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The Starfleet Special Operations, also known as SpecOps, is the elite branch of Starfleet, roughly analogous to Special Forces divisions, that is frequently tasked with assignments deemed unsuitable or too difficult for the regular forces of Starfleet.


Because of the devastation of World War III when the massive reconstruction of Earth began following the First Contact with the Vulcans in 2063, the surviving and newly born governments of the world decided that another conflict of such a scale would destroy them forever. One by one, they joined together starting in 2064 by 2100 all Earth governments were united and by 2150 every colony, town, and settlement in the Sol System was part of the United Earth Government.

United Earth

The governments of Earth knew that to completely unify, they would need to bring several key elements under the banner of the new government and away from individual nations those key elements were Financial, Legal, and Military. With the devastation of international trade and infrastructure, creating a united currency was the simplest and most accepted within a few years.

Legal would take much longer until almost 2140 to be fully complete. Military integration was the most difficult for all, from mistrust of old enemies to long traditions of service and pride to current usefulness there were many conflicts over the issue.

The first to be founded was the United Earth Space Probe Agency in 2065. It was charged with all interstellar operations of the new government, and its primary arm was the United Earth Starfleet which oversaw all government projects and protection of the Sol System. To prevent another war or risk conflict, the agency, and Starfleet were not chartered as military forces but as civilians with a military hierarchy. Their forces would have little to no weapons, engage only in defense operations and explore.

 As the UESPA started its operations, the UE Government began the debates on military forces in the new government. With many governments still worried about each other and more horror like Colonel Green, the issue was difficult to get any sort of agreement on. Many of the smaller governments were willing to accept the idea of a united military but larger ones such as the United States, the Russian Confederated Territories, and the Britannic Alliance were hesitant. In 2072, seeing the success of the UESPA as well as the stability of the Earth Government and in some cases prodding from the Vulcans they relented, and the United Earth Military Command was founded. The larger governments agreed under the stipulation that they would have time to slowly demobilize and disarm over a few decades. The last of them disbanded in 2130 with many of them providing forces to the military, especially officers, until their final dismissal.

 The United Earth Military was divided into several commands, Aerospace Command, Infantry Command, Armored Command, Logistics and Support Command, Training Command, and Assault Command. The Military Assault Command was run by Military Assault Command Operations (MACO) and charged with what would be called special operations among some Earth Forces. They were considered the most elite forces at Earth’s command at first being comprised of personnel from organizations such as the US Army Rangers and Delta Forces, US Navy SEALS, Russian Spetsnaz, British and Australian Special Air Service, and many others.

As of 2153, MACO technology and tactics were more advanced than Starfleet and believed from simulations to be able to match both Vulcan High Command and Andorian Imperial Guard Special Forces in combat.

General George Casey was the Commander of the MACO when the Xindi Conflict broke out in 2153. He was also the first person in the United Earth Military to oversee one of the commands who never served in a previous Earth Military or went training outside of the United Earth Military. He would play an even larger part in history before his career was finished.

Conflict with Starfleet

Starfleet and the United Earth Military were often at odds due to their different natures, one was founded in exploration and diplomacy the other retained its charge for the use of force. Each had a different purview and list of priorities which often caused ideological clashes. This was especially true with Starfleet and MACO due to several incidents in the early days of the founding of the United Earth.

 Unfortunately, not all nations and colonies decided to join the United Earth. Some even decided to actively oppose it. As a result, Starfleet requested permission to act as a mediator, although the military profusely objected, claiming that Starfleet’s remit was outside the Earth’s atmosphere. It was decided that Starfleet could proceed. They were successful at first; however, there was an incident with negotiating with a warlord resulting in the death of the United Earth Representative which the military claimed was due to negligence or neglect of several security concerns by Starfleet. Following that, Starfleet was removed from the mediation teams and MACO took its place. In several locations, some governments, or warlords all but declared war on the United Earth, and over the pleas of Starfleet, the MACOs were unleashed on these enemy forces. Multiple hostile warlords and governments were brought down overnight with minimal bloodshed. From that point on until the Xindi Conflict and Romulan War, Starfleet and the Military would always have a colder relationship.

