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An officer is a member of an armed force or other organization who holds a position of authority.
Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position. Commissioned officers are typically the only persons, in Starfleet, able to act as the commanding officer (according to the most technical definition of the word) of a Starship or Space Facility.
In Earth's Starfleet, an officer or commissioned officer is an individual who has attended, and graduated from the four-year cadet program of Starfleet Academy. Upon graduation from the Academy, the cadet is granted a commission appointing him or her to Starfleet's most junior officer's rank: that of Ensign. With the commision comes a Bachelor's degree in his or her major field of academic study, be it the Pure Sciences, Medicine, Tactical Science, etc.
Commissioned officers generally receive training as leadership and management generalists, in addition to training relating to their specific specialty or function in their parent organization. Most developed interstellar powers have set the goal of having their officer corps university-educated, although exceptions exist to accommodate officers who have risen from the non-commissioned ranks.
A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is an enlisted crewman holding a position of some degree of authority who has (usually) obtained it by promotion from within the non-officer ranks. They usually receive some leadership training, but their function is to serve as supervisors within their area of trade specialty and, at lower NCO grades, they are not generally considered management generalists. Senior non-commissioned officers serve as advisers and leaders from the duty section level to the highest levels of Starfleet.
Officers in Starfleet are divided into three primary groups, Line Officers (Captain or below), Flag Officers (Fleet Captain and above) and Staff Officers.
Starfleet Line Officers are Commissioned Officer assigned to Starship, Starbase or Space Station positions. Line Officers may be Command Officers, Engineers, Medical Officers or Scientists and may have multiple duties on a particular assignment.
Under most Starfleet Starship organizations Line Officers are further divided into the Senior and Junior Officers.
Ensign is the most junior Starfleet line rank. It is the rank bestowed on newly-commissioned officers when they graduate from Starfleet Academy. Ensigns typically begin their careers as the most junior officers in the department of their chosen specialty.
Lieutenant Junior Grade is the Starfleet line rank immediately superior to ensign. Officers at this rank typically hold support positions on starships and starbases. At this rank, they have begun to prove their ability to perform acceptably in Starfleet, and typically begin to take on more senior roles in command situations. Typical posts at this rank are conn officer, communications officer, or second officer of a shift (see lieutenant).
Lieutenant is the Starfleet line rank immediately superior to Lieutenant jg. Officers at this rank typically have some command experience, and are occasionally appointed department heads on starships. Typically they are shift commanders in a department under a lieutenant commander; for example, a lieutenant commander will be chief of engineering and will also be commander of A shift, and there will be a B and a C shift, each under a lieutenant.
A senior officer denotes a member of the senior staff of a starship or starbase involved in the top level, command decisions of the day-to-day operations of their post.
In the Earth Starfleet, where there were limited personnel choices with special talents, junior officers by rank were sometimes senior officers by practicality. The Senior Staff on most Starships included:
- Commanding Officer
- Executive Officer
- Chief of Operations
- Chief Helmsman
- Chief Engineer
- Chief Security Officer
- Chief Medical Officer
- Chief Science Officer
Lieutenant Commander is the Starfleet line rank immediately superior to Lieutenant. Officers with this rank typically hold positions as starship department heads, or, in some cases, as commanding officer or first officer of a starship.
Commander is the Starfleet line rank immediately superior to Lt. Commander. Officers at this rank typically hold positions such as space station commander or first officer of important starships.
Captain is the most senior regular line rank in Starfleet and immediately superior to Commander. It is most often applied to starship and starbase commanders. This rank is usually considered a big transition, because it is often the first rank in which officers run a base of operation (for example, a starship) more or less by themselves.
A flag officer is both a historic naval and military rank and a modern Starfleet title. It generally refers to all officers of Fleet Captain rank or higher. The term flag officer stems from the historical naval practice that when a person of admiral rank was posted to a ship, a flag denoting his rank and presence was flown. In an age of visual signals, the ships under the admiral's command would look to the flagship for orders and instructions. The term traditionally denotes any officer that commands a squadron of starships, possibly in addition to one under their direct command.
Fleet Captain is a title bestowed on senior Starfleet captains. It is a rare distinction, held by particularly distinguished captains.
Commodore or Rear Admiral Lower Half is immediately superior to a fleet captain, and just before rear admiral.
Rear AdmiralUpper Half is inferior to a vice admiral, and superior to a commodore or captain.
Vice Admiral Starfleet flag rank immediately superior to a rear admiral.
Admiral is the second most senior flag rank known to exist in Starfleet.
Fleet Admiral is the most senior flag rank in Starfleet.
Not all flag officers are required to have commanded a starship in their career.
A staff officer is a Commissioned Officer that serves directly under a flag officer or in the direct staff of a flag officer. A staff officer can be of any rank below Captain and may have been a line officer prior to their current assignment.
Staff Officers cannot take command of Starships or Starbases in the absense of a serving line officer unless directly ordered to by a superior officer in the Starship's Chain of Command.