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The first 14 of an anticipated 30 new chief warrant officers recently received their commissions as part of the Navy’s effort to ease the shortage of pilots and aviation experts by promoting enlisted sailors.

Earlier this year, the Navy, sought sailors in the pay grades E-5 to E-7 to convert to warrant officers. The new officers will become fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter pilots, or naval flight officers, who control electronic or weapons systems in aircraft.

“The competition was extraordinarily keen” and those who were selected demonstrated superior job performance on evaluations, above-average aviation standard test battery scores, and strong grade-point averages in college, reads a Naval Administration Message updating the program’s status.

Four of the 14 graduates already had civilian pilot’s licenses and seven had served as enlisted aircrew, according to a synopsis of the program. Two of the 14 have bachelor’s degrees.

Of the 69 applicants for pilot, 42 met the qualifications and 10 were selected, statistics show. Of the 45 applicants for naval flight officers, 25 were qualified, and four selected.

The next board will meet in July to select another 10 pilots and six naval flight officers.

“If I’d known about it, I would have tried to push myself more to get into the program,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Bielski, an aviation support equipment technician at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

“This would be a great program, a great motivator,” said the 26-year-old sailor. “We need more warrant officers … (leaders) who know how us blue shirts (enlisted sailors) go about doing our work, know what we do because they’ve been in our shoes.”

Traditionally, the Navy’s warrant officers come from the senior enlisted ranks. For this program, however, the requirement was dropped to E-5 so the sailors could be commissioned by their 27th birthday for pilots, or 29th birthday for naval flight officers.

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