Xindi Conflict

In 2153, Earth was attacked by the Xindi, and with intelligence provided by Captain Archer of Starfleet, Earth knew to expect more. The United Earth vastly increased its military and even went so far as to pass what is called the Overwhelming Forces Act which gave the United Earth the authority to take command of all remaining non-United Earth military forces should they be needed if the Xindi attacked. Captain Archer convinced Starfleet Command that they needed to attempt to engage the Xindi before they reached Earth and if at all possible, prevent a second attack either through diplomacy or with force. Although he never said it to Starfleet, he believed force would be the only viable method and went to the unprecedented step of contacting the MACO and requesting a detachment be assigned to Enterprise for the mission. In the beginning, there was a clear division between the MACO unit and the crew. The MACOs were disciplined professionals who were given a clear mission, they knew the severity of it. This led to them often seeming cold when they were focused on their mission, protecting Enterprise and her crew and being ready for operations at a moment’s notice.

 The crew, with several exceptions, remained reserved until they engaged the Xindi in the Expanse. The courage and dedication displayed by the MACOs as they defended the ship from borders on several occasions as well as rescued crew members who were in danger began to change the minds of many of the crew. A frank discussion between Major Hayes and Lieutenant Reed lead to greater acceptance by the crew as well. The cooperation between the two groups was not without friction such as when Captain Archer was affected by a Xindi Pheromone and put the MACOs in control of the ship when the Starfleet crew attempted to stop his work on repairing a hatchery ship. He relied on the MACO military training and discipline but was in the end stopped by his crew and returned to normal. Major Hayes was killed in the line of duty heroically leading a rescue party for Ensign Sato, he placed the MACOs under Reed’s command and recommended his replacement before dying of his injuries. The walls between the two forces kept coming down until at the end of the mission the crew of the Enterprise viewed them as fellow crewmates.

 Following their return from Xindi space, Captain Archer requested to keep his MACO detachment aboard and shocked Starfleet Command when he recommended all Starfleet ships start to carry a detachment of them from now on as standard procedure. It was clear that his time in the Expanse had changed him and taught him many things. When asked why he would recommend it, he told the Admirals that he joined Starfleet to be an explorer and a Captain to lead other explorers. He and his crew could fight and use tactics when needed but they were not as skilled at it as MACOs and sadly in his experience that there are as many people in the galaxy that will point a weapon at them as will offer the hand of friendship. Simply put, Starfleet was founded on great principles and ideals, but having gone deeper into the galaxy, he found that Starfleet could not do it alone.

While Starfleet did not request units from MACO, Captain Archer’s words were heeded by many within Starfleet and MACO soon received a request from almost eighty percent of the fleet to ask for a detachment as well as some facilities for units to support their security forces. When the Coalition of Worlds was founded in 2155, Starfleet officially had MACO units assigned to specific classes of ships, notably the NX class and when the Romulan War broke out they were assigned to all ships in the fleet.

Romulan War

At the beginning of the Romulan War in 2156, MACO units were found on many Starfleet Vessels to help defend them from being boarded. Sadly, many were never able to put their skills to the test, Romulans destroyed, disabled, or damaged ships unless they had some sort of possible value. After this practice was discovered, over the objections of Starfleet, most MACO units were pulled from starship defense and re-tasked with offensive operations. Some units remained on capital ships or priority targets that the Romulans might try to take such as star bases or flagships.

 There are very few stories of success to be found in the annals of this war, it was brutal, bloody, and merciless. All forces in the United Earth suffered extensive casualties including the MACOs. When able to engage Romulan forces, MACOs proved their combat abilities such as the successful defense of Starbase 4. At the end of the war, MACO was at forty percent operational capacity, which was to play a key factor in their fate in the new United Federation of Planets.

Founding of the Federation

In 2161 with the birth of the United Federation of Planets, a large-scale reorganization occurred along with the forces of all Member worlds. Large amounts of United Earth Military and Starfleet were to be absorbed into the new Federation Starfleet along with the Andorian Imperial Guard, Vulcan Defense Forces, and Tellarite Navy. Not all forces would be absorbed, each member would keep a dedicated system defense force for system security and patrols. It was decided that the Federation would be centered on Earth, as Starfleet was given authority in the system in terms of security negating the need for some of the defense forces others would have. A group of older surviving ships from before the Romulan War remained in service to the United Earth as the United Earth Solar Fleet, the rest was given to the Federation for use in the new Starfleet.

