Fewer than 600 individuals in the Army wear chief warrant officer five rank. The Aviation and Missile Command’s missile maintenance officer is now among them.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Araceli Rial is the second female to earn this rank in the Air Defense Artillery Branch but the first in her military occupational specialty.
“I am humbled and ever so grateful,” she said of the distinction. “I am very glad that we have women included in the most senior warrant officer grade and hope that the trend continues to grow. It shows other women in our branch that it is possible to achieve and that we can serve as mentors in that journey.”
Like so many, what initially attracted Rial to the military was the $25,000 Army College Fund that would allow her to earn a degree in English and travel abroad. “I had aspirations of joining the military early in high school because of the travel aspect of it but realized as I got closer to graduation that college money was more important to focus on as a short-term goal.”
With that, her personal mantra, “Never stop learning,” was put into action. “I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and make it a point to learn something new every day, no matter how small the matter.”
Rial said education isn’t only about institutional learning. “We can learn about ourselves, our Soldiers and our Army if we just look, listen and implement.”
And learn, she did.
The El Paso, Texas, native intended to fulfill the terms of her three-year enlistment as a Patriot missile crewmember and return to civilian life. A few days from her final out-processing appointment at Fort Bliss, Texas, she had an epiphany. “That day, I practically ran to the post enlistment office and signed for another term to go to Germany as the initial contract reenlistment incentive.”
In the eight years that followed, the mother of two spent time in Hanau, Germany, and then went back to Fort Bliss as a drill sergeant. Rial described that tour as very difficult and, simultaneously, the most rewarding she has had.
“(I) had the ability to truly shape the future leaders of the Army and impress on them the importance of being a great Soldier and what that really means,” she said. “Taking the time to teach, coach and mentor these minds was something I took very seriously because a first impression is a lasting one, particularly when it involves young adults still trying to figure out what life is all about. The days and nights were very long but well-worth investing in tomorrow’s Army leaders.”
For Rial to take advantage of the opportunity to influence and shape hundreds of new recruits, she had to make a huge personal sacrifice.
“I was a single parent at the time and was unable to keep my children with me due to the long hours,” she said. “Luckily, I had a great co-parenting relationship with their father, but it required them to move out so he could perform those parental duties while I served my duties as a drill sergeant.”
Years later, Rial contends that sacrifice was well-worth it – her children were taken care of and she was able to make an indelible impact on brand new Soldiers.
“I had Soldiers many years later tell me that my leadership and compassion really changed their way of thinking on leadership development. Many of these Soldiers are now senior leaders themselves,” Rial said. “The idea that even one single act of kindness, compassion and understanding … can very much shape the concept of what leaders should be like in the future … makes a difference in their lives and, in return, they provide the same kind of compassionate leadership necessary to take care of Soldiers and their families. If Soldiers and their families aren’t taken care of, they won’t take care of the Army and its mission.”
After completing a successful tour as a drill sergeant – as if that weren’t enough – and just being selected for sergeant first class, Rial said she felt like she needed to push herself even more.
“I had reached a point in my career where I realized I needed a different challenge to continue personal and professional growth,” she said. “(I) was at a crossroads on whether or not to crossover to something different and start from the bottom again. Being an enlisted 14T was rewarding, but I also knew where that career path went and what positions would’ve been available to me at the time. I wanted something new to build – even if it was from scratch.”
In 2005, 11 years after she enlisted as a Soldier, Rial earned her warrant officer appointment as a 140E, air and missile defense system technician. Her assignments enabled her to further realize her goal of traveling – Suwon Air Base, South Korea; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Redstone Arsenal, and second tours to Germany and Texas.
And now, less than 16 years after joining the warrant officer ranks, she has pinned the highest rank achievable.
Though warrant officers shoulder enormous weight as the Army’s technical authorities, they only make up about 3% of the Army population.
A May 2020 U.S. Government Accountability Office report states the number of women in the Army fluctuated between 15.3% in 2004 to 15.1% in 2018 – lower than the overall military female population of 16.5% in 2018. Most years, female warrant officer promotion rates were higher than their male counterparts. Of the 12,670 warrant officers serving in 2018, 8% were women.
“Air defense is considered combat arms and early on was one of the only branches where women were allowed,” Rial explained. “Even then, women were definitely the minority in population and, in a male-dominant field, there is often a lot of adversity and inequality. As I progressed throughout my career, the number of women decreases so much that there are only a few at the top. Many women make the decision to have families or the responsibility of having a family is too great to handle with limited means of support. It’s a tough decision that women still face today.”
Though she said it was tough being a woman in ADA, Rial persisted and is now at the top of the ladder as an example and goal to which others – male and female – can aspire.
“The fact that you’re the first female to achieve that rank is truly groundbreaking,” AMCOM Commander Maj. Gen. Todd Royar said during Rial’s promotion ceremony Feb. 17. “But it has nothing to do with gender; it has everything to do with your capability and your capacity to lead – not only today, but into the future.”
The pandemic kept many of her loved ones from physically attending her promotion ceremony; her son Alejandro was the only family to be there in person. Her daughter Skye, husband Jordan, and parents Angela and Gabriel – as well as many others – watched remotely as it streamed online.
Even without her family there, Rial said they’ve been there all along the way and are much of the reason behind her many successes. “They are very excited and thrilled that I’ve continued to serve my country and earn promotions in the process.”
For now, Rial will continue to give 100% at AMCOM and hasn’t put another mark on the wall yet. “I really don’t know what’s next except to keep fighting for improvements that will help the warfighters on the ground with sustainment issues and concerns.”
With 26 years already under her belt, Rial said she wouldn’t be surprised to end up serving 35 years or more. “I realized after I hit 20 years in service that every year after that was a bonus,” she said. “I really can’t believe how quickly the years go by.”