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Colorado schoolhouse bridges warrant officer candidates into new leadership roles

By Sgt. 1st Class Aleah M. Castrejon, 104th Public Affairs Detachment | CONG, TAG, 168 | Nov. 22, 2019

The Colorado Army National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School at the 168th Regional Training Institute at Fort Carson, Colorado, transforms Soldiers into warrant officer leaders at a training center at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

Candidates from Class 19-001 recently graduated from the three-phase course.

The course included National Guard Soldiers from Colorado and Wyoming as well as U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers.

“The Army warrant officer is a technical expert, a combat leader, trainer and adviser, through progressive levels of expertise, assignments, training and education … warrant officers are innovative integrators of emerging technologies, dynamic teachers, confidant warfighters and developers of specialized teams of Soldiers,” U.S. Army Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles A. Zanoff said. 

Zanoff is the COARNG’s Command Chief Warrant Officer.

He advised the candidates to manage their time wisely during their career, due to the number of tasks a warrant officer must accomplish and oversee.

“(You) get 24 hours in a day, it’s your job as a warrant officer to make sure you extract 25 hours out of that day,” guest speaker U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jody D. Hakala said. “You’ve got to make every minute count.”

Each phase of the course had its purpose according to newly pinned U.S. Army Warrant Officer Qutina T. Hathaway, who served in the military for about 17 years before joining the warrant officer corps. She said the second phase taught the candidates how to pay attention to detail, manage their time wisely, and work together as a team.

“We were set up for success (in the third phase) because of the difficulties of second phase, so we were able to immediately come in and work together and have a smooth third phase,” Hathaway said.

With the hardest part of the class being time management and learning how to fit an extra hour into the day, Hathaway said the school was very fulfilling.

“The most rewarding (part of the school was) starting in the beginning and building our confidence over the six months and seeing that we are capable leaders,” she said.

The candidates faced challenges from wildlife, tough positions, various weather environments and much more. U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dominic Marchiano, commander of the WOCS, said the candidates overcame one of the most difficult courses in a purposefully unstructured environment.

The Soldiers have to go from candidate mode to their civilian lives, where they have families, jobs and deal with other life events. Then they have to come back to the course and reset their minds to a warrior, leader mindset, Marchiano said.

“Turning on and off that candidate mode is a very difficult task,” he said.

Keeping the mindset everyday was  difficult, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Joseph C. Davis said, who has 21 years of military service. Even though the candidates went back and forth from school to home life, “the mental grind has been the hardest part.”

As Marchiano continued to wish the warrant officers luck in their careers, he said he hopes they remember what candidate school taught them.

“Remember what you’ve learned physically, professionally, as a person and a human being,” he said. “Hopefully you have grown from this experience and you can rely on it.”

Davis, for one, said he will not quickly forget the last six months.

“This has probably been one of the most mentally grueling schools I’ve ever been to,” Davis said. “It taught me a lot about my deficiencies — made me improve on them. It showed me where my strengths and weaknesses both lie, some were unbeknownst to me, that I figured out quickly. But, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Davis said he looks forward to getting in the field with his troops as a newly promoted warrant officer and he said he recommends the course to anyone willing to give it a try.

“Be proud of what you’ve accomplished,” Marchiano said. “Lastly … earn this, remember what you went through, remember the sacrifice, the mental strain, the missed family events, the late-night studying (and) the TAC (Train, Advise and Counsel)-induced stress. Make it count.”