Mal: Our status?! Our status is we need some gorram air support! Now get back online and tell them to get in here!
Radio Operator: They won't move without a lieutenant's authorization code, sir.
[Mal rips a command insignia off a dead man's uniform]
Mal: Here. Here's your code. You're Lieutenant Baker, congratulations on your promotion, now get me some air support!
A commanding officer — who may be in command now or may hold the correct rank for his position — sorely lacks in senior officers. Perhaps they're Trapped Behind Enemy Lines. Or communications are shot to hell. Or the senior officers were treacherously invited to a Nasty Party. Or he's piecing together something resembling a unit out of the shattered remains of an army. Any suitable disaster to remove them will do.
He must brevet many juniors. Expect some of them to panic for at least a minute or two. May also inspire moments of grief because their predecessor is dead — hopefully, no matter how beloved he was, not Losing the Team Spirit.
If the brevet rank doesn't stick, it still tends to be an advantage for future promotions. And it often does, because mortality weeded out the senior ranks, and because the jump is often not that great. There is often a ripple effect: brevet a captain to major; brevet a lieutenant to captain to replace him; brevet a sergeant to lieutenant to replace him; and finally, brevet a private to sergeant to replace him. Normally, under this trope, their existing ranks are not put out of order; the sergeant doesn't become the major over the head of a lieutenant, etc.
A slightly less chaotic situation may result in actual promotions as needed to fill the gaps, the actual field -- or battlefield -- promotions.
Closely related to Closest Thing We Got, and in fact many stories with Field Promotion also use that trope.
If you have no one left to promote you, You Are in Command Now instead.
- In the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Captain Gloval (old tough veteran of the Unification Wars) laments the inexperience of his crew when the newly rebuilt and untested superdimensional fortress comes under sudden attack from mysterious aliens at the start of the series.
- Captain Natora Einus got her command this way in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, jumping from raw lieutenant to command of the previously-mothballed Diva when she isn't remotely prepared for the position. In her case, however, the man who put her there was doing so to spite Admiral Flit (Ret.) and get rid of a bunch of "useless" personnel at the same time, not because she was the only officer he could find.
- The eponymous Sgt. Rock, of course, started out as a buck private, and while many of his actions were considered worthy of promotion, Easy Company's TO was apparently full. Until a certain battle, whereupon as fatalities accumulated, he was promoted to PFC, Corporal, and finally Sergeant in short order. Not how he would have preferred to earn his stripes, to say the least.
- In the Judge Dredd series The Pit, the eponymous character promotes a cadet to full judge when the kid finds a stack of unpaid parking tickets in Fonzo Bongo's name.
- In Star Wars: Empire: To the Last Man an Imperial Army column gets surrounded by native warriors and faces destruction. As the casualties mount, General Ziering promotes Lieutenant Janek Sunber to Captain and eventually Commander. When Lt. Sunber manages to get back to headquarters the only other surviving officer refuses to verify his promotion and he gets bumped back down to Lieutenant due to the other officer being envious of the man's bravery, competence, and favor with the general - he refuses to verify the field-promotions just to spite him.
- In Astérix and the Chieftain's Shield, Caesar orders that the eponomyous shield, which was stolen following his victory at Alesia, be found so that he can be carried on it in front of the rebellious Gauls as a symbol of his victory over them. He orders the Prefect of Arverne to find it and every Roman soldier in the city begin desperately searching the numerous coal sheds in town to find it. At the end of the book it turns out Vitalstatistix has it and the town parades in front of Caesar lead by him and Asterix, while the soot-covered Romans are left on the sidelines. Caesar promotes the only two clean soldiers in the city (a drunken Centurion and a slacker Legionnaire), who ducked out of the search, to Prefect and Centurion respectively and leaves, saying that no-one shall ever mention these events or this town in his presence again.
- A Crown of Stars: Due to be cut off in the middle of enemy land Asuka became the chief of the deployed Avalon troops despite being only a Junior Lieutenant.
Asuka blinked away a small headache of her own. “What just happened?” She pointed at the sizzling piece of Black Knight. “I’m betting that’s not supposed to have happened, so what does it mean?”
Sergeant Bir gave Asuka a very weary look. “It means I think you just got promoted, ma’am.”
- In chapter 9 of Nightmare Symbiosis, M. Bison's personal transportation flies through a massive storm/Pillar of Light generated by Orochi. A pilot by the name of Stanton panics, which leads to Bison killing him. He turns to the next in the chain of command, a pilot named Amy Redding:
Bison: (jovial) Miss Redding, I am delighted to inform you of your promotion~ (cold) Do his job better than he did.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, ProtoMan talks Wily into putting him in command of the Robot Masters and operations in the interlude to episode 9.
- Very odd example from The World's Greatest Chunin Exam Team. Killer B is still a Genin but as he explains to Naruto, he was a genin during the Third Shinobi World War. At some point, he became a squad leader and started getting treated like a jonin. This happened for so long that the ninja in Kumo still treat him like one and have forgotten that they never made it official.
