This month for my Halo themed post, I will be breaking down the SPARTAN-II program which is the backbone of the Halo universe. For anyone that’s a fan of the series, Halo is centered around John-117 “the Master Chief”. John was believed to have been the sole surviving member of the SPARTAN-II program, until the novel Halo: First Strike and the newest game Halo 5 : Guardians when the rest of Blue team was brought back. As I stated in my last Halo post concerning Project ORION, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the brilliant and frankly insane mind behind the SPARTAN-IIs and their success in turning the tide of the Human-Covenant War.
As I stated before in the Project: ORION post, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the driving force behind the development of the SPARTAN-II program. After the shuttering of the SPARTAN-Is (Project:ORION), Halsey met with ONI and Section III Special Projects Division, to discuss a new program to pick up where ORION left off. Halsey surmised that children would be better suited as candidates due to their relatively malleable minds and impressionable nature. The candidates were all 6 years of age, having been previously screened using an outer colony vaccination program. In 2511, the SPARTAN-II program was officially green lit, and the candidates were retrieved. The candidates were abducted in the dead of night by ONI operatives and replaced with flash clones. The clones were grown from the DNA retrieved during the vaccination program and placed with their families so that nobody would know about the missing children and in turn, the project. Due to the complication of growing a full human in the span of months, the clones suffered from degenerative defects that caused them all to die out within a year.
The candidates were sedated and whisked away across the galaxy to Reach (the main human military training world) where they would be trained under Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mendez and Dr. Halsey with the assistance of various UNSC divisions and the AI, Déjà.
As the candidates arrived at Reach they were brought out of cryo-sleep and rushed into the main meeting hall where Dr. Halsey was waiting. She informed the children that in accordance with Naval Code 45812 they were hereby conscripted into the UNSC to help defend Earth and her colonies. She also told them they would no longer be allowed to return to their parents and that they would endure many hardships in the coming years; the children were then taken to the barracks for a meal, then sent to bed.
On September 24, 2517, the recruits were awoken by CPO Mendez and his training staff at 0530 hours. The recruits were instructed to go to the showers and prepare for the day, those that refused were hit with a stun baton. When they finished their morning ablutions, they were escorted outside where CPO Mendez ran them through a vigorous exercise routine consisting of 100 reps of jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. They were then run a mile to the Reach Naval Academy, where Déjà was waiting for them to instruct them in Mathematics, Science, and History. The first history lesson they were taught was the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persian Empire. After their lessons they were run two more miles to the “playground” (a suspended obstacle course with a bell at the top). The recruits were divided into teams of three and told that their objective was to ring the bell, the last team to do so would go without supper. John (Master Chief SPARTAN 117) was teamed with Kelly (SPARTAN 087) and Samuel (SPARTAN 034) for the course. While John was first to reach the bell the rest of his team were last and thus they all went without supper.
On September 25, 2517, the recruits were awoken and did their morning calisthenics routine before jogging to the classroom for another lesson from Déjà. The lesson Déjà taught them that day was based on hunting in packs; specifically, they were shown how wolves hunted a moose by corralling the animal until they could overwhelm it. Following their lesson they were run to the playground which had been modified to be more difficult. John and his team worked together and while they weren’t the first to ring the bell they were not last, John, Sam and Kelly became fast friends after that.
For the next two years Mendez taught them various military lessons ranging from weapons control and marksmanship, to setting and disarming traps, basic field medical procedures and squad tactics. CPO Mendez always incorporated various obstacles into his lessons (snipers with paint guns, stun grenades, stun batons, etc) forcing the recruits to constantly be on guard and ready for anything. On June 12, 2519, the recruits were dropped individually in the Reach wilderness and each given a piece of a map that would be used to get to the dropship that would take themback to the base. The last recruit to get to the dropship, would be left behind to walk home. John took on a leadership role and coordinated all the recruits to commandeer the dropship from the marines guarding it and pilot it back to base themselves. Following the task, John was brought before CPO Mendez and Dr. Halsey. John thought he was getting kicked out of the program, to his surprise, he was given the rank of Team leader for his planning, reaction to the training operation, and obvious leadership skills.
On July 14, 2523, the SPARTAN recruits were paired against Tango Company (the best marines on Reach) for future training scenario war games. Despite only being 12 years old, the Spartans continuously won against Tango Company. With the men of Tango company growing increasingly brutal with their treatment of the recruits. After a brutal defeat by the SPARTANS, the CO of Tango Company, ordered his men to use live rounds instead of stun rounds. The SPARTANS were still victorious.
