Juan "Johnnie" Rico is the main character and protagonist of the novel Starship Troopers.
Juan Rico was the privileged (and only) son of a wealthy Filipino family living in the Terran Federation capital, Earth. Near the end of his senior year of high school Johnnie's best friend, Carl, decided he was joining the Federal Armed Services because it was "natural, right and obvious". Because Johnnie and Carl had done everything together since they were kids Johnnie decided he would join up too, though it was against the wishes of Johnnie's father, Emilio.
During his interview with his placement officer, Johnnie realized every single one of his stated preferences had been dismissed through lack of ability, intelligence or preparation. It was determined, with a recommendation from his History and Moral Philosophy instructor Jean Dubois, who was a good match for the Mobile Infantry, Johnnie's last stated preference.
Johnnie attended Basic Training at Camp Arthur Currie and Advanced Training at Camp Sergeant Spooky Smith under the tutelage of Company Commander Career Ship’s Sergeant Charles Zim. His training regiment started with 2009 men and graduated 187, aside from 14 men who died during training. The rest resigned, were dropped or were discharged for any number of reasons.
Juan was then assigned to his first Mobile Infantry outfit: Company K, Third Regiment, First Mobile Infantry Division, known as "Willie's Wildcats" aboard the Valley Forge. He made one drop (his first) with the Wildcats, during Operation Bughouse, also known as the First Invasion of Klendathu. Even up to this point, the Terran Federation underestimated the strength and abilities of the Pseudo-Arachnids and the battle was a disaster. It was during Operation Bughouse in which the vessels Ypres and Valley Forge collided, killing all aboard, including half the Wildcats whom were still in their capsules, awaiting to be detached from the launch tubes. The collision combined with the overwhelming casualties from the battle devastated the Wildcats to the point they were unable to salvage the unit. It was decommissioned and the remaining soldiers were transferred to other outfits. It was then Johnnie was re-assigned to the mobile combat team Second Platoon of George Company, Third Regiment, First Mobile Infantry Division — "Rasczak's Roughnecks" aboard the Rodger Young.
During this first tour with the Roughnecks, Johnnie came into his own as a soldier. He was involved in enough engagements that his commanding officer felt comfortable moving him up to assistant section leader. He was also assistant to the Armorer and gained valuable experience on how to prepare the Powered Armor for battle. Sometime after Lieutenant Rasczak was killed, the Roughnecks took R&R on Sanctuary. It was during this R&R that Corporal Ace suggested to Johnnie that he apply for Officer Candidate School. After having thought about it, Rico decided no matter what he was in the Mobile Infantry for a career and not just his term of service.
Upon his return to the Rodger Young, he approached Sergeant Jelal, requested to go career as well as a chance at O.C.S., and was sworn in as a Career Ship’s Sergeant. Soon after, he was approved for and went to O.C.S. On route to O.C.S., he had an extraordinary 45 minute meeting with his father, who was on his way to the Roughnecks as a corporal. His father, Johnnie learned, had joined up after losing Juan's mother when Buenos Aries had been destroyed by the Pseudo-Arachnids nearly a year earlier. Emilio revealed to Johnnie that joining up was something he had desperately wanted to do in his youth but didn't and it had secretly haunted him since. This was part of the reason Emilio was so set against Johnnie joining up. They eventually had to part ways because of their respective destination's rendezvous schedules.
Johnnie thought of O.C.S. as just like Basic Training, but "squared and cubed with books added". He sweated the "skull subjects" out, especially mathematics, of which he had the most trouble with. Arguably the most important course was History and Moral Philosophy. It taught why a soldier fights. It taught why the Terran Federation was so successful. Johnnie's final exam consisted of an apprentice cruise as a temporary Third Lieutenant where he was in charge of a platoon along with the assistance of the platoon sergeant. If he failed as an officer in the field he would be immediately relieved of command and would revert back to his permanent rank (Career Ship's Sergeant) and never be an officer.
In Johnnie's case, his final exam happened to be with First Platoon, Company D, Third Regiment, First Division — "Blackie's Blackguards", commanded by Captain Blackstone. He commanded First Platoon during Operation Royalty on Planet P. His platoon sergeant was Charles Zim, operating two chevrons below his actual rank of Fleet Sergeant. After successful completion of the battle (though Johnnie was injured when a chunk of earth fell on him while underground in "Bug City"), Johnnie returned to O.C.S., graduated and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the Roughnecks, now Rico’s Roughnecks, aboard the Rodger Young. His father, Sergeant Emilio Rico was his platoon sergeant.
- "Juan" is a Spanish equivalent of "John", hence the nickname "Johnnie".