Starfleet Rank Index: Enlisted
Most of a starship's or starbase's staff consist of enlisted personnel. These people carry out the day-to-day operations and maintenance that allows Starfleet to function. Enlisted personnel man the photon torpedo launchers during a red alert, treat minor scrapes and burns in sickbay, keep the ship’s shuttlecraft in peak working condition, and keep the transporter stations manned at all hours of the day. These, and many others like them, are the tasks enlisted personnel find themselves responsible for everyday.
The people among the enlisted ranks are not Starfleet officers. A Starfleet officer undergoes years of training and then receives a commission from the President of the Federation, while an enlisted crewman does not. Starfleet officers have a heavy duty and responsibility to bear, upholding the tenets of Starfleet and the Federation. Enlisted personnel have the same duty, but to a lesser degree.
Commissioned officers command the enlisted personnel, while the enlisted ranks perform the vast majority of tasks that keep Starfleet operational. Many of these jobs are unsuited to officers: A crewman first class repairing the replicators in a crew lounge frees up an officer to conduct research on an irregular cepheid variable, monitor critical systems on the bridge, or perform experiments in the lab.
The biggest difference between enlisted and commissioned officers is their degree of specialization. Commissioned officers attend four years at Starfleet Academy. Enlisted personnel attend a one-year abbreviated enlisted training program and specialist school at Starfleet Academy, where they learn the basic skills needed to function in Starfleet, as well as instruction focusing on a specific area of training. Thus, enlisted personnel do not learn as broad a curriculum as their commissioned brethren do.
No matter how high in rank an enlisted noncommissioned officer rises, a fully commissioned officer always outranks him. A mere Ensign outranks a Master Chief Petty Officer, even though the master chief may be a twenty-year veteran of Starfleet. In such an instance, however, the ensign would be wise to heed the advice of the highly skilled and experienced master chief. Inversely, noncommissioned officers may hold command over a commissioned officer in only the most unusual of circumstances, and, in instances where separated from the chain of command, the commissioned officer assumes authority, regardless of relative experience.
Despite these differences, many Federation citizens elect to join Starfleet as enlisted crewmen. First, Starfleet requires its future officers to pass a rigorous entrance exam (even Wesley Crusher had to try twice), and the Academy has a limited number of spaces in each entering class. The enlisted ranks have no such limitations. Those hopeful applicants who fail to meet the Academy’s requirements can still join Starfleet in the enlisted ranks.
Second, crewmen do not have an officer’s long-term commitment to Starfleet; many officers choose a career in Starfleet. An enlisted crewman serves a four-year tour of duty and at the end of the tour has the option to leave or stay for another tour. Enlisted personnel receive specialized job training to perform their duties, learning valuable skills for a future life in the civilian sector. Finally, many people would prefer not to attend a four-year program before they embark on their adventure in space. The prospect of travel, discovering strange new worlds, or just seeing the galaxy is one of the many reasons why species all over the Federation join the enlisted ranks of Starfleet.
Ultimately, serving in Starfleet, in any capacity, is an honorable burden, and one of the greatest opportunities a person can undertake. The chance to serve aboard a vessel such as the Enterprise, even as an enlisted crewman, is a dream for many who are willing to work hard to achieve it. Life may be at times unglamorous, but in the end many find the commitment worth it.
Enlisted personnel have a rank structure similar to that of officers, where higher-ranked enlisted personnel command the lower-ranked personnel beneath them. Promotion through the ranks is not difficult; in many cases all that is required is to serve in Starfleet for a minimum number of years to achieve the next rank.
Warrant Officer Grades
Even though Warrant Officers are considered commissioned officers, they are drawn exclusively from the ranks of enlisted personnel. The Warrant Officer (WO1), and the ranks that follow it, are a special form of commissioned officers bridging the gap between enlisted personnel and officers. Only Chief, Senior Chief, or Master Chief Petty Officers can apply to the Warrant Officer ranks. Admission to the Officer Candidate School for warrant officers has certain restrictions and requirements, but not as stringent as those for regular officers. A warrant officer has rank over all enlisted personnel, and frequently takes charge of large divisions or departments of these crewmen. Regular commissioned officers, such as an ensign, hold rank over a warrant officer.