 With memories of the Romulan War fresh in everyone’s mind, the United Earth Military was absorbed into various branches and divisions of the new Federation. A small contingent of infantry and aerospace forces was reorganized into the United Earth Solar Force for planetary protection as well as emergency support.

 From their operations in the Romulan War, it was decided that MACOs would still be needed. Given that, they became trained and accustomed to serving on ships and using Starfleet ships for transportation. The MACOs were brought into Starfleet Security, so they would be well integrated into shipboard operations and procedures as well as able to quickly deploy.

 MACOs were reorganized into the Starfleet Security Tactical Response Force (TRF), which would be teams of personnel that were assigned at the request of a captain or the needs of a mission. They retained their superior training for missions such as hostage rescue, capturing starships, and others and would be put to the test in the future.

KLINgon war

Starfleet was well constructed and designed to combat threats like the Romulans, but they were completely unprepared for the raw brutality of the Klingon Empire when war broke out in 2251. The Federation was put on the defensive at once and was pushed back in short order.

 The TRF was quickly called into action and while it performed well, they were completely unable to match the Klingons in the numbers needed to make a significant difference in the war. With the successes in defense from being boarded, priority extractions, and even the capture of a Klingon vessel, it was decided that the TRF needed to be returned to preeminent status in the Federation.

 The TRF was removed from the umbrella of Starfleet Security and a new division was founded and run jointly by Starfleet Intelligence and Starfleet Security, Starfleet Special Operations – SFSO.

SFSO was formed as an elite sub-division of Starfleet Intelligence during the formation of the Federation Starfleet following the founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161 with the express purpose of carrying out special assignments that were deemed unsuitable for assignment to normal Starfleet personnel. As a sub-division of a division of Starfleet SpecOps uses the same rank structure as the rest of Starfleet.

SFSO was greatly expanded and with accelerated training brought up to strength within a year allowing them to commence operations against the Klingons in short order. For the remainder of the war, SFSO was fielded often to raid Klingon stations, support ground forces in offensive operations, defend Starfleet capital ships, and gather many forms of intelligence.

Although it has not been generally promoted SpecOps has played significant roles in nearly every conflict the Federation has been involved in including conflicts with the Klingons in the 23rd century and in 2375, The Federation-Cardassian War, The Federation-Tzenkethi War, and the Dominion War. In many of these conflicts, the outcome would have been significantly worse, if not an outright defeat for the Federation if SpecOps personnel hadn’t been involved in regular and special assignments.

Khitomer Accordss

With the destruction of Praxis, the Klingon Empire effectively vanished, they had to drastically reduce its military power to survive. To that end, the Federation and Klingon Empire for the first time signed a peace treaty, the Khitomer Accords in 2293. This treaty eliminated the neutral zone between the powers, opened trade, and exchanged and established promises that they would not fight. The Romulan Empire remained mostly docile and respectful of the Neutral Zone established after the Earth-Romulan War. These factors lead the Federation to decide that there was a reduced threat to the Federation and wanted to scale back resources from Starfleet. SFSO was reduced in size and scope with their operations turned to more information gathering than active engagement.

cardassian war

At the outbreak of the Cardassian War, SFSO was tapped by Intelligence to work on gathering intelligence and counterintelligence. After about six months, it became clear they were out of their league on several fronts against the Obsidian Order. SFSO was re-tasked from mostly passive work and returned to active field duty. Luckily, Starfleet had learned well the lessons of the past and kept the SFSO trained and ready to return to field operations when called for. SFSO was sent into the field for an active gathering of intelligence, joining forces for attacks on Cardassian forces and were successful in one of the greatest intelligence missions ever, stealing classified ciphers from a Cardassian station allowing Starfleet to read the IFF Transponders of all Cardassian vessels. Starfleet Intelligence decided to follow the war, to keep SFSO fully operational since the Cardassians were still a threat as well as the return of the Romulan Empire.

dominion war

Following the end of the Cardassian War, many in Starfleet Command felt tensions on the rise again and decided to keep the SFSO at full capacity. With the discovery of the Dominion, Starfleet started expanding SFSO numbers and armory. Several small stealth ships were constructed so SFSO could be deployed and move quieter, and new technologies from OMR such as personal transporters and other classified technology were made available. Intense training for SFSO was put into place to prepare them for the war Starfleet was sure was coming.

