The Making of a Warrant: The Final Phase

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 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)

SANDSTON, Va. – For the two-week, third and final phase of Warrant Officer Candidate School, nine Soldiers enrolled in the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute’s WOCS program headed to Camp Atterbury, Ind. Phase III included more than 150 warrant officer candidates from the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve from states across the country and kicked off Sept. 7 before culminating in a graduation ceremony on Sept. 21, where the candidates pinned the rank of warrant officer 1.

“Phase III is more hands-on,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Sexton, training, advising and counseling officer for the Virginia Guard’s WOCS program. “Phase III is designed to build confidence and it strengthens your integrity, commitment, loyalty and self-discipline.”

Phase III acted as the implementation phase for the many lessons the candidates learned over the previous phases and included significant training events including a land navigation course, a field leadership exercise, combatives, the leader reaction course and close quarter combat training.

“In Phase III, you implement all your warrior task and battle drill studies and are evaluated on your ability to lead a team or squad through a squad tactical exercise,” Sexton said.

The Virginia candidates were part of the largest-ever regional class and all successfully passed the required test to phase up to senior status in Indiana, which earned them additional privileges and titles. One Virginia candidate, Warrant Officer 1 Adam Hicks, earned recognition by graduating in the top 10 percent of the class, and Warrant Officer 1 James Crooks was recognized for a perfect score on the Army Physical Fitness Test.

Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Crookshanks, recent WOCS graduate, said Phase III helped to alter his way of thinking.

“A focus of Phase III was on changing our thought process from that of an NCO to one of an officer and the key attributes necessary for maintaining your credibility as an officer,” Crookshanks said.

For Virginia’s newest warrant officers, the process of shedding their noncommissioned officer stripes and pinning on the rank of warrant officer first began with a two and a half day Pre-WOCS course, taught at the Virginia Guard’s RTI, that aims to introduce potential warrant officer candidates to the rigors of WOCS and to ensure they are mentally and physically prepared for the challenge. Pre-WOCS is essentially a condensed version of WOCS and is a requirement for all aspiring Virginia Guard warrant officers. During the weekend, warrant officer hopefuls take an Army Physical Fitness Test, gain an introduction to the WOCS Standard Operation Procedure and take on the assignment of additional duties.

Following Pre-WOCS, the candidates enrolled online in Phase I of the program, the distance-learning portion of WOCS, before beginning Phase II at Fort Pickett. Phase II included five drill weekends comprised of classroom training time focused on topics such as warrant officer history and critical thinking skills, as well as road marches, a student-planned and executed community project and physical fitness training, as well as ceremonial events, such as the sign presentation and the song presentation.

The students worked together outside of their scheduled drill weekends on a variety of planned tasks, including planning for and building the class sign, as wells as planning the class community project. Candidates were expected to communicate regularly with one another during the time between drill weekends and had to earn various privileges along the way, like having coffee in the classroom or dessert after meals.

Warrant Officer 1 Jody Wilson said his favorite part of WOCS was, “The overall camaraderie and teamwork from fellow candidates,” as well as the challenge of the final road march.

On the final day of Phase III, Sept. 21, warrant officer candidates from across the country gathered for a graduation ceremony that concluded with their ascension to the rank of warrant officer 1.

“The ceremony was a day of smiles and joy for all that candidates,” Sexton said. “It was the day that signified mission accomplishment of becoming a [warrant officer].”

From there, the candidates headed home and have just one final requirement before leaving the WOCS program as students: the Warrant Officer Recognition Ceremony to be held Oct. 26 at Fort Pickett. The ceremony allows Virginia-based family members who were unable to make the trip to Indiana, as well as Virginia National Guard senior leaders, the chance to recognize and congratulate the new warrant officers.

“My hope for the graduating class is that they take the fundamentals that have been used to train, advise and counsel them throughout Phase II and III of WOCS, and establish a leadership style that is flexible and agile, and can meet the needs of their commander,” said Sexton.

This story is the fourth 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

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

More on WOCS:

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

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