The Army National Guard and Army Reserve are looking for qualified soldiers who want to become warrant officers.

Here's what you need to know to decide of this is right for you, based on information provided by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mark Sutton, the warrant officer accessions manager with the Army Reserve Careers Division.

Q. Should I apply?

Qualified candidates can earn a bonus worth up to $20,000 for a six-year commitment. The lump-sum payment is awarded after graduation from Warrant Officer Candidate School.

They also can opt for up to $30,000 in student loan repayment, Sutton said.

The big payout is an effort to fill chronic warrant officer shortages in both the Reserve and Guard, with a total of more than 2,500 unfilled positions.

Sutton warned, however, that the bonuses are available as long as the money is available.

In the long-term, warrant officers are highly regarded as subject matter experts in their chosen field, Sutton said.

"Their commanders, as well as the enlisted soldier, relies on their technical expertise to make things function, to put things together, to make sure everything they need is working correctly," Sutton said.

Promotion rates in the warrant officer corps are healthy.

The selection rate for chief warrant officer 2 in the Reserve is 97 percent, Sutton said. It is 66 percent for promotion to CW3, and 64 percent for promotion to CW4. Promotions tighten up considerably for CW5, dropping to 18 percent, because there are only about 140 positions in that grade, Sutton said.

Warrant officers also make more money than those in the enlisted ranks.

Compared with an E-8, a CW3 with 16 years of time-in-service makes $1,392 more a year in reserve pay, and that doesn't include their pay for the two-week annual training, Sutton said.A CW4 with 20 years, compared with an E-8 with similar time in service, makes $2,568 more a year.

The monetary edge carries into retirement as well,   Sutton said.

"If they become a warrant officer and stay a warrant for eight years, they'll get promoted to CW3," he said. "Every retirement point they've earned as an enlisted soldier is paid at the CW3 level."

However, it's not always just about the money, he said.

"A lot of guys will tell you they don't care that the money's different," Sutton said. "They want to be the subject matter expert in their field, and they don't want to do anything else."

Q. What types of soldiers do they need?

The biggest demand, at least for the Reserve, is for qualified soldiers to fill positions in the 800, or marine, military occupational series.

"I'm looking for boat captains," Sutton said, including the 880A MOS (marine deck officer). "These are individuals that are pilots of some of the largest vessels in the world."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Javier Gonzalez, Camp Liberty Ammunition Supply Point accountability officer with the 25th Infantry Division and a Cross City, Fla. native, answers an Iraqi officer's questions about American ammunition June 8 at Victory Base Complex, Iraq. More than 20 Iraqi soldiers participated in the five-day class to train them to train others in the Iraqi army in the use and storage of American-made ammunition.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Javier Gonzalez, Camp Liberty Ammunition Supply Point accountability officer with the 25th Infantry Division and a Cross City, Fla. native, answers an Iraqi officer's questions about American ammunition June 8 at Victory Base Complex, Iraq. More than 20 Iraqi soldiers participated in the five-day class to train them to train others in the Iraqi army in the use and storage of American-made ammunition.

Ammunition warrant officer is one of the military occupational specialties the reserves are hoping to fill with candidates from the active force.

Photo Credit: Spc. Zane Craig/Army

Here's a full list, by MOS:

120A: Construction engineering technician

125D: Geospatial engineering technician

131A: Field artillery targeting technician

140A: Command and control systems technician

150A: Air traffic control technician

154F: CH-47 Chinook pilot

155A: Fixed-wing aviator (aircraft nonspecific)

