"Medic! Stop whining, Brook, you've got another damned leg!"
- —Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken, Battle of Moden's Ridge
Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken is the most notorious and storied commanding officer of the Catachan Jungle Fighters regiments of the Astra Militarum. A Veteran of decades of constant warfare, Straken has fought at the forefront of more battles and survived more wounds than most Imperial Guardsmen have eaten hot meals.
Irascible and gutsy in the extreme, Colonel Straken leads from the front with a vigour that belies his years. Having worked his way up from footslogging grunt to Colonel of the entire Catachan II "Green Vipers," Straken continues to share every hardship of the common soldier. Larger than life and twice as violent, Straken can always be found where the fighting is thickest. Bellowing a constant stream of orders and invective, the Colonel stands shoulder to shoulder with his fellow Catachans. Straken's lack of tolerance for any display of incompetence or cowardice is legendary, and his men redouble their efforts in their determination to live up to Straken's exacting standards.
Straken's personal code of "getting stuck in" is matched by a determination never to waste good Catachan lives for ephemeral gains. The Colonel has nothing but scorn for officers who fritter away lives to further their own careers. This fact has caused endless friction with the commanders of other Astra Militarum regiments, yet Straken displays the same contempt for upper-echelon politics as he does for the foe. Straken's men all but deify their gung-ho commander, and have carried his battered body to safety almost as often as he has dragged theirs.
Regardless of the top brass' opinion, none can argue with Straken's breathtaking service record. Fighting initially under his mentor, the infamous Colonel Greiss, Straken has distinguished himself at the Battle of Moden's Ridge, the Dulma'lin Cleansing, the Ulani Aftermath and the evacuation of Vartol City to name but a few. On Ulani IV Straken dragged a wounded comrade to safety across half a continent. On Vendal's Landing he repulsed a phalanx of Daemon Engines with only twenty-two men, ten Lasguns and a case of short-fused mining charges. At the Battle of the Red Rain Straken personally defeated the notorious Drukhari Archon Yrekh Drash in single combat, crushing the degenerate xenos' head in his whirring bionic fist.
During his years of service the Colonel has suffered dozens of wounds in the line of duty, amongst the most serious being the arm he lost to a Miral land shark. Ever willing to turn a weakness into a strength, Straken replaced his missing hand with the deadly "devil's claw," an augmented appendage capable of punching through a ferrocrete wall. Though this and a plethora of other grave injuries should, by rights, have killed the indomitable Catachan several times over, Straken fights on with undiminished determination. His ravaged body is riddled with an ever-increasing number of gleaming bionics, and his are orders punctuated by yells of "Do I have to do everything myself?!"
Like any leader worth their salt, Straken never orders the troops in his command to do something he would be unwilling to do himself. When making a near-hopeless assault against a fortified position, it is Straken who leads the charge. In turn, the grizzled Colonel demands that his soldiers emulate the grit and determination he always displays on the battlefield. Between campaigns, the training drills run by Straken are universally brutal, and it is not uncommon for half a platoon to vomit until unconscious after completing a "light constitutional."
When necessary, Straken himself administers discipline to the Guardsmen in his company. His punishments are only fatal when a grievous crime has been committed, or if he perceives a soldier to be fundamentally unfit for martial service, and if possible he will eschew the involvement of a Commissar. The Officio Prefectus see this as a usurpation of their officer's duties -- they know full well the legendary disregard that Catachans display towards their authority, and there is no better example of Catachan belligerence than Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken. They begrudgingly accept Straken and his men as exemplary soldiers of the Imperium, but always keep a distrustful eye on the Green Vipers.
On the planet of Signis VIII, Straken led the Green Vipers against the vast hordes of the Tyranids. During the initial battle, Straken and his men came up against swarms of the Hive Fleet's lesser strains, and were able to push them back in melee. This victory proved short-lived, as a gigantic, multi-limbed Tyranid appeared. This heavily armoured monstrosity was eventually brought down by Demolition Charges, but not before slaying one of Straken's most trusted and longest-serving captains. As the Colonel loomed over the fallen creature's body, he expressed his disgust, remarking that he had killed bigger things on Catachan. However, despite Straken's disappointment, the fight was not yet over. When he turned to address his men, Straken was alerted by one of his troops just as the massive beast rose and lunged towards him. Dodging aside, the Colonel was able to grab the alien's neck whilst drawing his Catachan Fang. Even with the added strength of his bionic arm, it still took four hard blows to finally sever the Hive Tyrant's head from its body.
When the forces of Ork Warboss Killzkar besieged and conquered the mining planet of Dulma'lin, Straken and his men were tasked with infiltrating the planet's capital city and sabotaging the Ork war effort. The main army of Selvian Dragoons were supposed to provide the invasion force once the Catachans had completed their task, unfortunately they were ambushed and destroyed en route to the planet's capitol. Trapped within an Ork infested city, Straken and his Jungle Fighters, amongst them Sly Marbo, engaged in many solar months of sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the vast Ork hordes. Meanwhile, an Ork Kommando by the name of Snikrot led his own series of ambushes against the Colonel's forces, taking his foes' scalps as war trophies. The Colonel and the Kommando eventually engaged in a ferocious duel. Straken emerged the victor, while Sknikrot was grievously injured.
In 972.M41, the Chaos Lord Ratathrax of the Night Lords Traitor Legion invaded Catachan. He unleashed a powerful orbital barrage intended to incinerate vast swathes of the Catachan world-jungle. In one fell swoop, Ratathrax robbed the Catachan Jungle Fighters of their most natural defence before systematically bombing their bastion networks into rubble. Ratathrax made planetfall with his warriors to enjoy the follow-on butchery first-hand. Unfortunately for him, Straken had been lying in ambush in a quagmire of toxic sludge, waiting for Ratathrax to remove his helmet before successfully throttling him to death with a jungle barb-root.
- Codex: Astra Militarum (8th Edition), pp. 58, 91
- Codex: Astra Militarum (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), "Colonel 'Iron Hand' Straken," "HQ - Colonel Iron Hand Straken"
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 60
- Waiting Death (Short Story) by Steve Lyons
- Straken (Novel) by Toby Frost
- Warhammer 40,000: Conquest (Collectible Card Game)
- Planetstrike (5th Edition), "Glorious Assaults"