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In Starfleet, a Captain-rank officer typically serves as the Captain of a Starship. Of course there are also lots of Captains in other positions, especially on planets and in Starbases, and perhaps one could characterize "non-ship-captaining captains" as well, but still.

My question is: What do Rear-Admirals typically do in Starfleet? What are their typical duties, as opposed to Vice-Admirals on one hand, and Commodores on the other? Or - is it the case that all admirals are basically the same in term of duties, and its just a matter of time served in the rank?

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    Same stuff as a regular admiral, but near the back. Feb 20, 2022 at 21:21
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    Their typical duties are to show up in the beginning of the episode, hassle the captain for awhile, and meddle in delicate situations to make them worse, of course.
    – Cadence
    Feb 20, 2022 at 23:24

2 Answers 2

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Starfleet (or rather Star Trek writers writing about Starfleet) tends to treat all admirals as being functionally the same, with Rear-Admirals and Vice-Admirals usually in charge of facilities mentioned, but often unseen, and significant plot events such as investigations and courts martial.

  • Rear-Admiral Brand served as Superintendent (Chief Administrator) of Starfleet Academy on Earth. She was seen to coordinate a 'board of enquiry' at the Academy after the accidental death of a student.

  • Rear-Admiral Cole (in Kirk's time) was responsible as the Supervisor of Curriculum at Starfleet's Training Academy.

  • Rear-Admiral Minor (in Kirk's time) was responsible as the Commodante [of] Cadets at Starfleet's Training Academy.

  • Rear-Admiral Norah Satie was responsible for a wide-ranging investigation of Starfleet officers suspected of sabotage and espionage.

  • Rear-Admiral Bennett served as Judge Advocate General to Starfleet.

  • Rear-Admiral Rollman commanded Starbase 401.

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  • So, shouldn't Brand have been a vice-admiral, seeing as how she might command the officers corresponding to Cole and Minor in her time?
    – einpoklum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 14:55
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    @einpoklum - Rank and Command don't go hand-in-hand in Starfleet, hence why Wesley can lead a team and why Harry Kim can command the night-shift.
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 14:56
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    @einpoklum - There are umpteen cases of less senior officers leading teams with more senior officers in them, not just in Voyager but also TNG.
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 15:04
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    @einpoklum - That's an extreme case, but Data is only a Lt. Commander and he regularly deputises for Cap'n Picard, on a ship with multiple full Commanders.
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 15:06
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    My understanding of naval tradition is that naval ships often work in shifts or watches. Sometimes a quite junior officer might be placed in charge of a watch, to give them command experience, they were in command of the ship while more senior officers slept. However if an emergency arose senior officers would quickly arrive and relieve the more junior officer and take command.
    – DafyddNZ
    Feb 22, 2022 at 2:47
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Note: This is a speculative answer which needs backing up.

Perhaps we should think of the "stereotypical", or perhaps the namesake-traditional, duties of a Rear Admiral - by borrowing from the original naval tradition which gave rise to this rank.

Well, in a squadron of starships,

  • The squadron commander would be a (four-star) Admiral, commanding from the center vessel and directing the squadron's activities.
  • A (three-star) Vice-Admiral would assist the Admiral and commands the lead ships, bearing the brunt of the battle.
  • A (two-star) Rear Admiral would command the ships at the rear. Since those ships are in the least danger, this officer is the most junior, typically, of the three flag officers.

And just like Captains don't always captain a ship, so are rear-admirals not always busy commanding the rear part of a squadron-of-ships. Perhaps even more so, since most Starfleet ships don't seem to be operating in squadrons.

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  • Can you give an example of this actually occurring? This seems to hold true for naval tradition, but I can't think of any live examples that hold true for this in Starfleet.
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 15:07
  • @Valorum: Added a disclaimer and will try to justify the application of the traditional role.
    – einpoklum
    Feb 20, 2022 at 15:17
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    Huh, I was right. Feb 21, 2022 at 10:46
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    @PaulD.Waite: Well, yes, but my answer predates your comment :-P
    – einpoklum
    Feb 21, 2022 at 11:14

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