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Hazardous Environment Combat Unit

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Hecu marines.png
Hazardous Environment Combat Unit
Political information

Special Forces


United States Marine Corps

Societal information

Santego Military Base, Arizona, USA, Earth


See HECU weapons


See HECU technology


See HECU transportation

Historical information

Black Mesa Incident

Game information

Ted Backman[1][a]
Steve Bond[3]
Kelly Bailey[4]
Stephen Bahl[5]

Voiced by

Kelly Bailey
Harry S. Robins
Michael Shapiro
Jon St. John
Brice Armstrong

  • Half-Life


  • Opposing Force


"I killed twelve dumbass scientists and not one of 'em fought back. This sucks."
― HECU Marine[src]

The Hazardous Environment Combat Unit[6] (HECU), often referred to simply as the military, Marines, soldiers, or grunts, is a United States Marine Corps special forces unit featured prominently in Half-Life and its expansions.


The HECU Marines are sent in to clean up the Black Mesa Research Facility following the incident, their mission being to eliminate anyone with knowledge of the research project and the extraterrestrial life involved.[7] They are specially trained at the Santego Military Base to deal with a variety of indoor combat situations, particularly those involving dangerous environments and unconventional hostiles. Apart from combat roles, they make take on specialized capacities such as becoming Medics or Engineers. They are initially described as working in cooperation with the Black Mesa Security Force in case of emergency circumstances,[8] a role that changes during the progression of their mission.

They wear urban camouflage battle dress uniforms and a Powered Combat Vest, and are armed with grenade launcher-equipped Submachine Guns, Shotguns, M249s, M-40A1 Sniper Rifles, 9mm Pistols and Desert Eagles. They carry grenades to flush out their targets. They work in squads and keep in communication by way of radios. In the PlayStation 2 port of Half-Life, they can send grenades back at enemies either by picking them up and throwing them or kicking them. They can also kick their opponents in close combat. In areas that they have heavily fortified, they make use of Laser Tripmines, Sentry Guns, and a variety of manned turrets and weapon emplacements. Outdoors, they are backed in the air by Apaches, Jets and Ospreys while Abrams, Bradleys and trucks provide support on the ground.



The HECU Marines are first mentioned in the chapter Office Complex. The survivors originally believe that the military has arrived to rescue them. Soldiers are first encountered in the chapter "We've Got Hostiles" where their true intentions are revealed, continuing forth as standard enemies for the rest of the game until Lambda Core. They round up all human personnel and kill them or bring them topside for questioning. They begin securing key areas and take over the announcement system, using it for communication. A full scale battle against the Xen aliens commences.

Gordon Freeman becomes one of their primary targets after becoming responsible for many of their casualties. They don't appear to be informed about the origins of the Resonance Cascade or the aliens as some are heard wondering what caused the disaster, suspecting Gordon of being a possible saboteur and thus responsible for the entire incident. They abort the launch of a satellite delivery rocket which is soon overturned by Gordon himself. At the end of Apprehension, Gordon Freeman is captured by a pair of Grunts who attempt to kill him by throwing him into a trash compactor.

At the beginning of Surface Tension, the HECU are shown to have complete dominance over Black Mesa. But gradually throughout the chapter the HECU lose their grip of Black Mesa and become overwhelmed by the increasingly strategical teleportation of the Xenian forces and their numbers. This culminates at the last Act of Surface Tension and Forget About Freeman! where the HECU officially are given extraction orders and pull out of Black Mesa. It is to the point where the HECU are leaving the remainder of the still deployed forces to, as the radio in Forget About Freeman! stated, "Cutting our losses!". After Gordon Freeman has one last standoff with the HECU, both Black Mesa and the surface is left to the hands of the Xenians.

Half-Life: Uplink[edit]

During his run to the satellite array and the later return trip, Gordon makes his way through an HECU camp in the shipping yards which consists of multiple weapon emplacements, Marines in towers, a command tent, and a pit dug for burning Vortigaunt corpses.

Half-Life: Opposing Force[edit]

Staged screenshot of Marines fighting Xen and Race X aliens and Black Ops in the area following the dam.

In Opposing Force, the player takes control of one of the soldiers, Corporal Adrian Shephard. Adrian becomes separated from his unit early in the game and wakes up to learn that the Marines are now pulling out. However, the remaining military squads left behind soon find themselves under fire from deadly Black Ops agents, a second clean up crew sent in by the government to cover up the HECU's failed containment by destroying the facility and eliminating everything they find within, including the soldiers who were left behind.

Adrian's diary entries reveal more information about the operation. In March 200-, two months before the incident, the G-Man visits the Santego Military Base several times to observe the training recruits. In the same month, the Marines began specialized indoor combat training in preparation for a mission at Black Mesa, a nearby facility said to be used by scientists for new research. They were told to be ready in case "it" happens tomorrow, but were not informed what "it" might be.[9]

Opposing Force features the appearance of the specialized Medic and Engineer Marines.

Half-Life: Blue Shift[edit]

In Blue Shift, the HECU is initially glimpsed in the chapter Duty Calls dumping dead bodies of Black Mesa security guards into a drainage canal. They are first prominently encountered in the chapter Captive Freight where they have taken over the Freight Warehouses. Here, Barney Calhoun comes across a wounded scientist who was attacked by the Marines. Before dying, he tells Barney to find Dr. Rosenberg to assist him in his plan to escape from the facility.

The player must go through the Freight Yard where the military has captured numerous scientists and imprisoned them in shipping containers, eventually discovering and rescuing Rosenberg from one. The subsequent chapters lead into the underground Section A-17 Prototype Labs where soldiers continue battling against Xen forces, combating with Barney as he follows through with Rosenberg's plan. The Marines later attempt one last effort to thwart the Black Mesa personnel from escaping through a teleporter but fail.

