30 July 2014

The Barracks: Special Operations Forces Part 4: Sci-fi and SOF

After more than a month of nothing but Special Operations Forces here on FWS, it is finally time to wrap up the party with the fourth and final blogpost about SOF. Here we are going to discuss science fiction's relationship with these shadow warriors of elite mission units. The missions, deeds, and members of Special Operations units are popular subjects of mass media, and that also includes science fiction. From the early days of E.E. "Doc" Smith, to current authors like me, John Scalzi, and Timothy Zahn, the combination of Special Forces and sci-fi has proven a powerful elixir. The trend is even more entrenched in popular culture and media due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the last installment of the lengthy series on Special Operations Forces, we will be looking at Special Forces and its relationship with science fiction...with examples...lots of examples.

The Near Future of SOF
What does the next few decades hold for SOF? With the continued breakdown of the environment, the impact of organized terrorism on nation-states, the rise of the cost of oil, and decreasing likelihood of full scale war between the major nations, the Special Forces will be needed more in the next few decades. This greater need will fuel more soldiers and more funding. To keep SOF units competitive globally, technological investment will be greatly increased with private companies and governmental organizations like DRAPA attempting to use technology to be a combat multiplier and give the edge to these small combat teams. We can expect that SOF units will continue to be the testers of next-gen equipment and tactics. It is likely that integrated of UGVs and UAVs will be even greater, with the possibility of assigned drone controllers, similar in role to the current USAF CCTs. We could also that Special Forces members will be the first units to be outfitted in MILSPEC computerized systems, similar to the US Army's Land Warrior Systems. It is also likely that Special Operations units, especially, American, will testing the next-generation of small arms. It could be, by the turn of the next century, that SOF units will be field testing MILSPEC KEW and DEW systems...including phased plasma rifles in a 40watt range.

SOF in the Far Future
War will change in the far future, and while the underline concept of Special Forces will remain unchanged, who they are, and their missions will alter. One of the greatest changes for SOF units will be the inclusion of off-world environments and factions. We could a specific American Green Beret Group for Mars or Titan, or even the inclusion of the word "space" into the name SEALs. If there is intelligence alien life and a interstellar community out there in the black, Terrans special operators could be serving in multi-racial teams, as seen in Mass Effect or Babylon 5.
Technology will also play a major part of the evolution of future Special Operations units. We could see Class-I powered armor or exo-skeletons becoming standard for SOF operators, allowing for greater abilities and weaponry. Some of this weaponry and personal equipment will be based around nanotechnology, creating something akin to the Omni-Gel from Mass Effect and the MP-35 from Old Man's War. It is also certain that Special Forces warriors will also no longer mostly be comprised primarily of infantry. Much like my novel Endangered Species, Starship Troopers, Pacific Rim, and Armor, the ideal Special Forces unit could also including armored power suits and mecha, as seen BattletechROBOTECH, and Gundam.
Of course, technological progression could outpace the abilities of human SOF operators, and lead to the creation of cybernetic enhanced SOF operators and/or completely robotic soldiers. Combat-bots like those seen in Dr. Who, Terminator, or Elysium could be the far future of Special Operations or even human warfare as a whole. Some of the likelihood of robotic soldiers greatly depends on the advancement of robotics, the public's support of robotic soldiers and if there is indeed faster-than-light space travel.

Science Fiction and Special Operations Forces
The idea of Special Forces units and the soldiers within, is confused mess within the realm science fiction. The majority of the sci-fi works that feature  SOF, understand that Special Forces units are composed of elite members of the military, trained and outfitted befitting their elite status and tasked on difficult mission with little or no support. The terms "best-of-the-best" and "commando" are often to describe these fictionalized unit, but it seemed that sci-fi creators do not construction graduated SF groups within a military organization. Either they are regular infantry or they are elite space ninjas with powered armor. Also, it seems that sci-fi creators are neither knowable about the roles of SPECOPS nor the proper use of the names associated with Special Forces units. Despite the name of these future troopers being "special forces", a great number the fictionalized SOF units have a secondary level of sci-fi coating. Often this is the familiar label of "super-soldier" via genetic or cybernetic augmentations, much like the Space Marines from WH40K and the famed SPARTANS from HALO.
For much of the history of science fiction, the idea of futuristic Special Forces in space was handled by characters in a similar vein as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, often with titles containing the words "ranger" or "patrol". It is likely that first Special Forces seen in science fiction is the Galactic Patrol of E.E."Doc" Smith's  Lensman series. The concept of SPECOPS in sci-fi would bounce around, from the Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers, to Dorsai mercenaries from Dorsai but it wasn't until  the late 1970's before sci-fi would fully embrace military sci-fi that resulted the inclusion of sci-fi Special Forces.
It also helped that during the 1980's that America in general became interested in Special Forces, leading to creators and authors to include them in greater numbers. Some people call this "the Rambo effect". Video games and RPGs added another layer, now the player could assume the role of badass space super-soldier. Often, to get over certain elements of storytelling, authors or creators would simply spread the term "special forces" liberally, allowing the audience to suspend logic and allow all manner of deeds, even if illogically, to seem justified. The realistic portrayal of SOF in sci-fi has been getting better since the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the second layer of elite status is still around in science fiction. While we have Special Forces, they often are genetically engineered troopers or they don powered armor.

Before we get into the examples from science fiction, I need to explain how I choose what was included on the list and what was not. Basically, FWS has already talked about two sub-sections of Special Forces in science fiction: Super Soldiers and TIER-One groups. I've tried really hard to only include explains of "normal" SOF units, and not groups like the SPARTANS, or the Royal Guard from Star Wars, or the Space Marines from WH40K that can be classified either TIER-One or Super Soldier or even both. Per reason explained above, the list is actually smaller than you might think. Some explains will be characters and other will be the entire SPECOPS unit.

