Take a look at the naming convention of any combat arms battalion. Chances are that alpha company is “Assassins,” bravo company is “Barbarians,” and, because there’s no clever, hardcore, historical fighter that starts with ‘C,’ charlie company will be “Reapers” or something.
Toss in the occasional Spartans, outlaws, rebels, anarchists, dragons, zombies, gladiators, and make sure to leave some clever pun for headquarters (something like “Troubleshooters” — get it? It’s an IT thing and it’s because they shoot trouble. Hey, don’t you roll your eyes at me, I didn’t make it up…).
Recently, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, issued a directive to ban any and all “death symbology and iconography” from the Australian Army, effective immediately. This includes all of the above-mentioned names and forbids the use of symbols like skulls and weapons in logos (which, technically, should include the most Australian special operations unit, the 1st Commando Regiment, whose logo pictures a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife stabbing a boomerang. Just sayin’).
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said,
“Such symbology… is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession — the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”
With the utmost respect towards the Australian Chief of Army, hardcore names and symbols don’t take away from the seriousness of combat. It never has and never will. It boosts the morale of our troops while demoralizing the enemy. If even a single life of any American, NATO, ANZAC, and any other allied troop is saved by the psychological impact of these symbols, then repeatedly telling troops they’re hardened killers is worth it.
Death iconography bands the troops together because it’s a fun symbol to be associated with. It’s powerful. It hypes them up for the ultimate reality — some of them will fight in combat and see real consequences. The symbols serve as warnings to the enemy that these people are not to be messed with.