CAMP TAJI, Iraq — A total of 115,200 hours flown, a combined 710 years of service — lifetimes of military experience assembled in one group.
These sums belong to the most senior warrant officers of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, who met here May 24 to add up hours flown and years served in their lengthy careers.
The meeting was an opportunity for the officers to compare notes as the 1st ACB prepares to take over the mission from their 4th ID counterparts, who are set to return home in June.
For the officers, however, the event was mainly a chance to reflect on past and future achievements and the roles they play in the everyday activities of their brigades.
The most important job of any senior warrant officer is to mentor and guide junior officers, said Chief Warrant Officer Lance McElhiney, of Harker Heights, Texas, the command chief warrant officer, 4th CAB, 4th ID, while also being responsible for the other warrant officers in their brigade.
"What's unique to the CAB is we have command warrant officer structure and we have CW5's in each battalion who oversee the younger warrants," McElhiney said. "They ensure standardization, safety and maintenance operations which we oversee and mentor."
McElhiney, who has flown over 12,500 hours and served for over 40 years, said senior warrant officers have seen and done everything in their field and it is now their turn to pass the baton to younger officers.
"We have to help the next generation, mentor them up and bring them up to speed and status," McElhiney said.
Many senior warrant officers, when they reach the highest level, are content to work desk jobs in faraway locations, McElhiney said, which is not true of him and others who still want to get their hands dirty.
"Some of us want to stay flying, stay with the kids and continue to train," McElhiney added. "Therefore this gives us a great opportunity to do this."
The correct way to mentor the younger officers is to show them how to do things the right way and not make the same mistakes he and other officers did, McElhiney explained.
"I've got 41 years in this Army, so some of the same things we did in Vietnam and the invasion of Laos that got us hurt are the same things that got us hurt in the first Gulf War and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," McElhiney continued. "Some things change and some don't."
McElhiney strives to make sure the things that don't change eventually will and said that means returning from deployments intact.
"That's my job. I bring everyone back home safe."
On the 1st ACB senior warrant officer side, Chief Warrant Officer Scott McLendon, of Copperas Cove, Texas, brigade safety officer, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., said his main duty is also to mentor as well as fly.
"I mentor younger warrant officers to get promoted and come up through the ranks the right way," McLendon said, over the roar of an approaching Black Hawk helicopter. "Obviously we have other jobs, like instructor pilot and flight operations also."
Making it to such a senior rank is unique, McLendon said.
"If you make it to CW5, that's a major accomplishment," McLendon said. "I was honored to be selected and make the rank."
In his 26 years of service, McLendon said the quality of warrant officer has improved significantly over time with changes for the better of the Army.
"We have more high school and college graduates and people are going to school and balancing their jobs at the same time," McLendon said. "The education system has improved greatly in my 26 years."
There is no substitute for hands on experience, however, and McLendon helps junior warrants any way he can to lead them to his position one day.
"I do this through pilot briefs and one-on-one counseling," McLendon said. "I am always available to talk to. In the ACB there should be no junior warrant officer that [are] afraid to come and talk to one of the senior warrant officers."
The handover of responsibility from the CAB to the 1st ACB is another point McLendon sees positively, the CAB having performed well over the last year.
"The CAB has done well here and everything looks good," McLendon stated. "They're ready to get out of here and we are ready to get started, which the CW5's will make sure happens smoothly."
This is McLendon's third tour of Iraq. But will it be his last deployment?
"I'm not going to say it will be yet. We will see," he said with a grin.
This work, Senior warrant officers add up hours, experiences, by Alun Thomas, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.