The rank structure of the Marine detachments on board the Galactica fleet is rarely addressed effectively on the show. In the real world, a Marine detachment has the same ranking complexity as any other military group with officer and enlisted ranks, each with specialized training and duties.
Since the Fleet command structure appears to resemble U.S. military ranking structures, it is safe to assume the Marines have an analogous rank structure as well.
Before the arrival of the Pegasus there are less than thirty Marines available for duty on the Galactica. There appeared to be very few Marine officers available with only two ever being shown. This is not a normal arrangement for Marines and Fleet officers under more normal conditions.
In most cases, the Galactica Fleet officers appear to have ground command training and are shown leading Marines into battle.
The Marines are lead by non-commissioned officers unless otherwise directed, which makes the most sense since it appeared so few officers were available at all.
While the Galactica crew mirrors the US Naval command structure there are minor deviations which are not acknowledged simply because the show is less concerned with picture-perfect depictions of military life and are more concerned with telling compelling stories.
Production notes regarding the show indicated the information regarding ranks and relationships was outlined but began to show holes when ranking pins and dress uniforms became an issue. Try as they might, unfamiliarity with military customs and costumes plagued the set.
- Normally, on a US Naval vessel, a Marine Corps detachment has its own officers and its own enlisted specialists who work alongside the Navy crew while at sea, but when it is time to deploy, the Marines operate with a minimum of Naval personnel except as technical support, providing operational or logistic support. The Navy may also provide military fire support, ground cover or aerial support.
- For the most part the Galactica's teams tended to be separated via operational duties but onboard a U.S. naval ship, it is technically possible that Marines and Navy crew members might be tasked with fighting fires, repelling boarding parties, searching for stowaways or finding terrorists. Since the threat affects the ship, it makes sense for everyone to be involved in the process.
- Galactica initially had about thirty Marines left, although there are no snipers among them (TRS: "Bastille Day"). This number increased drastically with the addition of the Battlestar Pegasus to the Fleet.
- Since rank structures are known by all crew members, everyone recognizes the ranks of the people above them and follows orders accordingly. However, Marines will tend to work with Marines because they share operational procedures, share training and tactical skills.
- A Marine's duties include guarding the CIC and the brig as well as other critical areas on the ship, and assisting the Master-at-Arms (TRS: "Litmus") and are part of Raptor boarding parties (TRS: "Bastille Day", "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part II", "Resistance", "Pegasus"). Naturally, they are also responsible for repelling enemy boarding actions (TRS: "Valley of Darkness"). Admiral Adama's quarters are constantly under Marine guard, and the same is true for President Roslin when she is aboard ship. A Marine is also tasked with serving Admiral Adama's food (TRS: "A Day in the Life").
- When Galactica shows a senior Naval officer taking control of a Marine group, it likely indicates a command decision being made with the understanding that the Non-Commissioned Officer will control the actual tactical decisions being made with the overall orders being given by the officer in charge.
- Very few Marine officers appear to be stationed on Galactica; when they are shown on missions, usually Fleet officers command the Marine units. Crashdown's actions on Kobol (TRS: "Fragged") suggest that Fleet officers are cross trained in conducting ground operations. The only Marine officers shown so far are Lieutenant Terry Burrell (TRS: "Sacrifice") and an unnamed lieutenant in "Escape Velocity".
- The Colonial Marine Corps battle uniforms appear to be based on those of the U.S. Army's Delta Force or the counter-terrorist branch of the British Army's Special Air Service Regiment. Besides their black combat uniforms, the weapons and personal combat equipment of the Marines are similar to what today's police SWAT teams and anti-terrorist special forces units utilize.
In a blog entry on February 19, 2005 Ronald Moore gave a little insight into the rank structure of Battlestar Galactica:
"What is the rank structure? It doesn't seem consistant [sic] with the Navy."
The rank structure is derived from the original series. I didn't want to change Commander Adama to Captain Adama or Colonel Tigh to Commander Tigh, so I elected to simply embrace the co-mingled nature of the original rank structure.
For our internal purposes, we've decided that the ranks are indeed a mixture of naval and army nomenclature and are basically as follows:
- Lieutenant Junior Grade
- Master Chief Petty Officer
- Chief Petty Officer
- Petty Officer (1st, 2nd Class)
- Deck Hand
Just to complicate matters further, there are also Marines aboard Galactica which conform more closely to the traditional enlisted Marine ranks, with Sergeants, Sergeant-Majors (sic), etc.
Unresolved is the question of whether the Marine officers would also adhere to the mixed rank structure (which sounds odd) or if they are strictly army equivalents (which makes no sense given that the "Navy" ranks seem oblivious to there being any such distinction). Aren't you glad you asked?