Story by Brian S Hagberg on 03/01/2017"Both arguments were very compelling," said Col. Robyn Slade, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the 50th Space Wing commander and head judge. "Both teams did a great job."
The CGO Council (1st Lt. Ikenna Olelewe, 4th Space Operations Squadron, 1st Lt. Lindsay Winningham, 50th Operations Support Squadron, and 1st Lt. Ryan Hollister, 50th Space Communications Squadron) argued against reinstating the warrant officer corps.
The Top III Council (Master Sgts. John Harms and Matt Lofton, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, and Master Sgt. Kendra Bryan, 50 SCS) argued in favor.
Teams received a list of eight potential topics a month prior to the debate. With one week left to prepare, the list was narrowed to three. Teams found out what topic they would debate 24 hours before the event and given their position on the topic 15 minutes before the debate began.
Master Sgt. Abifarin Scott, 2 SOPS, served as the moderator and made clear before any arguments were presented the positions taken by each team member didn't necessarily reflect their personal opinion on the topic.
The debate was contested under a modified Oxford format, with each team giving two 5-minute arguments in favor of their position and a 3-minute rebuttal to the opponent's position. Both teams were judged on professionalism, significance to the subject given, proper articulation of position and strength of argument/justification.
Olelewe opened the debate arguing the previous attempt at implementing a warrant officer corps didn't work as planned.
"Warrant officers were introduced to prevent the force from being top heavy," he said. "There were good intentions of keeping subject matter experts in the force, but there was confusion as to where the warrant officers fit."
Once the Air Force introduced the E-8/9 ranks, he added, enlisted personnel had more room for upward movement and it became even harder to find a defined role for warrant officers.
Harms said while warrant officers were removed in the past, the Air Force needs to focus on the future. That future should include warrant officers, he said, for three reasons; the current climate has changed, technical knowledge being transferred from enlisted personnel to contractors and the transition of cyber and space domains to a green door operation.
Hollister countered by saying adding warrant officers to the force would limit growth ability for current members.
"Our enlisted corps is incredibly intelligent, they're our work horse and technical experts," Hollister said. "There's nothing more frustrating than losing work to others. Adding positions stifles technical growth."
"Adding a warrant officer corps gives more options for those entering the force," Lofton argued.
Lofton used the Marine Corps model, where senior NCOs have the option of remaining on as technical experts or moving into a more management-focused role, as a way of introducing a warrant officer corps to benefit current members.
Bryan continued that theme with her rebuttal.
"We need to retain and acquire technically proficient individuals," she said. "We tend to lose those with the most expertise at the 10-year mark due to pay difference with the civilian side."
Winningham closed the debate portion of the event stressing all the things the Top III argued were based on wants and desires, not need.
"We need to think smarter instead of harder," she said. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We just need to reallocate our current resources more efficiently."
The judge's panel included Slade, Maj. Jason Heller, 2 SOPS, Chief Master Sgt. Jason Alverson, 50th Mission Support Group, Master Sgt. Jasen Rodriguez, 50th Security Forces Squadron, and Sgt. 1st Class Kia White, Army 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado, and all said the decision was difficult as both teams made strong arguments.
Heller said the Top III presented a more consistent and coherent argument while the CGO essentially presented two different arguments. Alverson said the Top III actually made a stronger argument for instituting a dual-channel NCO program than for bringing back warrant officers.
White brought a unique perspective to the panel as she works with warrant officers in her unit.
"Coming in, I was for the warrant officers since the Army warrant officer program is so important," she said. "(The CGO Council) convinced me it's maybe not the most cost efficient."
Scott said White was included in the panel due to her experience with warrant officers.
"Knowing that we were debating warrant officers, we wanted to get someone who was either a current warrant officer, or had experience working with them," Scott said.
He said White's inclusion also allowed her to see the debate format as the Top III looks to expand.
"We are looking at new ways and approaches to (expansion) and White is one of the folks around the Front Range who is interested," he said. "She is the vice president of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club on Fort Carson and they are one of the agencies we are looking at partnering with."
For more information, or to participate in the next debate, call Scott at 567-2476.