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Astra Militarum

The Astra Militarum, commonly known as Imperial Guard, is the primary fighting force of the Imperium, so numerous in size that even the Departmento Munitorum cannot place a figure on the number of Guardsmen under arms at any one time; the lists of new recruits and toll of casualties can run into the millions in a single day. It would be unfeasible trying to put an exact number on the strength of the Guard; however, it is believed that there must be many billions of Guardsmen, divided into millions of regiments. This absolute numeracy provides the Guard with its main power; their ability to deploy in numbers that, eventually, result in victory. Attacking in seemingly endless influxes across battle-zones, charging forth under cover of massive barrages and delivering massed lasgun volleys, in the Guard the individual Human soldier may appear a lost thing, almost forgotten. Yet the actions of these anonymous soldiers daily decide the fate of worlds. In times of crisis, the Imperial Guard will call upon their deadliest of soldiers, whether they are the Imperium's famed Storm Troopers or the regimental elite Kasrkin and Grenadiers.

The Guard forms the very backbone of the Imperium; without it, Mankind would surely perish. Whilst regular Guardsmen are hardly the equals of Space Marines, fighting neither with the advantages of genetic enhancement or the most powerful personal weaponry, the Guard possesses the courage and the manpower to face and annihilate the enemies of the Emperor across the galaxy.

Origins of the Astra Militarum

The Astra Militarum, as the standing Human armed force of the Imperium, can trace its origin back to the days of the Great Crusade, several millennia ago, when it was a somewhat different organisation known as the Imperial Army. Following the events of the Horus Heresy, however, the Imperial Army was split into two organisations; the Astra Militarum, and the Imperial Navy. This was done to prevent the possibility of large-scale rebellions occurring again, as the new regulations ensured that the link between fleet and army was severed.

Since then, the Imperial Guard has endured the vast majority of the fighting in the Imperium's wars. Defending all fronts simultaneously, the Astra Militarum has crushed rebellions and alien empires alike.

Astra Militarum Structure

The Astra Militarum has numerous subdivisions, most notable of which are the Militarum Vendorum, Militarum Ordinatus, Militarum Auxilla, Militarum Tempestus, and Militarum Regimentos. In turn, the Astra Militarum is overseen by the Departmento Munitorum's Officio Prefectus (also known as the Commissariat).

The Astra Militarum's fighting forces are organised into largely autonomous regiments. These regiments are raised by the worlds of the Imperium that have been classified as fit for such a purpose. These regiments can be sent anywhere in the galaxy, potentially serving in designated combat-zones for years at a time. It is not considered likely that any Guardsman will return to their world of origin; a fading memory of home is considered one of the average Guardsman's most constant companions.

Whilst individual regiments are commanded by their own officers when regiments are combined together to form a battlegroup, the overall command is often placed with a general staff created explicitly for the purpose by the Departmento Munitorum. Such officers and tacticians are highly trained in their esoteric art of commanding from the rear and often stand in stark contrast to regimental commanders at the front, who more often than not lead by example.

Command Structure

The Astra Militarum is ultimately run by the Departmento Munitorum, who have three seats on the council of the High Lords of Terra. It provides all the supplies, equipment, training, and also some of the representatives sent to worlds with an Astra Militarum presence. While they do not directly control the prosecution of Imperial military strategy, they have devolved power to different sections of the Imperium, at the planetary level, subsector level and sector level. Each world compares the threat posed to them against a previously defined threat-level, and if it is deemed dangerous enough, the threat is passed to the subsector level, and troops from surrounding worlds may be mobilised. If the threat increases further a full-scale request to the sector level can see hundreds of worlds mobilising and converging on one system or group of systems.

However, this process is notoriously slow and inefficient due to the size and scope of the Imperium and its bureaucracy. A plea for aid may not be acted on for months, years, or even decades. As a result, cries for reinforcements can go unheeded for aeons and fleets often arrive to find that the planet they were sent to aid has long since been destroyed.

