Profile in Security: CW5 Wendy A. Wayman
May 08, 2016 | Interviewed by FSR Staff
What initially made you want to enlist in the armed forces?
When I was just eight years old I spent a weekend fishing with my Great Uncle Leo who regaled me with tales of friendships and brotherhood that would span a lifetime. He told me of those soldiers whom I would come to appreciate as our "Greatest Generation," those young men who fought for us and for each other as a Band of Brothers. Following that weekend of fish tales and war stories, the kind you tell an impressionable young girl, I went home to tell my mother that I wanted to be a U.S. Army Soldier. She, of course, responded to me with the same response that any mother gives her child when greeted with such a revelation. She gave me that cautious smile that hides the hope that the following week I would come back and tell her that I had yet again changed my mind and wanted to be a veterinarian or country singer.
Eight years later I made my first foray into the recruiting office and began the next portion of the journey. I was not allowed to actually begin lobbying for a job until after my 17th birthday. In 1983, in the fall of my senior year of high school, I began my pursuit in earnest. In the time period between having made the decision that I wanted to serve and the actual contract negotiations with the Army recruiter, I had further developed a plan. My paternal grandparents were friends with a couple who were doctors from Chicago, Dr. and Mrs. Hebert, who would come to our little corner of the heartland to hunt pheasant every October. They used to provide medical care in the gulags in Siberia and would talk of the language and places and customs of the Russian peoples and thus developed my next career goal. I wanted to learn Russian and that was exactly what I told the recruiter.
The first recruiter offered me the glamorous job for which I had been wishing, that of Army cook (of course, this was before Stephen Spielberg and the fight to save a ship). The same recruiter then offered me the honor of ammunition specialist, technically counting bullets. I asked if either of those would get me training as a Russian linguist, but he did not seem to want to work with me. About a month later, as I was walking past, I noticed that there was a new guy in the recruiting office. SGT Vic was more than happy to help me get exactly what I wanted because he quickly figured out that I would not be swayed. SGT Vic told me that I would have to take a test to check my potential, and because I was still a minor, my mom and dad would have to come and sign the papers in order for me to officially begin the process. What followed was my first commercial airplane flight to get me to our Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to take some tests and a physical. I was tested and found worthy. I would then sign the contract that would pave the path for my past 31 years of service. I got back on a plane and went back to life as a high school senior and had to listen to folks who were convinced that I wouldn’t make it through Basic Training. On the other hand, there were those convinced that the possibilities were unlimited. I am proud to say that those cheerleaders, my family, friends, and some of my church family and teachers seem to have been right.
What factors motivated you to apply to join the Warrant Officer Corps?
Simple, I love what I do! I loved my Soldiers and enjoyed leading them, but at the end of the day, I loved my specialty more and I’m pretty good at Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) if I do say so myself. SIGINT is solving puzzles every day at work and getting paid to do it. I had great examples of what a Warrant Officer should be and some who showed me what a Warrant Officer should not be. All in all, they definitely showed me that it’s “good to be the Chief”. Being a Warrant Officer is about finding the answers to questions you haven’t yet been asked and looking for a way to get your mission accomplished, within legal boundaries, regardless of obstacles. I would tell you that being a technical Army Warrant Officer is a bit of a puzzle in and of itself.
As the mother of two soldiers, can you describe your emotions about sharing a highly kinetic battlespace with your children with equal, if not superior, knowledge about the threats facing them?
