In the Halo universe, the main character is John-117, commonly referred to as "the Master Chief", a non-commissioned officer even though he had a lifelong military education. Why hasn't he become a commissioned officer?

This actually goes beyond him. There are a couple of Lieutenants, but that is all.

Is there any reason for having so few officers in the Spartan-II program?

  • 3
    Not being familiar with the Universe itself, does John-117 actually command a large (or any) body of fighters? A given sergeant may very well be a better soldier in practice than most officers (including the mental ability and experience) to do some of "officer" tasks; but that doesn't include him into the chain of command. Apr 12, 2013 at 16:12
  • @DVK - no, he doesn't. For the most part, Spartans act in 4-man or smaller squads, and rarely interact with line troops
    – The Fallen
    Apr 12, 2013 at 16:51
  • As far as I'm aware (up to Spartan-III program) there was only ever one Spartan comissioned officer. This was one of the origional super-soldier Spartans who went on to train the next generation. This is from Ghosts of Onyx (I think. It's been a while :) ) Sep 30, 2013 at 12:08
  • @RobertEnglish There were actually 2 from Ghosts of Onyx - LtCmdr Kurt-051 and LtJG Fred-104. These were the only S-IIs to be given officer ranks. S-IIIs, of course, were. (Jorge-052 was an S-II, but he was a CWO)
    – The Fallen
    Feb 3, 2014 at 22:37

4 Answers 4


Flippant answer: because he works for a living.

Officer-ship is not a reward. It's a different set of jobs entirely. To grossly oversimplify: enlisted men are the workforce; non-commissioned officers are the foremen; and officers are the managers.

As a Master Chief Petty Officer, the Master Chief has authority over most other enlisted and NCO personnel. Most officers--the smart ones who want to live to see tomorrow, anyway--will also seek out and listen to his advice, even if they do outrank him, because you don't get to be a MCPO without at the very least being an expert in your specialty.

It's not unknown, in real militaries, for an enlisted man to work up through NCO and eventually do the necessary course work and paperwork to be considered for a commission, of course. But it's not an automatic progression, either.

  • 13
    As an aside, I think one reason a lot of people lose sight of the actual structural differences is that two very common television portrayals of military organizations don't really present them quite normally. Star Trek, for example, barely has any NCOs or enlisted men -- Roddenberry himself believed that all starship personnel were academy graduates and hence, officers. MAS*H is predominately depicting a medical unit, in which medical professionals were granted officer rank because they were professionals, a real practice but one that's outside normal military structure. Apr 12, 2013 at 16:50
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    That is actually not TOO flippant. As a former military man, I expect that might be HIS answer too. Most senior enlisted men say the exact same thing... Apr 12, 2013 at 18:32
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    @Thaddeus Exactly :-) While I've never been a military man, myself, I've known enough of them -- including a few Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs -- to know how they feel about it! Apr 12, 2013 at 20:22
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    not knowing much of the military, I always thought of the ranks as purely linear. explaining the role of a petty office has made things a lot clearer. thanks Apr 13, 2013 at 18:03
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    Miles Edward O'Brien is indeed something of an inexplicable case, and pretty much cannot be reconciled in any way with Roddenberry's ideas or even with his own career. All we can say about O'Brien is that at some point (after Roddenberry was no longer actively involved), the staff decided it would be interesting to have a "working man" perspective aboard first 1701-D and then DS9, and thus made him the only enlisted person we ever really get to know in all of Starfleet. He makes no sense, and yet we excuse it because the writers had too much fun with him once they started developing him. Feb 16, 2016 at 17:18

There were a few Spartans that were discharged for various reasons from the Spartan program. These, through their work primarily in ONI, achieved higher ranks than the "operational" spartans. Examples: Rear Admiral Serin Osman (Serin-019) and Lieutenant Commander Fhajad-084. Additionally, Colonel Randall Aiken (Randall-037) went missing and became stranded during an operation and ended up joining the colonial guard, rising through the ranks as a discharged Spartan.

