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NEWS | Sept. 23, 2020

Army Guard command CWO reflects on 2 years in the position

By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – For Chief Warrant Officer 5 Teresa Domeier, the command chief warrant officer of the Army National Guard, horses are an integral part of what it meant to grow up in rural Nebraska.

It wasn't long after she took her first steps that she was riding them.

"By the time I could walk, I could shimmy up a 16-hand horse and get on the horse's back," she said, adding a 16-hand horse is a little taller than 5 feet at the withers, or the ridge between its shoulder blades.

Her father would have her show off her ability to family and friends. Then, as a teenager, she worked on area farms, which included training horses.

"I broke horses too," she said. "That was something I enjoyed doing."

The challenge was one of the things she enjoyed about it, she said, something that carries over to her current assignment where she serves as the senior Army Guard warrant officer and advises the director of the Army Guard on all policies, programs and actions impacting Army Guard warrant officers.

"It's a very rewarding position," she said. "Challenging, but rewarding."

In the job for a little more than two years, she previously served as the command chief warrant officer of the Nebraska Army National Guard – the first woman to hold both positions.

"I have been told a number of times, 'You're breaking the glass ceiling. Thank you, ma'am,'" she said, adding that she had good mentors along the way.

"My mentors were male and female," she said. "They were enlisted, they were warrant officers and they were commissioned officers, and they all set me up for success."

Mentoring others, and setting them up for success, is one of her key priorities.

"It's not about me," she said. "It's about improving the program. It's about making the future better for whoever's coming up to replace you."

Part of improving the program means streamlining the process by which warrant officers attend schools needed for promotion.

"When I first got here we changed the policy – not the regulation, but the policy – to make it a requirement to complete the Warrant Officer Advanced Course to be promoted to [chief warrant officer 4]," she said, adding that making it a requirement gave more warrant officers the chance to attend the school.

Before that change, many warrant officers felt frustrated, she said, as they wanted to attend the course but didn't have that opportunity.

"We were losing a lot of W-2s [chief warrant officer 2] because they're like, 'Hey, I'm not going to school,'" she said.

It also put Army Guard warrant officers more in line with active component counterparts.

"It aligned our PME [professional military education] with the active component PME," she said. "It's streamlined the PME process for our folks, and I think we've seen a slight uptick in retention due that."

Warrant officer recruiting, retention and training make up many of Domeier's initiatives and areas of focus.

Aligning PME requirements and a change to time in grade requirements for promotion from chief warrant officer 2 to 3 have had positive effects with retention, she said.

"There's been some indications of both of those changes helping with retention," she said, adding there have also been questions about expanding warrant officer career fields.

"I've been asked why we don't make medics – flight medics – warrant officers, because the highest rank they can go to is staff sergeant," she said. Additionally, flight medics also have highly technical skills, an inherent element of warrant officer career fields.

While an expansion of career fields would be an Army-wide consideration, Domeier said part of her role is to provide input on initiatives such as that, which affect the entire warrant officer field in all three Army components.

She does that by using her administrative team, the command chief warrant officers in the states, and the Army Guard warrant officer executive council.

"If they're trying to change a regulation or a policy at the [Army] level, I'm bringing my admin team," she said. "Then I send it out to my executive council and say, 'Hey, what do you think of this?'"

That gives her a wide range of perspectives from throughout the Army Guard, she said.

Additional warrant officer career fields may or may not be added, but, for now, Domeier is focused on ensuring current Army Guard warrant officer slots remain filled.

"There are some positions that haven't been filled for five, six, seven years in some units," she said.

Many of those slots may be difficult to fill as the specialties normally feeding them don't exist in that particular state or area.

"They're hard to fill because they're hard to recruit the feeder MOSs [military occupational specialties]," said Domeier, noting that one example is air defense artillery.

There may be an air defense warrant officer slot in a brigade or division organizational structure, she said, but that slot remains difficult to fill without any air defense units in the state or area. Not only is there a minimal pool of qualified warrant officers, but there are also no noncommissioned officers in specialties to draw upon to become warrant officers.

"How do you make [an air defense warrant officer] if you don't have the six years experience at the NCO level [needed for warrant officer candidate school]?" she said.

One way to alleviate that is looking at other qualification factors to pull from to fill those positions, said Domeier.

"Maybe you look to see what other things those service members have in their toolkit," she said. "When you look at warrant officers, you're not just looking at their PME and time in service. We also look at the other things in their civilian career that may also apply to their [military] career and make them better for the position and the organization."

Perhaps it may not be a "perfect fit," said Domeier, but it "fits well."

Navigating that means understanding multiple factors.

"It's a personnel-centric and focused job," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Hopkins, Domeier's executive assistant, of the command chief warrant officer position. "One of the requirements is end strength – which touches on recruiting, which touches on personnel management, which touches on understanding force structure, which touches on a lot of these things that you may not have done throughout your career."

Melding all that is one of Domeier's strengths, said Hopkins.

"One thing that she's able to do in her position, and she's very effective at it, is to manage that understanding level to help bridge that gap and to shorten that with a strategic view of where the organization needs to be," he said.

That also means maintaining relationships with the proponent organizations for each warrant officer career field.

"We have National Guard Bureau representatives in the proponents," said Hopkins. "We have an Army National Guard warrant officer sitting in that job and their job is liaison with the proponent. She knows who all those people are and can say, 'Stand by, this is coming, we need to make sure this gets done,' which meets everybody's intent for personnel management end strength readiness."

For Domeier, it's all part of taking care of those in the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, which she sees as her primary mission.

"It's about the 54," she said. "No. 1 is to work for the 54. That's why we all have jobs here at the NGB – to take care of the 54."

That also ties back to some of the reasons why Domeier has continued to serve.

"The reasons I stayed in is because I love the structure of the Army and taking care of people," she said, adding she couldn't do it without the support of her husband and family.

"I thought I'd stay in six years when I enlisted," she said. "In January, I'll be celebrating 38 years."

And with about two years remaining in her current position, she said she feels the organization – and the warrant officer cohort – is in a good place.

"I think we've got one of the best teams, wanting to make good change for the 54," she said. "They don't want to change things to be remembered by it. They want to make positive changes, so we get quality people and increase readiness."



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