Story by Capt. Jessica Donnelly
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – The South Carolina Army National Guard is continuously looking for qualified Soldiers interested in becoming subject matter experts within their career field by commissioning and serving as warrant officers.
Warrant officers make up about 2 percent of the total Army, but with their technical expertise and confidence in the field, they are an essential tool to the overall mission, explained Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Bonderer, South Carolina Army National Guard warrant officer strength manager.
“Commands don’t always grasp the value of warrants until they’re gone,” said Bonderer. “Remove one of them and your mission will be affected.”
Currently, the South Carolina Army National Guard has approximately 40 warrant officer vacancies within the state. Overall, in the South Carolina National Guard, there are 245 total jobs available in 13 branches and 25 military occupational specialties (MOS). Positions include engineers, paralegals, firefighters, human resources, property accounting, food advisors, field artillery, air defense artillery, aviation, cyber, signal, and more. Enlisted Soldiers currently serving in these career fields may already possess the qualifications needed to transition to the warrant officer corps due to their experience and skill sets.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kent Puffenbarger, South Carolina National Guard command chief warrant officer, said there are subject matter experts within the current force of the South Carolina Army National Guard that need to be recruited to warrant officers; however, they may not know that opportunities are available. Supervisors are encouraged to identify Soldiers who excel in their career field and have the potential to provide value to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a commissioned warrant officer.
“In order to complete our missions, we need warrant officers,” Puffenbarger said “If you know someone uniquely qualified to be a warrant officer, let us know.”
Bonderer explained there are basic requirements that all applicants must meet such as be a U.S. citizen, have a secret security clearance, pass a commissioning physical and be 46 years old or younger. Additionally, some positions may require Soldiers to meet specific MOS requirements, military education, a certain number of years of experience, and some college education, but the biggest qualification is leadership potential.
“If they have leadership skills, we can build the technical side,” said Bonderer. “If a Soldier wants to do more and make a difference in [non-commissioned officers’] lives, talk to a recruiter, put in a packet.”
Bonderer explained in addition to the rewarding opportunities and personal satisfaction that taking on more responsibility can provide to the Soldier after becoming a warrant officer, there are also other incentives that benefit the service member. These include increased drill and retirement pay, as well as structured and timely promotions.
However, the process of becoming a warrant officer is not immediate.
“Making a warrant officer is about a two year procedure,” said Puffenbarger. “It takes some time for the accession process and then there is the training.”
After a Soldier’s packet has been accepted, there are two options for commissioning as a warrant officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard. One option is attending the traditional program through the Regional Training Institute (RTI) at the McCrady Training Center in Eastover, South Carolina. This route is made up of three phases – distance learning, five monthly drill weekends of training at the RTI that begin in November each year, and two weeks of consecutive annual training at Fort McClellan, Alabama in April. The second option is attending the federal program at Fort Rucker, Alabama, which consists of two phases – distance learning and either five weeks of consecutive training, if the Soldier has attended Basic Leadership Course (BLC), or seven weeks, without BLC. Which program the Soldier attends is determined by circumstances and availability, added Bonderer.
South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers interested in becoming a warrant officer can contact Bonderer at 803-299-2740 for more information.
“Long story short, call me,” said Bonderer. “We want leaders.”