National Guard June 2012 : Page 32

Warranting Attention By Ron Jensen A committee of their own at NGAUS helps Army Guard warrant officers address their unique challenges arrant officers had reason for quiet celebration recently. Language in the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill ap-proved by the house armed services committee last month would auto-matically provide federal recognition for those promoted from warrant officer 1 to chief warrant officer 2, just W as second lieutenants receive when they become first lieutenants. the idea came from chief Warrant officer 5 howard touchstone of Missis-sippi, who represents warrant officers on the nGaUs board of directors. “We’re doing this through nGaUs,” touchstone, who also chairs the nGaUs committee on Warrant offi-cer issues, says of the legislative effort. W arrant C ommittee ( Standing from left ) Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Swart-wout, Area VI representative; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lance Jenkins, Area III; retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Amir Pishdad, Area II; and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Wolff, Area V. ( Seated from left ) Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joseph Diaz, Area IV; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Howard Touchstone, NGAUS board repre-sentative; and retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Howard Haider, Area I. 32 “We need to let warrant officers know nGaUs is working for them.” touchstone and other members of the committee want their fellow warrant officers in the army national Guard to know that the association is a valuable partner on important issues. “everything that nGaUs does af-fects us,” says chief Warrant officer 3 scott Wolff of indiana. this is a time when warrant officers need a friend on capitol hill. there are issues galore that impact this corps of single-track specialist officers in the army Guard, from a sluggish promo-tion process to a lack of aircraft for them to fly and maintain. “We’ve got a lot of strong political allies,” touchstone says. “We’re going to have to use them.” chief among the issues, touchstone says, is the slow promotion process caused when the fiscal 2011 national defense authorization act (ndaa) changed the way warrant officers are appointed. rather than receiving an appointment from the army secretary, they are now handled like commis-sioned officers by the president. “it has created quite a delay in get-ting our promotions,” touchstone says. chief Warrant officer 5 terry swartwout of oregon, a committee member, says he waited nine months for his most recent promotion. “Pretty ugly,” he says. if the measure approved by the house recently becomes law, it will mitigate the impact of the 2011 ndaa only a little bit, says touchstone. But as Wolff says, many issues are of interest to warrant officers. for ex-ample, touchstone mentions the po-Sandy Schaeffer | National Guard

