NEWS | June 3, 2018

Virginia warrant officers take top honors at final WOCS phase

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

The third and final phase of reserve component Warrant Officer Candidate School brings together National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve candidates from across the nation for two weeks of training. In April, Virginia’s candidates joined 40 of their peers at Fort McClellan in Alabama where they distinguished themselves as some of the best in the nation. On April 21, 2018, all eight of the warrant officer candidates enrolled in Class 18-001 of the Virginia National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School graduated WOCS and became warrant officers. In May, the eight returned to the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute and were recognized for their outstanding success at WOCS. 

“The word started coming back from Alabama about the middle of the week on how well you all were doing and how Virginia was sweeping everything,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Donald Unmussig, Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Virginia National Guard, during the recognition ceremony. “Virginia looked really good and you all set the standard going forward.”

Warrant Officer Doug Ferguson was the Distinguished Honor Graduate out of 46 graduating warrants while Warrant Officer Anthony Routh was name the Honor Graduate and also earned the highest Army Physical Fitness Test score. Warrant Officer Shawn Snyder won the Leadership Award and was named to the Commadant’s List, along with Warrant Officer BrehAnn Hudgins.

Lt. Col. Robert Fitch, commander of 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI, commended the new warrant officers on their success, as well as the cadre of Virginia’s WOCS, saying, “They test each individual candidate and hold them to the standards of the Army’s warrant officer candidate program.” 

For the eight new warrant officers, that process started months ago, with the first phase of WOCS, a distance learning phase that built a foundation of knowledge for the candidates. Then, the candidates entered the second phase that included six months of drill weekends that brought the candidates, who came from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, together as a team. They worked on academics, physical fitness and a community project that had them partner with Habitat for Humanity to help build a home in Hanover, Virginia. 

Finally, the candidates headed to Alabama for the final, two-week phase of WOCS. It included a one-week field exercise that included several graded events including land navigation and a leadership evaluation.

“You just finished something that was really big. Take a deep breath and enjoy it, but know it’s just getting started,” Unmussig told the new warrant officers. “Now you’re going to have to go to your units and make an impact.” 

With WOCS successfully completed, the class graduates will go on to further training in their respective military specialties and will then serve their units and commanders as subject matter experts. 

“You guys are going to bring a capability to your commanders and what I would challenge you to do is, when you get out to your unit, you’re going to be that subject matter expert, you’re going to have that low density speciality that your commander may not know how to use, so go to the commander, and say, ‘hey, boss, here’s what I can do,’ and make a recommendation,” said Brig. Gen. Walter Mercer, Assistant Adjutant General-Army for the Virginia National Guard.

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