Any straggler even looks at me the wrong way, I put his ass down.
— A remark by a Boston soldier.

The United States Armed Forces, often simply referred to as The Military, appear as an enemy group in The Last of Us and are mentioned in The Last of Us Part II. By 2033, the military, along with the Center for Disease Control and Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA), are the only known remnants of the United States government left.

At some point after the initial CBI outbreak, FEDRA and the military replaced the civilian leadership of the U.S. government, imposing martial law and dissolving the other organs of state.[3] To keep the citizens under watch, the military transformed most cities into Quarantine Zones, preventing citizens from leaving the city, subjecting them to forced labor, and when supplies were low, even restricting basic food rations. As time passed, their strict control became permanent, leading to the military consolidating a dictatorship within the cities they occupied. The Washington Liberation Front subsequently compared them to fascists.[4]

Twenty years later, the military only exercises power over a small number of fortified cities, most notably Boston[5] as most have been either destroyed, abandoned,[6] or taken over by rebels.[7]

The player encounters the military in the Boston Quarantine Zone.[5] Early on, pistol-wielding soldiers without body armor are encountered, but soldiers in body armor and riot helmets will begin to appear more often as time progresses, with assault rifles supplementing their pistols. Infected members of the military are also present in the game, located mostly in the Boston outskirts.


Events of The Last of Us

Early outbreak

A soldier during the initial outbreak.

During the early outbreak, military forces and local law enforcement attempted to contain the outbreak. As Sarah watches a news report, a soldier in the background orders his men to leave the area due to a gas leak nearby. An explosion interrupts the broadcast before the newscaster can be warned. When Joel, Tommy and Sarah attempt to escape the infection, they witness that the military set up roadblocks along the highways, causing a large traffic jam.

The military also resorted to shooting civilians suspected of infection, including children; in one instance, a soldier reluctantly attempts to execute Joel and Sarah after being ordered to do so by his chain of command with only Joel surviving due to Tommy's intervention.[8] As social order collapsed, the remaining U.S. military forces were deployed into major cities and created massive quarantine zones to contain the masses and isolate the infection. The Air Force carpet-bombed the surrounding areas of some of the quarantine zones, significantly the downtown area of Boston, with the objective of killing as many of the infected as possible, while also creating buffer zones.[9] The military and FEDRA are later depicted as working together, possibly as the result of the former seizing control of the latter, or vice versa.

A soldier 20 years into the outbreak.

Late outbreak

In 2033, 20 years later, they currently hold Quarantine Zones in the remains of major cities such as Boston. However, they have abandoned others, such as Hartford,[10] and were defeated by Fireflies and civilian rioters in others, like Pittsburgh; both instances were due to running out of supplies to protect the citizens in the QZs.[11] The military aims to contain all uninfected individuals in these Quarantine Zones, and keep anyone from leaving without permission, using barriers to cordon off certain areas in the city. There are regular checkpoints throughout these zones where civilians are required to present papers, and there are also random infection checks, with the military killing infected people immediately via lethal injection or outright shooting them.[12]

Some citizens from Hartford were trying to sneak into the Boston QZ during the Summer of 2033. Sergeant Asher encountered them and killed the ones that were Infected. He wrote to his superior Major Banks regarding the incident, asking for more patrols, but didn't expect the officer to reply as he felt he was incompetent and the military were running low on supplies at the time.[10]

A soldier manned the intercom daily, giving out reports on the status of the city and reminding residents of their daily shifts, work duties, and curfews. Riley and Ellie mocked her voice while walking through Liberty Gardens.[13]

While walking through the Boston QZ, Joel, along with Tess, can overhear residents at the rations center remarking over the continued half rations situation and saying, "I bet those fucking uniforms over there don't get half rations." Many civilians believed the military kept supplies for themselves, rather than share equally with the inhabitants they protect.[14] Living within the walls, however, was considered to be a safer life than those living outside of the Quarantine Zone.[15]

A civilian watching in line warns another citizen complaining about receiving half rations about talking too loudly, due to fear of soldiers hearing them. Despite him ignoring his friend's warning and continuing to talk rather loudly, the soldiers ignore him. This suggests that some soldiers don't bother arresting people for sedition, despite it being a crime according to FEDRA, a sign of growing frustration for all living in the Quarantine Zone.

