By Sgt. Madison Frazier
105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
SALINA, Kan. – For the first time in the history of the Kansas Army National Guard, the Warrant Officer School of 1st Battalion, 235th Regiment held Phase 2 warrant officer training, culminating in an appointment ceremony for nine new warrant officers at the Kansas Regional Training Institute in Salina, June 27. Although the reasons for conducting the training were predicated on less than ideal circumstances, the KSARNG warrant officer community rose to the occasion and found the silver lining in the opportunity.
Traditionally, Phase 2 is conducted only at one of two different locations: Camp Atterbury, Indiana, or Fort McClellan, Alabama. However, due to COVID-19, Training and Doctrine Command, the National Guard Bureau and the Warrant Officer Career College approved a one-time exception for Phase 2 to be conducted at the RTI, an approved.
“Allowing the Kansas Army National Guard to conduct Phase 2 at the 235th Regiment gave us the ability to showcase our staff and facilitates that we are proud of,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael Smith, command chief warrant officer for the Kansas Army National Guard. “It also gave us the opportunity to graduate our warrant officers more timely so they can attend their next training as warrant officers.”
235th Regt. staff undertook intensive planning in order to implement the training curriculum while adhering to increased protection and safety measures.
“We did this under the COVID operational environment with lots of mitigations,” said Command Warrant Officer 4 David Lockhart, course manager of the Warrant Officer Candidate School. “A lot of work went into it.”
Although it was their first time giving Phase 2 instruction, the staff wanted to deliver the best training possible for the candidates. One of the major components of the training curriculum was leadership development.
“We focused on the book “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink, which served as a foundation for the course,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Altz, training, advising and counseling officer. “We did a lot of small groups and focused on some of those great leadership principles.
We mentor and teach leadership by helping [the candidates] get a picture of what their future is going to be like as a warrant officer, some of the hurdles they may face along the way, and how to handle those hurdles.”
Other training topics in Phase 2 included fundamentals of first aide, team building exercises and a victory run, all of which are meant to test the candidates’ communication abilities, stress and time management skills.
“Time management and working with other candidates, trying to get on the same page with them collectively and individually was probably one of the most difficult and demanding parts of the course,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Brandon McMillian of class 20-002.
Smith emphasized that competent leaders are essential in the warrant officer community because they make up the technical foundation of the Army.
“Warrant officers are subject matter experts,” said Smith. “Throughout warrant officer careers, they specialize in a technical area like maintenance, aviation and signal, just to name a few. Although they make up less than four percent of our total strength, warrant officers have a great responsibility that includes training Soldiers, organizing and advising on missions.”
According to Lockhart, Warrant Officer School is not just an opportunity for Soldiers training to become warrant officers. It also serves as a great developmental experience for already appointed warrant officers who can return to teach at the school as Training, Advising, and Counseling Officers.
“Outside of going to more schools to broaden or deepen your knowledge in your own career, this is a great opportunity for warrant officers to be able to get experience as mentors and teach young warrant officers,” said Lockhart.
It is likely that Phase 2 in Kansas was a one-time event, and, assuming a return to pre-COVID training next year, Phase 2 will return to being conducted out of state. However, students and staff alike spoke highly of what will likely be a one-time occurrence in Kansas Army National Guard history.
“This course provided something that is really special because we have built relationships that will last us our whole career, maybe even our whole lives,” said McMillian. “Being able to see my classmates push through and be resilient through tough times really inspired me and helped me push forward.”
At the end of Phase 2 the Kansas Army National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School appointed nine warrant officers into the Kansas and Oklahoma Army National Guards for the first time. Amidst a pandemic the resilience of these new leaders has shown them through the completion of this course.
“It is fantastic we were able to conduct Phase 2 safely and integrate Kansas warrant officers into training,” said Smith. “I look at warrant officers as enablers and problem solvers; we should always find a way to solve issues. Also, we should always put our Soldiers first! These attributes help define warrant officers. Conducting Phase 2 in Kansas allowed us to fulfill these attributes.”