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"Hey! Catch me later, I'll buy you a beer!"
―Black Mesa security guard[src]

The Black Mesa Security Force is the main component of Black Mesa's support personnel force. Along with the Black Mesa Science Team, it is one of the most important bodies of the Black Mesa personnel.


Security guard stationed in Sector C next to a retinal scanner.

Security guards oversee the security throughout the facility. They have different ranks and are granted a different security clearance specific to their duty, with an average clearance of Level 3, as well as colored shifts in specific Areas of specific Sectors, such as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet Shifts.[2] They often stand near doors requiring a special access, and will refuse or grant this access depending on the person wanting to go through, related to the person's clearance level or if they have the required equipment to proceed. They also oversee security checkpoints, such as Area 9 Security Checkpoint located along the Black Mesa Transit System. Guards always have to report to their related facilities, such as Sector C's Area 3 Medium Security Facilities, before starting their duty. They are accommodated in specific facilities, such as Area 8 Topside Dormitories, where Barney Calhoun lives.

In the event of an emergency, security guards are required to cooperate with the "military" and "trained assassins", referred to as "a dangerous and very efficient clean-up crew".[2] However it is proven later that the clean-up crew will terminate any Black Mesa employee and does not work at all with the Security Force.

The security guard uniform consists of a blue shirt, black tie, dark blue pants, black assault boots, equipment belt, armor vest and helmet. The standard issue side-arm is the Glock 17 or the Beretta 92FS in the High Definition Pack, but heavier ordnance, such as shotguns, Colt Python revolvers, Desert Eagles, and grenades are also available to them.

In the Half-Life Audio Script, security guards are described as follows: Barneys are base security guards. They are friendly, fearless, and practical allies. In a pinch, they will provide backup fire, attacking aliens and other human enemies.[3]


Barney Calhoun.

  • Security Officer - The vast majority of guards work as security officers, tasked with protecting secured areas and information, reporting breaches of authority to their administrative sponsor and helping with general maintenance tasks. In rare cases, security officers will be tasked with capturing escaped research specimens. Barney Calhoun works in this position.
  • Section Manager - The role of section manager is effectively a desk job that consists of directing security officers and assigning tasks.
  • Instructor - Security officers will often take on additional work instructing new recruits in the Sector A Training Facility, as themselves or their hologram counterparts. Miller works in this position.

Vehicles and transportation

Security guards are known to drive Black Mesa SUVs around the facility. Furthermore, security guards on duty next to tram lines and Sector security entrances know the related door codes for tram and airlock doors.

Safety and protection

Part of every security guard's equipment load-out includes an armor vest and helmet, vital to their personal safety in the Black Mesa Research Facility. As well as day-to-day maintenance safety, the armor is also capable of absorbing (and possibly even deflecting) low-caliber rounds. The security guards are also issued combat boots which are most likely steel toe-capped boots.

The helmet will protect the guard to prevent taking head-shot damage (although shooting at the guard in the uncovered face will still count as a head-shot). It will deflect 9mm bullets and shotgun pellets although stronger weaponry such as the Colt Python or the Crossbow will penetrate through the helmet.

In Half-Life: Blue Shift picking up the Helmet will gain 40 Armor points. Picking up Armor Vest will gain 60 Armor points.


