I mean, wow! It started out as a totally normal speech by President Donald Trump to military personnel in San Diego Tuesday, with the commander-in-chief hitting all his normal talking points about how great we troops are and how the media sucks, except for high-end writers like yours truly. Until he whipped out that Space Force proposal! “We have an Air Force,” POTUS continued. “We’ll have the Space Force.”
The military loves good ideas. And this could be good! I mean, the Air Force has a Space Command, so clearly they already thought it was a good idea. On the other hand, we have an Outer Space Treaty that might prevent us from legally weaponizing space. But I’m a Soldier, not a lawyer, so I think there are more important questions here. Namely, which of my favorite sci-fi movies would a Space Force look like, and how much admin is involved in an intra-service transfer? Let’s explore the possibilities.
1. The mobile infantry from Starship Troopers
Sitrep: The fate of our totalitarian federation depends on our fun-loving totalitarian grunts’ ability to die heroically while killing totalitarian space bugs.
Money quote: “I’m from Buenos Aires, and I say kill ’em all!”
Pros: Mixed-gender showers; neon violins; Michael Ironside as your commander
Cons: Dying violently and painfully; promotions based on the guy above you dying; Denise Richards as your pilot
Sure, there was a book — and the best thing that ever happened to it was when Paul Verhoeven got a hold of the Starship Troopers name and spun it into a classic action movie that barely sniffs the source material. The Mobile Infantry are hard-training men and women whose heroism and toughness in the face of space bug invasions are a paragon of military virtues. Though I’m not sure what part of the training told them to swarm out of drop ships like this:
But how are they in a fight? Let’s be honest, not great. They have terrible leadership from the moment they button up in their drop ships. There’s no stated mission, they swarm out of ships that all land right next to each other and there’s really no clear goals or TTPs. They’re just out there shooting wildly and getting slaughtered. The entirety of their success is based on blind allegiance to the Federation, constant propaganda, and sheer luck.
2. The Colonial Marines from Aliens
Sitrep: Sent off to some frontier colonial shithole to safeguard big business. Also, there’s aliens!
Lieutenant: “Look, we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh… I want you to collect magazines from everybody.”
Private: “Is he fuckin’ crazy?”
Pros: Exactly what our Space Marines would end up being like. A bunch of Marines, but in space
Cons: Combating futuristic alien horrors, but with weapons no more advanced than what we have today. You go to Space War with the Space Weapons you have
The Colonial Marines are the closest approximation to current-day Marines we’ve seen in sci-fi. With the Marine Corps now bringing woman into the combat ranks, we’re rapidly working toward a day when we will have some real-life Private Vasquezes hopping from planet to planet keeping the universe free of chest-bursters.
I love the Colonial Marines because they are their own characters in Aliens. Each has their own personality: they are brave, they are afraid, they miss home, and they love each other with the fierce intensity that only comes when people fight near-certain death side-by-side. Even Pvt. Hudson, who squeaks the famous “Game over man, Game over!” line, finds his strength and powers through to… well, eventually get slaughtered too, but he did it with bravery. A model we can work with!
3. The Space Marines From Amazing Stories
Sitrep: The Space Marines fight some slavers. I think.
Money quote: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Pros: A nice combat working space, and I bet someone in the commo shop uploaded GTA 27 on that arcade machine
Cons: Good luck getting space dirt out of your shoulder tassels
I was unable to find a free copy of this story, or the preceding one by Bob Olsen called Captain Brink of the Space Marines, so we’re going to have to make a few assumptions with this one. Firstly, the uniform. Shoulder tassels are back! The Navy Exchange will have to start stocking epaulettes for the first time since days of yore, which leads me to believe Bob Olsen is one of those military nerds pining for the good old days when men were men and Space Marines were Space Marines.
Second, shout out to Bob for being forward-thinking about drone warfare. As much as I would love to think that cover image shows the Space Day Room of the barracks and the sergeant is about to blow through the lieutenant’s Space Tekken score, I think it’s supposed to portray a standoff strike on those aforementioned slavers. It’s good that their drone FLIR video feed is high definition in the future, but a bummer that Mr. Olsen wasn’t able to foresee Xbox controllers.
4. The stormtroopers from Star Wars
Sitrep: Shut up, do evil, shoot wildly, watch out for the boss, try to get stationed on a warm planet.
