1. Johncrawfordz

    Johncrawfordz Member

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    [Military] Navy Chain In Command

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Johncrawfordz, Jan 17, 2017.

    Good day

    Currently I have a plot in mind with some basic work drafted out. However I wanted to verify the possibility of this occurring within the modern time Navy Chain in Command.

    Genre: Science fiction (Space wars)

    My main character is a fresh graduated officer from Earth. He becomes replacement crew members (of the dead & injured) of a combat ship. By circumstance, the ship's Executive officer / 2nd in Command (XO) is dead and the officer and the ship's Admiral becomes injured (serious but not critical).

    MC is promoted to Acting Captain of the ship to bring the ship home. Reason as ship is within combat zone and Admiral needs more experienced crew members to man the other key departments / stations (Engineering, Navigation, etc)

    2 Main questions
    1) Can an officer be promoted directly to XO as ad hoc replacement given critical nature of combat?
    2) Is this type of delegation of the ship considered justifiable under standard Navy chain of command?
    3) Does the Acting Captain have the right to temporarily promote other crew members to meet a role?

    I understand from my search so far, succession for chain of command is from top rank until to the lowest. The situation however is slightly different as the Admiral is still alive. Admiral is capable of assuming command at any time but does not under medical orders. Second goal is also train the officer to be replacement 2nd in Command.

    Hope to hear your opinions with my thanks in advance

    Regards
    John Crawfordz
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017
  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    I think it sounds okay with one big caveat: It seems pretty unlikely that there'd be a ship with only three (four, counting the admiral) officers on board. My grandfather was XO, and later captain, of a destroyer escort in WWII, which was a fairly small ship as such things went, and unlikely to host an admiral, but I went digging and found this chart listing the officers of a ship in roughly the same class. It shows 16-18 (the chart is a little unclear) officers assigned to the ship. Some of those, like the medical officer, are not "line" officers (in the chain of command, basically), but there's still a lot of people to go through before you get to your ensign or Lt. (jg).

    However, the junior officer being left in command of the whole ship has been a staple of naval fiction since at least the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. The Miles Vorkosigan series has a lot in common with Hornblower, and has done pretty well.

    Since you're writing SF, you have a lot of latitude with ship size and crew requirements, just make sure that there's a reason your MC is the last surviving line officer (and you could also include a conflict with, say, a very senior Comms officer who thought he should be in charge) and I think you'll be on safe ground.
     
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  3. Johncrawfordz

    Johncrawfordz Member

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    Alright, I understand the point. More so especially since the ship I have in mind is a Battleship which would have a lot more officers. I have been downsizing the numbers though through battle casualties (but not to an absurd number).

    However, I don't intend him to be the last line officer as part of the journey involves the growth of the main character through adversity and the challenges between the other officers yes.

    I also edited a 3rd question which I forgot to add.

    Thanks
     
  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    In response to your third question, I think he'd have to have that authority; the ship doesn't run otherwise.

    But the battleship thing presents a real problem. I couldn't find any official organizational charts, but this site says that the US Navy is about 23% officers. If we assume that translates to shipboard life (I'm sure it doesn't, but I don't know if there are more or fewer officers afloat), the USS Missouri had a crew of ~1800 people in the higher-tech 1980s (down from ~2700 in earlier days). Each turret had a crew of around a hundred men. That 23% ratio means that there are going to be 22 guys ahead of the MC in the captaincy line in just turret #1, not to mention all the other, non-turret line officers. Again, this is really rough and needn't apply to your SF space navy, but the bigger the ship, the less chance your character will have of ending up in command of it (if it's still at all functional).
     
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  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    Caveat: I don't have specific experience with the navy, but this (points to the above) seems to me the recipe to disaster - and not realistic at all. The captain has command capability and is responsible for each and every crew member, so IMO he needs to be the most senior guy in terms of experience of the remaining line officers. Nav and other depts. are specialized skillsets and would need to be trained for in advance.

    In Hornblower and Midshipman's Hope ALL other officers above the junior rank have been killed off (and there weren't that many officers and departments to start with). Miles Vorkosigan came from a different direction and conned the fleet into believing he was the most senior officer (when he in effect wasn't, but he was smart enough to recognise to get help)
     
  6. Johncrawfordz

    Johncrawfordz Member

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    I understand. I will then need to finalize the ship size then since it will affect the number of crew. Automation will probably lower a chunk but not all since many aspects probably need bodies (Security, Maintenance, Gunnery, Logistics, etc)

    Thanks, that's why I asked here to be sure on this idea =D. I understand that the captain should be the most senior guy. My attempt on the take was trying to have the Most senior guy still around and him delegating orders to give a form of ad hoc training / command. Just that the 2nd in Command is dead and the Admiral couldn't afford to pull a replacement from the other Line officers due to their experiences they have and being in an active combat area

    In that respect, a Hornblower solution might be needed. I felt that was too generic in nature but I will consider it more seriously now due to these circumstances.

    Thanks for your opinion.

