Life Aboard a Battlestar

Shipboard Life

Note: The following information is provided as a guideline for RP only. We will not be assigning PCs to watches or using set IC schedules.


The typical schedule aboard large vessels in the Colonial Fleet divides the crew into three groups and uses a ‘Straight Four’ schedule: Each crewman stands a four hour watch, has eight hours off watch (but not off duty) and then a second four hour watch before going off duty for eight hours of down time. Off duty time is intended to be used for 7 hours of sleep, as this allows for the schedule to be maintained for long periods of time with minimal loss of performance due to fatigue.

Smaller vessels with a smaller crew have to make do with two shifts, and must provide breaks for personnel over extended periods to insure adequate rest (and leaving them less than fully manned.)

Note that this schedule applies when the ship is on Condition 2 or 3. On Condition 3 the schedule will typically include more junior personnel assigned to watch duty, giving everyone a chance to skip a watch periodically. The watch schedule goes out the window when the ship is at Condition 1 — everyone mans their action station, regardless of what the schedule says.

Watch Duty

Being ‘on watch’ means standing a specific post, or performing a task, that is necessary for the ship to be combat ready. You do not screw around while on watch. Failing to show up for a watch, or falling asleep on watch, are serious offenses.

For most officers this usually means taking a turn at being the ‘watch officer’ or ‘junior watch officer’ for their particular department - in the Sickbay for Medical, CIC for Tactical, or in the engine room for Engineering, for example. The watch officer is in command of their station while on watch. The senior watch officer in the CIC is referred to as the ‘Officer of the Deck,’ and commands the ship in the absence of the CO and XO.

Note that the watch officer is ‘in command’ for routine matters only. They issue orders in an emergency, but the actual commanding officer is summoned to assume command when such situations arise.

For enlisted personnel ‘watch’ usually means guard duty (for Marines), manning sensors, communications, weapon systems, standing by the ‘alert’ spacecraft, or standing by to handle emergency medical or damage control tasks. Senior enlisted personnel (Chief Petty Officer / Gunnery Sergeant and above) may stand in as watch ‘officers’ and act as commander for a station or department.

Periodic breaks can be taken while on watch, and there is usually 15 minutes allocated for a morning / evening meal. Personnel on watch have ‘first in line’ privileges when getting chow, so they don’t end up spending the entire time in line.

Regular Duty

‘Regular duty’ for all personnel usually begins with a unit or department meeting (often called ‘Formation’ in the CMC or ‘Briefing’ for Air), in which recent events are reviewed and the plans for the coming day are explained. Personnel then disperse, possibly to a smaller and more focused team meetings, and then to their assigned tasks for the rest of the shift. An hour is usually allocated for a mid-shift meal, though most eat quickly so they can use the remainder of ‘lunch’ as free time. The duty period usually ends with another meeting to review the day and the tasks for the next day.

Some examples of things that might be on the regular duty schedule for the day:

  • Flying scheduled flight operations
  • Regular repair / maintenance work
  • Classes / training / simulations / exercises
  • Operations planning
  • Administrative paperwork (personnel, inventory, requisitions, etc.)
  • Operating non-critical stations such as the pool, gym, firing range, or the mess.
  • Physical Training (PT)
  • Range time (firearm practice)
  • Working Parties (physical labor)

Off Duty

There is a certain amount of freedom while ‘off duty,’ though personnel are expected to get adequate rest, and their activities cannot interfere with operations (i.e. no pyramid games in the middle of the hangar.) Enforcement of this is left to department heads and medical.

Duty Examples by Department

Air Wing

The ‘Air Officer’ (or informally, the ‘Air Boss’) is the senior wing officer standing watch duty in the CIC, overseeing routine air operations. Each squadron typically has a squadron watch officer on duty in place of the squadron commander, and the wing has an ‘Air Watch Officer’ who stands in for the CAG or DCAG. Air officers may also stand watch as Landing Signals Officer in the landing bay pod, guiding craft as they come in to land.

Pilots on watch may fly Combat Air Patrol (CAP) around the ship, or be standing by ‘ready’ craft. ‘Ready 5’ is the highest state of readiness, indicating the craft is ready to fly and the pilot is waiting in the nearby ready room, and will launch in five minutes or less when the order comes down. There are also ‘Ready 15’ and ‘Ready 30’ states which are less stressful on personnel, but obviously require more time to launch.


The senior NCO on deck acts as the Chief of the Watch, standing in for the Deck Chief. Other deck personnel are typically standing by the ready craft, manning the launch tubes or landing bays, or as a damage control party.


The Engineering Watch Officer stands in for the Chief Engineer and usually stands watch in the engine room. Engineering personnel stand watch over critical system such as the reactor, sub-light engines, and the jump engine.


The Marines primary duty aboard ship is security of the ship and the nuclear weapons aboard. Marine officers and senior NCOs will usually serve as watch officer in the HQ. Enlisted personnel usually spend watch on guard duty in one of the critical spaces of the ship - the brig, armory, missile tubes, engineering, CIC, etc. Marine personnel also run the firing range.


The ranking Medical Watch Officer stands in for the CMO, and is in charge of sick bay. Other medical personnel on watch are typically standing by on a medical emergency team.


The Science Watch Officer is in charge of the science laboratories and access to laboratory stores.


The senior Tactical watch officer in the CIC is referred to as the ‘Officer of the Deck,’ and commands the ship in the absence of the CO and XO. He is often assisted by a Junior Officer of the Deck (the next most senior watch officer in CIC.)

Accommodations, Cleaning, and Hygiene

There are only two members of the crew who have small personal staterooms — the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer. Everyone else bunks in shared berthing compartments. Officer berthing may be slightly roomier than the enlisted compartments, but there is no luxury on a space combat vessel.

There are no ‘janitorial’ personnel aboard fleet vessels. Each department is responsible for keeping its own spaces clean and presentable. Who exactly does this cleaning is decided by the department heads, but it typically falls to the newest and lowest rank members, or those assigned to cleaning detail as punishment.

Aboard ship the bathroom is referred to as 'The Head.' On the Battlestar the heads contain both toilets and showers. There is no division by gender — both male and female crew members share the same facilities. This is common practice in the Colonial military and considered 'normal' by most crew members.

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