Warrant Officer Program


Overview | Grade Structure | Army WO History | Branches & Specialty


In 2005, the Department of the Army developed a new definition to encompass all warrant officer specialties and grades.

"The Army Warrant Officer (WO) is a self–aware and adaptive technical expert, combat leader, trainer, and advisor. Through progressive levels of expertise in assignments, training, and education, the WO administers, manages, maintains, operates, and integrates Army systems and equipment across the full spectrum of Army operations. Warrant officers are competent and confident warriors, innovative integrators of emerging technologies, dynamic teachers, and developers of specialized teams of soldiers. They support a wide range of Army missions throughout their career. Warrant officers in the Army are accessed with specific levels of technical ability. They refine their technical expertise and develop their leadership and management skills through tiered progressive assignments and education."(DA Pamphlet 600-3, p. 3-9)

Further clarification of the role of a warrant officer is found in Field Manuals 6-22:

“Warrant officers possess a high degree of specialization in a particular field in contrast to the more general assignment pattern of other commissioned officers. Warrant officers command aircraft, maritime vessels, special units, and task organized operational elements. In a wide variety of units and headquarters specialties, warrant officers provide quality advice, counsel, and solutions to support their unit or organization. They operate, maintain, administer, and manage the Army‘s equipment, support activities, and technical systems. Their extensive professional experience and technical knowledge qualifies warrant officers as invaluable role models and mentors for junior officers and NCOs.” (Fm 6-22, p. 3-12)

Additional expectations are shown in Field Manual 7-0.

Warrant officers must be technically and tactically focused and able to perform the primary duties of technical leader, advisor, and commander. Through progressive levels of expertise in assignments, training, and education, warrant officers perform these duties during all operations and at all levels of command. While their primary duties are those of a technical and tactical leader, warrant officers also provide training and leader development guidance, assistance, and supervision. Warrant officers provide leader development, mentorship, and counsel to other warrant officers, officers, NCOs, and Army civilians. Warrant officers lead and train functional sections, teams, or crews. Finally, they serve as critical advisors to commanders in conducting organizational training.

The Army warrant officer corps is comprised of over 25,000 men and women of the active Army and reserve components. Warrant officers are technical experts that manage and maintain increasingly complex battlefield systems. They enhance the Army's ability to defend our national interests, and to fight and win our nations wars. Candidates who successfully complete Warrant Officer Candidate School are appointed in the grade of Warrant Officer One. When promoted to Chief Warrant Officer Two, warrant officers are commissioned by the President and have the same legal status as their traditional commissioned officer counterparts. However, warrant officers remain single-specialty officers whose career track is oriented towards progressing within their career field rather than focusing on increased levels of command and staff duty positions (FM 7-0, p. 4-22)

Grade Structure

There are five grades within the Army warrant officer corps. A person is initially appointed as a Warrant Officer One (WO1), and progresses to Chief Warrant Officer Two (CW2) after 2 years. Competitive promotion to Chief Warrant Officer Three (CW3), Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4), and Chief Warrant Officer Five (CW5) occur at approximately six year intervals for aviation warrant officers and five year intervals for those in other branches.

Where They Serve

Warrant officers serve at all levels of the Army. Typically, junior warrant officers are assigned at the tactical level, whereas senior warrant officers are assigned at higher levels such as brigade and above, and also to positions on the Army staff at the Pentagon. In addition, warrant officers serve with Department of Defense, joint organizations, and other military services.

Army WO History

Origin and Early History

The rank of warrant officer has a long history. For example, evidence suggests that Napoleon used warrant officers as communications links between his commissioned officers and the Soldiers.

The military grade of “warrant officer” dates back two centuries before Columbus, during the fledgling years of the British Navy. At that time, nobles assumed command of the new Navy, adopting the Army ranks of Lieutenant and Captain. These royal blood officers often had no knowledge of life on board a ship, let alone how to navigate such a vessel or operate the guns. They often relied on the technical expertise and cooperation of a senior sailor who tended to the technical aspects of running the ship and operating the cannons. These sailors, sometimes referred to as ‘Boat Mates’ or ‘Boswans Mates’ became indispensable to less experienced officers and were subsequently rewarded with a Royal Warrant. This Royal Warrant was a special designation, designed to set them apart from other sailors, yet not violate the strict class system that was so prevalent during the time.

