The Air Force’s newest schoolhouse is now open as the service prepares to educate its incoming corps of warrant officers for the first time in six decades.

The Warrant Officer Training School formally launched June 28 at the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Activating the school is the next step in bringing back the service’s latest crop of warrant officers, who are to become technical and operational experts and advisers for the force in cyber operations and information technology as the service seeks to boost military readiness in a race to outpace China and other adversaries.

“The reintroduction of warrant officers to the Air Force is another example of the force adapting personnel policies to best compete in emerging security landscapes.” Holm Center Commander Brig. Gen. Houston Cantwell said in a statement. “The warrant officer will serve on the virtual front lines, allowing us to stay ahead of rapidly advancing threats while safeguarding national security interests.”

The Air Force phased out warrant officers in 1959 after the establishment of the senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant ranks (E-8 and E-9). The service’s last warrant officer, Chief Warrant Officer James Long, retired from the 438th Transportation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, in 1980, according to an Air Force history.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall formally announced plans for the new roles in February; the Air Force opened applications April 25. The first cohort of 60 warrant officers will be split into two classes of 30, with one class expected to begin in October and graduate in December before reporting to their duty stations the following month. The second class is expected to begin in early 2025.

Competition for the 60 slots was tough: 301 airmen who applied for the roles met with the selection board, Air Force spokesperson Sarah Fiocco told Air Force Times. Those who make the cut are expected to be notified later this month.

The warrant officer curriculum will focus on five foundational principles, the Air Force said: communicate, advise, influence, innovate and integrate.

“We are in the business of producing airmen,” Maj. Nathaniel Roesler, commandant of the WOTS, said in a statement. “These specialists come to us with technical expertise, and our mission is to develop them to be better warfighters, advisors, and integrators, ready to fly, fight and win during great power competition. We will answer that call.”

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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