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Communications Officer

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"Hailing frequencies open, sir."

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

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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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Examples:

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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 
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 Memphis Belle, Danny serves as the radioman for the eponymous 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Star Wars ups the ante with communication ships, tasked with maintaining communications in spite of the heavy jamming on any battlefield. Some specific examples are:
    • During the Clone Wars, the Confederacy of Independent Systems would use the Munificent-class frigates for this role, as the InterGalactic Banking Clan had already equipped them with advanced communication suits for their own purposes before they joined the Separatists. This actually helped them on the strategic level, as the Republic has near complete control of the HoloNet and without the Munificents the Separatists would have had serious trouble communicating on interstellar scale... Or putting their own news on the HoloNet through their Shadow Feeds.
    • At the Battle of Endor, the Empire had multiple communication ships, each also being in the command chain right after the flagship, the Executor - and knowing this, the Rebels actually make a point of going after them first to break their cohesion by taking out both the flagships and the communications:
      • The Pride of Tarlandia is the main communication ship and the secondary flagship, also tasked with jamming the Rebel scanners. Owing to her role she's not a Star Destroyer but a larger battlecruiser, allowing it to survive when a Mon Calamari cruiser comes after it... But it doesn't come out unscathed, allowing Rebel fighters to finish it off while the shields are still weak.
      • The Avenger is the secondary communication ship (tertiary in Legends). Contrary to the Pride of Tarlandia it survives the battle, owing to the Imperial fleet just breaking down when the secondary flagship, the Death Star shield and the Executor are taken out in quick succession.
      • In Star Wars Legends the secondary communication ship and tertiary flagship was the Chimaera, and as such had admiral Horst Strage on board - and was targeted by the Rebels for it, causing Strage's death and his job falling to his first officer, commander Gilad Pellaeon. As the other Imperial admirals at Endor were dead or otherwise unable to take over,note  Pellaeon, knowing he was outmatched, ordered a general retreat to preserve as much of the fleet as possible.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • The Shadow: Burbank is the most mysterious of The Shadow's agents. Since he is quite skilled at electronics, wire tapping and tracking information, his chief duty is central communications for The Shadow and his network of agents and gathering needed facts. Some may argue that he is the most vital person of The Shadow's organization, as he is the only agent able to report directly to The Shadow when he is in his private sanctum. This is done through a special AirWire radio system.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars Legends has a few examples:
    • Jedi Quest character Darra Thel-Tanis is an expert at jamming and intercepting signals.
    • 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.
    • Following the lead of the films, both Empire and Rebellion have communication ships. The Rebels had an unidentified ship stationed at Sullust keeping the rest of the Alliance informed about what was happening at the Battle of Endor, and the Empire was known to use the Allegiance-class battlecruisers for the role and to broadcast battles they were winning to the whole galaxy. The latter got at least the lead ship destroyed, as during the Battle of Dac New Republic reinforcements used the broadcast to home on it and emerge from hyperspace right on top of the Allegiance with guns blazing.
  • Sten seems to like communications officers, as they figure prominently in his command staffs in multiple books, and he even promotes one to Captain.
  • Cpl. Fife is this during his first battle in The Thin Red Line.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is the original duty for Worf, perhaps owing to his bicultural background.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: Harry Kim gets a battlefield promotion to chief communications officer, despite only being (perpetually) an ensign.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: Hoshi Sato handles communications. Her linguistics expertise also come into play because the Universal Translator is still a work-in-progress. She's 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.

     Podcasts 
  • Communications Officer Doug Eiffel from Wolf 359, whose job is to listen to static in the hope of hearing alien transmissions.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • Empire Earth: Some missions give you a Radio Man, who can summon squads of airdropped infantry up to three times.
  • 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 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.
  • 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).

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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