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Communications Officer

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"Hailing frequencies open, sir."

"Broadsword calling Danny Boy, Broadsword calling Danny Boy..."

When The Captain needs to contact Mission Control to talk to the Voice with an Internet Connection, he has a number of options. He could call him up on his Comm Link, or maybe even find a pay phone. But maybe this is a job for someone more specialized, or maybe The Captain needs someone to delegate this to while he deals with other things. He needs the Communications Officer.

The Communications Officer need not be an officer, and in fact, will often be a lower ranking member tasked with maintaining and operating the complex radio equipment. On a sci-fi show, they will often have a workstation on the bridge of the ship, while in a war movie, you can expect to see this guy running around two steps behind The Captain with a cumbersome backpack radio with a huge whip antenna. Whenever we see Mission Control, expect to see an entire squad of these guys at work. More mundane examples include a secretary in an office, who has the job of screening calls to their boss and sending out messages for them. If he is properly trained, he can also be a disproportionately dangerous individual, using his radio equipment to call in artillery fire and air strikes, bringing tons of high explosives down on his enemies' heads.


Against savvy enemies, he can expect to draw fire, especially if he has one of the bigger backpack radios. You can't call for help if nobody alive can use the communications equipment. If The Radio Dies First, they can be expected to be hard at work trying to fix it, or helplessly declaring that it can't be done.

Overlaps with Mission Control. Will often be working as one of the Bridge Bunnies. A key member of the Command Roster.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Durlan Nol Lapp serves as the communications officer for Diana's revolutionaries in the Sangtee Empire, this demands that she be a Cunning Linguist since most of the revolutionaries are escaped slaves from many worlds and cultures. She writes rousing poetry that gets circulated by the revolutionaries as well.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Down Periscope has Nitro, a skilled but very eccentric electrician who manages to coerce the aging ship's radio equipment to work via various short-circuits (including several passing through his own body).
  • Crimson Tide has Seaman Vosler on whom the fate of the world hinges as he must put a radio back together almost from scratch in order to receive a message from the President.
  • Fantastic Voyage has Charles Grant, a rare example of where the Communications Officer is also The Hero.
  • Parodied in Galaxy Quest with Lt. Tawny Madison, Gwen's character from the Show Within The Show. All she did was relay orders to and from the computer.
    I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm gonna do it! Okay?
  • In Saving Private Ryan a shore party radio man gets a brief appearance on Omaha Beach before he loses most of his face.
  • In Small Soldiers, Link Static serves this role in the Commando Elite.
  • Starship Troopers had a series of (often short-lived) characters fulfilling this role, with Dizzy and Ace each taking on the role towards the end of the film.
  • Super Troopers has Farva given this job at the highway department as punishment after the school bus incident. Meanwhile, Ursula is tasked with the same job at the Spurbury Police Department because she's a woman.
    • Actually, Ursula later reveals that they keep her on dispatch because the rest of them are Corrupt Cops who help Canadian drug lords move marijuana through Spurbury.
  • The Communications Officer from Tora! Tora! Tora! receives a telephone message that radar operators have detected a large group of aircraft approaching Oahu from the north. "Yeah? Well, don't worry about it," he replies, mistaking the sighting for a flight of B-17's due that morning.
  • Valkyrie has a panel of women at switchboards, telephones and telegraphs receiving messages from lesser officers, and sending orders from Mission Control commanders. One of these ladies gets the message "Der Fuhrer ist Tot." She worriedly hands the message to a general, which ultimately activates an emergency protocol code-named Valkyrie that places Berlin under the control of Colonel von Stauffenberg, All According to Plan.
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961). The comm officer aboard the Seaview (a U.S. government vessel) was called Sparks.
  • We Were Soldiers: A number of radio operators are mixed in amongst the soldiers, with several unnamed ones getting shot and killed during firefights. Another one, after proving himself particularly skilled by managing to tune in on radio transmissions from a battle happening on the other side of the Earthnote , is assigned as Colonel Moore's personal radioman.
    • The movie also had a radioman whose primary responsibility was calling in fire support. According to the book the film was based on, he was actually a fighter pilot by trade. The idea of the military being that a pilot with experience delivering close air support would be better able to evaluate what would be best and call it in more efficiently.
      • Still standard practice. In the US Marine Corps it's part of a pilot's normal career path to spend time in the infantry. In the Army it's an enlisted Air Force NCO living with the infantry.
  • Windtalkers is based on two Navajo enlistees fighting with the Marines in the Pacific theater. They function as the radiomen in their platoon, because the Navajo language defies all efforts to decrypt, making efforts to sabotage their messages futile. The Hero actually kills one of them rather than let him be captured by the enemy.
  • The Thing (1982) has a character who serves this role appropriately named "Windows" (possibly a nickname meaning "window to the outside world"), although a dead radio made it impossible for him to ever contact anybody.
  • Though unnamed, Platoon featured a radio man alongside the commanding officer during the climatic battle, matching his commander's pacing so that the cord was never pulled tight. Given that the actor portraying the commander was the technical advisor and actual veteran commander, this was probably very close to Real Life.
  • In Memphis Belle, Danny serves as the radioman for the titular airplane. At one point in the mission, he is even able to tune into music broadcast by the Armed Forces Network back in England, which he pipes over the intercom for the rest of the crew's enjoyment.

