Warrant Officer

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Warrant Officer , also warrant officer ( WO ; English for "authorized superior") designates a rank group in Anglophone armed forces , which is to be classified between officer corps and corps of NCOs. In German-speaking countries, these correspond roughly to the historical ranks of sergeant-major and deck officer in the navy, as well as the rank of ensigns in the former GDR . The warrant officer has a special superior relationship that represents a hybrid position between the careers of NCOs and officers (with officers' license ). In the US armed forces he is considered a "specialist service officer with rank below lieutenant".

Classification in the hierarchy

In the countries of the English-speaking area, warrant officers are high-ranking non-commissioned officers ( NCO ) who rank directly below the officers. In Great Britain , the WO are recruited from long-serving professional NCOs. The closeness of this rank group to the NCO corps also results from the posts and their designations. In contrast, the WO in the US armed forces form a separate career group between the NCOs and the officers . This is mainly made up of applicants with a higher school or university degree who are promoted directly to WO after completing a two-year training course ; the previous run through the sergeant's career is now rare in the USA.

The hierarchical differences can be seen in the classification in the NATO rank code system : The British WO are counted among the NCOs ( Other Ranks ) with the classification OR-8 and OR-9; their rank corresponds to that of the staff sergeants and chiefs sergeants of the armed forces or the officer deputies and vice-lieutenants of the Austrian armed forces . Closely related to the rank of a WO is the position for which there is no equivalent in the Bundeswehr, as in a battalion sergeant. The US-American WO are classified as Warrant Officers in the special levels WO-1 to WO-5. The latter are comparable in terms of their technical competence to the officers of the military technical service of the Bundeswehr, but do not enjoy their authority. If the term was translated into German, the term specialist officer or specialist service officer 1st class ( 2nd class , etc.) would be more or less appropriate. A translation with sergeant lieutenant is more problematic : although this rank was formally an officer until its abolition in 1920, it was ultimately only the “top position” that non-commissioned officers could achieve in peacetime. He did not form his own career group and did not have a certificate of competency in the form of a patent , in contrast to today's warrant officers in the US armed forces.

In the former allies of the Warsaw Pact , the career group of ensigns forms the counterpart, in Germany the deck officers no longer occupied after the First World War and, until the Second World War, the rare fortress master craftsmen and farrier trainers (each with a promotion grade).


The Warrant Officer Corps originated in the Royal Navy of England in the 18th century . The hierarchy of warrant officers was always headed by the helmsman, who enjoyed similar privileges as the lieutenant. He was followed by civilian experts such as the steward, the ship's doctor and - on larger ships - the chaplain. As a rule, the bosun responsible for on-board discipline, the carpenter and the chief gunners / fireworkers rose from the seaman's career. The cook was also one of the WO .

These specialists authorized a royal power of attorney or appointment ( Royal warrant ), which was notarized and issued to them by the Navy Board after passing an aptitude test . This guaranteed the WO a certain degree of independence from the regular naval officers, which set them apart from the simple petty officers , whose promotion (and demotion) depended solely on the will of the ship's commander.

The Royal Warrant was referring solely to the specialty of their carrier, so gave them no comprehensive authority as identified by the Department of the Navy ( Royal Admiralty ) with a royal officer's ( Royal Commission had appointed) naval officers. The WO therefore always remained a subordinate of the naval officer; the barriers of class between the experts of lower origin (only a few of whom managed to become regular officers) and the commanders from the upper social classes were thus preserved. Outwardly, this fact was expressed in the delayed uniformity of the WO, which was not carried out in the Royal Navy until 1787 . In addition, their Royal Warrant was made of paper, while the Royal Commission of Naval Officers was made of more valuable parchment.

Usage today

United Kingdom

In the British armed forces , warrant officers are still high-ranking non-commissioned officers ( NCO ), although, like the officers, they have a royal power of attorney ( Queen’s or King’s warrant ). Before WO will not have to salute, but they are from the lower ranks with Sir or Ma'am addressed. All British WO come from the ranks of the non-commissioned officers.

British Army

Bermuda Regiment Warrant Officers.

The British Army has had two WO ranks since 1915 , Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2; NATO rank code OR-8) and the higher-ranking Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1; NATO rank code OR-9). In general, however, the information is given with Roman numerals ( WOII and WOI ). The next lower rank to WO2 is the Staff Sergeant (NATO rank code OR-7).