- Before "The Universe Doesn't Cheat" Eleya was brevetted up to lieutenant commander, apparently the minimum rank before you can command a starship. This after she ended up the seniormost officer left alive courtesy of the Borg. Admiral Arkad makes the promotion permanent at the end of the story.
- In XCOM: From The Ashes of Temples, The Commander is killed during Base Defense. The Council is forced to assign Central Officer Bradford as the replacement commander. Everyone including Bradford goes "Oh, Crap!!".
- A Feddie Story has General Revil hand over a set of captain's insignia to Jeannette Montange when the two meet, jumping her straight there from Sergeant. It's strongly implied the promotion is mainly for morale purposes: she and her tank crew are the only Zaku-killer aces in the entire Earth Federation Ground Forces at that point.
- In an even more literal case, it's revealed that Revil chose, literally at the moment he held out his hand to Cat Stevens, to have Cat's disciplinary record wiped clean and restore his rank of sergeant.
- In the next chapter, it's revealed Jeannette and her crew have been breveted up at least one more rank; the EFGF has called up all its reserves and is recalling anyone who ever served, and desperately needs people with combat experience to fill officer and senior NCO posts. They're so desperate it's implied the only reason Ritchie Smith (who's been in the army for barely two and a half months despite his impressive record as a gunner) isn't commanding his own tank is that Jeannette talked someone out of giving him one; she thinks his quest for revenge would get him and any crew he commanded killed.
- Ripples: During the Darkest Winter Night, Phobos promotes Raythor from Lieutenant to Captain on the spot after he proves his loyalty.
- Star Wars:
- Davish "Pops" Krail, who flies with the callsign "Gold 5" in A New Hope is the only Y-Wing pilot to survive the first Death Star trench run. When he reports the situation to Red leader, the other pilot refers to him as "Gold leader." He doesn't get the chance to celebrate.
- One of Darth Vader's trademarks in The Empire Strikes Back. In one scene, he chokes the idiotic Admiral Ozzel, and immediately addresses Captain Piett as Admiral Piett, putting him in command right then and there. And with the previous Admiral still choking in the background, there's a very tacit reminder of the consequences of messing up.
- Meanwhile, the trap at Cloud City fails, but Vader's reaction is different—more disappointment and sadness than anger—so Piett goes on to be one of three Imperial characters to appear in more than one movie in the original trilogy. After all, it was not because of Piett's planning, plus he wasn't a jerk about it. Ozzel wasn't so smart when he decided that being arrogant to Vader was a smart idea.
- At the end of The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan Kenobi is promoted from Padawan to Jedi Knight without facing the trials after defeating Darth Maul single-handedly.
- Joss Whedon seems to have changed his mind on the subject a time or two, but there are hints in Serenity and its novelization that main character Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds got a brevet promotion up to Captain during the Battle of Serenity Valley. Certainly he was commanding as many men as a captain would by the end.
- The series also did a very dark take on the more usual sort of Field Promotion. When Mal is trying to get some air support for himself and his men, he is told that the cover won't come without a Lieutenant's orders. Mal promptly walks over to the body of Lieutenant Baker, tears off the patch of his uniform with his authorization code, and hands it back to the person he was talking to, saying "Here, you're Lieutenant Baker. Congratulations on your promotion, now get us some air support!"
- The Desert Rats: The British and Australians are trapped inside Tobruk and thus, yep, short of officers. The commanding general says that this is one of the best parts of his job, before promoting a bunch of officers, including protagonist MacRoberts to major.
- In the Canadian Passchendaele, about the bloody World War I battle of the same name, the senior commander of the Allied forces is forced to do this repeatedly as his immediate subordinate officers are being killed left and right by enemy fire.
- Variation in Kingdom of Heaven: Balian actually knights every single soldier in Jerusalem right before the final battle. Which they lose, so it probably didn't help...
- Truth in Television: The real Balian knighted sixty bourgeoisie (middle class) men because there were a grand total of two knights in the city. The film portrays him as being extremely generous knighting freemen and serf alike, mostly for the psychological boost. He wasn't trying to win the battle, he was hoping to hold out long enough for Saladin to negotiate instead of just trying to kill everybody.
- In Space Camp, Andie boots Kevin from Atlantis's commander seat in favor of Kathryn for an important maneuver, after he revealed he "faked" his way through his training.
- The rebooted Star Trek film of 2009 gets most of the senior officers of the USS Enterprise— including three captains— into their billets in this way.
- In the film version of Starship Troopers the protagonist's unit is all but destroyed during the initial invasion. Reforming afterward under a new commander, the protagonist is promoted not once but twice in one day, going straight from grunt to lieutenant and commander of the unit. All of this with only basic training. He then proceeds to hand out yet more field promotions, despite the fact that his most senior members have only have two actual experiences in the field. For info about how things happen in the book, see the Literature tab below.
