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A regiment is a military unit, consisting of battalions - usually three or four - commanded by a colonel. Depending on the mission and country of origin, a modern regiment is similar to a brigade, in that both range in size from a few hundred to 2,000-3,000 soldiers, depending on the branch of service and method of organization. The modern unit varies in size, scope and administrative role from nation to nation, and sometimes even within the armed forces of the same nations. Regiments and brigades are generally grouped into divisions.

The term came into use in Europe around the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from a collection of retinues following knights to a more formally organized structure.


[edit] The regimental system

In a regimental system each unit is maintained permanently ( in theory ) and has or develops a unique identity due to its history, traditions, recruitment policy and/or function. The regiment is usually responsible for the recruitment and administration of a soldier thoughout his military career and sometimes during retirement. In some armies regiments are combat units but more commonly they are admistrative only.

Some regiments were given designated geographic areas to recruit from and usually incorporated that location in their regimental title. In other cases regiments would recruit from a particular age group within a nation (for example, Zulu Impis), a particular ethnic group (Gurkhas) or simply foreigners (the French Foreign Legion). In other cases new regiments have been raised to serve a new function within an army. Examples include Fusiliers, The Parachute Regiment (British Army) and the US Army 75th Ranger Regiment.

Administrative regiments are not part of the army's day-to-day operational command structure, but regimental ties are maintained by the administrative management of its members, and may include recruiting, basic training at a regimental centre, career management, postings, selection for special training, promotion boards, etc., for those in service. This system dates back to the Cardwell reforms in the United Kingdom, when each regiment was structured so as to have a battalion permanently overseas, while another battalion of the regiment was based at home to recruit and train replacements.

The historical strength of the regimental system is the fierce loyalty engendered by this administrative regiment. As far as possible, officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and soldiers remain part of their administrative regiment throughout their military career, even when at schools, posted to headquarters or otherwise "extra-regimentally" employed. In the UK, even the most senior generals do not hesitate to identify themselves as being "General So-and-So, late of the xxxxx Regiment". This exclusive identity maintains morale, dedication and group discipline, especially in situations were morale might be threatened ( e.g. change of government or colonial campaigns ).

These benefits are weighed against costs such as hazardous regimental competition, a lack of interchangeability between units of different regiments, and more pronounced "old boy networks" within the military that may hamper efficiency and fairness.

Another key aspect of the regimental system is that the regiment or battalion is the key tactical building block. This flows historically from the colonial period, when battalions were widely dispersed and virtually autonomous, but is easily adapted to a number of different purposes. For example, a regiment might include different types of battalions (e.g. infantry or artillery) of different origins (e.g. regular or reserve).

This contrasts with continental armies, where the division is the functional unit and its commander the authority for running all aspects of the formation: his staff train and administer soldiers, officers and commanders of subordinate units. Divisions are generally garrisoned together with a single system of messing and division-run training facilities. A battalion Commanding Officer (CO) is just another level in the chain of command. Individuals are transferred into and out of divisions as required.

Within the regimental system, soldiers, and usually officers, are always posted to a tactical unit of their own regiment whenever posted to field duty. In addition to combat units, other organizations are very much part of the regimental family: regimental training schools, serving members on "extra-regimental employment", regimental associations (retirees), bands and associated cadet groups. The aspects that an administrative regiment might have in common include a symbolic colonel-in-chief (often a member of the royal family), a Colonel of the Regiment or "honorary colonel" who protects the traditions and interests of the regimental family and insists on the maintenance of high standards, battle honours (honours earned by one unit of an administrative regiment are shared by the whole regiment), ceremonial uniforms, cap badges, peculiarities of insignia, stable belts, and regimental marches and songs. The regiment usually has a traditional "home station", which is often a historic garrison that houses the regimental museum and regimental headquarters. The latter has a modest staff to support regimental committees and administer both the regular members and the association(s) of retired members.

[edit] Commonwealth army regiments

In the British Army and armies modelled on it, such as the Canadian and the Australian, the term regiment is used confusingly in two different ways: it can mean an administrative identity and grouping or a tactical unit.

In the UK, there exist administrative "divisions" in the infantry that encompass several regiments, such as the Guards Division, the Scottish Division, or the Light Division. The down-sizing and consolidation of British infantry regiments announced in 2004 suggests that the administrative divisions may evolve into something very similar to Canada's three Regular Force administrative regiments that will each have four or five battalions, a band, etc. (See The Royal Canadian Regiment and Royal 22e Régiment as examples).

