Written by Bob MacPherson

Navy Warrant Officer Badge

Retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer Two, Bob MacPherson, took umbrage with our VBC Magazine‘s article, “What Is a Warrant Officer?” “It has more errors than Pittsburgh has potholes,” he said. Specifically, Bob says the article failed to describe Navy Chief Warrant Officers adequately. Bob shares his story and corrections below.

Most of us take an enormous amount of personal pride in getting to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. The Navy in my generation technically had no Warrant Officers. The beginning of our journey was as a Chief Warrant Officer. But saying that is the beginning is a misnomer.

You begin as an E1 and as you advance in rank, you develop your technical skills and abilities. You are consistently ranked against your peers year after year and keep learning higher level skills. In my career, for instance, I completed over sixty two technical and leadership schools. At each level, you complete technical and leadership courses and must pass a competitive fleet wide exam. Many never make it past E-6 or First Class Petty Officer. There is no shame in that. They are fine technicians. But at each level, it gets harder and more complicated. And competitive.

To make Chief Petty Officer, you complete written course work, take a fleetwide exam, and go before a board. You compete against hundreds of people who have had similar experience and achievements. Your assignments and sea time all factor in. And your ability to lead must have solid evidence.

The national board makes the final decision and the successful candidates are given a permanent appointment as a Chief Petty Officer in your technical field.

I was a Machinist Mate Chief with a Submarine Service designation. I served on five nuclear powered submarines and the Trident Training Facility school, the most advanced technical training the Navy maintained at that time besides advanced nuclear power schools.

I was a Master Training Specialist, command Career Counselor and certified as a Submarine Auxiliary Technician among other sub specialties.

Only a permanent Chief Petty Officer could then apply for Chief Warrant Officer  and only in the technical field you were experienced in. My field was non-nuclear Submarine Engineering Technician 7131.

The competition for the limited openings is even fiercer than the Chief’s process. The year I entered the competition, there were 1300 of the very best Chiefs in the Navy competing for what would end up being 13 slots.

You go through a local board of officers, complete an extensive package of application and are scrutinized for everything you have done in the past ten or more years. Then the completed package goes to a national level where people you have often never met give further scrutiny to your achievements.

Of the 13 Machinist Mate Chiefs advanced to CWO2 that cycle,  I personally knew over half. They truly were the best of the best. I was number 11.

You receive a full Commission from the President of the United States. To say that I was proud to accept that on July 1,1990 at the Submarine Memorial in Pearl Harbor would be the largest understatement of my life. I had not done well academically before entering the Navy but the Navy gave me a great chance to become a commissioned officer. My family was three generations Navy and I was the first. I later graduated with honors from college and I credit the Navy with giving me the skills I needed to learn. My second and one third careers were all directly impacted by that extensive training.

No one is given Chief Warrant Officer. The barriers and obstacles are countless. It is probably why most of us took umbrage at the way this article was written.

Mustangs in the Navy have a saying.

I did it the hard way… I earned it.

Thanks for understanding.

Bob MacPherson

Chief Warrant Officer Two

US Navy (retired)

Bob MacPherson is a retired Navy CWO2 and currently works as Chief of Staff for Westmoreland County Commissioner Douglas Chew.