2017-05-19 / News Update

Signal Warrant Officer signs off the net one last time

BY MAJ. BYRON COWARD
D.C. National Guard


Brig. Gen. George M. Degnon, acting Adjutant General, District of Columbia National Guard, presents the Distinguished Service Medal to Chief Warrant Officer 5 Janice L Fontanez, outgoing Command Chief Warrant Officer, D.C. National Guard, May 7, Washington, D.C. Fontanez, a former member of the Army Women’s Corps, was the D.C. National Guard’s fourth Command Chief Warrant Officer. She retires after more than 41 years of military service. 
PHOTO BY SGT. JENNIFER AMO / U.S. ARMY NATIONAL GUARD Brig. Gen. George M. Degnon, acting Adjutant General, District of Columbia National Guard, presents the Distinguished Service Medal to Chief Warrant Officer 5 Janice L Fontanez, outgoing Command Chief Warrant Officer, D.C. National Guard, May 7, Washington, D.C. Fontanez, a former member of the Army Women’s Corps, was the D.C. National Guard’s fourth Command Chief Warrant Officer. She retires after more than 41 years of military service. PHOTO BY SGT. JENNIFER AMO / U.S. ARMY NATIONAL GUARD WASHINGTON, D.C. – The D.C. National Guard held a retirement ceremony May 7 to honor its former Command Chief Warrant Officer at the D.C. National Guard Armory.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Janice L. Fontanez, an Athens, Georgia native, retired from the D.C. Army National Guard after exactly 41 years, nine months and 16 days of military service. Her last assignment was as the Fourth Command Chief Warrant Officer of the D.C. National Guard. Prior to her retirement ceremony, she relinquished responsibility of the Command Chief Warrant Officer position to Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael R. Jewett.

Fontanez was one of the few remaining, active, female service members who enlisted in the Army Women’s Corps. She also held the distinction of being one of the six longest-serving women in the army and was the only female, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Chief Warrant Officer 5 in the National Guard.

In 1975, Fontanez began her military career enlisting in the Army Reserve to help pay for school. In 1976, she attend the Women’s Army Corps’ Basic Combat Training, Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“When we all arrived at the WOC reception center, we were excited and really did not know what to expect,” Fontanez said. “They divided us up, and I was one of the recruits assigned to go to Basic Training in Fort Jackson. When we arrived, we met our drill instructor and everything changed.”

Fontanez recalled an instance where the drill instructor brought in a record and played the Sonny and Cher song “I’ve got you, Babe.” When the instructor stopped the record player, during the song, all the recruits continued the song in chorus.

“That’s when I knew I was a part of something special,” Fontanez said. “The camaraderie in our unit was amazing and I knew then that we are going to make it.”

After basic training, she attended Advanced Individual Training to become a 74D, computer systems operator, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.

In 1978, Fontanez moved to Washington, D.C. to take a civilian job with the FBI and joined the D.C. National Guard later that year. She eventually became a military technician with the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, or USPFO, working as a keypunch operator. While at the USPFO she progressed from a keypunch operator to computer operator, and finally to a programmer/systems analysts while reaching the rank of sergeant first class.

In 1988 she was selected to be a Signal Warrant Officer and attended the National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. She was the first female and first non-aviation candidate from the DCNG to attend and complete the school. This was immediately followed by the Signal Warrant Officer Basic Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where she received her appointment as a Warrant Officer 1 in 1989.

Fontanez’s career encompasses the incorporation of the D.C. National Guard into the information age. She was responsible for the analog to digital conversion of the D.C. Armory phone system and introduced the DCNG to the World Wide Web and email.

In 2003 she was selected for a tour at National Guard Bureau to be a webmaster for Guard Knowledge Online portal and assisted in it full integration into the National Guard. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she assisted the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guards in reconstructing their web-based systems.

In 2011, she was selected to be the Army National Guard, Senior Signal Warrant Officer Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Commandant of the 442nd Signal Battalion, Cyber Leader College at the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Additionally, she was Warrant Officer Intermediate Level Education Course manager and implemented a pipeline for the course to support both Army National Guard and Reserve Warrant Officers.

In 2013, she returned to the National Guard Bureau as the Senior Signal Warrant Officer Advisor to the communications directorate. While there she managed all Signal Warrant Officers on Title 10 active-duty orders and supported all National Guard Signal Warrant Officers.

Fontanez returned to the D.C. National Guard, in 2015 to be the Command Chief Warrant Officer. In a span of one year, she led a change that elevated metrics specific to warrant officer qualification, readiness, promotions, accessions and professional military education.

“It is amazing to see, in our time, the increasing role of women, and their responsibilities, in our armed forces,” said Brig. Gen. William J. Walker, acting commanding general, D.C. National Guard. “This progress has been made possible by women like Chief Fontanez who get after it and do great things.”

During the retirement ceremony, Fontanez was awarded the Legion of Merit and the D.C. National Guard Distinguished Service Medal.

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