The Imperial Stormtroopers from the Star Wars Universe
One of the most iconic science fiction Special Forces units is the Imperial Stormtroopers. Despite their heavy presence in the SW universe, we know little about them as a military unit. In light of this, I will using 1989's West End Games Star Wars RPG manual and Wookieepedia. The Imperial Stormtroopers were formed out of the ashes of the Clone Wars and the Clone Army, becoming an infamous symbol of the Empire and the Galactic Civil War. In the structure of the massive Imperial Army, the Stormtroopers were the Special Forces, but didn't always take orders from the normal command channels. Stormtroopers were known to be tool of the will of the Emperor, the central command, or Lord Vadar.
While some Imperial Stormtroopers were Jango Fett clone leftovers, especially in the 501st, by the time of the first Death Star, the bulk of the Stormtroopers battalions were stocked with mostly male or female humans, who were loyalists to the Imperial cause and philosophy. They are known for their fanatic loyalty to the Emperor and his government, often being tasked with the most difficult missions, and achieving victory, often at a high price. This combat record and loyalty is one of the reasons that the Emperor and/or Darth Vader are often seen with the Stormtroopers and in the most sensitive parts of the Empire, like the Death Star. This mindset of the white-armored warriors allows for the elite Royal Guard to drawn from the Stormtroopers for new members. The daily life, training, and overall selection of Stormtroopers is a mystery. We do know that Stormtroopers are referred not by name, but some sort of operational code-name, like TK-421 and TK-329.
While no firm number exist on the Stormtroopers, we do know that there were various units were devoted to exo-planetary environments or specialized tasks, like iceball worlds and/or scouting. The Imperial Stormtrooper Corps was numerous enough be stationed on every Star Destroyer class warship when tasked with a combat or sensitive mission. While the Galactic Civil War was waged across the galaxy, involving many planets and systems, the most famous (or infamous) battles of the war saw the deployment of the white-armor clad operators of the Empire, because the Emperor could count on the Stormtroopers more than the regular Imperial Army. Even with the elite Stormtroopers, there was an crack unit, the 501st or Vader's Fist.
When the Empire fell at the Battle of Endor, with the death of the Emperor, Lord Vader, and the destruction of the 2nd Death Star, the surviving Stormtroopers remained a concern for the newly formed New Republic and the new Jedi Order. Some Stormtroopers melted away in the chaos, others joined Imperial rebel groups or Imperial succession states, some even committed suicide via acts of terrorism or a blaster to the mouth. Some of the various Imperial successor governments on the edge of the galaxy employed the white armor troopers to establish their legitimacy. Some of the former Stormtroopers became armies-for-rent to these attempted successors as well. Around this time, non-human alien species were allowed to join the ranks of the white armor.
It is well known that George Lucas used healthy does of Nazi imaginary to forge the feel of the Galactic Empire and their feared shocktroopers. The original Imperial Stormtrooper look was created by sci-fi art icon, Ralph McQuarrie, with Andrew Ainsworth creating the final helmet design and model maker Nick Pemberton mocking the full white armor. In the original SW concept art, the Imperial Stormtroopers had shields and energy swords, and it strikes me that they were suppose to be some form of interstellar Knights like Camelot 3000 or something.

The Fremen Fedaykin Death Commandos from the DUNE Universe
In the first few DUNE novels, and the 1984 David Lynch film, the Fedaykin were the elite of the Fremen warriors, and were the personal guard of Paul Muad'Dib. In the film, Stilgar marks the Stillsuits of the 15 of the finest warrior with a red stain or paint, and calls them the Fedaykin. In the first book, there 22 references to the word "Fedaykin", and most of them are small usages that are connected to the term "death commandos", and the characters are in the background without names. Otheym was one of the rare exemptions of a Fedaykin character that was more than just a name.
In the Appendix IV, the term "Fedaykin is defend as: "Freman Death Commandos; historically: a group formed to give their lives to right a wrong.". These are Paul's most loyal guards and are seemingly always near him in the first DUNE novel. They were seen in the second DUNE novel, and after Paul was blinded in the 3rd novel Children of Dune, the praetorian style Fedaykin were disbanded by Saint Alia of the Knife Atreides. According to the DUNE wiki, Frank Herbert got the name "Fedaykin" from the Arab word "Fedayeen", which means "one who scarifies himself".

Lt. Colonel Ray "Kicks" Butts from Space: Above and Beyond
In the sixth episode of SAAB, we are introduced to Lt. Colonel Raymond G. "Kicks" Butts of USMC RECON, and the sole survivor of a black ops mission. Originally, Butts' RECON team outfitted in SA-43 Hammerheads was to strike behind enemy lines at an C3 center. However, the AAA was too hairy, and Butts orders the mission to be on-foot. During this ground operation, Butts' entire RECON team was wiped out by Chigs. After escaping, he sought out the Saratoga and a chance to draw up another Marine unit to finish the job. From the mission, to the attitude, to the methods of transport, and tactics, this is one great example of a science fiction SPECOPS story and character. While Butts is a great character, it is the fine acting by Steven Rankin and the writing of Glenn Morgan and James Wong that bring it all together..of course it helps that the episode is topped off by some healthy doses of Johnny Cash.

The SpecForce of the Rebel Alliance from the Star Wars Universe
While limited in their resources and manpower, the Rebel Alliance was able to field an rather impressive Special Forces community to counter the Imperial Stormtroopers. The "SpecForce", as West End Games RPG manual called it, was under the command of General Crix Madine and his awesome beard. Originally, Madine started his military career was an officer in the Imperial Army, and commanded an elite unit within the Stormtrooper called the "Storm Commandos", who were more clandestine than the regular white armored wonders. By the time of 2nd Death Star, Madine was fully trusted member of the Rebel Alliance command.
While the Rebel Alliance military maintained a regular infantry, their SpecForce was more readily used and have been seen in two movie: TESB as the Echo Base guard and the camo'ed Endor Strike Team in ROTJ. SpecForce has no less than seven SpecForce units. There is the Marines that are based within the Rebel Fleet to serve as security and boarding forces. There was the Pathfinders that established beachheads for Rebel Alliance forces, and were tasked with holding that beachhead until the main force arrived. They used HALO and HAHO methods with stealth and covert tactics.
Then there is the Urban and Wilderness Commandos. Both units were tasked with clandestine operations in either cities and the various wilderness environments. It is believed by fans that the strike team seen in ROTJ are from the Wilderness Commandos. The Wookieepedia states that the Strike Team is comprised of Pathfinders. Serving on the frontlines is the Technicians. These Techs repair and service the various Rebel Alliance equipment all while under fire. They are some of the most respected members of SpecForces. Manning the heavy weaponry and servicing them is the Heavy Weapon Specialists, and these SpecForce operators have the highest causality rates in the Rebel Alliance SpecForce. They are often the last to leave the field of battle, while performing covering fire to protect the tails of their comrades. The last unit is the Infiltrators. This is the TIER-One Special Forces unit of the Rebel Alliance SpecForces. They pulled from veteran SpecForces operators and trained to be the shadows and assassins of the Rebel Alliance. This is the only unit in SpecForce that is feared by the Imperial Stormtroopers. One fan I knew in SW TF.net circles called the Infiltrators the Rebel Alliance's "space ninja".   

