During "Valiant" (S06E22), Nog is given a field promotion from Ensign to Lieutenant Commander when he's assigned by Tim Watters (himself only a Red Squad Cadet who received a field commission to Captain of the USS Valiant after his commanding officer was mortally wounded in battle) as the Chief Engineer of the Valiant.

But, later on, Nog is promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade (one step above Ensign, two below Lt. Cmdr.) near the end of the series. So what happened to his field promotion?

Did Watters not have the authority to grant Nog that field promotion? Or were field promotions revoked after the war ended?

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    I don't recall it being address anywhere directly in the show, but the entire point of Valiant is that the members of Red Squad were out of their depth, out of contact with Starfleet Command and stretched to the breaking point. I imagine that Captain Watters' commission was never recognized by Starfleet either, which kind of calls into doubt his ability to offer field commissions. Jake and Nog both question Watters' decision and authority to continue the mission without returning to Starfleet space and it is revealed that Watters has avoided notifying Starfleet of the change of command.
    – Dacio
    Apr 14, 2014 at 22:44
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    @Dacio - you should put that as an answer.
    – BBlake
    Apr 14, 2014 at 22:51
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    In the real US military a field commission is a temporary exigency when an officer of a certain rank is needed but none is available. It is not a permanent promotion. Sometimes they are made permanent, but not often. I assume that Starfleet works in the same way. See this: answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090424092428AADN4Rt Sep 6, 2016 at 21:06
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    What happens in the field, stays in the field. Aug 6, 2019 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


I found the script, so I can make an answer out of this that's more than just my opinion. The show ends with only a token few lines of dialog from Bashir and Sisko, neither of them addressing the minutia of rank. Nog, Jake and Collins discuss the news article that Jake may (or may not) write, but this is largely a debate of opinion. Starfleet we know is very big on reports and we can infer Nog will have to make a full report before returning to duty, or even have to undergo a full debriefing (like the Temporal Investigations department does to Sisko in Trials and Tribble-ations - the loss of a starship is a big deal, and eyewitness accounts will be all the more important as records and logs probably didn't survive).

Anyways, the point is that the report Nog makes will have to deal primarily in fact, not opinion. The facts of the Valiant, as shown by the episode are these:

  • The crew consists only of Cadets, the 7 proper Starfleet officers assigned to the mission were killed.
  • Watters himself has only - at best - a field commission to captain. He may only be acting captain as dictated by being the senior officer surviving in the chain of command, in which case his rank is still officially Cadet. Watters claims it was an actual battlefield commission, but it is not hard to imagine him bending the truth for the sake of holding the crew together.

    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.

  • Watters is not doing a very good job as captain. To quote the script:

    Watters is under tremendous pressure as the captain of this ship. He sleeps too little, drinks too much coffee and (as we'll learn) is secretly taking medication to keep himself going. Watters can't allow himself to unbend even for a moment, lest he come unglued.

  • Despite the crew holding a hero/god opinion of their captain, Jake expresses misgivings over Watters' abilities and decisions from the start, and by the end of the episode Nog has come around to the opinion as well.

    NOG (to Collins) He may have been a hero... he may even have been a great man... but in the end, he was a bad captain.

  • It is revealed that, regardless of the validity of his field commission, Starfleet does not even know that Watters is in command of the ship, much less that he has been interpreting orders and using the full authority of a legitimate captain. This is almost certainly a violation of duty, communications and secrecy considerations aside.

    WATTERS My orders are to collect technical data on a new Dominion battleship operating in this sector. We keep picking up their com traffic, so we know they're still in the area, but since we can't go faster than warp three point two, we're unable to get within sensor range.

    NOG (surprised) And Starfleet knows that you're in command of the Valiant?

    WATTERS No. We've had to maintain strict radio silence ever since the war began. The orders were addressed to Captain Ramirez, but since he's dead, the mission is now mine. And make no mistake, I will carry out that mission... (to himself) ... or die trying.

  • Watters finally completely oversteps the last shred of his authority by deciding to attack the Jem'hadar battleship. He does so without orders and without informing Starfleet. This would probably be a court martial offense even for a commissioned officer. What does that say for Watters' chance at having his battlefield commission, of which there is no direct evidence, be recognized by Starfleet?

    If Watters' provisional rank of Captain is annulled, any and all promotions he issued would be annulled as well. Nog's actions aboard the Valiant will certainly be added to his record, but it's hard to say whether Starfleet's final opinion of the personnel under Watters would be favorable or unfavorable. Regardless, it would be almost impossible for Starfleet to consider an Ensign worthy of 3 promotions to Lt. Commander based on a single mission.

