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Waynesville woman among 10 new National Guard warrant officers
Waynesville woman among 10 new National Guard warrant officers

Diana Eberharter, of Waynesville, has her warrant officer rank pinned on her by Lt. Cols. Michael Winkler and Ryon Richmond during her warrant officer candidate school graduation at Fort McClellan, Ala.
FORT McCLELLAN, Ala. (Oct. 30, 2009) — Ten Missouri Army National Guardsmen from six different branches recently graduated from the Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort McClellan, Ala. That follows training in the 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Leonard Wood.

It was a moment of exuberance for the newly-pinned warrant officers.

“I had finally accomplished my goal — it was a long road,” said Warrant Officer Diana Eberharter, of Waynesville. “I was glad to be finished.”

Warrant Officer Jesse Darden, of Columbia, said it was the fulfillment of his childhood dream to fly for his country.

“I have wanted to be a military aviator since age 3,” said Darden, who is now an aviator with the 3rd Battalion, 135th Theater Aviation Battalion, of Lebanon. “My dream is becoming a reality. I have gained a deeper commitment to my country and the United States Army. I feel that I am now in a position to truly serve where my greatest potential and passion lies.”

“I would not have made it this far without key people and supporters in my life. I am grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way,” Darden said.

Three of the newly-pinned officers from Missouri earned honors at the course.

Warrant Officer Quentin Friend was named an honor graduate, while Warrant Officers Ryan Newlon and Shawn Snitker made the commandant’s list, which signifies that they were in the top 10 percent of the more than 120 graduates representing 17 states and one territory.

Also graduating from Missouri were Eberharter, Darden, Douglas Bax, Andrea Lawrence, Michael Morgan, Joseph Pirak and Kimberly Whitaker. The class from Missouri began and ended with 10 soldiers.

“It’s a challenging course and it’s important to work as a team,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Eagan, warrant officer strength manager for the Missouri National Guard. “You have to gradate the course as an individual, but the course instills a lot of teamwork. They stuck together through the whole course.”

Darden, who is the state assistant warrant officer strength manager, said teamwork was definitely how the class overcame the trials of warrant officer candidate school.

“Everyone handles stressful situations differently,” he said. “Learning to overcome those differences and complete our perspective missions was challenging. The Warrant Officer Corps brings with it a wealth of experience. We used out professional and life experience to overcome every challenge that we faced.”

Soldiers went through three phases of training on their path to becoming warrant officers. The first phase was 80 hours of online learning. The second phase consisted of training over six drill weekends at the 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Leonard Wood. The third phase culminated the training with 15 days at Fort McClellan.

“The institute is a great program and it’s a great option for people who want to become warrant officers,” Eagan said. “It allows them to complete the course over drill weekends and by doing a two-week annual training. They have to do that duty anyway just to be in the National Guard. It facilitates a person who has a pretty busy career or is going to school.”

To complete all the training, Soldiers had to perform physically and mentally. In the second phase, candidates had to complete a 2- and 4-mile march with a 20-pound pack and weapons. In the third phase, the distance was 10 kilometers.

In the classroom, candidates were taught several subjects, including military history, Army operations, heritage of the warrant officer, officer customs, courtesies and traditions, troop leading procedures and combat orders.

The training at Fort McClellan, Eberharter said, helped her expand her skills.

“The things I learned at warrant officer candidate school, gave me an opportunity that I never would have gotten here at the unit. It was training that I don’t have a lot of experience in, being in administration,” said Eberharter, who is a human resources technician for the Missouri regional training institute. “For example, marching troops. You just don’t do a lot of that working in an office.”

“But it takes a little time to get used to it, going from a noncommissioned officer to an officer,” she said. “As a noncommissioned officer, you are used to doing everything, while as an officer; you’re in more of a supervisor role.”

Also representing the Missouri National Guard at the third phase of training were Chief Warrant Officers 3 Daniel Verslues and Keith Wilcox, who both acted as training, advising and counseling officers

Verslues and Wilcox performed in the same role for the Missouri Guardsmen during phase two, but at phase three, they were separated into different platoons with training, advising and counseling officers from other states and one territory, as were each of the warrant officer candidates.

“We were mixed with other candidates and other training, advising and counseling officers,” Eberharter said. “I think that went real well. It gave us a different perspective on various cultures. We learned to work as a team and overcome barriers that we might face in our units at home.

Eberharter said she appreciated the support the class received at the graduation from their fellow high-ranking Missouri National Guardsmen who attended.

“That we had the state support meant a lot,” she said. “They presented us with certificates and coins. Chief Eagan also showed his support by giving us National Guard/Warrant Office Rising Eagle backpacks filled with warrant officer items to get us started in our new careers. The regional training institute staff also showed their support by congratulating us on a job well done.”

Those Guardsmen included Col. John Anderson, commander of the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, Lt. Col. North Charles, 140th Regiment commander, Lt. Col. Ryon Richmond, the regiment’s 2nd general studies battalion commander, Lt. Col. Michael Winkler, the institute’s administrative officer, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Arthur Schlender, the command chief warrant officer of Joint Force Headquarters for the Missouri Guard, Eagan and Command Sergeant Major Matthew Jenkins, the former state command sergeant major.

“Having 10 soldiers going through warrant officer candidate school for Missouri is significant because that’s a pretty large amount of people going through that course,” Eagan said. “We wanted to represent Missouri right, and also support our graduates.”

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