When the Dominion War broke out, SFSO Operatives were unleashed. However, Starfleet vastly underestimated the numbers that the Dominion would field and the skills which they had in comparison to other troops. While the SFSO performed well on all fronts, they were simply outnumbered. About four months into the war, SFSO were assigned to Klingon ships for missions behind enemy lines, dubbed Operation Valkyrie, which proved to be a success for a time, eventually, the Dominion was able to adapt, and the effectiveness of the strikes dropped.

During the Battles of Vulcan, several SFSO units were instrumental in turning the tide against the Dominion. During the first battle of Chin’toka, SFSO units performed clearing and reconnaissance missions against many of the ground forces. To build on the success of Operation Valkyrie, SFSO and Romulan Special Forces were deployed from Romulan strike ships behind enemy lines for raids and intelligence gathering including preparing for the liberation of Benzar.

Following the war, the SFSO could boast of extremely successful actions and missions even with a hefty casualty list. Using tactics and skills gained through the war as well as some new technologies, the SFSO were kept at the same operational readiness as before the war to be ready for the next war to come.

The borg

Following first contact with the Borg in 2365 SpecOps underwent a dramatic reorganization and enlargement which included the creation of a dedicated sub-branch/task force, the Anti-Borg Task Force, and greater cooperation with Starfleet R&D in an effort to develop even more advanced technologies.


When not performing missions SpecOps squads undergo near-constant intensive training in a variety of subjects at various facilities, such as West Point Military Academy, throughout Federation space. After serving in SpecOps officers were generally transferred back to normal duties in Starfleet with the express purpose of enhancing the combat capabilities of the general fleet and illustrating the capabilities of SpecOps officers. Every SpecOps officer is an able pilot as it has been deemed necessary that all officers have piloting abilities, so the loss of a designated pilot does not endanger the completion of a mission.


In the 2360s some Starfleet Special Operations Operatives wore normal Starfleet uniforms when serving aboard starships.

SpecOps officers wear a uniform variant known as the Surface Operations Blacks, S.O.B.’s, and the Ground Combat Uniform. The S.O.B.’S are comprised of an all-black tunic with the division color stripe running across the chest and back, rank insignia are not worn on the S.O.B.’s so enemy troops cannot see who the senior officer is merely by looking for rank insignia. While not on training or deployed the standard uniform and the standard rank insignia are worn in the typical manner. For communications, when deployed and on training exercises, SpecOps officers use a specialized communicator built into the inside of the right wrist of the tunic.

By 2376, a variant of the uniform was available. This incorporated the Cantonese collar, but kept an all-black uniform, sans the division stripe on the shoulders, chest, and back. One lower arm had a panel-like tricorder attached to a band wrapped around the area above the wrist, while the other lower arm had a phaser device attached to another band, with a firing mechanism in the hand grip. The pads of both hands were covered with fingerless gloves, one of which included a communicator on the hand’s top. The uniform also had cargo pockets on each thigh of the pants. Pant legs were flared to allow easy-on and easy-off access.

Missions and branches

Special Operations had several sub-branches. Some of these operated similarly to normal Starfleet vessels and included high-risk missions such as the 2371 USS Prospect mission to attempt to make first contact with the Dominion’s Founders after the USS Odyssey’s destruction in 2370.

In 2384, operative Daniel Radke was disguised as a Romulan Tal Shiar agent to infiltrate the Romulan medical facility on Unroth III to safeguard and then retrieve a comatose Corey Aster. 

Some more “hardcore” branches of Special Operations continue to exist operating as infiltration teams. 


All content related to STAR TREK is taken from the shows, Memory Alpha, and Memory Beta or is original content created for entertainment purposes by watching Star Trek Enterprise and reading the Star Trek Enterprise books published by Simon & Schuster.

STARFLEET Special Operations information is pulled from various sites such as: