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Old September 26 2012, 06:06 PM   #76
J.T.B.'s Avatar
Re: Did Kirk captain any ship before Enterprise?

The WWII-era USS Enterprise CV-6 was in active service for eight years, in which time it had twelve different captains, not counting the commander who was its CO during repairs at Pearl Harbor in July 1944. (That's right -- a ship in port can have a different commanding officer than it does when it's in service. After all, the captains would be needed elsewhere.)
OT: That wasn't really an assigned CO in those few weeks; Cdr. Hamilton was Enterprise's air officer who was in temporary command after newly promoted RAdm Matt Gardner was detached and before Cato Glover reported. The newly-assigned captain was most likely on leave (customary) before taking his new command, and as she was in the repair dock there was no hurry.

So eight years is, yes, absolutely, plenty of time for Kirk to rise from lieutenant to captain and have at least one command posting. (And TMoST said that Kirk was at commander's rank when he got his first starship command, a destroyer equivalent.)
Especially if there was some kind of "boom" in Starfleet size in Kirk's early career, capable officers would be much in demand to command new vessels. As WW2 ended USN officers from the class of 1939 were starting to get fleet submarine commands, with just over six years experience.

But where would he have proven himself a leader?
As an officer aboard other ships, especially one that distinguishes himself by lots of commendations and even some medals.
It's likely he did distinguish himself, but commendations and medals don't contribute to command experience.

Landing parties, special assignments, and even bridge shifts aboard the vessels he served on. If several of them involved incidents of extreme significance or of importance to Starfleet/the Federation, that would bring attention to him as an officer with command capability. Enough of them strung together could also be looked at as command experience.
A bridge "shift" -- or "watch" to use TOS terminology -- wouldn't count for much since if anything important happened the XO or CO would take over. A very unique landing party circumstance, maybe, though COs and XOs seem to take charge of anything important there, too. But it's still not the same as bearing the final responsibility as commanding officer. The best test for the ability to command a large vessel is command of a smaller vessel, that has been naval practice for 300 years.

It doesn't happen too often in military organizations.
But we do know that leapfrogging does happen in Starfleet.
Yes, but coming up with plausible reasons for it stretches credulity. At any rate, that was a response to a comment comparing military advancement to "other occupations," which are not really comparable.

I agree that there's nothing onscreen that confirms either way, but I think an educated guess weighs toward Kirk having commanded a vessel before Enterprise.
An educated guess could also be that Kirk was fairly young when he became a captain and that the Enterprise was his first command.
But if Kirk was indeed a high-flyer in his early years, as suggested above, that would make it more likely that he would have been selected for command of a small vessel, not less. That is assuming there are smaller ships, which no one here seems to dispute.

Again -- for the third or fourth time -- while all of that may technically be possible, I'm far from convinced that Dehner would have chosen her words that way in that particular context if that had been what she meant. Something can be technically true but still not be something a character would have any reason to call attention to in a particular context.
Agreed, technically possible but not the way people would normally use the language. Dehner was talking about Kirk's and Mitchell's history, not about current events. If she was referring to his current assignment the language would be something more along the lines of "You're the reason he's assigned here" or "You asked for him when you took this command."

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