How would Starfleet act if it were more like the Navy?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by JJohnson, Jul 17, 2014.

  1. JJohnson

    JJohnson Captain Captain

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    In Star Trek, more TNG, we saw officers stay in the same rank and position for about 15 years (Riker, Data), without ever leaving. In TOS, we saw officers advance in rank (Spock, Kirk, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, et al) and move into new positions (Rand, Chekov, Sulu).

    My question is, if Starfleet were to act more like the Navy, how would it act with regard to promotions and MOS? Let's say I'm a newly commissioned ensign in the Navy, what's my career path to captain of my own boat? And in parallel, what would then be my career path to captain of my own starship in Starfleet? In the Navy, if I don't advance in rank, don't I wash out? And aren't there limited number of slots for each rank?

    I'm looking to get a handle on how a real military would handle promotions and MOS so that I can write a TNG story, and also possibly do a TNG-era fan film at some point down the line.
     
  2. CorporalClegg

    CorporalClegg Admiral Admiral

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    Officer promotions have service-time requires, both overall and current rank. (i.e. have served for X years and been current rank for Y years.) When the time prerequisite is met, then the officer applies for promotion and s/he is subject to performance review.

    The officer can be granted a premature promotion under very special distinguished circumstances (usually in combat). And of course there are also posthumous promotions granted for honorable deaths.

    *This is very simplified, but hopefully it's enough for you to get the idea.
     
  3. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk would have been rotated off the Enterprise after a year; sooner if he scratched the paint.
     
  4. AirCommodore

    AirCommodore Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    To reach the rank of Captain (0-6), you are looking at over 20 years of service since becoming an ensign. Sometime in your 40's would be normal. Yes there are occasional notable exceptions. I think Pete Dawkins made Brigadier General (0-7) at around age 39. That is very unusual. Mid-40's is the more likely age for a promotion to 0-6 Captain/Colonel.

    But you can command vessels at a much lower age and rank than that. It depends on the vessel type and you. You can get an idea by visiting the websites of each ship and looking at the commander's page, that usually gives a bio of the CO and XO.
    Star Trek hasn't been too bad in that regard. Most of the actors have been basically age-appropriate. TOS Kirk was a bit young, and NuKirk was ridiculous. But Mulgrew, Stewart and Bakula were all about right.

    It's when they stay in jobs, w/o promotions for years and years, that things go awry.
     
  5. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This is true. I've read up on service histories of famous warships from WWII and even current naval vessels. It seems ship COs only command for 12-18 months and that's it. Sometimes barely a year.

    Not being military myself, I find that pattern unusual. Getting a command should be significant, not another temporary posting to wait out a year. It seems hardly enough time to establish a command before shipping out again.
     
  6. JJohnson

    JJohnson Captain Captain

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    Exactly. Staying years in one job seemed the unrealistic bit, career-wise and pseudo-military-organization-wise. If Riker had been as ambitious as he started out, how soon would he have really made captain? He was newly promoted to commander in 2364 at 29 years of age.

    And yes, nuKirk was utterly ridiculous getting command practically right out of the academy of one of Starfleet's newest, biggest, and most powerful ships. Horrible.

    But back to the original point, that's good info on getting to captain in about 20 years.

    So 4 years, 22 years old (at youngest), and you graduate an Ensign. In our Navy, what're the lengths of service to get from ensign to LTJG, for example?

    And Picard, 59 in 2364 as captain for over 20 years, wouldn't he have either been forced out or promoted up to Admiral by that point?
     
  7. JJohnson

    JJohnson Captain Captain

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    So if I look at the USS Intrepid or USS Ronald Reagan, they'd have captains that last a year or so? Not 3-5 years? I can agree that it doesn't seem enough time to establish a good working relationship with the crew, but then again, there could be some purpose to it we civilians don't know.
     
  8. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's partly practical I believe - there are lots of jobs for Captains besides commanding ships at sea, and therefore you have to rotate around a lot or some would never command a ship and be stuck in shore jobs.

