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  #1  
Old 05-05-2011, 09:54 AM
sweeteviljesus sweeteviljesus is offline
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What is the difference between a Warrant Officer and an NCO?

Warrant officers don't have commissions, correct?

Thanks,
Rob
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  #2  
Old 05-05-2011, 10:18 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus View Post
Warrant officers don't have commissions, correct?

Thanks,
Rob
This is true, but it's kind of like "invertebrate" in zoology or Calvinist Christians' tendency of calling all non-Calvinists Arminians: a classification that is defined as "Not X" is often so broad as to be useless.

NCOs in the strict sense are enlisted men who have been promoted to positions where they are in authority over others (officers) but who have not been made commissioned officers (Army/AF second lieutenant, Navy ensign and up) by act of Congress or the President. (Brevetting, giving someone a temporary rank to match their assignment, enters into this but is irrelevant to the definition -- the idea is that if you're stuck due to casualties without an officer, better make the experienced Master Sergeant/Master Chief a brevet Looie than any other available choice; he may not have the specific training of a commissioned officer, but he has leadership experience to get you past a bind.)

Warrant Officers, in contrast, are people in specialized military positions who have been named as such by warrants, and fit into the gap between the Lord High Master Chief Sergeant Major Petty Officer of the World In General and the newbie O-1 commissioned officer, with the ink still wet on his commission.
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:32 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
This is true, but it's kind of like "invertebrate" in zoology or Calvinist Christians' tendency of calling all non-Calvinists Arminians: a classification that is defined as "Not X" is often so broad as to be useless.

NCOs in the strict sense are enlisted men who have been promoted to positions where they are in authority over others (officers) but who have not been made commissioned officers (Army/AF second lieutenant, Navy ensign and up) by act of Congress or the President. (Brevetting, giving someone a temporary rank to match their assignment, enters into this but is irrelevant to the definition -- the idea is that if you're stuck due to casualties without an officer, better make the experienced Master Sergeant/Master Chief a brevet Looie than any other available choice; he may not have the specific training of a commissioned officer, but he has leadership experience to get you past a bind.)

Warrant Officers, in contrast, are people in specialized military positions who have been named as such by warrants, and fit into the gap between the Lord High Master Chief Sergeant Major Petty Officer of the World In General and the newbie O-1 commissioned officer, with the ink still wet on his commission.
I think you may have left out a word, or maybe just have some awkward phrasing in your second paragraph. NCOs (E-7 to E-9) are just senior enlisted and are never in a position of authority over officers unless it's in a special training venue. I was a Navy Chief, and while an officer might respect my opinion on something, he was the guy giving the orders.

Warrant Officers are neither fish nor fowl: former enlisted, but not commissioned. They are supposedly the technical experts of the officer corps, and I know the Army uses them as chopper pilots. They weren't all that common in the Navy, at least not in the Seabees.
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:35 AM
mlees mlees is online now
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Warrant Officers get to eat in the wardroom, though, and salutes are rendered to them. Not so with NCO's.
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:57 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by mlees View Post
Warrant Officers get to eat in the wardroom, though, and salutes are rendered to them. Not so with NCO's.
They also have access to the CO that enlisted men don't, and can be valuable spokesmen for enlisted mens' issues.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:00 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
I think you may have left out a word, or maybe just have some awkward phrasing in your second paragraph.
I'm going with awkward phrasing, that he meant that NCOs are officers in that they are in authority over others, not that NCos are in authority over officers.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:17 AM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Just to cloud the issue further, Warrant Officers above W01 (The lowest grade) actually are Commissioned Officers.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:20 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I'm going with awkward phrasing, that he meant that NCOs are officers in that they are in authority over others, not that NCos are in authority over officers.
Correct. (NCO's are "officers" in the sense they have authority over others, but not officers in the sense that they hold a commission -- nor of course do they have any authority over commissioned officers, quite the reverse.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:20 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Warrant Officers are neither fish nor fowl: former enlisted, but not commissioned. They are supposedly the technical experts of the officer corps, and I know the Army uses them as chopper pilots. They weren't all that common in the Navy, at least not in the Seabees.
I'm not sure that most of them are former enlisted. In my Army days, the only warrant that I met that wasn't a chopper pilot did happen to be former enlisted; he was a technical specialist at one of our electronics depots. But all of the chopper pilots were exclusively chopper pilots by initial training and became warrants directly.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:22 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I'm going with awkward phrasing, that he meant that NCOs are officers in that they are in authority over others, not that NCos are in authority over officers.
Pretty thin, man. I was in charge of others when I was an E-3, but am pretty sure from all the yelling that nobody thought of me as an officer.
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  #11  
Old 05-05-2011, 11:33 AM
bump bump is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post

Warrant Officers, in contrast, are people in specialized military positions who have been named as such by warrants, and fit into the gap between the Lord High Master Chief Sergeant Major Petty Officer of the World In General and the newbie O-1 commissioned officer, with the ink still wet on his commission.

