All I can say to that is this: The next time I have to make a combat drop, I want the men on my flanks to be graduates of Camp Currie or its Siberian equivalent. Otherwise I’ll refuse to enter the capsule. (R.A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers")

This paragraph makes it sound like the entire Earth only has 2 boot camps for Mobile Infantry - with another one added later on in-universe that Rico's father went through:

"Well, I trained at Camp San Martin—" "Huh? Not Currie?"
"New one"

Yet, MI seems to be the main grunt branch of Earth military engaged in a pretty wide-scale war, with at least tens of thousands if not millions of troopers.

Since every MI would go through one of those boot camps, this seems to limit the army size greatly; a single graduating class is less than 50:

What the sweat-down meant, really, was much more personal instruction; we had more corporal-instructors than we had squads and Sergeant Zim, with only fifty men on his mind instead of the two hundred and sixty he had started with, kept his Argus eyes on each one of us all the time -- even when he wasn't there. At least, if you goofed, it turned out he was standing right behind you.

This seems like a contradiction. Did I get my details wrong somehow? Or did RAH explain the contradiction away in some other quote?

UPDATE: Found this quote about camp sizes - the initial quote about 260 recruits per Sergeant Zim discounted the fact that there were more than one company in the camp (Zim was "H company commander" so there were other companies):

I did Basic at Camp Arthur Currie on the northern prairies, along with a couple of thousand other victims


Well, the Third Regiment was much smaller now, too less than four hundred whereas we had started out with more than two thousand. H Company was now organized as a single platoon and the battalion paraded as if it were a company. But we were still called "H Company" and Zim was "Company Commander," not platoon leader.

Still, "couple of thousand" seems like less than 5000, and given the attrition rate of 1:5 in the original quote, that means a graduating class is less than 1000. The numbers still don't seem to add up as far as staffing the entire MI from just 2 boot camps.

  • It was never clear to me how many training companies were active at Camp Currie while Rico was there, the output of the camps could be rather larger than one class every few months. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 19:27
  • 1
    Say 500 graduates per camp a few times per year makes circa 3000 new MI per year. A five year hitch means 15000 on term plus the cadre they rope into career who are on 20 year hitches suggests 2 divisions as the nominal peacetime strength. But that's just BoTE. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 19:34
  • Only I misremembered the length of a term. It should be two years, which means we need the camps cycling much faster to get enough MI. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 19:44
  • 2
    I considered the Mobile Infantry to be the equivalent of the Marine Corps. A small elite fighting force used as a sledgehammer to break open enemy lines. I suspect though it is never confirmed there is a second set of military ground forces taking the role of the US Army and occupying sites over a longer term whose job it is to hold planets taken by the Mobile Infantry. Otherwise the numbers used to designate the MI don't make sense unless the war is being fought on just a few worlds. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 20:38
  • 9
    Does that quote really imply there are only 2 boot camps? I.e. is he saying that next time he only wants to be dropped with MI (doesn't that already go without saying?) or is he saying he wants to only be dropped with the toughest soldiers who graduated from the toughest bootcamps (either Camp Currie or its Siberian equivalent--i.e. the toughest camp in Siberia). According to the Starship Troopers Wikia, the book mentions 2 MI bootcamps in Siberia, so it seems likely that there are at least 3, if not more, bootcamps on Earth. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 20:51

3 Answers 3


Say 500 graduates per camp a few times per year makes circa 3000 new MI per year.

A two year hitch means 6000 on term plus the cadre they rope into career who are on 20 year hitches which suggests less than one division as the nominal peacetime strength.

He[Ace] grinned sourly. "Do you see any term enrollees being paid off today? You expect to make it on two years?"

If you assume that Juan's "two thousand" were those entering with his class, and that several classes were active at once, we can have say eight classes graduating per year.

That gives us about 16000 term MI and allows us to have two full divisions at peacetime strength. Allow twelve graduating classes and maybe we have three peacetime divisions.

Three camps, a compressed training schedule and non-termination of "term" hitches could allow as many as 5--7 divisions during the war, but we have to allow for greatly increased attrition, leaving me guessing at 4--5 divisions.

Still doesn't seem like very many for a interstellar power-projection force, does it? But maybe Heinlein is assuming that the Navy carries most of the big threat, and MI is used judiciously.

  • 1
    Not just "assuming": it's pointed out several times in the book that the purpose of the MI is precision application of force.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 21:34

I took it to mean two in peacetime when Juan Rico signed up, but that they added more later in wartime (with abbreviated training and no Sundays off) as Emilio relates to him later.

With possibilities for multiple training regiments each for no less than 3 Camps, they could only be limited by the number of volunteers.


I think what Rico was saying is that he wants his comrades to have training at least as tough as his was.

Given the interstellar nature of the Federation, I rather think each planet had a basic training center. It's expensive to transport recruits to another planet especially given the high rate of failure.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.