There were a number of "full Spartans" that made it all the way through the initial Spartan-II program, including surviving augmentation.

In today's military, especially in the world of special operations, battlefield command is held by a junior grade officer (an Ensign, Lieutenant (Junior Grade), or Lieutenant), or by an NCO. The need for technical expertise throughout the small squads operators complete their missions in mandate that all members be proficient in the operational skillsets. As such, officers, who generally put an emphasis on leadership throughout their training, are often not skilled enough to prevent the team from being weighed down by them, especially as they reach the higher ranks. In addition, higher-ranked officers are often too valuable from a strategic standpoint to risk in front-line combat.

The fact that the Spartans were so skilled in such a wide variety of areas enabled them to command tremendous respect, both from their legends and from those who saw what they were capable of. As such, they mostly remained enlisted personnel. A few were promoted to higher enlisted ranks (like John-117), but for the most part, the Spartan-IIs seemed to stay at Petty Officer 2nd Class.

There was a marked change with the Spartan-III program. Kurt-051, the Spartan-II in charge of the training for the Spartan-IIIs, was given an officer rank so as to make the chain of command clear. When he was no longer able to supervise the remaining forces under his command, he promoted Fred-104 to the rank of LTJG to set up a clear head. As for those in the Spartan-III program, they seemed to hold markedly higher ranks. The members of Noble Team: Commander Carter-A259, Lieutenant Commander Catherine-B320, Warrant Officer Emile-A239, and Noble Six, a Lieutenant. Jorge-052, a Spartan-II was granted his Warrant Officer rank due to his membership in Noble Team.

The article on Noble Team gives this reasoning for their higher ranks:

Noble Team also operated with non-Spartan military personnel more extensively than other Spartan teams. To grant them more operational freedom when interacting with military personnel, the members of Noble Team had been given higher ranks than most Spartans by their CO.

And that may be why the Spartan-IIs were not given higher ranks - simply, because since they were used as secretive commandos, they operated outside the normal chain of command and did not need the more formalized rank structure.

  • +1 Great answer. I seem to remember somewhere that the Spartans weren't given ranks so that they could be seen just as 'Military Property'. Am I wrong there or is there any truth to this? Sep 30, 2013 at 12:21
  • @RobertEnglish - I don't recall that, but I haven't read all of the HALO novels recently. As far as I know, all SPARTANs were given ranks. But if you could find that again, that would be an excellent addition to the answer
    – The Fallen
    Sep 30, 2013 at 16:38
  • It may be that they were given such a low rank that they simply had to do everything they were told. But being a +6ft with muscle to lift a house whilst also wearing 500Kg of armor is enough to let anyone know their place without worrying about rank Feb 10, 2014 at 14:40

The highest rank for conscripted soldiers (like most early Spartans,John falls into this category) in the halo universe is master chief petty officer, so he is at the highest rank he can achieve .

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    Isn't this contradicted by the fact that a few of the Spartans have become officers? Can you point to a source for this?
    – DavidW
    Nov 24, 2019 at 3:09
  • The show made by halo called halo:fall of reach, also the only Spartans that were conscripted were the generation 1 Spartans and a few generation 2’s
    – user123597
    Nov 24, 2019 at 4:51

The reason why Sierra-117 is not an Commissioned officer is first off he never went to OCS(officer candidate school) and it was so that he didn't cause turmoil in the ranks, as if he were a Officer in the Navy (Lt) he would have never had to have obeyed SgtMaj Johnson, even though Johnson is of E-9 in the Marines and Sierra-117 is of E-9 in Navy(master chief petty officer)

So yeah mainly because he never had OCS. :p

  • 1
    While your first statement is true, the others are not - you are not required to obey orders across chains of command in most cases
    – The Fallen
    May 9, 2015 at 19:36
  • Well in an organized war, it would be most suitable to obey orders from officers or senior enlisted; I'm quite sure the 'Admiralty' likes their current bureaucracy May 10, 2015 at 4:46

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