The important part here being "specialized military positions". Historically, this concept comes from back in the 17th and 18th centuries, when ships had the "ship's company" (which is still a term you'll hear used), headed by a captain, and staffed by a few lieutenants, and with a whole bunch of enlisted sailors, some of whom were petty officers, just like a land infantry company (petty officer = sergeant, at sea)

The other specialists needed to run a ship, such as the Master, the Gunner, the Purser, etc... were hired and given a 'warrant' which was a sort of document attesting that they were to be given special respect and recognition due to their technical expertise and standing within the ship, even though they are not within the direct chain of command.

So they weren't officers per-se, but they weren't common seamen (or NCOs) either.

This eventually moved over from the Royal Navy into various militaries, and for much the same reasons. For example, the US Army doesn't necessarily want non-commissioned helicopter pilots, but nor do they want them all to be commissioned officers either, so most are warrant officers.

NCOs on the other hand are enlisted men who have been promoted from within the ranks.

Last edited by bump; 05-05-2011 at 11:34 AM..
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  #12  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:17 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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My understanding is that when someone who isn't a commissioned officer is doing a job that would normally be done by a commissioned officer (pilot, for instance), you give that person a warrant. They have as much authority as is needed to do the job.
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  #13  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:29 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus View Post
Warrant officers don't have commissions, correct?
Warrant Officers from W-2 to W-5 are commissioned, but the term "commissioned officer" is reserved for officers O-1 to O-10.
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  #14  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:41 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I'm going with awkward phrasing, that he meant that NCOs are officers in that they are in authority over others, not that NCos are in authority over officers.
Basically, there seems to be a terminology game here. "Officers", standing alone in the context of the military, tends to mean "commissioned officers", but in realilty, the definition of "officer" is someone who holds a position of authority. NCO's (Corporal and above, I believe), can be assigned to have authority over other enlisted personnel, and I think could even be placed over a commissioned officer as part of a very specific activity. I do believe that the general "chain of command" can be flexed when specific project teams are formed for a specific purpose, as opposed to the general chain of command. E.g. Sergeant Jones might be selected as "project manager" for a base beautification project, and newly minted 2 Lt Smith might be assigned to help out in order to familiarize him (Lt. Smith) with local base procedures as kind of a gentle introduction to the base. In that case, Sgt. Jones would have some localized authority over the officer for the purposes of that project.

Think drill sergeants - they have authority over the lowly recruit privates in his class, right? But the Captain or Colonel in charge of the boot camp has more general authority over training.
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  #15  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:46 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Is a First Sergeant similar to a NCO?

My dad's last post was an Air Force First Sergeant (his rank was Master Sergeant). He worked directly under the base commander. He handled a lot of administrative duties for the enlisted men. He was the one that called at 2AM when someone got arrested off base. I feel very sorry for those guys.

Last edited by aceplace57; 05-05-2011 at 12:47 PM..
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  #16  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:56 PM
steronz steronz is online now
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First Sergeant is a rank modifier based on a specific position, so someone would be a Master Sergeant (Senior NCO) as well as a First Sergeant, for example. When he leaves that position, he'll still be a MSgt but he won't be a first sergeant anymore. First sergeants don't supervise people directly, but instead act as a liaison between the commander and the enlisted force. Effectively, they're like the vice principal in a high school.

In the Air Force (not sure about the army), first sergeants aren't addressed as such. You may refer to the first sergeant, the first shirt, or tell someone to "go see the shirt." But if you were addressing the person you would say "Master Sgt Smith" instead of "First sergeant Smith".
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  #17  
Old 05-05-2011, 01:10 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Is a First Sergeant similar to a NCO?

My dad's last post was an Air Force First Sergeant (his rank was Master Sergeant). He worked directly under the base commander. He handled a lot of administrative duties for the enlisted men. He was the one that called at 2AM when someone got arrested off base. I feel very sorry for those guys.
Are you sure he was only a Master Sergeant (E-7) and not a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9)? The latter is more likely if he was working directly for the base CO.
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Old 05-05-2011, 01:46 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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I called Dad. He said he was a MSgt. When he finished his tour in Viet Nam (working on instruments) the doctors found he had significant hearing loss and they took him off the flight line. He was made First Sgt and then retired after three more years.

