Warrant Officer Month: Serving as one of the “quiet professionals”

Staff report

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Chief Warrant Officer Travis Wright, his wife Tig, daughter Brooke and son Harrison with his commander in chief, President Barak Obama. Wright’s career as a warrant officer has taken him from all the way from flying special operations missions on active duty to working the National Guard counterdrug mission while stationed at our nation’s capital. (Official White House photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The term “quiet professional” is used a lot in the military, and for good reason.  Most military service members are just that, professionals who get the job done and move on to the next mission.  Chief Warrant Officer Travis Wright is one of those quiet professionals.   After 23 years of service in both the active duty Army and the Kentucky National Guard, he’s preparing for retirement and ready to move into the next chapter of his life.  And since July is Warrant Officer Month we asked him to share some of his insights regarding his career as a “quiet professional.”

How did you begin your career?

I joined active duty at 18 as part of the Warrant Officer Flight Training (WOFT) program. I went straight from basic training to WOCS and then flight school where I graduated at 19. I was fortunate to accomplish all my professional goals in 10 years on active duty. I flew OH-58A/C, OH-58D Kiowa Warriors and AH-6J Little Birds in assault, attack and special operations units.

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Back in “the day.” A young Travis Wright (right) during flight school. His warrant officer career took him from flying with the 82nd Airborne to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to marijuana eradication missions with the Kentucky National Guard. He’s amassed more than 4,000 flight hours in five different helicopters and several civilian aircraft. (Photo courtesy Travis Wright)

How did you come to join the Kentucky National Guard?

I left active duty and pursued a career as an airline pilot with Comair in Cincinnati where I was a first officer on the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ). During my ground school training I ran into a colleague from my Army days and he told me about the Reconnaissance and Interdiction Detachment in Kentucky. I made a few calls and began my career with the Kentucky National Guard as an M-day pilot. Flying single pilot with a trooper looking for dope was probably one of the best jobs I had in the Army.

What other missions did you take on as a Kentucky Guard aviator?

While with the RAID I supported the G-8 Summit in Sea Isle (Savannah), Georgia and flew along the nation’s northern border in Burlington, Vermont to support the Department of Homeland Security.  I had an opportunity for a short tour of duty to in Washington, D.C. to help out at the National Guard Bureau.  I really enjoyed the mission there. After discussions with my wife we decided to make the move to DC so I could spend more time at home.

Tell us about your tour of duty at our nation’s capital.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is responsible for producing the President’s annual National Drug Control Strategy. Additionally they produce the Southwest Border, Northern Border and Caribbean Drug Strategies. ONDCP is organized with three main departments, Office of Supply Reduction – mostly OCONUS and border operations, Office of Demand Reduction – preventing use before it starts and where I work, Office of State, Local and Tribal Affairs.

While I interact with those other offices, I chiefly work as a liaison from NGB to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. There are over 30 HIDTA programs throughout the country including the Appalachia HIDTA with its office in London, Kentucky. I provide a voice for the Natioanl Guard and our counterdrug program in support of HIDTA operations and interact with my fellow liaison officers from DEA, FBI, IRS and DHS.

What’s it like being a warrant officer?

Many others have said this, but a warrant officer is the best rank in the Army. My first experience that this was going to be “different” was just after I pinned on my bar at 19 years old. I was waiting for my airborne school date and working at the headquarters at Ft. Rucker. The command sergeant major came through the front door and said ‘Good morning, sir.’ I looked around to see who he was talking to. I’m sure he had kids my age, maybe older but I quickly figured out he meant me.

I’ve been given responsibilities and experiences that I never thought possible. My last four assignments I have replaced a lieutenant colonel and my current position is coded for a colonel. It’s a testament to the trust leadership places in warrant officer professionalism and expertise, regardless of what the pay grade is.

As part of the Joint Staff, I’ve had several opportunities to explain to my Air National Guard brothers and sisters what the heck a warrant officer is.

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