"Red Tails" from Busy Company, 2nd Squad R/R from the Time Beavers Graphic Novel
Back in the 1980's, the comic book market in the United States was populated by more independent presses turning out more adventurous works. One of these was 1985's Time Beavers by Timothy Truman and published by First Comics. First Comics was famous for American Flagg! Dynamo Joe, and Grimjack. In the story, these sentient heavily armed beavers are the guardians of the Time-Dam (no shit), and their enemy are talking rats-of-unusually-size. During the graphic novel events, the rats are able to steal critical historical items that could collapse the dam...enter this special mission unit of time beavers; the Red Tails from Busy Company that specialize in recovery and rescue of historical items. This is one of more unusual SOF units in all of sci-fi, and can only be compared the killer rabbits from Cat Shit One. One of these days, FWS will be discussing Time Beavers in-depth either in a Forgotten Classics or Military Sci-Fi Oddities...I need to reread the graphic novel again.

The Wolfe Pack Special Planetary Operations Mecha Unit from ROBOTECH II: The Sentients
The idea of Special Forces is rare within the ROBOTECH universe; however, the Wolfe Pack of the Sentients was mentioned as being a “special forces unit” in most canon sources. Within the universe of ROBOTECH, there are two military units of the RDF/REF named for the Wolf. The Wolf Veritech Squadron existed just before the 1st Robotech War an was assigned to the carrier Prometheus and was similar to the Skull Squadron onboard the SDF-1. During the REF mission to Tirol, the homeworld of the Masters, the name of “the Wolf Squadron” was relived, and worked alongside the Skull Squadron. While this units were normal veritech air squadrons, the Wolfe Pack was an ground-based mecha special operations unit that operated in the Malcontent Uprising in the Southlands from 2012 to 2015. The hero (or war criminal depending on your POV) of the uprising was Colonel Wolfe, a vet of the 1st Robotech War. He constructed a specialized mobile unit around the Hover Tanks of the day, the processor to the Spartan veritech hover tank of the 2nd Robotech War. 
In 2018, Colonel Wolfe was involved in the development of the Spartan Hover Tank, and drove the first prototype. Once again, he envisioned an rapid-attack, highly mobile strike force composed of hover tanks and MILSPEC hover bikes with the new Alpha veritech fighters as CAS. Colonel Wolfe designed a new Wolfe Pack for the REF, and was selected as the command of the Special Operation planet-side mecha unit. When the SDF-3 arrived at Tirol, the Wolfe Pack was the first ground unit to encounter the Invid and the Masters. This unit would become one of the most famous combat units in the entire REF, making Colonel Wolfe a hero to the REF population, including a very young Scott Bernard (who he styled himself and his hair after). After the 2nd Robotech War, Colonel Wolfe was deployed to Earth with some elements of the Wolfe Pack to help the shattered Southern Cross defenses against the Invid, an enemy he knew. This was one of the few examples of a classic American Special Forces mission in science fiction. The bulk of the Wolfe Pack remained on Tirol, allowing Scott Bernard to join. This unit would be on the frontlines of the mission to retake the Earth from the Invid, and the vast majority of the Wolfe Pack died during the Reflex Point assault.   
Force Nomad from The Alien Legion
Marvel Comics in the 1980's had a more "independent" arm that took risks and published more daring comics outside of Marvel's wheelhouse; it was called Epic Comics. One of the more well known and celebrated comics printed by Epic was The Alien Legion. The Legion serves a three-galaxy government called the TOPHAN Galactic Union, and every sentient race can be a member of the Legion. Their reasons for joining vary from being mercenaries, criminals, thrill seekers, patriots, or wanting a fresh start. Much like the real-world French Foreign Legion, you can join and wiped out your past. This gives the Legion in the comic books a tainted name and a perception of being nothing but thugs and murders. Within the Legion is Force Nomad, who are the toughest of the tough, and the worse of the worst. This unit is populated with the troublemakers of the Legion, along with the crazy and the crazy brave. Back in the first 1984-1987 series, squadron Nomad was just another unit of the Legion with a cool name. That all changed after the squad was thought to be wiped out on a the desert world of Quaal during a local suppression operation. When Alien Legion was reformed and restarted in 1987 by Epic, the survivors of the original Nomad where folded into a newly created crack infantry first strike penal expendable unit called Force Nomad. They would draw the dirtiest duties in the Union and honor was earned in blood. Nomad was the best-of-the best and the -worst-of-the-worst. By August of 1990, the regular monthly Alien Legion was canceled by Epic and moved into a limited series in book shelf format. Force Nomad is unique in sci-fi SOF units. While it is patterned after the French Foreign Legion, the unit is populated with all manner of alien beings and weaponry. This idea of a mixed SPECOPS unit of vastly different alien races is rare and overall, Alien Legion is a great forgotten classic.

The Gallifreyan Chancellery Guard from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
In the realm of Classic Dr. Who, the homeworld of the Time Lords, Gallifrey, had their own specialized military unit: the Chancellery Guard. Gallifrey is not known for their military prowess, but they still need to maintain order & law in the domed cities. These guards are known by their red and white uniforms and their Staser pistols and rifles. The 4th Doctor's companion Leela, married the commander of the Chancellery Guard and she herself became their leader later on.