With Army Order 70 of 1915, the WO in the British Army were standardized because there were previously authorized NCOs who, as Regimental Sergeant Major, had filled the post of highest NCO in infantry and cavalry regiments since 1879 . The higher post of Regimental Sergeant Major was now filled by a WOI and the post of Company / Squadron Sergeant Major by a WOII.

Each warrant officer has a specific role and is generally referred to by this.

WO1 wear the royal coat of arms as a badge on their sleeves, which can be surrounded by a wreath, depending on the use. Uses for WO1 are:

Badge WOI
  • Academy Sergeant Major (AcSM)
  • Accountant Sergeant Major (no longer used)
  • Armament Sergeant Major
  • Armourer Sergeant Major
  • Artificer Sergeant Major (ASM)
  • Bandmaster (BM)
  • Bugle Major
  • Clerk of Works Sergeant Major
  • Conductor (Cdr)
  • Draftsman Sergeant Major (no longer used)
  • Drum major
  • Farrier Corporal Major
  • Farrier Sergeant Major
  • Foreman of Signals Sergeant Major
  • Foreman of Works Sergeant Major (no longer used)
  • Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM)
  • Lithographer Sergeant Major (no longer used)
  • Master Gunner 1st Class
  • Master Gunner 2nd Class
  • Orderly Room Sergeant Major (ORSM)
  • Pipe major
  • Regimental Corporal Major (RCM)
  • Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)
  • Royal Artillery Sergeant Major
  • Saddler Sergeant Major
  • Schoolmaster 1st Class (no longer used)
  • Sergeant Major (obsolete)
  • Senior Band Sergeant Major (SBSM)
  • Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI)
  • Staff Sergeant Major (SSM)
  • Staff Sergeant Major 1st Class (no longer used)
  • Sub-Conductor (no longer used)
  • Superintending Clerk
  • Surveyor Sergeant Major
  • Trumpet Major

WO2 wear a crown as a badge on their sleeve, which in Quartermaster Sergeants can be bordered with a wreath. Between 1938 and 1947 this applied to all WO2 (see below: WO3). Uses for WO2 are:

  • Armament Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Armourer Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Artificer Quartermaster Sergeant (AQMS)
  • Band Corporal Major (BCM)
  • Band Sergeant Major (BSM)
  • Battery Sergeant Major (BSM)
  • Bugle Major
  • Clerk of Works Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Company Sergeant Major (CSM)
  • Draftsman Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Drill Sergeant
  • Drum major
  • Engineer Clerk Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Farrier Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Foreman of Signals Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Foreman of Works Quartermaster Sergeant (no longer used)
  • Garrison Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Lithographer Quartermaster Sergeant (no longer used)
  • Master Gunner 3rd Class
  • Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant (ORQMS)
  • Pipe major
  • Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor (QMSI)
  • Regimental Quartermaster Corporal (RQMC)
  • Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS)
  • Saddler Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Squadron Corporal Major (SCM)
  • Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM)
  • Staff Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Surveyor Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Technical Quartermaster Sergeant (TQMS)
  • Troop Sergeant Major (TSM)
  • Trumpet Major

Since 1938 there has also been the no longer used rank of Warrant Officer III (WO3). The only uses of these ranks are as platoon sergeant major , troop sergeant major, and section sergeant major . WO3 wore a crown as a badge on their sleeve, which is why all WO2 wore a crown surrounded by a wreath as a badge during this time. The rank was abolished in the 1940s and no new soldiers were hired at that rank, but the rank itself was never officially abolished.

WHERE are supposed to indicate their rank and their use, for example WO2 (CSM) Smith or WO1 (BM) Jones . However, they are mostly addressed as CSM Smith or Bandmaster Jones . WO2 in the use of a Sergeant Major or Corporal Major are often called Sergeant Major or Corporal Major . WO1, on the other hand, are only addressed with their full usage title or its abbreviation, for example RSM or Garrison Sergeant Major .

How WHERE are addressed, like much else in the British Army, depends heavily on the traditions of your regiment or corps. However, there are rules of thumb:

  • WO1 are normally addressed by officers as Mr. Name and as Sir or Mr. Name by their subordinates. (for female WO1 Mrs. or Miss Name , Ma'am )
  • the commanding officer , and he alone, has the privilege of calling his Regimental Sergeant Major that. For all others, the normal form for WO1 applies.
  • WO2 are usually called Sergeant Major , Corporal Major , Q (for Quartermaster Sergeants ) or Sir and Ma'am .