Being the mother of a service member is challenging. Every mother deals with it differently; however, when you too wear a uniform you know the reality of their service. The most challenging times for me as both the mom and the Chief were the times that the kids and I spent deployed separately together. On my first shared deployment with our son, I was on the phone with him one day, just checking in and he told me that he had to go prepare for a mission. I will tell you that, although I am meticulous in my over watch of the mission for every mother’s son or daughter, when it was my kids, I would vacillate between hyper-attentive with an inability to focus on anything other than what might be happening and the desire to completely shut down until I knew they were back. I had to tell my kids and their commanders that I did not want to know when they were “busting the wire” and leaving the semblance of security of a forward operating base. They could check in when they got back, if they had time. There is a challenge when you have the “luxury” of seeing everything that happens on the battlefield on a very short lead time. Knowing the threats that they would face made my every day shared with them in combat a challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing my kids in theatre was such an incredible boost to my morale and getting to spend time with them and hear their commanders’ praise for their work ethic, their dedication to duty, and their professionalism was more than any mother could ask. My pride in them knows no bounds. Now, having said all of that, it was harder for me to return to the U.S. knowing that my kids were still in Iraq or Afghanistan. I stopped watching the news because I couldn’t handle wondering if those cold non-descript crawlers across the bottom of my TV screen could be either our son or daughter. When our kids came home I started watching again but to this day every number that a news media throws out there is someone’s mother/father, sister/brother, daughter/son, and my heart remains tied to those we have lost. I work hard to help ensure that we do whatever we can to keep those numbers as close to zero as possible.
How do you differentiate your leadership style as a warrant officer from Sergeants Major and from General Officers?
Every leader has his or her own approach to leadership and the levels of stratification within the ranks can tend to widen the gaps. For instance, Army Privates are young and straight off the street and have many lessons to learn about life, the Army, and their jobs. The senior Non-commissioned Officers (NCO) are those who will teach them the ropes and bring them along to become the next generation of NCOs. Army Lieutenants (LT) are also straight off the street but, in general, tend to normally be older than the Privates. The LTs still have many lessons to learn about their roles and responsibilities and much to learn about leading but they have already been given the basics before they step in front of their first formations. Most Warrant Officer One (WO1), with some exceptions for aviators, have already learned about the Army and their craft and that is why they chose to follow that path. The WO1 needs to bring with them the backbone that is the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps from which they transitioned and continue to hone their skills as technicians and leaders. Warrants lead not by or with their rank, they are most often informal leaders who lead by virtue of knowledge. Not everyone would agree with that statement; however, not everyone is answering these questions either.
You are INSCOM’s first Command Chief. As such, what type of legacy do you hope to leave for your successor?
Legacy, have I told you how I dislike that word? My legacy, if I must use that word, is the generation of Warrant Officers that will follow in my footsteps and surpass my wildest dreams of success in supporting an operation on a battlefield yet to be imagined. For my successor, I want them to be able to step into the job and not have to teach people what it is that a Command Chief Warrant Officer (CCWO) brings to the table and that they actually get a seat at the table, very near the head. I am not comfortable with asserting the “rank has its privileges” mantra but I owe that to the next CCWO, so at a minimum I will push those boundaries and help to solidify the precedent. As a young Soldier you often grouse about the fact that seniors have things like drivers and parking spots but as you progress through the ranks you realize that there are reasons for perceived privileges: parking spots and drivers keep leaders on-time and on-target because time is one of the most valuable commodities, and lost time cannot be regained, a statement that cannot be more true.
Your career is obviously not yet complete, but of what are you most proud in your career?
Please do not take this answer as cliché, but the thing in which I have the most pride is the service of my children and that of the dedicated professionals who have worked beside me, with me, for me and for whom I have worked. Service to country cannot be understated. If I must and if you are going to pin me down to an answer outside of that, I would say STG (pronounced STaG). I would tell you that SIGINT Terminal Guidance (STG) is the one most significant accomplishment that brings me pride. I was in the right place at the right time in the right job to help the Army bring SIGINT to the conventional tactical force through the creation of the SIGINT Terminal Guidance process. Suffice it to say that was the “sexiest” that our field has ever been and it taught commanders at all levels to appreciate and employ their SIGINT capabilities.
Wendy Ann Wayman never imagined she would still be serving her country more than three decades after enlisting in the United States Army, let alone rise to rank of Chief Warrant Officer 5 and become the first Command Chief Warrant Officer for Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). Born and raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota, CW5 Wayman has traveled the world and advised the highest-ranking military leaders in the United States. She has also amassed a legion of professional colleagues who describe her using such phrases as “no one better,” “shaping the future of military intelligence,” “a consummate professional,” “my dear mentor,” and “a complete badass.” The Fletcher Security Review is honored to feature INSCOM Command Chief Warrant Officer, CW5 Wendy Wayman’s “Profile in Security." For the full interview beyond the abbreviated version below, click here.