When Joel and Tess are smuggling Ellie outside of Boston, they are surprised by two soldiers patrolling the outskirts who subdue Joel and order Tess and Ellie to put their hands on the heads and kneel down. When scanned for infection, Ellie stabs the soldier in the leg, causing the soldier to knock her down. Joel tackles him, wrestles his gun away, and kills him; Tess shoots the other dead before making their escape. Humvees and infantry pour into the area to search for them but eventually retreat when they lose track of the group. Such implies any "stragglers" found outside the Boston wall are sent back to the QZ and charged, as Joel and Tess were going to be escorted back before Ellie was scanned.[16]

While crossing through a building, the trio encounters dead soldiers and several who had turned into Runners, who had left the zone to search even the severely damaged downtown for supplies despite the high risk. This implies the military is becoming increasingly desperate to find supplies to keep the QZ from falling apart.[17] They learn the soldiers (officer Waters, Private Shah, Private Coolidge, and Private Atwater) had encountered Infected but died while awaiting reinforcements. [18]

By morning, the military caught up to the trio at the Capitol Building, having earlier killed the Fireflies that they were supposed to rendezvous with. Tess killed two soldiers before dying, while Joel and Ellie evaded the others via fighting past various squads of soldiers before making it to the subway line, narrowly avoiding being shot at by a Humvee.[19]

They are shown to conduct vehicle patrols that go outside the walls to search for anything worth taking. One such patrol was overrun by Infected and crashed into Lincoln high school. Bill wanted to steal the battery from a truck, as the military are the only ones who make new batteries any more.[20] This indicates that they have at least some industrial capacity; given how it seems standard policy for smugglers to be captured if possible, it is possible the military uses prisoners as labor to allow troops to focus on their duties.

Events of American Dreams

The military has little tolerance for Fireflies and their sympathizers. They cause "disappearances" and summarily execute civilians suspected of being Fireflies. According to Ellie, they even train teenagers at their military preparatory schools on how to kill Fireflies.[21] The military, in their mission to eliminate the Fireflies, engaged them in key points throughout Boston. At one point, they successfully pinned them down in the streets, nearly succeeding in defeating all of Marlene's squad. However, Riley Abel, situated on a roof above the firefight, intervened by tossing smoke grenades at them, disrupting their line of fire, enabling the Fireflies to escape. The soldiers attempted to shoot Riley, but she escaped.[22]

Events of Left Behind

The military has an "infection protocol" in place; with no cure discovered, all personnel that become infected are to be executed immediately. This includes civilians. In notes collected in the Left Behind DLC, Chief Warrant Officer Larry Caulfield was executed by Captain Regan after the former was bitten when their helicopter crashed at the Colorado Mountain Plaza. The pilot, Sean Brendon, was also bitten but died upon impact.[23] Regan later showed regret, writing that she "shot him like a dog" while he begged and tried to tell her that he still had time left.[24] However, when Private Ellis got bit, Regan immediately amputated his right arm, thinking it would prevent the fungus from infecting him. With no recorded precedent of a human ever surviving a bite via amputation, the two wondered whether Regan's actions were right or not. Regan initially thought of abandoning Ellis but later decided to stay with him.[25] Ellis later killed her out of fear that he would be killed when she reached for her gun and died of his injuries in an air duct after escaping from some Infected.[26] Ellie can find recordings of their predicament left all around the shopping mall.[27]

Events of The Last of Us: Part II

By 2038, the military and FEDRA suffered a tremendous defeat at the hands of the Washington Liberation Front in the Seattle QZ. At some point, the WLF began a successful rebellion against the military authorities. They recruited many to their cause with propaganda leaflets and rallies.[28] A large number of army troops and FEDRA personnel were killed by the rebels in a series of ambushes and battles, and even with significant defenses (including at least two M1 Abrams tanks and massive fortifications) and the successful elimination of several key members of the WLF. The numbers and tactics of the WLF finally caused the military to pull out of the city. Some soldiers escorted key civilians, including a local rabbi and her family out of the city as it began to fall.[29] Those who stayed to ensure the last FEDRA evacuees escaped were ambushed and killed in the final convoy out of the city. The QZ Commander, Carmelo Torres, stayed behind with a handful of soldiers in the zone headquarters to ensure that the last evacuees escaped. There he penned a note to Paul Douglas at FEDRA Headquarters conceding that the zone was lost.[30] They were subsequently attacked and killed by members of the WLF after their successful attack on the convoy. 