The four highest WO uses in the British Army are in descending order:

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force (RAF) took over the WO ranks from the British Army's Royal Flying Corps in 1918 , as did the respective insignia. Until the 1930s, the ranks were known as Sergeant Major 1st and 2nd Class . In 1939 the RAF abolished the rank of WO2 and retained that of WO1 as Warrant Officer to this day .

Today's WO (NATO rank code OR-9) carries the royal coat of arms as a badge on the sleeve. WHERE are called Mr. , Mrs. , Miss or Sir and Ma'am by their subordinates . They don't have different usage names, like in the British Army or the Royal Marines.

The next lower rank is the flight sergeant and the next higher is the pilot officer , the lowest officer rank.

In 1946 the RAF renamed the Warrant Officers of their aircrews to Master Aircrew and in 1950 their technical WO to Master Technicians . In contrast to the Master Technician , who only survived until 1964, the Master Aircrew is still a rank in the RAF today.

Royal Marines

The Royal Marines (RM) have the same WO ranks as the British Army, and the badges are the same, with the exception of WO2, which wear the wreath-rimmed version of the crown as badges.

As in the Army, all WO have a usage title with which they are addressed.

WO2 uses are:

  • Company Sergeant Major
  • Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
  • Band master
  • Corps Drum Major

WO1 uses are:

  • Regimental Sergeant Major
  • Band master
  • Corps band master
  • Corps Bugle Major

The lower rank to WO2 is the Color Sergeant , the RM equivalent of the Staff Sergeant . In contrast to the Army and the RAF, the WO of the Royal Marines are located in the career of the officers.

Royal Navy

The history of warrant officers in the Royal Navy (RN) is complicated, but it can be broken down into two sections:

  • WO ranks belonged to the officer career until the 1950s and are comparable to those of the US armed forces.
  • From the 1970s onwards, WO ranks are high-ranking non-commissioned officers ( NCO ) like in the British Army.

Originally, warrant officers , as described in the introduction, were veteran sailors whose experience and authority were formally recognized. This included the Sailing Master (helmsman), the Gunner (gunner), the Boatswain (boatswain) and the Carpenter (ship carpenter).

Your position in the hierarchy depended heavily on your exact role. The senior midshipman (officer candidate), the chaplain, the surgeon and the steward were allowed to eat with the captain and the other officers in the officers' mess. These ranks were called the Warrant Officers of Wardroom Rank .

Since the 19th century more and more WO were made officers. In 1949 the Royal Navy stopped this practice.

In 1973 the RN created the rank of Fleet Chief Petty Officer (FCPO) as the equivalent of the British Army's WO1. This was renamed Warrant Officer in the 1980s .

Since 2004 there is also a WO2 in the RN, after the WO was made WO1, as in the Army. The WO2 replaced the usage title Charge Chief Petty Officer (CCPO). The latter was a senior chief petty officer, but not an actual rank. Only those with the special use as Charge Chief Arificier (a CCPO in a special technical use) were classified according to the NATO rank code in the OR-8 level, like other WO2.

The Royal Navy now uses the same WO ranks as the British Army and Royal Marines. They wear the same badges as the WO of the Royal Marines, the royal coat of arms (WO1) and the wreath-rimmed crown (WO2) as sleeve badges.


In the Australian Armed Forces , the Warrant Officers are the most senior non-commissioned officers.

Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has a WO rank, comparable to the Australian Army WO1. The equivalent of the Australian Army's WO2 is the Chief Petty Officer .

Australian Army

Like the British Army, the Australian Army has two WO ranks: WO1 and WO2. A WO2 may serve as Company Sergeant Major or various training or administrative positions. A WO1 can be used as a Regimental Sergeant Major ( RSM ) of a battalion or a comparable unit, as an RSM of a brigade or a larger unit, as well as occasionally for training or administrative positions.

Warrant Officer Class 1 can be promoted to Captain , this is then called the Prescribed Service Commission . It is very rare for such an officer to surpass the rank of major or to assume a command post.

The sleeve badge of the WO2 is a crown, whereas the WO1 has the Australian coat of arms as a sleeve badge.

