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|The deadliest weapon in the galaxy is a Pathfinder and his Morita.|
—Pahtfinder motto, Pathfinders Army Book
The official role of members of the Pathfinders platoons is to conduct special reconnaissance, unconventional forms of warfare and in theory, perform counter-terrorism missions through Federation space. However, unofficially they take part in missions that even cap troopers find impossible. This means that Pathfinders are a cut above the average trooper even though few civilians or citizens are aware of their existence. During the selection process and training, the washout rate is noted as being high with casualties amongst Pathfinder units being sometimes terrible. Despite this being the case, they remain as one of the best soldiers that humanity can offer on the modern battlefield and its members are extremely well equipped to perform their assigned duties.
Pathfinders are often looked up to by other troopers as being the highly trained elite. Their duties can often seen them reconnoiter important strategic positions behind Arachnid positions. It is these soldiers that are tasked with extracting squads that are cut off by swarms of Warrior Bugs or even enter bug holes in order to assassinate a potent Brain Bug. To accomplish their duties, they are given the best equipment and are trained to the highest standard by the Federation. However, in return, they are expected to complete missions that other forces within the Mobile Infantry which would be suicidal.
Rumours, legends and even myths surround the selection process, troopers must undertake to be accepted into a Pathfinders platoon. Tales are told of exceptionally high casualty rates, brutal Military Intelligence interrogations and suicidal missions. There is truth in some of this but the Pathfinders have always been a little mysterious in how they are selected and their true role within the Mobile Infantry.
In theory, all a trooper has to do in order to begin the selection process is informing his commanding officer of his wish and then await the next recruitment period. In practice, whether a trooper gets put forward or not is very much down to the desires of this officer and he may be refused for any number of reasons. It is not unknown for an officer to simply not pass on a request because he values a trooper's contribution to his platoon, but most recruits are turned down due to a failure to meet physical and mental guidelines dictated by SICON. The level of fitness required to make it through the first stages of selection is incredibly high and it has been estimated that only 5% of all Mobile Infantry troopers meet this standard. The purpose of the whole selection process is to whittle this 5% down to a mere few hundred.
The bureaucratic hurdles of getting past commanding officers and SICON analysts on the basis of past military record and physical fitness are by no means easy to accomplish. Any infraction on a trooper's record can mean instant dismissal from the process. It is often assumed that the Pathfinders are looking for absolute heroes of the highest loyalty and intelligence while at the peak of their physical fitness. While such candidates are gratefully received, some troopers are surprised when accepted, as any trooper who has served for any great length of time normally has at least one secret they are none too proud of.
Once accepted to the first stages of selection, the troopers' nightmares really begin. Designed by General Malcolm Barrett, the course has changed very little over the years, being aimed at weeding out those who are unsuitable and pushing to the limit those who make the grade. Fatalities are not unknown and little has been done to enhance safety though Pathfinder instructors are wary about wasting good troopers needlessly.
Selection is long and tough. It begins with a "build-up" week on the Pathfinder's assault course in the Yukon, followed by the legendary Endurance March across the Canadian Rockies. The physical requirements of this combination alone weeds out 90% of the applicants and the rest of the wash-outs will fail during the examination process that comes after. This consists of multiple tests covering history, philosophy, mathematics, tactics and a variety of other disciplines. If this were not enough, Military Intelligence then swings in with numerous psych-evaluations that are designed to probe for the weaknesses in a trooper's personality.
If a trooper can pass all these tests with flying colours, he stands a good chance of being selected for Pathfinder training.
However, simply passing is not sufficient, as there are limited places available in existing Pathfinder platoons and only the top few percent will be accepted. That said, more places have been opened since the start of the Arachnid War.
It has been said that if selection was tough, then training for a Pathfinder platoon is ten times harder. In truth, troopers at this stage are expected to excel at every opportunity — make no mistake, the men and women who make it this far are dedicated individuals, determined to succeed at everything they attempt and utterly loyal to the Federation. A more patriotic group of troopers is hard to find.
Pathfinder training takes another sixteen weeks and covers Standard Operating Procedures, tunnel fighting tactics and familiarisation on all the specialist equipment available to the platoons. The Combat and Survival Phase ends with an escape and evasion exercise, in which candidates are released into a variety of terrain types and expected to avoid capture by a qualified Pathfinder platoon. Irrespective of capture (and virtually all trainees are captured), all troopers are put through intensive SICON interrogation training. This is the source of many of the rumours about Pathfinder selection but though it can seem brutal to the participants, no one has yet died from over-powered probes from psychics. While psychics are indeed used to gauge mental resilience, the procedures concentrate more on sleep and sensory deprivation, starvation and psychological tricks aimed at lowering a trooper's resistance to questioning.
Those who pass this phase will then undergo terrain specialisation and low-level drop training. Though rarely performed against Arachnid forces, low level drops using M2 capsules are sometimes used to evade detection when deploying in a battle zone. A Slingshot drop boat flies at high speeds and low altitudes, dropping its platoon within seconds before continuing on its flight path or rocketing back up to orbit. This is a highly dangerous manoeuvre as the drop capsules have very little time to fire their braking rockets and locate a suitable landing spot.
This requires very quick reflexes on the part of the trooper and any casualties are always fatal.
Even after all this, there is still one hurdle for troopers to cross.
They are required to swim 2 miles in armour that has its power reduced, carrying a Morita. Only after this will the trooper receive his coveted winged spear badge and be assigned to an active Pathfinder platoon.
Ostensibly, Pathfinders are used in a variety of small scale missions that require special skills, highly trained troopers and diverse equipment. In the past this has meant high-risk reconnaissance, hostage rescue, assassinations, sabotage and the like. With the coming of the Arachnid War, the Pathfinders have become a lot more specialised as the enemy they face now is a far cry from the usual colony rebels and alien raiders they have fought in the past.
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