  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. When Hildy Burroughs is captain of the Gay Deceiver, Zebadiah ("Zeb") Burroughs acts as her comm officer, especially when talking with the British colonists on Mars.
  • Adele Mundy in the Republic of Cinnabar series.
  • Cpl. Fife is this during his first battle in The Thin Red Line.
  • Sten seems to like communications officers, as they figure prominently in his command staffs in multiple books, and he even promotes one to Captain.
  • In the Wraith Squadron novels, this is Jesmin Ackbar's specialty. In addition to her experience with the actual communications gear, she is skilled at cryptography and codes, and is able to twice alert Wraith Squadron to forces attempting to ambush them by picking up supposedly encrypted low-power transmissions that the enemy thought were safe to use. After her death in Wraith Squadron, Runt begins cross-training to pick up the slack.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe, Uhura's skills led her to teach communications at Starfleet Academy. Later, thanks to her abilities with cryptography and languages, she eventually became head of Starfleet Intelligence.
  • Jedi Quest character Darra Thel-Tanis 1 is an expert at jamming and intercepting signals.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: On the station itself, this job would typically fall to Lieutenant Corwin (in the first season, it alternated between him and an un-named Bridge Bunny). If Sheridan or Sinclair was in Command and Control, this job would instead go to Commander Ivanova. When traveling out and about aboard one ship or another, this job would fall to whichever character was serving as The Lancer for that mission (Lennier or Marcus, usually).
  • Band of Brothers: T-4 George Luz, Easy Company's radioman who also doubles as the resident jokester / Pop-Cultured Badass.
  • Battlestar Galactica originally had Commander Adama's daughter Athena in this role in the original series. In the reboot, the job was performed by Corporal (later Lieutenant) Dualla, as well as her replacement, Hoshi.
  • Generation Kill: Cpl. Ray Person, the best RTO in Bravo Company. That said, since he was also Bravo 2-1's driver, Sgt Colbert ended up filling this role for the vehicles' occupants most of the time, communicating with Lt. Fick and relaying new information to the men riding with him.
  • Hogan's Heroes: Sgt. James Kinchloe is the primary radio operator for Col. Hogan's crew, replaced for the final season by Sgt. Richard Baker.
  • In M*A*S*H, Radar was usually called up on to operate the communications equipment
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series brings us one of the most famous examples, Lieutenant Uhura. In the Star Trek Expanded Universe and the 2009 film she is also a xenolinguistics expert.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: This was the original duty for Worf, perhaps owing to his bicultural background.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: Harry Kim got a battlefield promotion to chief communications officer, despite only being (perpetually) an ensign.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: Hoshi Sato handled communications. Her linguistics expertise also came into play because the Universal Translator was still a work-in-progress. She was also responsible for Subspace Ansible equipment, which allowed the Enterprise to communicate back to Earth.
    • There is a clear evolution of the comm officer role over the chronology — in Enterprise it is a science officer position, with Sato being recruited because of her linguistics expertise in the sense of 'the scientific study of language' and her primary focus being in translation (and helping develop the nascent universal translator). By TOS/2009 film series it is an operations officer position, with Uhura's primary focus (even if she is an expert in languages) being in the handling of transmissions to and from the ship and the equipment for doing so. By TNG it isn't even a formal bridge officer position — neither Worf nor Harry Kim were actually called communications officers, they just handled the hailing frequencies open/being hailed bit as part of their general duties.
    • Star Trek: Discovery: Lieutenant R.A. Bryce.
  • Robert RO Dixon in Sea Patrol is a very snarky Communications officer. He does go on boarding parties and is the best person with software.
  • Lieutenant JG Tim O'Neill from seaQuest DSV. Like Uhura and Sato from Star Trek, he's also an Omniglot who is fluent in at least a dozen languages.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Games Workshop games
    • In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperial Guard has "vox operators" with radio backpacks for battlefield-level communication. For the purposes of interstellar communication, the Imperium of Man actually uses specialized telepaths called Astropaths.
    • The background information for the 2018 version of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team mentions that Comms specialist act as a relay between the Kill Team, and their allies and commanders. This is represented in the game by the 'Command Relay' Level 3 Comms skill that can refund Command Points.
  • GURPS:
    • Communications officer is one of the crew specialties noted in GURPS Traveller Starships.
    • GURPS Steampunk 2 notes that radio is a steam age invention, but from very late in the day, so it's unlikely to appear in Steampunk games. If it (or something similar but more advanced) appears in Raygun Gothic games, though, where it's more likely to be appropriate, it's likely to be vehicle-mounted (probably in a "telegraphy cabin") and require skilled operation.
  • One of the standard Mandatory Bonus Duties in Paranoia. In practice, it mostly plays into the Commie Hunt dynamic.
  • In BattleTech, a number of battlemechs have second seat for a communications officer, who takes control of the battlemech's radio and other communication equipment, and can have other tasks such as monitoring the Enemy-Detecting Radar. CP-10-Z Cyclops assault mech was purpose-built for Star League field officers and possesses an advanced tactical computer to coordinate an entire battalion. The AS7-D Atlas is often retrofitted for the same purpose. These mechs are often the first target in an engagement, both to take out the commander and to take out the 90+ ton bipedal murder tank.
  • Darian "DX" Xenos from Crimestrikers. His primary function on the team is to monitor the field agents and give them whatever info they need.