Given the massive size of the zone and the presence of only a scattered few groups of military corpses, plus notes insinuating earlier evacuations of FEDRA personnel and sympathizers, a portion of the military force assigned to Seattle managed to pull out successfully.[31]

The military had listening posts on the outskirts of Quarantine Zones in order to monitor radio transmissions.[32] The military also dispatched troops to deal with nests of Infected in buildings surrounding the zone.[33] One such patrol was sent to the Hotel Blacray to clear the Infected present by planting explosives. However, their efforts failed, leading to the hotel surviving the blast but trapping the soldiers inside with the Infected. Stalkers eventually killed the soldiers.[34] 

During the initial outbreak, it is revealed that the military and FEDRA had a large presence at the Seattle general hospital which by that point was being overrun by Infected. It is insinuated that the hospital contained critical research regarding the CBI outbreak, as the military had sacrificed a significant amount of troops to retrieve files contained in the overrun lower levels of the facility.[35]

Dialogue in the game also hints that FEDRA and the US military were active fairly recently in New Mexico, battling a rebel group known as the Ravens.[36]


Hand-held gear

The military has changed drastically since the early outbreak. They use assault rifles with mounted flashlights and wear gas masks and body armor, but clearly don't have enough to spare for every soldier to use. Thus, many soldiers go without adequate protection, and/or are forced to use 9mm pistols as their primary weapons.[5] Some soldiers even use revolvers.[19] They also use smoke grenades when facing against Firefly militia.[37]

Their uniforms have changed completely; they now wear blue uniforms (possibly the Operational Dress Uniform). Their old uniforms were likely replaced due to deterioration over the course of 20 years, and the military's limited industrial capacity made it easier for them to produce plain blue uniforms rather than camouflage; possibly since the latter would need to be produced in greater quantities, due to requiring forest, urban, winterized versions and so forth. In addition to their standard uniforms, some soldiers wear ballistic vests and police-style riot helmets. These riot helmets are likely used to protect the face from attacks by hostile survivors and infected, although they are shown to function in the capacity of a combat helmet as well, being capable of saving the wearer from a headshot with a firearm.[38] Handheld scanners have been developed, which allow troops to easily test individuals for infection. They are very accurate, one correctly identifying Ellie as infected within seconds.[5]

A standard military scanner. It scans for traces of infection.

During the initial outbreak, a soldier is seen wearing a uniform with woodland camouflage commonly seen as part of a MOPP Suit worn by soldiers during chemical warfare. Coupled with the gas mask, this implies that the government believed (not incorrectly) that the disease could have been airborne or spread by physical contact, explaining the high amounts of protection.[8]

Types of soldiers

In The Last of Us, there are three types of soldiers that are encountered. Some soldiers are armored and often wield assault rifles more than pistols. They patrol on top of buildings and guard checkpoints, as well as being the primary troops who conduct operations outside the safety of the wall, such as patrols or supply runs. These appear to be the "regulars" of the military.