There are three grades (not classes) of Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) ranging from two to four. Traditionally, very little difference exists between a CWO2 and a higher-ranking CWO, aside from more responsibility and a longer career path. Like Chief Petty Officers from the enlisted ranks, it is not uncommon to refer to a chief warrant officer simply as "Chief." Chief warrant officers can command departments, but never a vessel or facility except in the direst of emergencies, when no other commissioned officers are available.
Master Chief Petty Officer of Starfleet
The Master Chief Petty Officer of Starfleet (MCPOS) is the senior enlisted person in all of Starfleet, appointed by the Chief of Starfleet Operations (CSO) to serve as a spokesperson to address the issues of enlisted personnel to the highest positions in Starfleet. Exact duties vary, depending on the CSO, though the duties generally include traveling throughout the fleet, observing training and talking to enlisteds and their families.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer
After attaining the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, servicemembers may choose to further their career by becoming a Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMC). A CMC is considered to be the senior-most enlisted service member within a command, and is the special assistant to the Commanding Officer in all matters pertaining to the health, welfare, job satisfaction, morale, utilization, advancement and training of the command's enlisted personnel. CMCs can be Command level (within a single unit, such as a ship, starbase, or planet-side station), Fleet level (squadrons consisting of multiple operational units, headed by a flag officer or commodore), or Force level (consisting of a separate community within Starfleet, such as Starfleet Corps of Engineers, Starfleet Intelligence, etc.).
Master Chief Petty Officer
Nearly the highest ranking in the enlisted branch, the Master Chief has served with distinction for many years. A handful of master chiefs serve within Starfleet, all acknowledged leaders in their fields and commanding the respect of those beneath them. Such NCOs oversee important departments and can enjoy treatment almost like that of a distinguished officer.
Senior Chief Petty Officer
Much like the Chief Petty Officer, the Senior Chief oversees departments of large numbers of enlisted personnel. Senior chief petty officers are few in number, have served in Starfleet for a long time, and are experts in their field. A senior chief could be viewed as the enlisted equivalent of a commander.
Chief Petty Officer
The Chief Petty Officers (CPO) oversees large groups of petty officers and departments underneath him. These NCOs typically have many years of service (usually over 15) and a wealth of experience in their field. When one becomes "chief" he garners a measure of respect for his accomplishments and proficiency. CPOs are sought out for their knowledge and experience. A Chief Petty Officer can command a major engineering or services department on a Starship or Starbase. Examples include the Transporter Chief of a Starship or the Chief of Operations of a Starbase.
Petty Officer (1C, 2C, 3C)
There are three ranks of Petty Officer: third, second and first Class. A petty officer should not be confused with a commissioned officer in Starfleet, such as a Lieutenant or a Warrant Officer. The term petty officer still refers to an enlisted person. They are promoted from crewmen to 3rd Class, then 2nd, and then 1st.
Petty officers are referred to as non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, because they frequently oversee several enlisted crewmen in their departments, and are trained to do so. Most petty officers report to a Chief Petty Officer or sometimes a commissioned officer. A petty officer undergoes more rigorous training, or has risen from the enlisted ranks to his current position.
Crewman 1st Class
Similar to a Crewmen 2nd Class, these crewmen are given slightly more responsibility and are more knowledgeable in their fields. Crewmen do not oversee any other enlisted personnel and report to petty officers above them. They are enlisted personnel who usually have between 2 and 4 years of experience. Crewmen 1st Class generally serve as Medical Technicians or Engineering Technicians. Promotion to Petty Officer 3rd Class upon re-enlistment is common, but not guaranteed.
Crewman 2nd Class
These crewmen can also be referred to as "Specialist". The crewman is overseen by petty officers and has limited duties, usually seeing to a specific system or area of function. Crewmen 2nd Class are enlisted personnel with typically less than 2 years of service. Promotion to Crewman 1st Class after 18 months of service is routine.
Crewman 3rd Class
Recruits are only found within Starfleet Academy while personnel undergo training. Upon completion of the year-long training program, they receive an automatic promotion to the rank of Crewman Second Class, and in some cases can quickly distinguish themselves and attain the rank of Crewman First Class straight out of the Academy.
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