January 13, 2005

Guard offers pre-testing for potential Warrant Officers

By Chief Warrant Officer James Robison
Virginia Guard Warrant Officer Career Advisor

The 166th Regiment (RTI) of the Pennsylvania National Guard offers a Pre-Warrant Officer Candidate course for anyone of the rank of specialist and above who may be interested in becoming a warrant officer. The course is designed to give potential Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) attendees a “bird’s eye” view of what to expect upon arrival at WOCS, located at Fort Rucker, Ala.

According to the course manager, Chief Warrant Officer James Snook, over 97% of the Soldiers that attend the pre-WOC course at Indiantown Gap go on to graduate from WOCS at Ft. Rucker and become warrant officers throughout the National Guard. The course is conducted on a weekend drill starting on Friday evening and ending on Sunday afternoon, and is a very good snap shot of the first seven to ten days at Ft. Rucker.

The students are required to weigh in, take an Army Physical Fitness Test, give a brief, write an autobiography, and are evaluated on drill and ceremony, leadership skills, and several other tasks. They are introduced to TAC alley procedures, dining rights, and have a room inspection in Class A uniform. The Virginia Army National Guard has sent five Soldiers to this course and all five have done well.

The most recent class in November saw a Soldier from the 54th Field Artillery Brigade take home the top honors, Sgt. Suzanne Vanderhoof was voted by her peers as the most professional candidate and top student. She received the Pennsylvania Command Chief Warrant Officer coin from Chief Warrant Officer Jack Modesto, for Chief Warrant Officer Darryl Hamm. Other Soldiers that have attended the course are Staff Sgt. Prevost from the 229th Engineer Battalion, Staff Sgt. Dana Lucas from Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia, Staff Sgt. Michael Coppage from Maneuver Training Center and Staff Sgt. Rogers from 3rd Battalion, 111 Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

Vanderhoof had high praise for the course. “The course was great,” Vanderhoof said. “The way it was set up definitely gives an insight as to what to expect, preparing a Soldier both mentally, and physically, for the challenge. Given the knowledge of what will be expected, a Soldier is provided the chance to acknowledge the areas they need to improve upon, thus allowing them the opportunity to arrive at WOCS confident, and with the skills they need to succeed.”

By conducting the course at a high-stress tempo, many find themselves overwhelmed, Vanderhoof said. “Some will decide that it simply isn't for them, but I learned the most from fellow students,” Vanderhoof said. “By recognizing that they may require more training, they can prepare themselves to arrive with the skills they need.”

The Pre-WOC course also helps identifies the physical demands. The PT test is a great indicator to let a Soldier know where they stand, but the constant push-ups, flutter kicks, etc., also let the them realize how important it is to arrive prepared, and ready to train.

The inspections, both room and uniform, were very informative. It again not only lets the Soldier know what to expect, but it makes them aware that this is a very serious, and attention-to-detail course. Those events let a solder see how important it is to have everything you need, and to have those items to standard. Often these standards are not upheld at unit level, to the degree that will be expected. This course reminds them of the precedents set by the Army, and allow them to arrive better prepared, thus helping to increase the success rate of those attending.

The information passed out, such as the dining rights, phases, etc., were again, a great source of insight as to what WOC School entails. It involves much more than I ever thought it would, and by seeing what we will be walking into before hand will either let a Soldier know that this isn't something they want to pursue, or give those that would have been perhaps overwhelmed the chance to advance and improve in the areas that they will be tested in. Some of our Soldiers are great leaders, but have not been around the standards that will be expected at this course, especially those juggling the civilian and military lives that our Reserve Force does. I feel that it gives those people the opportunity to prepare, and thus the opportunity to succeed, where they may have otherwise not been ready too if they had arrived without the knowledge that this course gave them.

“In my opinion, I think every Soldier that intends to go to WOC Basic should attend PRE-WOC,” Coppage said. “If I had stepped off the bus in Alabama and had not experienced what I experienced in PRE-WOC, I would have been unprepared. It's the little things like having the standard issue combat boots, to having brown T-shirts that all match and are not faded that would cost you time and money while your in WOC Basic. Also, PRE-WOC shows you what you can expect for the four weeks and decide now whether or not it's something you still want to pursue. The introduction to the dining rights will help me be prepared for dining in WOC Basic. In all, I think every WOC from the Virginia National Guard should experience this class before they go.”

Coppage said he actually enjoyed the experience. “The hardest part was not breaking a smile when everyone around me was doing pushups and I knew that it was only a matter of time before it would be my turn,” he said.

 “The purpose was to receive initial training on the Warrant Officer course” Lucas said. “Candidates were to get a general idea of what to expect when reporting for school. The TAC Officers were very knowledgeable and helpful. Even though they were tough on their standards and protocol, it was very beneficial for me and everyone else. I would assume because it was a little dose of reality. I was made aware of my own weakness and advised on how I could make improvements. Overall this was an excellent initial course. I would highly recommend this for anyone who desires to be a Warrant Officer. I have no negative feedback at all, again this was very rewarding.” 

As you can see the course is high impact, and it really will show you the challenges of WOCS. After that, it is up to you to decide if you want to accept them before you go to Fort Rucker. Snook said, ”This course relieves some of the stressors associated with the rigorous training environment. All staff and TAC officers are graduates of the Warrant Officer program and possess a commission from the secretary of the Army.” The 166th Regiment is committed to assist every individual Soldier to succeed in becoming a Warrant Officer. And if you would like more information on the course, or your are interested in attending, contact Chief Warrant Officer James Robison at (434) 298-6431 or e-mail him at james.robison@va.ngb.army.mil.

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