Chief Warrant Officer 4 is the second-highest rank in the U.S. Marine Corps for a warrant officer. Warrant officers are enlisted men and women who are chosen to become officers and put through an officer training school. Marine Corps warrant officers are senior in rank than the highest ranking enlisted men, but lower in rank than the lowest-ranking commissioned officer. There are five warrant officer ranks; Chief Warrant Officer-5 is the highest, warrant officer is the lowest. In the Marines, a CWO-5 is just below the rank of lieutenant.
The military rank of warrant officer dates back centuries to the early days of the British Navy. The first warrant officer in the American military was appointed to the U.S. Navy in 1775 (see References) and there have been warrant officers in the Navy ever since. In 1916, warrant officers were established by Congress in U.S. Marine Corps, which was and still is a branch of the Navy. Up until the 1940s, a warrant officer was originally - and strictly - a highly skilled, single-track specialty officer.
When warrant officers were originally established in the Marines in 1916, their role was that of technical specialists - they performed specialized duties that required a great deal of knowledge in particular equipment or systems. But in the 1940s, that was altered so that warrant officers performed essentially the same duties as commissioned officers, such as command troops. The only difference is that warrant officers are expected to have an additional level of technical proficiency and experience than commissioned officers, particularly junior officers (first and second lieutenants).
There are two types of warrant officers in the Corps: administrative warrant officers and weapons warrant officers. Admin warrant officers are ones that oversee troops or units that serve in administrative roles. Weapons warrant officers, also known as Marine Gunners, are technical weapons masters. They serve as the senior weapons specialists in an infantry unit, advising the commanding officer and staff on the proper use and deployment of infantry weapon systems.
All Marine Corps warrant officers start out as an enlisted man or woman. After serving in the enlisted ranks for at least eight years and achieving the rank of Sergeant, an enlisted Marine can apply for the administrative warrant officer program. Or, after serving at least 16 years of enlisted service and reaching the grade of Gunnery Sergeant (E-7), an enlisted Marine can apply for the weapons warrant officer program. If selected, the candidate receives additional training in leadership and management.
Marine Corps warrant officers wear a shiny rank insignia that's somewhat similar to the gold or silver bars that a lieutenant wears on the collar or shoulder of their uniforms. But instead of a solid metallic color, red stripes are included in the design. The insignia is red and gold for warrant officer ranks one and two, and red and silver for CWO ranks three through five.
- military shooting image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com