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What is a Marine Corps Warrant Officer?

By Paul Woods
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Marine Corps warrant officer is a category of rank in the Marine Corps branch of the U.S. armed forces. Warrant officers in all branches of the U.S. military, except the Air Force, which discontinued the designation, fill a role between top enlisted ranks and lower-level officer ranks. A Marine Corps warrant officer would be expected to have more technical expertise in particular areas than top enlisted personnel and serve in a position requiring the authority of an officer.

The rank of warrant officer was created shortly before the U.S. entry into World War I. With increasing technical expertise required because of more sophisticated war-fighting equipment, warrant officers were selected from the top non-commissioned officer ranks. These officers served under a warrant of service as opposed to a commission from the president as in the case of commissioned officers. In 1943, the Marine Corps aligned its warrant officer ranks with those of other services, creating two categories of service, warrant officer and commissioned warrant officer. Marine Corps warrant officers now have five ranks, warrant officer one and chief warrant officer two through five, which is consistent with the other branches of service.

The Marines divide the warrant officer program into administrative duties and a weapons-area program. The administrative Marine Corps warrant officer program accepts applicants with at least eight years of service who have attained the grade of E-5, which is the non-commissioned rank of sergeant. For the weapons warrant program, applicants must have at least 16 years of service and at least have reached the grade of E-7, which is the non-commissioned rank of gunnery sergeant.

Those attaining the Marine Corps warrant officer rank receive training above and beyond that required of non-commissioned officers in both the administrative and weapons programs. Weapons program members also received advanced instruction in the use of and maintenance of the particular weapons systems to which they are assigned. In both programs, warrant officers attend a command training course designed to enhance their management capabilities.

The warrant officer concept began in the British Royal Navy and has been incorporated in other services. In the U.S. warrant officer ranks, including the Marine Corps, warrant officer one (W-1) appointments are approved by the secretaries of the various services, in this case the Secretary of the Navy. Warrant officer two through five (W-2 to W-5) ranks are commissioned by the president and may serve in advisory and support functions at various headquarters levels.

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Discussion Comments
By anon232029 — On Nov 28, 2011

@Backdraft: Marines never refer to themselves as soldiers. They also know enough to capitalize the word Marine. Since I doubt that you are telling the truth, you should know that you don't "make" Warrant Officer. You apply to be appointed as a Warrant Officer. That doesn't mean you would have been chosen. Don't get too wrapped up about it. Semper Fidelis, An active duty CWO3

By chivebasil — On Oct 20, 2011

It seesm like the job of warrant officer would be more relevant than ever. The world is becoming more and more technological every day. I'm sure this is the case even more in the military. There are probably not too many soldiers who do not have an understanding of technology and its various uses in the armed services.

And, when I think about drone planes, laser guided missiles, night vision goggles and advanced radars I can only imagine how much training and expertise it takes to keep these systems running.

By backdraft — On Oct 19, 2011

I served in the marines at the beginning of the decade and I almost made it to warrant officer. I had been moving up the ranks pretty steadily and was all set to receive my training to work with advanced weapons systems. Then something happened, something I still cannot quite explain and I was out of the marines within a year.

I don't want to call it a crisis of conscience. I had thought about my responsibilities as a soldier many times and did not have any particular qualms about what we were asked to do. But I just couldn't see myself making a life this way and stepping up to warrant officer would have just ties me to the corps more tightly. I think I made the right choice.

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