It seems to me that from all I've seen of various Star Trek shows, Federation (or Earth) does not seem to have ANY combat military personnel/branches aside from Space Navy (aka StarFleet). No Marines for taking the beach(planet)-heads, no combat armor/infantry for ground combat, no dedicated small fighter-class spacecraft (away shuttles don't count).

I haven't watched any DS9 yet at all so the above impression could be wrong.

Is that really true, or do any of Star Trek shows or movies exhibit existence of non-naval combat military branches, especially as pertaining to ground combat?

If not, is there an in-Universe explanation for their lack?

Books/games are out of scope.

Specialized branches (Judicial, medial, Time Police, Intelligence) are out of scope.

Non-Earth species-specific forces are not really in-scope - I only care either about Earth military or Federation-wide ones.

UPDATE: I'm mostly interested in Federation era, e.g. post-Enterprise timelines.


10 Answers 10


In the Star Trek episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday", Kirk and Capt. John Christopher had this exchange after Christopher was beamed aboard Enterprise.

CHRISTOPHER: Must have taken quite a lot to build a ship like this.

KIRK: There are only twelve like it in the fleet.

CHRISTOPHER: I see. Did the Navy...

KIRK: We're a combined service, Captain.

So the armed forces, such as they are, operate under a single command structure, which is Starfleet.

  • 1
    I vaguely remember marines or something similar in Enterprise, who were trained specifically for personal combat. Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 15:58
  • That would make sense. You would have Tactical Officers and their Security Teams like Worf and Tuvok. Their main mission/training would have been in a more combative role, doing the weapons fire/hand-to-hand combat. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:46

Enterprise introduced M.A.C.O. (Military Assault Command Operations). They were a United Earth military organization that existed prior to Starfleet and had more advanced weapons and technology. A detachment was assigned to the Enterprise NX-01 for its mission to the Delphic Expanse.

  • 2
    Dang. I knew I should have excluded "Enterprise"... but fair's fair, it fits the original wording. +1 Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 2:31
  • @DVK: Yeah, I hesitated to mention the much-maligned "Enterprise", but it did seem to fit what you were looking for. However, I feel like there must be some better examples out there. If anyone knows, it's probably Tango. ;)
    – gnovice
    Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 3:18
  • 3
    I don't hate enetrprise, it's more of that the MACO don't seem to persist into Federation times. Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 8:33

Section 31 almost fits the description, but they're not strictly military. They fit more under intelligence, but have been likened to the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order.

They are introduced late in DS9 (and make appearances in ENT), so I'll add spoilers for my reasoning in case you haven't heard of them yet:

Basically, they're the ones who deal with threats to the Federation that no one knows about or wants to think about:

  • Their existence is not officially acknowledged or denied.
  • They create the virus that targets the Founders.
  • They even prepare for a possible coming war against the Romulans for after the Dominion is dealt with.


At least by the time the events of Season 4 of Deep Space 9 are occurring it's quite clear there are no other military "options" available on earth.

In the episode Homefront the Federation President allows for a brief State of Emergency (Martial Law) on Earth, which is administered by Starfleet personnel.

Admiral Leyton, imploring the Federation President Jaresh-Inyo to decree a State of Emergency claimed:

"We've been preparing for something like this for a long time; we have stockpiles of phaser rifles, personal force fields, photon grenades, enough to equip an entire army ..."

Star Trek DS9, Season 4, Episode 11 Homefront

The inference therefore is there is no military available at all on earth, or presumably nearby earth and such matters are up to the discretion of the Federation, and to be fulfilled by the Starfleet.


Aside from the aforementioned Section 31, there is the Federation Naval Patrol, although not strictly military, their mission is to "ensure security and explore oceans of member worlds." Mentioned only once in Voyager episode Thirty Days.


In DS9 S6 E11, Waltz, the Defiant is ordered to protect a "troop convoy". According to major Kira, this convoy is "completely unprotected" and "there are over 30 thousand Federation troops in that convoy". I don't think Starfleet personnel is normally referred to as "troops", and the way they are transported doesn't sound very Starfleet either. It isn't explained in any further detail, but it does sound to me like they're soldiers specialized in fighting on a planet's surface, rather than starship crewmen.

DS9 also features small fighter-class spacecraft, by the way.


If you're looking for an actual example of a groundwar taking place in-canon, DS9 is where you need to look.

Nor the Battle to the Strong (DS9, Episode 5x04) takes Jake Sisko and Julian Bashir to a planet-bound medical infirmary where ground forces are indeed waging war. Though we don't get to see a lot of what happens, due to being 'behind the line', there are shield generators, artillery, and foot soldiers.

So while major intergalactic battles are still decided in space, there are indeed ground-based battles going on, and they are backed by the Federation.


Star Trek V featured the Starfleet Marines. They were the one who held up metal shields as they fired their phasers. They were not called that in the movie, but their unique uniforms and backpacks make it obvious that these are the Marines that Roddenberry had wanted to include in Star Trek.


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    Could you provide a quote indicating that Roddenberry wanted to include Marines in Star Trek? The idea of Starfleet Marines seems as if it might be non-canon. Also, if they are Starfleet Marines, they are still part of Starfleet, are they not?
    – Adamant
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 2:23
  • 1
    The closest I can get is IMDB imdb.com/title/tt0098382/trivia but there have been rumors of the Starfleet Marines for some time. So to your point, it would be non-canon.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 2:55

DS9 frequently made mention of "troops" in several episodes. There were also fighter craft during the Dominion War.

  • And while that's true, OP wanted to know if they were Starfleet or other-than-Starfleet
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 8:46

There was that lame Section 31 intelligence agency. But as originally envisioned by Roddenberry, Starfleet was a peace and diplomacy organization. Even when they were involved, it was more likely as a supplier of weapons for others in proxy war fashion. For instance, when the Romulans were faking Starfleet phaser rifles (TNG) it must have at least been plausible that they would do so, or the Romulans wouldn't bother. In season 1, there was even an episode where some admiral did supply weapons to both sides (the one that was aging backwards, ended up killing him).

Though, with the new JJ Abrams atrocity, anything's possible. He'll have Roger-Corman-style space tanks rolling around with treads that don't do anything.

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