Warrant officers: They are the technical experts of the U.S. Army. They are tasked with the invaluable responsibility of becoming subject-matter-experts in their career field and serve as advisors, mentors and trainers. Warrants typically ascend from the noncommissioned officer ranks within their military occupational specialty.
However, Warrant Officer Karinn Hemingway, a Maryland Army National Guard member, became one of few warrant officers to be selected without being a NCO. Her diverse experience in the military and the civilian world allowed her to gain the necessary skills and knowledge she needed to dive into the warrant officer program.
“I think it would be very different if I was on active-duty,” explains Hemingway. “I don’t think I would have had the flexibility to work in the many different roles that gave me the experience to become a warrant officer. Being in the Guard has made it possible for me to work my full-time civilian job, attend college, obtain certifications, and still serve.”
A former specialist in the 110th Information Operations Battalion, Hemingway has over 10 combined years of military service as a telecommunications operator and maintainer and civilian experience in the information technology and cyber fields.
Hemingway started her military career on active-duty in the U.S. Army working at the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Washington, D.C. area.
After completing an initial active-duty enlistment, Hemingway focused on completing both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. During her decade-long break in service, she worked as a government contractor spending time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Upon returning home from her second contract in Afghanistan, Hemingway decided to re-enlist into the Army again – this time into the Virginia Army National Guard, before coming to the MDARNG.
Between those enlistments, her military career field had merged with another. Despite her years of experience in and outside of the military, she was no longer qualified in her previous MOS. Frustrated with the situation, she began to consider alternative career paths, such as commissioning or switching to a different branch of service, said Hemingway.
However, she realized commissioning could potentially take her out of the field she has specialized in for years. After attending a Future Formation event, a program intending to help retain Soldiers near the end of their enlistment contracts, she shifted her direction and pursued the path of becoming a technical warrant officer.
“I think that was the best decision for me because I wanted to stay in [my career field],” expressed Hemingway.
It was this same decision that led her to meet Chief Warrant Officer 2 Curtis Taylor, the warrant officer strength manager of the MDARNG Recruiting and Retention Battalion, who guided her through the initial process.
“One of the first things [that stood out] was her poise and demeanor,” explains Taylor. “You could tell how focused and determined she was to achieve this goal. Second, you could tell that she was wise beyond her rank. Which begged the question, ‘why are you just a specialist?’”
Her rank as a specialist would be a unique challenge when submitting her warrant officer packet, as typically most warrant officer career fields have a minimum NCO rank requirement. Despite this hurdle, Hemingway gathered everything she needed for her packet and went in front of a board to prove her qualifications.
“Normally technical warrant [officers] require a certain amount of expertise,” explains Hemingway. “You’re supposed to be the subject-matter-expert for your job specialty. For technical warrant [officers], you tend to have people that are more seasoned and have been in their career for a long time.”
At first glance, a specialist would be assumed to have minimal experience in their field, Taylor explains. However, you often see a higher level of experience and education from junior ranking Guard members who enter the military equipped with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“I think the difference with active duty is you [often] have two jobs in the Guard,” explains Taylor. “You have your civilian job and then you have your [military job]. So, you’ve already shown you’re capable of managing several different tasks.”
Knowing she had the experience and skills to set herself apart, Hemingway and Taylor poured over the prerequisite requirements to be a technical warrant within her career field and discovered highly experienced specialists could be considered for selection.
While Hemingway may not have necessarily satisfied the rank requirement, she certainly had more than enough experience in her specialty. Her separation from active-duty service and the flexibility of the National Guard both provided the space and time for her to gain the experience and the training she needed to be awarded her MOS qualification and satisfy the requirements to be selected as a warrant officer candidate.
“Being in the Guard has allowed me the ability to work in numerous roles in my civilian career,” explains Hemingway. “All of the skills that I learned [during advanced individual training] and throughout my military career were the baseline for me continuing on in that role in my civilian job.”
Once her packet was approved, Hemingway shipped off to Warrant Officer Candidate School where she learned the foundational leadership skills. Upon graduating, she had officially joined the ranks of warrant officers.
Hemingway’s next step is to go through Warrant Officer Basic Course to become fully qualified in her technical specialty. Until then, she will fulfill the role of mentor for any service member looking to tap into her vast knowledge and skill set.
Throughout her career, she was no stranger to mentoring many of her peers and co-workers.
“I guess they felt like I was easier to talk to than their leadership,” explained Hemingway. “I became the person they would always come and talk to.”
Between her knowledge and approachable demeanor, she was the go-to person for many people. She had already experienced a lot of the things other people had questions about and was happy to help. With her combined civilian and military experience she will be able to share her diverse knowledge and skills with those looking for guidance into the warrant officer program and beyond.