- "CompForce troopers can't shoot straight and don't care about anything except shooting."
- ―A SpecForce stereotype
CompForce was the military wing of COMPNOR, created to provide Emperor Palpatine with an army of utterly loyal soldiers separate from the Stormtrooper Corps. Stormtroopers were trained to obey orders without thinking, but at the same time, they were proudly independent of the line military; CompForce units, in contrast, were embedded within the hierarchy of the Imperial Military, and their members were motivated primarily by conscious adherence to the tenets of the New Order. In theory, they were shock troops and officer candidates; in effect, they were security troops and political police, answerable to the New Order's ideologues rather than the High Command—an army within the Army, designed to tighten the grip of the Imperial hierarchy on the military.
Observation and Assault
- "They said I'd never make it. But I made it through where others never came back. Now that I'm through with basic training I'm ready for anything those Rebels can throw at me."
- ―A CompForce Assault trooper
CompForce troops were divided into two very different cadres, Observation (also known as Observ), and Assault. As their name suggests, Assault units were front-line troops, pursuing professional military careers, whereas, officially at least, Observ personnel were loyalist volunteers, gaining first-hand experience of military life as a prelude to careers in the Army, Navy, or some other element of the Imperial armed forces. In fact, most of them ended up pursuing careers in COMPNOR itself, and Observ were regarded as political spies by line military personnel—an opinion that may well have been very close to the truth, but which also seems to have been subtly encouraged by operatives of COMPNOR's long-term rival, Imperial Intelligence.
Given that selection for Observ was based on the depth of an individual's loyalty and conformism, it would probably be wrong to see most of them as careerists or sadists: the real problem was simply that Observ personnel operated entirely sincerely, according to very different priorities and values from normal soldiers. Their actions and opinions were shaped by ideological and intellectual motivations, rather than the primarily professional ethos of the Navy and Army.
The differing needs of Observ and Assault units meant that, while both groups recruited by drawing volunteers from the trillions of Imperial youths in Sub-Adult Group cadres, the criteria for selection were very different. Observ wanted ideologically reliable men and women, for whom a CompForce posting would be the first step on a career in service to the New Order; but Assault looked for recruits who could be conditioned to serve in combat with blind bravery.
Any SAGroup member volunteering for Observ might naturally expect to pass out from CompForce after a short tour and move on to a career in the line military, the Imperial Security Bureau or some other aspect of the New Order's vast institutional machine; but in contrast, only twelve percent of the young men and women who entered Assault training even made it through into front-line units. A rather higher number - around twenty percent - died in live-fire exercises during training, and although known sources offer no specific information on what happened to the remaining seventy percent, the known statistics for training fatalities hint that significant numbers must have suffered serious injury or crippling psychological trauma.
If a volunteer for Assault survived to join a front line unit, he or she was usually inadequately trained, thoroughly indoctrinated, and completely inured to combat hardship. Some of them might be naturally gifted warriors, many were mentally tough, but by and large, they were simply those who had avoided being shot. Not to be deterred, CompForce Assault troops performed in the field with suicidal bravery, prepared to take any number of casualties to accomplish their objectives - or if not, to be wiped out to a man while trying. The high casualty rate was acceptable because Assault troops were far cheaper to replace than properly-trained soldiers, and the ongoing expansion of SAGroup meant that, at least until the Battle of Endor, the number of blindly willing new recruits always exceeded the casualty figures; but at the same time, it also came to define the ethos of the corps. "Two die for every one that gets through" became the motto of CompForce Assault, encapsulating both the insanity of the training process, and the survivors' literally suicidal approach to combat operations.
Over time, however, Assault began to be known for more than simple bravery, gaining a reputation as among the most feared and effective troops in the Empire. Veteran units alloyed real combat skill to their blind heroism, and while their casualty levels remained high, they developed their own internal regimes to equip new recruits with the technical and field craft skills they had failed to acquire in training. Even the best Assault soldiers, however, remained thoroughly committed to the New Order: they were almost the only combat personnel in the Imperial military who believed that their counterparts in Observ were simply there to learn how the Army worked.
Like all elements of COMPNOR, CompForce was answerable ultimately to the organization's controlling Select Committee, which answered in turn to Palpatine and the Imperial Ruling Council. Beneath their central command, the organization of CompForce units was largely dictated by the Empire's military structure, with troops being assigned to Sector Groups and embedded in their subordinate Army and Navy formations—although it can be observed that this Sector-based structuring also paralleled that of the two main bureaucratic branches of COMPNOR, the Coalition for Progress and the Coalition for Improvements.
Attached to the HQ formation of every field Army, Systems Army and Sector Army in the Empire was an Observ detachment of 471 men, organized into three 152-man observer companies under a command element consisting of a Captain and four other officers; the bulk of CompForce manpower lay, however, with the brigade-strength forces of Assault troops embedded with every Corps in the Army, each consisting of three Regiments, and a support detail assigned to Corps HQ.