Other, non-armored troops are seen to only have blue uniforms and field caps, carrying pistols more than assault rifles. These lightly-equipped soldiers are mostly encountered inside of the Boston wall, so it can be assumed that they are recruits or some form of city defense force. Although their jobs appear to be centered more on policing than combat, they are encountered in the same squads as heavier troops in some situations.[19]

Another type of soldier is also seen just once, who cannot be fought. They carry assault rifles and wear HAZMAT suits, gas masks, and oxygen tanks. They deal with environments that are contaminated by spores, such as the condemned apartment building where civilians are hiding during the beginning of the game. Their equipment appears to offer enhanced protection from spores over just having a respirator; their oxygen tanks suggest that they can operate in spore-contaminated zones for longer periods of time than other troops.[5]


The Military still use M939s along with Humvees and mounted .50 caliber machine guns and loudspeakers. A wrecked M35 truck was also seen in Lincoln, appearing to be a short-body variant. Several long-abandoned ones were seen scattered across the country, and the Fireflies once used of some at the University of Eastern Colorado.[39] Two burned-out M2 Bradley IFVs were seen in Pittsburgh. Another long-abandoned one was seen in the FEDRA camp in Salt Lake City.[40] Bill's dialogue suggests that they scavenge fuel from abandoned vehicles.

It is interesting to note that no operational aircraft are seen post-outbreak, although Tess explains after leaving the Boston Quarantine Zone that the military carpet-bombed the city around the QZ to create a buffer zone and kill as many of the Infected as possible.[41] A crashed military helicopter, possibly a UH-60 Blackhawk, appears in Left Behind, indicating that there is still a handful in use.


The Military is the strongest faction encountered in the game, rivaled only by elite members of the Fireflies, as they still have access to assault rifles, body armor, and Humvees despite being fought at such an early stage. The military is so strong that the Fireflies actions to defeat them have proved mostly futile, with the military resisting many terrorist attacks on checkpoints and rioting in various cities throughout post-apocalyptic America.[42]

However, the Hunters and Fireflies combined forces were enough to defeat the military in cities like Pittsburgh, greater numbers contesting the military's training and resources.[43] The Washington Liberation Front was also able to defeat the military garrison stationed in Seattle, even after suffering heavy casualties due to a string of successful military counter-insurgency operations.[44]

Regardless, lone survivors typically struggle. Engaging them in a firefight is ill-advised due to the player lacking powerful guns and ammunition. As such, stealth killing or simply sneaking past them is preferable. However, if faced in smaller or weaker numbers (like in the Capitol building or the abandoned railway station underneath it) the player could face them head-on then since they only use pistols rather than assault rifles.

Joel and Tess managed to overpower the two soldiers who attempted to arrest them after Ellie distracted one. Tess shot one dead while Joel easily tackled and killed the other one, displaying poor training in hand-to-hand combat, despite having better equipment. Alternatively, they may not have expected trouble from three seemingly ordinary survivors.

Of the groups shown to face Infected, the military has actually lost a lot of their soldiers despite being the best-trained and equipped faction left. The squad that encountered Infected in downtown Boston were overrun, many becoming infected or being killed.[18] A mounted patrol was also overrun, crashing into Lincoln high school.[20] Even a four-man unit lost two men when facing just one Runner.[23] These losses are likely due to the QZ stationed soldiers rarely encountering Infected, unlike the Cannibals, who face them daily to find supplies.[45] The higher casualties for the Military could also be due to the more dangerous nature of urban combat, especially at night. However, there was one account where a soldier defeated three Runners by himself, without being bitten.[10]


  • Bumping into a guard in the Boston quarantine zone causes them to shove the player back and give a warning. Bumping into the same guard twice will make them knock the player down and fire a shot into their head instantly killing them.
  • As with other factions, the military recruits females but they are not encountered during in-game combat. Regardless female Runners outfitted within military uniforms and gear can be fought in The Outskirts.
  • Mentioned in a drafting notice, the highest-ranking member of the Boston QZ is a General.
  • On the photo mode of the Remastered edition, the military ironically register as friendlies until the player faces them at the Capitol building.
  • Some soldiers are seen to have radio contact with "Ops", as they refer to it. The purpose of "Ops" appears to be relaying intelligence to soldiers, such as notifying them if any personnel have been killed in the area.
  • "CENTCOM" is mentioned on some QZ military signs. "CENTCOM" presumably means "Central Command". In real life, the United States Central Command is a theater-level command that is concerned with the Middle East. In the game, it likely refers to a city-level command.
  • The US Army guards Boston, evidenced by the word 'ARMY' being visible on soldiers' chest patches. Also, "US Army" is visible on many of the locking devices placed on doors in various areas.
    • It can be assumed that the remaining police forces in the US were integrated into the military.
    • The military also primarily uses police-esque uniforms; very similar to the uniforms of the US coast guard, as well as Finnish police
    • The symbol on their right shoulder is very similar to the coat of arms of the Finnish Police, also worn on the shoulder.
  • Considering the circumstances, it can be also presumed that the solider's attire double as NBC suits,[citation needed] providing them with limited protection against virulent agents or encounters with the infection, though their effectiveness against bites and other forms of transmission are unknown.
    • Likewise, all soldiers stationed inside the Boston safe zone wear sleeves-rolled-up as where most operating outside tuck them in with their gloves.
    • In the first section of The Quarantine Zone, several civilians tasked with duties outside the walls are shown wearing similar uniforms to military personal. However, these suits are colored yellow instead of blue, displaying their status as workers instead of soldiers.
  • Military helicopters are briefly seen flying by in the prologue of the game.
    • Interestingly, the crashed helicopter in Left Behind bears an incorrect paint scheme and markings. Blackhawks that are used for medical evacuation would be painted an overall dark grayish-green, with small Red Cross markings on the nose and side doors.
  • According to Marlene's diary, there was at least one battalion (300-1000 troops) assigned to Boston. However, the presence of a general officer[46] suggests a larger force. If this commander is a Brigadier General, they likely command a brigade (2,000-4,000 troops). If they are a Major General, there might be an entire division (10,000-15,000 troops), which seems more likely given the Denver QZ had the entire 4th Infantry Division stationed there.[23]
  • The corpses of Denver QZ soldiers discovered in the events of the Left Behind DLC were green in color and lacked the protective vests and equipment of other US Army soldiers post-outbreak. Interestingly enough, in the photo discovered of the crew before the mission, they are seen in the Standard Issue US Army uniform utilized in the 2030s. It is unknown why there was such a discrepancy, but it may have had to do with their status as a medical unit. 
  • An M1 Abrams tank that can be found in Seattle while exploring the downtown area with Dina bears markings "USMC 198533", identifying that it had previously belonged to the United States Marine Corps.


The Last of Us

Left Behind

American Dreams


  1. Ellie referred to a soldier who confiscated her water guns as this.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lost Hill Note
  3. See the radio broadcast
  4. WLF Recruiter Journal
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 The Quarantine Zone
  6. Such as Colorado
  7. For instance, the Hunters took over Pittsburgh as did the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. The Washington Liberation Front also did likewise in Seattle
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hometown
  9. Evacuation Leaflet
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Warning Note
  11. Graffiti on checkpoint walls stating they weren't distributing food regularly
  12. Soldiers killed two people found positive straight away
  13. Fun and Games
  14. Hunters rioted against this in Pittsburgh
  15. Note to Brother
  16. The Outskirts
  17. Tess claimed rations must be low
  18. 18.0 18.1 Field Ops Log
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Capitol
  20. 20.0 20.1 Bill's Town
  21. Back in a Flash
  22. American Dreams - Issue 3
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Salon Note
  24. Generator Note
  25. Atrium Recorder
  26. Duct Recorder
  27. Others are Atrium Note and Crew Photo
  28. Join WLF Note (Downtown)
  29. Rabbi Saunders' Letter
  30. Lt. Torres' Final Memorandum
  31. FEDRA Orders
  32. Lone FEDRA Soldier Journal 2
  33. Lone FEDRA Soldier Journal 1
  34. Seattle Day 3 (Abby)
  35. FEDRA Final Note
  36. Seattle Day 1 (Ellie)
  37. See the fourth issue of American Dreams
  38. Joel shoots several in the head but it merely knocks the helmet off
  39. see University
  40. Bus Depot
  41. Evacuation Leaflet
  42. For instance, Boston, where the Fireflies retreated after suffering high losses
  43. Final Attack Note
  44. The Last of Us Part II - State of Play
  45. The Enemy of My Enemy
  46. General of the Boston Q.Z.


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