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. 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. 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 restricting food rations. As time passed, their strict control became permanent, leading to the military consolidating a dictatorship within the cities they occupied.
The player encounters the military in the Boston Quarantine Zone. 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
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. 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 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. 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.
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, 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Living within the walls, however, was considered to be a safer life than those living outside of the Quarantine Zone.
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.
While crossing through a building, the trio encounter 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 are becoming increasingly desperate to find supplies to keep the QZ from falling apart. They learn the soldiers (officer Waters, Private Shah, Private Coolidge and Private Atwater) had encountered Infected but died while awaiting reinforcements. 
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.
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. 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 how to kill Fireflies. 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 fire fight, 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Ellie can find recordings of their predicament left all around the shopping mall.
The military has changed drastically since the early outbreak. They use flashlight-mounted assault rifles 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. Some soldiers even use revolvers, (which had long since fallen out of use by modern armies) likely due to their versatility as well as lack of options.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Military still makes use of Humvees, some mounting .50 caliber machine guns or loudspeakers, and a wrecked M35 truck was seen in Lincoln. Strangely, it appeared to be a short-body variant. Several long-abandoned ones were seen scattered across the country, and the Fireflies apparently made use of some at the University of Eastern Colorado. Two burned-out M2 Bradley IFVs were seen in Pittsburgh. Another long-abandoned one was seen in the FEDRA camp in Salt Lake City. It is unknown where they get fuel for these vehicles, but Bill's dialogue would suggest that they scavenge it from abandoned vehicles. Another possibility is that they've figured out how to produce biofuels, or simply still have access to petroleum reserves.
It is interesting to note that no 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. A crashed military helicopter, possibly a UH-60 Blackhawk, appears in Left Behind, indicating that there are still a handful in use.
The Military are 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 are 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.
However, the Hunters and Fireflies combined forces was enough to defeat the military in cities like Pittsburgh, greater numbers contesting the military's training and resources. The Washington Liberation Front were also able to defeat the military forces stationed in Seattle..
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. Alternately, 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. A mounted patrol was also overrun, crashing into Lincoln high school. Even a four man unit lost two men when facing just one Runner. These defeats are likely due to the military rarely encountering Infected, unlike the Cannibals, who face them daily to find supplies. 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.
- 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.
- Soldiers often refer to other survivors as "stragglers", especially if they live outside the QZ walls.
- Of the factions seen, the military are the most powerful (and organized) human faction left in post-CBI America, with the Fireflies being second.
- 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 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, 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 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.
The Last of Us
- ↑ See the radio broadcast
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 The Quarantine Zone
- ↑ Such as Colorado
- ↑ For instance, the Hunters took over Pittsburgh as did the Fireflies in Salt Lake City
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Hometown
- ↑ Evacuation Leaflet
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Warning Note
- ↑ Graffiti on checkpoint walls stating they weren't distributing food regularly
- ↑ Soldiers killed two people found positive straight away
- ↑ Fun and Games
- ↑ Hunters rioted against this in Pittsburgh
- ↑ Note to Brother
- ↑ The Outskirts
- ↑ Tess claimed rations must be low
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Field Ops Log
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 Capitol
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Bill's Town
- ↑ Back in a Flash
- ↑ American Dreams - Issue 3
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 20.2 Salon Note
- ↑ Generator Note
- ↑ Atrium Recorder
- ↑ Duct Recorder
- ↑ Others are Atrium Note and Crew Photo
- ↑ Joel shoots several in the head but it merely knocks the helmet off
- ↑ see University
- ↑ Bus Depot
- ↑ Evacuation Leaflet
- ↑ For instance, Boston, where the Fireflies retreated after suffering high losses
- ↑ Final Attack Note
- ↑ The Last of Us Part II - State of Play
- ↑ The Enemy of My Enemy
- ↑ Ellie referred to a soldier who confiscated her water guns as this.
- ↑ 34.0 34.1 Lost Hill Note
- ↑ General of the Boston Q.Z.
|Main Characters||Ellie · Riley Abel|
|Supporting Characters||Winston Asher · Princess · Marlene|
|Groups||Survivors · The Infected · Fireflies · The Military · Smugglers|
|Fireflies||Marlene · Kerry|
|The Military||Winston Asher · Princess · Corporal "Dickhead"|
|Other Characters||Roberta Coen · Anna|
|Main Characters||Ellie · Riley Abel|
|Supporting Characters||Joel · Callus|
|Groups||Survivors · The Infected · Fireflies · The Military · Cannibals|
|The Infected||Runners · Stalkers · Clickers|
|Fireflies||Marlene · Riley Abel · Melanie|
|The Military||Winston Asher · Princess · Major Banks · Regan Francis · Eugene Ellis · Sean Brendon · Larry Caulfield|
|Other Survivors||Tino · Anna · Laura · Pharmacist|