CompForce Regiments were organized internally on the model of standard Line infantry, the sole modification being the lack of security platoons - considered unnecessary for troops whose loyalty was as unquestioned as it was unquestioning. Each CompForce regiment thus consisted of two Line Battalions of standard infantry, one Assault Battalion of heavy infantry, and a Repulsorlift Battalion of mechanized infantry and scout troops, totaling 2,558 combat troops and 782 support personnel. These were grouped together as part of their parent Corps' Auxiliary Battlegroup, whereas the 144 men of the support detail were assigned to Corps HQ, giving an overall total of 10,164 CompForce personnel within a Corps of around 70,000 men. This meant that, while detached Battlegroups and planetary-garrison Corps HQs lacked any formal means for accommodating a significant CompForce presence, each major concentration of troops in the Imperial Army was paired with a CompForce command equivalent in strength to almost one fifth of the total combat strength of its line units.
One anomaly in the current records is a complete lack of any detail on the organization of CompForce troops attached to the Navy. It can be presumed that Observation had mechanisms for working its people into the chain of command, but the fleet's more flexible organizational structure may have enabled Admirals and Captains greater freedom to exclude Observ personnel from tactical squadrons, and whether Assault troops were ever assigned to serve with the Navy is at present unknown.
Relations with the military
- "Very little about CompForce endears itself to the regular army."
- ―Rebel report on Sector Group organization
Army or Navy, the usual attitude of line military troops to CompForce personnel was little short of hatred, albeit a hatred that they would do their best to conceal in the presence of CompForce personnel themselves; the "spies" of Observ provoked even stronger feeling than Assault troops, but all were ultimately seen in much the same way. As a group, CompForce units were believed to be given priority when it came to allocating the Army's own equipment and medical attention, and CompForce Regiments had to draw even further on line personnel if they were to make up for the shortcomings of their barely adequate support details. As individuals CompForce troops seemed obsessed with ideological quiddities, and loyally reported what they saw as a lack of zeal for the New Order back to COMPNOR and to the ISB. Many soldiers referred to CompForce as "CompFarce."
Few records are known of the opinions of CompForce personnel, but it is hard to imagine that they understood what lay behind the double-tongued disdain with which line troops treated them; rather, such behavior towards the guardians of the New Order proved the shallowness of the military's adherence to the Imperial system. In some sectors, Moffs and other senior commanders were themselves staunch New Order loyalists, but for the most part, CompForce and the Starfleet became locked in a vicious circle, each failing to understand the mindset of the other, and seeing instead a dangerous and masterless force who had to be contained and controlled as much as possible.
In part, this opposition could be seen as part of the complex system by which Palpatine used every element of the Imperial system as a check on the power and ambition of others. But partially, the problem was simply that CompForce soldiers unsettled ordinary Imperial troops through their fanatical zeal: they genuinely believed in the programmatic system New Order, spending their off-duty hours meditating on how to make themselves better Human beings and better instruments of order in the Galaxy, and in combat, fighting for their cause with a suicidal, inHuman bravery.
The Battle of Endor and the slow erosion of Imperial territory in subsequent years must have hurt CompForce, depriving them of their vast pool of recruits, challenging the ideological foundations on which their training was based - and further straining relations between them and the military. But ironically, it was not defeat that led to a fatal breakdown in relations between CompForce and the Starfleet, but rather the reclaiming of Coruscant in 10 ABY, when the Empire seemed finally to have recovered the initiative against the New Republic. Just as COMPNOR's leadership saw themselves sidelined by a resurgent Ruling Council led by Ars Dangor and Sarcev Quest, CompForce was faced by an Army and Navy that had found renewed confidence under the command of Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Empire seemed to be in danger of falling forever into the hands of ideologically impure elements - and so began the War of Purification, designed to purge the New Order of imperfections, and, although CompForce did not know it, to pave the way for the return of the cloned Palpatine, and the rise of a new Imperial regime based on Byss.
The civil war and the subsequent campaigns of Operation Shadow Hand must have cost CompForce dear in terms of casualties, and did nothing to arrest their declining recruitment base. Following the destruction of Byss, power passed to the Ruling Council survivors, and ultimately to the military and the Moffs. Little mention is made of the dogmatic program of COMPNOR in the Imperial Remnant or under the later Warlords, and even less is known of the activities of any surviving CompForce units at this time.
Behind the scenes
CompForce seems to be modeled in part after the paramilitary arms of political organizations in real-world dictatorships, particularly Nazi Germany's SS, just as the other elements of COMPNOR, SAGroup and the ISB parallel the Hitler Youth and Gestapo, both in their organization and their relationship to CompForce. However, the parallels are not exact: the internal organization is very different, the fierce combat reputation of the Waffen-SS is more closely paralleled by the Stormtrooper Corps, and most importantly, whereas the SS was envisaged as an ideologically pure elite to absorb and replace the existing ruling class, COMPNOR is depicted as a cynical project to control the masses of the population and preserve the entrenched dominance of established oligarchies like the Ancient Houses of Senex Sector. Their role in the Imperial military also seems more similar to that of the NKVD regiments and Political Commissars of the military of the Soviet Union than to that of the Waffen-SS in Germany.
- Imperial Sourcebook (First appearance)
- Imperial Sourcebook, Second Edition
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- Rules of Engagement: The Rebel SpecForce Handbook
- Instant Adventures
- Heroes & Rogues
- Classic Adventures: Volume Four - The Best of the Journal
- The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide