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Guard Exemplar in powered carapace armor

"Citing precendents unearthed in documents about false Astartes supplementing the Legions of the Great Crusade, the Phoenix Knights established an auxiliary chapter corps of gene-enhanced serf volunteers and failed Aspirants known as the Guard Exemplar to supplement their low numbers. This caused quite a few concerns from several imperial institutions, but the most disdain for the action was interestingly shown by the Dark Angels."

- Extract from "History of Astartes, vol.XII" by sage Deagar

Guard Exemplar is a honorary title given to recruits who manage to complete the harsh tests of the Phoenix Knights, but don't end up being chosen to become Astartes.

Given the way the chapter designs it's recruitment tests, far more recruits survive the training. These recruits are trained as stormtroopers and can later join the chapter in a special role. They are given the best genetic enhancements available and are further trained together with scout squads. They are officially classified as "combat serfs", although in reality this is only to calm some more paranoid heads in the Imperium.

Guard Exemplar are for all intents and purposes true battle-brothers, sharing everything with the Astartes except the gene-seed. They participate in all the rituals, dine in the same areas, are trained by the same individuals and even addressed as "battle-brother". In addition, special equipment is made for them, all in an effort to bring them closer to a true space marine. In fact, the GE are inspired by Luther and the other False Astartes of the Dark Angels past (something that causes a lot of friction with the Dark Angels themselves).

True power armor is rarely used by the Guard Exemplar, for both practical and logistical reasons. Instead they make use of a heavy carapace armor (sometimes in powered variety) or lighter recon armor.

ST scout

Guard Exemplar in recon armor (no camouflage)

They are given access to the full range of weaponry available to the Chapter, but the most common weapons used are long-range lasguns and sniper rifles.

Guard Exemplar are divided into 4 (5) support companies, usually 100 man each, although the exact composition of companies and number of men varies from mission to mission.

Even tough their battle performance easily matches or exceeds that of Inquisitorial stormtroopers, they are rarely deployed in mixed units with Astartes, as even that is not sufficient to keep up. They are most often employed as scouts, and long-range support, marksmanship taking the biggest portion of their training. Additionally they act as saboteurs or spies, infiltrating targets that Astartes can't because of their gene-enhanced physique. Because of their familiarity and training with the chapter, their coordination with the Astartes is exemplary, but the Guard Exemplar are mostly delegated to the protection of chapter assets. As such, the Phoenix Knights have minimalistic outposts scattered all over the sector to justify the deployment of the Exemplar. Given the low number of Exemplar and the excellent relations between the Chapter and the Inquisition and Administratum, and the caution with which the Phoenix Knights deploy them, there use has resulted in no imperial sanction so far. The ones who view their use with most distaste are ironically the Dark Angels, although the reason why are unknown.

The Guard Exemplar do serve two more hidden purposes. Due to the high need for gene-seed, the Exemplar are implanted with both progenoids, to help grow the chapters stock. Just like the Adeptus Mechanicus grows the initial set of organs, so the chapter mirrors that approach - but instead of slaves in stasis, the progenoids grow inside the strongest and most worthy. Being selected for progenoid farming is considered one of the highest honors among the Exemplar, second only to becoming a full marine. An honor that some will yet see, as Exemplar also serve as ready reserves and battle-hardened replacements in case a full Astartes battle-brother dies. This gives the Phoenix Knights the ability to recover from loses seemingly miraculously fast.