    Regards
    John Crawfordz
     
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  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    I interpreted the OP's question to be one more of "Congratulations, Petty Officer Smith, you're now our Engineering officer. I need those engines online yesterday!" rather than a formal, new pins on the collar, jump in pay promotion, but there's a history of that as well:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlefield_promotion
     
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  9. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    As has been mentioned, it's unlikely.

    1/ Not all ships have an Admiral, only the ship in command of that particular fleet...and even then, it would be a sizeable fleet. A smaller fleet would be under command of a Commodore, or lower rank. It is the fleet that is commanded by the Admiral, NOT the ship...although he may assume direct command. So, you're assuming a major vessel at the head of a fleet.

    2/ Not all ships were commanded by a Captain. British Torpedo boats in the Adriatic in WWII, for instance, were commanded by a 2nd Lieutenant (Ensign in the US), with the flagship (the ship in which the senior officer flies his flag) of them under the command of a Lieutenant (emphasizing my point above!)

    3/ As has been mentioned, there'd be a good chunk of senior officers aboard, in charge of the various departments. The whole "OK, Ensign, you're now in command of the USS Enterprise" from the new Star Trek franchise is the most implausible thing in an unbelievable film. There'd need to be an awful lot of dead men's shoes for that to happen...and that would probably mean not enough capable officers for the ship to function at all.
     
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  10. Johncrawfordz

    Johncrawfordz Member

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    Alright, i'll take a look.

    Indeed, this is something closer to what I had in mind yes. =P

    Noted and understood.

    For 1), in the story there 'was' a Fleet. Understood about the command of the ship. The flagship even under Admiral control will have its own Captain.

    For 2), Understood and noted.

    For 3), Indeed you are correct. That is the biggest concern I had in mind which is why I asked this question with the scenario I wanted to present to make it plausible in such manner. Even the 'cause' and arguments about itself is part of the plot conflicts I had in mind! XD.
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    All of this having been said, I think writers (or at least the ones here) are a lot harder on each other than the vast majority of readers (or viewers) are. Your idea is moving on well-trodden ground, but I wouldn't call it cliche, and the reason the ground is well-trodden is people like that kind of story. All you need to do is make some adjustments, come up with a reason that this guy ends up in charge. Perhaps something like "Under Siege", where the ship is running with a skeleton crew at the beginning? Dunno, but don't give it up, you can make it work.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Heinlein's Starman Jones - there are multiple officers but only trained Astrogators are allowed to be captain. The Captain and the Nav officer are killed, so the much more experienced XO who is not an Astrogator makes the MC "captain" in order to get the ship home

    I'm not saying do exactly that - but its an example of how you can make this work by tweaking how the chain of command works. I wouldn't worry too much about real life comparables just make up something plausible

    Another option - Stargate Atlantis , only those with the 'ancient gene' are able to fly the jumpers / work ancient tech - something similar could again explain why a junior officer might be put in a position of authority
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Another option is that a junior officer can be promoted to command after distinguishing himself in combat - but he wouldnt be put in charge of a battleship

    Both Dudley Pope - Ramage, and Alexander Kent -Bolitho. go that route promoting the MC from 3lt of a bigger ship to command a frigate after impressing a senior officer
     
  14. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually am in the military. I think what most of you are not understanding is how the billeting system works. Becoming an Executive Officer (XO) is not a matter of promotion or changing of rank. This is a billet. It can only be filled by certain ranks, but if there no ranks to fill the key position, outside personnel will be brought aboard with likewise ranks, or lower officers will take that position for the time being.

    Which brings me to something else I saw in here. Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers are not actual officers. They are non-commissioned officers (NCO or SNCO), otherwise known as enlisted personnel. Enlisted ranks are always below even the lowest officer rank. Enlisted personnel billets and officer billets do not overlap. They are completely separate jobs. An officer does not need to be an expert in job area where he is the Officer in Charge (OIC). His job is to lead and maintain standards for the personnel.

    Also, officers generally rotate positions. Average rotation cycle is one to two years. This is to create officers that are well rounded, leading to them becoming effective generals or admirals if they make it that far in their careers. In today's military, there is no such thing as someone maintaining command of a single unit for such an extended period of time. This would be hard on the morale of an existing unit if per say they had a less respectable officer lording over them for years.

    Honestly, if you want to look at science fiction example that shows the difference between enlisted and officers, Battlestar Galactica is a decent representation.

    This is just a very generalized synopsis of whats going on with these ranks. If any of you have a more specific question pertaining to military, I would be glad to help anyone. I am a Marine, not a sailor, but I understand how this works for most branches.
     
  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    @EFMingo Semper Fi from a brother Marine! Who has been out of the service for quite some time now, but still, it's good to see more of us.

    I think you're mistaken with regards to the US Navy and officer billets though. Ships are a lot more technical than ground-based units, and the Navy makes quite a distinction between line (technically "Unrestricted Line") officers and "restricted line" (specialist) officers. From the Wikipedia article

    While

    (All emphasis mine)

    Wikipedia goes on to say that

    Basically, the duties that the Navy gives to Restricted Line Officers are the things that the Marines leave to the Navy to handle. It sounds somewhat similar to the First Sergeant / Master Sergeant division, although I'm sure that's not exact. Since the OP is writing about a future space Navy, they're of course free to eliminate, multiply, or otherwise mess with things any way they please.

    S\F
    -Iain
     
  16. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The Warrant Officer route is a whole other ball game. I was actually attempting to follow this path in respect to Aviation Electrician MOS, but am no longer pursuing it because of family distance issues.

    In respect to the corps, WO is only attainable after at least 8 years of service in one of your aforementioned fields and at least the rank of sergeant. This is not a likely scenario though. Most WO selections occur after something like twelve years of service. It's cutthroat and whole other bizarre field. The WO has five ranks which lie between enlisted and commissioned personnel, but they also have the ability to be promoted to full commission. It is restricted though. They are known as Limited Duty Officers (LDOs). An LDO can never command a unit, and they can only reach the rate of O-5. They are however the selected leader of their respective field. Their primary mission is for the good of the MOS, or job, as a whole across all platforms. Sorry, I'm a bit biased because of work in aviation maintenance, but I do work very heavily with my OIC which is a WO.

    SO in the end, WOs/LDOs are simply enlisted personnel who have remained in their field and distinguished themselves to a rank between enlisted and commission.

    Semper Fidelis!
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
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  17. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    2016-08-26-Strip_437_Warranted_web.jpg

    From Terminal Lance
     
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  18. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Ive seen every episode of Star Trek and I'm pretty sure that's never happened. The lowest rank I can recall ever in charge was seven or the dr, who were still quite high in rank.

    Although I'm sci-fi, it's easier to put lower rank people in charge. The captain is less in control of operations than a WWII captain. WWII ships were dumb machines, spacecraft have AI and automation.

    As for promoting: they can promote people while acting as captain. But his authority extends only to the bounds of the ship, so so will their orders. When in charge of a ship, the temp captain is captain of the ship, but their rank in the military brass has not changed.
     
  19. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Damn it Iain, that's privileged information!
     
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  20. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Star Trek is a 2009 American science fiction adventure film directed by J. J. Abrams, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is the 11th film of the Star Trek film franchise and is also a reboot that features the main characters of the original Star Trek television series, portrayed by a new cast and the first in the reboot series. The film follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard USS Enterprise as they combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. The story takes place in an alternate reality[3][4] because of time travel by both Nero and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy). The alternate timeline was created in an attempt to free the film and the franchise from established continuity constraints while simultaneously preserving original story elements.

    In this film, Kirk has just completed basic training, and is thus an Ensign when he embarks upon the Enterprise. He assumes command, which is essentially mutiny. Like I said, an incredible film...and I am using the word literally, not as a compliment.


    You're echoing my point.

     
  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    Time to break the seal and unleash the beast:

    You Are in Command Now

    If you go to the "Real Life" tab at the bottom, you'll find some interesting examples. One which might fit your situation is this:

     
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Reaslistically this is only implausible because you are expecting Starfleet to follow the same protocols as real life USN ... given that its obviously total fiction there is no reason at all why Starfleet could not have different procedures.

    Likewise in Heinlien's Starman Jones, Jones as the last surving astogation officer becomes captain, despite his being a trainee and there being a much more senior XO because the XO is an engineer not an astrogation officer, and in the fleet Heinlien has concieved only Astrogators can be captain

    Which is basically the point to the OP - if you are writing real world fiction you have to get this stuff right - if you are writing sci fi about the future you can make up whatever you want so long as you sell it
     
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  23. Murkie

    Murkie Active Member

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    In Red Storm Rising one of the leading characters - an Intelligence Officer cons Nimitz to free up the Captain for other important duties.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    although tbf its standard practice for officers of a ships company to share the Conn (and the deck ) , and Tolland does have his 'water wings' as he was a regular until he put his destroyer on a sandbank.. its not quite the same as being actually 'in command'
     
  25. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Retired commander, here. Ships are organized by departments, each headed by a mid-level officer (LCDR typically): Engineering, Communications, Operations, Navigation, Admin/Personnel, Line (hull Maintenance). Within each department, there are smaller suborganizations to which a Junior Officer (JO) (LT and below), such as you described your recent graduate, would be assigned, largely for training. Overall head is the XO and CO. The Admiral embarks to command a group of ships, and has his own staff, similarly organized. He goes to great length to not intrude on internal matters of the ship he is riding; his responsibility is the battle group.

    Not likely that a JO would fleet up to be CO/XO if the ADM and his staff survived, due to lack of experience. The ADM would most likely detach one his more experienced officers to take over, though the JO might rise as high as necessary. If he is smart, he will realize that he is over his head, and will solicit the help of senior enlisted (Chief Petty Officers) to guide him along the right way. Without the ADM on board, he might very well rise to CO, by virtue of being the senior sole survivor. But now he will really need the help of the enlisted to get the ship home.

    I would expect that future spacecraft of significant size will utilize the organizational template of the Navy, since the missions are likely to be very similar, though the environments very different. More likely like 18th century sailing ships, where the COs orders might be "proceed to x and take all actions necessary to protect US interests," due to shaky and long-delayed communications, lack of detailed intel before hand. Star Trek followed that model very well, and very convincingly.
     

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