For those reasons, I deem it likely that Nog's field commission was invalidated without shame upon his return to Deep Space Nine. That's if he even bothered to tell anyone about it; given how his opinion of Watters has fallen, and that his rank is quietly returned to Ensign for the remainder of Season 6 and 7 with no on-screen mention, it's easy to imagine Nog leaving this out an official report to Starfleet. In that case, Nog necessarily returns to his active rank of Ensign.


It was probably annulled, along with the other 'promotions' offered by 'Acting-Captain' Watters.

Dacio's comment above seems correct. In accordance with British Naval tradition, an Acting Captain would lack the authority to offer a permanent battlefield commission unless it was later ratified by Starfleet command. Additionally, a promotion would only usually be one rank above, in keeping with the naval tradition of only promoting someone into the job that they were ostensibly training for.

This concept is borne out by an interview given by Ron Moore; the show's writer who stated that the traditions being observed are not USN but actually closer to those of the Royal Navy where acting commissions need to be authorised at a later stage.

Interviewer : In "Valiant" Shouldn't the actually commissioned Ensign Nog have immediately outranked every single one of the cadets, acting captain or not, the minute he set foot on the ship?

A: That's the way it would've worked in the USN. I decided to go with a somewhat older idea that a lawfully designated commanding officer cannot be removed from command except by someone of flag rank. (I'm over-simplifying this idea, but this is roughly the way that things worked in the 18th-19th century Royal Navy.) Captain Watters was given a valid commission and had held his command for eight months. It didn't seem like I was stretching things too far to allow him to continue in that role when Nog arrived -- and remember that Nog was also commissioned as a young cadet who hadn't even been at the Academy for as long as Watters.

Watters was never formally made Captain and Nog was vastly over-promoted, all the way up from Ensign to Lt Cmdr. At no other time in the entire Trek canon do we see a brevet promotion above a single rank.

The upshot was that instead of following the appropriate Starfleet protocols (e.g. returning the ship to Federation control and seeking further orders) Watters issued a series of illegal orders. On returning to Federation space, Nog's supposed promotion would simply have been annulled.

  • Like Riker's promotion in BOBW or Dax in Season 6 when she commands the Defiant.
    – sumbuddyx
    Apr 14, 2014 at 23:48
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    @sumbuddyx - Actually no, that was a field promotion (by an Admiral) versus Nog's battlefield commission (by an acting-captain). Riker needed to stand down to Picard, effectively asking for a demotion since his promotion was legally binding.
    – Valorum
    Apr 14, 2014 at 23:54
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    Also Dax wasn't promoted to the rank of Captain; she was 'merely' given the position of captain (my lower-case c) in lieu of Sisko, who has been re-assigned, in line with the naval tradition, as mentioned in the episode itself, that whoever commands a vessel, regardless of their actual rank (or lack of it) is referred to as 'captain'
    – user45977
    May 21, 2015 at 19:36

I do believe it is addressed in The Next Generation, field commissions are only tied to the place that issued the commission. Wesley, Cruncher was given a field commission of Ensign when he was helping out on the Enterprise during his mom's tour as chief medical officer, and a period of time when she was Chief of Starfleet Medical. He was still a cadet when he was at the academy, despite his ensign status on the Enterprise.

Also another thing we can look at is for control of the ship, during the Next Generation show when the Captain and all Senior bridge officers went down to the Planet Nemos to look for the Captain of the missing ship. The Captain went down at the request of Tasha because Commander Riker was in trouble and needed a commander for the Away Team, this left Geordie in command as authorized by the Captain, the person that had a higher rank than him came up not asking to surrender command, but give advice, because Operations officer said accounting to Standing Order that command can only be rescinded by the officer that gave him that rank, or of a higher rank than the rank that gave them that rank.

It also makes sense to because when Geordie tried to give Captain Picard his ship back with only the Battle Bridge neither Captain Picard or Riker did anything, and Captain Picard kindly refused the request stating when he gave him command the ship was in one piece and that is the only way he would accept the transfer of command. Riker was still XO so he would help Geordie if need be.

So Nog, if the cadet did have a battlefield commission of acting captain would have to get the acting chief medical officer to order a medical examination and to prove he is unfit for command, but if he didn't have a battlefield commission and decided to take over the mission himself he should have yielded command to Nog, or the ship would be considered a renegade ship by Starfleet's standards. Also renegade ships are considered stolen property and the starbase could arrest them.

  • I changed the Data said to Operations Officer the Enterprise has more than one, because Data was down on the planet during that time.
    – Sid1701
    Aug 6, 2019 at 19:45

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