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Starfleet, while not an overt military organization, does have a military component. This component , designated for sensitive covert operations behind enemy lines during times of war, and surveillance and clandestine actions during times of conflict and concern.
While early Starfleet had MACO’s, it was felt that their skills would not be enough to operate in an autonomous environment without direct support. The decision was made to form covert operations groups based on the United States Navy SEALS and the Russian equivalent, the Spetsnaz. There was some initial resistance to forming such groups, but it was realized that such groups were needed in some manner, just as the Starfleet Marines were needed for those times when aggression needed to be tamped down when words were no longer effective. On Stardate 234501.01, the Special Operations Group, known as The Shadows, were officially reformed.
These groups would be assembled from the best warriors from around Starfleet, capable of operating alone or with groups, to achieve mission success and gather important information for Starfleet and the Federation. They have served in every conflict since then, their numbers and missions highly classified and deliberately unremarked, since acknowledging their existence may cause diplomatic issues and unwelcome ramifications among allies and potential enemies.
The requirements for entry were brutal. One could not volunteer to join the Shadows...one had to be invited. These invitations were given to individuals who had shown uncommon valor in combat, extreme intelligence, and an unflinching ability to visit violence upon an enemy, the skills needed to become “better than the best”.
Initial Shadows training took place at the former SEAL Beach near San Diego, California. The training was brutal, with a 95 percent washout rate. Invitees undergo several months of non stop hell, but to even get beyond an accepted invitation, the prospective had to be able to :
Run 1.5 miles in less than five minutes; Perform 150 pushups in two minutes; Swim 500 meters using breast or side stroke in eight minutes, thirty seconds; Perform 100 sit ups in two minutes; Perform fifty pull ups; Carry one hundred and fifty pounds one hundred yards in thirty seconds or less; Shoot no less than 95 percent with a standard phaser rifle and one hundred percent with the weapon of your choice on a course with twenty targets of varying size and range in less than three minutes; Spar with three unarmed instructors (holograms) using your self defense skills. Winning each engagement is not the goal. Your aggressiveness in engaging each individual, your reactions to their movements is what matters. The course is arranged so that you will have to stalk each individual and neutralize the threat before moving on to the next; Use the bladed weapon of your choice to engage targets by either throwing or attacking. For this exercise, the targets will be holograms; Complete all tasks in less than eight hours under the watch of three instructors. Once the tasks are complete (if they are completed), there must be a unanimous decision among the three instructors for an applicant to move on into Shadows training.
Once accepted, the prospective Shadow goes through several months of programmed hell, pushing and exceeding their physical limits while learning the finer points of:
Sabotage; Personal combat; Escape and evasion; Cover and concealment; Environmental combat: the ability to fight on land, sea, air, and space; Flight training (all Shadows are qualified pilots); Pain tolerance; Explosives ( conventional and unconventional); Intelligence gathering; Diving and high altitude operations.
Should Shadow training become too much for a prospective operative, an ancient brass bell, one used by the original SEALS, adorns the porch of the Shadows CO’s office. Ring it, and you are done with no recriminations and you will be returned to the regular fleet, and your record will only note you were on “detached service”.
For the survivors, graduating means ten days of grueling operations, the first three days with minimal sleep, the last seven days with none, culminating in the final exercise, a mock operation which requires a successful evolution to graduate. If one fails to carry out their mission, the entire team fails.
Upon success, there is no graduation ceremony to speak of...only a small insignia denoting that you were now truly the best of the best...a Shadow. Although few in number and dispersed through the fleet among starships, starbases and embassies, they provide a valuable tool during peacetime, and a fearsome opponent during war.