Half-Life: Decay[edit]

In Decay, the players, Gina Cross and Colette Green, escort Rosenberg shortly after the incident to reach the surface and contact the military for help. After this event, the players return back to Dr. Keller to assist him in halting the disaster. In the next mission, Resonance, the military can be witnessed arriving en masse by air.

Marines are first encountered proper in the following mission Domestic Violence where they are seen executing security personnel in the Level 3 Dormitories. The players later face heavy resistance at the military-controlled Black Mesa Air Control buildings where they must enter the clearance codes to allow the launch of the delivery rocket performed by Gordon in Half-Life. Their final appearance is in Crossfire fighting aliens in the sewers beneath Gamma Labs.

The HECU is also encountered in the bonus mission, Xen Attacks, in an underground parking area confronting the Vortigaunt drones X-8973 and R-4913.

Behind the scenes[edit]


Marines being deployed by an Osprey.

The Marines have a variety of appearances ranging from unique head models to distinct gear. The selected model often reflects the soldier's squad role and weapon choice. Ted Backman designed the original models,[a] while Stephen Bahl designed the new classes and variations for Opposing Force as well as all of the High Definition models.[5][10] The HECU Marines sport a grey urban camouflage Battle Dress Uniform, which was chosen by Valve over the predominant desert pattern variants worn in service at the time. The reason behind the decision was to introduce a clever form of anti-camo to give both the impression of being camouflaged, but at the same time being highly visible on low-resolution displays.[2] In the censored German version of Half-Life, Robot Grunts replace the default soldiers. A default bronze-colored Robot Grunt is also used in the multiplayer mode for all versions of the game.

The Marines are voiced by various actors in Half-Life and its expansion packs. Kelly Bailey is the voice actor of the original combat radio chatter.[11][12][13] Harry S. Robins and Mike Shapiro voiced them in several scripted scenes, including the Marines dumping dead bodies in the canals in Blue Shift. Robins reprises his role as the commander giving orders over the radio for Opposing Force. Jon St. John is the voice of the Marines and the Drill Instructors in Opposing Force. He also voiced a soldier in the Level 3 Dormitories in Decay. Brice Armstrong recorded lines for the Marines who capture Gordon Freeman in Decay, but these went unused after the mission was cut from the game.

The Half-Life SDK contains a number of cut remnants of the HECU. Originally, the force was to feature a powerful minigun-wielding, cigar-smoking soldier nicknamed the Human Sergeant.[2] The player was also intended to be able to partially decapitate soldiers with head shots, leaving behind only their lower jaw and tongue. The blown up head variation can be found in the source model files.

In the Half-Life Alpha, the Marines are first seen in the chapter The Office Warrens. They can strafe left or right to avoid the gunfire or when reloading. They use Assault Rifles that resemble M4s with grenade launchers. Launched grenades explode based on a timer rather than on impact. In Half-Life: Day One, the only soldier variations present are the gas mask and beret head types, and they do not use the Shotgun. This feature was most likely disabled for this release as soldiers with Shotguns do not appear early in the game.

Artificial intelligence[edit]

The Marines' artificial intelligence was handled by Steve Bond.[3] Their behavior is based on a system comprised of schedules and tasks. A schedule is a list of tasks and conditions, while a task is the actual action that is carried out. For example, "GruntVictoryDance" is a schedule performed by a Marine when the character kills the player. The character must move and check the player's dead body. This will only happen if certain game world conditions are met, such as character specific requirements. In this case, the schedule can only be performed by a squad leader or a lone soldier separate from a squad.

The Marines have the ability to work together in squads consisting of up to four members, including a squad leader. In a squad, they are capable of immediately sharing information with each other, such as the enemy's current location, as relayed through the squad leader. The squad is erased when the leader dies, leaving the remaining soldiers to act independent from one another. Marines are also coded to treat Alien Grunts and Gargantuas as arch-nemeses. If either of these alien types is visible, they will choose to prioritize it as a target over everything else.

The Opposing Force soldiers are still coded to fight Black Mesa personnel. This can be seen in the chapter Missing in Action.[i] The Marines shoot at the scientist hiding under the floor when they see him. The Marine artificial intelligence was used as the basis to create the Black Ops assassins and Shock Troopers in Opposing Force, the terrorists in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes, and the Combine Soldiers in Half-Life 2.


  • The Opposing Force instruction manual is written as a soldier's handbook. It includes transcriptions of Murphy's law and the General Orders of All Sentinels.
  • The HECU appears to be a multi-branch outfit, like the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in real life. The HECU footsoldiers are referred to as "Marines". Dwight T. Barnes holds the title of Drill Instructor, used in the Marines, and the HECU soldiers use the Marine Corps Osprey Heliplane for insertion and M1A1 Abrams for fire support. The HECU also employ the US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters. The Jets that can be seen in the skies resemble US Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft. Additionally, the USMC did not issue berets to Marines at any point in the 2000s, while the U.S. Army made the beret standard wear for all soldiers in 2001 and the maroon beret, in particular, was issued before then.
  • Marine voice lines in Half-Life, Blue Shift and Decay consist of multiple separate audio files which are joined together to form sentences, similar to the Black Mesa Announcement System.



Half-Life Alpha[edit]


Half-Life and its expansions[edit]

List of appearances[edit]

Main games[edit]



  1. 1.0 1.1 In Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, the soldier and Human Sergeant concept art is attributed to Chuck Jones.[2] However, this is believed to be an error as the style of the artwork as well as the present handwriting do not match that of Jones'. Rather, it appears to be Ted Backman's work.
  2. This mode can be activated using impulse 200 command from the console in Half-Life Alpha. The lines show the possible attack locations for the Marine using their rifle and grenades


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