The UA MCAG ODA-229 Special Powered Armor Unit from my novel Endangered Species
In my upcoming military sci-fi novel Endangered Species being published by Forker Media, the story is based around a new type of special mission units, the Mechanized Combat Application Group (MCAG) of the Union of the Americans Armed Forces. The Class-II powered armor that populates the military organizations of the far future in my novel are not standard issue MILSPEC equipment, but a platform of an elite subsection of the big army. Since most conflicts in this era are over habitable planetary real estate, the primary role of the APS unit is to be the first boots on the planetary ground, holding an DZ for the heavier planetary forces to arrive from transport ships in orbit. These ODA suit teams are designed to operate in conjunction with other infantry-based SOF units of the time, like the Spaceborne, Pathfinders, and/or Marine landing teams. Captain Jorja Leeds (based on actress Clea DuVall), the commander of ODA-229 has over 20 suits under her command along with a specialized team of Special Forces in-field suit technicians. Within the ODA suit teams are three elements, two assault, one support, with various armaments to reflect their role with the combat team. I fused elements of the Green Beret ODA team, DELTA Force, tank mechanized platoons, the 15th ATAC Squad from ROBOTECH: The Masters, and World War II era paratrooper units to form the MCAG. It is my hope, if Endangered Species is successful, that the sequel and prequel of the story of Captain Jorja Leeds can be told. In short, buy my book. FWS will be discussing more about the type of warfare seen in my novel when the book comes out in four-to-six months.

The BETA Galaxy Rangers from The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
During the flood of animation in the 1980's, one of the rare examples of a great American sci-fi animation series was the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers that aired from 1986-1989. According to the show, in 2086, two friendly alien species arrive on Earth and exchange plans for a hyperdrive for protection and alliance against the Queen of the Crown. Shortly after this, the Terrans from the BETA or Bureau of Extra-Terrestrial Affairs, and one element of the BETA was the Galaxy Rangers. The mission of the Rangers was to be frontier law on the ever-expanding human colonies, and to be the eyes and ears of the BETA military. These Rangers are tied historical to the Texas Rangers and Burnham and Selous' horse scout-patrols in the 19th century Africa. They were out there on their own with limited help and had to make frontier justice. The Rangers were implanted with the Series-5 cybernetic modifications, and were well armed with DE blaster weapons and robotic horses, and space fighters. FWS will be discussing more on the Galaxy Rangers in the near future.

The Power-Suit Team from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
FWS has discussed many times the military science fiction oddity that is 1987's Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, and yet again, we bring them back. At its core, the irregular guerrilla team that Johnathan Power battles the superior machine forces of Lord Dread and works to train and support other human resistance units. This is very similar to an modern day Green Beret ODA teams. The five man Power Team has the depth-of-skill and firepower as a platoon of normal soldiers of the 2147. Added to this, the air mobility and sheath nature of the Power Team that allows for classic Special Forces missions against an larger foe. Much like most sci-fi SPECOPS units, they were special future-tech war gear.
In this case, it is the power-suit developed by Johnathan's father, Dr. Stuart Power. Each power-suit wore by the five main cast members is based around their primary skill-set, Captain Power's suit is the closest to a "normal" infantry model power-suit, but my favorite was "Tank", the fire-support weapons expert of the team. If the show had gotten its proposed second season, we would have seen more members of Power's guerrilla force, including a female that would have taken the name "Ranger". While overly silly, Captain Power did have some cool elements within it.

The "Ghosts" from the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon series of video Games
In the near future, the US Army develops a cutting edge RECON unit using the best of the next-gen technology. This unit is officially, Delta Company 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces of the US Army, but it is better known as "The Ghosts". The name originates from the SOF unit name, Group for Specialized Tactics (GST), but also speaks their role on the future battlefield. The creation of the Ghosts was to unitize new technology to achieve the goals of certain special missions. In several new-future wars and conflicts, like the 2nd Korean War, World War III, and operations in Cuba and Mexico. The Ghost teams had both man and female operators and were outfitted with some of the most cutting edge gear assigned to them for field testing and study. Weapon systems like the FN SCAR series of weapons, the H&K XM-29, the caseless MR-C, next-gen UGVs/UAVs, and optical camo. Ghost operators are individually outfitted with the Cross-Com system that was first seen in the US Army's Land Warrior Integrated Soldier System from around 2007. The Ghost Recon series of video games were always trying to bring the next-generation of conflicts, technology, gears, and weaponry to the player, making Ghost Recon both timely and outdated. At first, games like Ghost Recon 2 depiction an new Korean War with the Ghosts using the Cross-Com system and variations of the XM8 and SCAR weapon systems. Sadly, the XM8 weapon system was canceled, the Land Warrior system is still not MILSPEC, and the SCAR is still waiting in the wings for full-scale adoption. Such are the perils of works like Ghost Recon...

The Horus Guard from the Stargate Universe
In the first Stargate movie in 1994, one of the most striking elements was the Horus Guard that protected the Ra and their family and cats. The ranks of the elite Horus Guard were made up of Jaffa slaves. Leading the Horus Guard was the Jackal Guard. In the film, the skills of the Horus guardsmen were might, and they used the Death Gilder aero-fighter and a DEW staff-like weapon called the Ma'Tok. The mark of these elite Praetorian guard was their specialized helmet that were never explained in the film, and may have given the wearer greater abilities. Certainly, the local Jaffa population on Abydos was terrified of the guard and their abilities. This guard is seen in several times in the series, but never with the gravity or fear of the original film.

Cerberus Assault Troops from the Mass Effect  Universe
Cerberus is either humanity's saviors or they are just being dicks.They are centered around humanity's domination and survival in the galaxy. Like any good mega-shadow-company-government, Cerberus has its own "security" force of highly trained and armed soldiers. Much like the trend of private military companies, Cerberus hires former Alliance Marines and Special Forces to form their ranks. The keystone of the Cerberus ground forces is the heavily armed and armored Cerberus soldiers. While these are not typical SPECOPS units, the Cerberus assault troops are more akin to German World War One stormtroopers and the 75th Rangers.

The Citadel SPECTRES from the Mass Effect Universe
In all of Citadel Space in the Mass Effect universe, one of the most elite and feared units is the SPECTRES. The name SPECTRES comes SPECial Tactics and REConnaissance and they are the lone-arm of the council and the enforcers of galactic peace and policy. SPECTRES of culled from various individuals across members of the Citadel. They are not trained, they are handpicked for their skills-in-hand and the potential of their skills in the future. The SPECTRES were formed in the Terran year of 693 AD, with Salarian Beelo Gurji and were tasked with maintaining galactic stability and given extensive powers, both legal and illegal. Actions and the missions of SPECTRES are sealed, and only viewable by the Citadel Council, whom is also the only governing body of the SPECTRES. They have no former command structure. Often SPECTRES work alone, however, on occasion, they work together to achieve larger objectives. As tools of the Citadel Council, SPECTRES allow a degree of secrecy when handling certain issues. According to the Codex, the less-than-a-hundred SPECTRES vary from peacekeepers that use words to cold-blooded assassins that use the gun. The first Terran SPECTRE was Commander Shepard, and it is believed one of the last before the full scale invasion of the Reapers. If the player's action allow it in the first game, Alliance Marine Ashley Williams is given the honor of being the second Terran SPECTRE in 2186.

