Thinking about the TNG episode "Disaster", Lt. Munroe was killed during the impact. The episode plays out with Deanna taking command, but what would have happened if the only remaining crew on the bridge were non-commissioned officers? For instance, if O'Brien and other chiefs were the only survivors of the bridge? Is there a canon reference for chain of command in such a situation?

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    The senior non-commissioned officer gets the nod...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


In the episode DS9: Valiant, we encounter a ship that was on a training cruise. The senior staff all died and the remaining officer gave command to the highest ranked cadet.

WATTERS: (tolerant) "Sir" is correct, ensign. I was given a battlefield commission and command of this vessel by the late Captain Ramirez. Using that authority, I've also commissioned and promoted other members of Red Squad as needed.

Note that in this instance, instead of doing what's appropriate (e.g. navigating the ship to the nearest real officer to allow them to take over) Watters has been playing at being captain because he doesn't want to stop.

As to what would happen if this was a normal crew, the NCO with the highest rank would almost certainly have taken charge. Everyone on the ship that isn't a civilian holds a rank.

In the event that a senior officer is missing, everyone defers to the next most senior all the way down to Crewman 3rd class, which is basically the guy who makes sure the vending machines don't run out of fun-size Munchie Bars.

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    You'd think the lower number was older, unless they give out ID numbers in descending order for some reason.
    – Cadence
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 20:21
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    @Valorum That is the way it works... Someone who is 3 years at a rank is Senior to someone with 2 years and 364 days. Unless specifically directed by an officer to appoint the junior to the senior position. (i.e. Your in charge of this away team.) The one with more time in rank is senior. In the US Navy there is a tradition, The Ensign with the most time in rank (or grade) on a ship is called the "Bull" Ensign. and his Ensign collar bar had the word "Bull" engraved on it.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 0:39
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    @MichaelStachowsky even in peace time and in the absence of commissioned officers, there are non-commissioned officers on the ship. Memory Alpha documents the various ranks, you're looking for "Enlisted Ranks". Field promotions, such as Janeway gave the Maquis crew, would be "Provisional Ranks". In the absence of commissioned officers, it would fall to non commissioned officers to take charge, as explained above.
    – WJTownsend
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 1:17
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    @A.B. - That was a Red Dwarf reference (RD: Justice)
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 7:18
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    Real-world retired senior NCO here. Precedence goes as follows: (1) Highest-ranked member is senior. (2) If two or more members share this distinction, the one with the earliest date-of-rank is senior. (3) If there is still a tie, the one with the earliest time-in-service date is senior. (4) If there is still a tie, the one born first is senior.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 15:40

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