The Making of a Warrant: WOCs present song and sign, become the Purple Knights

Warrant Officer Candidates of Class 13-001 present their class song June 22, 2013, at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute in front of Warrant Officer Candidate School cadre, senior leaders from the RTI, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 William D. Lyles, Virginia Guard command chief warrant officer. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Warrant Officer Candidates of Class 13-001 march with their newly-uncased colors June 22, 2013, at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute just before presenting their class song. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – For the warrant officer candidates enrolled in Class 13-001 at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute’s Warrant Officer Candidate School, June was a big month. The candidates moved from the beginning phase of WOCS, into the intermediate phase, earning themselves a handful of privileges in the process and embracing their newly-bestowed class color and mascot to become the purple knights.

The weekend of June 21-23 was the third of five drill weekends that will make up Phase II of WOCS for the candidates, and, as usual, the weekend was packed with new challenges and experiences for the nine candidates enrolled in the course. Eight of the candidates are from the Virginia National Guard and one is from the U.S. Army Reserve.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J.Wilson, command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve smiles as candidates from the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute's Warrant Officer Candidate School Class 13-001 presents their class song. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J.Wilson, command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve smiles as candidates from the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute’s Warrant Officer Candidate School Class 13-001 presents their class song. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

On Saturday, the candidates took the first of two exams they will encounter during their training at the RTI, then spent time in the classroom learning the lessons that will make them effective and proficient warrant officers upon graduation. After their morning classes wrapped up, the candidates hurried outside to don their purple hats and t-shirts, emblazoned with their class motto. The t-shirts and hats were new for the candidates. Whereas the students had previously been the gray class, the color assigned to all warrant officer candidates in the beginning phases of WOCS, now they were becoming the purple class and rising to the intermediate phase of WOCS, something their new clothing items symbolized.

Standing tall in formation in their new class color, the candidate’s transition to the purple class, to be known as the purple knights, became official when Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Temple, commander of the Virginia Guard’s WOCS, uncased the colors on the WOCS guideon.

“From this day forward you will carry these colors with pride,” said Temple, as he uncased the colors. “You will represent the warrant officer corps for the Virginia National Guard with pride and honor.”
According to Temple, the class color and mascot is something the candidates will carry with them throughout their careers as warrant officers.

“It’s an identity for them. As they’re talking to other warrants who have gone through either this course or through Fort Rucker, they can proudly say, ‘I was a purple knight,’” said Temple, who himself was a purple piranha when he went through Fort Rucker’s WOCS in 2004. “It’s part of the tradition at Fort Rucker, that every class is called something, and we continue that on here.”

Once the candidates officially became the purple knights, they presented their class song, to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” for the purpose of hanging their class hat. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, command chief warrant officer for the U.S. Army Reserve, presided over the ceremony.

“Sir, we are the knights, we’re prepared to fight, with honor and integrity to lead the way, by giving our best, passing all tests, putting any doubts and rumors to rest,” the candidates sang in front of a crowd that included Wilson, Temple, Chief Warrant Officer 5 William D. Lyles, Virginia National Guard command chief warrant officer, as well as senior leaders from the RTI. “We will, we will WOC you! We will, we will WOC you!”

Warrant Officer Candidate Shawn Crookshanks wrote the class song, and said, “I think the presentation went very well and we as a class came together on the song and sounded great.” For Crookshanks, the song writing was far easier than the actual presentation of the song. “It’s harder than you might think to stomp, clap and sing all at the same time. Things were rough in the beginning, but after a lot of practice we got it down.”

The candidates presented Wilson with one of their class hats, which she quickly donned. “Job well done. Excellent song,” she said, before bestowing on the candidates the privilege to talk during their next three meals, as well as dessert-eating rights.

Later, back in the classroom, Wilson took time to shake the hands of all the candidates. “The RTI program is not an easy way out, as you all can attest,” she said. “Do well and make us proud. You’re the next crop of warrant officers and I’m excited to see you all in just a couple of months sporting that little bar down the middle.”

Having Wilson visit the Virginia RTI’s WOCS program is an important step toward getting U.S. Army Reserve students into the courses taught in Virginia, according to Temple. “I have been fighting the Reserve component puzzle for five years now, trying to crack that nut to get the senior leadership of the Reserve to get comfortable sending their people here,” Temple explained. “It was extremely important to get Ms. Wilson here, but to have her involved in the ceremony and see the pride that we have in what we do, it fuels her fire to try to get her folks down here.”

On Sunday, the candidates rose early to conduct a four mile road march before heading back to the classroom for more academics. Once afternoon hit, the candidates prepared for another ceremony, their sign presentation, presided over by Lyles.

“The song and sign ceremonies are some of the oldest Fort Rucker traditions,” said Temple. “They’re extremely beneficial tools for organization, team building, esprit de corps and all the things that the Army values encompass, and we bring it all here to the schoolhouse. It’s not only a prideful thing for them, because they do such a great job on their signs, but it’s an extremely important piece of training that we do here.”

The candidates worked together to create both the class song and the sign, communicating through email and meeting up when they could to put the sign together as a class.

“The sign looks great. You all did a great job on it,” Temple told the candidates. “You should be proud. It’s probably one of thebetter signs we have. Be proud of it. You all are the purple knights now, so carry that heritage with you.”

By the end of the weekend, the candidates were more than halfway through Phase II of WOCS. They had presented their class song and sign and had earned a new identity as the purple knights. In the coming months, the candidates will take their second Phase II exam, complete their 10 kilometer road march and then head off to Phase III, in September at Camp Atterbury, Ind., where, if they successfully complete Phase III, they will graduate WOCS and become the Army’s newest warrant officers.

Warrant Officer Candidates of Class 13-001 present their class song June 22, 2013, at the 183rd Regiment Regional Training Institute at Fort Pickett, Va. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve, served as the VIP for the ceremony. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Warrant Officer Candidates of Class 13-001 present their class song June 22, 2013, at the 183rd Regiment Regional Training Institute at Fort Pickett, Va. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis J. Wilson, command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve, served as the VIP for the ceremony. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

This story is the third in a multi-part series on the Virginia National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School.

Part One: The Making of a Warrant: Potential warrant officers get head start at Virginia’s Pre-WOCS

Part Two: The Making of a Warrant: WOCs begin Phase II at Virginia’s RTI

More on WOCS:

Photos: Virginia WOCs present class song, forge ahead toward becoming warrant officers – June 22, 2013

The Making of a Warrant: WOCs begin Phase II at Virginia’s RTI