Green Berets and Marine RECON from Space: Above and Beyond
For much of the series, the show is firmly focused on the exploits of the 58th squadron of the USMC. However, we do see examples of SOF units in the Chig War of 2063-2064. Unlike many other sci-fi works, all of SPECOPS units are are real-world units uplifted into the mid-21st century. The first being the US Army Green Berets. In the second episode of SAAB, we see a unit of US Army Special Forces, also referred to in the episode as "Green Berets", mounting an rescue operation on the planet of Tellus. Tellus was to be a corporate colony of the massive Aerotech corporation about sixteen LYs away from the Sol System. There is very little here, but it was oddly realistic and very genuine.
Given that the majority of characters in SAAB are US Marines, it makes senses that Force RECON is seen in the series. In the bittersweet episode Toy Soldiers, Nathan West's brother Neil enlists in the USMC and some how earns his way into Force RECON. The bad thing about this episode is that RECON element is completely tossed out when the young hothead officer decides to go off-mission and lead a strike mission. The entire job of Force RECON is to find and watch the enemy, and SAAB should have not included this Marine SOF unit into the mix.

U.N.I.T. from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce was one of the few SOF units seen in classic Doctor Who, and was nice military element in the more pacifist storylines of the classic Who. At the present time, the new Who as incorporated the old Who idea of UNIT, and with the feverish fandom that the new Who as minted, the old UNIT of the classic Who has been nearly wiped out. Recently, the real United Nations informed the BBC to stop using their name in this military organization. That didn't happen in the 1970's! Anyway, in the classic Dr. Who universe, UNIT was the covert human response to the dangers from outer space and other time periods and even dimensions. The Doctor was an ally and adviser to UNIT, especially when the 3rd Doctor when exiled on Earth in the 1970's. The job of UNIT was investigate alien activity on Earth, and deal with it with an international SOF organization. On screen, UNIT was comprised of British uniforms, troops, and weaponry. UNIT soldiers were popular characters in the old FASA Doctor Who RPG.

The SG Teams from Stargate: SG1
When the film Stargate came out in 1994, it showed a very 90's USAF Special Forces unit using the stargate for the first in an RECON and threat assignment mission. By the time of TV series in 1997, the team and its mission had been altered. For much of the Stagate: SG1 series, the focus was on the four main characters of the SG-1 team: Carter, Jackson, O'Neil, and Teal'c. By the end of the series, Stargate Command had about 25 these off-world SOF teams that were involved in all manner of Special Operations duties. These teams, depending on their mission, were comprised of USAF, international military organizations, aliens, US Marines, and even civilians, like Daniel Jackson. Most of the 25 SG teams were devoted to exploration and recon, while others were direct actions and search-and-rescue. Given the massive popularity of Stargate: SG-1, the SOF team portrayal in the various series are some of the recognized SOF units in science fiction.

The USMC 127th 'Angry Angels' from Space: Above and Beyond
In the pilot episode of Fox's mid-1990's military science fiction TV show, Space: Above and Beyond, there is an unique Special Forces unit featured: the 127th "Angry Angels" Attack Wing of the USMC Space Aviation. The US Marine Corps operates an space-based aviation wing that partners with the US Navy space-based assists, and the elite among USMC space aviators is the 127th unit, based in Alabama. Throughout the short-lived series, little is explored or explained on this elite unit. In the pilot episode, the majority of the Angles are wiped out in the opening battle between the Chigs and an naval taskforce near Earth. During their brief on-screen time, these Angry Angels were told to the audience that the 127th was an elite USMC space aviator unit with veteran elite space jockeys that wore badass-in-the-90's custom uniforms.
Yep, the Devil-Dogs of the 127th wear fully black-out uniforms with berets and sunglasses and expect all others to bow down to them and serve them beer. They make mention of performing deep space training operations near Alpha Centauri. The primary space combat offensive tool of the Angels and most military organizations of 2063, is the Aerotech endo/exo atmospheric attack aircraft, the SA-47 Hammerhead. What makes the 127th Attack Wing interesting is that is an space fighter unit, and not the typical a ground-based infantry SPECOPS unit. It some ways, the 127th is more the US Army's 160th SOAR unit. When watching SAAB today, the uniforms of the 127th and their attitudes are so cheesy and unrealistic.

The Starfleet Rescue Party from Star Trek V: The Final Insult
There is little debate that Star Trek: V was the bottom of the barrel, and it broke a string of "good" ST films. However, there is two very unique elements about this film, the Rescue Party itself and their uber-cool "type 2 assault phaser". When negations break down at Nimbus III with Sybok and his Army of Galactic Light, the Enterprise-A deploys an elite, heavily armed away team, with a mix of senior officers and security personnel (I guess they could be the fabled Starfleet Marines?).
Star Trek has never had the best track record with adding realistic military elements into their mythology, and ST:V is the same, and there only questions raised by the inclusions of the Starfleet commandos. There is little of nothing mentioned about the team In the official magazine of the film, which I owned (don't judge me), the producers were thinking of encasing the commandos in full-body armor with an badass phaser rifle.
That was replaced by Starfleet security officers in cool "commando" style sweaters and the new Assault Phaser that was more weapon-like than previous phaser seen. Of course, it typical Star Trek fashion, the captain of the ship, the XO/Science Officer, with the Helmsmen, comms officer, and the chief of surgery all are on an armed away party to rescue hostages. I call Bullshit on that, especially when you examine the rescue team and the member on the mission. You soon realize that the writers of ST:V were clueless on Special Operations. After all, they left the head of security for the Enterprise-A in command of ship, but included the comms officer and the chief of surgery on the mission? What the frak? On the other hand, I always loved the "commando" style sweaters, the shields, and the rad sci-fi combat boots that remind me of my Merrel Chameleon 3 stretch boots! In the end, the rescue team from Star Trek V: The Final Insult is a rare example of Starfleet's on-planet capability.

