOA [http://www.bragg.army.mil/usawoa/ Silver Chapter]
* U.S. Navy Flying Chief Warrant Officers (unofficial) [http://www.navyflyingcwo.org/ Flying CWO's]
* U.S. Navy Flying Chief Warrant Officers (official) [http://www.npc.navy.mil/Officer/Aviation/Flying+CWO+Program.htm/ Navy Flying CWO's]

See also

* British and United States military ranks compared
* Comparative military ranks
* Ranks and insignia of NATO Armies Officers

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