Regimental combat team
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A regimental combat team (RCT) is a provisional major infantry unit of the United States Marine Corps to the present day and of the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War. It was formed by augmenting a regular infantry regiment with smaller tank, artillery, combat engineer, mechanized, cavalry, reconnaissance, signal corps, air defense, quartermaster, military police, medical, and other support units to enable it to be a self-supporting organization in the combat field.
World War II
World War II RCTs were generally of two types:
- Temporary organizations configured for the accomplishment of a specific mission or series of missions,
- Semi-permanent organizations designed to be deployed as a unit throughout a combat theater of operations.
An example of the former was the habitual organization of the 337th Regimental Combat Team of the 85th Infantry Division:
- 337th Infantry Regiment
- 328th Field Artillery Battalion
- Company A, 310th Engineer Battalion
- Company A, 310th Medical Battalion
Regimental combat teams combined the high cohesion of traditional regimental organization with the flexibility of tailored reinforcements to accomplish any given mission.
Post World War II
Believing that future battlefields would be dominated by tactical nuclear weapons, the U.S. Army broke up its infantry regiments in the mid-1950s and formed Battle Groups, four or five of which composed a pentomic infantry division. Although the pentomic structure was deemed to be a failure, reorganizations during the 1960s (ROAD) replaced the infantry regimental combat teams with brigades that were modeled after the World War II combat commands employed by American armored divisions. As a consequence, infantry battalions that were formerly grouped into regiments were scattered among the new brigades with a consequent loss of unit cohesiveness, and the unnecessary complication of unit traditions that related both to the old parent regiments and to the new brigades.
U.S. Marine Corps
The U.S. Marine Corps has retained the regiment as a basic unit smaller than a division but larger than a battalion, and it continues to employ reinforced regiments as R.C.T.s in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under current US Marine Corps doctrine, a Marine Division typically contains three organic Marine infantry regiments. Whenever a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) is formed within its parent Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), one of the division’s infantry regiments is designated as the base of the regimental combat team (RCT) and serves as the ground combat element (GCE) of the MEB.
The regiment, commanded by a colonel, consists of a Headquarters Company and three identical Marine infantry battalions. The regiment is then heavily reinforced by other division assets to form the RCT.
These reinforcements typically include:
One artillery battalion (drawn from the division’s organic artillery regiment), consisting of a headquarters battery and four identical firing batteries, each containing six 155 mm towed howitzers;
An armored vehicle battalion equivalent, consisting of an assault amphibian company (reinforced) (48 amphibious assault vehicles), a light armored reconnaissance company (reinforced) (27 light armored vehicles) and a tank company (reinforced) (14 main battle tanks), each drawn from their parent division’s organic type battalion;
A combat support battalion equivalent, consisting of a combat engineer company, a reconnaissance company (each drawn from their parent division’s organic type battalion), and a support company, formed from the parent division’s headquarters battalion, consisting of platoons from the headquarters, communications, and truck companies.
In addition to its organic battalions and battalion equivalents described above, the RCT receives dedicated logistical support from a combat logistics battalion, which is organic to the combat logistics regiment of the MEB. Therefore, the RCT is roughly the same size (approximately 4,500–5,000 Marines and sailors) and has generally the same number of battalions (and battalion equivalents) as a US Army brigade combat team (BCT). However, the RCT as the ground combat element (GCE) of a MEB, is combined with a regimental equivalent Marine aircraft group (itself equivalent to a US Army combat aviation brigade) as the air combat element (ACE), a battalion-sized command element (CE), and the aforementioned combat logistics regiment as the (LCE) to complete the organizational structure of the MEB.