Welcome to USAWOA President’s Emeritus Home Page
My name is CW4 (Ret) Don Hess. (Deceased Sep. 2017)
I am a President Emeritus of our U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA). It pleases me that you seek to learn about our association as we enter our 27th year of service to the Army and the Warrant Officer Corps. “Our association” is the term we prefer to use. This is because the words “my” or “the” do not adequately express the true spirit with which we operate. Our association is made up of Army warrant officers, perhaps much like yourself, who believe in the value of “service.”
Many of us now serve on active duty or stand ready with the National Guard or Army Reserve. Others served honorably in the past and retired from an Army Warrant Officer career. All however, no matter our status, are concerned about the future and show commitment to serve our Nation. As members of our association we also serve the Army, the Warrant Officer Corps, the communities in which we live, and our fellow warrant officers.
Reflections by President Emeritus CW4 (Ret) Don Hess
during the 25th Anniversary USAWOA Annual Meeting of the Members
Fellow warrant officers and guests,
First, I want to thank all of you for attending. I now know what its like to attend as a member; no part of the preparation of the program; no title to influence anyone (as if a title would impress a bunch of warrant officers); and no responsibilities after the meeting. Today, I am here as a member. As a member, I am extremely pleased with the leadership of our Association. I know your officers and directors personally and I am confident we are in good hands.
In the past I had to attend. Sure, I wanted to be here. I can tell you I still want to be here. I plan to attend all future annual meetings as long as I am physically or mentally able to do so. I remember Al Holcombe in his later years saying to me at almost every annual meeting. “Do you guys and ladies really want me here? What can I contribute? I’m out of the net, I don’t understand all these changes, but if you guys really want me, I’ll be here to support the Association in any way I can.” And he did until he passed away. But Al left us his dedication and memories of what the Corps was like all the way back to the late 1930s and 40s. Like Al, I plan to be here and support the Association in any way I can. I can add my own memories of what the Corps was like in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Those combined memories are what triggered me to believe that the Corps could be improved if an organization existed to push the bureaucracy to better utilization of the talent available within the Corps.
Pauline and I live in the mountains. We love it there. Not only is it beautiful, it is symbolic of our lives. We often take people to the top of the mountain where you can see both sides of the mountain. On the one side you can see the familiar sights, our home, neighbors, progress and civilization. Looking down that side of the mountain, I thought of the people who were and are instrumental in who I am and how I arrived at this point in my life. It is also symbolic of my experiences with our Association. I thought of the USAWOA and what it has meant to me for 26 plus years. How I was taught and hopefully taught others what it means to be the best warrant officer you can be. How, with many of you here in this room, we struggled together, through the good and bad times to make the Warrant Officer Corps better for us and for the Army. How all of us have spent countless hours in committee and board meetings; how we grew in understanding what it meant to put your name and your reputation on the line for something you believed in. How we developed friendships that last through the years, regardless of the distance involved. How we saw each other develop confidence to try new and different ways of doing business.
Looking down from that side of the mountain, I remember how proud the members of the Association were when we inched up that mountain step by step. I remember when the Secretary of the Army and the DCSPER spoke at our earliest Annual Meetings. I remember when we got field grade quarters for warrant officers in the 70s; when the Warrant Officer Division was first formed; when the first warrant officer was assigned to DCSPER and DCSOPS.
I remember when CW4 Frank Stamey was the first warrant officer in history to earn the General Staff Badge for service on the Army Staff; when warrant officers were approved as voting members on warrant officer promotion boards; when the first Warrant Officer Senior Course was established; I remember when CW3 Tom Hennen became the first warrant officer to orbit the earth; when they cut the ribbon opening the Warrant Officer Career Center, symbolizing that warrant officer education was here to stay. I remember the Total Warrant Officer Study (TWOS) and the historic Warrant Officer Management Act (WOMA). I remember the first Master Warrant Officer Course and the first CW5 promotions.
I remember when the Association spread its eagle wings and became a member of the Council of Military Organizations (COMO) and a founding member of The Military Coalition (TMC). A giant step forward in expanded opportunities for recognition among other associations and opened doors to the Congress, the Administration, and even the White House.
I cite all these firsts to show that once given the opportunity to expand into new areas where our predecessors were denied, we did it with pride and professionalism. These first warrant officers, and those who followed them, were pioneers who set the standard for performance at a highest level. That’s why the Corps today is different from the Corps I knew when I pinned on a W1 bar in 1961.
Today, if each one of you would reflect back on your career, you too can recall many mountaintop firsts in your personal lives and your Association experiences. That’s what all of us see today when we look down from the top of the mountain. That’s the side we know because we have lived it. It’s our history. But what’s on the other side of the mountain for the Warrant Officer Corps and for each one of us personally? I don’t know, but I do know this: We can’t stay on this mountaintop because there are other mountains to climb. We look back down the side we have climbed and we are proud of our accomplishments. Then we look on the other side of the mountain and it can be scary. It is virgin territory; it is undeveloped. Warrant officers today have an opportunity to take the Corps to even greater heights down the other side, through the valleys where people sweat, strain, swear and strive to reach a higher mountain.
Unlike the early days, the Association now has a Futures Plan and a Strategic Plan to chart its course into the future. Take the time to read and understand what the Association is attempting to do for you, the Corps and our Army. Be involved and encourage others to be involved. In the past we have answered the question of what has the Association done for me by citing our past accomplishments. It’s time to move into the future and tell our fellow warrant officers what the Association can do now and in the future. We have proven ourselves capable of any task the Army has given us. The future of the Corps is in our hands.
I love my mountain, but I know there are bigger mountains out there and part of the struggle and part of the fun is attacking those mountains. It’s still fun for me. When it is no longer satisfying and fun then, I’ll consider staying on my mountain and taking it easy. But I’m not ready to do that just yet. I want to stay involved. That’s why I have accepted additional responsibilities with the USAWOA, took on the challenges of the Warrant Officer Committee of the Reserve Officers Association (ROA), and Director responsibilities with The Retired Officers Association (TROA). I believe that the professional warrant officers of yesterday, today and tomorrow deserve all the representation and recognition they can get. Until the Warrant Officer Corps is fully integrated into the main stream of the officer corps, I’ll keep going to meetings, writing letters, tilting at windmills, and maybe even pushing some of them over.
See you around.
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