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- This article is about regiments in military ground forces. For regiments in air forces, see Aviation Regiment.
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A regiment is a title used by some military units. The size of a regiment varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.
Historically, in the 17th and 18th centuries, a full-strength regiment was typically supposed to be a thousand men, and was commanded by a colonel.
Today, there is no set size for a unit calling itself a "regiment", which may be:
- Less than a battalion-equivalent, e.g. Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
- A battalion-equivalent, e.g. 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
- A number of battalions (or equivalents, such as US squadrons) e.g. Royal Regiment of Scotland, 2nd Infantry Regiment (United States)
- An entire arm of service; In several commonwealth countries, the entire artillery arm is often titled "regiment" (e.g. the Regiment of Artillery), and may then be sub-divided into "field regiments".
The French term régiment entered military usage in Europe at the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from collections of retinues who followed knights, to formally organised, permanent military forces. At that time, regiments usually were named after their commanding colonels, and disbanded at the end of the campaign or war; the colonel and his regiment might recruit from and serve several monarchs or countries. Later, it was customary to name the regiment by its precedence in the line of battle, and to recruit from specific places, called cantons. The oldest regiments which still exist include the 1521 Swedish Life Guards, the 1537 British Honourable Artillery Company and the French premier régiment d'infanterie de ligne, created from the ancient "bandes de Picardie" first established in 1479.
In the 17th century brigades were formed as units combining infantry, cavalry, and artillery that were more effective than the older, single-arms regiments; in many armies, brigades replaced regiments.
By the beginning of the 18th century regiments in most European continental armies had evolved into permanent units with distinctive titles and uniforms, each under the command of a colonel. When at full strength an infantry regiment normally comprised two field battalions of about 800 men each. A cavalry regiment numbered 600 to 900 troopers, making up a single entity. On campaign these numbers were soon reduced by casualties and detachments and it was sometimes necessary to amalgamate regiments or to withdraw them to a depot while recruits were obtained and trained.
In the regimental system, each regiment is responsible for recruiting, training, and administration; each regiment is permanently maintained and therefore the regiment will develop its unique esprit de corps because of its unitary history, traditions, recruitment, and function. Usually, the regiment is responsible for recruiting and administrating all of a soldier's military career. Depending upon the country, regiments can be either combat units or administrative units or both.
This is often contrasted to the "continental system" adopted by many other armies. In the continental system, the division is the functional army unit, and its commander is the administrator of every aspect of the formation: his staff train and administer the soldiers, officers, and commanders of the division's subordinate units. Generally, divisions are garrisoned together and share the same installations: thus, in divisional administration, a battalion commanding officer is just another officer in a chain of command. Soldiers and officers are transferred in and out of divisions as required.
Some regiments recruited from specific geographical areas, and usually incorporated the place name into the regimental name. In other cases, regiments would recruit from a given age group within a nation (e.g. Zulu Impis), an ethnic group (e.g. the Gurkhas), or foreigners (e.g. the French Foreign Legion). In other cases, new regiments were raised for new functions within an army; e.g. the Fusiliers, the Parachute Regiment (British Army), and the U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment.
Disadvantages of the regimental system are 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.
A key aspect of the regimental system is that the regiment or battalion is the fundamental 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).
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 credited to the 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.
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 continental system exists, the regimental system is criticised 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. In favour of the regimental system, it is worth noting that the United Kingdom has never suffered a military coup, or even seriously faced the prospect of one – this could in part be attributed to the "tribal" nature of the regimental system, which makes it more difficult for a charismatic leader to command the loyalty of the entire army. (The English Civil War took place before the political creation of the United Kingdom). 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 function best 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 in which the prime role of the army consists of 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.
A regimental system can also foster close links between the regiment and the community from which it is recruited. This sense of community 'ownership' over local regiments can be seen in the public outcry over recent regimental amalgamations in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, recruitment from a single community can lead to a concentrated and potentially devastating local impact if the regiment takes heavy casualties.
Further, the regimental system offers the advantage of grouping like units together for centralized administrative, training, and logistical purposes, thereby creating an “economies of scale” effect and its ensuing increased efficiency.
An illustrative example of this is the modular integration employed by the United States Marine Corps, which can take elements from its regimentally grouped forces and specifically tailor combined arms task forces for a particular mission or the deployed Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU). This is achievable partially because of the Marines mission adaptability, flexibility, philosophy, shared culture, history and overall esprit de corps, which allows for near seamless interoperability.
In the British Army and armies modelled on it (such as the Australian, the New Zealand, the Canadian, the Indian and the Pakistani), the term regiment is used confusingly in two different ways: it can mean an administrative identity and grouping or a tactical unit. The modern British regimental system came about as a result of the 19th century Cardwell Reforms.
