Raised as orphans in the Schola Progenium system, the Commissars of the Officio Praefectus are discipline and morale officers attached to the Imperial Military. They sit outside the ordinary Guard and Navy chain of command, enforcing adherence to Imperial standards of loyalty, courage and piety, with the power to summarily execute those who fall short.
Four Things To Know About the Commissariat
- They are highly educated and trained. As graduates of the Schola Progenium, Commissars are refined, can read and write High Gothic, understand Administratum bureaucracy and have a good grasp of Imperial theology and doctrine. They are often a cut above the troops and even some of the officers they are assigned to, enjoying refined pursuits and entertainments in their free time.
- They do not answer to the military chain of command. The wise Commissar will choose to adhere to the wishes of a ship’s Captain or a regimental Colonel out of courtesy and for tactical purposes, but they have no obligation to do so. As such, though junior officers and their subordinates must salute Commissars, they are under no obligation to Return The Compliment.
- They have the power of life and death over their troops. A Commissar can enact summary punishment, including execution, on any trooper or voidfarer they judge to be shirking their duty or acting contrary to good order and discipline. For this reason they are often feared and hated in the Regiments and aboard ships – though always given rigid, even obsequious courtesy to their faces.
- They are morale officers, not command officers. While any Commissar has the military training to lead a charge, and many tales of martyred heroes feature Commissars doing just that, their primary duty is to maintain morale and discipline among the troops. Though Commissars will have the training and aptitude to fulfil the role of the officer, they will only ever directly assume that role in the event that no officer is available and, even then, only ever as a temporary measure until a replacement officer can be found.
Rank and Status in the Commissariat
The Prosperitas Sector Commissariat has little in the way of a formal hierarchy. The prestige of one’s assigned Regiment or Ship, patronage networks and impenetrable Officio Praefectus bureaucracy all have a part to play in an individual Commissar’s assignment, but once assigned they are a law unto themselves; few can question their decisions or direct their efforts but the most senior military commanders.
The Schola Progenium
Every Commissar attended a Schola Progenium – a highly elite educational institutions that take on orphaned children from the Imperium’s officer classes (the “Progenia”). The Schola themselves offer extremely gruelling, regimented programmes designed to instil total loyalty to the Imperium and its institutions. Every student that survives the dangerous, and, sometimes, fatal, gauntlet of indoctrination and ruthless physical and mental examinations will be assigned to one of the Imperium’s elite institutions. Those assigned to the Commissariat will, more often than not, have exhibited a level of loyalty and combat aptitude which made them stand out even amongst the Progenia themselves.
Every Regiment has its Commissar, with some particularly large or troublesome Regiments attracting more than one. Usually deployed in the Regimental Headquarters when the Regiment takes the field, they are often to be found striding about the battlespace, encouraging the troops with stirring Imperial credos and prayers. The archetypal weapon of the Guard Commissar is a bolt-pistol, but many choose to carry a weapon more appropriate to their Regiment’s specialty. Some also choose to wear portions of the uniform or insignia of their attached Regiment; this is usually seen as a sign of respect and fondness for the Regiment, and taken as a compliment by its Commander.
Fleet Commissars, like terrestrial Commissars, are political officers responsible for maintaining morale on naval vessels through a programme of inspiration and fear. Commissars are often found on the bridge during transit, so that they might respond to isolated pockets of unrest within a voidship as quickly as possible. During naval engagements, Fleet Commissars can be found either orating over the ship’s Laud Hailers, or directly inspiring the crew by helping repel boarding actions.
As with terrestrial Commissars, Fleet Commissars do not Pay the Compliment as they are not technically part of the military hierarchy. Conversely, ratings and junior officers are expected to Pay the Compliment to a Commissar, as a show of respect for their station.
Fleet Commissars tend to greet each other with handshakes rather than salutes, given that they are not, technically speaking, military personnel.