I had been under the impression that enlistees like Chief O'Brien did not attend Starfleet Academy, but I was just watching DS9 episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," and Dr. Bashir made the following comment:

Come on, Chief, surely you took elementary temporal mechanics at the Academy?

Being close friends by this point in the series, Bashir would certainly know whether or not O'Brien went to Starfleet Academy. So it seems to me, this leaves one of the following options:

A. Enlistees go to the Academy as well, but for whatever reason don't get to be officers. Maybe poor grades, or an abbreviated courseload for enlistees?

B. Chief O'Brien failed out of the Academy and decided to enlist instead.

C. There's some other Academy to which Bashir is referring.

D. This is a scriptwriting error.

D seems like an unacceptable answer because, even if this were the case, the mistake should be rectified by working it into the lore. C would make sense but if so, you would think it would be mentioned at some other point in the history of Star Trek. That leaves A and B, which both seem equally plausible to me. Or is there another option that I'm overlooking?

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    I would assume that even enlistedmen would do some courses at the Academy
    – Valorum
    Aug 21, 2016 at 14:08
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    Related (possible duplicate?): Why did O'Brien start out as a transporter chief in TNG?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 21, 2016 at 14:10
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    I'm tempted to close as a dupe of this; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/112273/…. There's an explicit reference to a non-Officer (Simon Tarses) attending the Academy for pre-Starship posting training.
    – Valorum
    Aug 21, 2016 at 14:17
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    Another possibility is that enlisted men don't go to the Academy unless/until they're up for promotion to Chief, at which point they take a course designed for Chief candidates. This would not be the full curriculum to which commissioned officers are subjected, but would prepare an NCO for the special responsibilities of that rank. The USN has special uniforms that CPOs wear that are somewhat of a hybrid between enlisted and officer uniforms, so it's not a new idea for Chief to be Officer Lite. Aug 22, 2016 at 16:03
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    @gWaldo I never said the rank was a hybrid, but the uniforms clearly are. Lower enlisted rank uniforms are visibly different from CPO, which has far more in common with the warrant and commissioned uniforms. Aug 22, 2016 at 20:35

5 Answers 5


Yes and No. From memory alpha, referencing the Trials and Tribble-ations mentioned in the question:

Julian Bashir once remarked that O'Brien had attended Starfleet Academy in "Trials and Tribble-ations", which is a training school for commissioned officers and not noncoms. Ronald D. Moore remarked, "This is a mistake, plain and simple. If you want to rationalize it, I suppose we could say that the enlisted training program also takes place at the Academy." (AOL chat, 1998)

So there are in universe statements that O'Brien attended Starfleet Academy, but this appears to be a mistake. Also, in the DS9 episode "Shadowplay" O'Brien says that at age 17 he declined admission to the Aldeberan Music Academy and enrolled in Starfleet. This would suggest that he went straight into Starfleet without attending the academy. (Of course, it does not preclude that he might have returned to the academy after having served some time in Starfleet.)

  • I was hoping this was not the case, but it appears to be the most technically correct answer. I hope in Discovery they make a point to show enlistees doing something at Starfleet Academy so this error becomes instead a clever continuity validation.
    – Kefka
    Aug 22, 2016 at 20:31
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    @Matt continuity validation isn't "clever", it's the very definition of bad writing. Props to the team for doing the sensible thing and simply moving on from mistakes instead of tying themselves in pointless and unnecessary knots.
    – user36551
    Aug 22, 2016 at 20:34
  • If we're already in the realm of rationalizing, it's also possible that someone in as senior a position as O'Brien is required to receive some training officers do. It would only be logical to hold it in the Academy where the material is already being offered. Despite not technically being an officer, O'Brien still commands a portion of the crew in DS9, and the entire crew often relies on his decisions for their very lives.
    – jpmc26
    Dec 19, 2016 at 5:52

Although the canon evidence of it is limited, there does appear to be a Starfleet Technical Services Academy, at which non-commissioned officers receive basic training and special skills training.

One piece of evidence for the existence of this Academy is in the season 7 episode, "Eye of the Beholder", on a readout for a crew member.

enter image description here

Of course, one problem with this is that in the context of the episode, the record was viewed within a hallucination. Still, given the vividness and accuracy of the hallucination, it's suggestive evidence that the Academy exists.

Considering Chief O'Brien's technical expertise, it's likely he attended this Academy, and that Bashir was referencing it. O'Brien was for a significant time a transporter chief, and the transporter is one of (admittedly several) technologies that are most likely to lead to accidental time travel, so it stands to reason that he would have had to take at least an elementary temporal mechanics course there.

  • Tell me more about accidental time travel with the teleporter. Aug 25, 2016 at 14:34
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  • Ahhh...DS9 was one of the series I barely watched. Maybe I'll binge it if it's on Netflix. Aug 25, 2016 at 15:04
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    Whoa! "According to the DVD commentary, as this episode was finishing production an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times describing a proposal by the mayor to create fenced-in "havens" for the city's homeless, to make downtown Los Angeles more desirable for business. The cast and crew were shocked that this was essentially the same scenario that Past Tense warned might happen in three decades, but was now being seriously proposed in the present.[2]" Aug 25, 2016 at 15:10

I believe (I'd have to watch it again) in the TNG episode "The Drumhead", crewman Simon Tarses states that he went to start fleet academy for enlisted personel, instead of officers academy. This was in his conversation with Picard, when Picard was trying to get to know the crewman better.


Star Trek appears to draw inspiration for Starfleet heavily from the conventions existing in the U.S. military. This would appear to include the concepts of commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Bashir comes across as a bit of an elitist, and would have entered Starfleet via the "commissioned officer" track. O'Brien is very "working class" and would seem to have entered Starfleet on a "non-commissioned officer" track. There is no reason they should have had similar training curricula.

Also, I believe O'Brien is a little older and may have gone through the Academy earlier than Bashir. Who's to say the the curriculum doesn't evolve with time?

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    The U.S. military that you refer to does not send enlistees to the academy. That's the root question here. Does Starfleet send enlisted personnel to the Academy.
    – Xalorous
    Aug 22, 2016 at 17:38
  • i.e. Bashir could have been wrong
    – user11521
    Aug 23, 2016 at 0:03

I always assumed that engineers had to go to Starfleet Academy, but I guess it's debatable. However, in the first few episodes, his character was in a red command uniform, indicating that he was an officer. I also seem to remember in TNG 65 (Sins of the Father) that many of his positions were listed while he was a trial witness, and not all of them were as an engineer.

  • Scotty was an engineer, and an officer.
    – Xalorous
    Aug 22, 2016 at 17:37
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    This was actually explicitly denied at one point in DS9. I forget which episode, but it was the one where Worf was temporarily in command and he was giving the engineers a hard time. O'Brien pulled him to the side and said something to the effect of "They're engineers, they didn't go to Starfleet Academy."
    – Kefka
    Aug 22, 2016 at 20:34

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