Imperial Stormtroopers: crack troops or crap troops?
Mediaeval Historian Rory Cox considers the Empire’s conscription standards
The faceless body armour undoubtedly lent the Stormtroopers an aura of menace and combat capability. But recruiting troops for a generation long inter-galactic conflict presented major challenges to Imperial recruiters. The largest armed forces ever assembled on the planet Earth (Milky Way Galaxy) numbered around 12.5 million Allied troops during World War Two. At its height during the Galactic Civil War, the Imperial Army numbered billions, if not trillions, of troops. With such vast numbers of men and women under arms, a degradation of standards was inevitable.
The urgency to maintain combat strength resulted in the physical fitness of recruits being increasingly overlooked. Length of time dedicated to training was also drastically reduced. New recruits received as little as six weeks combat training before being deployed on the front line – directly comparable to recruits during Earth’s First World War. During the medieval and early modern periods, Earthling monarchs would even unload the contents of their gaols into their armed forces. Convicts would serve under arms in return for a royal pardon. Coincidentally, the rates of arson, rape, theft, and the killing of non-combatants were all surprisingly high when these armies went on campaign. We see evidence of similar processes having occurred in the Stormtooper Corps, with the infamous killing of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in the massacre of Tatooine.
The impact of such policies on the combat capability of the Stormtrooper Corps is obvious to those familiar with Imperial-Rebel Alliance military history. Despite being equipped with the latest weapons technology, including the E-11 Blaster rifle, these raw and reluctant recruits couldn’t hit a tree in the woods of Endor, let alone a Rebel soldier. New Stormtroopers were provided with insufficient psychological combat training, and proved highly suggestive to Jedi mind tricks. Indeed, Stormtroopers frequently displayed less mental fortitude than a 10ft slug.
Tactical sophistication also suffered. Rather than working in small, highly cohesive teams characteristic of Earth’s twenty-first-century special forces, Stormtroopers increasingly favoured the controversial ‘stand-in-front-of-enemy-fire’ tactic, usually resulting in them being mown-down by a handful of poorly equipped Rebels. Of course, this was not helped by budget cuts across the Imperial Military, especially in the Armoury Department. Body armour was issued in the cheapest ‘base-layer white’ rather than the conventional ‘camouflage’: this made Stormtroopers sitting ducks in every combat theatre except Hoth. According to recently discovered Imperial documents, this decision was forced through because the Emperor, ‘thought white looked cool and pretty bad-ass.’
In sum, the over-extension of the Imperial Army during the Galactic Civil War catastrophically diminished the quality and permanently damaged the reputation of the previously “elite” Stormtrooper Corps. By the time of the Empire’s collapse, these were definitely crap troops.