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What Does a Duty Officer Do?

A Duty Officer is a critical role, often found in emergency services or military operations. They oversee daily operations, manage communication, and respond to crises, ensuring smooth and efficient functioning. But how does one become a Duty Officer, and what skills are required for this demanding role?
Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A duty officer is a junior officer in a military branch who operates as an assistant to the commanding officer on a rotating basis. Generally operating on a 24- to 48-hour shift or tour, the duty officer oversees many of the menial tasks and duties of the commanding officer, such as gathering information for any accident or incident involving military personnel or property, and is often on-call overnight. The duty officer keeps a written report on all activities that require his or her attention, and this record is passed on to the relief officer when the shift ends. This duty is commonly added to any other duties that the officer is currently assigned to.

Activities that will commonly be brought to the attention of the duty officer are the reporting and arriving of incoming troops, any reporting of an officer that is new to the base and any incident involving the military police on base. In certain situations, the duty officer will be required to notify the commanding officer regarding an incident. This typically involves the injury or death of a soldier, damage to base property and any action that may require the activation of the company or unit.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Other tasks of the duty officer are to inspect troops, arms rooms and the company motor pool. In some circumstances, the duty officer will address troops and visitors to the company in lieu of the commanding officer and may also address the company during some low-level ceremonies and at holiday festivities and celebrations. This position functions much like the position of vice-president, although on a rotating basis. One benefit of performing the duty is that it gives experience to a junior officer and allows the officer to see what is required of a commanding officer under a wide array of conditions and scenarios.

While expected to perform the duty of the position without flaw, the duty officer is provided with a book of recommended reactions to a wide variety of scenarios. These actions are typically the product of a committee appointed by the unit adjutant. Phone numbers of persons to contact in the event of an emergency, a list of those deemed need-to-know personnel, both officers and non-commissioned officers and even some civilian authorities, are all included in the book. In some naval instances, the same duty officer position is referred to as the Officer on Deck and is tasked with watching over both those on board the vessel as well as those on liberty off the ship.

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