In 2525 at the onset of puberty for the SPARTAN recruits, they underwent the augmentation procedures. These procedures were very dangerous and resulted in 30 of the 75 SPARTAN candidates being killed on the operating table, with a further 12 being considered “washed out” after being physically deformed from the procedures or paralyzed. The augmentations performed are as follows:
- Carbide Ceramic Ossification – Advanced material grafted to skeleton to make it virtually unbreakable
- Muscular Enhancement Injections – Protein complex injected intramuscularly to increase tissue density and decrease lactase recovery time
- Catalytic Thyroid Implant – Platinum coated pellet containing Human Growth Hormone implanted into the Thyroid gland to boost growth of skeletal and muscle tissues
- Occipital Capillary Reversal – Submergence and boosted blood vessel flow beneath the rods and cones of the subject’s retina to produce marked visual perception increase
- Superconducting Fibrification of Neural Dendrites – Alteration of bioeletrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction. Providing a 300% increase in subject reflexes with a marked side increase in intelligence, memory, and creativity
In September of 2525, following the successful augmentation, the SPARTANS were forced to relocated to an abandoned mine on Reach to enhance the secrecy of the program and reduce risk to other training personnel. The training personnel were forced to don Mark I power armour to keep up with the augmented SPARTANS. Victory for the SPARTANS was inevitable with the security cameras used to watch the training exercises even being neutralized.
MJOLNIR POWER ARMOUR
The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour System was developed in conjunction with the SPARTAN-II recruits themselves. The program went though various iterations before finally being able to function in the way envisioned by Dr. Halsey. When the SPARTAN-II program first began, the Special Projects group had already been working on a powered exoskeleton for roughly 11 years, with some success. The Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III exo-suits were able to function but due to their immense power requirements needed to be tethered to a power source, severely limiting their range. When Halsey joined the project, they abandoned the exo-skeleton research to focus on the MJOLNIR armour.
The first iteration of the assault armour was dubbed the Mark IV in accordance with the previous exo-suit designs. This was the first mass produced armour to be given to the SPARTAN-IIs. This is the armour that the SPARTANS wore while assaulting the frigate that resulted in Samuel 034’s death.
The Mark V armour included the upgraded reverse engineered energy shield from the captured jackal tech; as well as, the ability to incorporate an AI into the armour system. This is the armour worn during Halo:Combat Evolved. A special modified version of this armour dubbed the Mark IV Black, was developed in secret and deployed with SPARTAN Team Black in 2552.
The Mark VI incorporated a faster shield recharge time to help reduce the amount of time a SPARTAN was forced to remain in cover. It also included improved synchronization between suit and the SPARTAN allowing for faster movement harder hitting and higher jumps. This is the armour given to the Master Chief at the beginning of the Halo 2 game campaign.
The Mark VII was never widely produced due to the incredible cost associated with its production. It bolstered a lighter weight making the SPARTAN faster, limited energy shield shaping, and a nano technology repair suite.
HUMAN COVENANT WAR
Immediately following the SPARTANS being outfitted with their MJOLNIR armour, they were engaged by a Covenant frigate. The frigate and the UNSC Commonwealth, engaged in a ship to ship battle with the Spartans deploying via dropship mid fight to disable or destroy the frigate. While exploring the ship, John 117, Samuel 034, and Kelly 087, came into contact with covenant forces. During the firefight a Kig-Yar (Jackal as referred to by the UNSC) had flanked the SPARTANS and loosed a charged a plasma pistol shot aimed at John. Samuel jumped in front of John taking the hit from the plasma pistol directly into his armour, burning through the layers and losing his vacuum seal. As the squad moved through the frigate they eventually found the engine room. John, Sam, and Kelly planted several ANVIL-II ASMs (Air to Surface Missile) around the fusion reactor to blow the ship. Due to his compromised armour, Sam volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Covenant forces to give John and Kelly time to escape via an EVA maneuver. Sam held off waves of Covenant troops until John gave him the all clear signal, at which point Sam, badly injured, detonated the missiles blowing the frigate. During this mission John and Kelly captured a functioning Jackal shield modulator which they took back to Halsey to incorporate into the armour systems of the SPARTANS.
Due to the morale effect the SPARTANS and their feats had on the entire human population, SPARTANS were not allowed to be listed as KIA (Killed in Action), they were to be marked as MIA (Missing in Action) or WIA (Wounded in Action). Sam was the first SPARTAN to be killed and listed as MIA during the Human Covenant War.
Due to the young age at which they were taken, the SPARTAN-IIs became each other’s surrogate family. The death of Samuel was mourned by all the SPARTANS and was remembered years after his death by Kurt (SPARTAN 051) who made a similar sacrifice during Onyx event.