    It seems, although it is debated here at length, Starfleet has a lot of ships, so maybe the Captains can stay in place for longer, often a lot longer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014
  9. Last Redshirt

    Last Redshirt Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the reason why Starfleet has captains stay captains for so long is because it's a sort of coveted position. It's not something that's just kind of...there. The bond between Captain and Ship seems to be stronger than it is in the real-life Navy. Where a captain might command a ship IRL for twelve months and think of it nothing more than a tin bucket, a Trek captain could spend a good chunk of time on a ship before being either rotated to another ship, put in command of a starbase, or being kicked upstairs, and end up truly getting connected with the ship that he serves on.

    There is, however, two things that really bug me when it comes to Starfleet, at least with matters like this. The first is the erratic promotions. They don't really make much sense. Some officers end up with their ass in the captain's chair before they're forty while others spend years and years as an XO. I think the only real way to explain this is that you can refuse promotions in Starfleet unless you're essentially forced into it. That's probably why Riker dodged becoming Captain and Picard avoided being pushed upstairs as a Commodore/Admiral.

    The other is the distinct lack of decorations and awards. Starfleet officers seem almost...superhuman in their bravery under fire. How many times has the officers basically tossed themselves into danger to rescue civilians or fellow officers? Is it that Starfleet has really high standards for being decorated or is it just that they get decorated and we don't know it? To follow this up, why don't they wear their medals on their uniforms?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014
  10. AirCommodore

    AirCommodore Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    About 2 years for JG and another 2 for LT.

    Well, Stewart was 47 at the time I believe, as was Bakula at the beginning of ENT. Age 47 is just fine for Captain. That's what I was talking about. If the character was 59 and had been a Captain (rank) for decades that would be too long. You can command ships for a long while. As a Lt. Cmdr and Cmdr you could have commanded smaller ships. But the actual rank of Captain is not something you would hold for decades.
     
  11. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Picard has the Stargazer incident in his history though, so that might have delayed him getting another assignment for a while, and possibly delayed a promotion to Admiral.
     
  12. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Vice Admiral Admiral

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    IMO, promotions are where Starfleet is really different with no real hard rule regarding how long someone can stay at a particular rank. In some cases, a lack of advancement may be due to performance (good or bad), personal choice (refusal), or necessity (a long-term assignment with a firmly-set chain of command).

    I think the reason why Starfleet accepted William Riker's multiple refusal of commands prior to the Titan was that there was never a shortage of equally eligible & capable officers who would accept them. Had Riker continued to decline commands, the only one he would have hurt was himself as Starfleet would have eventually stopped offering them to him (in that light, the Titan may have been Riker's last chance for a captaincy, so it may have been a case of now or never for him).

    Personally, I think what we generally see in Trek shows with command crews staying put for years and years is more rare than common. On other ships throughout the fleet, captains & command crews could regularly change with people leaving to other assignments and being replaced by new people. I always kind of imagined that generally, people are promoted every four years unless circumstances or performance warrant otherwise.
     
  13. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Crews and commanding officers are rotated by tours of duty at present, with sometimes being about to go two or three tours at the same posting. Star Fleet's idea of a tour of duty might be five years. (five year mission). At least in Kirk's time.

    As the Federation expands and distances between getting to the new exploration areas increases, it is possible these tours of duty get longer and longer. It may be that while a ship might be out for seven to eight years from Federation space, and thus it not be entirely unusual for a captain and crew to remain at one posting for that long. This might have translated to ships inside the Federation at some point and thus you can have ships that go around for a decade with the same commanding officer and crew without anyone really noting anything odd about it.

    Captain Picard was in command of USS Stargazer for 22 years (having gotten command at the age of 28) prior to him losing it as a result of combat. He then had no ship command (that we are aware of) for about eight years. He then land the command of the newest "flagship of the Federation" USS Enterprise. He commands this ship for most of its eight or so year existence, with a short mission specific replacement by Captain Jellico after about six years in command. After USS Enterprise is lost due to combat, he is given command of the next USS Enterprise after only a year. Picard, as far as we know, holds this command for the next ten years before retiring from Starfleet to become an Ambassador to Vulcan.
     
