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NEWS | Feb. 14, 2024

VNG WOCs hit milestones, hurtle toward graduation

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

The seven Soldiers currently enrolled in the Virginia Army National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School are nearly through with their transition from noncommissioned officers to fully-fledged warrant officers. Over their most recent drill weekend, held Feb. 2-4, 2024, the candidates tackled their community project at the Chesterfield Food Bank and Outreach Center, took their capstone academic assessment, and presented their class song and sign to their battalion commander.
“Overall, the weekend was very rewarding,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Daniel Canada. “Completing so much instilled in us a feeling of pride for all that we’ve accomplished, as well as a newfound momentum to take on the challenges that await us as fresh warrant officers.”
This class is the first to go through under a newly-restructured curriculum. Previously, Phase I of WOCS was held in-state, while Phase II was held out of state, in either Alabama or Indiana. Now, Phase I is taught out of state and Phase II is taught in state, at Fort Barfoot.
“The course has been great,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Logan Heishman, who spent 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a field artillery operations chief before transitioning to the Virginia Army National Guard about two years ago. “For me, it’s been a little challenging, trying to learn not just the warrant officer way, but the Army way.”
Heishman’s initial plan when he joined the National Guard was to immediately start the process of becoming a warrant officer. But military obligations got in the way and he, a field artilleryman, deployed with 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Inherent Resolve to provide short-range air defense against unmanned aerial systems, rocket artillery and motor attacks throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations in the Middle East.
On the deployment, Heishman served as a battle captain. His leaders recognized his expertise and suggested he become a warrant officer, which, he told them, was the plan. They helped him with letters of recommendation and “got the ball rolling.”
“The deployment wasn’t a hindrance because I could take my time with my predetermination packet,” he said. Once he returned home, he started WOCS and also earned bachelor’s degree in homeland security along the way.
For Warrant Officer Candidate William Heiber, the path toward becoming a warrant officer started with a chance encounter on his very first drill weekend with the Virginia Army National Guard.
“My car had broken down, and a warrant office pulled over on the side of the road and saw me standing there and he gave me a ride,” Heiber, an engineer, said. He knew about warrant officers from learning the Army rank structure at Basic Combat Training, but said they were still kind of a mystery. “He talked to me about what he did and some of his duties, and from there, I had that aspiration [to become a warrant officer].”
While motivated to join the warrant officer ranks, Heiber, a brand new Soldier, had to wait for multiple promotions and a few rating periods in order to meet the basic requirements. As soon as he was promoted to sergeant, he went to pre-WOCS, a requirement for all National Guard Soldiers who want to become warrant officers. But he still had to wait for three rating periods to pass.
“It’s mind-numbing to think how long I’ve been going through the process,” Heiber said.
At the food bank, Heiber said it felt good to help the community and that he and his peers were all excited to be so close to the end of their WOCS experience.
“It’s become a real group effort and a bonding experience,” Heiber said. “For everyone here, now that we’re finally at the end, everyone is a whole lot more relaxed and it feels good to do something together to help out.”
During their time at the food bank, the candidates organized food and helped prepare for a weekly distribution which typically gives out around 25,000 pounds of food to around 500-600 local families. In addition to serving as an opportunity for the candidates to support their community, the event also provided them a chance to complete the military planning process.
“This gets them into a planning process, gets them to complete an operations order, all that military stuff,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Al White, a senior member of the WOCS cadre. “They have to select the project, they have to plan it, they have to do everything.”
The candidates are set to graduate WOCS in March and will then officially begin their careers as warrant officers.
“For those thinking about the warrant career path, I recommend they not wait,” Canada said. “Virginia needs smart, motivated people to carry it into the next generation of technical and tactical readiness.”

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