Warranting Attention

Ron Jensen

A committee of their own at NGAUS helps Army Guard warrant officers address their unique challenges<br /> <br /> WArrant officers had reason for quiet celebration recently.<br /> <br /> Language in the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill approved by the house armed services committee last month would automatically provide federal recognition for those promoted from warrant officer 1 to chief warrant officer 2, just as second lieutenants receive when they become first lieutenants.<br /> <br /> The idea came from chief Warrant officer 5 howard touchstone of Mississippi, who represents warrant officers on the nGaUs board of directors.<br /> <br /> “We’re doing this through nGaUs,” touchstone, who also chairs the nGaUs committee on Warrant officer issues, says of the legislative effort.<br /> <br /> “We need to let warrant officers know nGaUs is working for them.” <br /> <br /> touchstone and other members of the committee want their fellow warrant officers in the army national Guard to know that the association is a valuable partner on important issues.<br /> <br /> “everything that nGaUs does affects us,” says chief Warrant officer 3 scott Wolff of indiana.<br /> <br /> This is a time when warrant officers need a friend on capitol hill. There are issues galore that impact this corps of single-track specialist officers in the army Guard, from a sluggish promotion process to a lack of aircraft for them to fly and maintain.<br /> <br /> “We’ve got a lot of strong political allies,” touchstone says. “We’re going to have to use them.” <br /> <br /> chief among the issues, touchstone says, is the slow promotion process caused when the fiscal 2011 national defense authorization act (ndaa) changed the way warrant officers are appointed. Rather than receiving an appointment from the army secretary, they are now handled like commissioned officers by the president.<br /> <br /> “it has created quite a delay in getting our promotions,” touchstone says.<br /> <br /> Chief Warrant officer 5 terry swartwout of oregon, a committee member, says he waited nine months for his most recent promotion.<br /> <br /> “Pretty ugly,” he says.<br /> <br /> If the measure approved by the house recently becomes law, it will mitigate the impact of the 2011 ndaa only a little bit, says touchstone.<br /> <br /> But as Wolff says, many issues are of interest to warrant officers. For example, touchstone mentions the potential loss of fixed-wing flying assets in the Army Guard when the C-23 Sherpas retire in the coming years and are not replaced. And the modernization of the helicopter fleet is of critical interest to warrant officers.<br /> <br /> “It’s not real rosy,” he says of the situation for warrant officers who are Army Guard aviators.<br /> <br /> He says warrant officers, too, should keep an eye on the issue of cuts to the Air Guard, which the Air Force has proposed. The outcome there could give the Army ideas.<br /> <br /> “Big Army is sitting in the wings,” he says.<br /> <br /> But warrant officers in the Army Guard are facing a potential crisis in their own ranks. When Touchstone briefed the NGAUS board in March, he noted that only 81.3 percent of authorized warrant officer positions are filled—8,213 out of 10,099.<br /> <br /> “Our biggest problem is just marketing what we do to the field and to the combat commander,” says Wolff.<br /> <br /> Too few soldiers who would make good warrant officers are being identified and encouraged to join. Some may not even be aware of the possibility.<br /> <br /> That, says Swartwout, is a readiness issue.<br /> <br /> The specialized skills of the warrant officers in everything from field artillery to administration and from quartermaster to military intelligence (box, page 33) are vital for a force to be at its peak in readiness. Low numbers are a crisis waiting to happen.<br /> <br /> Swartwout says his state of Oregon is at 80 percent in filled warrant officer positions.<br /> <br /> “We’re in the middle,” he says.“Some states are sitting around 90 percent or better. Some states are sitting around 60 or 70 [percent].” <br /> <br /> The active-component Army can move members into the warrant officer corps with greater ease then the Guard, he adds.<br /> <br /> The Army can move a soldier from anywhere in the world to where he is needed as a warrant officer, an advantage the Guard doesn’t have. It can’t drag a soldier from one state to another or even from one side of a state to another simply to fill a warrant Officer slot.<br /> <br /> The schoolhouses that teach warrant officer specialties have been asked to broaden their entrance requirements, Swartwout says. This would increase the pool for the classroom seats, but not diminish the qualifications.<br /> <br /> “We don’t want to lower the standards to where we’re taking substandard people into the warrant officer corps,” he says.<br /> <br /> There’s an additional challenge facing the warrant officer corps in the Army Guard.<br /> <br /> “You have a lot of warrant officers That are long in tooth,” says Wolff.<br /> <br /> Touchstone’s briefing pointed out that 4,491 Guard warrant officers, or 54 percent, are eligible to retire right now.<br /> <br /> If a significant number of them decide to call it quits across a short amount of time, it would cripple the Army Guard, Wolff says.<br /> <br /> That’s why it is imperative that the current corps of warrant officers reach into the force and find good soldiers willing to make a change.<br /> <br /> “We’re marketing the warrant officer community,” he says. “We’re talking to our young soldiers, our NCOs.”<br /> <br /> Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Amir Pishdad, a committee member, says, “We’ve got to go all the way down to the platoon level.” <br /> <br /> Pishdad brings up the other issue— warrant officer membership in NGAUS. Touchstone says about half of the Guard warrant officers belong to the association, down from what it was a few years ago.<br /> <br /> “I keep pushing for NGAUS membership,” Pishdad says. “We need to get our membership up.” <br /> <br /> One of Touchstone’s goals for the warrant officer committee is to have A NGAUS contact in each state. The committee consists of six members from each of the six NGAUS regions.<br /> <br /> The victory with the language regarding promotions from warrant officer 1 to chief warrant officer 2 may seem modest. But it is evidence of what the association can do for warrant officers.<br /> <br /> “We need to make NGAUS attractive to the warrant officer,” says Wolff.<br /> “It’s about understanding the bigger picture.”<br /> <br /> Ron Jensen can be reached at (202) 408- 5885 or at ron.jensen@ngaus.org.

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