*Kurt 051 was secretly recruited to train a new generation of SPARTANS dubbed SPARTAN-IIIs. This new generation relied more heavily on teamwork and an active camouflage module incorporated into their armour instead of shields. They were largely utilized for suicide missions on Covenant strong points. This new generation were trained on the planet Onyx.*
Following the death of Samuel, Frederick (SPARTAN 104) was transferred to Blue Team, along with Linda (SPARTAN 058), to form the most well known version of the team. Throughout the beginning of the war, the SPARTANS were deployed against the Covenant and met with large success in ground combat. While the UNSC tactics and training surpassed the Covenant in ground conflicts, most of the engagements were lost in ship battles, in which the Covenant technology was vastly superior. On August 27, 2552, all active SPARTAN-IIs with the exception of Grey Team, were recalled to Reach for Operation: RED FLAG. Operation: RED FLAG was a multi-phase plan which entailed the capture of a Covenant carrier, the discovery of the Covenant home world “High Charity”, and the piloting of the carrier to the home world to extract a Prophet Hierarch to be used for negotiations to force a cease fire. Before the UNSC could enact this plan, the Covenant found Reach and began their assault.
THE FALL OF REACH
The Fall of Reach saw almost all of the active SPARTAN-IIs recalled to the planet in defense of the military stronghold. Red Team was deployed to the surface and believed to have died when it was thought the Covenant had “glassed the planet” (plasma bombardment from space to destroy the landscape). Linda 058, was killed when she along with several SPARTAN-IIs and the Master Chief were defending an orbital defense platform. She was later resuscitated following the battle of Installation 04.
The rest of the SPARTAN-IIs that were not tasked with defending the orbital platform, were tasked with defending various crucial points on the surface. Frederick 104, commanded the SPARTAN-IIs in their defense of Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331. While en route to the station, Bravo 001 was shot down, killing four SPARTAN-IIs and wounding several others. Upon their arrival at the facility, they discovered the shell shocked remains of Charlie Company, the marines assigned to its defense. Frederick split the remaining SPARTAN-IIs into 4 teams with objectives for each.
Team Alpha (Frederick, Kelly and Joshua) was tasked with eliminating an encampment of 10,000 Covenant soldiers and their hovering cruiser.
Team Beta (11 unnamed SPARTAN-IIs) was tasked with defense of the Orbital Defense Generators.
Team Gamma (Li, Anton and Grace) was tasked with the retrieval of Admiral Whitcomb.
Team Delta (composed of the injured SPARTAN-IIs along with William, Isaac, Vinh and the remains of Charlie company) were tasked with securing their fallback point at CASTLE Base.
While Alpha team was successful in destroying the cruiser, they lost Joshua (SPARTAN 029) from concentrated fire from the 10,000 Covenant ground forces. Team Beta was presumably killed when under the threat of the Covenant overrunning their position, the UNSC Majestic fired 6 MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) rounds into the base and the surrounding area; all 11 SPARTAN-IIs are presumed KIA. Team Gamma was successful but did not make it to CASTLE base and was forced to take shelter at Camp Independence. Team Delta was successful but lost all members except for Vinh, Isaac and William.
With the Orbital power facility destroyed the Covenant ships overwhelmed the defense platforms and began glassing Reach.
*Originally it was thought the Covenant had glassed the whole planet and any survivors fighting on its surface. It is later revealed the Covenant merely glassed the poles leaving the majority of the planet and all surviving SPARTAN-IIs intact.*
POST FALL OF REACH
While many ships retreated to Earth, one cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn, broke through the Covenant lines and made a blind jump through slip space. This is where the entire franchise kicked off with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved. Following the events of the game, John 117, and several other human survivors would go on to meet up with the other survivors of Reach in First Strike. During this novel the Master Chief would team with other surviving UNSC personnel to attack a Covenant Fleet Anchorage to stall their attack on Earth.
Eventually societal rifts in the Covenant along with the death of two of their Hierarchs, and revelation of what the Halo rings actually are, resulted in a civil war among the races of the Covenant. This civil war ended with the Elites siding with humanity against the other races. John 117, along with the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, helped to put an end to the Human-Covenant war and bring an uneasy peace to the galaxy. After the fall of the Covenant and the peace brought on between the Sangheili (Elites) and humanity, several Covenant members refused to believe the Arbiter and created splinter factions, most notably the faction led by Jul ‘Mdama which took the title, the New Covenant.
At the culmination of Halo 3, after the battle of Installation 00, the Master Chief is believed to have been lost along with the remains of the Forward Unto Dawn.
Upon his return to Earth, following the Events of Halo 2, 3 &4, the Master Chief (John 117) is finally reunited with the SPARTAN-IIs he believed to have been killed in the Fall of Reach.
The lore and history behind the Human-Covenant war is quite extensive and deserves a post highlighting the various victories and defeats on both sides. This is just a streamlined version of the involvement of the SPARTAN-II program. Many of the members of this program would become heroes to humanity and eventually the Sangheili. John 117 (forever known by his title as Master Chief) is fondly remembered by both humanity and the Elites that he fought beside near the end of the war.
That concludes the brief history of the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. I know I personally love the franchise and with so many games, comics, shows, and novels… it’s only going to continue to grow!
“Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost.”
“You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren’t machines. We’re just people.”
“She asked me that once, about which one of us was the machine…”