  • Black Mesa security guards will always help the player and can be very useful as protection or drawing fire. If shot at by the player however (or if the security guard sees the player killing a scientist or another security guard), they will turn against them and attack.
  • Strangely, "Otis" security guards will not attack the player even if they see them killing a scientist or another security guard.
  • Although each guard carries a handgun, their effectiveness in combat can often be hampered by poor path finding and slow response times. However, it can be seen that they are capable of killing one or occasionally several of the more heavily armed and armored enemies, most likely due to their accuracy at long range.
  • When in need of ammo, it can also be helpful for the player to take it from security guards by killing them when arrived at a point where they cannot follow any more (i.e. when a ladder must be climbed, or when indestructible obstacles are in the way).
  • In Half-Life: Decay, the security guards comments triggered by the Use key are sometimes related to the fact that Gina and Colette are females, often playing with the cliché of security guards often hitting on and teasing women. Lines include "Ladies first!", "You'll be safe with me!", "I really don't think you should be alone right now.", "I've always wanted you to ask me that!", or "Stay close to me, darlin'! He He.".
  • The security guards do not seem to reload their weapon, firing continuously. However, in a few scripted sequences in Blue Shift they are seen reloading their weapon after 6-7 shots.
  • When a security guard spots an enemy, he will give a chase until the enemy has died; indeed, when enemies get too close, a security guard will stay in the same place and continue firing even if the enemy is in melee range, which shows the security guard is an aggressive NPC.
  • Although the security guards only carry a Glock 17, which does not do a large amount of damage, if there is more than one security guard, the guards will be able to take down stronger groups of enemies in seconds.

For example: 4 guards can take out twice their number in HECU soldiers with ease.

    • However, the maximum number of guards that can follow the player is very limited in the GoldSrc version of Half-Life, only two guards can follow the player. However, this does not apply for the Source version; there is no limit to the number of guards that can follow the player.

Behind the scenes

Security guard about to get killed by the Tentacles in the silo.

  • Originally, all Black Mesa employees were to be hostile to the player. The Barney NPC was then used by Valve's Al programmer Steve Bond to run experiments in enemy squad behavior. By putting the player in the role of squad leader, and forcing Barney to follow instead of fight the player, Bond hoped for an easy way to test navigation rules. The unexpected result of this experiment was a working companion character, which instantly appealed to every play-tester who saw Barney in action. This caused the team to rethink large portions of the story and Gordon's role in it, and the game was completely overhauled in late 1997. In that process of converting enemies to allies, the team also came to think about characters that were neither allies nor enemies to the player, leading to the creation of the G-Man.[1]
  • Originally, the Black Mesa security guards were to be members of the Military Police.[4]
  • In the alpha version of Half-Life, the Black Mesa security guards would carry a nightstick in the left side.[5]
  • Security guards and scientists were originally to have a much more frightened, almost cartoonish face.[4]
  • The Opposing Force "Otis" security guards were originally to wear helmets, like the "Barney" version. While removed in the main game, it is still present in the multiplayer model.
  • When idle, the Decay security guards were to say the following seven sentences: "Say, you think there's a future for us at the end of all this?", "Don't worry darlin', I'm right beside you!", "Not to worry, ma'am, I'm a trained professional!", "That's a flattering HEV Suit you got there - if you don't mind my saying so.", "The orange in that suit really brings out your eyes!", "I like you in orange!" and "I like how you hold that gun!".[6] The remarks about the orange HEV Suit refer to the original suit color that was to be used by both Gina and Colette.[7] The sounds were re-included in the PC port of Decay.
  • It appears that the AI of the security guard featured in was reused for the Conscripts, until they were cut from Half-Life 2.[8]

Security guards list

The security guards feature two models. The "Barney" model, the only one met in Half-Life, from which Barney Calhoun was retconned. It went through several general versions before the current one: the very first one was a Don Knotts-looking, very simple model, with big eyes and a Military Police helmet. The second one is more detailed, has smaller eyes, and still has a white Military Police helmet. The third one is slightly different, has even smaller eyes and a simple security guard helmet. This is the one seen in the Black Mesa Security Force propaganda poster in the retail games. The fourth one is the retail version, having two HD versions (one introduced in the High Definition Pack, the other in Decay, also featured in the Dreamcast version of Half-Life). At the start of Blue Shift, it can be seen on the tram platform without equipment. It also has a multiplayer version, with a red shirt in Half-Life, and a blue shirt in Opposing Force. A Zombie version was also introduced in Opposing Force.

The other model is the "Otis" model, the overweight security guard introduced in Opposing Force. He was originally to wear a helmet and a moustache only, and was subsequently expanded to a non-moustachioed version, and a black version in Blue Shift, although it is not seen in game. He has a slightly different personality that the Barney version, and is shown liking doughnuts, sodas, and candy. He was derived into Otis Laurey.