In Australia there is but one administrative infantry regiment, the Royal Australian Regiment, consisting of all six regular infantry battalions in the Army.

[edit] British Army

See also: List of British Army regiments (1881), List of British Army regiments (1962), List of British Army Regiments (1994), and List of British Army Regiments (2008)

In the British Army, for most purposes, the regiment is the largest "permanent" organisational unit. Above regimental level, organisation is changed to meet the tasks at hand. Because of their permanent nature, many regiments have long histories, often going back for centuries; the oldest British regiment still in existence is the Honourable Artillery Company, established in 1537, while the Royal Scots, formed in 1633, is the oldest infantry regiment. (These claims are contested on various points of precedence; see FAQ: Regiments, in general and especially: FAQ: Oldest Regiment in the British Army.)

In the British regimental system the tactical regiment or battalion is the basic functional unit and its Commanding Officer more autonomous than in a continental system. Divisional and brigade commanders generally do not immerse themselves in the day-to-day functioning of a battalion - they can replace the commanding officer but will not micro-manage the unit. The regimental sergeant major is another key figure, responsible to the CO for unit discipline and the behaviour of the NCOs.

[edit] Advantages and disadvantages

The regimental system is generally admired for the esprit de corps it engenders in its units' members, but efforts to implement it in countries with a previously-existing continental system usually do not succeed. The system presents difficulties for military planners who must deal with the problems of trying to keep soldiers of a regiment together throughout their careers and of administering separate garrisons, training, and mess facilities. The regimental community of serving and retired members often makes it very difficult for planners to restructure forces by moving, merging or re-purposing units.

In those armies where the system exists, the regimental system is criticized as parochial and as creating unnecessary rivalry between different regiments. The question is also raised as to whether it is healthy to develop soldiers more loyal to their regiment than to the military in general. It is worth noting that the UK, for example, has never suffered a military coup, or even seriously faced the prospect of one - this could be attributed to the "tribal" nature of the regimental system, which makes it nearly impossible for a charismatic leader to command the loyalty of the entire army. Commonwealth-style regiments have proven their worth throughout history in war and through lengthy and difficult policing missions. Regiments recruited from areas of political ferment (such as Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Quebec, India, etc.), tend to perform particularly well because of the loyalty their members exhibit to the regiments. Generally, the regimental system is found to best function in countries with small- to medium-sized military forces where the problems of administering vast numbers of personnel are not as prevalent. The regimental system works particularly well in an environment where the prime role of the army is small-scale police actions and counterinsurgency operations, requiring prolonged deployment away from home. In such a situation, co-ordination between regiments is rarely necessary, and the esprit de corps of the regiment provides an emotional substitute for the sense of public approval that an army receives at home. This is particularly relevant to British experience during the days of the empire, where the army was virtually continuously engaged in low-intensity conflict with insurgents, and full-scale warfare was the exception rather than the rule.

[edit] Armour

Armoured regiments are usually composed of one tactical regiment, seldom more. As an exception, the two tactical regiments Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada and Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada (Milice) are both part of the administrative regiment Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada. The only administrative armoured regiment of the British Army that consists of more than one tactical regiment is the Royal Tank Regiment, which currently has two (1 and 2 RTR), and once had many more.

[edit] Artillery

All of a single nation's artillery units are considered part of a single administrative regiment, but there are typically several tactical artillery regiments. They are designated by numbers, names or both. For example, the tactical regiments 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA and many others are part of the single administrative regiment The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. In Britain, the Royal Regiment of Artillery works in the same way.

[edit] Infantry

Administrative infantry regiments are composed of one or more battalions. When a regiment has only one battalion, the battalion may have exactly the same name as the regiment. For example, The North Saskatchewan Regiment is the only battalion in the administrative regiment of the same name. When there is more than one battalion, they are distinguished by numbers, subsidiary titles or both. In Britain, every infantry battalion bears a number, even if it is the only remaining battalion in the regiment (in which case it is the 1st Battalion). Until after the Second World War, every regiment had at least two battalions. Traditionally, the regular battalions were the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the militia (later Special Reserve) battalion was the 3rd Battalion, and the Territorial Army battalions were the 4th Battalion and up. A few regiments had up to four regular battalions and more than one militia battalion, which skewed the numbering, but this was rare. For this reason, although the regular battalion today (if there is only one) will always be the 1st Battalion, the TA battalions may have non-consecutive numbers.

