Warrant Officers 

Abbreviation Pay Grade and Rank Army Air Force (discontinued 1959) Navy / Coast Guard Marine Corps
- Warrant Officer 1
U.S. Army Warrant Officer 1 Rank Insignia
U.S. Air Force Warrant Officer 1 Rank Insignia

Discontinued 1975
USMC Warrant Officer 1 Rank Insignia
- Chief Warrant Officer 2
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rank Insignia
U.S. Air Force Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rank Insignia
U.S. Navy & U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rank Insignia
USMC Chief Warrant Officer 1 Rank Insignia
- Chief Warrant Officer 3
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rank Insignia
U.S. Air Force Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rank Insignia
U.S. Navy & U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rank Insignia
USMC Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rank Insignia
- Chief Warrant Officer 4
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rank Insignia
U.S. Air Force Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rank Insignia
U.S. Navy & U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rank Insignia
USMC Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rank Insignia
- Chief Warrant Officer 5
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rank Insignia


Established 2002
USMC Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rank Insignia

In the United States military, a warrant officer was originally, and strictly, a highly skilled, single-track specialty officer. Many of today's warrant officers hold bachelor's and masterís degrees, and serve in a broader capacity than their predecessors. Their expertise and contribution to the U.S. military as a community is ever-increasing.

Currently, there are five different ranks authorized by Congress: W-1 through W-5. W-5 is a relatively new addition to the rank structure having been created by The Warrant Officer Management Act in 1992.

Upon the initial appointment to W-1 a warrant is issued by the secretary of the service, and upon promotion to chief warrant officer (W-2 and above) they are commission 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. Despite these similarities, warrant officers are generally not referred to as "commissioned officers" perhaps mostly as a method of disambiguation between the two classes of officer.

Though in theory warrant officers are specialists, in contrast to commissioned officers who are generalists, warrant Officers may occupy positions within the military that are normally held by more senior commissioned officers, especially in the Navy where chief warrant officers often fill lieutenant and lieutenant commander billets. In fact, modern 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.

Each branch of service utilizes these ranks differently, most notably the Air Force who no longer uses the distinction. Only a very small percentage of the other services' officers are Warrant Officers; therefore little is known or published concerning the chief warrant officer, and consequently they are often misunderstood by the un-indoctrinated.

Air Force

The United States Air Force no longer employs warrant officers.

The USAF inherited warrant officer ranks from the U.S. Army at its inception in 1947, but their place in the Air Force structure was never made clear. When Congress authorized the creation of two new senior enlisted ranks in 1958, Air Force officials privately concluded that these two new "supergrades" could fill all Air Force needs then performed at the warrant officer level, although this was not publicly acknowledged until years later. The Air Force stopped appointing warrant officers in 1959, the same year the first promotions were made to the new top enlisted grade, Chief Master Sergeant. Most of the existing Air Force warrant officers entered the commissioned officer ranks during the 1960s, but tiny numbers continued to exist for the next 21 years.

The last active duty Air Force warrant officer, CWO4 James H. Long, retired in 1980 and the last Air Force Reserve warrant officer, CWO4 Bob Barrow, retired in 1992. Since then, the U.S. Air Force warrant officer ranks, while still authorized by law, are not used. The W-5 grade was authorized by Congress for use by the Air Force along with the other armed forces, but was never used.


The Army Warrant Officer is a technical expert, combat leader, trainer, and advisor. The purpose of the Army WO is to serve in specific positions which require greater longevity than the billet duration of commanders and other staff officers. The duration of these WO assignments result in increased technical expertise as well as the leadership and management skills that make them so effective for the Army. Many Army flight officers are Warrant Officers.


The Army Warrant Officer program began with the Headquarters Clerk in 1896 [1]. Although originally viewed as a civilian, Army Judge Advocate General review designated them as members of the military. Since that time, the position of WO in the Army has been refined as both technical expert and leader. Today, Army Warrant Officers serve as technical and tactical experts and leaders in 45 basic WO Military Occupational Specialties [2]. They serve in 15 specialty branches of the Army [3], spanning the Active service, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve. They also serve at every level from section or team to the upper echelons of the Army.