Stormtrooper 1: “Do you know what’s going on?”
Stormtrooper 2: “Maybe it’s another drill.”
Pros: A strong military budget and good equipment. Spaceships are spotless, too, which shows strong discipline
Cons: Not big on individual initiative or BRM (Blaster Rifle Marksmanship)
Arguably one of the most recognizable fighting groups in popular culture (and largely patterned after the German, uh, “stormtroopers”), the stormtroopers from the Star Wars series are very good at being plot devices. When you need an elite group of fighters, you call in the stormtroopers. When you need a hero like a farm kid to somehow make an escape against one of the best-equipped and finely trained imperial militaries the galaxy has ever seen, you absolutely call the stormtroopers.
Now I know what you’re thinking. The stormtroopers lost to a primitive planet of teddy bears at the end of Return of the Jedi, so why would we ever model our elite space fighting force after them? Let’s first recognize that throughout the movie, the Empire has the best land-based fighting vehicles of any side — All Terrain Scout Transports, All Terrain Armored Transports, speeder bikes with forward cannons, you name it. Such gear!
We can also talk about the various loadouts and armor configurations of the stormtrooper. They had a fireteam for a crew-served space M60 machine gun on Hoth. They have sand troopers, shoretroopers, winter and summer weight armor — everything a person needs to subjugate a planet.
So they lost to the Ewoks; that just shows that even in a galaxy far far away, you need a robust counterinsurgency plan in place to win the hearts and minds. The Ewoks didn’t care about the Imperial presence, or they would have tried running them out much earlier in the whole shield-generator construction timeline. Had a forward-thinking stormtrooper colonel sent down a civil affairs team to reinforce some of their tree houses or dig a few wells, Wicket W. Warrick would have informed on Princess Leia from the word “go.” Or at least gone through with that dinner of spit-roasted rebels.
5. The Space Marines from Warhammer 40K
Sitrep: Serve the Emperor’s will, which is for you to fight and die.
Money quote: “What is your Duty?” “To serve Emperor’s Will.” “What is Emperor’s Will?” “That we fight and die.” (I told you.)
Pros: Power armor, chainsaw swords, lots of bragging about what the Space Marines in the past did while you spend the weekend playing Xbox and drinking bottom-shelf whiskey
Cons: Painting minifigures is really time-consuming
The Space Marines from the tabletop game Warhammer 40K are an elite group of genetically modified super-humans whose sole purpose is to defend humanity at all costs. They are physically, mentally, and psychically superior to humans in every way, and they prove this by shooting the shit out of everything that might threaten humanity. They also have swords for some reason. Possibly because in the future some sergeant was finally fed up with having to carry around a ceremonial sword and just took it into battle. After adding a chainsaw to it.
The Warhammer Space Marines have a rich historical tapestry, which I am sure someone out there can explain to you over a few solid hours, much like if you get a current Marine drunk and ask about Tun Tavern. The Space Marines’ legions also have lots of different-named forces inside their ranks, like The Imperial Fists and Ultramarines. As you see from the above picture, they aren’t too far removed from slapping the Punisher logo on everything and spending the rest of the night bragging about Space Guadalcanal at the bar.
6. The Democratic Order of Planets from Futurama
Sitrep: Save all DOOP life from its many enemies in the universe, or trick Leela into having sex with the captain. Whichever.
Money quote: “If we can hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards.”
Pros: Velour uniforms; great win/loss record
Cons: Bad leadership, which, let’s be honest, you’re going to deal with in the current military
The DOOP is kind of a mix between the United Nations and the Federation from Star Trek, which works since the president in charge is Richard Nixon and the head commander, Zapp Brannigan, is a mix of Captain Kirk and, uh, actual William Shatner.
The DOOP has quite the past, and we can thank 25-star general Zapp Brannigan for that. He figured out the weaknesses of a horde of Rampaging Killbots by outsmarting them, sending wave after wave of men to die until the bots all reached their programmed kill limit.
Indeed, of the known battles DOOP has found themselves in, they have more victories than defeats. Sure, maybe you have to carpet-bomb a planet or have an awkward conversation about trouncing the pacifists of the Gandhi Nebula, but a win is a win, and everyone loves campaign ribbons.
What did we miss? If you had to fight with a Space Force, whose ranks would you pattern it after?