183rd RTI hosts final WOCS phase for first time

Virginia National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve candidates swear in as new warrant officers during a graduation ceremony at the conclusion of Warrant Officer Candidate School, hosted by the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute June 27, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Eight candidates are now graduates after completing Phase II of the Warrant Officer Candidate School, hosted by the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute June 27, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

The ceremony marked the first time candidates have been promoted to WO1 at the 183rd RTI, which usually only hosts Phase I of the program. Phase II is normally held at Fort McClellan, Alabama, but plans changed for Class 20-001 because of the impact of COVID-19. 

“This year, because of COVID, they gave us an opportunity to run Phase II at the RTI here,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joshua Martin, commander of the 183rd RTI’s WOCS. “Out of the six of us on the staff, four of us have worked at a Phase II before, so we knew what to do. We’ve got all the resources here at Pickett they have at the other places. We were pretty excited.”

Phase I was also hosted at Fort Pickett, held over five drill weekends in 2019 and early 2020. That phase included a 6.2-mile foot march and culminated with an exam and a community project, which included a tour of historical Civil War sites in Petersburg, Virginia. 

Phase two is held over two weeks, and includes extensive classroom training and field work. Candidates were required to pass exams in military history, law of war, military justice and warrant officer heritage. In addition to the exhaustive academics, candidates had to pass a land navigation course and complete obstacles at the Leadership Reaction Course, all while being evaluated on leadership at each step. 

Five candidates pinned on their new WO1 rank, and three of the graduates deferred until their new positions become available. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

During the graduation ceremony, Brig. Gen. James Ring, VNG Director of the Joint Staff, spoke to the class about their accomplishments and the importance of the transition from non-commissioned officer to warrant officer. 

“We recognize today how great it is that each and every single one of you not only went through a distinguished period of enlisted service, you’re now making a choice and have pursued a path that puts you in an elite corps of less than 2% of our Army,” said Ring. “You are choosing a path that puts you at the very top of the pinnacle of technical expertise within your branch, irrespective of what the branch is. Leaders within your branch and within the Army will be looking directly to you for the expertise you bring.”

The guest speaker for the graduation ceremony was Col. Craig Worsham, Assistant Chief of Staff for training operations at the Richmond-based 80th Training Command. Worsham, who formerly commanded the 183rd RTI’s 3rd Battalion and Officer Candidate School, also spoke to the candidates about how to make a successful transition. 

“Transformation literally means changing from one form into another. You’re all transforming from the status of extremely successful non-commissioned officers to that of commissioned service,” said Worsham. “Do not forget along the way the lessons you learned here at WOCS, and do not forsake the Army values instilled in you here. The key test along your new journey will be the examination of your character.”

After class awards were presented, five of the graduates pinned on their new WO1 rank, with the help of families, friends and colleagues. Three of the candidates accepted certificates of eligibility while they wait for their positions to become available. 

Lt. Col. James C. Shaver, commander of 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI, then administered the oath of office, marking the culmination of the graduates’ WOCS journey. 

Both Ring and Worsham spoke to the graduates about the importance of the oath and the service they are entering in to. 

“I challenge every single one of you to remain focused on the fact that leadership is first and foremost about service,” said Ring. “We are serving not only our nation, we’re serving for those men and women that are in our formations.”

Virginia National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve warrant officer candidates conduct a land navigation exercise as part of Warrant Officer Candidate School hosted by the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute June 24, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

“This transformation from enlisted to officer is an awesome responsibility,” added Worsham. “That is why the commissioning oath states ‘I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.’ So, before you raise your right hand and repeat the oath, be sure, be 100% sure you’re ready to transform into your new role as a commissioned officer. 

“As newly appointed warrant officers, you’re the next generation of Army leaders. With confidence, you must truly commit to discharging the duties of the office that you are about to enter.”

The eight-member graduating class consisted of five VNG Soldiers and three U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers. The graduating VNG Soldiers were Nathan L. Jarmon, Kelly Y. Keating, Alexander J. Matte, Kristin G. Powers and Patrick M. Wise. 

The three Reserve graduates were C. Scott Dayton, Michael P. McMahan and Austin H. Welborn.