Col. Paul Gapinski, in one of his last acts as outgoing commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 426th Regiment, congratulated the newest class of seven officers and 11 warrant officers on their commissioning day.
“You’re our nation’s next leaders in a time that possesses more challenges and opportunities than I’ve ever seen in my 24 years in the Army National Guard,” Gapinski said. Acknowledging that they had already learned numerous acronyms during their candidate coursework, he offered one more as they embarked on their new careers as officers and warrant officers.
“It’s called VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity,” he explained. “VUCA relates to how people view the conditions under which they make decisions, plan forward, manage risks, foster change and solve problems.”
The 426th Regiment teaches both officer candidate and warrant officer candidate schools through the Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy. Officers function as unit leaders, as well as planners, managers, influencers and problem solvers. Warrant officers are subject matter experts in their field, and provide guidance and training to officers and units.
Gapinski encouraged the new officer class to seek out people with different ideas and experiences, to trust their peers and those whom they will lead.
“Keep in mind, leadership is not a privilege, it’s a responsibility,” Gapinski said. “Your job as our future leaders will be to enable the full potential of every person you work with. In this VUCA world, this is not optional — it’s mandatory.”
Keynote speaker Lt. Col. Joseph McGrath also spent time in his 24-year military career as a warrant officer, and helped launch the warrant officer candidate school at the 426th Regiment. In fact, he had commanded the regiment’s field artillery battalion before becoming a warrant officer.
“I very much treasured the assignments and missions completed among my fellow warrant officers,” McGrath recalled. “I grew to consider them true brothers and sisters in arms. It was those warrant officers that gave me the call sign — meaning so much I could author an essay — ‘second chance.’
“Col. Gapinski said it well — we don’t succeed unless the team succeeds,” McGrath continued. “Your job is about problem solving, incorporating ideas and inspiring your team to action.”
Brig. Gen. Matthew Strub, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, told the graduating officers they stood on the shoulders of giants who came before and set the stage for the current organization.
“Someday, one of you may be up here giving the keynote address at a graduation,” Strub said.
Strub issued the new officers with three charges. The first was to be physically, mentally and morally fit.
“If you can challenge yourself and rise to that occasion, you will be successful,” Strub said.
The second charge was to seize opportunities, because one opportunity leads to the next. Finally, he charged graduates with achieving harmony between life and work.
“You hear about work/life balance, and I will tell you that over the last year you didn’t have that,” Strub said. “Balance is unattainable — harmony is attainable, and it’s only attainable because of a goal you set and the support you have from your family and your friends.
“You are the future of the Wisconsin National Guard,” Strub continued. “You won’t get direct leadership guidance as you go forward. Rely on your training, your experience, the mentors that you’ve developed. And in the absence of guidance, execute.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles Mattison, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s command chief warrant officer, addressed the new class of officers and warrant officers.
“You are here because we need you to be us,” Mattison said, “and I have every faith that in the years to come, one of you may be sitting where Brig. Gen. Strub is sitting and one of you may be sitting where I am sitting.”
Mattison echoed Strub’s comments on seizing opportunities, encouraging the new officers to resist staying where they are comfortable and take new challenges. Leading the 426th Regiment’s warrant officer candidate school was one of Mattison’s challenges.
“That’s probably one of the most difficult assignments that I’ve had, but it was also the most rewarding,” Mattison shared. He urged the graduating class to serve in a manner that builds people up and creates new leaders.
“What you’ve just accomplished was transformational — it was translational,” Mattison said. “Your mentors and your leaders asked you to transform in a way that made you think differently, because we need you to think differently from the noncommissioned officers that you came from. We have great NCOs — they’re the backbone of the Army — but you’re moving into a new role, and your training had to do with teaching you to think about things differently, to think about them in terms of leadership, in terms of development.”
Mattison charged the new warrant officers to work together as part of a command team, because warrant officers fill the middle ground between noncommissioned officers and the conceptual, directional leadership of officers. He also encouraged the new officers to lean on the expertise of the warrant officers.
“I’ll tell you, there is not a day that goes by that our command team, between Brig. Gen. Strub, Command Sgt. Maj. [Curtis] Patrouille and myself, where we don’t confer on something — we’re working together as a team,” Mattison said.
The ceremony concluded with Strub administering the oath of office to the candidates, the pinning ceremony and the first salute.