    Video Games 
  • In the Mass Effect series, this role is typically filled by Joker, Yeoman Chambers, or Specialist Traynor. Unusually, both take steps to avert the "glorified secretary" aspects of this trope; Chambers is a psychologist (important when you have a crew like Shepard's), whereas Traynor, before being drafted as Shepard's adjutant, was actually in charge of a complete refit of Normandy's comms that allows it to coordinate an entire, galaxy-wide war effort involving thousands of ships on multiple fronts.
  • In Wing Commander III, "Radio" Rollins is both this in the literal sense, being the TCS Victory's communication's officer, as well as in the informal sense, considering himself as the one person on the ship who will tell you exactly what's really going on. You have the option upon first meeting him to lay down the law and get him to stop hurting ship's morale with his rumors about Confed being on the ropes in their war with the Kilrathi (which, while largely true, are disastrous for morale to just come out and state them openly when there is still a fighting chance for them to recover).
  • In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, Flo performs this function. Given that the game is a clear parody of Star Trek, this is all she does. Since the SCS Eureka only has a crew of four (with the position of the Science Officer left open), the rest of the bridge duties are done by Droole who appears to be a tactical/pilot/navigation/garbage officer.
  • The Vietcong series has the radioman. In the first game, you have to use his radio whenever the radio icon shows up. In tunnel-based missions, you're equipped with your own radio. In the second game, he uses the radio himself.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 Armageddon, you have one of these, and her story arc follows her loss of faith when the player character is seemingly killed following a major defeat in the Second War for Armageddon. And her subsequent corruption by Chaos.

    Web Comics 
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Tuuri is frequently seen taking care of radio communications with Mission Control. As the mechanic, she's also the one maintaining it.
  • In the early arcs of Schlock Mercenary a "communications slug" called Sergeant Sh'vuu filled this role for Tagon's Toughs. However, after they got a ship with an A.I. his role became less important, so he started piloting a tank part-time, until he was killed.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • In Noob, Ystos is in the unique position of being the only member of Justice guild that the Noob guild can contact without risking a Not Now, Kiddo response. In return, he has easy contact with the Noob guild should Justice find itself unable to spare its own members for a relatively simple task. This takes an important role in Season 3 finale and its novel equivalent as he ends up monitoring the Noob guild through a task that Justice had to abandon to take care of more urgent matters.

    Western Animation 
  • Exo Squad features team member Alec DeLeon, with his specialized Communications E-Frame.
  • In Sealab 2020 and its Gag Dub Sealab 2021, the com officer for the title installation was Lieutenant Sparks (apparently his real last name).
  • Transformers Generation One: Blaster and Soundwave's official jobs. In Soundwave's case, it's a painfully blatant euphemism, especially given his everyday duties and his unofficial third-in-command status.
  • Invader Zim: The bridge of the Massive is crewed by officers who appear to be a mix of navigators/pilots and communications operators, who are identifiable by the high-collared uniforms they wear which obscure the lower halves of their faces. The most prominent one is the one who appears in the movie, proving himself to be the Only Sane Man by warning the Tallest about the danger of the Florpus Hole only for them to keep ignoring him.


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