Two of a Kind

Warrant officers share parallel Guard careers

Brothers pose for a photo after Chief Warrant Officer 5 Donald Harlan’s promotion ceremony. Donald is the Senior Personnel Warrant in the personnel (G-1) office and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dwight Harlan is currently the State’s Command Chief Warrant Officer.

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FRANKFORT, Ky. – With the recent promotion of Chief Warrant Officer 5 Donald Harlan, now the Kentucky National Guard has two top warrants touting the same last name.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dwight Harlan is currently the State’s Command Chief Warrant Officer and Donald is the Senior Personnel Warrant in the personnel (G-1) office.

Born in Louisville in 1964, and raised in Bremen, Ky, a young Donald and Dwight spent a lot of time hunting and camping together and playing around on their family farm, their dad was a coal miner who worked in and around where the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center sits today, and was a tanker in the KYARNG as well.

The twin brothers have had similar careers starting the day they both went to basic training at Fort Knox at 17 years of age. The brothers were put into what was called a Buddy Platoon consisting of Soldiers from Kentucky and Louisiana.

“We got singled out a lot for being twin brothers,” said Donald. “We had a good time still despite it.”

After basic training, they even joined each other at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Donald, as a welder and Dwight as a machinist.  

‘While I was a welder with the 307th Maintenance Company, my sergeant asked me to help out in the orderly room and I of course said yes despite me not having any experience but it kept me off KP (kitchen) duty,” shared Donald during his promotion ceremony.

Thus started his transition to the personnel side.

As both men progressed in their career working as with the Guard as either federal technicians or Active Guard Reserves (AGR), both men have stayed close and have used each other as sounding boards when one had questions or issues with each other’s jobs despite Donald switching to the administrative and personnel section.

Each of the brothers spent more than 15 years working as enlisted Soldiers in their respective career fields. They moved from Greenville to Frankfort and around the state of Kentucky to take on different responsibilities until they got their opportunities to join the warrant officer cohort.

Dwight was the first of the two to become a warrant officer and was a huge supporter of Donald when it was his time to go through the Warrant Officer Candidate School.

“I had always wanted to be a warrant officer, said Dwight. “It gave me upward mobility and a chance to progress my career.”

As for Donald, he had always looked up to the warrants that he worked with. Their knowledge of their job and the Army as a whole made an impression on him to the point where he decided that he wanted to be the one who others looked up to like that.

“They were always the one who would be able to quote chapter and verse and they were always the experts,” said Donald, “I told myself, I want to be that good, I want to be that guy.”

“It’s the best rank in the Army,” said Dwight about being a warrant officer. “You get the benefits of being a commissioned officer and also you still get the benefit of growing up as an NCO, so you learn from both worlds.”

The young Harlan brothers with a friend of theirs in an undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

“It allows you to better able to understand the needs of the Soldier and relate with them in that way,” added Donald.

But as the subject matter experts, they had to be ready for the challenges that came with the responsibility.

“You have to have the right answers,” said Dwight. “You have to be ready and proficient in your trade to give them (Soldiers/commanders) the right answers.”

As for advice they would give to any Soldier trying to make the best out of their National Guard career, both men agreed that you have to look for opportunities and when they come up, take it.

“You have to be willing to move and take the opportunities that are out there, Sometimes it means taking the job nobody wants and make the best of that opportunity,” said Donald.

The brothers also deployed around the same time in 2011 and even crossed paths when they were going through Kuwait with their respective units.

When the two men can, they still like to go camping or work on cars together when they can find time. Both of their families stay really close and spend as much time as they can with each other.

“We still work on cars together and sometimes pull tractors, stuff we did as kids,” added Dwight.

Both Harlan’s are planning on making it to forty years of service with the National Guard and once they hit that milestone, perhaps see what lies ahead.

“We’re not in any hurry to leave,” said Dwight. “We are planning for retirement but we enjoy what we’re doing.”

About kentuckyguard