- In the movie When Trumpets Fade, set in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest in 1944, the main character starts the movie at the rank of PVT (E-2). Due to the extreme attrition (33,000 Americans were lost in the battle), he is involuntarily promoted to Sergeant (E-5) and made a squad leader on the promise that should he survive he will be evacuated for battle fatigue and given a Section-8 discharge. The evacuation and discharge never happens, and then due again to attrition and the mental breakdown of his platoon leader, he is involuntarily promoted to 2Lt (O-1). This is an example of Truth in Television, as the Battle for the Hurtgen Forest in reality lasted 5 months (the longest battle in US military history) and was enormously bloody with greater than 25% casualties suffered by American forces and many smaller units entirely annihilated. Men who entered the Forest in September of 1944 as privates were almost guaranteed to leave at significantly higher rank if they survived until the battles conclusion in February 1945. Two entire US divisions, the 4th and 9th Infantry could not even use battle field promotions to replace all of the lost NCO's and officers, and were forced to withdraw from combat to rebuild.
- In Patton, Patton does this during the Sicilian campaign when a local commander is directing his troops too slowly for his liking, promoting an executive officer to commanding officer. If he doesn't make it through in one hour, he's fired too.
- In The Longest Day, BGen. Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum) finds that the highest ranking Army engineer on Omaha Beach is Sgt. John H. Fuller. He promotes him to Lieutenant and puts him in charge of demolishing a concrete barrier.
- Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels have several instances of this:
- The series begins with the Valhallan 597th being pieced together from two regiments torn up in combat with Tyranids, with the rush of promotions that situation implies. Some regiments are worse off than others, though - mention is made of a Lieutenant promoted directly to colonel, by default. Even worse, her second-in-command (Who had considerably more combat experience than Colonel Kasteen) lost out on the promotion because she had three days seniority over him. And of course, merging an all-female regiment with an all-male one brings its own problems...
- In Death or Glory, he promotes a lieutenant and a sergeant to manage his ramshackle army, and two artisans are assigned to help their only engineer (they end up becoming lay brothers of the Mechanicus cult later).
- The book also notes that these promotions would have to be finalized by the actual army since Cain as a Commissar is not inside the chain of command. However, denying promotions handed out by a Commissar would likely bring the attention of the Commissariat, which no one really wants...
- Jenit Sulla gets a variation: instead of a straight promotion, she gets breveted to the position, which gives her a trial run (if she fails, it doesn't leave a demotion on her record). To Cain's surprise, it sticks.
- In Cain's Last Stand, he brevets the commissars in training as commissars. At the end, he ensures that all the survivors actually hold that rank.
- Happens a lot in Väinö Linna's The Unknown Soldier - due to Anyone Can Die. Usually to conscripts, but also to officers. Usually connected with You Are in Command Now.
- Starship Troopers: Several examples:
- There is one bit where fresh-out-of-the-Academy Third Lieutenant Juan Rico recommends a couple of field promotions be performed on the way back to base, to fill out his platoon. Juan's captain explains why you never promote on the way back to base (higher headquarters will grab them).
- Earlier, Rico is breveted from lance-corporal/Assistant Squad leader to sergeant/Assistant Section Leader (skipping corporal/squad leader). The officer in charge feels that it makes more sense to leave as many squads as possible with their squad leaders, since the MI mostly operates by squad, and things have been rough lately.
- It's also mentioned that Rico is breveted to Sergeant a week before he leaves for OCS, but that this is less of a promotion and more that Lt. Jelal is giving him shiny new stripes to show off for a week as a "going away"-present.
- A subversion happens when Rico is at OCS. We find out one of his fellow officer candidates received a battlefield commission as a 1st Lieutenant some time prior (In case anyone didn't realize it, graduates of OCS start out with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, so Rico's classmate would actually be demoted after graduating.) The reason he's attending OCS is to become an officer "properly" - as a battlefield commissioned officer (with no higher education), his chances of rising higher than Lieutenant are very small. With Academy education and field command experience, his prospects are suddenly very good indeed.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
- In The Warrior's Apprentice, Miles Vorkosigan accidentally finds himself Admiral of a fleet, during which he puts all his original companions in high positions whether they can handle it or not.
- In The Vor Game, Miles assigns his personal bodyguard to the emperor; when the man says he hasn't been trained for it, Miles can only say that it's a common problem in the situation.
- In David Feintuch's 1994 science fiction novel novel Midshipman's Hope, as the last surviving ship's officer dies of melanoma, the eponymous midshipman is promoted to command.
- Old Man's War by John Scalzi, where the main character is promoted three times. First, he moves from private to corporal after his boss is killed. He jumps all the way to Lieutenant for reasons that are essentially hand-waved (ostensibly to do a liason mission). Finally, after performing heroically in this mission, he gets another promotion to Captain. Lampshaded when the character notes that if anyone noticed that he'd gone from corporal to captain in a month, no one said anything. Unlike his prototype, Heinlein, Scalzi's world doesn't include specialized officer training or other qualifications.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker, Gaunt has just gotten a large portion of a regiment off Tanith before its destruction. When his men tell him that the officers were all on planet and dead, he appoints the man who told him (and did most of the talking in the meeting) as Colonel, and the man who came with him as Major, and told them to appoint appropriate junior officers.
- He does this partly because those two men were chosen by the other soldiers to approach him, and so clearly command some sort of respect among their peers. He's also well aware that at least one of them hates his guts and wants to "keep his enemies closer."
