Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The warrant officer corps began in the 13th century in the nascent British Royal Navy. At that time, nobles assumed command of the new Navy, adopting the Army ranks of lieutenant and captain. These officers often had no knowledge of life on board a ship —let alone how to navigate such a vessel or operate the guns— and relied on the expertise and cooperation of a senior sailor who tended to the technical aspects of running the ship and operating the cannons.
These sailors became indispensable to less-experienced officers and were rewarded with a royal warrant. This warrant was a special designation, designed to set them apart from other sailors, yet not violate the strict class system that was prevalent during the time.
In the British armed forces, a warrant officer is effectively a senior non-commissioned officer, although he or she holds the Queen's (or King's) warrant. Warrant officers are not saluted, but are usually addressed by their juniors as Sir or Ma'am.
In the British Army, there are two warrant ranks, Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) and Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1), which is the senior of the two. It used to be more common to refer to these ranks as WOII and WOI (using Roman instead of Arabic numerals). The rank immediately below WO2 is staff sergeant.
Every warrant officer has an appointment, and is usually referred to by his appointment rather than by his rank.
Warrant officers were generally introduced throughout the British Army under Army Order 70 of 1915, although Regimental Sergeant Majors and a few other appointments (beginning in 1879, when Conductors of Stores and Supplies were warranted), had been warranted before that time. These earlier warranted appointments, and some others, became WOIs. The appointments that were designated WOIIs had previously been senior sergeants.
WO1s wear a royal coat of arms on the lower sleeve, which may be surrounded by a wreath depending on appointment. Appointments held by WO1s include:
- Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)
- Regimental Corporal Major (RCM)
- Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM)
- Academy Sergeant Major (AcSM)
- Staff Sergeant Major (SSM)
- Staff Sergeant Major 1st Class (Obsolete)
- Foreman of Signals Sergeant Major
- Clerk of Works Sergeant Major
- Conductor (Cdr)
- Sub Conductor (Obsolete)
- Bandmaster (BM)
- Farrier Corporal Major
- Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI)
- Company Sergeant Major (CSM)
- Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM)
- Battery Sergeant Major (BSM)
- Squadron Corporal Major (SCM)
- Band Sergeant Major (BSM)
- Band Corporal Major (BCM)
- Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS)
- Regimental Quartermaster Corporal (RQMC)
- Foreman of Signals Quartermaster Sergeant
- Clerk of Works Quartermaster Sergeant
- Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor (QMSI)
From 1938, there was also a rank of Warrant Officer Class III. The only appointments held by this rank were Platoon Sergeant Major , Troop Sergeant Major and Section Sergeant Major . The WOIII wore a crown on his lower sleeve (All WOIIs had a crown in a wreathat the time). The rank was placed in suspension in 1940 and no new appointments were made, but it was never officially abolished.
WOs are officially designated using their rank and appointment. For instance, WO2 (CSM) Smith or WO1 (BM) Jones. However, they would usually be referred to as CSM Smith and Bandmaster Jones. WO2s are often referred to as Sergeant Major, Corporal Major, Quartermaster Sergeant or Quartermaster Corporal (or Q) as appropriate, but WO1s are only ever referred to using their full appointment or its abbreviation (RSM White or Garrison Sergeant Major Black, for instance).
The three most senior warrant officer appointments in the British Army are generally considered to be, in descending order of seniority, the Conductors, the Academy Sergeant Major and the Garrison Sergeant Major, London District, although there is some debate about their precedence within the army.
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force inherited the ranks of Warrant Officer Class I and II from the Royal Flying Corps, part of the Army, in 1918. It also inherited the rank badges of the Royal Arms and a crown respectively. Until the 1930s, these ranks were often known as Sergeant Major 1st and 2nd Class. In 1939 the RAF abolished the rank of WOII and retained WOI as simple Warrant Officer, which it remains to this day. The RAF has no equivalent to WO2 (NATO OR-8), WO being equivalent to WO1 (NATO OR-9) and wearing the Royal Arms. Warrant officers are addressed and referred to as Mr (Mr Smith etc).
In 1946, the RAF renamed its aircrew warrant officers Master Aircrew, a designation which still survives. In 1950, it renamed warrant officers in technical trades Master Technicians, a designation which only survived until 1964.
The Royal Marines has the same warrant ranks as the Army, Warrant Officer Class 1 and Warrant Officer Class 2. The insignia are the same, but all RM WO2s wear the crown-in-wreath variation.
The history of warrant ranks in the Royal Navy is complicated, but can be viewed in two parts:
- warrant officers who were definitely officers rather than ratings, similar to those in U.S. forces, up to the 1950s;
- warrant officers who were senior NCOs, like those in the British Army, from the 1970s on.
Originally, warrant officers were as described at the top of this article: professional seamen whose expertise and authority demanded formal recognition. These included the master, the gunner, the boatswain and the carpenter.
Their positions in the rank hierarchy depended on the precise nature of their jobs. Most outranked midshipmen (trainee officers): the master, the purser, the surgeon and the chaplain had the privilege of dining in the wardroom with the commissioned officers (and were known as "Warrant Officers of Wardroom Rank").
In 2004, the RN renamed the top rank Warrant Officer Class 1 and created the new rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 immediately below it, to replace the appointment of Charge Chief Petty Officer . The latter was a senior Chief Petty Officer, but not a substantive rank in its own right at the time when, amongst them, only the Charge Chief Artificers had gained partial recognition as a NATO OR-8 equivalent as with other WO2s.
