The Interplanetary Combatives Training school is the Systems' Alliance's premier school for leadership and combat expertise. It is responsible for training the famous N7 special forces, and is located in the Vila Militar complex in Rio De Janeiro, Earth. The Special Operations Division (informally N Division) is also housed at these facilities.
Their repertoire of skills includes long range recon, surgical strikes against an enemy's leadership, and covert retrieval. They excel in asymmetrical warfare, in psychological tactics, in dirty and underhanded fighting.
N7's are afforded the best equipment Systems Alliance can procure, and they are enhanced with augmentations and genemods that go beyond the regime given to rank-and-file of the Navy and Marines.
The list of currently active N7 specializations can be found here.
Selection is the first hurdle a Marine hoping to join the Alliance’s special forces faces. Candidates may either be invited to attempt Selection or may volunteer to do so. Many eventual Ns do not pass Selection on their first attempt as it is specifically designed to weed out the vast majority of candidates-out of every two hundred who attempt it, only twenty to forty will pass and be granted the N1 designation.
Selection occurs twice a year and includes: navigation through hostile terrain, long timed runs in either heat and cold (depending on the time of year) while carrying full combat gear, various physical ordeals and 36 hours of ‘interrogation’ in which the candidates are placed in stress positions and must repeat only their rank, name and service number or say “I cannot answer that sir/ma’am.” no matter what they’re asked. Throughout the four week process, the instructors will give no indication of performance, even refraining from smiling or frowning. If the candidate passes all tasks, they will be awarded the N1 designation and invited to attend further training at N School. If they fail, they are given detailed constructive criticism and praise and returned to their units, often encouraged to return.
Initial Continuation Training
After passing Selection, the Marine candidate undertakes twelve weeks of in depth training in weapons handling (including foreign weapons not issued to Alliance personnel), vehicle handling, demolitions and special forces tactics at the Villa. A candidate may fail this phase of training but if passed, it simply leads onto the next phase-no designation is granted for this training. It is more ‘foundation learning’ than anything else.
Atmospheric Planetary Training
Often nicknamed ‘Garden of Hell’ training, this phase is designed to train a Marine to operate in any sort of common environment on a ‘garden world’. This includes jungle, desert and arctic environments, with survival skills, patrol tactics, contact drills, further vehicle handling and medicine for each. Most of this training is conducted on Earth, in the Amazon rainforest, Australian deserts and Arctic Circle.
After the training is complete, the Marines must put the learnt skills to good use in different scenarios and pass all of them while working as a team with other candidates. At this point, roughly half those who passed Selection will have failed or are otherwise unable to continue and are returned to their original units. If a Marine passes, they now receive the N2 designation.
This phase of training includes most aspects of insertions into combat, such as high speed, high risk shuttle insertion with rappelling, military freefall and parachuting, high altitude drops in a variety of vehicles, individual drop pods, jetpack flight and combat diving.
This is a particularly dangerous section of training. The final test for this section is when the candidate is deliberately dropped off-target and must make it to the target area to regroup with the rest of the cadre, while avoiding ‘enemy patrols’. If completed successfully, the Marine is awarded the N3 designation. If failed, they will transfer to a Special Operations unit.
Hostile Environment Small Unit Training
‘Dizzy School’ is the scarier big brother of ZGT, which all Marines undertake as part of initial training. The N3 is taught how to deal with several situations such as combat and evasion on planetoids without oxygen and those with hazards, station and ship boarding special forces tactics and insertion by frigate and corvette, those stalwarts of special operations, often while under simulated or live fire. If this phase is passed, the individual receives the N4 designation. If failed, the N3 is placed into a Special Operations unit.
Interim Training Period
In between Dizzy School and the ordeal through which the N5 designation is earned, there is a period of four weeks in which the N4 is encouraged to take classes in linguistics, medical treatment for both humans and aliens, leadership and further study on special operations tactics. Learning the dominant batarian or turian dialects is strongly suggested. Throughout this period, the Marine must maintain a high level of fitness or risk failing the next stage.
The Manhunt is one of the most brutal and challenging aspects of N School training. All that has been taught to the Marine in the previous stages is put to the test. The candidate is dropped via jumpjet onto the Moon, but during the drop the jetpack will simulate an issue. The N4 must safely land, at which point their suit will be ‘dead’, with navigation and all systems disabled except for life support (with enough oxygen for the duration of the exercise) and a transponder (for safety reasons-it will activate if the Marine needs immediate assistance), with only their rifle (loaded with practice rounds) and a limited supply of food and water along with a drawn map. They must avoid troops, shuttles and drones hunting them for seven days.
If captured, they will be taken to a facility for the rest of the seven days and subjected to interrogation techniques in which they are stripped naked, strung up, splashed with cold water and subjected to psychological techniques such white noise, the simulation of someone being beaten nearby and the exploitation of phobias. (The vast majority of candidates are captured and even those who evade capture for the entire week must be subjected to this treatment.)
Afterwards, they will be taken to a room and be asked various questions by an officer. They must only answer with their rank, name and service number or ‘I can’t answer that’. If they endure all of this, they are taken to a room in which they are informed they have passed the test and are granted their N5 designation. A Marine can request to be excused from the Manhunt at any point or may fail-it is notorious for reducing strong, tough Marines to tears, and it is considered impressive to even get that far.
After the completion of all previous phases of training, only the Attachment Phase remains. The N5 is attached to an active-duty Special Forces unit on deployment and must prove themselves to the supervising N7 during combat.
If completed satisfactorily, the N5 will receive the N6 designation and assigned to a unit. If completed in an ‘admirable and effective fashion’, they will receive the coveted N7 designation and be granted the Red Stripe.