I'm currently looking at a world on the onset of a Zombie outbreak. The military and also the civilian population do not yet know that the dead are rising. Only the highest levels of command know about it.

The setting is in the US near a city where some scientists are inside and need to be extracted at all costs (as they possibly hold the key to a cure or to get it under control).

My first idea was that the characters would be Rangers with the orders to extract them.

"According to the rules that restrict the US Military from acting on US Grounds, what conditions are laid out that would allow them to break that rule?" The Posse Comitatus Act may have specific provisions in it or later attached to it that allow for when it may be violated

As such my question would be what could be a possible reason to involve rangers in that mission?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Thomas. While generally not utilized the US military is regularly (usually reserve or guard units) used during national disasters. Considering we are looking at a zombie apocalypse scenario I doubt anyone in the chain of command cares if some rangers are working on US soil. I sort of feel like you answer your own question. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Mar 1, 2016 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Additionally welcome to the site. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Mar 1, 2016 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ You seriously doubt that a country that once created fake proofs of wmd to invade a country would hesitate to bring in all the military power it needs to fix some serious issue ? $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2016 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ The Posse Comitatus Act proscribes using US Army and Air force personnel and equipment for domestic law enforcement purposes. The US Navy and Marines are constrained by regulations which essentially recognize the authority of the Act. The US National Guard is not so constrained, nor, in the rough reading of your outline, would US Army forces like Rangers or Delta Force operators, since they are effecting a rescue. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Mar 2, 2016 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ For clarity, I suggest re-wording your question to instead ask "According to the rules that restrict the US Military from acting on US Grounds, what conditions are laid out that would allow them to break that rule?" This changes it away from idea generation and makes it a matter of fact. The Posse Comitatus Act may have specific provisions in it or later attached to it that allow for when it may be violated. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2016 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


You are the author. You make the rules.

This is a matter of life and death. Maybe the National Guard is in disarray because of riots/unrest sparked by these events (they would be called in to enforce martial law, and probably to deal with the initial outbreaks). Additionally, many National Guard members are not on active duty, but volunteers. They may not make it to their units because they're dead, or trying to protect their families.

Similarly, the typical go-to heroes - Navy Seals and Delta - are involved in protecting or extracting high value targets elsewhere in the world. The situation seems hopeless.

But lucky for you, a detachment of Rangers is just now on a plane, flying in from a training exercise in Canada/Mexico/Cuba (our new and dear friends). They're all trained parachutists (Rangers are), and have live ammunition, because the "rules" dictate that no military unit is to travel without some supplies. (that, or they land in a Costco parking lot and do some shopping first)

Hurray, the day is saved!

Note: this is a zombie outbreak - you're seriously overthinking things. The people in charge will not hesitate to utilize every military asset at their disposal simply because it might be "illegal". Legality only matters when the world isn't ending.

  • $\begingroup$ I think your last paragraph is an excellent point that lots of people overlook in a post-apocalyptic scenario. The first season of the modern reboot of Battlestar Galactica comes to mind; human kind was reduced to less than fifty thousand people, but the ones that were left wanted to have elections and quibbled about legalities, potentially at the expense of survival. $\endgroup$
    – Ben MS
    Mar 2, 2016 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ @BenMS - God, that bugged me about Battlestar. Good show otherwise thought. Except the ending was a little iffy. What the heck, Starbuck?!?! $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 3, 2016 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yeah that final episode of battlestar ruined the whole show for me. First half great...then basically everyone went collectively insane and decided that living a subsistence hunter-gatherer lifestyle for 50 thousand years fighting tooth and nail to survive was going to somehow make people be nicer to each other. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Mar 6, 2016 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ "Legality only matters when the world isn't ending." But -- according to the scenario -- the populace does not know that the world is ending. Someone with a smartphone is going to see these guys running around, record the video, post it to Instagram and ask why. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 11, 2020 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ronjohn - by your logic, there should already be leaked videos of zombies on the internet, and your average netizen should be well aware of the fact that something is wrong, even though the authorities don't publicly acknowledge it. Kinda like the current virus situation. Also, why is someone recording them a problem? The world is ending, the powers that be wouldn't care. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Feb 12, 2020 at 20:02

AndreiROM is getting close.

But first, about the military not being allowed to operate in the US. You are referring, of course, to the Posse Comitatus Act which prohibits using the Army or Air Force as law enforcement, except as directed by act of Congress.

We'll assume that the secrecy concerns prevent letting those loudmouthed Congresscritters in on the situation, so act of Congress is out.

That leaves, wait for it, the Navy and the Marines. SEALs and Force Recon, most likely. Oh, there are some inconvenient regulations which need to be brushed aside, but civilian law seems pretty straightforward.

  • $\begingroup$ Also I fail to see how destroying zombies counts as law enforcement. Is there a law banning zombies? I think it would be better described as a surprise combined response exercise combining both civilian evacuations and emergency response and live fire exercises for the military. People would get angry at the unexpected nuisance sure, but why would it be illegal? $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2016 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi They're illegal when they're trying to murder innocent people via munching on their bodies. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2016 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi - Disorderly conduct, commiting a public nuisance, failure to heed law enforcement officers, failure to produce identification upon request, jaywalking, trespassing - the laws that zombies break just by being zombies are numerous. Oh, and then there's assault amd homicide, but really, who's keeping count? $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2016 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ Ah I see. So the law (didn't know its name only heard that some existed) isn't about the army operating on the us soil but instead against acting as law enforcement units. So they COULD conduct a military operation on us soil (although there would probably be a political fallout to handle in non zombie times). Am I getting that right tehre? $\endgroup$
    – Thomas
    Mar 2, 2016 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Thomas Actually under the insurrection act the army can even enforce the laws, in case of an epidemic (of zombies or otherwise) that makes the actual law enforcement unable to do so. But it would be necessary to inform the congress as soon as practical so it wouldn't be secret. But yes, it is specifically law enforcement (towards civilians) that seems to be prohibited. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2016 at 10:07

The Act for the US military is primarily against Citizens in a police like action. However, the military is used all the time for many things.

The National Guard (and other branches) are activated frequently to help in disaster zones.

If the Canadians were to over run Minnesota, all the branches would be let loose to push back the Canucks (politely) on US soil.

Sending a group of Rangers into the middle of a warzone (or zombie danger zone) to bring back American citizens is one of the things they would be good for. So as long as the Zombies aren't still considered American Citizens in riot, there would be no reason not to use the Rangers. Hooah!


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