- Also, in the series's backstory, the current Warmaster Macaroth was promoted to his position by Warmaster Slaydo during the liberation of Balhaut. Slaydo, who was mortally wounded, specifically named Macaroth, who was a relative unknown, as his successor. Though nobody is exactly sure why he chose Macaroth, many scholars believe that Slaydo did so in order to prevent the other senior officers from fighting over his position.
- In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Ragnar's Claw, after Ragnar gives orders to Space Marines who, he later realizes, included his commander, and his sergeant was brought down, he is put in the sergeant's place.
- In Lee Lightner's Wolf's Honour, when Sven reports to Mikal that their pack's leader is down, Mikal asks who should be in charge; Sven says, by rights, it should be Freyr, but Mikal overrules on the grounds that Freyr is not there, reporting to him, and puts Sven, who is, in charge.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Encarmine, the grief-stricken Rafen, seeing Sergeant Koris, his mentor, brought down by the Black Rage, is ordered to take Koris's place in command of the squad.
- In Deus Sanguinius, at the end, he is offered a field promotion to a captaincy as a reward. He declines it as he has not earned it.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Sisters of Battle novel Hammer & Anvil Sister Imogen dies during her squad's infiltration of the Necron crypt, her last words to Miriya were to complete the mission, essentially making her a squad leader (again). This is despite the former's distrust and dislike for the latter due to the events of the previous book. Similarly, Verity is told by the convent's canonness that she is now a Sister Militant, no longer a Hospitaller, as the convent is assaulted by a massive Necron force, and is given a master-crafted bolt pistol to start her off.
- Sharpe has lived this trope, fighting his way up. By the end of Waterloo he's passing out promotions like candy (there are a LOT of vacancies).
- In Sharpe's Rifles, he field promotes Harper to Sergeant.
- Numerous characters in John Ringo's Prince Roger series. In the fourth book, only twelve survivors remain from the entire Empress' Own Regiment, and the senior (a company sergeant major) is promoted all the way to full Colonel in one jump to fill the obvious gap. Prince Roger himself, in the first book, is a callow youth in severe need of discipline and training. So his bodyguard CO, a captain, field demotes him to second lieutenant (As a member of the royal family, he is technically a Colonel of The Empress' Own) and hands him a platoon. The captain does this partly because he needs someone to command the platoon, but mostly so he can gleefully watch the platoon sergeant's stunned reaction. It also has the added advantage of keeping Rodger safer by giving him a fixed position. Yes, putting him directly on the firing line is safer than letting him decide what to do on his own.
- Jim Butcher's Codex Alera has this.
- In Furies of Calderon Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, gives a variation. He promotes a then-trainee Cursor Amara to full nobility with the title of Countess before sending her on a mission in his name. While not strictly military, it would have the same gravitas as a military rank.
- In the third book Cursor's Fury Scipio, who is an alias for Tavi, jumps from Third Subtribune Logistica (junior supply officer) to Captain of a Legion is more of of a You Are in Command Now but he starts handing out field promotions left, right and center to fill holes in the legion's absolutely shattered command structure. The fourth book reveals that most of them stick too.
- In the same book, the bad guys planned for this by having a mole higher up in rank and nobility than Third Subtribune to take over when the other officers are removed. The mole would then have made a withdrawal and allow their plot to continue.
- In Jim Butcher's other series, The Dresden Files, Harry is first forcibly recruited into the Wardens after their ranks are reduced by almost three quarters in a single battle, to give him legitimacy in the immediate battle, and force him to help in the ongoing war against the Red Court. By the end of the book (i.e. the very next day for him), he's a regional commander of the Warden's North America division, mostly because the other regional commander was promoted at the same time as him and has far less experience. Instead of demonstrating his badassitude, it shows how desperate the ongoing war has become. The Captain who drafts him also points out they lost so many because of a mole. If Harry doesn't join, many will start to think he is the mole.
- In Polgara the Sorceress, Sergeant Torgun has to go a little beyond his orders to head off trouble at one point. When he reports:
Torgun: ...Is it all right that I did that, my Lord?
Kamion: Perfectly all right, Captain.
Torgun: Ah — I'm only a sergeant, my Lord!
Kamion: Not anymore, you aren't.
- In Monstrous Regiment, Maladict gets a field promotion to corporal.
- Men at Arms features a number of field promotions in the A-M City Watch, some of which are actually official. (As recruitment into the Citizen's Milita goes critical, some people are promoted by officers who don't strictly have the right to do so, and others are under the impression you decide what your rank is, based on how many other people you've recruited.)
- And in Going Postal, Moist tries to cajole elderly Junior Postman Tolliver Groat into telling him about the secrets of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office with an implied promotion: "You tell me right now, Senior Postman Groat!" Later, Devious Collabone finds himself field promoted from university researcher, to doctor, and then again to professor, in the span of a few minutes. Mainly because a civilian tried to gainsay him in the presence of Unseen University's Archchancellor, Mustrum Ridcully, a firm believer in Retaliation By Promotion.
- Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel (actually a time-lost Sam Vimes) in Night Watch promotes Corporal Colon to sergeant during the Siege of Treacle Mine Road. In the opening scene, the present-day Sergeant Colon mentions this, adding that he was made a corporal again once the crisis was over.
- In Anthony Reynolds's Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Apostle, Captain Loren is promoted to acting colonel. The adjective is emphasised to lend weight to the reason: there is no one else.
- In Tamora Pierce's Squire, from the Protector of the Small series, Keladry is serving as squire to a knight who is also commander of the King's Own, a military force. She herself is given a field promotion of sorts — put in charge of a squad despite not technically being a member of the Own, because the higher-ups know its actual leader can't handle the job. What they end up fighting is a giant robot insect thing Powered by a Forsaken Child, and it turns out that the best way to kill it is to trap its head and open a hole in it, so the child's spirit can leave. She gives a field promotion to the soldier who figures this out, even though earlier he'd almost started a mutiny over her being put in command at all.
- In Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, Mandella starts as a private, and ends the war as a major commanding his own ground force. Not because he's particularly suited for command, but because he's adaptable, and it looks odd for someone who's been in the military for 500 years not to be an officer.
- 1812: The Rivers of War by Eric Flint has a number of these. In one case 21 year old Captain Sam Houston (bumped up from Ensign by General Andrew Jackson for his heroism in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend) and 32 year old Lieutenant Patrick Driscol (more-or-less browbeaten into accepting a commission after losing his arm during the Battle of the Chippawa) both end up in Washington D.C. in time to rally several hundred leaderless troops (more or less against orders) and defend the Capitol from invading British troops. Not long afterwards Colonel Houston and his XO Major Driscol were dispatched at the head of the First Capitol Volunteers to reenforce New Orleans.
- The funny thing is that the person who recommended them for that field promotion was the commander of the British forces - being defeated by a Colonel is far less embarrassing for a Major General than being defeated by a brevet Captain who was only there by chance.
- In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, at the end, Shan Lantee finds he's been given a cadet uniform at the end, although he's a casual laborer — and then finds that he's been appointed cadet.
- Shortly after the French landings in Britain at the beginning of Victory of Eagles, the high command got word of local militia west of London defeating several french foraging units (by some accounts even making use of unharnessed dragons that had wandered from breeding grounds in that direction) and sent a messenger with a battlefield commission of Colonel for whoever was in charge. Temeraire accepts with alacrity, to the suprise of all humans involved.
- Happens to both the Americans and the Soviets in Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising: amongst the viewpoint characters, Sergeant Terry Mackall gets promoted twice, after his lieutenant and then his unit XO were killed in action, while Four-Star Badass Pavel Alekseyev—the main Soviet POV character—receives a series of promotions from senior aide of CINC-Southwest to essentially commander of Soviet forces in Europe (as the situation grew more and more desperate, the Politburo began taking a progressively Vaderesque approach to its commanders). Also deconstructed somewhat, when discussing the state of the Soviet Army. Since NATO doctrine was to go for the unit commanders first, by mid-war many of the leading Soviet formations were led by junior officers who were field-promoted out of necessity—thus, captains leading battalions, majors leading regiments, and colonels leading entire divisions were not uncommon. The attrition rate on the officer corps had a very serious effect on the Soviet war effort, since the junior officers were almost always inexperienced men.
- Bob Toland, a Navy Reservist intelligence officer, gets breveted (or "frocked", as the Navy calls it) to Commander, to give him a little extra clout when speaking to the USS Nimitz's officers. It's noted that frocking confers all the responsibilities of the rank, with none of the pay.
- In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet, Geary mostly just puts the officers in charge of ships, but some get promoted as well.
- In Jack Campbell's Lost Stars novel Tarnished Knight, Iceni promotes both Marphissa and Kontos.
- Happens everywhere in The Thin Red Line, the most prominent example being two NCOs(John Bell and "Skinny" Culn) who get a commission.
- Firestar did this when Whitestorm, the ThunderClan deputy, died during the final battle of the first Warrior Cats series, naming Graystripe deputy rather than waiting to hold the usually performed ceremony.
- The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): Kaladin saves an army from an ambush partly by doing this. Note that as a slave, he has less authority than the horses.
"You’re promoted," Kaladin said. "If anyone asks, you’ve been given a field commission as commander of the rear guard. If anyone claims to outrank you, send them to me."
The man started. "Promoted...Who are you? Can you do that?"
"Someone needs to."
- In X-Wing: Solo Command Wedge gives "Face" Loran a field promotion to brevet captain because Wedge decided to retake command of Rogue Squadron, and Face's previous rank of lieutenant is too junior for him to command Wraith Squadron. By the end of the book, the rank is made permanent.
- In the epilogue of The Flight Engineer: The Independent Command General Scaragoglu gives Chief Petty Officer Paddy Casey a field commission as a favor to Commander Raeder, so that Casey can legally propose to his officer girlfriend.
- How Kydd is elevated to the quarterdeck. To elaborate, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Monckton, was knocked unconscious by the passing of a cannonball during the Battle of Camperdown, forcing Kydd to take command of his division.
