Within the Halo universe that one word conjures images of a heavily armored and heavily augmented super-soldier. But there are those who would say that not all SPARTANs are equal and in fact not all those so augmented should be given the title of SPARTAN. The iteration of super soldier that some would deny the appellation are those members of the SPARTAN-IV program.
The SPARTAN-IV program, much like the previous iterations, had its beginning back in 2164. It was at this time the UNSC military first created bioengineering protocols to enhance normal soldiers. Due to a lack of technology, nothing would come of these protocols until nearly 160 years later in 2321 with the launch of the ORION project. ORION would take the bioengineering protocols and see them applied to normal soldiers in an attempt to enhance their capabilities in the struggle against insurrectionists. There was some experimentation that went on but was classified as unsuccessful and shelved until technological advances allowed for the program to be relaunched in 2491. While the program had success in combating the insurrectionist threat initially, it fell far short of the scientists goals and 15 years after it was restarted was deactivated in 2506. The next two generations of SPARTAN soldiers would build further upon ORION with the major difference of using young children instead of adult volunteers from different branches of the UNSC military. It was not until the end of the Human-Covenant war in 2553 (47 years after ORION’s deactivation) that the SPARTAN-IV program was conceived by Lieutenant Commander Musa-096, a former SPARTAN-II who had been crippled by the augmentation process.
The SPARTAN-IV program would return to the policy of recruiting experienced soldiers and other qualified numbers of the UNSC. The first class of 145 candidates went active in January of 2553. A second, larger class was authorized in 2554 after seeing the success of the first class, and drew from a wider pool of candidates the training and augmentation of the SPARTAN-IV candidates would all occur on Mars. While the UNSC Frigate Meriwether Lewis would have its own contingent, the largest contingent would be assigned to the UNSC Infinity.
In addition to the selection process of the SPARTAN-IV’s from a pool of experienced soldiers (as well as other members of the UNSC), two of the largest differences that separated them from the previous two SPARTAN programs was the armor they wore and the level of augmentations that they underwent. The second generation of Mjolnir armor would boost the reactions, speed and strength of the wearer to a greater extent than the Gen1 Mjolnir worn by SPARTAN-II’s and the few SPARTAN-III’s that were authorized to do so. This increase in enhancement was due to the fact that the augmentations the SPARTAN-IV candidates went through were not as extensive as the preceding two programs. This difference was due to the technology that had been used in the preceding programs had very strict genetic guidelines in place, as well as requiring the augmentations to be performed on preteens. By 2553 medical advances had come far enough that adults could be safely augmented, with the tradeoff being that the improvements to reaction, speed, and strength were less than those in the SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs.
While the armor and augmentations are part of what make the SPARTAN-IV’s seem unworthy, there are additional reasons that should be considered as well, according to some. One of these reasons would be that the SPARTAN-IV’s, being adults, have fully formed personalities and views. They are not as strong. They are not as fast. Some held views so contrary to the UNSC that they became traitors (e.g. SPTARTANs Rudolph Schein, Michael Crespo and Vladimir Scruggs). They do not come from military backgrounds (e.g. SPARTAN Olympia Vale). They have a frat boy or ‘SPARTAN Bro’ attitude about them (e.g. SPARTANs Paul Marco and Anthony Madsen). While a few exhibit professionalism worthy of the name (e.g. SPARTANs Jamison Locke, Gabriel Thorne, and Holly Tanaka), others carry themselves with a swagger and attitude more befitting ODST’s and Marines rather than SPARTANs (e.g. SPARTANs Koju Agu, Carlo Hoya, Edward Buck, and SPARTAN Commander Sarah Palmer)
This lack of indoctrination, along with the differences in the armor and augmentations is what leads many to view SPARTAN-IV’s are not worthy of the title SPARTAN. Their loyalty can be unsure. They are weaker and slower. They’re less professional and more brash and arrogant. They are, some would argue, not worthy to wear the Mjolnir armor made famous by the SPARTAN-II’s in humanity’s darkest hour.
In the post Human-Covenant war universe, SPARTANs are still needed. The might and strength, which only a SPARTAN super-soldier is capable of, still are required. While during the war, SPARTANs had been held up as might warriors fighting for the survival of humanity, the universe’s needs had evolved. And in turn, combat had to evolve as well. Post war humanity was struggling to regain its footing. They had been beaten and nearly rendered extinct. More than anything, the populace needed to be able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that there were men and women who were not only ready to do violence on their behalf – but that were able to actually protect them.
But they needed more than just a faceless super soldier. They also needed hope. They needed to know that those out there protecting them were like them. They needed to know that their protectors had the same hopes, dreams and even the same flaws that they did. And they needed to know that if the need arose, they could join those ranks to help protect those who were dear to them.
Both the SPARTAN-II and III programs have tremendous skeletons in their closet. The candidates for the SPARTAN-II program were kidnapped at the age of six and replaced by flash clones. They were indoctrinated to follow orders and put through rigorous military training reserved for those far older than they. Once they reached the age of 14, they underwent chemical, biological, and genetic augmentations that reduced their number by nearly half (33 out of 75) and eliminated their chances of becoming parents themselves. Their primary focus was not to defeat the Covenant (they had not arrived yet), but were designed to quell the growing Insurrectionist movement in the Outer Colonies (ironically, the exact place where most of them had grown up). It is only by fortuitous happenstance that the SPARTAN-II’s had been created when the Covenant arrived and began their mission of genocide against Humanity.
The SPARTAN-III program did not kidnap children and force them to become super-soldiers, but was no less in the wrong. They coerced six and seven year old children who had recently been made orphans by the Covenant into volunteering to become SPARTANs. They were put through the same training by the same people who trained the SPARTAN-IIs. While greater in numbers (there ended up being three companies of SPARTAN-III’s each of roughly 300 Spartans) they were given armor of a significantly less quality and protection. They were sent out on high risk missions that would most certainly lead to their deaths. In fact, Alpha Company suffered 100% loss on their deployment on Operation: PROMETHEUS while Beta Company experienced a similar fate in Operation: TORPEDO. Only two out of the 300 Spartans from Beta survived.
The true horror of the SPARTAN-III program, however, was reserved for Gamma Company. The program was placed on an accelerated timetable. As such puberty was artificially induced, developing their physiques into adult status within nine months. In addition to the normal augmentations that were given to all SPARTAN-III’s, they were also injected with illegal drugs that altered their brain to enhance aggression, strength, endurance, and a greater tolerance to injury. These additional drugs would cause Gamma to become depressed, erratic, and violent unless they took antipsychotic and bipolar integration drugs, otherwise known as Smoothers. Gamma Company would initially be merged into the SPARTAN-IV program but by July 2553 they had been assigned to more covert rolls by ONI. These orders came from ONICINC Admiral Margaret Parangosky, who viewed the destabilizing augmentations as an unacceptable public relations hazard.
This is all to say that while, yes, SPARTAN-IVs are unlike the SPARTAN-II and III’s, this does not make them less worthy of the name SPARTAN. They are less the perfect soldiers that were their predecessors, but their flaws and their humanity makes them so much more. The true strength of a SPARTAN-IV is that they are, in many ways, more human – they have an increased ability to understand why they fight and what the cost of their failure truly would be. They are not the Titans that the SPARTAN-II’s are, nor are they the Olympians that the SPARTAN-III’s were. But in the end, being a SPARTAN has less to do with armor, augmentations, or even how one became inducted into the program and more to do with accepting all of the pain and agony one has to endure to be the best they can be to defend humanity from all threats. It is that willingness to do whatever is needed despite the cost that makes them worthy.
That is what makes them SPARTANS.