Warrant officers in the Australian Army are addressed by their subordinates as Sir or Ma'am . Officers can address them by their usage title, for example Regimental Sergeant Major or Company Sergeant Major .

Royal Australian Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has a WO rank, comparable to the Australian Army WO1. The equivalent of the Australian Army's WO2 is the Flight Sergeant .

United States

In the US armed forces , a warrant officer was originally and entirely a specially trained officer. Over time, however, the WO corps grew rapidly and the WO also took on the tasks of responsible officers or department heads. Their involvement and their experience were more and more in demand because their qualifications rose steadily, because among the WO the proportion of those who have a Bachelor's and Master's degree is very high.

Warrant officers form their own careers in the hierarchy. If a soldier with the first rank the raceway group Officer 1 warrant ( WO1 ) is set, it receives by the Minister of the armed force , a proxy ( warrant ) for limited authority in his field exercise. When promoted to Chief Warrant Officer ( CW2 and above), soldiers are sworn in by the US President on the same oath as officers and thus receive the same form of authority ( officer's license ). From then on, they are technically officers and enjoy similar privileges and responsibilities.

In contrast to the officers, who have to be fully trained all-rounders, WO always remain specialists. Their authority remains limited to their area of ​​responsibility and does not extend to commanding combat operations. Chief Warrant Officers are an exception : They can command command departments, units and military vehicles as well as train, lead and advise subordinate soldiers. As military leaders and technical experts, they are an important resource for the commanders of their units. In the US Navy , CWOs are often used in posts that actually require the rank of Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander .

In the US Army and the US Marine Corps , CWOs can be used in positions similar to those in the US Navy. In contrast to the other branches of the armed forces, the US Army uses many of its warrant officers as (helicopter) pilots. In units from the battalion line up, WO are often deployed as adjutants, medical experts, or maintenance specialists.

Each of the branches of the armed forces has its own, slightly modified, Chief Warrant Officer career path. The WO benefits and privileges are the same as those of the officers, depending on the WO rank. Warrant officers receive almost the same basic salary as comparable officers. Since they sometimes have more years of service, the total salary including the age supplements is often higher.

For comparison:

* "US pay levels": see article of the respective armed forces ( USN , USA , USMC ) or ranks of the armed forces of the United States .

US Navy

In the US Navy (USN) there are actually no Warrant Officers , because the rank of WO1 is now usually skipped, so their correct designation is Chief Warrant Officer . In the US Navy and the US Coast Guard one must hold one of the three highest-ranking NCO ranks ( E-7 to E-9 ) in order to be employed as a CWO .

The US Navy's CWO are technical experts whose skills and experience play an important role in ship operations. Like the British, the US Navy has had WO , of one kind or another, in its ranks since December 23, 1775. On that day John Berriman received a warrant to serve as steward on board the USS Andrea Doria . The power of attorney was a patent of trust and honor, but not an officer’s patent that entitles them to command.

US Coast Guard

The Warrant Officers of the US Coast Guard (USCG) are similar to those of the US Navy, but can take as opposed command positions. They wear the same badges as their Navy counterparts, but with the USCG crest in the badge instead of the Navy crossed anchors. In addition, a badge of their area of ​​responsibility is worn above the badge of rank, just as USCG officers do with Navy officer uniforms. The Coast Guard does not use the CWO5 rank.

US Marine Corps

Since 1916, the US Marine Corps (USMC) has warrant officers as technical specialists who perform services that require extensive knowledge, training, and experience to deal with specific weapon systems or equipment. The duty and responsibility are higher than those of a senior non-commissioned officer. The CWO of the Marine Corps ensure stability in the officer ranks within critical areas of responsibility . The primary task of the CWO is to create and train a staff for their specific areas of responsibility.

Chief Warrant Officers ( CWO2 – CWO5 ) who serve in MOS ( Military Occupational Specialty ) 0306 Infantry Weapons Officer are given a special rank called Marine Gunner . A Marine gunner replaces the chief warrant badge on the right collar with an exploding bomb. Other chief warrants are sometimes referred to as gunner , but this designation is factually incorrect. The term Gunner is rather informal and its use depends heavily on the protocol framework of the situation and the CWO itself. It is usually considered a lack of respect for a team member ( E-1 through E-3 ) to speak to the CWO as Gunner . In normal day-to-day work, NCOs and officers only use the term in informal situations and if the CWO and its superiors allow it.