Regimental Structure

The regiment is the primary unit of the Astra Militarum. Recruited from a single planet at a single raising, it is founded as a complete entity, complete with its own officer, supply, and support cadres. It should be noted, however, that like most everything else in the Guard, the precise details of even these essential elements can vary widely from world to world. Whilst the majority of the regiment, even the non-combatant personnel, will come from their founding world, the Commissars assigned to it are always off-worlders.

After being raised, the regiment is shipped to its posting; they receive their training during the voyage. Their posting can be directly into the heart of a warzone, or it may be to garrison or outpost duty.

An Astra Militarum regiment is essentially a temporary unit, unlike the Space Marine chapters. After being formed, they usually receive no further reinforcements. It is rarely practical for regiments to receive new recruits from their homeworlds to replace casualties, mainly due to the immense distances between a regiment's homeworld and its posting. The costs, risks, and time-lag difficulties involved in transporting relatively few soldiers to reinforce their brethren rarely justify themselves, especially when alternate and more efficient means of reinforcement tend to exist. If on garrison or outpost duty, an Astra Militarum regiment may be able to recruit from the local population. If on active combat duty, two or more under-strength regiments may be merged together to create a new regiment at full strength. This can result in regiments being bolstered by troopers from their own homeworld, such as in the case of the Valhallan 597th Ice Warriors, or can result in a true mongrel unit, with the Guardsmen included coming from several different worlds (such as the Tanith First and Only).

If any regiment survives for long enough, it can eventually receive reinforcement from children born to the Guardsmen who have been raised inside the regiment and can normally be expected to join it upon reaching the required age. These new recruits, officially designated as "probiters", but more commonly called Whiteshields. Are formed into their own platoons where they receive their latter combat training by taking part in actual combat until they are ready to join the regiment as Guardsmen proper.

One known notable exception to this reinforcement rule is that of Vostroyan Firstborn regiments; due to the peculiar background of the Vostroyans, their Guard regiments are reinforced in the field by new recruits sent out by their homeworld, despite the difficulties involved. Another exception to this rule is the Caledonian Regiments who when in the field, reinforce from a pool of reserve regiments that are posted to major military hub/supply worlds in the region.

When reinforcement does not occur, for whatever reason, regiments may find themselves gradually depleted through casualties until they are destroyed in battle or mustered out for meritorious service. The former incidence is much more likely to occur than the latter.

The Regiments of the Astra Militarum

There are countless thousands of regiments spread throughout the galaxy. Some are garrisoning worlds, others are part of campaigns or crusades, and some have even been forgotten about by the Departmento Munitorum and Administratum. As such, there has never been and never will be an absolutely complete list of regiments available for combat.

Some of the most notable regiments include:

  • Armageddon Steel Legion

  • Attilan Rough Riders

  • Cadian Shock Troopers

  • Catachan Jungle Fighters

  • Death Korps of Krieg

  • Elysian Drop Troops

  • Mordian Iron Guard

  • Praetorian Guard

  • Tallarn Desert Raiders

  • Tanith First and Only

  • Valhallan Ice Warriors

  • Vostroyan Firstborn

The Astra Militarum on the Field of Battle

The Astra Militarum's countless regiments include all manner of infantry, cavalry - mechanised and mounted alike - artillery, and war engines. Each particular regiment is normally uniform in organisation inside itself, and often seem to specialise in one particular form of war. For instance, light infantry regiments can barely demonstrate any motorised transport and certainly possess no weapons that are not man-portable. In contrast, an artillery regiment contains little else. This ensures that the Imperial Guard are at their strongest when multiple regiments are massed together, and is itself another deliberate structure to ensure that large-scale rebellion by a military commander is difficult to organise.

The armoury of the Astra Militarum is vast and covers many aspects of the equipment necessary for the survival of a fighting force in many different environments. It ranges from portable Vox-casters, communications units, to medals denoting promotion and excellence in battle.

Despite the technological immensity that the Astra Militarum can deliver to the battlefield, the cold fact of the matter is that the most important resource of the Guard is the seemingly limitless number of bodies it can deploy to contest its objectives. It does not matter the number of casualties it may take to win a battle. The Imperial Guard will devote many thousands of men to overcome a small goal as the Space Marines would devote a few hundred.

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