- The Hunger Games: In Mockingjay, Boggs does this to Katniss before expiring from his wounds.
- In Damia, after Afra psychically rescues Damia from getting shipped out on an outbound freighter, Peter Reidinger tells him that there's no way he could pull that stunt off (hearing Damia's distress call, pulling her out and nearly yanking the entire freighter from The Rowan's psychic grip in the process) as a mere T-4. He promotes Afra to T-3 on the spot and tells him they'll talk back pay later. Later books in the series mark Afra as a T-2, just below a Prime/T-1.
- The Bill: In a law enforcement capacity, Sergeant Dale Smith has been Acting Inspector on a number of occasions, while other characters have been Acting Sergeants at times.
- Sam Nixon spent much of her earlier time as Acting Detective Inspector, but now has the rank permanently.
- On Community the first appearance of Officer Cackowski, he's a mere Greendale security guard. A couple episodes later (and in all subsequent appearances), he's a local police officer.
- Chang gets a field promotion to chief of campus security after the current chief has enough of the insanity and quits. The Dean gives Chang the position because he is the only security guard left. The college is broke and all the other guards quit when they are told that in lieu of pay they can attend classes for free.
- Happens in Doctor Who, with the character of John Benton. According to backstory, Benton enlisted in the British Army as a private in 1967, before being promoted directly to Corporal (2 ranks) in 1968, where he serves with the recently promoted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart fighting the Cybermen in London alongside the Second Doctor. By the time the Third Doctor is exiled to Earth and goes to work with them at UNIT, Benton has been promoted to Sergeant (completely normal), and remains at this rank for the next 4 years. At the time of the Doctor regenerating again, in the serial "Robot", Benton suddenly appears onscreen wearing the rank insignia of Warrant Officer Class 1, (a 3-rank promotion) to fill a gap in the Brigadier's staff; he should have a captain and a major under him, but can't due to financial constraints imposed on UNIT; instead, Benton is appointed as Regimental Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned rank there is. This all in the space of (apparently) some 7 or so years.
- A darkly comedic version happens in the first episode of Firefly. A soldier named Baker is trying to call in air support to fight off the enemy that's been sieging them for weeks, but requires a lieutenant's code. Mal rips the rank insignia off a dead lieutenant and gives it to Baker, congratulating him on his promotion. This probably wasn't legitimate since Mal was only a sergeant (though he himself had earned several such promotions during the course of the battle to the point he was essentially the acting general of the remaining soldiers) but the point is moot since the war would basically end a few minutes later.
- Frasier: A cook is promoted to chef during a party, after the original one had enough of Frasier's and Niles's contradictory micromanagement.
- This happens to Rimmer in Red Dwarf inheriting the title of "Commander Arnold 'Ace' Rimmer" from an alternate version of himself, once that version dies.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured this in the backstory for General Martok. He was originally barred from being an officer because his family was not from a noble line. This left him unable to even enlist as a soldier, but he eventually earned a battlefield promotion aboard a civilian ship and rose through the military ranks.
- Likewise Nog still a cadet at Starfleet Academy when the Dominion War broke and he was promoted to Ensign.
- Deconstructed and taken to the logical extreme in the episode Valiant in which all the actual officers on a training ship trapped behind enemy lines died, the captain field promoted a cadet to acting captain just before dying and the acting captain field commissioned all the other cadets into officer positions. The crew was shown to be talented but not conditioned for war and not experienced enough to plan for contingencies.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Picard gives Wesley Crusher a field promotion from an acting ensign to a full fledged ensign, but not for a lack of officers. Picard wants to reward him for passing up his transport to Starfleet Academy in order to help rescue Riker and the Trois.
- And in the Season 4 opener. Picard is assimilated by the Borg. Riker, who has just refused a third potential command, is field-promoted to Captain in his place.
- In Disaster Picard is stuck in a failing turbolift with three children, whom he makes officers to prevent them from panicking. They promptly mutiny when he orders them to leave him behind.
- Picard himself earned his captaincy this way: after the captain and first officer of the Stargazer were killed in battle, then-Lieutenant Picard assumed command and acquitted himself so well that Starfleet let him keep the ship until its near-destruction over twenty years later.
- Star Trek: Voyager.
- B'Elanna Torres is made Starfleet lieutenant (j.g.) on Captain Janeway's authority (despite being a member of a rebel group known as the Maquis) as her skills in engineering mean she needs to be made chief engineer. She is chosen over Lt. Carey even though she did not graduate Starfleet Academy.
- Chakotay, another Maquis and a former Starfleet officer, is given his Lieutenant Commander rank back (and later promoted to Commander) and her first officer. Combined with his being a Maquis captain, he ends up as something of a double subversion.
- Tom Paris, a legitimate but disgraced Starfleet lieutenant, was reinstated. Later in the series, he got demoted for disobeying orders, and promoted later on.
- Tuvok, who was serving with the Maquis as a double-agent, was reinstated to his Starfleet rank of Lieutenant, and was later promoted to Lieutenant Commander; however, this was treated as a standard promotion.