Dad had been a supervisor in the instrument shop for years. I guess that gave him the skills for his later position.
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:31 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I called Dad. He said he was a MSgt. When he finished his tour in Viet Nam (working on instruments) the doctors found he had significant hearing loss and they took him off the flight line. He was made First Sgt and then retired after three more years.

Dad had been a supervisor in the instrument shop for years. I guess that gave him the skills for his later position.
Perhaps he was First Shirt for his squadron, then. The senior enlisted on a military base is almost always an E-9.
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  #20  
Old 05-05-2011, 10:38 PM
yoyodyne yoyodyne is online now
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Pretty thin, man. I was in charge of others when I was an E-3, but am pretty sure from all the yelling that nobody thought of me as an officer.
They probably thought of you as petty though.
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  #22  
Old 05-07-2011, 12:41 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
My understanding is that when someone who isn't a commissioned officer is doing a job that would normally be done by a commissioned officer (pilot, for instance), you give that person a warrant. They have as much authority as is needed to do the job.
Wow that is really wrong.

In the Army some branches have WOs. Not all of them. By branch I mean Intelligence, Engineers, Aviation.. not Army, Air Force.... Each branch has its own requirements. All but Aviation require you to be a former NCO. Each WO has to go through warrant officer candidate school after a very lengthy selection process. No one is just given a warrant. For the most part WO slots are set up to be non-command slots which have a need for authority. That is not to say that WOs do not have personnel under them. They have positions like Battalion Motor Officer. Those slots are set up specifically for WOs not jobs "that would normally be done by a commisioned officer". Under certain circumstances a Warrant Officer can be placed in command of a unit although they generally are not if a commisioned officer is available. They are officers and their authority is the same as any other officer to those of lesser rank. Their authority does not change do to what job they have. At least no more than any other officer or NCO.

The reason why the Army uses warrants as pilots is a good one IMO. Any commissioned officer needs to get promoted or gets kicked out. All LTs need command time at the company level and above. Its a very steep pyramid. So out of the 30 something pilots in a company, if all of them were LTs they would all be fighting for that one CPT slot per company. Then they would have to worry about getting the proper staff positions, schools, getting set up for battalion command.... A warrant officer pilot just has to fly from the time he starts till he retires.

Last edited by Loach; 05-07-2011 at 12:43 PM..
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  #23  
Old 05-07-2011, 11:53 PM
bump bump is offline
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
The reason why the Army uses warrants as pilots is a good one IMO. Any commissioned officer needs to get promoted or gets kicked out. All LTs need command time at the company level and above. Its a very steep pyramid. So out of the 30 something pilots in a company, if all of them were LTs they would all be fighting for that one CPT slot per company. Then they would have to worry about getting the proper staff positions, schools, getting set up for battalion command.... A warrant officer pilot just has to fly from the time he starts till he retires.
That makes sense... how do the Air Force, USMC and Navy do it then? Don't their pilots have to be commissioned officers, not warrant officers?
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  #24  
Old 05-08-2011, 01:54 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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A very US Centric description I must say.

In Commonwealth countries, Warrant Officers are Senior NCO's.
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  #25  
Old 05-08-2011, 02:06 AM
CutterJohn CutterJohn is offline
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Never saw a navy pilot that wasn't commissioned. There may be small boat captains that are warrants.

Legend has it that Adm Rickover wanted to make all the nuclear operators warrant officers. That would have been very weird, and I imagine there would have had to be some further muddling of the chain of commands.. I can't imagine having a day1 newb outrank a chief from another division, yet alone 500 of them(as the case would have been on the enterprise), or WO1 bilge cleaners..
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Old 05-08-2011, 02:38 PM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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The US seems to be an outlier, in that WO=specialists. You don't have technical branches like Engineers in the US Military?
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Old 05-08-2011, 02:43 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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The US seems to be an outlier, in that WO=specialists. You don't have technical branches like Engineers in the US Military?
Engineers are combat arms like infantry. Infantry that can do math.

There are WOs in the engineer branch. Most are not.
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Old 05-08-2011, 02:59 PM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Engineers are combat arms like infantry. Infantry that can do math.
Woh. Careful!
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:06 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Woh. Careful!
Do YOU want a 11b to tell you how close you should be when something goes boom?
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:34 PM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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Engineers are combat arms like infantry. Infantry that can do math.
They have to know math. After all, it's not as if they can count with their fingers.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:00 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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The US seems to be an outlier, in that WO=specialists. You don't have technical branches like Engineers in the US Military?
The Navy Civil Engineer Corps.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:01 PM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Do YOU want a 11b to tell you how close you should be when something goes boom?
I'm an 11B with a 144 GT and a 148 TECH score. I can figure it out myself.




