While it’s clear the majority of us enjoy seeing a highly trained, augmented and very capable soldier clad in MJOLNIR armour beating ten bells of horse manure out of a Covenant elite, you do have to ask those underlying questions that would surely have plagued anyone in Section-3 of ONI: is it all worth it? Did the Spartans really make a difference? Or should they have invested the money elsewhere?
As Special Forces go, the Spartans tick all the right boxes. They’re highly trained, dedicated, determined, well-equipped and augmented to be faster and stronger than any other human military unit. And while this works to great effect against Insurgents, it’s not quite as clear cut when combating the relentless Covenant war machine. And the Elites, for example, are a close match to any Spartan-II in terms of strength and speed, so how could the post augmentation number of 33 make any difference at all?
For the answer, we have to look at the current version of the Spartans—our own Special Forces.
The SAS, one of the most widely known Special Forces in existence today, have been active since the Second World War when they took to the deserts of Africa. As they were a smaller unit, specifically recruited for a specific role, they were able to cross the wide open expanses of African desert undetected to attack enemy airfields. And they used this to good effect. During the North African campaign the SAS destroyed more enemy aircraft than the Royal Air force, which inevitably led to a significant reduction in Axis aerial superiority and allowed the land battle to fall in favour of the allies.
The same could be said of the SPARTAN-IIs. Like all Special Forces they’re designed to be used as a precision instrument, a scalpel. Conventional forces are more like a sledgehammer—they charge en-mass into the enemy in an effort to smash them into oblivion. They do a lot of damage, but unlike a Special Forces unit, it’s not designed to cripple a specific area far behind enemy lines.
Though there are several instances of Spartan intervention in the Halo universe, the one that speaks volumes, to me, is the rescue of Dr. Catherine Halsey in Halo: Legends. They may not have denied the enemy a valuable ship yard or the resources to extend their battle lines into UNSC held territory, but should the Covenant have escaped with the good doctor, then the future of mankind may have been very different. Halsey was one of the most preeminent faces in terms of understanding Forerunner technology, reverse engineering Covenant weapons and, of course, she was the figurehead of the SPARTAN-II programme.
Any information gleaned form her would have seriously impacted the UNSC’s capabilities as a military force. But let’s not forget the psychological impact of the Spartans. They were revered within the UNSC, to the extent of boosting morale, something ONI immediately jumped upon. But the Covenant also felt the effects of the Spartans operational success. They respected their abilities as formidable and capable combatants and in some cases feared them, earning the Spartans the familiar term of “Demon”. But could things have gone better?
Undoubtedly yes. With the enviable gift of hindsight, missions could have been planned with greater success and a more effective impact in mind. The UNSC rarely went on the offensive, save for the efforts of the Spartans and humanity was always on the back-foot, reacting to engagements instead of initiating them. Obviously, we now know what the Covenant were after, Forerunner relics and anything even remotely Halo shaped. But despite this I believe the Spartans exceeded expectations. They achieved something that I think no other military unit was ever capable of. They demonstrated to the enemy, like their historical Greek counterparts, that every inch of ground taken would be hard fought and paid for in blood.
Want Reach, splitlip? You’ll have to go through me to get it!