In the U.S. Navy, warrant officers have traditionally been technical specialists whose skills and knowledge were an essential part of the proper operation of the ship. The Navy has had warrant officers among its ranks, in some form or another, since its conception. For the U.S. Army, we can trace the lineage of the warrant officer back to 1896, specifically to the Headquarters Clerk (later designated the Army Field Clerk).

The Act of August 1916 authorized the Army Field Clerk (formerly Headquarters Clerk) and the Field Clerk, Quartermaster Corps (formerly Pay Clerk). Although initially considered civilians, the Judge Advocate General eventually determined that they held military status. The Act of July 1918 introduced the rank and grade of warrant officer. It established the Army Mine Planter Service in the Coast Artillery Corps and directed that warrant officers serve as masters, mates, chief engineers, and assistant engineers of each vessel. There were three varying levels of pay authorized.

In World War I, the Coast Artillery Corps was responsible for mine defenses in major ports. Vessels, ranging in size from small motorboats to 1,000-ton ocean-going ships, laid and maintained minefields. Conflict between Soldiers and civilian employees who manned these vessels revealed the need to ensure that military personnel manned the vessels.

Officially, the birth date of the Army Warrant Officer Corps is July 1918, when Congress established the Army Mine Planter Service as part of the Coast Artillery. This action assured that exclusively Army personnel manned the vessels. The Army opened a school to train their mariners at Fort Monroe, Virginia, commanded by an officer who had graduated from the Naval Academy.

The official color of the warrant officer corps is brown, as warrant officers in the mine planter service wore simple bands of brown cloth on their uniform sleeves as their insignia of rank. Warrant officers served in four positions aboard the vessels: masters, mates, chief engineers and assistant engineers. Masters wore four bands. Deck officers also wore an embroidered brown fouled anchor above the braid, while engineer officers wore an embroidered brown three-bladed propeller in a similar position.

The Act of 1920 expanded use of warrant officers, authorizing appointment of warrant officers in clerical, administrative, and band leading activities. This Act authorized 1,120 warrant officers, provided for appointments in the Army-at-large rather than in specific branches and established warrant officer assignments in various headquarters and tactical units. Perhaps the most significant motive for the expansion was

". . . a desire to reward enlisted men of long service and also to reward former commissioned officers of World War I who lacked either the educational or other eligibility requirements necessary for continuance in the commissioned status."

In 1921, warrant officers were excluded from performance of summary court officer, defense counsel, officer of the day, and assistant adjutant because enlisted personnel were prohibited from performing those same duties. During this time, only one pay grade existed except in the army mine planter service.

Warrant officers of the tank corps first wore the distinctive insignia approved on 12 May 1921. It consists of an eagle rising with wings displayed, standing on two arrows and enclosed in a wreath. It was adapted from the great seal of the United States, with the arrows symbolizing the military arts and science.

"An eagle rising with wings displayed standing on a bundle of two arrows, all enclosed in a wreath."

In 1922, the warrant officer strength authorization dropped from 1,120 to 600, exclusive of the number of Army mine planter service warrant officers and Army bandmasters. Consequently, there were no warrant officer appointments other than bandmasters and Army mine planter service personnel between 1922 and 1935. Laws subsequent to 1922 authorized the appointment of additional classes of personnel with certain qualifications, above the 600 authorizations.

In 1936, the Army held competitive examinations to replenish lists of eligibles for Regular Army appointment. The Army appointed warrant officers against vacancies from this 1936 list until the beginning of World War II.

In 1939, warrant officers who were qualified as pilots were declared eligible for appointments as air corps lieutenants in the Regular Army.

In 1940, warrant officers began serving as disbursing agents.

Branches & Specialty

Adjutant General
Fort Jackson, South Carolina

Air Defense Artillery
Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Fort Rucker, Alabama

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

Electronic Warfare
Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Field Artillery
Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Judge Advocate General
Charlottesville, Virginia

Medical Service
Fort Sam Houston, Texas

Military Intelligence
Fort Huachuca, Arizona

Military Police
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

Quarter Master
Fort Lee, Virginia

Fort Lee, Virginia

Fort Eustis, Virginia

Fort Gordon, Georgia

Fort Sam Houston, Texas

Special Forces
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Fort Gordon, Georgia