Gabe was an officer, Jack was enlisted
Talking with @leechbrain got me thinking that the Overwatch fandom, especially the fanfic writers among us, might benefit from an explanation of US military ranks
I’m going to use the Army as the main example because that’s what I know, but its possible that they came from other branches of the military. The lore in Overwatch is a little thin so most of how this relates to the characters is conjecture, but I think its a solid bit of background to have.
The Character Wiki says that Gabriel Reyes was in the military prior to the Omnic Crisis, and achieved a high rank. He was probably involved in military operations prior to the Crisis, the wiki seems to imply that he was a combat veteran.
“High rank” probably means he was a commissioned officer. To go through Officer Candidate School where they determine your fitness for commission, you have to have a 4 year degree. You might already be in the army as an enlisted soldier or enter as a civilian and attend bootcamp first, but you need that 4 year degree no matter what. (Or he went through ROTC, but that still needs a 4 year degree)
After receiving a commission, (2nd lieutenant) he would have training in a further specialization. As he was later made commander of Blackwatch, I’m going to guess special forces. Special forces training is obvious pretty long and involved, there’s Infantry School, Airborne School (paratrooper training, jumping out of airplanes etc), and a whole bunch of courses and training adding up to almost a year and a half. By the time he completes all of that he would probably be promoted to 1st lieutenant.
I don’t know that 1st lieutenant really counts as ‘high rank,’ in the colloquial sense of the word. After 2 more years, he would be promoted to captain, which gives time for all the training required for special forces and combat missions to round it all out. If he went right from high school to college, and right from college to OCS, and then directly into SF training, he might be a Captain by 26.
At any rate, I put the Omnic Crisis beginning when Gabe was between 26 and 30. Toward the upper end of that age range, he might, maybe be eligible for promotion to Major ahead of the usual schedule if he was a particularly distinguished soldier (which he seemed to be).
I still personally think he was probably a captain, and probably at the younger end of that age range, just because I’m not sure that the Soldier Enhancement Program would accept anyone 30+ (SF training only accepts 20-30 yr olds, and I tend to think SEP would be an extension of SFs).
So Gabriel Reyes, around ~26 years of age, already highly decorated, selected for the SEP, because supersoldiers will probably need superofficers to lead their superforces against omnics attacking everything.
And now we get to Jack.
We know Jack entered the military at 18 in response to the Omnic Crisis. I think SEP was either already in the works prior to the crisis, or it was commissioned soon after it began. Jack absolutely did no have time to go to college, then go through OCS, then go through specialization in that amount of time. Jack was almost certainly an enlisted officer at the beginning of the crisis, and likely remained so throughout, barring special wartime promotions (which I wouldn’t doubt happened in Overwatch).
It’s likely that Jack completed Basic Training, and in his testing scored high enough to catch the SEP’s notice, which would give him the option of joining the SEP instead of pursuing some other specialization. Even if SEP was part of the special forces, they might have relaxed their standards enough to let in younger soldiers if the threat from the Omnics was severe enough.
The SEP probably had a similar curriculum to the Special Forces on top of whatever ~experimentation~ happened. Gabe might have been involved in training the recruits during the physical training aspects of the program, or he might have been out fighting omnics while waiting for his turn with whatever ~~~~experimentation~~~~ they had cooking up. Who knows? Not I.
But the tl;dr brings us to some things to keep in mind going forward:
- Gabe probably went to college/university
- Jack wouldn’t have had time to go to college/university until after the crisis
- Gabe probably went through some officer training program or other
- Gabe almost certainly had experience in leadership positions prior to the Omnic Crisis
- Whatever Jack learned about how to be a leader in a military organization, he probably learned from watching Gabe, who already knew what he was doing
- Both men probably had special forces training prior to their deployment in the Omnic Crisis
- If Gabe was Army, he likely would have been a Green Beret.
This is part of what makes it so unusual that Jack was given the position of Strike Commander ahead of Gabe. By the end of the Omnic Crisis (however long it lasted, thanks for not clearing that up) both men might have had leadership experience of a certain kind, but only Reyes had formal training in war and peacetime leadership operations.
Not knowing what the command structure is for Overwatch, I can only guess, but Strike Commander might be equivalent to a Brigadier General? Reyes would have been a commander, probably equal to a colonel in the army as commander of Blackwatch. Beyond that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
These ranks are obvious high above where they started at the beginning of the crisis, but it was at least within Gabe’s career path. Maybe Jack’s too, eventually, after paying his dues. But with the Omnic Crisis starting when Jack was around 18, and lasting possibly a decade, that puts him at no older than 28, with the rank of a 1 star general and next to no experience or training in how to actually lead an army.
Sure, he was inspiring in the Omnic Crisis, but being the equivalent of a brigadier general requires a lot more than being ~~inspirational~~ Like, there is A LOT of paperwork and board meetings and not so much being on the front lines like. Almost none of that.
Ana and Jack and honestly probably Reyes too should have been running around miserably organizing things and listening to the environmental review board’s quarterly report on how some endangered bird was doing (THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE) and yelling at the maintenance contractors for hitting historical markers with their lawnmowers and signing off on travel orders and supply requests and training changes etc etc etc and also organizing raids and planning missions and things like that.
tl;dr the second: it is HIGHLY IRREGULAR that Jack basically went from PFC Morrison to Brigadier General Morrison in possibly less than a decade, especially when such a pronounced promotion comes at the expense of a more experienced and highly decorated officer.