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The military existed at the heart of Cardassian life for centuries, and at the center of conflicts involving The Cardassian Union in recent years, such as the war with the Federation and the devastating Dominion War with the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. These events called the military's domination of Cardassian life into question in recent years. With the end of the Dominion War, the role of the military in the future of Cardassia is one of the greatest questions looming over the leadership of the Union.
Technically, the Central Command is the formal name of the leadership of the Cardassian military, but in practice the term has come to refer to the entire military. For centuries, Central Command effectively ruled the Cardassian Union, placing supreme power in the hands of the military commanders. The Union's resources were devoted to the continued support and maintenance of Cardassia's military might, with all other concerns secondary. The Central Command protected the Union and made Cardassians a force to be reckoned with in the Alpha Quadrant.
In theory, authority in Central Command was split evenly among the heads of the military Orders. In practice, the leaders of the older Orders held more power through the extent of their Vasala and the power of their reputations. Considerable political infighting took place between the military leaders as they struggled to decide how to allocate Cardassia's thin resources among their Orders. In times of crisis, however, the Central Command quickly unified against any outside threat. Some officers of the Central Command served on the Detapa Council, but the Council held little real power in comparison to the military leadership.
As just mentioned, the Cardassian military is divided into Orders, each of which serves or patrols a specific region of space and includes both space and militia troops assigned to that region. A soldier's Order is one of the most important factors in identifying him and his duties, and most Cardassian officers use their Order as part of their title, such as "Gul Jasad, Seventh Order." The highest ranked Orders are the oldest and most prominent, wielding the greatest influence in Cardassian affairs, and holding correspondingly greater responsibilities.
The Cardassian Central Command consists of millions of troops and officers, supplied with hundreds of ships. Each Order has between 500,000 and a million personnel, and there are well over a dozen Orders throughout the entire Cardassian Union.
Of an Order's personnel, approximately one-percent (5,000-10,000) are Gul-level officers, generally starship and unit commanders. Approximately five percent (25,000-50,000) are Glinn-level officers, serving as adjuncts to the Guls and commanders of smaller units. A Ri'en-Gul (or higher) ranked officer commands each Order, and holds a position in the Central Command.
The Cardassian Central Command divides the Union's military forces into two main branches: the Space Force, and the Militia. Both branches use the same system of ranks, uniforms, and technology, operating under the direction of Central Command.
Of all the branches of the Cardassian military, Space Force is by far the best known and most influential. Space Force personnel crew the ships and stations of The Cardassian Union, patrolling border and trade routes, exploring deep space, and making contact with new worlds and species in peacetime.
In times of war, the might of the Cardassian Fleet is brought against the Union's enemies, such as during the Dominion War.
Cardassian ground forces make up the Militia organized into units of some 50,000 troops. The Militia handles planetary invasions, garrison duties, manning and protection of Cardassian facilities, and similar ground-based activities. It is somewhat less glamorous than the Space Force, but easier to get into and, sometimes, easier for an ambitious officer to advance quickly through the ranks.
Orders of the Union
FIRST ORDER - The First Order is the most distinguished of all, but it has lost some of the glory of its past in recent years. Stationed throughout the central sectors, the First Order serves to protect vital worlds of the Union. They hearken back to the Cardassian ideal of the military as protectors of the Union and the Cardassian people, and maintain a certain romantic attitude towards their duties.
The First Order is best known for their Third Battalion, which trains specialized commandos for difficult, often suicidal missions. Their motto is "Death to All," and commandos of the Third Battalion do their very best to make it so. They are renowned for their ruthlessness and their skill in combat.
SECOND ORDER - The Second Order is widely considered the most influential in The Cardassian Union. It was once led by Gul Dukat, and later by Dukat's protégé Gul Damar. The Second Order exercised considerable power in Central Command and in Cardassian Space. The Second Order's rise traces back to the start of the Federation/Cardassian conflict. Members of the Second Order made first contact with the Federation, and determined that the Federation Starfleet posed a potential threat to Cardassia.
The Second Order also controlled the Bajor system, and oversaw the Bajoran occupation. Gul Dukat was the military prefect of Bajor at that time. The resources mined from Bajor gave the Second Order considerable vasala throughout Central Command.
THIRD ORDER - The Third Order serves as the rapid response fleet of The Cardassian Union, stationed on bases and outposts at strategic locations throughout Cardassian space. The soldiers and officers of the Third Order are trained to carry out quick hit-and-run strikes against enemy targets, and to provide support to other Orders, reinforcing their position, or providing distractions and covering their flanks to allow them to retreat.
Soldiers of the Third Order saw action in nearly every military conflict undertaken by the Cardassian Union, including the war with the Federation, and the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. The Third Order reputation for "coming to the rescue" of other Orders gave them a certain cachet, as well as a measure of arrogance.
FOURTH ORDER - The Fourth Order patrols and protects the space near Cardassia Prime itself, including, when needed, the Bajor system. They suffered some of the heaviest losses during the Dominion War, although not at the hands of their enemies. Along with the Second and Third Orders, the Fourth Order saw the most action in and around Bajor, both during and after the Bajoran occupation. The Fourth Order is often known as the "Home Guard" of The Cardassian Union, since they are entrusted with the protection of the homeworld, the heart and soul of the Union.
Following the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor and the establishment of the Demilitarized Zone with the Federation, the Fourth Order reinforced positions in and around Cardassia Prime and along the DMZ.