The "Anla-Shok" or "Rangers" from the Babylon 5 Universe
In the first episode of the 3rd season of B5, we would met the White Star and Marcus, the human "Anla-Shok" or in English, "Rangers". According to the series, the Anla-Shok were formed by Valen around the time of the First Shadow War, around the Terran 13th century AD, and name means in Minbari "the application of force". While active in the First Shadow War and will respected, by the time of the Earth/Minbari War, the Anla-Shok were losing their power and say in the Grey Council. The Warrior Caste barely tolerated the Rangers and mocked them. By tradition, the Rangers were the eyes and ears of the Minbari on the frontier, waiting for the Shadows to gather again as Valen said they would. Humans were a new addition to the Rangers, and Marcus was the liaison for Babylon 5. The main traditional weapon was the pike, and it was the mark of a full Anla-Shok to wield the pike.
At the end of the B5 TV series, Susan Ivanova was the leader of the Rangers. At the end of the life of Earth's star,an human Ranger in an encounter suit downloads the last bits of information from computers on the surface of the Earth, and departs for New Earth. The Rangers of B5 are like much of B5, both lame and awesome, both occupying the same place in space and time. While the basic idea of the Rangers is sound, wielding the pikes is lame as well as some of the ways that the Rangers act in the series...then there is the name.

Lt. Colonel T.C. McQueen of the USMC from Space: Above and Beyond
There are few sci-fi Special Forces soldier characters that are not carbon copy of some older war movie, and often, these flat character(s) failing to communicate the true nature of the SOF member. This is what makes, Lt. Colonel Tyrus Cassius McQueen of SAAB one of the best characters for fans and creators of sci-fi. He would start off life out of In Vitro tube, born to mining uranium on the hellish Omicron Draconis in 2043 after being born. Once his indentured serve was up on Omicron Draconis, he signed up with the In-Vitro Platoons, then just as the A.I. Wars were getting started in 2047. McQueen would enlist in the US Marines and work his way up to becoming an space fighter pilot. By the time of the Chig War of 2063-2064, McQueen was commander of the 127th "Angry Angels" attack wing. After an massive naval battle near Terra, McQueen is badly wounded and the Angles are wiped out. That is how the war began and ended for McQueen.
The nature of his injuries grounded him from flight status, and he took over command of the 58th fighter Squadron, and was a close adviser to the commander of the American space carrier, the Saratoga. McQueen was a complex character with acknowledgement of his role as a warrior and an In-Vitro.He bore the pain of divorce, isolation, guilt. He channeled these emotions into serve, poetry, historical research, and grim determination. Throughout the war, McQueen was key figure, and was there when the Chig envoy made the offer of peace, and when that peace offer died. If there had been a second season for SAAB, McQueen would have been shipped back to Earth, due to his injuries suffered when the Chig envoy was killed. While back on Earth, McQueen would have experienced the homefront of the Chig War, and he would have been fitted with a robotic leg. The skill of actor James Morrison is without a doubt one of the reasons that Lt. Colonel McQueen was such a dynamic hero.

The Titanians from The Five by Forrest Parham and H.A.L. Wagner
In the zombie-apocalypse-meets-military-science-fiction-meets-robotic uprising universe of The Five by fellow Forker Media authors Forrest Parham and H.A.L Wagner, the core of the story is centered around the Titanians. Encased in Veytech powered armor and outfitted with the latest-and-greatest in next-generation weaponry, the five members of Project ATLAS military prototype unit all hail from various branches of US armed forces. Much like modern day SPECOPS joint operations teams, the Titanians used their different training backgrounds to add something new and different to the greater team. These armored power suits troopers operated from an impressive vehicle called the Gear Truck and the armed UGV mecha-walker, the Strider. The mission of the Titanians was to be the tip of the spear to end the years of war in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. What to know more? Then buy the book!

Snake Plissken from Escape From New York
S.D. "call me Snake" Plissken is one of the most iconic characters in the genre of science fiction, and despite a loser of a 1996 sequel to the original masterwork, Snake continues to be an inspirational anti-hero to countless creators and authors. In the limited backstory of Snake Plissken, we know that during the 3rd World War, fought some time in the 1980's, Snake was member of US Army Special Forces. He was a member of SOF unit Black Light, that used gliders to launch operations in Leningrad. It was there that Snake lost his eye and his faith in the USA. Shortly after being decorated by President, Snake turned away from the US government and embarked on a life of crime. Snake is an interesting Special Forces character that is indicative of the time period when John Carpenter created the character. He uses ninja throwing stars, an revolver, and an sound suppressed MAC-10 9mm SMG, which is some fantasy and some reality mixed.

The Celtris III Covert-Operations Team from Star Trek: TNG: "Chain of Command"
In one of the best episodes of TNG, 1992's Chain of Command two-parter, we see a rare example of a clandestine Starfleet mission. During the original Federation/Cardassian War, the Cardassian Union was attempting to annex Minos Korva. After the Cardassian lost the war, they never forgot that failure to capture Minos Korva for themselves. In 2369, the Cardassian hatched an ingenious plan to learn the Federation's plans about Minos Korva. Picard, Crusher, and Work are all reassigned per Admiral's orders to a covert team to a uninhabited planet in Cardassian space, Celtris III, using the shuttle Feynman. 
It was believed by Starfleet Intelligence that given the theta-band radiation emissions coming from the planet, that the Cardassians were creating an metagenric device. Metagenric weapons were outlawed biological weapons. This came at the same time as increased Cardassian military activity. Picard was chosen due to his knowledge of theta-band emissions, Dr. Crusher was there to confirm the bio-weapon and neutralized it, and Work was the muscle on the op. The Cardassians designed all of this to lure Picard into their hands so that they could learn more on Minos Korva and use Picard as a high-level hostage. In the end, Captain Jellico was able to bluff the Cardassian fleet in the nebula to withdraw, and release Captain Picard. Once again, Star Trek POV on the military strikes again. While the episodes feature some of the best acting and storyline in all of TNG, it is flawed logically. The Cardassians take a big risk with their Trojan horse, and because Starfleet is stupid, they send one of their most senior officers and commander of the Federation flagship on a covert mission with limited protection all on the chance of the Cardassian developing a super bio-weapon. I specially love the black ninja kit that they wear.