In the US Marine Corps and the US Army, unlike in the US Navy, a soldier can also move up from the lower non-commissioned officer ranks to the CWO . Therefore, these soldiers have longer CWO careers and greater opportunities for advancement.

US Army

The US Army Warrant Officer ( AWO ) is a highly specialized expert and trainer who is continuously trained in his area of ​​responsibility and in military leadership. He leads, manages and maintains equipment. The AWO manages his area of ​​responsibility or his technical equipment (for example a helicopter) for his entire service time. In the US Army , the CWO is usually addressed by his subordinates as Chief .

The AWO career began in 1896 with an office worker in the headquarters. In the Army, as in the USMC, it is possible to move up from the career of the lower NCO ranks to that of the AWO .

US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) has discontinued its warrant officer program.

When the USAF was separated from the US Army under the National Security Act in 1947 and became its own armed forces, it took on the career of warrant officers . However, her place in the Air Force hierarchy was never entirely clear. When the US Congress approved two new high ranks of non-commissioned officers in the late 1950s, the Air Force decided that these two ranks could fill the void in the chain of command and take over responsibilities previously assigned to the WO career .

From 1959, the USAF stopped hiring warrant officers . In the same year, the first promotions to the new NCO ranks ( Chief Master Sergeant ) were granted. Many of the existing WO rose to officers in the 1960s, however a small number remained in the career and served for an additional 21 years.

The last active warrant officer was Chief Warrant Officer James H. Long, who retired in 1980. CWO Bob Barrow, the Air Force Reserve's last warrant officer , retired in 1992. From that point on, the warrant officer ranks disappeared from the Air Force.

U.S. Forces Warrant Officer ranks

Warrant Officer 1 of the United States Navy
US pay level W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2 W-1
Epaulette WO5 USN CWO5.jpg WO4 USN CWO4.jpg WO3 USN CWO3.jpg WO2 USN CWO2.jpg USNWarrant1.jpg
Rank Chief Warrant Officer 5 Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chief Warrant Officer 2 Warrant Officer 1
abbreviation CWO5 CWO4 CWO3 CWO2 WO1
NATO rank code WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1
1 Like the US Army and the US Marine Corps , the Navy has warrant officers in its ranks. These soldiers can best be compared with officers of the military technical service in the Bundeswehr . They are specialists in their field with similar powers as a regular officer, but only in their professional assignment. In order to receive a warrant and to be appointed Chief Warrant Officer by the Secretary of the Navy , one must be a NCO at pay level OR-7 to OR-9 .
Warrant Officer 1 of the United States Marine Corps
US pay level W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2 W-1
Epaulette WO5 USMC CWO5.jpg WO4 USMC CWO4.jpg WO3 USMC CWO3.jpg WO2 USMC CWO2.jpg WO1 USMC WO.jpg
Rank Chief Warrant Officer 5 Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chief Warrant Officer 2 Warrant Officer 1
abbreviation CWO5 CWO4 CWO3 CWO2 WO1
NATO rank code WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1
1 Like the Navy and the US Army , the US Marine Corps has warrant officers in its ranks . With the exception of team soldiers, they can be addressed as Gunner in normal everyday work.
Chief Warrant Officers (CWO2-CWO5) who serve in MOS ( Military Occupational Specialty ) 0306 Infantry Weapons Officer are given a special rank called Marine Gunner . A Marine Gunner replaces the Chief Warrant badge on the right collar with an exploding bomb badge. Other chief warrants are also sometimes incorrectly referred to as gunner . These soldiers can best be compared with officers of the military technical service in the Bundeswehr . They are specialists in their field with similar powers as a regular officer, but only in their professional assignment. "WO-1" is the lowest pay level.
United States Army Warrant Officer
US pay level W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2 W-1
Epaulette ARMY CW5.png ARMY CW4.gif ARMY CW3.gif ARMY CW2.gif ARMY WO1.gif
Rank Chief Warrant Officer 5 Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chief Warrant Officer 2 Warrant Officer 1
abbreviation CW5 CW4 CW3 CW2 WO1
NATO rank code WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Member of the armed forces with rank below commissiones officers and above non-commissioned officers." ( The Advanced Lerner's Dictionary of current English. Oxford University Press, London 1963, p. 1128.)
  2. Federal Language Office: Military Study Glossary, English, Part I (L – Z) , p. 1249.