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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Army warrant officers will gather Friday to celebrate the 86th anniversary of their corps and usher in changes to their uniforms.

Beginning Friday, all Army warrants will replace the corps insignia, the Rising Eagle that has been the mark of an Army warrant since 1921, with the wide variety of branch insignias worn by the rest of the officer corps. Now, for example, warrants specializing in communications will wear the Signal Corps insignia.

While some say the changes are positive, others see it as a loss of cherished tradition.

“Warrant officers traditionally have not been treated as part of the officer corps. We’ve kind of been in this strange gray area between the noncommissioned officer and the regularly commissioned branch officer,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Albert Eggerton, the Army’s warrant officer personnel policy integrator, said in an Army statement announcing the change in the spring.

Still, some are sad to see the Rising Eagle retired.

“There’s certain nostalgia involved in the Rising Eagle,” said retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Bud Colburn, who now works as a civilian with the 66th Military Intelligence Group in Darmstadt. “It’s easily recognizable and there’s a proud history there. With the loss of that, there will be something missing.”

But, adds Colburn, “if this is a way of bringing pay parity up to the front and bringing more professional education and leadership opportunities, then the loss of the Rising Eagle is just one of the prices you have to pay.”

The change is “very controversial with strong positions on both sides,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dave Rocha, a communications expert in Stuttgart.

“The warrant officer insignia has come to be recognized as the symbol of the tactically and technically proficient officers of the Army — the seasoned experts within a given field,” he said. “Problem is, when you look at the insignia you don’t know what that given field is.”

The change will help solve that. It comes amid a wider overhaul of the warrant program, stemming from years of debate within the community and the Army as a whole.

“The Army must make fundamental changes in the warrant officer cohort to support full spectrum operations,” reads a July 2002 Army study. “At the heart of this change is a complete integration of WOs into the larger officer corps — a process begun in the late 1980s and never completed.”

Army leaders say they want to do just that. The Army message announcing the change in March stated the insignia swap is “a first step toward the full integration of warrant officer recruiting, accession, education and management into the branch-based systems of the larger officer corps.”

Warrants are now fully commissioned when they pin on chief warrant officer, putting them in the same legal standing as their “regular” officer counterparts, and allowing them to command units.

“For me, it’s a good thing because it will afford warrants greater opportunities for training as well as full recognition for what they’ve been doing for several years now,” Rocha said. “We’re going to finally get acknowledged for what we have been doing for the Army.”

Welcoming ceremony

The warrant officer welcoming ceremony will be Friday from 11 a.m. to noon in the Patch Chapel, Building 2305, at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.

All central European-based Army warrant officers — active duty, Reserve, National Guard and retired — are invited. All Army participants should wear Class A uniforms.

For additional information contact: Warrant Officer Rob Brister, DSN 431-2981 or by e-mail at robert.brister@us.army.mil; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nelly McKay, DSN 430-6567 or by e-mail at mckayn@eucom.mil; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dave Rocha, DSN 430-7019 or by e-mail at rochad@eucom.mil.


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