Royal Navy warrant ranks are thus now the same as those in the Army and Royal Marines, and wear the same rank insignia: like RM WO2s (but unlike Army WO2s), all RN WO2s wear the crown-in-wreath variation.
The rank below WO2 is Chief Petty Officer.
In the United States military, a warrant officer was originally, and strictly, a highly skilled, single-track specialty officer. But as many chief warrant officers assume positions as officer in charge or department head, along with the high number of bachelor's and master degree's held within the community, their contribution and expertise as a community is ever-increasing.
There are no "warrant officers" per se in the U.S. Navy, but rather "chief warrant officer" is the correct title. In the U.S. Navy, a sailor must be in one of the top three enlisted ranks to be eligible to become a chief warrant officer.
In the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines, a person can progress to the warrant officer rank at a grade lower than E-7, and thus have a longer career and greater opportunity to serve and grow.
Upon the initial appointment to W-1 a warrant is given by the secretary of the service, and upon promotion to chief warrant officer (CWO-2 and above,) they are commissioned by the president of the United States, take the same oath and receive the same commission and charges as commissioned officers, thus deriving their authority from the same source.
Chief warrant officers can and do command detachments, units, activities, and vessels as well as lead, coach, train, and counsel subordinates. As leaders and technical experts, they provide valuable skills, guidance, and expertise to commanders and organizations in their particular field.
Even when commissioned, they remain specialists, in contrast to commissioned officers who are generalists, though many chief warrant officers fill lieutenant and lieutenant commander billets throughout the US Navy.
In the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines, CWO's may fill position normally held by more senior officers as well. The US Army has many pilots within the CWO community, which differs in philosophy from the other uniformed services. Often in a battalion sized unit, the assistant personnel officer (S-1) and the motor pool officer are warrant officers.
Each branch of the military "runs" the "Chief Warrant Officer" program in slightly different ways. Little is known or published concerning the Chief Warrant Officer, and consequently they are often misunderstood by the unindoctrinated.
A Chief Warrant Officer's benefits and privileges are roughly comparable to those of a junior commissioned officer, and should be at or above those of senior enlisted. A W-1 is paid the same as an O-1 (second lieutenant or ensign), a CW-2 the same as a 0-2 (first lieutenant), and so forth.
The last Air Force Warrant Officer retired in the mid 1990s, and since that point the Air Force rank of Warrant Officer has been considered obsolete.
The U.S. Army warrant officer is the highly specialized expert and trainer who, by gaining progressive levels of expertise and leadership, operates, maintains, administers, and manages the Army's equipment, support activities, or technical systems for an entire career. The Army program began with the warranted Headquarters Clerk in 1896.
The U.S. Marine Corps has warranted officers since 1916 as technical specialists who perform duties that require extensive knowledge, training and experience with particular systems or equipment. Their duties and responsibilities are of a nature beyond those required of senior noncommissioned officers. Marine Corps warrant officers provide experience and stability in the officer ranks in critical specialty areas. The primary purpose for warrant officers is to create and maintain a selected body of personnel with special knowledge of a particular military specialty.
Within the U.S. Marine Corps, the term "gunner" is used in place of "warrant officer" or "chief warrant officer" when addressing or referring to the warrant officer. This term of address is considered informal or "friendly" and its use is highly dependent on the protocol required by the particular situation and the warrant officer's expectations regarding military conduct and courtesy. Normally, it is considered disrespectful for a non-NCO (E-1 to E-3) to address a warrant officer as "gunner". By custom, NCO's and commissioned officers use the term only if situation is informal and is accepted by the warrant officer and his superiors.
In the U.S. Navy, warrant officers are technical specialists whose skills and knowledge were an essential part of the proper operation of the ship. Based on the British model, the U.S. Navy has had warrant officers among its ranks, in some form or another, since December 23, 1775, when John Berriman received a warrant to act as purser aboard the brig USS Andrea Doria. That warrant was considered a patent of trust and honor but was not considered a commission to command.
|Abbreviation||Paygrade and Rank||Army||Navy / Coast Guard||Marine Corps|
|WO1||Warrant Officer 1||(Obsolete)|
|CW2||Chief Warrant Officer 2|
|CW3||Chief Warrant Officer 3|
|CW4||Chief Warrant Officer 4|
|CW5||Chief Warrant Officer 5|
Republic of Singapore
In the Singapore Armed Forces, Warrant Officers are former non-commissioned officers (known as Specialists in Singapore) who have served for many years. Warrant Officers rank between specialists and commissioned officers, and can hold both specialist and officer positions. Thus one can see Warrant Officers serving as Regimental Sergeant Majors in certain units and Officers Commanding in other units.
There are four grades of warrant officer:
- 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO): insignia is a point up chevron, an arc below, and a Singapore coat of arms in the middle
- 1st Warrant Officer (1WO): insignia is two point up chevrons, an arc below, and a Singapore coat of arms in the middle
- Master Warrant Officer (MWO): insignia is three point up chevrons, an arc below, and a Singapore coat of arms in the middle
- Senior Warrant Officer (SWO): insignia is four point up chevrons, an arc below, and a Singapore coat of arms in the middle
Warrant Officers wear their insignia on their epaulettes, like officers, instead of on the sleeve like specialists and other soldiers. This signifies that Warrant Officers have similar status and responsibilities to commissioned officers.
- DoD Almanac. The United States Military Officer Rank Insignia. United States Department of Defense.
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