The Star Trek universe contains many instances of what I’ll call “field commissions”: that is, when the commander of a vessel provisionally appoints someone from outside the service to the role of a commissioned officer. Notable examples include Captain Picard field-commissioning Wesley Crusher as an ensign in The Next Generation, and Captain Janeway field-commissioning many of the Maquis crew to various positions (Chakotay to commander, B’Elanna Torres to lieutanant, etc.). The crew members receiving such field commissions are usually addressed or attired in such a way that their provisional officership is made clear. So for example, Welsey Crusher was usually addressed as “Acting Ensign Crusher” (until he later received a proper commission), and the Maquis crew members got distinct rank pips on their uniforms.
Is there any precedent for this practice in the US military (upon which the Starfleet rank system is loosely based)? To be clear, I am referring specifically to the case where an officer in the field, exercising delegated authority, exceptionally grants a provisional commission to a civilian. I am not referring to any of the following similar scenarios, all of which I know happen or have happened historically in the US armed forces:
- Someone who already holds a commission receives a field promotion to a higher rank.
- An enlisted person receives a field commission.
- A civilian receives a commission through the usual centralized channels (e.g., after attending a service academy or officer candidate school, or via a direct commission officer program).
- A civilian is pressed into service against their will as the rough equivalent of an enlisted soldier or sailor.
If there are no bona fide examples of field commissions in the US military, has such a practice ever occurred in other countries’ militaries?