Miles O'Brien's position on Deep Space Nine.

The Chief insisted throughout the series that he was not an officer. He was part of the senior staff, despite being enlisted. Now if he had been the senior enlisted man on the station that would not have been a problem, and indeed I always thought of him as that. But, he also was quite expressly the engineering man as well, which was a commissioned officer rank.

So what was the Chief’s exact position.

Wikipedia has him as “Chief Operations Officer” with a rank of “Senior Chief Petty Officer”

Best to remember Star Trek ranks do not act at all like real world ranks.


O’Brien’s rank is something people have been arguing about for at least 25 years. Here’s an “O’Brien FAQ” from the very early 1990s which used to circulate on FidoNet and other pre-WWW networks.

Star Trek has always been pretty shaky with issues of rank. I’ve just come to assume that, in general, Starfleet is rather informal with rank, as well as giving lots of latitude to commanding officers. So if the Captain wants to make an enlisted man a department/division head, then he’s free to do so – just like a Captain can make a skinny 15 year old an ‘Acting Ensign’ if he wants.

It’s even worse in the JJ Abrams Star Trek (which I enjoyed, despite the many flaws) – Kirk somehow goes straight from the Academy to First Officer of the flagship (!!), a position which in the US Navy today would require close to 20 years of service, and shortly after, to Commanding Officer!

As for O’Brien, he’s clearly qualified for any position up to and including Chief Engineer of a starship or space station, so I don’t really have much of a problem with Picard/Sisko/Starfleet giving him more responsibility and authority than a CPO or even Senior Chief would have in the US Navy.

To add even more confusion. O’Brien was originally an infantry soldier. That came out in DS9. A episode where he is trapped on a empty space station with Garak. Something on the station makes Garak go violent and he tries to kill O’Brien. They spend the episode stalking each other on the empty station.

Later O’Brien says he left the infantry for engineering after his experiences in the Federation war with the Cardassians. The Setlik III massacre was a defining moment for O’Brien.

that episode was Empok Nor

Was it not the TNG episode with the Starfleet captain attacking Cardassians? The one with Dukat.

Actually, in the US Navy, a Chief, Senior Chief, or Master Chief can hold an Officer’s job, even though he is enlisted. I have had Division Officers who were enlisted.

Another possibility is that O’Brien is an LDO, or Limited Duty Officer. They are Chiefs(and rarely E-6’s) who are given a commission without having to go through the Academy or ROTC. Custom today is not to call them Chief, but the ones that wer Chiefs still are “Initiated CPO’s” and have all the priveledges thereof. Later on, when O’Brien is seen with the 1 hollow pip on his collar, it is possible that he voluntarily reverted to his enlisted rank.

Or Maybe it is Star Trek, and we shouldn’t try to get too deep into its continuity, since the writers don’t seem to care sometimes.

The TNG episode was about the Setlik III massacre. Great episode. I don’t think they actually said if O’Brien was a soldier. They said he was the Rutledge’s tactical officer.

DS9 changed his back story a little. Said he was a soldier that transferred into engineering. It was only mentioned in that one episode with Garak.

I hated the fact that Dax 2.0 (I forget her name) out ranked Miles.
Seriously? Miles has to take orders from the stations counselor? :dubious:

Kind of hunched over a little bit.

It wasn’t the first time he had to take orders from a counselor (ref. Disaster on TNG, in which Chief O’Brien and Ensign Ro had to take orders from Lt. Commander Troi).

I think in Disaster he was still just a transporter operator. He definitely wasn’t chief.

You’re conflating rank and position. O’Brien held the position of transporter operator (just as Troi held the position of ship’s counselor), but he had already been established (in Family) to hold the rank of chief petty officer (just has Troi held the rank of lt. commander).

To confuse matters, transporter operators are sometimes referred to as “transporter chiefs,” regardless of their actual rank.

In DS9, O’Brien held the position of chief of operations, and the rank of senior chief petty officer.

O’Brien even has his own downbeat Web cartoon:

That was “The Wounded”:

It’s a little confusing, though, because the same actor played Gul Macet in that episode ( and Gul Dukat on DS9 ( The non-canon explanation is that they were cousins.

What about warrant officers? As I understand it, those are for cases where a job is ordinarily done by a commissioned officer, but the best-qualified person is enlisted. That seems to me like it would fit, here.

As a Navy vet I learned long ago to stop trying to figure out how ranks worked on Star Trek otherwise I would have thrown many large objects and the poor unfortunate cats in my lap at the TV.

To a large extent, I believe this is intentional. Starfleet obviously has ties to the U.S. Navy and other real services, but it’s not the same. It’s different. It’s looser. It has different values and goals.

As combination pshrinks/psocial workers (what Roddenberry referred to as “human engineers”), counselors are considered semi-medical personnel (Troi, at least, was an MD) and have broad powers over officers and crew.

I’ve heard this many times, and it’s always completely wrong. While it’s true that Star Trek isn’t quite like a *modern-day *Navy, it’s almost note-for-note built off of Age of Sail tropes, with a few modern-ish tidbits thrown in. More to the point, rank wasn’t a huge deal until TNG, as back in the TOS era there wasn’t a lot of confusion over it.

What happened in TNG was that the writers had no real concept of scale (a common problem with sci-fi writers). Hence it seemed that somehow everybody in Starfleet went to the Academy, and everybody was an officer. O’Brian was nearly the only person mentioned who wasn’t at least an Ensign. But while many of the TOS writers were familiar with military life, TNG was mostly a product of rather oddball Hollywood types, some of whom were borderline crazy and all steeped heavily in the 1980’s.