FORT BARFOOT, Va. –
The Virginia Army National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School celebrated and recognized the graduation of six warrant officer candidates from Class 23-001 in a ceremony held May 6, 2023, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia. The class of newly-promoted warrant officers included Soldiers from both the Virginia and North Carolina Army National Guard, as well as the U.S. Army Reserve.
“To the candidates, congratulations. You are now entering into a new adventure, a new phase of your career,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 John D. Calley, the Virginia National Guard’s command chief warrant officer and guest speaker for the WOCS recognition ceremony. “You are now entering into an era where you are looked up to from your subordinates, you’re looked at by your peers and you’re looked at by your leadership to provide sound advice.”
In order to gain entry into the warrant officer corps, the students first tackled pre-WOCS, a weekend-long experience that educates prospective warrant officers on what WOCS and life as a warrant officer is like. Then, once accepted into the program, they started Phase I of WOCS, held over six consecutive monthly drill weekends at the Fort Barfoot-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. During Phase I, they focused on academics and challenged themselves physically with the Army Combat Fitness Test, ruck marches and runs. Then, it was time for the second and final phase of WOCS, held this year at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Phase II brings together warrant officers from RTIs across the nation together to train alongside one another for two weeks. Once they successfully met course standards, the candidates graduated WOCS at Fort McClellan and returned to Virginia to be recognized by their families, peers and leaders.
“It’s a tough, rigorous program and it’s designed that way to shape them into the leaders they need to be,” said Lt. Col. Eric Quinn, commander of 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI, which includes the VNG WOCS. “Congratulations to you all, the road doesn’t get easier from here, but you all are definitely set up for success.”
Training, Advising and Counseling officers, or TACs, from the VNG WOCS also traveled to Fort McClellan where they served as cadre during Phase II, overseeing approximately 100 warrant officer candidates from across the nation.
“Being a TAC officer as McClellan is a great experience because you’re introduced to a lot of different [teaching] styles from all over the country,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Crookshanks, himself a graduate of Virginia’s WOCS. “You grow and you learn and better you craft as a TAC officer and then you also get to see and interact with candidates from all over the nation as well.”
At Fort McClellan, the candidates focused on land navigation, physical fitness, academics and leadership assessments, as well as several exams. Candidates came from RTIs in states including Alabama, California, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Virginia and Washington. Twelve TACs oversaw the candidates and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Ford, from Virginia, served as the senior TAC.
“It’s always a good experience,” Ford said of the TAC experience during Phase II. “You get to meet a lot of amazing candidates, and it’s not always the same staff, so you get to know some new staff each year who you can reach out to and share ideas with.”
Serving as cadre at Phase II allows Virginia’s WOCS to reach beyond the state’s borders and impact the incoming warrant officer cohort on a national scale. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Al White, who this year served as the executive officer during Phase II, has been a TAC with the VNG’s WOCS since 2013, and has traveled to Phase II as cadre several times, last year earning TAC of the cycle, a notable recognition.
“Virginia has, in a lot of ways, helped set the standard with some pretty critical things,” White said. He said word of mouth has helped the program grow regionally, with Soldiers coming from adjacent states to attend the VNG’s WOCS program. “Word of mouth is out that Virginia runs a good program, even if it means they’re driving a few extra hours. I think that says a lot about our program.”
The graduates of the Virginia National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School Class 23-001 are as follows:
Warrant Officer Thomas C. Dean will serve as 352N Signal Intelligence Analysis Technician in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Charlie Company, 378th Military Intelligence Battalion.
Warrant Officer Jovany Galarza will serve as a 125D Geospatial Engineering Technician in the U.S. Army Reserve’s 55th Combat Sustainment Brigade.
Warrant Officer Jessica Riddick will serve as a 420A Human Resources Technician in the North Carolina National Guard’s 60th Troop Command.
Warrant Officer Leah rogers will serve as a 420A Human Resources Technician in the North Carolina National Guard’s 449th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Warrant Officer Valdes Sarria will serve as 170A Cyber Operations Technician in the Virginia National Guard’s 124th Cyber Protection Battalion, 91st Cyber Brigade.
Warrant Officer Bonnie Snyder will serve as a 915A Automotive Maintenance Warrant Officer in the North Carolina National Guard’s 1450th Transportation Company.