- And poor Harry Kim gets to be the aversion, despite seven years of harrowing and dangerous missions in the Delta Quadrant and endless night watches, remaining an Ensign all the way to end of the series (then again, it's not as if anybody else got promoted past their initial commission either). It's continually suggested that he gets fast-tracked up the ranks once he's back home and made captain in less than ten years.
- And then there's The Doctor, who gets promoted from "supplemental diagnostic tool" to Chief Medical Officer.
- The song "Into the Fire" by Sabaton mentions this, as told from the perspective of a soldier in the Vietnam War. The lyrics to the second verse start with "Sarge is down, I'm in charge, VCs everywhere!"
- After the leader of his team defects to the enemy, Kyosuke Nanbu of Super Robot Wars Original Generation is temporarily made into acting leader. When his next superior, Ingram Prisken reveals himself as The Mole, he is given a field promotion to Lieutenant and official battle commander by The Captains of the Cool Ships, the Hagane and the Hiryu Custom.
- After the events of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the player character gets promoted all the way from SAS Sergeant to Captain in five years.
- That's not too unusual. A rank soldier in the British Army can recive a commission as a "Late Entry" officer (as opposed to a "Direct Entry" officer who went through Sandhurst). From there it is fairly realistic to go from 2nd Lieutenant to Captain in five years.
- Done in traditional fashion with the player character (Lt. Nick Reyes) during Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare when a plan to ram an enemy carrier goes south and the captain of the Retribution ends up dying in the ensuing impact. Upon arriving on the bridge, Reyes is promoted to the rank of "Captain" by his CO and takes formal charge of the ship.
- Happens in Call of Duty: World at War, when, after Sgt. Sullivan is killed during the Peleliu beach landing, Roebuck is promoted to Sergeant, taking command of Miller's squad.
- Gears of War has this happen to protagonist Marcus Fenix via radio after Kim gets run through by RAAM.
- The Force Commander in Dawn of War II is a rather young Space Marine who has never met the Chapter Master, yet he has his rank because the Blood Ravens had their manpower seriously depleted because of the Kaurava Campaign (which Cyrus doesn't want to speak of). Thaddeus is also on the young side for a Sergeant and it shows, he's naive about many things and his fellow sergeants point it all out for him.
- During Neverwinter Nights 2 the player is promoted from squire to knight in quick succession. When one of the other knight objects he is reminded that he was knighted in the mud surrounded by an army of orcs.
- The reason this may not make much sense is because the objection was to lack of a suitable ceremony, not the rapid promotion. Even that is because the intended ceremony was attacked.
- Depending on what path the player takes, earlier they could have been promoted from city watch Guardsman to Lieutenant on their first day right by the smoldering remains of their first watch house after the thieves counterattack. The later promotion to squire is not quite a battlefield promotion but it was thrown together in less than a day when a political emergency came up, so it still fits metaphorically.
- The player character, John Cooke, in Battlezone II receives several field promotions by the local General Ripper, as their task force is totally separated from Earth's chain of command. When the player kills Major Manson, he is promoted to Major.
- In the Total War franchise, generals can be placed in command of armies, but are often expensive. If an army has no general but pulls off a spectacular victory against a superior force, its commanding officer can be promoted or adopted into the player's royal family.
- Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon: When Lieutenant Jim Hawkins volunteers to recover Vice Admiral J. Nelson's missing crews and ships, the Vice Admiral promotes the Lieutenant to Captain, calling it field promotion.
- In American Beauty, Two Tanks Omen promotes a junior to number two, and orders him to kill his predecessor.
- Karcharoth of Cry Havoc is promoted from Sergeant to Assault Sergeant Major in a month after his lieutenant is KIA and a replacement is not found.
- Girl Genius:
- When Gil destroys the attacking Clank Army with a lightning rod, the following exchange takes place:
Gil: All I want is your commander.
Mook: You hit him with lightning.
Gil: Ah. Second in Command?
Mook: Him, too.
Mook: He was in the second machine.
Gil: [sigh] Fourth?
Mook: [pulls out a knife] THAT WOULD BE ME, MADBOY!
Dimo: Hoy! So, who else vants to be promoted?
- Ironically given his quote above, Dimo himself was promoted to one of the Jäger generals during a later Time Skip when all the other generals were trapped in a stasis bubble.
- When Gil destroys the attacking Clank Army with a lightning rod, the following exchange takes place:
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Early on, when Schlock helped the company reclaim the ship from food-service commandos.
Kevyn: I think that the general alarm has distracted the guards.
Tagon: We have the element of surprise! Schlock, you are a genius! I'm promoting you to Sergeant, on the spot!
Schlock: Ummmm, I think the alarm might have been pulled by someone who saw me. I have no plan. This was an accident.
Tagon: Okay, then. You can be a Corporal.
- Captain Tagon's father complains that "when I was your age, I was already a colonel." Tagon retorts that there was a war going on back then, and half of high command got nuked from orbit.
- And then there was a mass nanite attack, and Tagon Sr. was suddenly a general.
- During a faked rebellion on Earth Lieutenant Sorlie receives a field promotion to Captain along with orders to save the day.
