By Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl
Task Force Thunder
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 25, 2011 – Tony Soto’s promotion to chief warrant officer 5 wasn’t like many other promotions.
Sure, there was celebratory cake, and his family was there -– albeit via video teleconference from Fort Campbell, Ky., -– but the spirit of this Army promotion was different.
“Everyone makes [chief warrant officer 2],” said Joe Roberts, a fellow chief warrant officer 5 and the command chief warrant officer for the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Thunder. “But there are only about 350 CW5s in the Army.”
Chief warrant officer 5 is the pinnacle of a warrant officer’s career, and very few ever attain that rank. It takes dedication and drive to reach that point. It also takes diversity.
“My success has had a lot to do with having the opportunities to take the right jobs at the right times,” Soto explained. “I’ve been multi-tracked –- working both safety and standardization -– which has also helped me to reach this point.”
Soto began his career in the Army much like most warrant officers –- as an enlisted soldier. He started out as an infantryman and served for eight and a half years, attaining the rank of staff sergeant while at flight school, after assignments in Colorado and Germany.
“I thought it was going to be a quick four years,” he said.
Soto said he joined the Army looking for some direction after completing an associate’s degree. He also was looking for additional funding for school.
“I didn’t come from a well-to-do family,” explained Soto, who hails from the Bronx, N.Y. “Everything we ever had fallen on the shoulders of my mom and dad.”
Almost 30 years later, Soto is setting the example for others to follow.
“Tony has had to stand out way above his peers,” Roberts said. “He has done everything the Army asked of him and more.”
Early in his career as an aviator, Soto used his proficiency as a Spanish speaker to serve in South America working for the State Department. “That assignment really helped me see the big picture of aviation,” he said.
While he was there, Soto helped to standardize the maintenance and training cycles for the UH-1 Huey and MI-17 helicopters being used in theater, as well as C-27 fixed-wing aircraft. Today, he fills a similar role here within Task Force Thunder.
“He gets the point across in a professional way that lets the rest of the brigade know what’s expected of them,” Roberts said.
As the brigade standardization officer, Soto is responsible for ensuring consistency in aircraft procedures throughout the brigade. He said he volunteered for the assignment, and he couldn’t be more proud to be part of the task force. As a chief warrant officer 5, Soto said he has the opportunity to influence change.
“It’s about improving systems and making air crews safer,” he said. “Whatever you do, you should do it with a lot of passion and put safety first. It’s easy to identify a problem, but to come up with a solution, that’s what sets you apart.”