155E: C-12 Huron pilot

155F: Jet aircraft pilot

255N: Network management technician

270A: Legal administrator

290A: Electronic warfare technician

350F: All source intelligence technician

350G: Geospatial intelligence imagery technician

351L: Counterintelligence technician

351M: Human intelligence collection technician

352N: Signals intelligence analysis technician

352S: Signals collection technician

420A: Human resources technician

640A: Veterinary services food safety officer

670A: Health services maintenance technician

740A: Chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological technician

880A: Marine deck officer

881A: Marine engineering officer

882A: Mobility officer

890A: Ammunition warrant officer

913A: Armament systems maintenance warrant officer

914A: Allied trades warrant officer

915A: Automotive maintenance warrant officer

919A: Engineer equipment maintenance warrant officer

920A: Property accounting technician

920B: Supply systems technician

921A: Airdrop systems technician

In the civilian world, qualified individuals are in high demand and can make up to $250,000 a year, Sutton said.

The component also is short in the 900 series (electronic system maintenance); there are about 22 enlisted MOSs that can feed into this career field, Sutton said.

"Just about any MOS that starts with a 9 is almost qualified to fill these jobs," he said.

Other key career fields include military intelligence, Criminal Investigation Command special agent, and health services maintenance. This includes technicians who repair X-ray machines, heart monitors and other specialized medical equipment.

Q. Am I eligible?

Sutton strongly encourages noncommissioned officers to apply.

"They've got the knowledge, skills and abilities and leadership," he said.

The primary target groups are soldiers who are sergeants, staff sergeants and sergeants first class.

The Reserve and Guard also are targeting NCOs who are leaving the active Army, Sutton said. The effort, led by Reserve Component Career Counselors, catches transitioning soldiers up to 12 months before their separation date.

"This allows them to be considered by the warrant officer board to be a warrant officer upon separation," Sutton said. "They can know up to 12 months out that they have been selected for a warrant officer position somewhere within the Army Reserve or National Guard."

Key requirements include:

* U.S. citizenship.

* A General Technical score of 110 or higher.

* A high school diploma or GED.

* The ability to obtain a secret clearance or better, which varies by career field.

* Ability to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (waivers can be obtained for the two-mile run) and the commissioning physical.

* At least 12 months remaining on your enlisted contract at the time of application.

Because of the six-year commitment, soldiers with more than 12 years of active federal service must get a waiver from the Army G-1 (personnel). Applicants must be younger than 46 (the age limit is 33 for aviation applicants).

For more on the requirements and the list of available military occupational specialties, visit http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/WOgeninfo_mos.shtml.

The Guard and Reserve also welcome applicants from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, Sutton said.

"We've probably had a half a dozen or so in the last 12 months," he said.

Q. How do I apply?

The Reserve has special missions NCOs across the United States who can help applicants interested in applying to become warrant officers, Sutton said.

The Army also has the application requirements outlined on its warrant officer recruiting page: http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/index.shtml.

Application packets must include:

* Department of the Army Form 61 (Application for Appointment) with valid height/weight and Army Physical.

* Fitness Test statement signed by the soldier's company commander).

* Letters of recommendation from the soldier's battalion and company commanders.

* Enlisted Record Brief, or equivalent document.

* NCO Evaluation Reports.

* Official Army photo.

Completed application packets must be sent as a PDF attachment by e-mail to usarmy.knox.usarec.mbx.9sbn-new-warrant-packets@mail.mil.

After allowing seven to 10 business days for processing, applicants can check the status of their packet at http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/.

Q. What happens next?

Applications are reviewed by warrant officer selection boards. The boards are made up of senior warrant officers from the active Army, Sutton said.

For the Reserve, a board meets every other month starting in November, Sutton said. Between 60 and 70 applications, on average, are submitted to the board every other months, and the selection rate is close to 100 percent, he said.

Soldiers selected to become warrant officers are in for "a demanding program initially," Sutton said.

They must attend Warrant Officer Candidate School, which is five to seven weeks long, depending on the soldier, followed by the Warrant Officer Basic Course.

"The soldiers we're looking for are soldiers that feel like they're being held back in their current grade or MOS, and they want to expand their horizon and increase their skills and abilities and really become decision-makers for the Army," Sutton said.