In Commonwealth countries such as India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada the large administrative regiment has been the normal practice for many years. In the case of India "large regiments" of four to five battalions date from 1923 and since the 1950s many of these have expanded even further. As an example the Punjab Regiment has expanded from four battalions in 1956 to its present strength of 20, while in Pakistan several regiments have over 50 battalions.
In Canada, the regiment is a formation of one or more like units employed almost exclusively for reasons of heritage, the continuance of battle honors and espit de corps. Most Canadian infantry regiments are reserve units composed entirely of one under-strength battalion of between 100-250 soldiers. The three regular force infantry regiments each consist of three regular force battalions of approximately 600 soldiers, in addition to one or more reserve battalions. Canadian battalions are employed tactically and administratively within mechanized brigade groups for regular units, or light brigade groups for reserve units.
In Australia there is but one administrative infantry regiment in the regular army, the Royal Australian Regiment, consisting of all seven regular infantry battalions in the Army, including mechanised, motorised, light, commando and parachute infantry. The Australian Army Reserve also has state-based infantry regiments which administer the reserve infantry battalions.
In Pakistan the word regiment is an administrative grouping. While different battalions may have different roles (for example different battalions of the Frontier Force Regiment may be mechanized infantry, para infantry or mountain troops) the regiment is considered to encompass all of them.
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. The Royal Scots, formed in 1633, was the oldest infantry regiment. It now forms part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
In the United Kingdom, there existed until recently a number of administrative "divisions" in the infantry that encompassed several regiments, such as the Guards Division, the former Scottish Division (now a single regiment), or the Light Division (now also compressed into a multi-battalion single regiment). The reduction and consolidation of British infantry regiments that began in the late 1950s and concluded in 2006 has resulted in a system of administrative regiments each with several battalions, a band, a common badge and uniform etc.
In the British regimental system the tactical regiment or battalion is the basic functional unit and its commanding officer more autonomous than in continental systems. 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.
It should however be noted that amalgamations beginning in the late 1950s and ending in 2006 have diluted the British regimental system through the now almost universal adoption of "large regiments" for the infantry of the Army. These units comprise up to six of the former battalions that previously had separate regimental status. Only the Guards regiments retain their historic separate identities.
Armoured regiments in Canada since the end of the Second World War have usually consisted of a single tactical regiment. During the 1960s, three Canadian regiments had both regular and militia components, which were disbanded shortly after unification in 1968. Currently, one regiment is organised with two tactical regiments, 12e Régiment blindé du Canada and 12e Régiment blindé du Canada (Milice) are both part of the administrative regiment 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. These two tactical regiments will soon be amalgamated into a single regiment.
All of a 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, 7th Toronto 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.
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 that case it is the 1st Battalion, with the exception of The Irish Regiment of Canada, which has a 2nd Battalion only). 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 disrupted 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 practice, 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.
United States Army
The United States Army was also once organized into regiments, but in the 20th century the division became the tactical and administrative unit. 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.
Historically, a regiment consisted of three battalions and the regiment headquarters (HQ) company. Training, administration and even tactical employment was centered at divisional level. Many, but not all combat support and logistics was also concentrated at that level.
A new system, the Combat Arms Regimental System, or CARS, was adopted in 1957 to replace the old regimental system. CARS uses the Army's traditional regiments as parent organizations for historical purposes, but the primary building blocks are divisions, brigades, and 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 consider themselves part of the traditional regiment when in fact they are independent battalions serving a brigade, rather than a regimental, headquarters.
The CARS was replaced by the United States Army Regimental System (USARS) in 1981.
There are exceptions to USARS regimental titles, including the Armored Cavalry Regiments and the 75th Ranger Regiment created in 1986. On 1 October 2005, the word "regiment" was formally appended to the name of all active and inactive CARS and USARS regiments. So, for example, the 1st Cavalry officially became titled the 1st Cavalry Regiment.
United States Marine Corps
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" or "Marine Artillery Regiment." For example, a Marine would consider himself to be a member of the 12th Marines or the 1st Marine Regiment. Marine regiments are commanded by Colonels and are usually composed of three to five battalions.
The United States Marine Corps deploys battalions from its regiments in Marine Expeditionary Units or MEUs. However, a USMC regiment may deploy en masse 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 Combat Team (RCT) or a Regimental Landing Team (RLT).
The regiments (Russian: полк) of the Russian Army, and armed forces influenced by Russia consist of battalions (Russian: батальон), in the infantry or tank troops, divisions (Russian: дивизион) in the artillery troops, and squadrons (Russian: эскадрилья) in aviation troops. Land forces regiments also include support units – companies (Russian: рота) and/or platoons (Russian: взвод).
