Posted by Joe McNamara
I keep telling myself I'll write about more than just superheroes someday...
Joe McNamara

They are face of a franchise. They are the saviors of humanity. The Spartans of the Halo video game franchise are legendary figures in the gaming industry. But, beyond notable Spartans such as the Master Chief, how much do you really know about them?

This article is the first in a four-part series on Halo's Spartan Programs. In each article I will show you, dear readers, the history, personnel, major events, and other details surrounding each of the four Spartan programs.

Let's begin!


The symbol of Project: ORION
The symbol of Project: ORION

Project history:

The first Spartan program was actually designated as Project ORION. This project was started in 2321 by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and the Colonial Military Authority (CMA) and was intended for use in counter-insurgency operations. Although successful at creating super-soldiers, it was deemed too costly to continue, and was deactivated.

As Humanity continued to expand, the United Earth Government (UEG) and the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) struggled to maintain control. Inevitably, rebellious factions began to rise. To combat this, ONI and CMA reactivated Project ORION in 2491.

Initially experiencing major success in neutralizing Insurgent forces, the ORION super-soldiers were deployed to operations that consistently became more difficult. However the ever-growing strength of the enemy was beginning to wear on them, and some of the super-soldiers had begun displaying negative symptoms of their enhancements, such as mental instability. Due to this, decreasing effectiveness, and high costs, ORION was deactivated in 2506. Its 165 surviving members were folded into special operations groups within the UNSC.

Known Personnel:

Sergeant Johnson: Spartan
Sergeant Johnson: Spartan

All ORION soldiers were volunteers. In total there were 300 super-soldiers, but these five are the only ones we, the fans, know the names of.

  • James Lee
  • Gilly
  • Morales
  • Gladys Wilson
  • Avery Johnson

If that last name sounds familiar to you, it should! Avery Johnson, aka Sergeant Johnson, is a SPARTAN-I!

The children of the SPARTAN-I's are known as Spartan-1.1's. They inherited some of the physical enhancements of their parents. There were 16 known Spartan 1.1's on Earth at the start of the Covenant invasion. They banded together to form a vigilante squad to combat the alien forces.

Significant Events

  • 2321: Project ORION is founded, and later deactivated.
  • 2322: The five surviving ORION volunteers die of unknown cause
  • 2491: Project ORION is re-activated
  • 2496: Operation Charlemagne: ORION super-soldiers recover a sub-orbital transit station from insurrectionist forces; ORION suffers one casualty
  • 2496: Operation Veritas: ORION soldiers recover a list of some of the double agents within the CMA. This eventually leads to loss of funding for ORION after the UNSC nearly shuts down the CMA to root out the spies.
  • 2502: Operation Kaleidoscope: ORION sends Corporal Avery Johnson and a spotter to Harvest to assassinate Jerald Mulkey Ander. The mission is a success and leads to the downfall of the Secessionist Union insurgents. Other ORION soldiers are sent to take down remaining Secessionist Union strongholds.
  • ????: Operation Tanglewood: ORION's final operation. The details of this op are highly classified, but the general goal was to eliminate the insurrection.
  • 2506: Project ORION is disbanded. The 165 surviving super-soldiers are placed in other spec ops groups within the UNSC.

Augmentations and Training

DNA analysis for ORION candidate-047
DNA analysis for ORION candidate-047

In addition to the most difficult military training at that point in time, the ORION super-soldiers received physical and mental augmentations. While they are the weakest of the Spartans, they are by no means pushovers. The ORION augmentations consist of:

  • muscular enhancement injections
  • pulmonary respiratory enhancements
  • retina-inversion enhancements
  • cochlea enhancement tuning
  • enhanced motor skills
  • enhanced learning abilities


The SPARTAN-I's were the only Spartans who did not receive powered armor. Instead, they were outfitted with basic military equipment varying from standard Marine armor to top of the line Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) suits.

The First of the Spartans

An alternate ORION logo drawn by Dr.Halsey
An alternate ORION logo drawn by Dr.Halsey

After the establishment of the SPARTAN-II program in 2511, Project ORION was renamed to SPARTAN-I, and its members have since been referred to as such. Rumors and hopes of human super-soldiers began circling the military and civilian population due to the actions of the SPARTAN-I's, and without their success, the other Spartan projects may never have even been considered. While the project was disbanded nineteen years before the beginning of the Human-Covenant War, its soldiers fought alongside their Spartan brethren to ensure Humanity's survival till the very end.

And that's it for the SPARTAN-I's! Be sure to subscribe for the rest of this mini-series and other stuff!

What did you learn? Do you know something else? Let me know and sound off (respectfully) in the comments section! Thanks for reading!