- Early on, when Schlock helped the company reclaim the ship from food-service commandos.
- The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness shows that Redcloak was a newly ordained acolyte when the High Priest and everyone else in the church hierarchy were killed by the Sapphire Guard. Fortunately the High Priest's Crimson Mantle acts as an Amplifier Artifact.
- Done in a Tear-Jerking fashion in the Series Finale of Codename: Kids Next Door. When Numbuh 1 must leave Earth for good to join the GALACTIC Kids Next Door, that as well as the fact that Father is on his way to attack him and the rest of the Kids Next Door, when saying goodbye to Numbuh 5, he gives her his Sunglasses and promotes her as the NEW Numbuh 1 of the Team.
- One of the commanders of a Philippine resistance group against the Japanese during World War II started out as a US Army lieutenant. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to major (via radio messages) but was effectively in charge of far more men than a major would normally command, spread throughout the islands. To facilitate this, he field/brevet-promoted men to be in charge of various cells, areas and islands. Since some of these were commanding hundreds or even thousands of irregular troops, he gave out acting promotions higher even than his own substantive rank of major. Luckily, General MacArthur was understanding.
- Averted in militaries that don't have the rigid correspondence between rank and position, such as Russian Army in all its instances. There, the officer in command simply stays in his rank and continues to command his unit until the wheels of military bureaucracy turns and he gets actual promotion. During WWII there were Red Army majors that commanded divisions. Yeah, right, majors, not major-generals. If a division was commanded by a colonel, they didn't even bother to promote him.
- George Armstrong Custer was breveted from Lieutenant to Brigadier General during the Civil War, though would end his career as a Colonel.
- This happened a lot in the Civil War, because the Union Army was vastly larger than the Regular US Army before and after the war. Many career officers who lived through the war held high brevet rank that disappeared in 1865. (Similar to the AUS example below.) "Fighting Joe" Hooker, for example, was a substantive major in the US Army at the same time that he was a major general of volunteers in command of the Army of the Potomac.
- Audie Murphy started as an underaged private, and was field promoted to Sergeant and later Lieutenant in a combination of his heroic actions and You Are in Command Now.
- In World War II, Dick Winters started as a 2nd lieutenant. By the end of the war, he was Major Dick Winters. At least one of his promotions was a field promotion (1st Lieutenant to Captain).
- Many of the men of Easy Company were promoted multiple times during the war. Special mention also goes to Carwood Lipton, who jumped into Normandy as a Sergeant, later became company First Sergeant (after the previous First Sergeant, James Diel, was battlefield commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant), and was given his own battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant after Bastogne.
- A variation on this trope is the Army of the United States, the conscript (read: draft) force of the United States. When activated (thus far, it has only happened in World War II, The Korean War, and The Vietnam War), many of the officers are initially drawn from the regular Army and the Reserves, where they receive promotions to deal with the increased number of men they will be leading. Once the war ends, and the AUS is stood down, the officers go back to their previous jobs... and their previous ranks, since the Army of the United States is a separate organization from the Regular Army and the Army Reserves. note
- Though this is not technically a field promotion, Nathaniel Green was promoted from private directly to the rank of general (GENERAL) during the Revolutionary War. It makes sense then that he had several failures in this new position before he actually started to achieve victories.
- Peter Ratcliffe, Regimental Sergeant-Major of the SAS during Operation Desert Storm, was promoted from RSM all the way to Major in one go in recognition of his actions in commanding a large SAS taskforce operating behind Iraqi lines. Slightly unusual in that the formal promotion didn't actually happen until some time after he ended up in charge of said taskforce. It was the first time in British military history that an officer was formally relieved of duty by an enlisted man, which tells you everything you need to know about said officer's competence.
- Jimmy Stewart joined the USAAF and started as a private, but because of his education and expert flying skills and experience, he became a pilot. He flew full tour of duty on bombers, rising to Squadron Commander and eventually reached the rank of full Colonel, one of only four men to do so during the war. The only reason he wasn't assigned a Group to command was that the war ended. He was promoted to Brigadier General by Richard Nixon.
- World War II, the German army at Stalingrad deep in the USSR was completely surrounded and without ammunition or food. Rather than grant permission to surrender, Hitler promoted (by radio) a generous amount of officers to higher ranks to boost their morale, including the commander General Paulus to rank of Field Marshal (the highest military rank). No Field Marshal in German military history to that point had ever surrendered: the promotion was a signal that Hitler wanted him to commit suicide rather than surrender. Paulus defied him and chose to surrender to the Soviets.
- Lauri Törni, alias Larry Thorne, in three armies. He started as conscripted Private in the Finnish army, was made NCO in the Winter War, and later Captain. When Finland made peace with USSR, Törni defected to German Army, started as Schütze (Private) and soon rose to Hauptmann (Captain), in less than one year. After the war he moved to USA, where he joined the Army as a Private. Soon his skills were noted, and he was transferred to Special Forces. He participated in The Vietnam War, where he eventually made Major. He was killed in action, and is buried at Arlington Cemetary