Security guards are only referred by the name Barney, being only their model name.

Early game models Game models HD game models Models Names Comments
Barney MP.jpg

MP barney.jpg Bm23.2.png Bm24-front.png Bm24.2.png

Barneymodel.jpg Barneymulti red.jpg Barneymulti blue.jpg

Zombie security guard.jpg

Barneymodel hd.jpg Barney sansequipment.jpg Barneymodel decay.jpg Barney Barney The classic Half-Life security guard.
Otishelmet multiplayer.jpg Otissimple.jpg Otis 01
(Opposing Force)
Otis The overweight security guard, wearing a standard shirt. He is the first security guard interacted with at the start of Opposing Force.
Otismoustache donut.jpg Otis 02
(Opposing Force)
Otis Variant of the overweight security guard. He wears a short-sleeve shirt, is balding, bears a moustache and has thicker eyebrows. He can be seen for instance in Blue Shift's shooting range, not knowing how to take his gun without letting his donut go.
Otisblack.jpg Otis 02
(Blue Shift)
Otis African-American variant of the overweight security guard.


  • A cheat code in the Dreamcast version of Half-Life that provides the character with invincibility is "Otis loves Dreamcast".
  • Characters from The Andy Griffith Show bear the names of Barney and Otis. It is probable, though yet to be verified, that the references are intentional. Also, the original Barney model bears a striking resemblance with Don Knotts, one of the actors of the show, who played the character named Barney Fife, which in the United States has long been a disparaging term for an inept and incompetent policeman.[9] Hal Smith, who played the character named Otis, bears some resemblance with the Otis model, though it is not striking.
  • In Opposing Force, the "Otis" security guard replaces the "Barney" security guard's usefulness to the player, as the latter cannot be seen fighting anything that will affect the player's progress and the "Otis" class is the most interacted. Although looking less threatening than the "Barney" class from Half-Life, the "Otis" class actually is much more effective than the "Barney" class, mostly because of his better accuracy at all ranges and his much more powerful and accurate handgun (the Desert Eagle, as opposed to Barney's Glock).
  • The "Otis" security guard from Opposing Force will sometimes say random and humorous things parodying the "Barney" classes lines, such as "I'll stay here and pretend to guard this area".
  • The "Otis" class also endorses some other clichés related to his appearance of a fat man. He says humorous lines that suggests he lives with his mother, states he would like to mount things over his fireplace (if he had one), and that he does not want to die a virgin, among other lines.
  • Although the "Otis" class has death animations in Opposing Force, strangely, attempting to kill an "Otis" security guard in Blue shift (with cheats) will not work. Instead of dying, the security guard will simply "walk" in response to being shot.
  • In Half-Life, if the security guard shot on the helmet with 9mm bullet or shotgun pellets, the Security Guard will not take any damage. However, in Half-Life: Source, the guard will take damage.
  • When a security guard is shooting the player in Half-Life: Source, his pistol seems to have a higher rate of fire as though he is firing in automatic mode. Although, If the High Definition Pack is installed, the security guard will always fire his pistol in automatic mode.
  • The security guard in Half-Life: Source will not shoot the player if a security guard sees the player kill a Scientist or another security guard.
  • In Half-Life: Source, guards will not chase enemies if the guard is following the player, however they will chase enemies if they are not following the player. The guard will also not shoot at any enemy when following the player and if the player is moving, only when the player is standing still.
  • Barney (along with other security guards) is also voiced by the same voice actor for G-Man, Michael Shapiro.
  • In some scripted sequences, a guard will holster his weapon but still appears in his hand after the animation is done.
  • In Half-Life : Day One, Barney has a different walking animation.




Half-Life: Opposing Force



Half-Life: Uplink

Half-Life: Opposing Force

Half-Life: Blue Shift

Half-Life: Decay

Half-Life 2

List of appearances