Any other 11B? Well. . . I can see your point.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:27 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Aptitude does not equal knowledge.

loach 12B
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  #34  
Old 05-08-2011, 05:07 PM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is offline
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The US seems to be an outlier, in that WO=specialists. You don't have technical branches like Engineers in the US Military?
Yes, and those branches will have proper commissioned officers and NCOs and junior enlisted in the appropriate positions. WOs fill a specific niche for highly skilled experts in a particular field who you want to outrank the enlisted/NCO "laborers" but you do not want to force to play in the up-or-out promotion track politics with the commissioned-officer "general managers".

As mentioned, the WO concept started in the US with the naval services, carried over from British naval practice, "back when" it was applied to those people in important positions aboard who were not really the ones sailing the ship -- the ships' surgeon, or the gunner for instance. Later on came the concept of staff corps or limited-duty commissioned officers, but the WO option remained open for other specialties. Now they are fully trained and integrated members of the force, but the WO category helps fill a niche.

Now, nothing actually requires the WO grades to exist universally or be used the same way in all services: the US Air Force stopped naming new WOs in 1961 when the E8 and E9 grades were introduced, instead spreading their former functions among upper senior enlisted and junior staff officers. The Navy and Coast Guard don't have a W1 but rather everyone enters prior-enlisted as a CW2; the Army's helo pilots may join up straight as WOC rather than do time as enlistees first, etc.



Regarding First Sergeants and the such:

As mentioned earlier, in British/Commonwealth armies, "Warrant Officer" refers to certain Senior Enlisted ranks, not a third category as in the US. A Brit WO may in turn also hold the appointment of Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant or whatever. Your rank is WO, your appointment is CSM, and you are addressed by your appointment.

In the US Army, meanwhile, an E9's rank title IS Sergeant Major; if s/he in turn has an appointment to be the senior enlisted adjutant to their batallion/brigade/post commander, then the rank title, not just the appointment, becomes Command Sergeant Major.

In the US Marines and Army "First Sergeant" is the same sort of combined rank+appointment title, for an E8 who's the senior enlisted adjutant of a company or its equivalent. In the Marines it's even more so a fixed rank: you don't "lateral" between 1stSg and MSgt as you can in the Army. In the Air Force OTOH you can be a First Sergeant in grades E7 thru E9 depending on the size of the unit.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 05-08-2011 at 05:12 PM..
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Old 05-08-2011, 07:29 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by JRDelirious View Post
Yes, and those branches will have proper commissioned officers and NCOs and junior enlisted in the appropriate positions. WOs fill a specific niche for highly skilled experts in a particular field who you want to outrank the enlisted/NCO "laborers" but you do not want to force to play in the up-or-out promotion track politics with the commissioned-officer "general managers".

As mentioned, the WO concept started in the US with the naval services, carried over from British naval practice, "back when" it was applied to those people in important positions aboard who were not really the ones sailing the ship -- the ships' surgeon, or the gunner for instance. Later on came the concept of staff corps or limited-duty commissioned officers, but the WO option remained open for other specialties. Now they are fully trained and integrated members of the force, but the WO category helps fill a niche.

Now, nothing actually requires the WO grades to exist universally or be used the same way in all services: the US Air Force stopped naming new WOs in 1961 when the E8 and E9 grades were introduced, instead spreading their former functions among upper senior enlisted and junior staff officers. The Navy and Coast Guard don't have a W1 but rather everyone enters prior-enlisted as a CW2; the Army's helo pilots may join up straight as WOC rather than do time as enlistees first, etc.



Regarding First Sergeants and the such:

As mentioned earlier, in British/Commonwealth armies, "Warrant Officer" refers to certain Senior Enlisted ranks, not a third category as in the US. A Brit WO may in turn also hold the appointment of Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant or whatever. Your rank is WO, your appointment is CSM, and you are addressed by your appointment.

In the US Army, meanwhile, an E9's rank title IS Sergeant Major; if s/he in turn has an appointment to be the senior enlisted adjutant to their batallion/brigade/post commander, then the rank title, not just the appointment, becomes Command Sergeant Major.

In the US Marines and Army "First Sergeant" is the same sort of combined rank+appointment title, for an E8 who's the senior enlisted adjutant of a company or its equivalent. In the Marines it's even more so a fixed rank: you don't "lateral" between 1stSg and MSgt as you can in the Army. In the Air Force OTOH you can be a First Sergeant in grades E7 thru E9 depending on the size of the unit.
There's also the position of Senior Enlisted Advisor, sometimes referred to as the rank of E-10 (no such thing, of course). This is the Sergeant Major of the Army, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, etc. I believe the position comes with extra pay.
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