Starfleet "Section 31" from the Star Trek Universe
The original Starfleet charter in Article 14 Section 31, it gives Starfleet wide powers during time of war or threat. Forged out of these section, is the Section 31 Starfleet intelligence clandestine organization that has been in operation since before the founding of the Federation in 2161. The goal of Section 31 is to be shadow of the Federation, and investigate threats and counter the threats. Given their black operations and illegal actions, Section 31 as no central location nor any official record. In the ST universe, Section 31 is similar to the Romulan's Tal Shiar and the Cardassian Odsidan Order.

The United Ranger Corps from After Earth
Look, mistakes were made, and FWS got it wrong and this movie sucked...and FWS got sucked into the hype of the promise of After Earth...Anyways, the primary military unit of the new home of humanity, Nova Prime, is the United Ranger Corps. They traced their unit back to the evacuation from Earth by the lucky few chosen to escape the dying world. Originally, the UN setup the Ranger corps to be a quick reaction unit to solve global issues and protect the construction of the colony ships.
When humanity transferred to Nova Prime, the Rangers became the primary protectors of the human colonists when the Skrel attempted to remove humanity off of Nova Prime. The Rangers use the method of "Ghosting", to attempt to cloak their fear from the Skrel's genetically engineered creatures, the Ursa. Oddly, the primary weapon of the Rangers is the bladed "Cutlass" weapon that can adjust to the threat, and when used with Ghosting, the Rangers can kill the Ursa at very close range and with a single strike. The idea of an elite unit that was created out of the remains of an Old Earth military unit is cool, however, like most things After Earth, they fucked it up.

RAINBOW SIX from Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Book and Video Game Series
In late summer of 1998, Tom Clancy would craft a very thick novel on a ultra-selective international counterintelligence Special Forces team with tier-one level funding and cutting edge gear. While the word "rainbow" is not the most terrifying, the name comes from the nature of the unit, culling SOF operators from allied nations to the US. The R6 unit was based out of Herefored, UK, and was called "the blackest of the black". The primary weapons RAINBOW 6 is the H&K MP5/10 (this 10mm variant was falsely called an MP-10 in the text) and the Beretta 8000 series handgun. In the original novel, R6 was combating an eco-terrorism group that was attempting to reset the Earth by wiping out the vast majority of the human race. Since 1998, there has been a tactical shooter video game series that attempts to be more "tactical" than the normal FPS of the day. The core concept of using realistic weaponry, tactics, and real-world tactical situations as been continued throughout the majority of the games. One of the few games to really incorporate the concept of an international CT unit was the terribly original Xbox Rainbow Six: Lockdown. By the way, the story behind the iconic image used on the box-art of the first 1998 game was uncovered by HKPRO.com recently. The man behind the H&K USP .40 S&W was John T. Meyer, former VP of Sales and Training for Heckler & Koch USA. The photo that Red Storm Entertainment used came from an 1992 demonstration/introduction of the USP to the US firearms market.

The Sangheili Zealots from the HALO Universe
One of the highest ranking member of the Covenant military is the Sangheili Zealot class. They were the most devoted to the religion and they were tasked with recovering the holy relics of the Forerunners. They are of single mind these Zealots are, to recovery the relics at all costs. Zealots often go in prior to the main invasion force to secure the relics and have been known to lead the armies of the Covenant as well. They were well seen in HALO: Reach and Jul Mdama from Spartan Ops is an Zealot as well. Some of the Zealots have had issues with leaving go of the old ways since the fall of the Covenant.

The Mobile Infantry of the Starship Troopers novel
In the founding literature classic of military science fiction, the army of the Terran Federation is the Mobile Infantry, and they are mostly devoted to combat. Any job that can be done by civilians contractors allow for the M.I. to do their primary job...killing bugs. Meaning that there is no support staff in the M.I. With the complexity of the powered armor of the M.I., the soldiers have to be up the physical and mental challenges of wearing the armor. The majority of M.I. troopers are the shock infantry that are Special Forces assaulters combine with the power and shock value of an M-1 Abrams MBT.  Adding to the elite status of the Mobile Infantry is the washout rate. Juan Rico reports the 1959 novel that out of a class of 2,000 in selection, only 200 passed. One of the more smaller units within the MI is the K-9 Corps. These are war-dogs of the future, the Neo-Dog. These genetically engineered dogs talk, six times smarter than the average dog (so, about the same as a normal cat) and these "Caleb" bond with their handlers. The bond is so strong that if the Caleb's handler is killed, the Neo-Dog is put down. In the original Avalon Hill SST boardgame from 1976, there is a unit referred to as "Special Talent"...but there is no more information.

The UNSC Orbital Drop Shock-Trooper (ODST) from the HALO Universe
While the SPARTAN-IIs get all of the attention realm of the human Special Forces, the workhorses of the UNSC NAVSPECWAR units is the ODSTs.  Drawn from the UNSC Marine Corps, the ODSTs are specially trained in spaceborne drop operations that force the ODSTs to operate lean and mean. While much of the duties of ODSTs seen on-screen are related to dropping in on a battle in their SOEIV, but since Bungie patterned the ODSTs after the SAS and MARSOC, they also perform counter-terrorism, RECON, and hostage rescue.
The ODSTs are some of the oldest military units in the HALO universe, tracing their linage back to the 22nd century. The first drop of the ODSTs was back during a suppression of Martian communists in 2163. During the war, the ODSTs were outfitted mostly with similar weapon as the UNSC Marines and even the UNSC Amry at times, and can draw specialized weaponry. The "SPARTAN Laser" is used by these shocktroopers along with the specially constructed M6/SOCOM 12.7mm pistol and the sound suppressed caseless M7S SMG. They are outfitted in specialized body armor that is normally black, to reinforce the label "shocktropper badass". There are no firm numbers on the ODSTsWhile the SPARTANs and the ODSTs have a prickly relationship, the ranks of the SPARTAN-IVs are now comprised of a number of former ODSTs. ODSTs were first seen in HALO 2, and since then, they have been a fan favorite. After the success of HALO 3, Bungie decided to tell another type of war story with the release of ODST in 2009.They allowed players to get a view into the lives of the "normal" soldiers lives during the Human/Covenant War. The ODSTs rank as one of the most recognized science fiction Special Forces units.  

Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element 
In the amazing 1997 sci-fi film by Luc Besson, Bruce Willis plays a former Terran Special Forces Major, who is recruited to perform one last mission to save the world. Okay. on the surface that is all of the connection to Special Forces...about one line of spoken dialog. However, with this information given, it allows the audience to accept the heroic actions of Korben Dallas, including the repealing of the attack by the Mangalores on Fhloston Paradise. A great deal of Korben Dallas' skill-set are not borrowed from some sci-fi SPECOPS unit, but Luc Besson's own ideas of gun-fu and movie fight-fu...of course, it is all forgiven in the mind of the audience by the blank check that the filmmakers wrote by saying the mythical words of "special forces". 

The Jaeger Ranger-Pilots from Pacific Rim
In the conn-pod of the mightly Jaegers that attempted to save the world from the Kaiju, are the pilots...always two there are; no more, no less. To combat these extra-dimensional beasts, Earth bans together, builds the massive mecha called "Jaegers" and seeks the best to pilot them. Only when member of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps  achieves the rank of "Ranger" can they pilot a mecha into battle. The Rangers of Pacific Rim are an interesting type of futuristic SPECOPS members, and this time of Special Forces soldier, mecha pilots, is a common one in science fiction. I do think the mental-link "drift" between the two Ranger rank pilots is pure bullshit and an unneeded element in the operation of the mecha. They should have had a crew of two, like Dynamo Joe and divided the duties up like that giant-mecha military sci-fi comic did. Dynamo Joe for the win!

The MegaForce from Megaforce 
In 1982, the world was subjected to one of the worst wet-shit movies of all time: Megaforce. This has to be one of the single silliest military action films of all time. More than just seriously stupid and more cheesy than Football stadium Nachos, Megaforce is a tribute to how fucked up a film about badass SPECOPS can be. I am shocked that the great Spoony one has not covered this one. Anyway, the "Megaforce" of the "film's" title was referring to an secret international mercenary force with cutting edge gear, skills, and flying desert motor cycles. Some have, nicely, called this film a live-action adaptation of G.I. Joe, but most called it stupid and pure rotten moldy cheese. It made $2.3 million out of a budget of $20 million, and died quickly in the minds of the unwashed masses. I really what to know how this film was ever greenlit...it is mess, a complete mess, like the dog having diarrhea on the rug. Avoid this one at all costs...it could be used to torture terrorists in those CIA black-sites.

The Best Video Game/Movie/Book for Special Operations...Keeping it Real

Video Game: Medal of Honor (2010 Danger Close/EA)
One of the first video game reviews on FWS was about EA's 2010 modern war reboot of the old World War II shooter franchise, Medal of Honor. Already being well-read on SECOPS units and their operations in A-stan, caused me to buy MOH for the campaign storyline, and allowed me to also understand the herculean effort that Danger Close Games had undertaken with this game. Danger Close interview real TIER-One operators and had Sean Naylor pen the script, all adding to the realistic answer to the COD games. MOH rewards the player with a deeply layered campaign based on historical events from Operation: ANACONDA in March of 2002. There is no game that has ever transmitted the types of missions that TIER-One and other SPECOPS units had waged in the unforgivable terrain of Afghanistan. I love this game, and it really walks the walk, and talks the talk. Play. It. Now. Oh, and be warned, man-tears at the end.

Movie: Black Hawk Down (2001 Scott Free and Sony Pictures)
There will never be movie that accurately captures the experiences and deeds of the Special Forces. However, I believe that this 2001 film comes close. It helps the case of Black Hawk Down that it was made close in time to the actually event with the veterans that were involved, the military was supportive and lend the correct equipment and pilots. It also helps Black Hawk Down credentials that masterful author Mark Bowden had written a book on the events of October 3rd & 4th, 1993 that was the gold standard text of the event, and that he was involved with the film production. Everyone on the cast and crew was hardline committed to getting the film right to honor the deeds done that horrible day. Since the release of Black Hawk Down more than 10 years ago, the film has become the global standard for modern war films.

Book: Not a Good Day to Die by Sean Naylor (2005 Penguin Books)
This was a tough call. There are many great military history books that fill my shelves in the FWS offices, but for me, one of the best texts on Special Operations in Afghanistan was the 2005 book about the March of 2002 Operation: ANACONDA, Not a Good Day to Die. At the time of the actually events, most Americans were overwhelmed with reports and news stories comes out of Afghanistan. Most know one event of Operation: ANACONDA, the fall of Navy SEAL Neil C. Roberts during the Battle of Takur Ghar. This book is one of the best text on the operation, the people, and the background. And this book was not written by someone doing interview while typing out the pages on their Mac at home. Sean Naylor was there as a journalist for The Army Times, and was one of the few journalist embedded into combat units during the shit. This is a must read for those interested in Special Forces and/or the mission in Afghanistan.

TV Series: The Unit (2006-2009 20th Century Fox and CBS)

With the popularity of Special Operations Forces raising after September 11th, there was a rush to capitalize on the popularity. CBS and Fox would some of the few American networks to have successful military-themed shows. While most everyone knows 24 and badass Jack Bauer, there was CBS' more realistic The Unit. From 2006-2009 over the course of four season, we would a fictionalized account of DELTA Force and their families back home. While created by David Mamet, the show was based on the book by former DELTA operator Eric L.Haney, who was there at the start of DELTA. One of the stand out elements of the show would be the direct involvement of Eric L. Haney as an technical consultant, adding layers of realism to the stories, actions, and missions. While The Unit starred off compelling and complex, the lack of budget began to hurt the realism along with overdone homefront storylines. I stopped watching after season 3. Over all, The Unit may be one of the few in-depth fictional works on the inner works of an SPECOPS unit and their families.

Next Time on FWS...
In keeping with the theme of Special Forces, I sought out the illusive French modern military war film Forces Speciales from 2011. I only learned about this movie due to its being on IMFDB.org home page, and it looked very cool with lots of guns. Prior to buying this DVD, I attempted to locate any in-depth review...and came up empty. So, I figures it was my duty to hunt down and review this foreign made film about the French Naval Commandos, and their daring rescue mission of a French journalist in the tribal regions of Pakistan. After this blogpost, FWS is done with SPECOPS for awhile...like years.