In practice, it is impossible to exercise all the administrative functions of a true regiment when the regiment consists of a single unit. Soldiers, and particularly officers, cannot spend a full career in one battalion. Thus in the Armoured Corps, the traditional administrative "regiment" tends to play more of a ceremonial role, while in practise, its members are administered by their corps or "branch" as in the Artillery. Thus soldiers and officers can serve in many different "regiments", changing hat badges without too much concern during their career. Indeed, in the artillery, all regiments wear the same badge.

[edit] Corps

The British Army also has battalion-sized tactical regiments of the Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Army Air Corps, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Military Police, and formerly of the Royal Corps of Transport.

[edit] United States Army Regiments

See also: List of United States Marine Corps Regiments and :Category:Infantry Divisions of the United States Army

The United States Army was also once organized into regiments, but the Pentomic Army reorganizations of 1957 eliminated the regiment as the primary unit. A new system, the Combat Arms Regimental System, or CARS, was thus adopted to replace the old regimental system. CARS uses the Army's traditional regiments as parent organizations for historical purposes, but the primary building blocks of divisions and brigades became battalions. Each battalion carries an association with a parent regiment, even though the regimental organization no longer exists. In some brigades several numbered battalions carrying the same regimental association may still serve together, and tend to treat themselves as part of the traditional regiment when in fact they are independent battalions serving a brigade headquarters and not a regimental one.

There are, of course, exceptions to CARS, including the Armored Cavalry Regiments which were organized more traditionally as independent regiments assigned to Corps; The Old Guard, the Army's ceremonial unit at Fort Myer, VA, outside Washington, DC, which retained its historical title of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment; and the Ranger Regiment, created in 1986 when the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 75th Infantry (Ranger) were combined with a new 3rd Battalion and designated the 75th Ranger Regiment.

In the 20th century the "Division" became the tactical and administrative building block for U.S. armies in mobilizations for World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam and NATO. Industrial management techniques were used to draft, assemble, equip, train and then employ huge masses of conscripted civilians in very short order, starting with minimal resources. Training, administration and even tactical employment was centred at divisional level. Many, but not all combat support and logistics was also concentrated at that level.

In World War II, the Army organized its engineer regiments in that manner. All training (including basic) and administration was conducted at Regimental level. Depending on the task required, the regiment could be split or combined. When a Regiment was split for a small project, the operation level was as a Battalion, usually consisting of three Companies. For larger projects, two Regiments might be combined with two to four specialized companies. This was designated an Engineer Group and led by a Colonel. Some Regiments were split and combined many times during World War 2.

In the 21st century, the US Army began a program of "modularization", using the Brigade Combat Team as the basic building block for combat arms formations. The BCT can be an indepentant organization or grouped with other BCT's under divisional control. This system, however, still retains the historical regimental numbering system established under CARS for battalions.

[edit] United States Marine Corps Regiments

The USMC is divided into numbered regiments. Regardless of their purpose, Marine regiments are always referred to generically as "Marines" or "Marine Regiments" - never as "Marine Rifle Regiment" (the USMC does not use the terms infantry or infantryman, preferring rifle and rifleman instead) or "Marine Artillery Regiment." For example, a Marine would consider himself to be a member of the 12th Marines or the 10th Marines. All regiments in the Marine Corps are rifle units with the exception of 10th Marines, 11th Marines, 12th Marines, and 14th Marines which are artillery regiments. Marine Regiments are commanded by Colonels of Marines and are usually composed of three to five battalions.

Because the United States Marine Corps deploys in Marine Expeditionary Units or MEU's, a regiment may be deployed as the ground combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade or MEB. When attached to the MEB the Regiment is reinforced and redesignated a Regimental Landing Team.

[edit] Russian Army

The Russian Army has regiments, which are composed of companies (Russian: рота, infantry or tank regiments), battalions (Russian: батальон, infantry or tank regiments), batteries (Russian: батарея, artillery regiments), or squadrons (Russian: эскадрилья, aviation regiments).

[edit] See also

ca:Regiment da:Regiment de:Regiment es:Regimiento fr:Régiment nl:Regiment ja:連隊 no:Regiment pl:Pułk pt:Regimento ru:Полк sl:Polk fi:Rykmentti sv:Regemente uk:Полк zh:团


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