Most Warrant Officers begin as enlisted, where they gain their initial levels of technical expertise and knowledge of the Army's systems. The exception is the Aviation WO who has no comparable enlisted specialty, and so draws from all MOSs, all the services, and even accepts highly qualified civilian applicants. After selection to the Warrant Officer program, all candidates attend the Army's Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS), which is collocated with the Warrant Officer Career Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Upon graduation, each candidate attends training at their respective branch's Warrant Officer Basic Course where they learn advanced subjects in their technical area before moving on to their assignments in the Army.

Regardless of rank, Army Warrant Officers are officially addressed as either Mr. or Ms., although the informal and technically incorrect "Chief" is widely used.


Warrant Officer 1 (WO1)
Appointed by warrant from the Secretary of the Army, WO1s are technically and tactically focused officers who perform the primary duties of technical leader, trainer, operator, manager, maintainer, sustainer, and advisor.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2)
CW2s become commissioned officers by the President of the United States. They are intermediate-level technical and tactical experts who perform increased duties and responsibilities at the detachment through battalion levels.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3)
CW3s are advanced-level experts who perform the primary duties of a technical and tactical leader. They provide direction, guidance, resources, assistance, and supervision necessary for subordinates to perform their duties. They primarily support operations levels from team or detachment through brigade.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4)
CW4s are Senior-level experts in their chosen field, primarily supporting battalion, brigade, division, corps, and echelons above corps operations. They typically have special mentorship responsibilities for other WOs and provide essential advice to commanders on WO issues.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5)
CW5s are master-level experts that support brigade, division, corps, echelons above corps, and major command operations. They provide leader development, mentorship, advice, and counsel to Warrant Officers and branch officers. CW5s have special Warrant Officer leadership and representation responsibilities within their respective commands.

Marine Corps

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.

An enlisted Marine can apply for the Warrant Officer program after serving at least eight years of enlisted service, and reaching the grade of E-5 (Sergeant) for the administrative warrant officer program and E-7 (Gunnery Sergeant) for the weapons warrant officer program. If the Marine NCO is selected, he or she is given additional training in leadership and management. The duties Marine warrant officers typically fulfill are those that would normally call for the authority of a commissioned officer, however, require an additional level of technical proficiency and practical experience that a commissioned officer would not have had the opportunity to achieve.

While Marine warrant officers may often be informally referred to as "gunner", this title is actually reserved for a special category of chief warrant officers known as the "Marine Gunner" or "Infantry Weapons Officer", who serve in the MOS 0306. These Marines serve as the senior weapons specialists in an infantry unit, advising the commanding officer and his staff on the proper use and deployment of the current Marine infantry weapon systems. The title "Gunner" is almost always used in lieu of a rank for these Marines (e.g., "Gunner Smith" as opposed to "Chief Warrant Officer Smith"), and the rank insignia worn on the left collar or shoulder is replaced with a "bursting bomb", similar to the insignia inside the rank chevrons of a Master Gunnery Sergeant.

Unlike the Army, Marine Warrant Officers are never referred to as "Mister" or "Ms."


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. An enlistment program, called the "Chief Warrant Officer Program" (CWO) is available to senior noncommissioned officers (E-7 through E-9), and is one of only a few ways for an enlisted member of the US Navy to become commissioned without a 4-year college degree.

The US Navy and US Coast Guard do not use the W-1 grade of Warrant Officer and only the grades of Chief Warrant Officer are used (W-2 through W-5). The Navy began using W-5 in 2002

Chief Warrant Officers should not be confused with Limited Duty Officers.

Coast Guard

The warrant officers in the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are similar to those in the U.S. Navy, but may be found in command of smaller stations and some boats. They wear insignia essentially like that of their Navy equivalents, but add the USCG shield above the specialty mark, as Coast Guard commissioned officers do with their rank insignia. While the Coast Guard has been authorized use of the CWO5 grade, to date, it has not done so. The current ranks in the Coast Guard are CWO2, CWO3 and CWO4.

Public Health Service

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is planning to add warrant officers in grades W-1 through W-4 in 2006. Addition of a W-5 would require action by Congress, and is not anticipated at this time. Initial specialities will include associate's degree nurses, laboratory technicians, and paramedics. Rank insignia will be identical to that of U.S. Navy warrant officers, with the USPHS badge replacing the specialty insignia.