  14. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    If it were more like the navy... for one thing, people would not be afraid of promotion to captain or admiral, or of "shore" or "desk" duty.

    Even so, all those ships have crews and officers so there should still be a similar proportion of officers coming up the pyramid. Something that might make more of a difference would be longer lifespans/working lives and later retirement.

    On what are you basing these characterizations of "real life Navy" captains? I had a relative who commanded an LPD for about 18 months in the 1980s. He regarded it as the most important and gratifying thing he ever did, got tears in his eyes when he talked about leaving the ship for the last time, stayed in contact with shipmates for more than 25 years, wore the ship's cap whenever he could, and went all over the country to almost every reunion. He got dozens of messages from shipmates when he died, and a few traveled hundreds of miles for his funeral.

    They did on TOS dress uniforms, and some admirals did in the movies.

    Well, somewhere there was one department head who couldn't move up to XO, one officer who couldn't move up to department head and so on.

    The system as shown has a lot of points that are hard to believe, but some are requirements of the medium. I would have preferred that they didn't call attention to it as they did in TNG, though.
     
  15. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Star Trek TMP and 2009 seem to indicate some sort of merit based promotion system, rather than time in service. Voyager is difficult to put a finger on since it is away from Federation space. Deep Space Nine is technically shore duty, but also a foreign deployment as it is in Bajoran space, not Federation space (at least until the end of the series). Enterprise has the issue of Starfleet being relatively new, and there not being all that many ships, but also not all that many experienced officers either.

    Star Trek and TNG are the windows into "standard" Starfleet operations.
     
  16. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I should hope so! I don't think any major navy has gone by pure seniority since before WW1.
     
  17. varek

    varek Commander Red Shirt

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    Starfleet was not exactly like the military, since it was not supposed to be a military organization. Rather, it was supposed to be an exploratory agency for the United Federation of Planets.

    Thus, someone could theoretically latch onto a coveted position like Captain of the Enterprise and stay there as long as possible, unless something caused him/her to be removed. And--at least up to a certain point--why change commanders of the flagship in midstream, for no reason? Having crews working together for years enabled them to function much more efficiently than a constantly rotating crew would be able to do. Sometimes, they communicated with a simple gesture or voice inflection that the adversaries would not have been aware of.

    Of course, someone could stay in the same position for too long. But, as long as he/she was achieving positive results, few people in Starfleet Command proably complained.
     
  18. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Starfleet ranks work the way they do to maintain the cast in the same place.

    But if we must have an in-universe explanation to explain why this works different than the real life military, it's because Starfleet's really into heroic mythology. The heroic Captain who can only be heroic when he's out in the field making instant life or death decisions can't possibly be removed from his post, because it would defeat his heroicness. The mythological crew of the Starship Enterprise, the ship given the holy name reserved for our best and most mythologized of ships and crews, must not be disbanded or the legend ends.

    Not all that practical, but that's how Starfleet works.
     
  19. Cyke101

    Cyke101 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Even if we removed nuKirk from the equation, there were others like Riker and Tryla Scott who were either captains or good enough for promotion in their mid-to-late 20s. Also, if I've done my math properly, Picard became captain of the Stargazer at around 28 or so. So Starfleet seems to really like young captains.

    Anyway, if Starfleet were more like the Navy, I'd expect a bit more dancing on the hulls, and preferably with a biker, a cop, and a construction worker at least.
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the idea that a year is not enough time to establish a command goes against the idea of uniformity in the military. If you're trained and know your job you should be relatively interchangeable. You might feel like a family, just as a film crew does when they shoot for 10 months, but you move on to the next assignment and the next family. Star Trek creates a cute fiction of special people bonded together seemingly-forever, but that's not the way it works, even in business, let alone the military.
     

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