FIFTH ORDER - The Fifth Order patrols the "Iron Path," the series of systems with significant industrial capabilities that runs from the Cardassia/Bajor area rimward through the Union. The ships and soldiers of the Fifth Order guard these vital worlds, and help protect shipping convoys of much-needed materials from pirates and raiders. Their involvement in the manufacturing and shipping capabilities of the Union gives the Fifth Order most of their influence in Central Command.
SIXTH ORDER - The Sixth Order makes up part of the deep space fleets of the Union, stationed in sectors throughout explored Cardassian space. The Sixth Order undertakes the majority of military deep space exploration and observation duties for the Union, along with the Ninth Order.
Most of the Sixth Order's exploration missions take it spinward and coreward of The Cardassian Union, away from many of the conflicts the rest of the Central Command became involved in over the years. Although the officers of the Sixth Order are as military as any in Cardassia, they are also explorers, seeking new worlds and new resources for the Union, making contact with new species, and studying unknown phenomena in the depths of space.
SEVENTH ORDER - The Seventh Order patrols and maintains bases along The Cardassian Union's coreward frontier. More than any other, the Seventh Order saw conflict with the Romulan Empire, in addition to Federation forces.
The coreward border of The Cardassian Union saw the occasional terrorist attack by Bajoran freedom fighters, along with its share of raids and piracy (often carried out by Ferengi), but otherwise it remained quiet. The Seventh Order protected Cardassian colonies and subjugated worlds in the area, dealt with piracy, and aided exploration and settlement, following in the path of the Sixth Order.
EIGHTH ORDER - Like the Fifth Order, the Eighth protects and patrols the "Iron Path" through Cardassian space, focused on the far end of the path from Cardassia Prime. This highly defensible position kept the Eighth Order out of most border conflicts with the Federation, the Klingons, and other powers, and generally kept them behind the lines during the Dominion War. As the war took its toll on the forces of the Central Command, more and more units from the Eighth Order were moved up to the front lines, or assigned to protect the Iron Path closer to Cardassia. Eighth Order ships and soldiers still saw considerable action during the war, particularly the final battles.
NINTH ORDER - Like the Sixth Order, the Ninth is a deep space patrol and exploration group, focusing on the frontier regions rimward and spinward of the Cardassian Union in the Alpha Quadrant. The Ninth Order's missions took it into sectors often sparse in stars and Class M planets, but which still contains thousands of systems of interest to Cardassia. Its prime mission is finding sources of valuable minerals and other materials needed by Cardassian industry. This is even more important since the end of the Dominion War, with the Union in need of materials to rebuild its infrastructure, construct new ships, and so forth.
The Ninth Order's secondary missions include mapping and exploring new start systems, and making contact with new forms of life.
TENTH ORDER - The Tenth Order, also known as the "Eagle Order," is a military intelligence unit. Central Command maintains the Tenth Order so they do not have to depend entirely on the Obsidian Order for their military intelligence. The Eagle Order is far smaller than the Obsidian Order, and has a fierce rivalry with its larger "civilian" competitor.
The Tenth Order makes the most of its resources by focusing almost exclusively on military intelligence. While the Obsidian Order maintains internal security for The Cardassian Union by watching nearly everyone, the Eagle Order concentrates on targets of military and strategic significance.
ELEVENTH ORDER - For the past several decades, the Eleventh Order found itself increasingly replaced by the Second, Third, and Fourth Orders. Originally charged to protect Cardassian colonies and client worlds along the Union's anti-spinward border, the Eleventh diminished as Cardassia's attention focused more and more on Bajor Sector and its borders with the United Federation of Planets. The Order's responsibilities were assumed by the other Orders, and the Eleventh became a reserve unit, its duties largely ceremonial. It performed support functions for other Orders in the area, and handled routine missions involving colonies and other peacetime activities.
TWELFTH ORDER - Like the Eleventh Order, the Twelfth Order began with a charter to protect Cardassian colonies and client worlds, this time along the Union's rimward border. For the most part, the Twelfth Order performed its duties with distinction, earning the respect of the Central Command and the Cardassian people, and the fear of enemies of the Union. The Order's headquarters is on the Cardassian planet Sarpedion V, one of the most fortified and well-protected military installations in Cardassian space.
More than any other, the Twelfth Order has seen conflict with the Klingon Empire when Klingon forces chose to attack Cardassia. This includes numerous border skirmishes over the years, leading up to the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, where the Twelfth Order took the brunt of the Klingon assault, suffering a number of casualties.
OBSIDIAN ORDER - The Obsidian Order is without a doubt the most feared organization in The Cardassian Union, quite possibly the most feared espionage organization in the entire Alpha Quadrant. Its agents are masters of espionage, assassination, sabotage, and interrogation techniques, ruthless, cunning, and extremely loyal to their organization and The Cardassian Union (in that order). Although nominally controlled by the Detapa Council and Central Common, the Obsidian Order is an organization that makes its own rules, and keeps its own secrets.
The current Order is a far cry from the fearsome, omnipresent organization that once monitored and influenced every aspect of Cardassian life. The disastrous attack on the Founders in the Omarion Nebula, along with the toll of the Dominion War, left the Obsidian Order a shadow of its former self. However, the Order is nothing if not skilled in survival, and it is a virtual certainty the current leaders of the Order will do their best to regain all they have lost, and more.