Soviet Armed Forces
Motorised Rifle Regiment
The Motorised Rifle Regiment was one of the basic tactical units within the Soviet Armed Forces, totaling around 2,500 officers and other ranks. While normally operating as part of a Motorised Rifle Division or Tank Division, it was capable of short-term independent operations. By the late 1980s it consisted of a regimental headquarters in command of three Motorised Rifle Battalions, each numbering around five hundred personnel and equipped with either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armoured personnel carriers, and one Tank Battalion, typically consisting of thirty-one T-64, T-72 or T-80 tanks, although older models were present in units outside the European Theater of Operations. These were supported by a battalion of eighteen 122mm artillery pieces, either the self-propelled 2S1 Gvozdika in BMP regiments or towed D-30 howitzers in BTR regiments, though some BTR regiments also used the 2S1, with additional fire support from the organic mortar battery in each infantry battalion. Additional combat support came in the form of an air defence missile and artillery company with four SA-9 or SA-13s and four ZSU-23-4 or 2S6 Tunguskas, an antitank missile battery with nine BRDM-mounted AT-3 Sagger or AT-5 Spandrel launchers, a reconnaissance company mounted on BMPs, BRDMs and motorbikes and an engineer company. Other non-combat formations included a signals company, chemical protection platoon, material support company, maintenance company, and regimental medical point.
The Tank Regiment was found in both Motorised Rifle Divisions and Tank Divisions, with slight organisational differences depending between the two. By the late 1980s Tank Regiments operating as part of Motorised Rifle Divisions contained slightly over 1,100 officers and other ranks while those operating within Tank Divisions contained over 1,600. A regimental headquarters oversaw command of three Tank Battalions of thirty-one tanks each, typically T-64, T-72 or T-80 tanks although some units used older models, and an artillery battalion of eighteen 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers, with some using the older towed D-30 howitzer. Tank Regiments operating as part of a Tank Division included a fifth combat battalion of motorised infantry, identical to those in BMP-equipped Motorised Rifle Regiments. Combat support and combat service support subunits were the same as in Motorised Rifle Regiments with the exception of the antitank missile battery. 
The Artillery Regiment was used to provide fire support, but differed depending on whether it was part of a Motorised Rifle Division or Tank Division. The artillery regiment of an MRD consisted of three battalions of eighteen 2S3 Akatsiyas each and a battalion of eighteen BM-21 Grads, numbering just under 1,300 personnel total, while a TD artillery regiment had one less battalion of 2S3s and a little over one thousand personnel total. This was the standard model by the late 1980s, however not all artillery regiments had yet to conformed to it and one or more of the battalions might have used older weapon systems like the D-30 howitzer. Each regiment was led by a command control battery and included an artillery reconnaissance battery, motor transport company, maintenance company, regimental medical point, chemical protection platoon and supply and service platoon.
The SAM regiment was an important part of a Motorised Rifle Division or Tank Division's effort to envelop the battlefield in an extensive air defence network. Numbering a little over five hundred personnel total, the SAM regiment consisted of a regimental headquarters in charge of twenty SA-6 Gainfuls organised into five missile firing batteries; most were SA-6a platforms although since 1979 a limited number of SA-6bs were also deployed and some regiments used the SA-8 Gecko as an alternative. Each missile battery, along with the regimental headquarter and missile technical battery, were also equipped with three MANPADs, either the SA-7 Grail, SA-14 Gremlin or SA-16 Gimlet. Besides the missile technical battery other support subunits included an artillery reconnaissance battery, motor transport company, maintenance company and chemical protection platoon.
Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment
Antiaircraft artillery (AAA) regiments in the late 1980s took the place of SAM regiments in divisions which were assigned to rear areas. These were equipped with twenty-four S-60 57mm Anti Aircraft Guns organised into four firing batteries. Each firing battery along with the regimental headquarters were also equipped with three MANPADs, either the SA-7 Grail, SA-14 Gremlin or SA-16 Gimlet. Additional subunits include a command and control battery and service battery.
The Irish Army field artillery units are called regiments. They are divided into batteries and together the regiments form the Artillery Corps.
Air Defence units are organised as a single regiment with individual batteries stationed around the country.
- Pierre Bertin, page 44 "Le Fantassin de France, ISBN 2-905393-11-4
- "Historique du 1er Régiment d'Infanterie", 1952, imprimerie CHOTEL
- Christopher Duffy, pages 110 & 121 The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, ISBN 1-85326-690-6
- Flynn, G.J. (June 2010). "Lt. General". Marine Corps Operating Concepts (Third Edition): 24. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
- These claims are contested on various points of precedence; see FAQ: Regiments, in general[dead link] and especially: FAQ: Oldest Regiment in the British Army[dead link]
- the word had common etymology with the Scandinavian fólk that in the ancient times meant something akin to a gathering of armed people
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization and Equipment, Paragraph 4-3
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organisation and Equipment, 4-46
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organisation and Equipment, 4-109
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization and Equipment, 4-50
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organisation and Equipment, 4-62
- US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organisation and Equipment, 4-104